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Times of the Gentiles

Times of the Gentiles

In Luke, the twenty-first chapter, Jesus spoke of the “Times of the Gentiles”.  “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” (Luke 21:24).

In 536 BC, after the Mede-Persian conquered the Babylonians, the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem.  The Jews gradually obtained some freedom of self-rule, but they remained primarily under the dominion of the Mede-Persian.  The Greeks, subsequently, conquered the Mede-Persian and Rome followed by conquering the Greeks.  The Jews remained subjects of each of these conquering Gentile nations except for a period from 167-63 BC when they gained their independence through the rebellion of the Maccabees.  But Rome soon regained its strength.  In 70 AD, just as Jesus predicted, the Jews were taken away captive into all the Gentile nations.  “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

We read in the second chapter of Daniel about the prophecy relating to the entire period of time referred to as, “The times of the Gentiles”.  I recommend that you read this entire chapter from your Bible before you proceed any further since much of what is written here is in summary form (see Daniel Chapter 2).

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream that he could not remember and it troubled him.  The king called all the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans to tell him what he had dreamed and to interpret the dream for him.  When none of his wise men could help, a young Jewish boy, named Daniel, came to his aid.

Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzer that he had dreamed of a great image.  The head of the image was of fine gold; its breast and arms were of silver; its belly and thighs were of bronze; its legs were of iron; and its feet were part iron and part clay.  The king had seen a stone cut out without hands, which smote the image upon its feet and the image broke into pieces ((Dan. 2:31-35).

“This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king.  You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory;  and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold “(Dan. 2:36-38).

“But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.  Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay” (Dan. 2:39-43).

“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure” (Dan. 2:44-45).

Daniel identified the image head of fine gold as Babylon, which was to be followed by three world kingdoms with each conquering the previous one.  Each of these kingdoms was symbolized by metal.  History has shown the accuracy of this prophecy.  The silver symbolized the Mede-Persian Empire that followed Babylon; the bronze symbolized the Greek Empire that followed the Mede-Persian Empire, and the iron symbolized the Roman Empire that conquered the Greeks.  Beginning with the Mede-Persian these world empires are controlled by the descendants of Japheth.  We recall that Noah predicted that Japheth would be enlarged by God, and the historical record of world empires shows the infallible accuracy of the prophecies in God’s Word.

It is interesting to note the amount of detail that is given about the legs and feet of the image.  Daniel says that the iron turned into a mixture of iron and clay, which symbolized that it would be partly strong and partly weak.  History reveals that the great Roman Empire was so strong that it could not be overthrown from outside forces but it fell from its own internal decay.

In AD 395, the empire was split apart into the Eastern Roman Empire, and the Western Roman Empire – symbolized by the two legs of the image.  About this time Teutonic tribes of Germany were roaming much of Europe.  As the Western Roman power began to weaken these Germanic tribes began to spread throughout the empire, and gained control.  Germanic tribes of Angles, Burgundians, Franks, Goths, Jutes, Lombards, Saxons, and Vandals became the forefathers of modern Europe.  Not only did Germany absorb the Western Roman Empire, but also, for many years, it was known as “The Holy Roman Empire”.  The Roman Empire of Iron has been divided, but remains today as the Gentile nations of Europe and the Middle East.  Some are as strong as iron and some are as weak as clay.

Then Daniel saw a stone, not cut by hands, which smote the image upon its feet of iron and clay, and broke it into pieces.  And the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.  All the prophecy relating to the vision has come to pass except the stone destroying the image.  We have seen that the image represents the world system of government under the control of the Gentile Nations.  Government has manifested itself with three dimensions of control: politically, militarily, and economically.  These governments, as a whole, are under the control of Satan and must be replaced.  The stone that will destroy the image will be the second person of the Godhead, The Son of God, The Rock of Ages, Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus came the first time as the Lamb of God to pay for the sins of all men, but he will return the second time as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to judge and to destroy evil.  “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Dan. 2:44).  Jesus told the chief priest and Pharisees that: “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:44).

