The Times of the Gentiles the Restoration

of the Kingdom to Israel



Kurt M. Simmons


“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.  Then let them which are in Judea 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 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.  (Lk. 21:21-25)”

The application of the above passage to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 seems plain enough.  Indeed, there is no exegetical basis to lift it from its first century context.  The personal pronoun “ye” establishes the time for fulfillment in that generation.  This is confirmed by verse 32: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all be fulfilled.”  So far so good; the sound application of exegetical principles guides us in a correct understanding.  But what is the meaning of the phrase “times of the Gentiles?”  Was this language also fulfilled in that generation, and if so, “How?”

To understand the meaning and significance of the phrase “times of the Gentiles” we need to bear in mind the covenantal nature of the days of vengeance poured out upon that generation.  The law of Moses was impressed with both blessings and curses; blessing for obedience, curses for disobedience.  If Israel was obedient, God promised thou shalt “lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath.”  (Deut.  28:12, 13)  However, if they were disobedient the opposite would obtain:

“The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away…Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.  And the Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shall not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young: and he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee.”  (Deut. 28:25, 26; 48-51)

In Leviticus twenty-six, in language evoking the “days of vengeance” mentioned by Luke, in which all things written would be fulfilled, the curse of the law is stated progressively; God punishing the nation more severely as it refused correction:   

“And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.”  (Lev. 26:23-25; emphasis added; cf. vv. 18, 21, 28)

The progressive nature of God’s wrath began to be poured out as early as the era of the Judges.  However, the term “times of the Gentiles” refers specifically to Gentile dominion over Israel beginning with the captivity in Babylon.  Beginning with the Babylonian captivity, the throne and tabernacle of David were cast down. The Psalmist refers to this when he says:  “Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.  Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin.”  (Ps. 89:39, 40)  Jesus referred to Gentile dominion over the people of God when he said: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of God suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”  (Matt. 11:12)  From the days of Nebuchadnezzar the Gentiles had dominion over Israel; Gentiles sat on throne of David; the feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream trod under foot the land and people of God.  But a day was coming when the dominion would be returned to Israel, and the throne to the house of David.  Amos speaks to this when he wrote: 

“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this.”  (Amos 9:11-12)

The kingdom of God which all Israel was in expectation, and which Jesus himself preached, looked to the time when the yoke of the Gentiles would be taken from the people of God and dominion would be returned to the house of David.  This much about the coming Messiah they correctly understood.  However, many Jews mistook the nature of God’s fulfillment of this promise, and looked for a national liberator, like John Hyrcanus of the intertestamental period, who would overthrow the Romans and bring in a time of world dominion reminiscent of the glory days of Solomon.  Echoes of this basic assumption were behind the question whether it was lawful to pay tribute unto Caesar.  (Lk. 20:21, 22)  Roman tribute was a constant reminder of the nation’s subjugation to the Gentiles.  If the Messiah was to ascend the throne of David and liberate the nation, surely this entailed the abolition of tribute.  However, Jesus’ answer, to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (v. 25), pointed to the fact that the kingdom of the Messiah was not of this world, and did not rest in political or military power.  The restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6), by setting up anew the throne of David over the people of God and the subjugation of their enemies, would be fulfilled by the victory of the gospel over the hearts and minds of men, encompassing every race and people, revolutionizing every human institution.  The beginning of the fulfillment of this promise is indicated by Peter’s sermon on the first Pentecost after Christ arose from the dead, when he states that Jesus was raised to sit on David’s throne:  

“Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.  This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are witnesses.  Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.  For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.  Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  (Acts 2:30-36)

Extension of the Davidic throne over the Gentiles began with the Samaritans (Acts 8:5, 12) and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27-40), and was fulfilled in the household of Cornelius (Acts 10) and the ministry of St. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.  (Rom. 11:13; II Tim. 1:12)  At the “Jerusalem Counsel,” James indicated the prophetic subjection of the Gentiles to Christ when he quoted the prophecy of Amos, supra. (Acts 15:16.17; cf. Amos 9:11-12)  However, the obedience of the Gentiles to Christ did not mean that the “times of the Gentiles” were fulfilled and the dominion of Christ was come.  The church came out of and was identified with national Israel until the time of reformation when the temple service was removed and the way into the “holiest” (Messianic age and kingdom) made manifest.  (Heb. 9:8-10)   Not until the transition period was over, and national Israel taken out of the way, would the kingdom come in its fulness and Christ enter upon his eternal reign.  The “times of the Gentiles” was coterminous with national Israel from and after the Babylonia captivity until kingdom and reign of the Messiah; when Jerusalem was trodden under foot at the end of the Mosaic age the times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled, and the kingdom and reign of the Messiah would usher in.  This conclusion is corroborated by Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse where he quotes the Lord, saying: “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is now nigh at hand.”  (Lk. 21:31) 

But the kingdom of God was more than merely the removal Gentile’s dominion over the Israel of God and the restoration of the kingdom to the house of David; more importantly, it was the time of the regeneration and restitution of all things.  (Matt. 19:28; Acts 3:21)  Sin and death had reigned from the fall of the race.  (Rom. 5:14, 17, 21)  Death was the “prince of this world.”  It came for Jesus but had no power over him, because he was spotless and without sin.  (Jno.  14:30)  The principality of sin and death was spoiled in Christ’s cross (Col. 2:15); Jesus “took captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8), and freed the prisoners of the pit wherein was no water.  (Zech. 9:11, 12)  The “creature” that had groaned and travailed in pain from the fall of the  race (Rom. 8:19-23) would find rest and refreshment in redemption and adoption of the sons of God at the consummation of the age.   


The “times of the Gentiles” spoke to the dominion of unbelievers over the Israel of God.  Gentile dominion began with the captivity in Babylon and continued for more than 500 years until the destruction of the Jewish state at the close of the Mosaic economy in A.D. 70. The times of the Gentiles expired where the kingdom of Christ began. In Christ the kingdom is restored to Israel and the throne to the house of David.  Because the kingdom of God is spiritual and is not nationally constituted, none can conquer or have dominion over it, but Christ alone.  “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”  (Dan. 7:27)


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