God’s hand can be more clearly discerned and understood in the otherwise perplexing, topsy-turvy world of today, when we come to realize that the Scriptures teach …

The Gentile Times Have Ended

“Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” —Luke 21:24

THIS prophecy by Jesus concerning the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles was given to his disciples as part of his response to their question concerning the sign of his second presence, and the end of the age. (Matt. 24:3) If upon examination we find that this prophecy is now being fulfilled, then we have undeniable proof that our Lord has returned, and is invisibly present preparing for the establishment of his kingdom.

First of all, let us ask what Jesus meant by the expression, “times of the Gentiles”? We believe this is a reference to a situation which was pointed up in Jesus’ day by the fact that Israel was a subject nation to Rome. At that time Israel had been a vassal nation for more than six hundred years, beginning with the overthrow of their last king, Zedekiah, in 606 B.C. Jesus’ statement indicated that this situation was to continue for a certain period of time, and that Jerusalem, symbolizing the Jewish people and polity, would continue to be trodden down until that period of time had been completed.

But more than this is involved. Israel was not just another nation among nations on the earth. Israel was God’s nation, his chosen people; and through the kings of Israel God ruled over the people of Israel. (I Chron. 29:23) During the period when this was true, no Gentile nation had any divine right to exercise authority and rulership in the earth. Gentile nations were permitted to exist, but without divine favor.

But this arrangement came to an end with the overthrow of Israel’s last king. The Prophet Ezekiel pointed up this fact: “Thou, profane and 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: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. 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

This is the divine decree, that the kingdom of Israel in which their kings ruled as God’s representatives, had fallen and that God’s governmental authority would not again be established in the earth until he come whose right it is, and that then he would sit upon the throne of the Lord. This one is without doubt the promised Messiah, and while he came at the first advent to redeem his future subjects from death, it is at his second advent and presence that he becomes ruler of earth.

How Long?

Is there any way of knowing just how long a period the times of the Gentiles really is? We believe that this information is furnished in Leviticus 26:18-26, where the Lord speaks of a final period of punishment that would come upon the rebellious people of Israel, describing it as a punishment of “seven times.” The punishment mentioned is pronounced with such a degree of finality that we are impressed with the thought that this indeed must be the beginning of that special time of trial upon Israel, which, as the prophet declares, was to continue until he come who has the sovereign right to rule all nations.

How long a period, then, is described by the expression, “seven times”? The reference here is to the lunar year observed by the Israelites, the length of which was three hundred and sixty days. Using the Bible’s own method of reckoning lime prophecies in which a day stands for a year, this would mean that the times of the Gentiles was to be a period of 2,520 years. Beginning with the overthrow of Israel’s last king in 606 B.C., it would end in A.D. 1914.

Before we examine the evidence substantiating the fact that the times of the Gentiles did end in 1914, let us note from the Scriptures what this expression implies with respect to Gentile nations. To the Jews it meant domination and subjection, described by Jesus as a treading down; but what has it meant to the Gentiles? Did the beginning of the times of the Gentiles mark the beginning of the existence of Gentile nations? No! Powerful Gentile nations had existed for centuries prior to the beginning of the times of the Gentiles.

A good prophetic picture of the position of the Gentile nations during the times of the Gentiles is furnished in Daniel’s interpretation of the dream to Babylon’s king, Nebuchadnezzar. It is recorded in Daniel 2:31-45. In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a human-like image having a head of gold; breast and arms of silver; belly and thighs of brass; legs of iron; and feet and toes of iron and clay mixed. In the dream a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and smote the image on its feet, causing it to fall, and then grinding it to powder. The powder was blown away like the chaff from a summer threshing floor.

It was Nebuchadnezzar who overthrew Israel’s last king, and made captives of the Israelites. In explaining the meaning of his dream to this Gentile king, Daniel said: “This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.”—Dan. 2:36-38

Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream, as it applied to Nebuchadnezzar, seems very clear. The head of gold represented him as the head of the Babylonian Empire, and the fact that the God of heaven had given him dominion. Babylon existed before this, and Nebuchadnezzar was king before this. But now the God of heaven had given him the right to rule. This was the important lesson of the image picture.