The prophet Isaiah, who lived approximately 150 years before Daniel, and before Babylon rose to power, foresaw the destruction of Babylon, and recorded it for us in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Isaiah.  He foresaw the destruction of two Babylons.  He saw the first Babylon being destroyed by the Mede-Persians; he saw a second Babylon, the kingdom of Satan, being destroyed later in a more dramatic and catastrophic setting.  This second Babylon was a mystery to those who saw the first Babylon fall.  We still have not witnessed the second predicted destruction, but we find more details about it in New Testament prophecy.

Mystery Babylon

In approximately AD 95, twenty-five years after the Jews were scattered from Jerusalem by the Romans; the Apostle John was taken up into heaven through a vision.  He was allowed to see the final days of the reign of Satan, and the ultimate destruction of his kingdom at the hands of Christ.  The seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of Revelation records John’s vision of Mystery Babylon, which is the world’s system of corrupted power and corrupted religion.

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke to me. ‘Come,’ he said, ‘I will show you the condemnation and punishment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed sexual immorality and the earth’s inhabitants got drunk with the wine of her immorality.’  So he carried me away in the Spirit to a wilderness, and there I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. Now the woman was dressed in purple and scarlet clothing, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held in her hand a golden cup filled with detestable things and unclean things from her sexual immorality.  On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the Great, the Mother of prostitutes and of the detestable things of the earth.’  I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of those who testified to Jesus. I was greatly astounded when I saw her” (Rev. 17:1-6, NET).

John saw this woman who was enthroned above the waters, and sitting on a red beast that had seven heads and ten horns.  The seven heads are symbolic of seven world empires, which have been influenced by paganism throughout the course of history.  Some scholars believe that these world empires are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and a final world order.  We have already seen that the Roman Empire still exists in the form of Europe and the Middle East.  Out of this old Roman Empire will come a New World confederacy of ten kings or world leaders.  The seven heads and ten horns symbolize this confederacy and its kings.  Out of this confederacy will come a world dictator who is called the Antichrist.  A false prophet will accompany him, and deceive the world into worshipping this Antichrist.

The woman is called “Babylon the great”, and she is symbolic of the corrupted power and corrupted religions of the world empires.  The waters over which the woman sits represent the nations and people of the world.

The angel proceeded to show John the destruction of Babylon. “After these things I saw another angel, who possessed great authority, coming down out of heaven, and the earth was lit up by his radiance.  He shouted with a powerful voice: ‘Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great! She has become a lair for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detested beast. For all the nations have fallen from the wine of her immoral passion, and the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have gotten rich from the power of her sensual behavior’” (Rev 18:1-3, NET Bible).

John saw heaven open and someone riding a white horse appeared who was just in judgement and just in war.  “His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself.  He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God.  The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses.  From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful.  He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’“ (Rev 19:12-16, NET Bible).

“Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to do battle with the one who rode the horse and with his army.  Now the beast was seized, and along with him the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf—signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur.  The others were killed by the sword that extended from the mouth of the one who rode the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves with their flesh” (Rev 19:19-21, NET Bible).

“Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chain.  He seized the dragon—the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan—and tied him up for a thousand years.  The angel then threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the one thousand years were finished. (After these things he must be released for a brief period of time)” (Rev 20:I-3, NET Bible).

“Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison  and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea.  They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely.  And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:7-10, NET Bible).

Many eyes are searching these scriptures today, and much has been written to make us aware that the final world order may be converging upon us.  Regardless of what we will see in the coming years, there is no denying that Mystery Babylon will be destroyed in conformity with the Bible’s predictions just as surely as Japheth has been enlarged, and as the first six world empires have been observed in history.  It is also sure that some of the Gentile nations will take their place in final events just as the Bible predicts.  However, Jesus will judge the Gentile nations, and some will go into His Kingdom and some will not.

Judgment of the Nations

In the book of Isaiah, we read these words: ” He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isa. 2:4-5).

The prophet, Joel, saw a vision of the last days: ” For behold, in those days and at that time, When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land” (Joel 3:1-2).

The prophet, Isaiah, gives us even more amazing insight as he sheds light on the future roles of Israel and the Gentile Nations. “The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, And their kings shall minister to you; For in My wrath I struck you, But in My favor I have had mercy on you. Therefore your gates shall be open continually; They shall not be shut day or night, That men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, And their kings in procession. For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish,…” (Isa. 60:10-12b). It appears that the Gentile nations will pay homage to Israel during eternity. Whereas, in the past, the Gentiles have placed the Jews in bondage and persecuted them, now they will honor them. Those nations that will not honor the Jews will be judged and will perish.

