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Times of the Gentiles

Introduction

The following is a summary of World history known as “The Times of the Gentiles.  A time where the Jews, as prophesied, have been persecuted and scattered around the world.

This is presented in summary form to assist in our understanding before we return to the details the periods of time beginning with Judah’s captivity.

The “Times of the Gentiles” began when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem and carried the Israelites to Babylon in 587 BC.  It will end when the Antichrist kingdom is destroyed by the return of Christ.  Jesus said, “And 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.  And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring” {Luke 21:24-25).

A Time Line

• Southern Kingdom (Judah) and Temple destroyed — Babylonian exile – 587-586 BC.

• Persian Period – 538-333 BC.

• Alexander the Great conquers Palestine – 333-331 BC.

• Greek Ptolemies & Seleukids –  320-168 BC.

• Rule of Rome – 146 BC-330 AD.

• Constantine becomes Christian and ushered in the Byzantine Empire from Constantinople – 330 AD.

• Clovis, the Frankish King – Christian in 496 AD.

• Beginning of the Middle Ages – Began about  500 AD.

• Expansion of the Islam – 500-600 AD.

• Muslims captured Jerusalem – 638 AD.

• Muslims captured Spain. First expansion into Europe – 711 AD.

• Charlemagne and Holy Roman Empire – 786 AD.

• The Greek Orthodox Church split with the Roman Catholic Church – 1054-1058 AD.

• Crusaders (European Christians) capture Jerusalem – 1099-1222 AD.

• Lords, barons, knights, serfs and the church – Middle Ages.

• Renaissance – 13th thru 17th Century.

• Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks (Muslim) – 1453 AD.

• Religious Reform Movements – Began 1517 AD.

• Martin Luther Luther broke the yoke of the Roman Catholic Church when he disagreed with the church over doctrine – 1517 AD

• Church of England separated from the Roman Catholic Church – 1530 AD.

• Exploration and Colonization – 15th thur 20th  Century.

• World Wars – 20th Century.

• European Common Market – 20th thur 21st Century.

• Israel became an independent nation – 1948 AD.

The Babylonian Empire

The first kingdom of the “Times of the Gentiles”, Babylon, under the absolute authority of king Nebuchadnezzar II was a showcase of beauty.  Nebuchadnezzar rebuift the city into a magnificence city of great splendor and fame.  It has been said that the walls were so wide that chariot races were held on top of the walls.  The hanging gardens were known as one of the “seven wonders of the world”.  They made great progress in the science of astronomy and mathematics and were strongly influenced by the Greeks.  It was a heathen empire which worshiped the created things of the creator.

As the years passed, the kingdom was weaken from within and by the time of the reign of Nebuchadnezzars grandson, Belshazzar, the kingdom was a shadow of what it was under Nebuchadnezzar.  In 539 BC, the city was taken by Cyrus, king of Persia while Belshazzar was having a wild party.

The Media – Persia Empire

It is amazing that Isaiah the prophet foretold these events about Cyrus many years before he was born.  “Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ And to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’.  Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held; to subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut” (Isa 44:28-45:1).

Cyrus came to power by uniting Medes and the Persian.  The Media-Persia Empire was not as great as Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom but it probably covered more territory – from the cities of Asia Minor to the border of India.  Along with Babylon Cyrus acquired Palestine and he allowed the Jews to return from Babylonian exile and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem.

Darius seized the Persian crown in 522 BC and the empire flourished.  He created a system of government and began to delegate authority.  He was never the dictator that Nebuchadnezzar was.  Enormous wealth flowed into the royal treasure and the king minted and standardized gold coins, in order to encourage commerce, he also standardized weights, and measures, built imperial highways, and completed a canal from the Nile River to the Red Sea.  He demanded strict enforcement of the Medes and Persian Laws.  Commerce and trade increased and flourished throughout His Empire.

By 500 BC the Greek cities of Asia Minor aided by Athens began to rebel, but Darius was able to suppress the rebellion.  Darius died in 486 BC and his son Xerxes came to power.  He was a weak leader and focused his attention upon the rebellion of the Greek cities.  The Greeks drove him back out of their territory and thus began a period of Persian wars that lasted for twenty years.  The Persians were able to withhold the Greeks but never really was able to suppress them.  Therefore, the Media-Persia Empire was never able to expand into Europe.

During the next 125 years the Empire was plagued with conspiracies, assassinations, and revolts.  The kingdom was briefly united but it was short lived because about 333 BC Alexander the Great led his powerful army into Asia and captured the western half of the Persian Empire.  It was not long until Alexander the Great had conquered the then known world.

