In what providential ways did the intertestamental period prepare for the coming of Christ and the rise of the church?
God used events during the Intertestamental Period to pave the way for the coming of His Son and His Son’s divine purpose.
From the spread of Hellenization, which is the manifestation of Greek culture and socialization, to favorable outcomes of Ptolemaic rule over the Jews, the intertestamental period (a period of about 400+ years between the close of the Old Testament period and the opening of the New Testament period with John the Baptist) prepared for the coming of Christ and the rise of the church in many fortunate, providential, and advantageous ways. Other less significant preparations can additionally be noted during this period, which is also known as “the four hundred silent years” [although this period was anything but “silent”, as anyone who knows about Judas ‘The Hammer’ Macabees will tell you].
First, the victories of Alexander the Great in the Middle-East brought about much more than just the increase of a political empire. Greek culture, or Hellenism, had already penetrated the trade and colonization of the area. The Alexandrian victories boosted the Greek language into the lingua franca, or common trade and diplomatic language throughout Palestine, the Middle East, Macedonia, Greece, and further. Because of this influence, the New Testament, the writings that would forever change the world, would be penned in the Greek language several hundred years later.
The Ptolemaic Dynasty of the intertestamental period showed a positive influence on the rise of the early church by producing translations of the then current day Bible, the Old Testament. Under Ptolemy Philadelphus, seventy-two Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek. This translation from Hebrew to Greek is called the Septuagint, in which the books were arranged according to history, poetry, and prophecy. The Pentateuch, which is the first five books of the Old Testament, was translated first, followed then by the remainder of the Old Testament. This translation is often called the LXX, after the seventy-two men who translated it (LXX is the Roman numeral for seventy, which is the rounded number of men who performed the translation). The availability of the Greek Old Testament allowed the Gentile world to know and experience Yahweh, the Covenant God.
In addition to the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, which gained control of Palestine near the end of the intertestamental period, helped to facilitate the rise of the early church. Rome prevailing over Palestine created a political unity and sound, uniform structure for the region. This common, prevailing rule of government facilitated a more rapid spread of the Christian faith. This rapid spread of Christianity might not have occurred so rapidly had the region been under multiple reigns of government.
On a less influential yet still providential note, the near end of the intertestamental period saw the unintentional preparation of the temple in which Jesus the Messiah would teach. This was done by Herod the Great, a descendant of Esau, who was ruler over Palestine and the same king who ordered the slaughter of babies in Bethlehem in an attempt to destroy Jesus (Matthew 2:16). Herod had the temple decorated with white marble, gold, and jewels, in an attempt to please the Jews. He beautified the temple because of political motivations, not because he shared in the faith of the Jews. None the less, without knowing, he ordered the beautification of the temple that Jesus would later use to minister in and share the love of His Father.
In conclusion, the spread of Hellenistic culture by Alexander the Great, followed by the establishment of a one-world government by Rome paved the way for the coming of Christ and the rise of the church. A common culture and a common government of the then known world helped prepare for the coming of the uncommon Christ and His church.
Indeed, the providential, sovereign hand of God was a work during these 400 “silent years” called the intertestamental period, paving the way for the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, who would save His people from their sins!! Soli Deo Gloria!
She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” Matthew 1:21-23 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)