The Promised Seed
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4).
The coming of the Son of God to this world happened entirely according to God’s perfect timing. From the very beginning, God promised to send a Seed. After Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden, God promised that one day a Seed of the woman would come to deal with the serpent, Satan.
“And I will put enmity between thee [Satan] and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15).
Genesis 3:15 predicted that Satan would bruise the heel of the Seed of the woman. Bruising the heel indicates a serious injury and one of terrible suffering. When Christ went to the Cross and suffered there, this was the fulfillment of Satan bruising the heel of the Seed of the woman. However, at the same time, Christ bruised Satan’s head, which meant that Christ dealt Satan a fatal blow, destroying and defeating him at the Cross.
The time between this prophecy and the advent of the Seed of the woman was a good, long time: about 4500 years. But when the fullness of the time came, in God’s precise moment in time, the Savior came to this world and, by His finished work, crushed Satan just as God predicted (Col. 2:15).
God’s initial promise to Satan regarding the Seed of the woman was followed 2000 years later by the promises God made to Abraham, of his being the father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2) and of the land to be given to his seed (Gen. 12:7; 13:15).
Galatians 3:16 explains, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” The stress on seed, not seeds, in this passage was made by Paul to remind us that the blessings promised to Abraham would ultimately come through a single Seed: the Messiah. Abraham was promised both a seed, a great family that would proceed from his line, and the Seed, one Individual through Whom all the promises made to Abraham
would be fulfilled.
In Abraham’s and Sarah’s old age, their son, Isaac, was miraculously born of them. His miraculous conception foreshadowed the miraculous conception of God’s own Son that was to come. Abraham had a son, Ishmael, with Sarah’s handmaid Hagar, but God made it clear that His promises, of a land and a great nation that would be a blessing to all the earth, would be fulfilled through Isaac, the child of promise: “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21:12 cf. Rom. 9:6-8).
From Isaac, Jacob was born, who had twelve sons. Here the prediction of the promised Seed became more specific. Before Jacob died, he prophesied concerning the future of his twelve sons. Of his son, Judah, he said,
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10).
To Judah’s line belonged national prominence and a “scepter,” or a kingship, regal command, and sovereignty. The dynasties of David, Solomon, and others came from the tribe of Judah. Rulership would continue in this tribe “until Shiloh come,” the one also called “the Lion of the tribe of Juda” (Rev. 5:5), and He would then rule forever. Through “Shiloh,” the Messiah, “and unto Him,” the people would gather in the Promised Land in the millennial kingdom.
Over 800 years later, the prediction of the Seed narrowed again, when God promised David that one day his Seed would sit on his throne in an everlasting reign.
“And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy Seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build an house for My name, and I will stablish the throne of His kingdom for ever” (2 Sam. 7:12-13).
Although David’s son Solomon did build a temple, this promise pointed forward to the Seed of David, the Messiah, whose “kingdom shall be established for ever” (v. 16). And the angel Gabriel told Mary of the Child to Whom she would give birth, “the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). Thus, God’s promise of a Seed narrowed from Adam, to Abraham, to Isaac, to the tribe of Judah, to the house and lineage of David.
Then some 500 years later, Daniel was given divine revelation as to the exact time frame when “Messiah the Prince” would come (Dan. 9:24-27): the prophecy of the 70 weeks (490 years). This time period began at “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” in 444 B.C. and continued 483 (Jewish, lunar) years until “the Messiah the Prince” came riding into Jerusalem at His triumphal entry (Mark 11:7-11).
What started in Genesis continued throughout the thousands of years of the Old Testament. God promised again and again that He would intervene in history, that one day He would send the Messiah to Israel. There was an ever-narrowing stream of prophecy. The promises of the Seed became more and more specific, until finally, “the fulness of the time was come,” and “God sent forth His Son.”
Christ’s coming and birth at Bethlehem was not an accident; it was an appointment. Jesus Christ came at God’s appointed time, not a moment too late, and not a second too early. The first Christmas miracle started long before Bethlehem. It took place over many centuries as God worked, foretold, and prepared Israel for His Son’s coming.
The phrase, “the fulness of the time,” refers to something that is complete and fully developed, like an apple that has budded, grown, and ripened until it is ready to be picked, at the fullness of the time.
The word “time” is translated from the Greek word chronos, from which we get our word, chronology. A chronology is a record of the orderly progression and the sequential order in which events occur over time.
We see by all this that God didn’t just decide on the spur of the moment to take advantage of an opportune time. Rather, God planned and set in motion the sequence and development of historical events until, from His perfect viewpoint and understanding, the time was right. The fullness of the time describes a moment in history when all things were in place, that time when the stage was perfectly set for God to send His Son into the world.
The Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of David came just as God said He would, because God is faithful. And as the prophecies of old foretold concerning Him, He was miraculously born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and He was born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). And when Christ was born, hope was born.
The Course of Abia
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth” (Luke 1:5).
We know that Christ was not born on December 25. We don’t know the exact date. We don’t have to know the exact date. The important thing is to remember that He did come and the reason He came: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). While we don’t know the date of Christ’s birth, we can figure out the approximate time of year when He was born.
First, we know that Christ wasn’t born in December because Luke 2:8 tells us, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” The shepherds were “abiding” or remaining outdoors overnight in the fields with their flocks of sheep. It would be too cold in December for them to do this.
Next, the mention of “the course of Abia” in Luke 1:5 gives us a time frame for Christ’s birth. Within the worship and service of the temple, there were different courses for the priests. In 1 Chronicles 28:9-13,21, we learn that, in preparations for Solomon to build the temple, King David created a schedule for the year, or “courses” (vv. 13,21) by which the temple could be staffed by the priests and Levites.
