Times of the Gentiles

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Are we approaching the end of the age? Is the return of Jesus Christ just ahead? Are such notions merely the alarmist cries of religious fanatics? How can you know, and what does the Bible reveal about this vital subject?


Are we approaching the end of the age? Is the return of Jesus Christ just ahead? Are such notions merely the alarmist cries of religious fanatics? How can you know, and what does the Bible reveal about this vital subject?

When Jesus was asked these same questions, He provided definite answers. Jesus said that a series of specific signs would indicate that His return was near, and He told His disciples to watch for these signs. Matthew lists the initial signs as widespread religious deception by false teachers, wars and spreading violence, increasing droughts, famine and disease epidemics and increasing natural disasters—which He called "the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:1–8). The Apostle John used symbols of four horsemen to describe the same events (Revelation 6:1–8). These signs are increasingly visible today, and are making news around the world!

However, Jesus mentioned another specific sign that would become apparent just before His return. He referred to this sign as "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). Bible prophecies about this crucial time—when Gentile nations gain prominent positions on the world stage—are coming alive today!

More Specific Signs

The Bible makes several references to the "times of the Gentiles" that reveal specific details about this period. Jesus said that just before His return, armies would surround Jerusalem and that the city would be "trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:20–24). Jesus did not pull this idea out of thin air. He was referring to a prophecy made 600 years earlier by Ezekiel, who wrote that "the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds [a foreboding period], the time of the Gentiles" (Ezekiel 30:1–4). Ezekiel links the time of the Gentiles with key events at the end of the age—a time when God dramatically intervenes in world history. The prophet Joel uses the same ominous language to describe severe drought, famine and war associated with the "day of the Lord" at the end of the age (Joel 2–3). In the Bible, the "times of the Gentiles" are clearly associated with the period just before the return of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John states that Gentile powers will gain control of the city of Jerusalem, including the precincts around the temple, for 42 months (three-and-a-half years) just before Christ's return (Revelation 11:2). Zechariah is even more specific with his prediction: "Behold the day of the Lord is coming… I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken… Half of the city shall go into captivity" (Zechariah 14:1–4). This prophecy implies that when the Gentiles gain control of Jerusalem, the Jewish half of the population will be taken into captivity. This is to occur during the time of the Gentiles—just before Christ's return.

Jesus mentions another specific event that will occur during this time. He warned that, "when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place… then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Matthew 24:15–16). According to Daniel, an evil end-time Gentile ruler (the king of the north) will make an agreement with Jews of Jerusalem to allow sacrifices to begin, but after three-and-a-half years he will break that agreement (Daniel 9:27). He will then set up an image that will defile the holy place (Daniel 11:31; 12:11). This will be a specific sign that Christ's return is imminent. It will occur during the "time of the Gentiles"—when Gentiles gain control of Jerusalem.

A Historical Perspective

But are there any indications that this will really happen and that Christ's return is near? Recent history is informative. While the Jews currently control the city of Jerusalem, hostility toward the nation of Israel is building—especially among Muslim nations in the Middle East. In the Arab-Israeli conflicts that have occurred since the founding of the nation of Israel, many Arabs have made no secret of their desire to eliminate this young country. European nations, including the Vatican, have voiced their desire to see Jerusalem declared an "open city" administered by an international agency like the United Nations to give Christians, Jews and Muslims access to the city. This will require an occupation by an international peacekeeping force—which could occur when a king of the north (a Gentile) moves into the Holy Land during the times of the Gentiles (Daniel 11:40–45). For the nations of Europe seeking a role on the world stage, the chance to occupy Jerusalem—to quell rising tensions between Arabs and Israelis and to "liberate" the holy places—will be a repetition of history. During the Middle Ages, Europeans mounted crusades to achieve a similar goal. Current events are moving in this direction again as the "time of the Gentiles" draws near!

Scholars in the field of world affairs have also noted several major trends that are occurring today. For the last 200 years, "Israelite" nations (most notably Britain and America) have dominated the world—controlling nearly half of the world's land surface and half of its people. However, this is all changing, and the 200–year "Israelite blip" on the world stage is ending. Harvard's Samuel Huntington commented: "European colonialism is over; American hegemony is receding… The growing power of non-Western societies produced by modernization is generating the revival of non-Western cultures throughout the world" (The Clash of Civilizations, pp. 91–92). During this transition, respect and appreciation toward the West has been replaced by hostility and antagonism. Huntington notes that this "revolt against the West was legitimated by [Gentile nations] asserting the superiority of non-Western values" (ibid., p. 93). The Bible predicts that this will happen as the end of the age approaches (see Leviticus 26:17).

But what will this coming "time of the Gentiles" be like, and how will it affect the world? Jesus said that the end of the age will be an increasingly violent, calamitous and chaotic time (Matthew 24:1–8). The Apostle Paul states that "in the last days perilous times will come" characterized by selfishness, greed, self-gratification and brutality (2 Timothy 3:1–5). Modern secular scholars are voicing the same concerns! Huntington comments on the emerging Gentile-dominated world, noting that "a world without U.S. primacy will be a world with more violence and disorder and less democracy and economic growth" (The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski, p. 31). Regarding the global breakdown of law and order, increasing violence, anarchy and precipitous decline in morals, Huntington states, "On a worldwide basis Civilization seems… to be yielding to barbarism, generating the image of an unprecedented phenomenon, a global Dark Ages, possibly descending on humanity" (The Clash of Civilizations, p. 321). These are not the alarmist cries of a religious fanatic, but of a Harvard scholar and recognized authority on world affairs. His words echo Bible prophecies about "the times of the Gentiles"—that are a sign that Christ's return is near. We need to watch, because these prophecies are coming alive today!

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