While traveling through Jerusalem one day in 2009, I saw a pile of white rock, mangled and forged together. I asked my cab driver what it was. I was astonished when he said, “That is from 586 BC.” I recognized the date immediately as the beginning of what we know as the Times of the Gentiles.
Are you familiar with this term? It only appears once in Scripture. Jesus spoke of the Times of the Gentiles in Luke 21:24, saying, “And they 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.”
The Times of the Gentiles began in 586 BC, with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies breached the city’s wall, destroyed the Temple and the city’s palaces, and took the tribes of Judah captive. While the Jewish people lived under his rule in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which Daniel both disclosed and interpreted for him of a great image that begins with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, a belly of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of both iron and clay (Daniel 2:24–45).
The image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream describes the beginning and ending of the Times of the Gentiles for Israel and the Jewish people.
Daniel directly interpreted the image’s gold head as a symbol of Nebuchadnezzar himself and his empire. The chest and arms of silver, though “inferior to” Babylon (v. 39), would arise after that nation, meaning it must refer to Medo-Persia. The following kingdom, the belly and thighs of bronze, referred to Greece, while the fourth kingdom, having legs of iron, referred to Rome. The final nation, with feet of iron and clay, is the kingdom that will be struck by the stone, the Messiah Jesus. This stone will destroy the world’s kingdoms to establish the heavenly Kingdom. Thus, the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream describes the beginning and ending of the Times of the Gentiles for Israel and the Jewish people.
Deuteronomy 28:62–68 gives insight into this time period. This passage explains the punishment, or the chastening, the Jewish people would experience if they turned away from God. They would be removed from the land, scattered around the world, and would experience severe persecution, which all came to pass. The passage, however, does not tell how long the dispersion would last. Starting with the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, the dispersion ultimately lasted nearly 2,000 years.
Though Israel regained the land in 1948 and regained control of Jerusalem in 1967, the Times of the Gentiles continue to this day. With international government agencies like the United Nations and nations like the United States having influence over the leaders and people of Israel, it’s evident that we are still in the Times of the Gentiles.
At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, He will bring the Times of the Gentiles to their conclusion.
The Times will continue until an unknown date in the future when the rightful King, Jesus Christ, comes to redeem Israel and crush Israel’s enemies (Daniel 2:44; Zechariah 12:10–14; 13:1; 14:1–11). At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, He will bring the Times of the Gentiles to their conclusion: first, in crushing Israel’s enemies, then at the judgment of the nations known as the sheep and goats judgment (Matthew 25:31–46). The litmus test at this time is their treatment of the Jewish people, whom Jesus calls My brethren; it involves blessing and cursing (Genesis 12:3). He will bless those who served the Jewish people. He will curse those who rejected and ignored the Jewish people, “and these will go into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46).
What an opportunity we have in these times today to offer comfort, aid, and support to the Jewish people, pointing them to the ultimate Help and Savior, Jesus Christ! May we be faithful in doing so until He comes.