Luke 21:24 speaks of the times of the Gentiles, saying, "They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." What is this period called the "times of the Gentiles"?
A look at the Old Testament prophets helps to define the beginning of this period. The Gentiles referred to the non-Jewish people. Their "time" means that Gentiles rule over the world, including having dominion over the Jewish people. When did the Gentiles begin to rule Jerusalem? This started when the Jewish temple was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians. Jewish rule ended and Gentile rule began.
Between this time and the time of Jesus on earth, the Jewish temple was rebuilt. However, Jerusalem was not under Jewish rule. Instead, the Jews were allowed to rebuild the temple seventy years later as predicted by Jeremiah. The Roman Empire later ruled Jerusalem, even helping to improve and expand the temple structure. The Romans ruled during the time of Jesus. The Jewish people later rebelled against Roman authority and the temple was destroyed in AD 70.
In Revelation, Gentiles are still ruling Jerusalem even during the seven-year tribulation period (Revelation 11:2). This does not change until Christ returns at the end of these seven years to begin His millennial reign (Revelation 19:17—20:6), a 1,000-year period during which Jesus will lead His people from Jerusalem (Revelation 20).
In short, the "times of the Gentiles" refers to the period in which Gentiles (non-Jews) have dominion over the world. This is between the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and Jesus's second coming. We are currently living in the "times of the Gentiles."
There are many other interesting aspects of Luke 21:24. The phrase, "They will fall by the sword and be led captive among the nations," refers to violence against and displacement of the Jewish people. Throughout history, it is easy to observe this has been true of the Jewish people at many times. Anti-Semitism, especially under Nazi Germany, has caused the deaths of millions of Jewish people. In addition, after AD 70, the Jews were displaced and have scattered throughout the world. Only in the twentieth century have many Jews returned to Israel following the modern re-establishment of the nation.
Some wonder if modern Israel is a fulfillment or end of the time of Gentile rule. However, the prophecies of Revelation indicate Gentile rule has not yet ended, even if the Jewish people temporarily lead their own nation. In addition, the phrase, "Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles," could have something to do with the ongoing conflict that continues in and around Jerusalem even today. Only when Christ returns will Gentile rule completely end, along with ceasing all violence towards God's people.
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