Jerusalem and The Times of the Gentiles: Are the Times of the Gentiles Past, or Future?
Don K. Preston
Question: It is often stated that because Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is still in the possession of Gentiles the ‘times of the Gentiles’ prophesied by Jesus (Luke 21:24) is still ongoing and there are prophecies to yet be fulfilled. How does Preterism address this passage?”
This claim, that before and since AD 70 Jerusalem has experienced “the times of the Gentiles” is a critical element of the dispensational world. If Luke 21:24 speaks of a future end to the times of the Gentiles, and consequent restoration of national Israel, then virtually all other eschatologies are falsified. Let’s take a look first at what millennialists believe about the times of the Gentiles.
Pat Robertson says: “The year 586 B.C. was the time that Nebuchadnezzar took over Jerusalem, and that condition lasted, …until the Six Day War that took place not too long ago. When did it happen? 1967. …The Jews took over Jerusalem for the first time since Nebuchadnezzar took it. What is the significance of all this?… At this point of time, a clock began to tick. A generation is 40 years, and a clock began to tick that said there’s 40 years from 1967.” (http://www.patrobertson.com/Teaching/TeachingonBabylon.asp– 1-21-2010).
Clearly, Robertson has boxed himself into a “date-setting” corner. If 1967 was the end of the times of the Gentiles, and if a generation is, Biblically, 40 years, and if Christ’s coming was to be at the end of the times of the Gentiles, then patently, Christ should have come in 2007!
Robertson expresses the dominant dispensational view that the times of the Gentiles began in BC 586. Thomas Ice, however, says the times of the Gentiles began in AD 70. (Makes you wonder about the Gentile domination from BC 586 until AD 70, does it not? Per Ice’s view, that Gentile oppression had nothing to do with the real times of the Gentiles)! He says: “Clearly, Luke 21:20- 24 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. The second half of verse 24 says, ‘and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.’ Equally clear is that the last half of verse 24 is descriptive of a period of time that commenced after the Roman vanquishing of Jerusalem in the first century. That phrase has a beginning point, which began after AD 70. It has a time interval described by the expression, ‘Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles.’ That verse also provides an ending point when it says, ‘until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.’ (www.raptureme.com/featured/ice/AnInterpretationofMatthew24_25_25.html. Valid as of 1-26-2010). Ice says the times of the Gentiles will end at Christ’s parousia: “At the parousia the times of the Gentiles cease and the focus of history once again turns to the Jews” (Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, Prophecy Watch, (Eugene, Ore., Harvest House, 1998)264 . Note: Be aware that Ice does not agree with everything in Prophecy Watch. He stated this in a debate with me. So, while we ascribe the quote to Ice, he may actually disagree with Demy with his co-author.)
Ice’s position is self defeating, however. Notice what he says about the events of AD 70: “Those first century days are called ‘days of vengeance’ for Jerusalem is under the divine judgment of covenantal sanctions recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Luke records that God’s vengeance upon His elect nation is ‘in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.’ Jesus is telling the nation that God will fulfill all the curses of the Mosaic covenant because of Israel’s disobedience. He will not relent and merely bring to pass a partial fulfillment of His vengeance.” (Thomas Ice and Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1999)103).
So, according to Ice, the AD 70 destruction was the complete, not partial, fulfillment of God’s covenantal wrath on Israel. There is a huge problem here.
Millennialism says that during the seven year period following the rapture, i.e. what they call the Great Tribulation, fully two thirds of the Jewish nation is destroyed! Thus, there is, per the millennial view, even worse vengeance coming on the Jewish nation than that which fell in AD 70!
Ice seeks to deflect the problem by claiming that the future tribulation is not a covenantal judgment on Israel: “The language of Matthew 24, with the exception of Luke 21:20f does not speak of Israel under God’s judgment, but of Israel under the threat of Gentile nations and God’s rescue of the Jewish people” (Thomas Ice and Tim LaHaye, End Times Controversy, (Eugene, Ore., Harvest House, 2003)161). This is specious to say the least.
The problem for Ice is that in God’s dealings with Israel, when Gentiles threatened Israel it was the direct result of Israel’s violation of the Mosaic Covenant. Thus, the abomination of desolation and the persecution of the Jews flowing out of that must be viewed as covenantal wrath. YHVH never, ever, allowed the desecration of the temple and persecution of Israel unless it was as a result of her apostasy from the covenant! This is the covenantal wrath of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28! There is no basis for delineating between covenantal wrath against Israel and a mere “Gentile threat.”
