“Jerusalem: Trampled by Gentiles!” is not a headline anyone would expect to see in the news today, but in the Bible, it is a sure prophecy. Do you understand its real meaning?
The Holy Bible outlines the future of the world. Biblical prophecy reveals the sequence of world events leading to the end of this age of human misrule. What global events should you be watching for? Your Bible reveals that in the not-too-distant future, a great world superpower will rise above the declining United States. Will it be China? We have recently seen China asserting its place as a world leader. Or will Russia, successor to the formerly powerful Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, experience a resurgence that puts it again at the center of global geopolitics?
Your Bible reveals the powerful roles China and Russia will play at the end of this present age, right before the return of Jesus Christ. Yet your Bible also reveals a shocking truth that most do not yet recognize—that it is a resurgent Europe that will become the world’s top superpower as world history reaches its culmination at Armageddon.
And where is the Middle East in all of this? “Armageddon” is the Greek-into-English rendering of the Hebrew har Megiddo—referring to a mountainous area beside the Plain of Jezreel—where the world’s armies will gather in preparation for the prophesied end-time battle that will take place at Jesus Christ’s return. This “Armageddon” is about 55 miles north of Jerusalem, the city that will be the ultimate center of world conflict.
We read in Scripture that before Christ’s return, “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). To understand biblical prophecy, then, we need to know: Who are the Gentiles? And what are the mysterious “times of the Gentiles”?
How will we know we are near the end of this present age? The Bible reveals major prophetic events of which we should be aware. Jesus Christ, our Savior, was also the greatest newscaster and prophet who ever lived, and He warned us of a major end-time prophetic sign: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near” (Luke 21:20). Of course, there has been war in and around Jerusalem for thousands of years. In 1967, the eastern part of the city came under Israeli control, and for the first time in millennia there was a unified Jerusalem under the control of a Jewish state. But even that Six-Day War will pale in comparison to what is ahead.
And that coming assault on Jerusalem will not end so well for the city’s Jewish inhabitants. Christ foretold that “they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (v. 24). Notice that this is a prophecy for the future, not just a description of something past. When the Greeks and the Roman Empire each entered Jerusalem in previous invasions, the people of Jerusalem were not removed to “all nations.” Even the Babylonian conquest of Judah in 586 BC saw the Jews taken primarily to one nation, rather than being scattered abroad like the northern kingdom of Israel had been.
At this future time, when armies from around the world will converge on Jerusalem, God’s people there are urged to flee because of “great distress in the land” (vv. 21–23). Those who fail to escape will be “led away captive into all nations,” and this devastation will continue as “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (v. 24).
Understanding this assault on Jerusalem—and recognizing the “times of the Gentiles” that will follow—is vital for our understanding of end-time biblical prophecy. So, what are the “times of the Gentiles”—and, for that matter, what is a “Gentile”?
In the context of your Bible, “Gentiles” are the peoples of the world who are not descended from the ancient patriarch Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28). It is easy enough to recognize that nations such as China and Japan are not descendants of Israel. Russia and Germany are two other prominent Gentile nations.
Many today, however, do not recognize the modern-day descendants of the ancient tribes of Israel. Jacob had twelve sons. His son Judah is patriarch of the tribe of Judah, from whom the modern Jewish peoples are descended. Others of his sons were the ancestors of what are sometimes called the “ten lost tribes,” which constituted the nation just north of Judah that went into Assyrian captivity more than a hundred years before Judah fell to Babylonian invaders.
Longtime readers of Tomorrow’s World are aware that the northern kingdom of Israel, which went into Assyrian captivity in 721 BC, saw its peoples scatter after their release when the Assyrian Empire was overthrown, many traveling to the northwest and settling in the far reaches of Europe. Throughout their history, as they encountered non-Israelite tribes, they adopted many non-Israelite customs as their own. These peoples include the British-descended nations that comprise much of the Western world, ultimately including the United States, as well as the French, Swiss, and Dutch. For a thorough explanation of these nations’ and others’ descent from Israel, read our powerful publication The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy online at TomorrowsWorld.org, or by requesting your own free printed copy.
Babylon, the nation that took ancient Judah into captivity, was a Gentile nation that rose up long ago in the land of Shinar. Babylon was a wealthy, powerful, and determined nation, and it used its power to challenge and even to oppose the Creator God. Scripture describes Babylon’s prideful attitude, as its people proclaimed, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
You may have seen artistic depictions of the Tower of Babel. Most of you know the story: God confounded the language of the peoples in the area so they were no longer unified. “So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8–9).
One popular Bible commentary notes of these people that “their own further dispersion from Babel (vv. 8f.) is recorded as a special judgment on their blatant embodiment of the ungodly spirit that again after the Flood characterized human civilization.… The city once more (cf. Gn. 4) becomes the cultural focus of mounting human arrogance” (The New Bible Commentary: Revised, 1970, p. 91).
Can we see that the “mounting human arrogance” of Babylon also describes today’s all-too-common anti-God attitude? God struck that attitude down in the past. Yet we read that it would be revived again in the future. The Apostle John writes:
After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury” (Revelation 18:1–3).
How should we react to such ungodliness? God warns us not to participate in the sins of the coming revival of Babylon. John writes, “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities’” (vv. 4–5).
No, dear reader, you do not want to be part of the Gentiles’ rebellion against God. You do not want to receive the plagues that befell Babylon past and will again befall Babylon in the future. The end-time system called Babylon the Great (cf. Revelation 17; 18) will be an alliance of economic dominance, military-political power, and false religion. You need to watch for the time when the Gentiles “will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2).
