WHEN WILL THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES BE FULFILLED?
The only occurrence of the phrase “times of the Gentiles” is found in Luke 21:24, where we read, “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”.
When are the times of the Gentiles? The note in the Companion Bible on verse 21 of the phrase “trodden down” reads, “…..The reference is to the Mohammedan possession since AD 636 in succession to the fourth or Roman possession…”. Others believe the times of the Gentiles began with the Babylonian Kingdom of Nebachadnezzar in 606 BC. Still others believe they began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. I believe that at least part of the reason for the difference of opinion is based on the fact that none of these opinions can be substantiated by Scripture, because none of the times or events said to begin the times of the Gentiles are spoken of in Scripture. It is only by comparing Scripture with Scripture that we can come to a Scriptural conclusion.
I believe that “the times of the Gentiles” refers to the end times, and more specifically, to the great tribulation. That period is covered in Scripture, which makes any reliance on secular historians unnecessary. By comparing Matthew 24 with Luke 21 we will find our Lord giving more or less, the same message, but at different times and at different places. That being the case, we will also find some differences. I believe that if there are several items that are the same in these two passages (and there are) and there are no contradictions which would prevent us from seeing them as the same message (which there are not), the most logical conclusion is that our Lord was delivering the same message at two different times and at two different places.
The so-called “sermon on the mount” is another message preached by Christ at two different times and two different places. As we shall see, when Christ preached this message “on the mount” as recorded in Matthew, He preached a much more comprehensive version than He did when He was on a “level place” as recorded in Luke. Let us briefly compare this message as preached in two different places.
Matthew chapters 5-7 records the message Christ preached when He “went up into a mountain” (Matthew 5:1). In Luke 6:17 to the end of the chapter we have a record of Christ’s message given as He “stood on a level place” (Luke 6:1). The sermon on the mount begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”. The sermon on the level place begins, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”. I will not digress too far to point out all the similarities of these two sermons, or the fact that while on the level place Christ left out many of the sayings that He preached while on the mount. If the reader will compare these two scriptures, he/she will see that, while the two do indeed differ, there are many similarities and no contradictions which points to the most logical conclusion that they are basically the same message.
What is true of the sermons preached on the mount and on a level place is equally true of the discourse of Matthew 24 and Luke 21. That is to say, there is a a total lack of contradiction in the two and there are a plethora of similarities, so that we may be lead to the most obvious conclusion that they are basically the same message. This point will be proven from Scripture as we continue in this study.
A COMPARISON OF MATTHEW 24 AND LUKE 21
Our Lord’s discourse which included the phrase “times of the Gentiles” begins at Luke 21:6. “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down”. (The reader is encouraged to consider the Appendix at the end of this study for the Scriptural evidence that this prophecy was not fulfilled in 70 A.D. .) In verse seven the question is asked of Christ, “Master, ..when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” We read the same statement and resulting question in Matthew 24:2-3, “And Jesus said unto them, ‘See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And…..the disciples came unto Him privately saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign of Thy coming…”. By comparing Scripture with Scripture we have learned that both Luke 21 and Matthew 24 address the same question and give the same answer. Let us continue with our comparison.
Note Matthew 24:5, “For many shall come in My name, saying, ‘I am Christ’; and shall deceive many”. Compare that with Luke 21:8, “….Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, ‘I am Christ’…..”.
Matthew 24:6, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled….”. Luke 21:9, “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotion’s, be not terrified”.
Matthew 24:7, “For nation shall rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom…”. Luke 21:10, “Then He said unto them, ‘Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”:
Matthew 24:9, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake”. Luke 21:12, “But before all these (earthquakes etc., verse 11) , they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake”.
We go now to Matthew 24:15-16, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains”. In Luke 21:20-21 we read, “And when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof his nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains….”.
Matthew 24:19, “And woe unto them that are with child that give suck in those days”. Luke 21:23, “But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days!…”.
The key to the answer to our question as to when are the “times of the Gentiles” is found in Matthew 24:21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be”. And in verse 29 we read, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken”. In Luke 21:24-25 we read, “…..and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. and there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars: and upon the earth……”.
There is, in my opinion, no question but that Matthew 24 and Luke 21 both speak of the great tribulation. Therefore, the “times of the Gentiles” have to do with end times, not times which are not even covered in Scripture.
Let us come back to the comparison of Matthew 24:15-16 with Luke 21:20-21 . In Matthew we read, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place…let them which be in Judea flee…”. And in Luke we read, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee…”. We have already determined that both Matthew 24 and Luke 21 concern the tribulation. And Christ tells His listeners to flee. But in Matthew they should flee when they see the abomination of desolation, while in Luke 21 they should flee when they see Jerusalem compassed about with armies. Are these two different events, or are they the same event?. That question is answered in Daniel 11:31.
