Rev. Dan Bergman
The disciples likely had a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs. The Messiah had just prophesied of the Temple’s complete and utter destruction. Things were becoming terribly discouraging. Jesus had already begun to tell them of His coming torturous death at the hands of the Romans. He told them that He would rise from the dead three days after His death, but that thought seems to have been swallowed up in the anxiety and fear that was overcoming the disciples. How would they make it out of this? And the Temple – it would be destroyed? With great dread the disciples enquire of their Master when these things would happen, and what sign they would have of His coming and of the end of the world.
In the midst of what is known as Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, the Master informs His disciples of some of the events and situations that would precede His return:
“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
– Luke 21:20-24
There is within the above passage an interesting phrase that we will focus on for the remainder of this article, “the times of the Gentiles.”
Jesus said in verse 24 that Jerusalem would be “trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” What does this mean?
THE PLACE TRODDEN DOWN
“Jerusalem shall be trodden down.”
The times of the Gentiles is not just some nebulous term that deals with a general or broad scenario. It is very specific. Although billions of Gentiles cover every corner of the globe, the words of Jesus bring a sharp focus, like a laser – upon one specific location, the city of Jerusalem. EVERYTHING about the phrase which gives this article its name hinges upon a single, solitary piece of land: Jerusalem. The following has been said regarding the planet’s most important city:
“Jerusalem, by that name alone, is expressly named over eight hundred times in the biblical record, besides its occurrences under various other names. Under one name or another Jerusalem appears in about two-thirds of the books of the Old and almost one-half of the books of the New Testament.”
THE PERIOD OF TIME INVOLVED
It had been almost 40 years since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Life was getting more and more difficult for the Christians in Israel (most of whom were Jewish). The Roman general Vespasian had overcome the Jewish rebels in the Galilee area. This was 67 A.D. Soon the Roman Emperor Nero would take his own life, and Vespasian would replace him. Vespasian’s eldest son Titus was given the order to overcome all remaining resistance – especially that of Jerusalem. Most of Judea had succumbed to his powerful advances within a single year. Most – but not Jerusalem. It was now 70 A.D. The city was besieged round about. Like a python squeezing the life out of its prey, Titus’ armies slowly, but surely advanced to the Temple Mount itself. The city was utterly devastated. Multitudes were executed. It was said that the streets flowed with blood. This is the beginning of “the times of the Gentiles.”
In the centuries following the siege of 70 A.D., the country would be basically desolate for hundreds of years. After 300 years of Byzantine rule, in 638 the Holy City was placed within Muslim control by Omar Ben Hatav. In 1099, it passed into the hands of the crusaders. It moved from the control of the Mongols, to the Turks, and then to the British on December 9th, 1917. That is an amazing story in and of itself, when general Allenby conquered Israel for the British and walked into Jerusalem on foot without a single shot being fired.
On May 14th, 1948 the National Council of Tel-Aviv announced the State of Israel would now be an independent nation among the nations of the world. The very next day, the British relinquished their control over the nation. Soon after, however, war was waged against God’s chosen nation. Arab armies recaptured the old city. It was then taken by Jordan and held until 1967. It was then that the old city was recaptured during the “Six-Day War” by the Israeli army. When this occurred, many Bible students began to believe that the “times of the Gentiles” were over!
This, however, was not God’s timing for the fulfillment of the “times of the Gentiles,” and Israel’s secular government turned control of the Temple Mount back over to the Muslims. This is the situation Jerusalem finds herself in today. Right now, we are in the “until ” part of Jesus’ phrase. Ever since the Roman expulsion of the Jews from the Holy City in 70 A.D., Jerusalem has been, and is currently, “trodden down of the Gentiles.” To put it plainly, Jerusalem has been under Gentile control from 70 A.D. unto today.
It should also be noted that there are many Bible scholars who believe that the “times of the Gentiles” began all the way back in the 6th century B.C. when the Babylonian armies of King Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem. Proponents of this view note the connection with the vision and dream of Daniel chapters 2 and 7, noting that the world powers that began with Babylon will be destroyed at the second coming of Christ. However, there are a few reasons this writer holds to 70 A.D. as the starting point of this time period:
- The Jews regained full control over the Holy City between 586 B.C., and 70 A.D. This does not line up with the meaning of “the times of the Gentiles.”
- Jesus’ phrase “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles” leads us to believe that He was speaking of a future event that had not yet occurred.
- There is an undeniable connection between the prophecy in Daniel 9:26 & 27 of Jerusalem’s destruction after the Messiah’s death, and Titus besieging the city in 70 A.D.
“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.”
The Roman armies are the “people of the prince that shall come,” and the Anti-christ is “the prince that shall come” as seen in verse 27: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week…”
THE PEOPLE TREADING ON JERUSALEM
“Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
The above passage is telling us that the non-Jewish peoples of the world will retain some form of control over at least a portion of the Holy City, until “the times of the Gentiles” are complete.
Currently, the Islamic Waqf (which is entirely controlled and funded by the Jordanian government) has full control over the Temple mount complex (pictured on the top of this page). One cannot visit the old city of Jerusalem for very long without hearing the Muslim call to prayer being sounded 5 times a day from the many minarets in Jerusalem (there are four surrounding the Temple mount alone). In Islam, the structure of the minaret is not only built for a functional purpose, but is also a symbol of dominance and conquest, as they “…represent a declaration of the supremacy of the Islamic creed. Five times a day the muezzin in deafening noise pollution proclaims that Islam is in power and calls to the infidels to submit to Islam.”
The beginning of the Tribulation period draws closer, and the rapture of the church (which precedes it) is imminent. This 7-year period also know as “Daniel’s 70th week” will begin with the signing of a peace treaty orchestrated by the Anti-christ. We know that the Temple will be standing by the middle of the Tribulation for the Anti-christ to enter in, cause the sacrifices to cease, desecrate it, and claim himself to be God. This does not mean that “the times of the Gentiles” would then end with the signing of the peace treaty, the building of the third temple, or with the occurrence of the rapture. The Luke passage at the beginning of this article has been erroneously applied to the timing of the rapture of the church.
The culmination of this time period is not the rapture, but rather the second coming of Jesus.
At the time of the signing of the peace treaty, Jerusalem will be passing control from a group of Gentiles to a specific Gentile, namely the control of the Anti-christ.
THE PROPHETIC TIME TABLE
Revelation 11:2 will help us to understand more fully how and when “the times of the Gentiles” will be fulfilled:
“…the holy city shall they [the Gentiles] tread under foot forty and two months.”
This is speaking of the mid-point of the 7-year Tribulation period. Those 42 prophetic months also constitute 1,260 days, or 31/2 years. This is the same 42 months that we read about in Revelation 13:5, which tells us that the Anti-christ has power to continue in his wickedness for 42 months.
When will those 31/2 years come to an end? When will the “times of the Gentiles” be over?
When Jesus the Messiah returns to earth at the end of the 7-year Tribulation period. He vanquishes the Anti-christ and the armies that have set themselves against Jerusalem, and sets up His millennial kingdom on this earth. Then “the times of the Gentiles” will finally be fulfilled!
 Matthew 16:21
 Matthew 24:3
 Harold Foos, “Jerusalem in Biblical Prophecy,” Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, ed. Mal Couch (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1996), p. 207
 David Clifford, The Two Jerusalems in Prophecy, (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers 1978), p. 53
 Ibid. p. 54