The 400 Years – The Silent Years
The 400 years between when the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and those of the New Testament were written are called the “silent years” because there is no Biblical account for them. Although it appears that God did not communicate through prophets during that time, the Lord was actually orchestrating history and the movement of nations to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah.
The underlying theme of the Bible is the plan of salvation. There are many historical events that are apparently missing from it because they do not add to the underlying theme of God’s word. The 400 “silent years” are an example of this. Malachi prophesied that the time would be fulfilled and that the Lord would send the spirit of Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5-6).
John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy (Luke 1:16, 17). He was the one who prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus. “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). The exact time for the coming of the Messiah had been foretold by the prophets (Daniel 9:24, 25). In heaven, the time for this event had been predetermined (Acts 17:26). And “when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4).
Jesus understood this and basically explained why there was a gap of silence: “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:13-15). The last book of the Old Testament has a prophecy about John the Baptist and the New Testament starts off with his birth and life because he was the one who prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus.
Christ came at a favorable time in history. The world was under one government. Travel by land and sea was made easier. The Greek language was universal and the Scriptures had been available in Greek—the LXX—for about two hundred years. The Jews were dispersed among many nations and would travel to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. During these travels, they had the opportunity to share their religion and bear witness to the Creator, the true God.
Unfortunately, at the appointed time that Jesus came, the Jews misinterpreted some of the prophecies and hoped that the Messiah would deliver them from the Romans and restore their nation as a world empire. Their hopes were contrary to the Messiah’s spiritual mission (Zechariah 9:9; Isaiah 6:10; 53:1-10).
A superficial reading of the Bible would make it appear that there is an unexplained 400 year-gap, but it is actually explained as it has just been shown that the Lord was working behind the scenes to prepare the world to receive the good news of His salvation and deliver His people from the captivity of sin (Job 34:16-20).
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In His service,