A Note on the "Times of the Gentiles"

"Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24)


The expression occurs only this once in the Bible. Jesus used it in connection with His foreview of the troubles soon to come upon the Jewish nation. "...there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:23‑24). The succeeding verses make it clear that the ending of these "times" coincides with the events of the Second Advent so that at the least they span the period between the First and Second Advents. But Jerusalem was "trodden down of the Gentiles" for several centuries before that, and since the expression evidently refers to the domination not only of Jerusalem but of the land and people by "Gentile" nations, the fairest definition of these "times" is that they commenced when the old Hebrew monarchy came to an end in the 6th century B.C. at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and continue until the people of Israel are again in full possession of their ancient land and capital, and—this is important—completely independent of the Gentile nations.

In 586 B.C. the last shreds of independence were wrested from Israel and Jerusalem was destroyed. Since that day no king has reigned on the "throne of the Lord" in Jerusalem and—apart from about a hundred years in the Maccabean period—no independent Jewish State existed until the year 1948. It has been argued that 1948 thus marked the end of the Times of the Gentiles, but a goodly part of Biblical Jerusalem remained in non‑Jewish hands. The occupation of East Jerusalem by the Israeli authorities in 1967 renewed the claim that the Times of the Gentiles had now ended, but the fact is ignored that Jesus’ words imply much more than the mere question of who administers affairs in the city itself. Until Israel is completely independent of the remainder of the world and no longer subject to any kind of restraint or control from outside influence the Times of the Gentiles must be held to continue. It must not be forgotten that these "times" were imposed upon Israel because of their faithlessness to the Divine Covenant; it can hardly be expected that they will end until that faithlessness has been replaced by faith. The condemnation which ushered in this period, passed upon Zedekiah the last monarch to sit upon David’s throne, is conclusive as to this. "And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown…I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him" (Ezek.21:25‑27). It might well be that the full end of the Times of the Gentiles will coincide with the revelation of our Lord in power for the deliverance of all men at the full end of the Age; that is the time when Israel will turn to God in full faith and repudiate the unbelief of the past. Contemporary events in the land of Israel may well indicate the close proximity of that great climax in human history so that it might be logically concluded that the end of the Times of the Gentiles is imminent, but not that they have actually, as yet, ended.

AOH 1988