Because this is a very difficult passage I will quote verse 31 from the NIV, which is, in my opinion, easier to understand. “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation”. Here we have a description of the scene during which the antichrist will set up the abomination of desolation which, according to Matthew 24:15 will mark the beginning of the time that all should flee, i.e. the time of the impending tribulation. The antichrist will bring his armed forces to the temple. That makes sense; he has in mind to put the abomination (Scriptural term for an idol) in the house of God. One can only imagine how the appearance of an idol in God’s house would effect those who worship there. It is not difficult to understand why the antichrist would have his armies to help in the process of setting up this abomination of desolation.
What we learn from Dan.11 is that while Matthew tells us what the antichrist will do in the temple, Luke tells us what he will do with his armed forces in order to facilitate his actions in the temple. There is no contradiction here, there is only a fuller account of the same event.
Let us review what has been presented thus far. Matthew 24 is a record of Christ’s answer to the question asked by His disciples as to what will be the sign of the end of the age and of His coming. By comparing Luke 21 with Matthew 24 we have seen that Luke 21 answers the same question and also includes a warning as to what to look for. Where Matthew’s Gospel gives the sign of the abomination of desolation being placed in the temple, Luke gives the sign of the temple being compassed about. We have read in Daniel 11 that the temple will be compassed about by the armies of the antichrist when he, the antichrist, places the abomination in the temple. Therefore, the encompassing of the temple and the placing of the abomination in the temple are one and the same event.
The times of the Gentiles will begin at the beginning of the tribulation and will end at the appointed time, i.e. at the end of the tribulation.
A DISCUSSION OF OTHER VIEWS
The idea put forth by E.W. Bullinger is that Luke 21:6-11 refers to the tribulation, but that verses 12 through 24 speak of events that will take place before the tribulation, i.e. in 70 AD. Dr. Bullinger suggested in his Companion Bible App. 155 that “all that is recorded concerning Jerusalem in vv. 12-24 would take place” before the great tribulation”. In other words, the phrase “before all these” tells us, in Dr. Bullinger’s view, that vv. 12-24 will take place before the tribulation, i.e. in 70 AD. Let us examine that thought.
I will quote Luke 21:12 and the preceding verse as well, ” And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilence; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven“. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My Name’s sake”. The question is: does “before all these” refer to before the tribulation ( i.e. vs. 6-11), as Dr. Bullinger asserts, or does it refer to before the signs (vs. 11 only) that signify the beginning of the day of the Lord?
As mentioned above, Dr. Bullinger suggests that “before all these” refers to before the tribulation, i.e. in 70 AD. But there are several contradictions with other Scriptures if one accepts that view.
Let us consider Luke 21:22 which falls in the context of what many believe to be the events of 70 AD. That verse reads, “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled”. God had promised in Ezek. 5:9 that He would never again destroy Jerusalem after the Babylonian destruction. That verse reads, “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like”. Therefore, the destruction of 70 AD was not from God and therefore, was not His vengeance. That is one difficulty with seeing this passage as having been fulfilled in 70 AD. But let us continue.
When are “the days of vengeance”? We read in Is. 63:3-4, “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment. For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come”.
“The year of My redeemed is come” refers to the second coming of Christ when His redeemed will be raised. That fits perfectly with the fact that the Lord will return to earth right after the day of wrath, which is right after the tribulation. All these things (the day of wrath, the day of vengeance and the year of the Lord’s redeemed) are end time events.
In other words, by comparing Luke 21:22 with Is. 63:3-4 (Scripture with Scripture) we see that the day of vengeance will be in the end times, not in 70 AD.
Let us consider one more difficulty with the view that Luke 21:12-24 is not an end time prophecy. If Luke 21:12-28 is, as I believe it to be, an end time prophecy, then the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled in the end times. If it is not an end time prophecy, and the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled when Jerusalem is no longer “trodden down” we have a contradiction in the Word of God. Let me explain.
The entire city of Jerusalem was freed from Palestinian control in 1967, i.e. Jerusalem was no longer trodden down. The Greek word translated “fulfilled” in the phrase, “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” is “pleeroo”, and is often used of the fulfillment of prophecy. That means that once the times of the Gentiles have been fulfilled, Jerusalem will never again be “trodden down”. And therein lies the contradiction.
We read in Rev. 11:2, “But the court which is without the Temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (three and one half years) . The Greek word translated “tread” is “pleeroo”, the same word used in Luke 21:24 and is translated “trodden” in the phrase, “and they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nation: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”. Note that this treading down will be for 3 and 1/2 years, i.e the time of the tribulation.
My point is that Jerusalem will be trodden down again in the end times, i.e. the tribulation. That means that in order to avoid a contradiction, we must conclude that the times of the Gentiles spoken of in Luke 21:24 refers to the end times. But let us continue with other Scriptures that speak of the destruction of Jerusalem in the end times.
We read in Zech. 14:2 “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity.….”. Proof that this has to do with the end times is found in the context. Zech. 14:3-4 reads, “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, ……And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives….”.
Dan. 11:33 does not specifically mention the destruction of Jerusalem, but note the same catastrophes are spoken of in this verse as are spoken of in Luke 21:24. “But they “shall fall by the sword and by flame, by captivity and by spoil many days” Let me quote Luke 21:24 for comparison. “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”.