It is important that we realize that Christ is judging nations and not individual Gentiles at this point. Each individual Gentile will be judged based upon their faith and confession of the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord. They have refused to take the mark of the beast during the great tribulation. If they have not taken the mark of Christ, they will be cast into hell. But it seems clear that some national identities will survive, and these verses refer to the judgment of those nations. Individual Gentiles, who are saved, will go into the kingdom as members of one of these surviving nations.

As Jesus departed out of the temple of Jerusalem for the last time, just before His crucifixion, He turned to His disciples, and announced that the temple would be thrown down. In their astonishment, three questions were asked and recorded in Matthew 24:3. When shall these things be? What shall be the sign of thy coming? What will it be like at the end of the ages? Jesus’ response is recorded in what is called the Olivet Discourse in Matthew chapters twenty-four and twenty-five. Beginning with verse thirty-one of chapter twenty-five, He speaks of the judgment of the nations.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:31-34, 41).

The Bible teaches that our salvation, as individuals, is based upon claiming, through faith, the shed blood of the Lamb of God as a substitute for our sin. We also recognize that good works and our love for others becomes visible evidence when a person has a living faith in the Son of God. Our works and actions will be judged in heaven to determine our rewards, crowns, and roles in Christ’s’ Kingdom. However, many of us are not aware that scripture directly speaks of the judgment of the nations. Jesus said he would gather all the nations, and would separate them into sheep and goats based upon their actions as nations.

Jesus indicated that some nations had provided service to Him through service to others. This scripture clearly refers to those who rendered service to people in need, but special emphasis may be intended for services rendered to God’s chosen people. We must always remember that God chose the Nation Israel as a special people, and promised Abraham that other peoples and nations would be blessed or cursed based upon their relationship with his descendants. In the twelfth chapter of Genesis, God said to Abraham: I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).

Although it is difficult to understand much of what we have read, the verses in Isa. 60:10-12, Gen. 12:2-3, and Matt. 25:31-34 gives some indication that the judgment of Gentile nations will be related to their past, present, and future relationship with Israel. The Bible predicts that Russia and other countries will invade the nation Israel. We continually see nations choosing sides for and against Israel. This closely parallels the history of Israel, showing over and over, the aligning of world powers either to support them or to destroy them. As we study the biblical prophesies, and look to coming events, one question begs an answer; when Israel is under attack, where do we, as a nation, stand?

A New Heaven and a New Earth

Both the Old and New Testament tell us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  Therefore, there will be those who will go into the New Kingdom and live either on earth or in heaven.  We know that land was promised to the Jews.  The Church, the bride of Christ, was promised heaven.  The Gentile nations also appear to live on the new earth.  But there also appears to be a lot of going back and forth between the two.  We are told that the twelve apostles will judge over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28), and there are indications that the Church will also have leadership roles. Our knowledge in this area is somewhat limited, but He has told us as much as He thinks we need to know.

Let’s go back to The Revelation and see what we are told.  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more.  And I saw the holy city—the new Jerusalem—descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: ‘Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.’ And the one seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new!” (Rev. 21:1-5a, NET Bible)!

“Now I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God—the All-Powerful—and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb.  The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their grandeur into it.   Its gates will never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there).  They will bring the grandeur and the wealth of the nations into it,  but nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:22-27, NET Bible).

We have just seen a birds-eye view of the eternal kingdom of God.  Evil has been overcome, and He has purged all that is unclean, foul, and false from heaven and earth.  He has made all things new, including heaven and earth.  The city of God, the New Jerusalem, has come down from heaven, and there will be coming and going between the New Jerusalem and the New Earth.  By the light of the Lamb, the kings and nations of the earth shall bring their wealth and splendor into the city.

Who are these kings and nations? Many believe that they are The Church.  But there is ample evidence in scripture to support the view that they are the nation Israel, and some of the Gentile nations.  As we progress through this study, we will be building a structural foundation for understanding God’s eternal kingdom, but first we need to return to God’s plan for His chosen nation, Israel.

All quoted scripture is of the New Kings James version unless noted.

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