The history of the nations who have opposed God and His people goes back thousands of years. When Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar had a mysterious dream of a great image with a head of gold, only the prophet Daniel was able to interpret what it meant. Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar, “You are this head of gold” (Daniel 2:38). Below the head of gold, the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream had a chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay.
Daniel explained that Nebuchadnezzar’s empire would be replaced by another—represented by the chest and arms of silver—which we know as the Medo-Persian Empire. That would be followed by the belly and thighs of bronze, which we know as the Greco-Macedonian Empire—the empire that spread powerfully under Alexander the Great. The legs of iron are what we know as the Roman Empire, which spread across Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East from 27 BC to 476 AD. The feet of iron mixed with clay represent a future revival of that Empire.
All of that may sound interesting—but how can we be sure? We can because the Bible interprets the Bible. The book of Revelation reveals the history and future of the Roman Empire: “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition” (Revelation 17:9–11). Here we see the heads represent mountains, a biblical symbol of governments or kingdoms. And these seven heads represent seven successive kings, each a revival of the original kingdom.
The first head of the scarlet beast (Revelation 17:3) represents the first revival, the 554 AD restoration of the Empire under Justinian. The next revival involved Charlemagne, crowned as emperor in Rome on December 25, 800 AD. Subsequent revivals took place under Otto the Great, Charles V, and Napoleon. The sixth of seven revivals ended in 1945 with the fall of Mussolini.
Even today, many Europeans hope that the European Union will grow into a new Roman Empire. But where do modern Europeans get this idea? From previous revivals of the Roman Empire. Notice the parallels between chapters 2 and 7 of the Old Testament book of Daniel and chapters 13 and 17 of the New Testament book of Revelation. From these, we can begin to understand the sequence of prophesied kingdoms.
History has proved the accuracy of biblical prophecy. Empires have risen and fallen just as the Bible foretold. However, the very last empire has yet to arise. What will it be? Notice this comment on Revelation 17:11 in the margin of the New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible, translated from the Latin Vulgate and also known as the Douay-Rheims version: “The beast spoken of here seems to be the Roman Empire, as in chapter 13.”
As other biblical scholars acknowledge, the beasts of both Revelation 13 and 17 represent the Roman Empire. The New Catholic Edition makes this comment regarding Revelation 13:1: “The picture of the first beast is based on the seventh chapter of Daniel. This beast is the figure of kingdoms of the world, kingdoms founded on passion and selfishness, which in every age are antagonistic to Christ and seek to oppress the servants of God. Imperial Rome represents this power.”
Yes, even this Roman Catholic Bible acknowledges the identity of the beast!
The prophet Daniel reveals a time of worldwide cataclysm: “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time” (Daniel 12:1). That time is the same time described in Revelation 13, which reveals the evil influence and power of the beast:
Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (vv. 6–8).
The Gentile beast power will exert its influence over the whole world. But God will limit its time to just forty-two months, or three-and-a-half years. “And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months” (Revelation 13:5).
This is the same time period we read about earlier, in Luke 21, where Jesus describes a time when Gentiles, not Jews, will for a brief time rule again in Jerusalem. Remember that, though much of western Europe consists of descendants of the tribes of ancient Israel, Germany is not among them—nor, to the east of Germany, are the Russian peoples or the Chinese. It is from among the Gentiles that a prophesied 200-million-man army will be amassed to march westward across the Euphrates River to Armageddon, and onward to Jerusalem to fight against the returning Christ (Revelation 9:14–19).
Jesus proclaimed that this will be a time unique in human history—a time so dangerous that only His return could prevent humankind from destroying itself. “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).
The Apostle John tells us:
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth” (Revelation 11:1–3).
During the Gentiles’ three-and-a-half-year control of Jerusalem, dangerous times including the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21) and the Day of the Lord or “the great day of His wrath” (Revelation 6:16–17) will culminate in the battle of Armageddon, more precisely “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). To learn more about the dramatic events during this time period, request our powerful and easy-to-read publication Armageddon and Beyond.
One final revival of the Roman Empire remains to be fulfilled. This future revival will consist of ten kings or kingdoms unified as part of the symbolic beast. Watch developments in Europe. Consider the rise of the next world superpower. “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast” (Revelation 17:12–13). Notice the time of this final revival. “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
Yes, this end-time military machine will fail in its war against Christ. It will give way to the kingdom that will stand forever—the Kingdom of God, ruled by the King of kings and Lord of lords. He will replace a future deceptive religious leader who will perform dramatic miracles. That leader will excite religious passions all over the world:
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men (Revelation 13:11–13).
How will the times of the Gentiles come to an end? “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15). This will be a wonderful time for resurrected Christians, as they receive eternal life and the great privilege of ruling the earth under Christ (Revelation 5:10). This is God’s reward for those who obey His command to repent and be baptized, and who receive the Holy Spirit, which helps them overcome sin and develop God’s holy and righteous character in their own lives.
At Christ’s return, these faithful Christians will be resurrected as “firstfruits”—the first human beings to enter God’s Family (James 1:18; 1 Corinthians 15:52). This will include human beings from all nations—not just the tribes of Israel, but also many Gentiles who have become part of spiritual Israel as Christians (Galatians 6:16). You do not want to let a false religion and a false religious leader deceive you into missing out on this wonderful future. Stay alert and do as Jesus commanded: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).