Times of the Gentiles

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus referred to something he called “The Times of the Gentiles.” This phrase has puzzled Bible scholars for 2000 years. But if we carefully examine the phrase, we can get a good approximation of what this mysterious time period might mean.

The traditional view of many commentators is that it refers to the time that Gentiles (non-Jews) controlled all or part of Jerusalem.  (From AD70 on). Some commentators have post-dated Gentile control all the way back to Babylonian days.  Still others have suggested it is the time that the Dome of Rock has been present on the Temple Mount. The problem with all of these views is that they rely soley on we as commentators “think” it means rather than relying on what the Bible says it means.

Sense and Reference

An incredibly important, but often overlooked, Bible interpreation method is known as “Sense and Reference.” The method says that every Bible passage has a “sense” or what the phrase literally means when we read it. Many passages also have a “reference,” which is another Bible verse that the passage refers to that adds additional meaning to it. Sometimes the “reference” is just as important to the meaning of the passage as the literal “sense.”

This method of Bible interpretation dates back to several centuries BC. Jesus himself used it often. He would quote a single Old Testament phrase and assume his listeners would know the quote and its context. A famous example is when Jesus quoted the first line of Psalm 22 while hanging on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” The “sense” of what Jesus was saying was a cry of anguish over the Father turning away from the Son while he bore our sin debt and literally became sin for us. The “reference” was all of Psalm 22. Jesus wanted those within listening distance to know that what they were seeing was the literal fulfillment of Psalm 22, from the sneering of the crowds, to his bones being out of joint, his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth, the piercing of his hands and feet, and the gambling for his clothes.  Unfortunately most of his listeners missed the prophetic point of Jesus’s statement and thought he was calling on Elijah! If they had only understood Jesus’s true “reference,” how many might have been saved that day?

So we must ask, “is there a ‘sense and reference’ to Jesus’s statement about the ‘Times of the Gentiles?'” In order to answer this, let’s look at the passage in its context:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city;  because these are days of vengeance (Gk: EKDIKESEOS, meaning “justice or avenging”), so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times (Gk: KAIRON, meaning “appointed times”) of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21: 20-24 NASB)

The Sense

Jesus’s disciples asked him what would be the sign of his second coming and the end of the age. He responded with a sermon we call the Olivet Discourse. This passage is about what will happen to Jerusalem at the Midpoint (half way point) of Daniel’s 70th Week.

This brings up the first misunderstanding that many commentators have about the passage; that it refers to AD 70 and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and not to the future 70th Week of Daniel. Because the events pictured in the passage are similar to events in AD 70, these commentators believe it refers to that time. In doing so, they miss an incredibly important verse, “so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” All of prophecy wasn’t fulfilled in AD 70 so Jesus could not be exclusively talking about that period. The passage must refer to the 70th Week which is yet future. That is when all that is written is fulfilled.

Part of the reason many commentators don’t want to believe this refers to the future is what the passage says about Jerusalem, “they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all nations.” No one wants to imagine another holocaust, yet this is what the passage is picturing. But, regardless of whether we like it or not, we must remain true to God’s Word; it says a second holocaust is coming.

Knowing that the passage does not refer to AD 70 changes our opinion of what the phrase “Times of the Gentiles” means as well. If the entire passage was talking about AD 70, when Jesus said, “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the Times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” this would imply that these “times” would extend from the trampling in AD 70 until today.  Now that we know that Luke 21: 20-24 is about the future, this theory (that the Times of the Gentiles is from AD 70 till Jesus returns) loses a lot of its validity.

Let’s trace what the passage says. We first see that Jerusalem will be made “desolate.” It’s people will be killed and sent to concentration camps in other nations. The passage then further states that during “those days,” the Gentiles will trample Jerusalem. The passage doesn’t say that Jerusalem has continually been trampled, it says that during “those days” (during this invasion at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th Week) the Gentiles will trample the city.

The Reference

Now that we know the “sense” of the passage, let’s see if we can find further clues as to the meaning from reference passages. The primary references to these verses are found in Daniel:

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city . . . to seal up vision and prophecy . . .  (Dan. 9: 24 NASB)

These are days of vengeance (Gk: EKDIKESEOS, meaning “justice or avenging”), so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. (Luke 21: 22 NASB)

This first reference implies the Jesus is explaining Daniel’s prophecy about the 70 Shabua. The second does as well:

The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (Dan. 9: 26 NASB)

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. (Luke 21: 20 NASB)

You are probably saying “wait a minute, Daniel 9: 26 is talking about AD 70.” Really? Are we making the same mistake commentators previously made about Luke 21: 20-24? The first 69 weeks (Shabua) of this vision END with Jesus’s death. The destruction of the Temple in AD 70 is 40 years outside of Daniel’s 70 weeks, so how can verse 26 be part of the prophecy which is about the 70 weeks? I believe verse 26 is speaking of the destruction yet to come. This is another parallel showing Jesus is explaining the 70 weeks in Luke 21: 20-24.

