Saturday, March 1, 2008

Coming Soon: The End of the Times of the Gentiles

In Luke 21:5-35 Christ gives one of the most important prophetic warnings to a near and a far future generation of Jews. And part of what He has to say includes a prophecy about the Gentile nations and the fact that God will someday stop His work with them and start up again His sovereign activity with His people the Jews.

This has begun to happen. There is a winding down of His dealings with the Gentiles and an acceleration of His work with the Jews who have been restored to the Promised Land.

The core of this Luke 21 section is also found in Matthew 24. Together they form what we call The Olivet Discourse. But embedded in 21:12-24 in the Luke passage Jesus speaks of the "days of vengeance" (v. 22) that have to do with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. The "times of the Gentiles" then probably begin at that time and will end when the Lord returns, puts down the antichrist, and establishes His millennial rule. In verse 24 is the only place where Christ mentions the times of the Gentiles. In other words, when Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, God began to dramatically move the gospel to the world and began also to cease temporarily His work with the Jewish people as a nation. But that work with Israel will be restored fully when Christ returns.


I believe that God has progressively and slowly begun the winding down of His work with the Gentile nations. And, He has slowly begun His divine activity with the Jewish people in the Holy Land in preparation for the coming worldwide tribulation that will lead to the end of the times of the Gentiles!

Even though at the present time the Jews have completely re-occupied the city of Jerusalem, it still will be overrun again during the seven-year tribulation period. Luke 21:24 is the important verse we are discussing. The text reads:

And they will fall be the edge of the sword and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times (seasons, kairos) of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

Some believe The Times of the Gentiles began before AD 70, say around the time of the Babylonian Captivity and the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in 586 BC. However I believe The Times is a technical phrase that would actually begin in AD 70 when Titus destroyed the city and the temple and took 100,000 young Jewish men and women into captivity into Egypt to work the salt mines as slaves.

In the context of Luke 21, Christ is speaking about that AD 70 event that would arrive in less than forty years from the time He was speaking. The Luke 21 passage is the Olivet Discourse which is also repeated in Matthew 24-25 with one exception. In Matthew Christ hardly mentions the coming Roman destruction in AD 70. But here in Luke 21 He begins speaking to His disciples about it in a parenthesis section: verses 12-24.

This destruction coming against Jerusalem in AD 70 the Lord calls the desolation (v. 20), the vengeance (v. 22), the great distress, the wrath (v. 23), the trampling down (v. 24). He actually talks about the wrath coming, the seven year tribulation, in verses 8-11 and 24-36. When Christ mentioned about the temple torn down stone by stone someday, the disciples had asked, when? The Lord answered their question though it is not recorded in Matthew but is in the context of the same discussion in Luke 21:12-24: "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies," then the "desolation" on the city is near (Luke 21:20).


Thus, this period will begin in AD 70 and will end at the close of the tribulation when the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ returns to earth. The city of Jerusalem will then be liberated and He will enter the city to establish His millennial throne.

The closing of the times of the Gentiles is spelled out in Zechariah 12. Jerusalem then will become "a cup" of wrath upon all the nations who come against it and the Holy Land (v. 2), and the city will be a "heavy stone" against "all the nations of the earth who will be gathered against it" (v. 3). The Lord will strike the hostile armies with madness (v. 4) and He will strengthen the resolve of the inhabitants of Jerusalem when the enemies, the nations, are coming against the city (v. 5). The Lord will save Judah (v. 7), defend Jerusalem (v. 8) and "will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem" (v. 9).

God's Spirit will be poured out on the house of David "and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem" and "they will look on Me (the Lord, the Messiah) whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born" (v. 10).

We know that the times of the Gentiles will not end until the end of the tribulation, not only from Zechariah 12 but from many other passages that show that the city of Jerusalem and the temple area will be desecrated. In the city of Jerusalem, and at the temple site, half way through the tribulation the antichrist will "exalt and magnify himself above every god, and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods" (Dan. 11:36) and will "magnify himself above all" (v. 37). The apostle Paul refers to these verses in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. He wrote: The antichrist is he "who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God."

These things are confirmed in Revelation 11. There it is mentioned that the beast (the antichrist) will make his move against the Lord's two special witnesses at the mid point in the tribulation (v. 3) who he slays in the city of Jerusalem. Their dead bodies will be seen by the whole world for three days (vv. 9-11). The city is still under the times of the Gentiles and is wallowing in the sins of the world. The city is called "the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified" (v. 8). But the Jews of the city will be judged—those who are not trusting in God and His salvation provision in Christ. A great earthquake will take place with a tenth of the city destroyed and seven thousand people killed. But apparently this event brings on conviction by those left who it seems repent of their ways and come to Christ. "The rest (after the earthquake) were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven" (v. 13).


There are many passages that speak of the end times, especially in the Old Testament. Moss warned even the new generation about to enter the Holy Land that Israel would be scattered for their sins but be re-gathered and blessed in a future day. He said, "the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you shall be left few in number among the nations, where the Lord shall drive you" (Deut. 4:27), "But in the distress [when] all these things come upon you, … in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice" (vv. 29-30).

Jeremiah spoke often of this restoration in the latter days. He wrote about the Jews becoming again "My people, and I will be your God" (Jer. 30:22). Verses 23-24 speak of the coming tribulation: "Behold, the tempest of the Lord! Wrath will go forth, a sweeping tempest; it will burst on the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back, until He has performed, and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this" (Bold mine)

Ezekiel also predicts this coming restoration of the Jews back to the land. He writes:

After many days you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they will be living securely, all of them. (Ezek. 38:8)

Nebuchadnezzar was given the plan for the Gentile nations and how the great world powers would end. Through Daniel the king's dream was interpreted and explained. Daniel said:

There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. (Dan. 2:28)

The nations will be finally subdued by the coming messianic reign of the Son of God. The rulers of the earth, "those kings," will be put down and God's kingdom will be exalted worldwide. "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left to another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever" (Dan. 2:44; bold mine).


The present nations of the earth are storing up wrath for the final days. The Gentile powers will be subdued with all their rebellion against God, His Son, and the truth of His Word. We are moving closer to the end of the times of the Gentiles!

The church is not the kingdom - it is failing and will apostasize before the seven year tribulation begins. The tribulation and wrath will follow and then the Davidic kingdom, the millennial reign of Christ, will bring peace to the earth.

Daniel says the heavenly court will pass judgment on the antichrist and his revived Roman Empire, the last great world Gentile rule. And the antichrist's "dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever" (Dan. 7:26). And then "the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him" (v. 27).

--Dr. Mal Couch