Q: What Are the ‘Times of the Gentiles’?
The phrase times of the Gentiles is unique to the Gospel of Luke. Jesus said, “And they [the Jewish people] 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” (Lk. 21:24).
Many people misunderstand and misinterpret Luke 21:24. Some claim that when Israel became a state on May 14, 1948, and then captured the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War in June 1967, the times of the Gentiles ended. But this is an erroneous interpretation of the verse.
The phrase times of the Gentiles refers to Gentile domination over the world and control over Jerusalem. The era began during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Babylonians invaded Judah, destroyed Jerusalem, and exiled the Jewish people for 70 years (Jer. 25:11). Under King Cyrus of Persia the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their Temple (cf. 2 Chr. 36:23).
There have been times since the Babylonian Captivity when Israel has controlled Jerusalem, but Israel’s sovereignty did not last. For example, after Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled ancient Israel from 175 BC to 163 BC, defiled the Temple, the Jewish people rallied under the Maccabees to revolt. They recaptured Jerusalem and cleansed and rededicated the Temple, but they only controlled the city for little more than 100 years.
Then the Romans took control. Again the Jewish people rebelled (AD 66–70); and again, in the Bar Kokhba revolt of AD 132, they were defeated. Even since becoming a state in 1948, eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount have been controlled largely by Muslims, not Jews.
The prophet Daniel described the times of the Gentiles when he outlined the successive Gentile nations that would rule throughout world history from Babylon to the Antichrist during the Great Tribulation (Dan. 2:31–45). Jesus predicted Jerusalem’s future destruction and the scattering of the Jewish people during the Antichrist’s persecution of Israel (Mt. 24:1–29). The Antichrist will seize Jerusalem and tread the city underfoot for 42 months (Rev. 11:2).
The times of the Gentiles will not end until Christ returns to Earth at His Second Coming, destroys Gentile rule, and establishes His universal reign forever (Mt. 24:30; Lk. 1:32–33; Rev. 19:16–21). Jerusalem will remain under Gentile domination until He returns. Therefore, the times of the Gentiles have not yet been fulfilled.