A reader asked me,
Why didn’t God send Jesus to the earth to die right after Adam and Eve sinned? Why did God wait all that time between Adam and Eve and the cross?
This is a good question. I don’t mean to be dismissive, but after having considered who God is, the first answer to this question is “because God didn’t want to.” Though we’ll talk about the possible whys, that’s the place to start. Just trying to understand what God has revealed is difficult enough. It would be presumptive to try to understand what He has not revealed. So I admit I really don’t know why He designed His plan the way He did. But I do know it is perfect.
Having said this, I can suggest some possible reasons that make sense to me as to why God didn’t immediately send Christ. They’re all related to the fact that we learn within time, not simply as individuals, but as a human community. As creatures we are bound to time and space, process is important, and developing events in human history is important.
What God immediately did after Adam and Eve sinned was promise He would save fallen mankind. Genesis 3:15 is the beginning of the gospel announcing that someone (we now know it was Jesus) born of a woman would ultimately triumph over Satan: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
Satan thought he crippled (bruised heel) Jesus on the cross, but the resurrection fatally wounded (bruised head) Satan’s power. This is the first of many promises that God made, and every one He has faithfully kept. “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
By God waiting to bring both redemption and judgment, we learn more about His faithfulness. Since He always does what He promises, we learn more about His truthfulness. “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). We learn to exercise faith and perseverance and believe in God’s praiseworthy attributes: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
Jesus was the Lamb, a sacrifice, the Passover, Priest, Prophet, King, the fulfillment of the law, the Bread of Life, the Word. Without time to develop these ideas throughout history and through the writings of the Scriptures, we would never have understood the depths of the Godhead.
Of course, God always knew the exact moment He intended to send Christ to the earth. Galatians 4:4-5 is a beautiful statement of this: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
When the Gospel was manifested in Christ, after thousands of years, God made sure the world had experienced enough of life without the Messiah to appreciate Him and see their desperate need for “the good news of happiness” (Isaiah 52:7). God designed the world in such a way that He knew to send Messiah in just the right time.
God tells Abraham, “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Genesis 15:16). God had a plan to deliver His people from Egypt at just the right time to position them for conquering the inhabitants of the land that they would occupy as the Promised Land.
In order that we might learn faith, Christ didn’t come earlier than He did. “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:23-24).
In the same manner, we learn about longsuffering, glory, and mercy because God chose to wait: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:22-23).
An equally valid corollary to the question, “Why didn’t God send Christ to Adam and Eve?” is “Why didn’t God send His wrath immediately on sin?” Peter answers this saying that God’s love will not allow one person, who will believe, to be denied the necessary time: “But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:7-9).
It’s an amazing and wonderful thing to realize that God devised His plan, created us, and is perfectly executing the plan, so that we could enjoy Him. He was infinitely satisfied within Himself, the Godhead, before creation. He didn’t create for Himself; rather, at His pleasure He created for us. Just to have lived is a gift beyond measure. That God would allow some of His creatures to live for eternity in a relationship with Him is beyond comprehension.
I can’t understand everything about God’s plan and His timing, either in human history or my own life. But that doesn’t keep me from believing it. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
You might like to also check out a recent Ask Pastor John Piper episode, “Why Did Jesus Delay So Long Before Entering Human History?”