In the middle of the week (70th Week) he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate. (Dan. 9: 27 NASB)

We have already stated that Luke 21: 20-24 shows what happens at the Midpoint of Daniel’s 70th Week. This confirms the timing.

Until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. (Dan. 9: 27 NASB)

Until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21: 24)

The perfect parallelism continues through the end of both passages. So now we know the end point of the Times of the Gentiles, it is the return of Christ and the destruction of the Antichrist.  What is the link between these two things?

They (the saints) will be given into his (the Antichrist’s) hand for a time, times, and half a time. But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. (Dan. 7: 25-26 NASB)

This is the linking verse that I think Jesus had in mind. “Times” and “destruction ” both appear in this one passage. So are the “Times of the Gentiles” the same as “time, times, and half a time?” Yes, I believe they are. Is there more proof? Yes, there is:

Jerusalem will be trampled (Gk: PATEO) under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21: 24 NASB)

It has been given to the nations; and they will tread (Gk: PATEO)under foot the holy city for forty-two months. (Rev. 11:3 NASB)

This is the next reference. We can see that the trampling of Jerusalem is 42 months. We already know that “time, times, and half a time” is 1260 days, 3 1/2 year or 42 months. We have a match. We can now say with fair certainity that the “Times of the Gentiles” is equal to the last half of Daniel’s 70th Week (42 months) and not the time from the Babylonian invasion and not the time since AD 70 as is so frequently taught.

Times

What did Jesus mean by “times” when he used this word? We have already seen that the Greek word translated “times” is KAIRON meaning “appointed times.” In the Hebrew this word is MO’EDIM which also can mean “Feasts of the Lord.” Could Jesus have been talking about the Feasts of the Lord? Since we know each “time” is a year, was Jesus talking about a cycle of all 7 Feasts that take a year to complete? It is very likely.

We also know that the primary fulfillment of the first four Feasts have already taken place. Three more Feasts (Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles) still remain to be fulfilled. It is incredibly likely they will be fulfilled during the 70th Week of Daniel. So when Jesus referred to the “Times” of the Gentiles was he also referring to Feasts of the Lord that will be fulfilled when the Gentiles are in control of Jerusalem? He may have been.

 

 

 

28 thoughts on “Times of the Gentiles”

  1. Nelson, I am looking for the correct English translation of the complete Septuagint, including the book of Enoch, and definitions of the Greek words as well. What do you recommend?

    1. I personally use Bible Hub, Adam. It contains the canon of scripture and definitions of Greek words. I also use the LOGOS Software and have the Septuagint add-on which is absolutely great. If you want a rather complete listing of online Septuagint versions try this site:

      http://www.kalvesmaki.com/LXX/texts.htm

      The Book of Enoch is not part of the Septuagint. Even as early as 300 BC when the Septuagint was translated from the Hebrew, Enoch was not viewed as canon by the Jews. To my understanding there are several Greek fragments of the Book of Enoch but there is no complete version in Greek or Hebrew. The only complete version is found in the Ethiopian language Ge’er.

  2. Ok, that makes sense. Can you tell me your view on the Gog Magog War? My understanding is that it is the same as Armageddon as it appears that God himself strikes down the hoard of armies and says He will no longer allow His name to be profaned. It seems that the only way that is possible is if it is actually describing the same battle as Armageddon where Jesus himself shows up and destroys the armies present. So if that is the case I am still a little hung up as to the Antichrist and his army having control over Jerusalem and I would presume all of Israel and the description of the hoard going out to invade Israel. It would make sense if the army was gathering to battle God and I can see how that would play out but can you talk about how you would see this war as compared to the Gog Magog War? Thanks, I hope I was clear in explaining the difficulty I am having!

    1. I believe the Gog of Magog War is Armageddon, but describes events from the midpoint of the 70th Week until the return of Christ. So it’s a 3 1/2 year period of time that is pictured. I can’t possibly do it justice in a short comment section. My yet unfinished second book, Revelation Deciphered, has a section on it. Maybe I’ll do an exerpt on it in the near future. My next post will be on the Covenant with the Many, so maybe after that.

