The Times of the Gentiles 2
In Part 1, we described the Times of the Gentiles. During the Times of the Gentiles, four Gentile empires will have rule on the earth. Some of these empires will go through phases. In which phase of the fourth Gentile empire are we living in today? How will history develop according to the Word of God?
Introductory Review of the Fourth Empire of Imperialism
Fruchtenbaum (2004:33) views the type of government of the fourth Gentile empire as ‘imperialism’, which is diverse from the three Gentile empires that preceded it. Why is it diverse? The Imperialistic empire sends its own delegates to rule a conquered area, it frequently crushes national cultures, it sometimes changes national borders, it can enforce different languages, etc. Using Daniel 2 and 7, Fruchtenbaum (2004:44) identifies five stages of the fourth Gentile empire of Imperialism, namely (1) The united stage — the Roman Empire; (2) The two-division stage — the East-West balance of power; (3) The one-world government stage; (4) The ten-kingdom stage — the ten horns (ten kings); and (5) The Antichrist stage. After this last stage of the Imperialistic empire, the Lord Jesus Christ will return and crush the Antichrist and his kingdom. The King will then establish the Messianic kingdom.
Back from the Future
Let us start in the future and work backwards in time to our present day. When will the 5th phase of the Imperialistic empire begin, i.e. when will the Antichrist rule the earth?
Daniel’s 70th week (Dan 9:24-27) is the seven-year Tribulation Period. The Tribulation Period will only commence when the Antichrist confirms a covenant with representative leaders of Israel (Dan 9:27). Christ will return immediately after the end of the seven-year Tribulation Period (Mat 24:29–30).
The Tribulation Period will have two consecutive periods of 3,5 years each. Jesus called the last 3,5 years the ‘Great Tribulation’ (Mat 24:21), probably because the Antichrist will rule as an absolute despot over the earth during this period (cf. Rev 13:5). In other words, the fifth phase of the Imperialistic empire will be in full swing from the middle of the seven-year Tribulation Period until Christ returns to the earth.
But a lot will have happened by the middle of the Tribulation Period. By that time, the Antichrist will have deposed/put down three of the ten kings ruling over the earth (Dan 7:24). When this happens, all kings then ruling will give their power and authority to the beast, which at that stage will be the Antichrist and his evil kingdom (Rev 17:12-13). This covers the fifth phase of the Imperialistic empire in broad strokes.
Continuing to move from the future and then backwards, where did the ten kings arise from? According to Daniel 7:23b-24a, the fourth empire shall ‘devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom’. In agreement with Fruchtenbaum (2004:35), neither the first (united, Roman phase) nor the second (divided East-West balance of power) phase of the fourth Gentile empire ever devoured the ‘whole earth’, or even the ‘inhabited earth’. The ten kings arise out of a one-world government stage (Dan 7:23-24). We therefore know with certainty that when the Tribulation Period starts, a trans-national and global political government under ten kings will exist.
Revelation 13 and 17 add details that Daniel 2 and 7 did not reveal. While the ten kings will have global political rule over the earth during the first half of the Tribulation Period, nevertheless a woman will ride the beast at that stage (Rev 17:3). This woman is the (literal) city of Babylon from which will spring religious rule not only over the ten kings, but also over the ‘earth dwellers’ during the first half of the Tribulation Period (Rev 17:2, 18). By the middle of the Tribulation Period, however, the ten kings will turn and destroy this woman, this city that is the mother of all idolatrous religions (Rev 17:2,16). At that time, Babylon will also be an economic powerhouse (cf. Rev 18).
Back to the Future
In which phase of the fourth Gentile empire do we live in today? We lean towards the view that we are still living in the second phase of the fourth Gentile empire, i.e. an East-West balance of power. Having said this, many developments increasingly and cumulatively point to the scene being set not only for a one-world government stage, but (shortly?) thereafter for a confederacy of a 10-king world government system.
In summary, the Bible is clear that when the Tribulation Period starts, there will be a global political system under ten kings as well as a global religious system with its headquarters in Babylon. It stands to reason that neither a 10-king global world order nor a global religious system can develop overnight. It may admittedly develop quickly, but still, it will not develop overnight. Let us therefore try to move from the present to the future. Can one already glimpse trends towards these future scenarios? Do you also recognise the following three trends (to name but a few)?
What follows is not an endorsement of everything that nations have done and are doing. Is it, however, important to recognise that God created nations (Gen 10; Acts 17:26). The Lord Jesus Christ will rule over the nations (Ps 2:8). Satan wants to pervert all this. The one world government, a 10-king world order and then the Antichrist — all acting as puppets under Satan — want to destroy nations. Why? Because a global world order, be it under 10 kings or under the Antichrist, requires a level of control that is trans-national, supra-regional, if not global. How may this Satanic agenda be achieved? By attacking the basic building blocks of nations: break down physical borders (or simply open them), destroy national languages, devour national governments, trample upon national cultures, maybe even war against national currencies too. These trends are ongoing, it should be resisted — and perhaps it will be resisted here and there — but nevertheless the Bible is clear how the end-time scenario looks. How will these ‘national voids’ be filled? By a ‘global culture’, trans-national governments (like the EU), and a global religious system (think ‘world churches’; ‘spirituality’ with little regard to the ‘spirit’ being worshipped; and ‘shared human values’ as defined by a fallen world). Perhaps about 10 or so currencies will remain, in line with a 10-kingdom global order when the Tribulation Period starts. To say the above in another way, at the end of this age, like it or not, trans-nationalism and/or globalism will prevail.
2. Global Religion
By the time the Tribulation Period starts, a woman will ride the beast (Rev 17-18). A global religious system will house all the various idolatrous systems that Babylon can conjure up. Perhaps this system will house some sort of an umbrella organisation where different religions can each ‘pray to their own god’. It may be presented in sophisticated or crude ways, but whatever else this world religion may end up being, it will not tolerate these words of the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (Jn 14:6b). But there is, and can only be, one Kinsman-Redeemer. Only Jesus met all the requirements of the perfect and sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29b). As this global religious movement grows, true Christians will increasingly be maligned, marginalised, the Word of God will be attacked, and truth itself will become ever more ‘relative’ and ‘subjective’ (said with absolute certainty, of course!). But here is an absolute truth that is available to every human being: ‘The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Cor 1:18; see also Rom 1:16).
3. Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish
There are at least two reasons why Israel will be attacked (and the friends of Israel too) and why anti-Jewishness will escalate as the world stage is being set for the end of this age. First, when the Messianic kingdom is established, the Lord Jesus Christ will rule over the chosen nation Israel. (Christ will rule over other nations too, but now we focus just on Israel). Satan will therefore attack the nation of Israel. Second, Jesus said to a Jewish audience that ‘you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ (Mat 23:39). A future Jewish generation must put their faith and trust in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Messiah before He will return to the earth. Satan therefore wants to destroy all Jewish people. These irrational trends to hate Israel and Jews will unfortunately continue until Christ returns (cf. Mat 25:31-46).
There is a lot more that can be written about The Times of the Gentiles. Many Bible texts speak about conditions in the last days (ex: 1 Tim 4:1-5; 2 Tim 3:1-9). But this is certainly not just doom and gloom. God is love. God is light. He is working. Christians are to be salt and light. One can worship God and grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. God created the heavens and earth; we can discover His handiwork. As we therefore conclude this brief study about the Times of the Gentiles, and specifically about the end of this age, know that the future (and the present!) is about the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rev 19:10). The more we study prophecies of the Bible, the more we should look forward to His return:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).
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. Purchase this article at Ariel.
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