The Greek Empire

Although Alexander the Great died before the age of 33, he conquered almost all the then known world and he is credited for giving a new direction to history.  The three centuries after the death of Alexander are called the Hellenistic Age, derived from the Greek word, helienizein, which means, “to act like a Greek.” During this period, the great culture advances and Greek language spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

However, shortly after the death of Alexander, the Kingdom was split up into four regions which were governed by his former generals.  The Antigonid dynasty maintained control of the Greek mainland and the dynasty of Lysimachus controlled Asia Minor.  The Seleucids governed Syria, and the Ptolemies ruled the land of ancient Egypt.  Palestine and Jerusalem originally came under the control of the Ptolemies but became a battle ground between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies.  Eventually it became under the tyrannical reign of the Seleucids.

The following is a quoted summary of the period.  

“The Hellenistic period was an international, cosmopolitan age.  Commercial contacts were widespread and peoples of many ethnic and religious backgrounds merged in populous urban centers.  Advances were made in various fields of scientific inquiry, including engineering, physics, astronomy and mathematics.  Great libraries were founded in Alexandria, Athens and the independent kingdom of Pergamum.  The old beliefs in Olympian gods were infused with foreign elements, especially from the east; “Oriental” ecstatic cults, such as those of Cybele, Isis, and Mfthras, become popular in the Hellenized world” (The Ancient Greek World, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology).

As the years went by there were conflicts among the three dynasties.  Each dynasty tried to rule the world and many battles were fought over territory.  These wars weaken each kingdom and during the third century BC, ancient Rome began to gain power.  The former empire of Alexander was taken steadily and methodically into Roman hands and by 31 BC the Hellenistic Age came to an end.

The Roman Empire

“When the ancient Greeks were reaching the height of their glory, the power of Rome, to the west, was slowly rising.  The genius of the Greeks lay in art, literature, science, and philosophy.  The Romans were best in warfare, engineering, and government.  Rome rose to power gradually, with no set plan for world conquest.  The Romans fought many wars and enslaved many people.  By the time of Augustus, shortly before Christ, most of the known world was unified and at peace under Roman rule” (Compton Encyclopedia Online).

The Romans expanded their world empire all the way to the Atlantic Ocean which includes the territory which we know as Europe.  By the first century AD, they had built modern roads thus providing easy travel throughout their empire.

In the beginning, they were very tolerant toward other religions and other languages.  Most of the East retained the Greek tongue, however to the west they spoke Latin, the Roman Language.  However, Rome ruled with an iron hand and swiftly suppressed any uprising against the Caesar – many times using crucifixion as a means to control their subjects.

By the latter part of the first century AD, they began to suppress religious freedom because their Caesars declared themselves Gods.  Many Christians were persecuted because they would not bow down to an image of Caesar.  As morals began to decline, the kingdom was weakened.

The reign of Nero (54-68 AD) brought about great persecution.  Slave labor had degraded to the status of serfs or beggars.  The middle class, who was once the backbone of the nation, had almost disappeared.  The society had become a nation of the very rich and the very poor.

During the period leading up the reign of Diocletian, the government had begun to collapse.  During the period between 180 AD and 284 AD, the Senate recognized 27 men as emperors.  By the time of Diocletian, nearly all of the republican liberties were abolished and the Senate was only a council for the city of Rome.  Diocletian was a military man who took the first steps of restoring some order to the Government.  One of his first steps was to divide the Empire by turning the rule of the west over to an associate.  Under Diocletian, the empire took on the aspects of a theocracy.

After the reign of Diocletian (284-305 AD) the Empire was dominated by the absolute rule of Constantine The Great.  Two important events mark the reign of Constantine: (1) he made Christianity the lawful religion of the Roman Empire and (2) he moved the capital from Rome to the city of Constantinople.

After the people were forced to convert to Christianity the Church leaders became more powerful in the government.  With the passing of years, they eventually took control of the government as the state was merged with the church.

With the move of his seat of government from Rome to Constantinople, Constantine ushered in the Byzantine Empire that ruled the eastern block for the next 1000 years.  The western block slowly came under the control of the Roman Pope and a number of Germanic tribes who roamed the west.

The church in the west was under the control of the Roman Catholics and the east was under the control of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  As time passed these two branches of the Church grew further apart on doctrine.  All denominations today find their roots in one or the other early churches.  It is through these two branches that the churches began to break away from the doctrines of the first century church.

Rome was not overthrown by a world power as the previous kingdoms were – it decayed internally.  Things got so bad that it ceased to become a nation but it continues to exist in its culture, law and languages even until today.

Now to complete this study click on: A Summary of European History.