Still speaking to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Daniel said, “After thee shall arise another kingdom.” The second kingdom was represented by the breast and arms of silver. And the same interpretation must hold true of the second kingdom as Daniel gave concerning the first; namely, that the God of heaven had given dominion, or the right to rule.

Daniel continues his interpretation until he brings before us four mighty empires to which the God of heaven had given, or would give, dominion. History indicates these to be Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The Roman Empire was the one in control during the period of the Early Church, and concerning her authority the Apostle Paul wrote, “The powers that be are ordained [Margin, ordered] of God.” (Rom. 13:1) Evidently Paul understood Daniel’s prophecy.

The authority given Nebuchadnezzar by God, and to the succeeding empires, did not make them God’s representatives in the earth. It did not make them the kingdom of God, as was the case in a typical sense of the kingdom of Israel. However, during the period that the kingdom of Israel did function as God’s typical kingdom, all other kingdoms were completely without divine authorization. But now that this theocracy had been suspended “until he come whose right it is,” God gave this particular succession of Gentile powers the right to rule without his intervention except when their activities interfered with the outworking of his own plans and purposes.

Furthermore, the period during which this divine authorization was to last was also to be a time of punishment of God’s people, Israel. Hence, during the legal tenure by the Gentile powers of their office, he would not interfere with the manner in which they dealt with the Israelites. The Israelites were to be subject to these Gentile powers. They were to be ‘trodden down’ by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled. This does not mean that throughout the entire period of Gentile times the Israelites were to be continuously and bitterly persecuted, but merely that they were to be a subject nation, with no divine right to expect favors from their captors.

It is reasonable to conclude that the information which Daniel gave to Nebuchadnezzar concerning the fact that God had given him dominion would be passed on to his successors; that the idea would naturally come on down from one king to another, and from one dynasty to another, changing in form as the various rulers placed their own interpretation upon its meaning. It is not surprising, therefore, that when we look into the pages of history covering the Middle Ages, and even down to the period immediately preceding the First World War, the four principal ruling families of Europe—the legal inheritors of authority which once resided in the Roman Empire, and which in turn had come all the way down from Babylon—should still be claiming to rule by divine right.

In principle, the claim of divine right on the part of these kings was true. Its meaning had become distorted in that the claim was made that these divisions of the Roman Empire constituted Christ’s kingdom, and that God held himself responsible for what they did. This, of course, was wrong. They had been given divine authorization, but no assurance of divine guidance or divine approval.

One of the distortions of the ‘divine right’ doctrine was brought about through the influence of the Church of Rome, and later by some of her Protestant daughters; namely, that the union of church and state constituted the kingdom of Christ. The Church of Rome, through her popes, crowned and uncrowned kings at her will, and those who resisted her authority to do this were treated as enemies of God. Likewise, any who doubted that the kings she crowned were actually the representatives of heaven were also treated as rebels against divine authority.

It was this particular distortion of the divine right doctrine with which the kingdoms of Europe were imbued up to and during the years immediately preceding the First World War. Not all of them had continued to recognize the authority of the Church of Rome, but practically all of them believed that in some mysterious way the authority of heaven resided in their particular church-state government. So true was this that the soldiers of nearly all the countries who fought in the First World War were given to believe that if they died in battle, ‘fighting for the Lord’, they would go straight to heaven.

This was the situation in Europe and elsewhere just prior to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the prophetic time for the ending of the times of the Gentiles. But the war quickly and effectively changed this situation. Men of the world, quite apart from any knowledge of the Bible prophecy concerning the times of the Gentiles, recognize the tremendous change which that war brought about. In 1910 the crowned heads of Europe assembled for the funeral services of King Edward VII. It was a gala display of royal authority and might. The London Sunday Express, in an editorial, refers to this, and then adds:

“Who in 1910 would have believed any of the things that have come to pass among the ruling houses of Europe in a few short years? Consider them as they were—the Romanoffs, the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs, the Hohenzollerns. Before the war they seemed entrenched in power and wealth forever. Think of how for centuries they had owned Europe and ruled over it. How they had told the world that God had appointed them to rule it. How they had called each other, ‘Sir, my brother’, and formed themselves into a little elect inter-marrying band. Some had a high idea of their calling. Others abused their powers and wealth in loose living and luxury. But they all believed that they were permanent, privileged, and irreplaceable.