By admitting that AD 70 was the complete, not partial, fulfillment of covenantal wrath on Jerusalem, Ice has tacitly defeated his view of the times of the Gentiles. (His view actually suggests that in AD 70 Israel ceased to be God’s covenant people. No covenant wrath means no covenant)! If Ice is correct, that AD 70 ended God’s covenant wrath on Jerusalem, then this means– per Ice’s definition of the times of the Gentiles– that the Gentile oppression of Jerusalem ended in AD 70! Remember, Gentile oppression of Israel was always covenantally connected. This is indisputable. In other words:
Gentile oppression of Jerusalem (i.e. the times of the Gentiles) equaled covenantal wrath (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28f).
But, covenantal wrath on Jerusalem terminated in AD 70 (Thomas Ice).
Therefore, the times of the Gentiles terminated in AD 70!
Ice says that the AD 70 trampling down of Jerusalem was covenantal judgment (at the hands of the Gentiles). However, following AD 70, Jerusalem is being trampled down by the Gentiles, but that this–and the yet future, even worse tribulation– is not covenantally related! This is patently false.
Now, how do preterists specifically explain the times of the Gentiles? I can’t speak for all preterists, but here is how I would respond:
First of all, by taking note of the millennial difficulties iterated above.
Secondly, by noting that Luke 21:22 forbids any fulfillment of prophecy post AD 70. Notice Jesus’ words as he described the AD 70 events: “These be the days of vengeance in which all things that are written must be fulfilled.” See my article in the earlier Fulfilled Magazine in which I examine Luke 21:22
Thirdly, the times of the Gentiles equates to the time, times, and half time of Daniel 12:6, and to the 42 months of Revelation 11:2– which is a direct allusion to Luke 21:24. (It is also related to Daniel 9:24f, but we can’t discuss that here). This means that the times of the Gentiles is the time allotted by God for the Gentiles to accomplish the shattering of the power of the holy people.
Per the millennialist, you have the following: The oppression of Israel (from AD 70 until the present), then the end of the times of the Gentiles at Christ’s coming to establish the
In Daniel 12, we have the following: the great tribulation, the resurrection at the end at the age when the righteous shine forth, i.e. the establishment of the kingdom (cf. Matthew 13:39-43).
Now, in Daniel 12:6 one angel asks another “When shall these things be, and when shall all of these things be fulfilled?” Another angel answers: “It shall be a time, times and half times.” This enigmatic term, virtually all scholars agree, equates to the equally enigmatic reference to 42 months, and to 3 ½ years found in Revelation. For our purposes, we want to examine the parallels with Luke 21 and Revelation 11.
In Daniel 12, we have the tribulation, the end of the age and establishment of the kingdom, all assigned to fulfillment within and by the consummation of the time, times and half time.
In Luke 21 we have the times of the Gentiles, the coming of the Lord (v. 25f), and the establishment of the kingdom (v. 28-31).
In Revelation 11 we have the trampling down of the temple by the Gentiles. This trampling down lasts for 42 months which is the time, times and half times of Daniel 12. The city “where the Lord was slain” is shaken and destroyed (11:8f). Then, the kingdom of God is established at the resurrection (11:15f).
Let me bring these passages together:
Jerusalem would be trampled down until the times of the Gentiles was fulfilled (Luke 21:24).
But, Jerusalem was to be trampled down for 42 months (Revelation 11:1-2).
Therefore, the times of the Gentiles would last for, and end, at the end of the 42 months.
The times of the Gentiles would only last for the 42 months! (Note how Ice’s view demands that it has now lasted for 2000 years!)
Significantly, the Jewish War lasted for approximately 3 ½ years, i.e. 42 months, the very time foretold by Daniel and Revelation! Notice now the following:
☛ Daniel said the time, times and half time-including the resurrection and end of the age– would be finished, “When the power of the holy people is completely shattered” (Daniel 12:7). This inspired statement should control our understanding of Luke and Revelation.
☛ In Luke the trampling down of the city consummates in the parousia and establishment of the kingdom. Jesus unambiguously posited fulfillment of all of those things in his generation: “This generation will by no means pass until all of these things are fulfilled” (Luke 21:32).
☛ In Revelation the trampling down of the city would last for 42 months, but would climax in the the resurrection and establishment of the kingdom. The fulfillment of John’s prophecy was “at hand” and, “these things must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:3).
So, we have identical constituent elements in Daniel 12, Luke 21 and in Revelation 11. We have the strictly limited, divinely assigned duration of the time for the Gentiles– 42 months. Daniel informs us that the climax of the vision would be when Israel’s “power” (her Old Covenant relationship with YHVH) was shattered. And Jesus said fulfillment of all of these things would be in his generation.
Much more could be said, but this will suffice. In summation, Luke 21:24, when joined with the corollary passages, positively identifies the duration and the termination of the times of the Gentiles. That was in the first century destruction of the power of the holy people in AD 70. Thus, Luke 21:24 is no objection to true preterism, it is a powerful support!