  3. Hey Nelson, I am new to your site but have been following the teachings from Joel Richardson for years. I am really enjoying the perspectives you have to offer on the various topics on your blog! Can you help me understand something that I have been thinking about for a while. The way I understand the timeline of things is that the Antichrist will take over Jerusalem for the last 3.5 years of the tribulation leading up to Armageddon at which point Jesus returns and destroys the armies surrounding Jerusalem. What I don’t quite understand is if the AC already has invaded, established himself in the temple and slaughtered the jews living in Israel then what is the purpose of the armies gathering for Armageddon? Is the battle against Jesus at His coming? If that is the case it would imply that His coming would be slow and people would know He is on His way for sometime. Or do you see the battle as something else? Thanks again for your ministry here!!

    1. Dapilot23, thanks for finding this site. This is a facinating question. I agree with your timeline completely. Let’s look at Rev. 16

      And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. (Rev. 16: 13-16)

      A couple things that this doesn’t say. First it doesn’t say that Satan, the AC and False Prophet are gathering troops for the Day of the Lord. It says they are gathering them for the “War” of the great day of God. IMO the Day of the Lord is a year long. (Isa. 34:8) Second, they aren’t encircling Jerusalem, they are gathering north of the city in the plain of Meggido (Armageddon)

      Additionally it appears that they gather their troops PRIOR to Jesus returning. Notice Jesus injects that he’s coming (not already come) in verse 15. This would imply that Satan DOES know the day Jesus is returning, and why not? Daniel tells us there are 1260 days from the setting up of the Abomination until the AC looses his authority. Satan should be able to count these days as well as anyone I assume. Second Armageddon is the seveth bowl. Satan should also be able to see each successive bowl occurring. I am sure he knows the scriptures and realizes that Jesus’s coming is at hand. Notice Jesus gives instruction to the inhabitants of the earth to stay awake. He will come like a thief to most of them, but Satan, the AC and False Prophet seem to have it figured out. At least that is my take on it.

      In terms of people knowing that Jesus is on the way for sometime, way back at the sixth seal they hide in caves and under rocks when the Celestial Earthly Disturbance Event occurs and ask the rocks “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”. So everyone knows Christ is coming and on his way, but they are so hard-hearted they oppose him instead of worshiping him. This is consistent with what we know to be true even today. Romans 1 tells us that all people know God exists but they supress the truth in unrighteousness.

      At least that is my take on all of that.

  4. But scripture says that the great falling away must occur first then the anti-christ is revealed, which would be at the start of the Great Tribulation, in the middle of the 70th week. Both of these prophecies cause God to send his two witnesses, at the start of the Great Tribulation?

    1. What you’ve written is the most common theory. There is also a theory that their ministry is the first half of the 70th Week. There are serious problems with both theories. I thought about this for years Ken. Then when I was writing my new book it hit me, 1260 doesn’t have to be either the first half or the second half. It can be in the middle. When you arrange it that way, all the pieces fit. Maybe I’ll write a post on the witnesses in the near future and explain myself

  5. Nelson,
    My question is not closely related to this post but could the ” great falling away, apostasy,” be the destruction of the family and marriage through homosexuality and same sex marriage permeating throughout christian countries and nations today? Pastors and church leaders on porn and adultery websites.. Even the Pope is quasi endorsing child literature focused on homosexuality acceptance and same sex marriage. And of course the pedophile priests and the huge pedophile wring and sexual abuse of children in the UK …in south american countries,,in Africa, the kidnapping of young girls as sex slaves. It’s all what Satan wants. The major denominations are fracturing internally since the SCOTUS decision.

    1. I like to call what we are experiencing now the “gradual falling away.” Certainly liberal agendas of same sex unions and abortion are eating away at the core of Christianity. I could argue that the teaching of evolution in schools has had an even greater effect. In Luke 8, Jesus tells the parable of the 4 soils, sometimes called the parable of the sower. In that parable two reasons are given for falling away:

      “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation (Gk: PEIRASMOU, meaning trial) fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” (Luke 8:13-14)

      I think these are pictures of the main reasons people will fall away during the 70th Week of Daniel. Some will take the Mark of the Beast in order to buy and sell, while others will do so to avoid martyrdom. That’s when the Great Falling Away happens in my mind. Especially during the Great Tribulation when the choice is martyrdom or apostasy. In my mind, we really can’t compare the political dis-ease caused events now to the mass tribulation of those days. The rider of the Green Horse is given authority over 1/4 of the earth to kill. That is several billion people.