“Yet a series of little puffs of wind that blew soon after they assembled in strength for almost the last time at Edward VII’s funeral in 1910 sent them flying. Not one of them, it is safe to say, had the least inkling of the disasters and adventures, that were to befall them and their relatives.”

Speaking of the ex-Kaiser of Germany, the same writer says: “Would he have believed, he who had always made a point of never meeting a labor leader, that his grandson, nominal heir to the throne, would be working in a motor car factory, and that many others of his relatives would be glad to take commercial jobs? No, there would have been no one living in 1910 who would have been bold enough to prophesy the extraordinary series of strokes that have … felled these high titled ones in a few short years. They are one of history’s surprise packets.”

Yes, the hereditary ruling houses of Europe, functioning as church-state rulers, were set aside through the events which began at the end of the times of the Gentiles in 1914. True, there are yet a few nominal kings and queens, but these exercise no real power in the affairs of Europe or of the world. And particularly dead is the ideology of the divine right of kings, which is the basic lesson of Nebuchadnezzar’s image picture.

In describing prophetically the downfall of this image at the end of the times of the Gentiles, Daniel said, “Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together.” (Dan. 2:35) Babylon fell first, then Medo-Persia, then Greece, and finally Rome—as world powers, that is. But Daniel said that that which was represented by the various metals in the image would fall together, at the same time. This explanation must apply to that which was common to all the governments represented by the image, which was that the God of heaven had given them dominion. It was this that fell at the close of the Gentile times, as history now clearly establishes. Gentile nations existed before the times of the Gentiles began, and Gentile nations still exist, but the divine right of kings as an ideology of government no longer functions in the earth. The times of the Gentiles have ended.

Israel’s Position

As we have seen, the times of the Gentiles was also a period during which the Israelites would have no national standing in the earth. Now, and also as a result of events beginning in 1914, Israel is again a nation. As a result of the First World War, Turkish control of the Holy Land was broken, and the Jews were permitted to return there, with certain privileges and benefits long denied them.

In doing this, the Israelites had many difficulties to overcome. For a time, their migration to Palestine was held up. But, on the whole, steady progress has been made; and in 1948 the new state of Israel was formed. This new state has since become a member of the United Nations, and while plagued by the same distress that is upon all nations, it is not subject to any of them in the sense of having to pay tribute, as was the case at the time of Jesus.

So, from this standpoint also, we have definite evidence that the times of the Gentiles have ended. Jesus did not say that when the times of the Gentiles had ended we would immediately see the beginning of life-giving blessings flow to Israel and the world. It was just that Jerusalem, symbol of the Israelites and their polity, would no longer be trodden down.

Time prophecies of the Bible frequently mark the beginning of great changes to which they refer, rather than their completion. This is true of the prophecies pertaining to Israel’s ‘double’ period of punishment. (Zech. 9:12) The turning point of this double was at the time the nation rejected Jesus as their king. Jesus then declared to the nation, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:38) Actually, however, it was practically forty years subsequent to this that Jerusalem was destroyed and the nation dispersed among the Gentiles. All that occurred when Jesus said, “Your house is left unto you desolate,” was the withdrawal from Israel of their part as a nation in the royal promises pertaining to the kingdom of Christ, and from then on, the foretold dispersion from their land was to take place.

The ending of the times of the Gentiles was very similar to this. The withdrawal from the Gentiles of the lease of dominion occurred in 1914, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that a period of time will be required to destroy those who still lay claim to its rights, similar to that which it took for the downfall of Israel following the injunction, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” Not only will the last fragments of the nations pictured in Nebuchadnezzar’s image, as well as their associates, be destroyed, but Israel will be restored, and the new kingdom will be operating from Jerusalem.

Some may argue that the Jews have been more bitterly persecuted since that time than ever before, hence the end of the times of the Gentiles could not have been reached. But this view fails to take into consideration another group of prophecies which indicate that the end of their national bondage to Gentile nations, and the time for their return to Palestine, would be marked by great distress. The prophecies indicate that this particular trouble would come to “cause” them to return to their own land; and would be peculiar to the time when the Lord would “bring again” their captivity. (Jer. 30:3,11) Jeremiah also tells us that the Lord would send “fishers” and “hunters” among his people to cause them to return to the Promised Land. (Jer. 16:14-18) From these prophecies—and there are other similar ones—it is clear that the turning point of time from national captivity to national freedom from the Gentile yoke, would not at once make an end of all tribulation for the Jews.