David created 24 courses (1 Chron. 24:1-19). In this schedule, each priest served one week. Additionally, all the priests came to Jerusalem for the three feasts required of all Jewish men: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Thus, the priests would serve at the temple twice every year according to their assigned course, and then three more times during the required feasts, for a total of five weeks per year.
The Jewish calendar begins in the spring in the month of Nisan, which coincides with parts of our March and April. Luke 1:5 informs us that John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias, was a priest and that he served during “the course of Abia.” According to 1 Chronicles 24:10, this was the eighth course. Two required feasts would be observed and would interrupt the schedule at this time of the year: Passover and Pentecost. This puts the course of Abia at the tenth week of the Jewish calendar year, which would be anywhere from mid-May to mid-June on our calendar. Let’s split the difference and say June 1.
Zacharias’s wife Elizabeth had been barren and both of them were beyond child-bearing years (Luke 1:7). As Zacharias was serving during his course, the angel Gabriel appeared and told Zacharias that he would have a son. Zacharias wasn’t convinced it was true though, so Gabriel struck him dumb. From that moment, Zacharias couldn’t speak until his son was born and named John (vv. 8-23,57-64). Nine of our months, or 40 weeks, or 280 days from June 1 would be March 7, right at the beginning of the Jewish year, or the month of Nisan, which is approximately when John the Baptist was born.
“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27).
“In the sixth month” refers to the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy. This is when Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would give birth to the Christ. Therefore, John the Baptist was born about 6 months before Christ. He wasn’t older than the Lord, however, because Christ is from eternity! (Mic. 5:2).
Six Jewish months, or 180 days, after John’s conception on June 1 is November 27. This is approximately when Gabriel appeared to Mary. Nine of our months, or 40 weeks, or 280 days after November 27 is September 3, which is the approximate date on our calendar when Christ was born.
There are variables in all this, including that Mary was told that she was expecting “in the sixth month” of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, not after six months. Also, there are variables of a week or days here or there within the Jewish calendar and their leap years. And how long after Gabriel’s visits did Elisabeth and Mary conceive? But with all this taken into consideration, it’s safe to say that the Lord was born sometime between early September and early October.
An additional proof for this time of year is that Christ ministered for 3 1/2 years after His baptism at age 30 (Luke 3:21-23). The crucifixion took place at the Passover in March-April; half a year before that is September-October. Being born sometime in September and then dying on the cross and rising again in early April accounts for the 1/2 year of the 3 1/2 years. And shepherds would still be abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks in September!
Made of a Woman under the Law
“…God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4b).
All of us at one time or another have moved. It’s not a pleasant experience. It takes a lot of work and there are many details to handle. There is the toil of packing, lifting, leaving your old place in decent shape and getting your new place ready. Then you have to turn on the utilities, change your mailing address, and so on. It’s quite an ordeal!
Then stop and think of Christ’s move in leaving heaven and coming to this earth. He left His high and glorious place with God the Father (John 1:1-2; 17:5) for a humble feed trough (Luke 2:7). He left heaven’s majesty for earth’s misery. He left the purity and goodness of heaven to live among sin, disease, and crime. He left the adoration of angels to face the sneers and mocking of man. He left the splendors and joys of heaven knowing His destiny was Golgotha to give Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He left all this willingly, out of love, because the fullness of the time had come for Him to move from heaven to earth as God manifested in the flesh, to be the sinner’s Savior.
Under grace, God’s movement is always toward us. In providing for our salvation, God’s Son moved toward us even while this world, then and now, moves away from Him. He came to where we were so that He might lift us up to where He is. He doesn’t say, “Climb up here!” He doesn’t say that because we can’t. He came down to where we are, and by being lifted up at the Cross, He lifts us up to His presence when we trust Him and His finished work. This is the miracle of the gospel.
“God sent forth His Son,” because Christ pre-existed from eternity past in the Father’s presence (John 17:5). God sending Him forth testifies that Jesus Christ is 100 percent God and is co-eternal with the Father. “God sent forth His Son,” and then He was “made of a woman.” As God, the Lord was sent. As a man, He was made of a woman (Isa. 9:6). Christ was both 100 percent God and 100 percent man. “Made of a woman” emphasizes Christ’s humanity. If Christ had been only a man, it would be pointless to say that He was born of a woman. Everyone is made of a woman! The reason it is noted in the Lord’s case is that it testifies to His unique Person as God being sent from heaven and taking on flesh for us. And in being “made of a woman,” Christ fulfilled the promise in Genesis 3:15 that He, the Redeemer, would be the Seed of the woman.
As a man, Christ was “made under the law.” This emphasizes the program under which the Lord lived and ministered in the four Gospels. It teaches us that within the Gospel accounts, we have the record of Christ’s life and ministry “under the law.” Many believers think they should attempt to follow Christ and live by His teachings in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But that ministry of Christ and His teachings were based in the law of Moses. Today, we “are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). We need to submit ourselves to God’s will in this current dispensation. We are properly following Christ when we follow His grace teachings for the Body of Christ, found in the letters of Paul.
Living under the law, Christ was accountable to the law of God. He was born under it, and born with a responsibility to keep it. And He instructed others to keep the law as well (Matt. 23:3). Like every person in Israel at that time, Christ had the responsibility to obey God’s law, but like no other person, He obeyed it perfectly.
Christ “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). His sinlessness made Him the perfect sacrifice for sins.
With no sins of His own to die for, in His grace and love, God took all our sins and placed them on His beloved Son, our blessed Substitute, and so “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3).
Theologian J. I. Packer (1926- 2020) wrote this: “The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message the world has ever heard, or will hear.”
Do you have the true hope that comes from trusting the gospel that Christ died for our sins and rose again?