      Our testimony (via our own faith in trails) in those days may encourage many who are weak in their faith to strengthen their faith and overcome. That is what it talks about in the Letter to Sardis, “strengthen what remains.”

  6. Generally agreed, Mike. And for sure, Paul’s praise at the end of ch 11 is surely not only that Israel (as a nation) will be saved, but HOW God is doing it is beyond ALL human knowledge and wisdom! His thoughts and His ways are not like ours! And, yes, in the meantime, only individual Jews are being saved through repentance and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Rom 1:16)

  7. Interesting post, Nelson. As for Israel’s partial hardening (and blindness) now, it is so that more Gentiles can be saved. This is Paul’s argument in Rom 9 – 11.

    Many of us believers in Israel know this hardening up close, and it is a mystery to us the wisdom of God regarding His plan of redemption.

    Since Arabs are not Jewish, they are technically Gentiles. Although the Arab Christian often feels that God’s sovereign choices and way regarding the election of Isaac and Jacob over Ishmael and Esau is both unfair and no longer relevant to the current unfolding history, we see that God is giving salvation to many more Arabs (including to the majority who are Muslim) than to Jews.

    I believe that He will use many of the Arabs, especially those who accept God’s purposes for the present State of Israel, to be vessels of mercy and powerful witnesses of the transforming power of the gospel to those who repent and believe it. Rather than seeking the destruction and vengeance upon Israel, with their new heart and new Spirit given by God when they are born-again, they will solicit the Jew’s forgiveness — for Jesus’ sake — for their murderous grudge and resentment towards them. What a testimony that will be to provoke Israel to jealousy to return to their God and Savior!

    1. Interesting stuff Howard … Some of what ill say here is speculative some is not.. First I believe Romans 9-11 is regarding God’s sovereignty in choice not so much in salvation but in how he works his plans out. Romans 9 in particular Paul shows in a number of illustrations on how God sovereignty chose Israel to show the world his glory this was to illustrate to the jews that God has the right to make and change his plans because he is sovereign over everything just as Israel was chosen so now God chose a people not looking for him , the gentiles because Israel was not obedient even though God had showed many a time is power amongst them and so basically God was saying don’t I have the right to do this with the gentiles . you weren’t complaining when I put my favor on you.. Paul ends his message in 11 but speaking to the gentle rather than the Jew saying do not become ignorant and start thinking your better than the Jew for in fact the gentiles only benefited because of the disobedient of the Jew.. In fact Paul says when the fullness of the gentle has come in once again God would turn his attention to the Jew. This will occur at the rapture of the church toward the end of the great trib. The only jews who will get saved as a result of Arabs preaching the gospel are those being a remnant saved through the church era ,, when Jesus returns in the 2nd coming this is when God once again returns to Israel the rule of nations with himself as king. I do however feel and this is the speculative part it says in the old testament that God has others meaning other than the Jew which are his people although yes Arabs aren’t jews they do hold a special place in God’s heart .. We hear about hundreds of a arabs converting to Christianity through supernatural means . lastly Arab Christians as you say if true feel God was unfair in choosing Jacob and Isaac rather than the other ones who became the Arab people’s . but they right as far as now Goes where many Arabs are being saved .

      1. Nelson: your last comment made me think of these 2 questions.

        1) When the Bible says that in the last days, 2/3 of the Jews in Israel will be killed by AC, do you think this will happen in the 4th-6th years of tribulation? I would also assume that a lot of Arabs living in Israel will also be killed, especially in mixed neighborhoods.

        2) If the answer to question 1 is yes, will the 1/3 remaining Jewish remnant come to know Christ during the year of wrath?

        1. Ezekiel 5 details this. There will be a siege of Jerusalem and during the siege, 1/3 will die from starvation and disease. They will be burned in the center of town (disposal of bodies?). 1/3 will die by the sword, and 1/3 go into captivity. My understanding is this happens at the midpoint, at the 3.5 year mark, the fourth seal.

          You then ask about the remnant coming to Christ. Some may. We know Israel is saved in a single day when they look upon Christ whom they pierced and repent. How many come to Christ before that I’m not sure. I can’t think of a scripture that talks about it.