Who, then, that believes in the prophecies of the Bible can doubt the meaning of the history-making events that have kept the Jews almost constantly on the front pages of the world’s newspapers ever since 1914!

Meanwhile, since 1914, the Gentile nations have continued to disintegrate. Since Nebuchadnezzar’s image depicting Gentile rulership represented particularly that the God of heaven gave him a kingdom, it is most significant to realize that the divine right of kings viewpoint has almost completely disappeared as an active governmental philosophy among the nations. As we had seen, the Gentile governments of the divided Roman Empire which held to this ideology have themselves nearly all been destroyed, and in their places—put there either by the force of arms, or by the vote of the people—are various forms of communistic and socialistic governments. Church-state rulership has gone; the divine right of hereditary ruling houses is past, and now there is every evidence that the new forms of government ruling the world are preparing for another clash of arms which has put the entire world in great peril.

Thus seen, whether we look at the experiences of the Jews since 1914, or whether we view the undeniable changes occurring in Gentile rulership since 1914, we cannot question the proof that the times of the Gentiles have ended. And when we put the two lines of evidence together there is no escaping the certainty of their meaning.

True, all governments have not yet been completely destroyed; nor are the Jews enjoying the peace and liberty which will yet be theirs. But neither of these conditions will be wholly realized until the kingdom of Christ is in full operation. The prophecies clearly show, in fact, that even after the kingdom of Christ is operating, and manifesting its authority in and from Jerusalem, there will be nations still existing, some of which may not for a time bow the knee to divine authority. One of the prophecies depicting this is Zechariah 14:16-19. Here it is indicated that the punishment of such recalcitrant nations will be that upon them there will be no rain. Micah 4:1-4—another prophecy of the kingdom established—speaks of “strong nations” which will need to be rebuked by the mountain-kingdom that is then established in the top of the mountains.

The kingdom of Christ is to reign over the earth for the purpose of destroying enemies—enemies of God, of righteousness, and of man. One of these enemies is humanly constituted authority, based upon selfishness and hate. The last of the enemies to be destroyed is death. If we think of the operation of the kingdom of Christ as marking a time when there is no opposition, either nationally or individually, to divine authority and righteousness, we will fail not only to grasp the full significance of many of the prophecies pertaining to that kingdom, but also the significance of what is occurring in the earth today.

Although this is not an occasion to discuss in detail the prophecies of Revelation, it is fitting, we think, to call attention to some revealing points in chapters seventeen and eighteen of the Apocalypse. All agree that these chapters pertain to the closing scenes of manmade rulership over the earth, both civil and ecclesiastical. Concerning the ten horns of the scarlet-colored beast described in the seventeenth chapter, it is explained that they “are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet.” (Rev. 17:12) When we think of the definite manner in which God gave a kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar, which authority was to pass on down from one dynasty to another, even to the end of the Gentile times, it seems particularly significant that here the Lord should be telling us of kings or kingdoms which had been given no kingdom.

While these kings have been given no kingdom in the sense that dominion was given to Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, they are given a commission, for we read that “God hath put it in their hearts to fulfill his will,” and his will for them is that they shall be his instruments in destroying the harlot woman. In Revelation 18:9, the kings of the earth which committed fornication with the harlot woman are shown as standing afar off—in exile—mourning over the downfall of the system with which they were once associated. These are the remnants of the kings which once functioned under the Gentile times’ authorization, but now they are helpless—the few that remain—to hinder the complete destruction of that system of which they were a part. The kings or governments which had been given no kingdom, hold the upper hand until the will of the Lord concerning the woman is fully carried out. And finally even these, together with the beast, of which they are a part, will go into perdition.

These unique events concerning Israel’s rise, and the Gentiles’ fall, following the ending of the Gentile times, Jesus gave as signs to his people evidencing the nearness of his approaching kingdom. These signs, ever-increasing since 1914, are indeed all about us today, and bring renewed realization that his glorious kingdom is soon to come!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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