The Times of the Gentiles 1
As part of the Lukan version of the Olivet discourse, Jesus said that ‘Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled’ (Luk 21:24). How may the ‘times of the Gentiles’ be described? When and how will it be fulfilled? How is Jerusalem related to the Times of the Gentiles?
Descriptions of the Times of the Gentiles
There are various ways to describe the ‘Times of the Gentiles’. The first way is to closely follow Jesus’ statement in Luke 21:24 by linking these times to Jerusalem. During the Times of the Gentiles, Jerusalem will not be under permanent control of the Jews; even if Jerusalem is ruled by Jews during the Times of the Gentiles, such rule will remain temporary (cf. Rev 11:1–2). Jerusalem will only be under permanent Jewish control and rule when Christ returns (Walvoord 1968:7; Fruchtenbaum 2004:21).
The Times of the Gentiles can also be described as the time when God has granted four Gentile empires to have rule over the earth, namely the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Imperial forms of rule, ending when the Son of Man comes in glory (Dan 2:34–35, 44–45; 7:13–14; Showers 1982:25).
The afore-mentioned description focuses on Gentile rule, but one can also describe it from a perspective of Jewish rule – or rather the lack thereof. The Times of the Gentiles cover the time between the end of the kingdom in Israel at the time of the Babylonian captivity and the actual establishment of the Messianic kingdom when Christ returns to the earth. Another way to say the same is to describe the Times of the Gentiles as the time between the rule of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, and the actual exercise on earth of the rule of the King of the Jews, from Jerusalem, over the realm of Israel and all the earth (Unger 2002:1603; Woods 2016:31).
A fourth way to describe the Times of the Gentiles is by noting that during this time, God’s Shekinah glory is not visibly displayed in the temple. At the time of the Babylonian captivity, God’s glory left the temple in Jerusalem (Ezk 8–11). God glory will only visibly return when Christ returns to the earth (Ezk 43:1–5; cf. Mat 23:38–39). During the First Advent, Christ did not display his divine glory visibly, except for a brief time on the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. Mat 17:1–8).
Literal Fulfillment of These Prophecies
Woods (2016:32) rightly notes that all of the nations depicted in Daniel 2 and 7 ‘were literal empires possessing actual real estate that existed for specific time periods’. These prophecies were not ‘spiritually’ fulfilled (whatever that may mean), but rather contain prophecies that have been, or will still be, literally fulfilled. Because the prophecies regarding the empires of the Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Greeks etc. were all literally fulfilled on the earth during specific time periods, one should expect a future rule on the earth by ten kings, followed thereafter by the rule of the Antichrist (cf. Dan 2:31–45; 7:1–28; Rev 13:1–10; 17:7–14). Moreover, the ‘Stone cut out of the mountain without hands’ (Dan 2:45), the Lord Jesus Christ, will also rule over actual real estate (the earth) and in time (i.e. in history, before the eternal order).
Outline of the Times of the Gentiles
Daniel 2 and 7 describe not only the four Gentile empires, but also the phases that some of these empires will have. How should one outline these four Gentile empires and its various phases during the Times of the Gentiles? Important for such an outline is an understanding of the fourth Gentile empire. Fruchtenbaum (2004:33) describes the type of government of the fourth Gentile empire as ‘Imperialism’:
But Rome began a new system called imperialism. This is what made the fourth empire diverse from all the others. …Rome was merely the first of five stages of the Fourth Empire of Imperialism.
I think the outline provided by Fruchtenbaum (2004:21–44; summary on p. 44) is in line with both Daniel 2 and 7:
- The Babylonian Empire
- The Medo-Persian Empire.
- The Hellenistic Empire.
- The united stage.
- The four-division stage.
- The Fourth Gentile Empire: Imperialism.
- The united stage — the Roman Empire.
- The two-division stage — the East-West balance of power.
- The one-world government stage.
- The ten-kingdom stage — the ten horns (ten kings).
- The Antichrist stage.
- The Messianic Kingdom.
In ‘The Times of the Gentiles — Part 2’, FaithEquip will focus on the fourth Gentile empire. We will try to identify in which phase of the fourth empire we may be living, and how world history will evolve according to the Word of God.
Feinberg, C.L., 1981, Daniel, the Kingdom of the Lord, BMH Books, Winona Lake.
Fruchtenbaum, A.G., 2004, The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events, Ariel Ministries, Tustin.
See also: Fruchtenbaum, A.G., 2005, The Times of the Gentiles MBS029, Ariel Ministries, Tustin. Available for purchase.
Price, J.R., 1996, ‘Daniel’s seventy weeks, dispensational interpretation’, in M. Couch (ed.), Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, pp. 76–78, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids.
Showers, R.E., 1982, The Most High God, The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Bellmawr.
Unger, M.F., 2002, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga.
Walvoord, J.F., 1968, ‘The Times of the Gentiles’, Bibliotheca Sacra, 125(497):1–9.
Woods, A.M., 2016, The Coming Kingdom: What is the Kingdom and How is Kingdom Now Theology Changing the Focus of the Church?, Grace Gospel Press, Duluth.
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