  8. Another great post, Nelson. One comment on the time, times, and half a time – I think it has multiple fulfillments, as so many passages do. I agree that the more important fulfillment is the 42 month period – the final 3.5 years of Great Tribulation – in which a “time” is 360 days. But don’t discount the previous fulfillment in years. As I explained in Antichrist 2016-2019:

    I know most historians date the Babylonian destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem to 586 B.C. I believe that is a mistake, and a very reasonable mistake – Jeremiah tells us the event occurred in the summer of the 19th year of the reign of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar, and Babylonian astronomical records give details with which astronomers can calculate his accession to the throne in October of 605 B.C. It is understandable how many historians take these two facts and conclude the temple was destroyed in 586 B.C.

    What they fail to account for is that Jeremiah was Jewish, and that Jews and Babylonians reckon years of Kingship differently. Babylonians backdated reigns (officially) to the previous Babylonian new year’s day near the Spring equinox (March.) Jews postdate forward to the following Jewish new year’s day near the fall equinox (September.) So when Nebuchadnezzar became king in October 605 B.C., Babylonians counted the reign from the beginning of their year already in progress as his first year, starting in March 605 B.C. Jews felt that the Jewish new year which had just started in September had already begun under the reign of his father, Nablopolassar. The upcoming Jewish new year in September 604 B.C. was the time they would view as Nebuchadnezzar’s first year. So to a Babylonian, July 586 B.C. would have been in his 19th year. But Jeremiah was Jewish, and the Jews maintained their own method of reckoning kingship long after being taken captive to Babylon. To Jeremiah, July 586 B.C. was only Nebuchadnezzar’s 17th year as king. To Jeremiah, July 584 B.C. was his 19th year, and since he wrote the book of Jeremiah in which the line about the 19th year is found – he meant 584 B.C.

    Add 1260 years, and reach 677 A.D., when the first mosque was built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Add 1290 years to reach 1967 A.D., when the Israeli army recaptured all of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount. These three years, all so crucial to temples on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount – and separated by 1260 and 1290 years – cannot be a coincidence. This is why I think we must consider multiple fulfillments, though I won’t argue that the upcoming 3.5 year version is far more important at this point.

  9. In a comment above, you said, “To me ‘fullness (Gk: PLEROMA, meaning full compliment of)of the Gentiles’ involves the complete number of Gentiles to be saved before God lifts the partial hardening that currently blinds a portion of Israel.” Why do you think God has allowed people who are currently a part of Israel, today, to be “hardened”?

    1. Thanks for the comment Janae, Maybe we look at the harding the wrong way, maybe its grace that lifts the hardening rather than God permitting it. Maybe its grace that will eventually save a people who might otherwise be lost.

    1. Absolutely correct Mike. The fullness of the Gentiles continues throughout almost all of the 70th Week. It appears that this number is reached right before the second coming at the end of the 7th year of the 70th Week

  10. Nelson: This article was very eye opening to me. Your sense and reference argument clearly applies to the definition of Times.

    You are probably correct about the remaining 3 feasts being completed by Christ, before his second coming. Completion of 7 feasts clearly shows and explains Christ’s plan and story of salvation from a Jewish perspective. These 7 feast story of salvation will probably be shared and celebrated in the millenium years, especially by the Jewish nation who will worship Christ.

    Keep up with the research and the articles. You have come a long way since you started your website more than a year ago.

    1. Thank you so much Afo. God is working with all of us, you, me, everyone, to get us up to speed to be His messengers for the times soon to come.

      Over the last five months I’ve been working on a second book where I apply the “Sense and Reference” tool (and several others) to Revelation and trace out the OT and NT references. It has been an eye-opening experience to me. It is being read right now by other brothers in the Lord for critique. I hope to share that one some time next year Lord willing.

  11. Hello Nelson riveting post will have to think and study these things … Did have a comment/ question for you . I have always equated that verse about the gentiles with Romans chapter 11 specifically verse 25 where Paul mentions the fullness of the gentle and I’m wondering what you think about that ???

    1. To me “fullness (Gk: PLEROMA, meaning full compliment of)of the Gentiles” involves the complete number of Gentiles to be saved before God lifts the partial hardening that currently blinds a portion of Israel. “(Appointed) Times of the Gentiles” is what I wrote about in the article, the period when Jerusalem and the new Temple is trampled (3 1/2 years). The full compliment of the Gentiles will happen during the Times of the Gentiles but that is about all the similarity.

      1. Correct. Thanks for commenting Christopher. You are absolutely right. The “fullness of the Gentiles” is for believers, “Times of the Gentiles” is about unbelievers. Thanks for that clarification.

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