In short, because Jerusalem will be trodden down in the end times, the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled in the end times. That being the case, Luke 21:24 is an end time prophecy. If Luke 21:24 is an end time prophecy, and as shown above verse 23 is an end time prophecy (the day of vengeance) I believe that it is most logical to conclude that the entire passage from 12-14 is an end time prophecy.
Mr. Charles Welch believed that the times of the Gentiles began with the rule of Nebuchadnezzar over Jerusalem and will end at the second coming of Christ. I will quote from the Alphabetical Analysis. Vol. 5 page 145, “Daniel 2 makes it certain that Gentile dominion continues unbroken until the Coming of the Lord, when the whole image, not some portion of it, will be broken to pieces (Dan. 2:35, 45).” May I remind the reader that Dan. 2 is the record of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (and the interpretation of that dream) in which he, Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. It is in reference to that dream that Mr. Welch believed that the “times of the Gentiles” began with Nebuchadnezzar.
Mr. Welch’s view is that the “times of the Gentiles” is one of “Gentile dominion”. But Luke 21:24 in which we read of the “times of the Gentiles” does not speak of dominion, as such. It reads, “and Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”. To be trodden down is not the same as to be ruled over. Let us look at each of the five occurrences of the Greek word “pateo” translated “trodden” in Luke 21:24.
Luke 10:19 is the first occurrence. It is where we read of our Lord telling His disciples, “behold I give unto you power to tread serpents and scorpions….”. Note that power is one thing and to tread is something else. The second occurrence is found in Luke 21:24 which has been quoted.
The next three occurrences are in Revelation. Rev. 11:2 is particularity interesting in regard to this subject. “But the court which is without the Temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months”. “Forty two months” is an obvious reference to the time of the tribulation. The exact same word is used as is used of the times of the Gentiles in Luke 21 which also speaks of the trodding down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles. I do not believe that this is just coincidence. I believe that this is the parallel verse to Luke 21:24, and that both verses refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in the time of the tribulation.
The fourth occurrence of the Greek word “pateo” is in Rev. 14:20. Beginning with verse 19 we read, “And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God: and the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress……”. This shows the destruction inherent in the word, it is not simply dominion.
The fifth and last occurrence of “pateo” is in Rev. 19:15 where we read, “And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword that with it He should smite the nations; and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God”. Here again, this is no simple dominion
In all the centuries in which Jerusalem has been controlled by Gentiles, most of that time Jerusalem has not been trodden down. But Jerusalem will, according to Scripture be “trodden down” in the tribulation.
Because the times of the Gentiles are characterized, not as “Gentile domination”, but as being “trodden down” of the Gentiles, and because the parallel verse puts that in the tribulation, I must very respectfully disagree with Mr. Welch’s view that the times of the Gentiles began with Gentile domination, i.e. with Nebuchadnezzar.
I believe that the times of the Gentiles is the tribulation period and that the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles will come as the tribulation ends with the return of Christ.
APPENDIX: “One Stone Upon Another”
This Appendix considers the question of when Matt. 24:2 was or will be fulfilled. That verse reads, “And Jesus answered unto them,’See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, ‘there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down'”. As we all know from pictures, at least, the western wall, the so-called “wailing wall” still stands. Therefore, the prophecy that there will not be one stone upon anther has not been fulfilled.
But some have suggested that the western wall was not part of the temple. Strictly speaking that is true, the western wall was part of the retaining wall that surrounded the temple. But I believe a careful study of the phrase in Matt. 24:1 is called for. That phrase is, “for to shew Him the buildings of the temple”. The Greek word translated “buildings” in this phrase is “kubia”. It is indeed a very interesting word. It is used eighteen times and is translated “building(s)” six times and “edify” or “edification” twelve times. It is clear that the basic meaning of the word is “edification”. The archaic definition of the English words “edify” and “edification” means “build or construct“. The noun form then is “structure”
In fact, if we look again at Matt. 24:1 I think we may see that definition more clearly. “…..His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the buildings of the temple”. Note that we do not read that they showed Christ “the temple” but the “buildings of the temple”. In my opinion, because the Greek word is so often translated “edify” or “edification” this indicates the structures of the temple as that is what “edify” means. (I never cease to marvel at how God used the exact word so that we might know exactly what He intended us to understand.) Let us continue with this phrase “the buildings of the temple” with a consideration of the word “of”. In my opinion it is the Genitive of Relation which the Companion Bible defines as “equivalent to ‘pertaining to‘”.
In other words, the phrase “the buildings of the Temple” may be understood as “the structures pertaining to the temple”.
So the Greek word does not tell us that it means a building as we think of a building, but it means a structure. In that case, I believe that, as used in Matt. 24:1, the word includes the retaining wall. And because part of the retaining wall is still standing, the prophecy of Matt. 24:2 (“there shall not be left here one stone upon another”) was not fulfilled in 70 A.D.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. I would like to hear your thoughts on this question. Please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org