• “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”

Jerusalem, the UN and the times of the Gentiles

editor - 11 January 2017

By Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer.. When we see what is happening in the UN at the moment, we are reminded of what our Lord said about Jerusalem. Jesus spoke a lot about Jerusalem, and what would happen to Jerusalem in the future. He said “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”.  This has something to do with His coming again, at the end of the age. Is that the time we are living in?   All four written Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are needed to give us a complete picture. However, although they certainly complement one another and are not contradictory, it can be difficult sometimes to determine the exact chronological order of events when reading them.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider the seeming inconsistencies, and the Lord will lead you into a revelation of more truth. That has been my experience in the past 35 years of my life as a Christian.

“There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:23b-24).

Matthew’s record of the words of Jesus regarding the latter days looks into the far distant future; whereas Luke’s account puts more emphasis on Jesus’ words about the near future, a fulfillment in the days that lie directly ahead. Here, Jesus spoke of the imminent fall of Jerusalem and the worldwide scattering of the Jewish people among the Gentile (the non-Jewish) people of the world—the “Roman” exile. Today, we can still see the record of these events in the pictures on the triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome. However, in Luke, Jesus also spoke of another time, claiming that Jerusalem would be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled. When will those times be fulfilled? When Jesus returns in glory!

The title of the Book of Revelation means “unveiling,” as when a statue is officially unveiled for all to see. Accordingly, the Book of Revelation unveils Jesus Christ, showing us the public appearance of His coming in glory, as well as how Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles up to and including the very last and greatest oppression or tribulation (see Rev. 11:1-2). Only when Jesus Himself appears will the Gentiles be shattered and broken like pottery with His rod of iron (see Rev. 19:11-16; Ps. 2:9). Only when His feet again stand on the Mount of Olives, from where He ascended to Heaven (see Acts 1:9-11), will the warring nations that have come up against Jerusalem be defeated.

Then the city will no longer be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles (see Zech. 12:2-3; 14:2-7; Joel 3:12-17). We are on our way to that glorious moment. The times of the Gentiles are coming to an end.

Jerusalem Continues to Be Trampled

But according to some, the reestablishment of the Jewish State in 1948 indicates that the times of the Gentiles have already ended. Others point at the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. In that year, Israel freed East Jerusalem from the Jordanian occupation that this part of the city had suffered since the proclamation of the Jewish State in 1948. In those 19 years, a mere blip in Jerusalem’s three-thousand-year history, countless synagogues in East Jerusalem had been demolished or turned into public latrines, and it was the only time that the city had ever been divided. Then Israel declared Jerusalem the undivided capital of the independent State of Israel. Jerusalem is no longer under the feet of Gentiles.

But is that really the case? Are there no Gentiles ruling in Jerusalem? What about the fact that Europe and the United Nations are telling Israel what to do with their own land and their own city, Jerusalem? Moreover, the Arab world controls the most holy place in Jerusalem — the Temple Mount.

The Scriptures also seem to indicate that the times of the Gentiles have not yet been fulfilled, for they declare that these times will come to an end with the coming of the Messiah, the return of Christ. We must not lose sight of the important fact that the holiest place in Jerusalem, in the heart of the city, is still closed to the Jews. Gentiles rule there. The Temple Mount is governed by the Islamic world.

At one time, the Biblical temple stood in this place. Today it is the site of two Islamic shrines, or mosques. So this place is still trampled under foot by Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews). Muslim Arabs continue to wave the sceptre there.

Spiritual Conflict
Today many underestimate the role of Islam in the conflict in the Middle East. This conflict is not primarily about oil, or about a homeland for displaced Palestinians, or about any political or economic interests. It is, on the deepest level, a religious conflict, between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all other gods, powers, ideologies, and religions of the world.

Ishmael or Israel
When one looks at the heartbreaking conflict in the Middle East, one cannot help but think about the biblical background. And perhaps we can find some solutions and understanding there. What has the Bible to say about the conflict between these two brothers with the same father, Abraham, but with different mothers? Ishmael, who is considered to be the forefather of the Arab nations, was born to his Egyptian mother, Hagar, who was a maidservant to Abraham’s wife, Sarah; and Isaac was born to Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and is the forefather of the Jewish people, of Israel. From a biblical perspective, let’s consider the positions and rights that each of these half brothers were granted.

When Abraham was 99 years of age and Sarah was past the age of childbearing, the Lord God visited Abraham, and told him that his wife, Sarah, would have a baby of her own.

We read in Genesis 17:17-22:

“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under Your blessing!” Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When He had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.”

As we read in this Scripture, Ishmael, the Arab nations, have the promise of the blessing of God. He has promised them that they would be fruitful and would be a great nation. Today, there are between 200 and 300 million Arabs, living in over 20 different and independent nations in the Middle East, in a vast area of very oil-rich land. They are powerful enough to choke the world’s economy if they would prefer to do so. Indeed, the existence of these mighty and powerful nations prove that God has kept His promise and has blessed Ishmael tremendously.

And Israel? After all the slaughters throughout the centuries, there remain only about 15 million Jews in the world. In Israel live about six million Jews, in a land with no oil. Another four to five million live in the USA, about one to two million in the former Soviet Union, and the rest still scattered around the globe.

Indeed, the prophet Zechariah prophesied about Israel in Zechariah 13:8, “‘In the whole earth,’ declares the Lord,‘ two-thirds [of Israel] will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it.’” And when one adds up all the numbers of Jews who have been massacred throughout the ages, the statistics reveal that in history, two thirds of the Jewish people have been wiped out, and only one third is left. Even if one translates Zechariah 13:8 as “in the whole land,” meaning “Eretz Israel,” the “land of Israel,” this prophecy has been fulfilled as well. At the hands of the Romans in 70 AD and 135 AD, over two million Jews were slaughtered, and the rest, almost totally, were led into captivity — although there have always been Jews living in Israel, also during the last 2000 years! When we add the numbers of the killing of the Jews over the centuries—with the final slaughter of six million under the Nazi-regime in Germany—the conclusion can be drawn that over the ages, two thirds of the Jews have been wiped out, and only one third is left.

So to think that in the near future, Israel will become “one big Auschwitz” during the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” the “tribulation,” is not necessarily according to Scriptures, although difficult times for Israel are still to come. In Jeremiah 30:7 and Daniel 12:1, we read that Israel will be saved in these terrible times, not destroyed—cleansed, but not wiped out. Yes, the remaining one third will be cleansed by fire, but not destroyed—cleansed in order that the pure gold will remain (see Zech. 13:7-9).

The process of redemption has started, not the process of annihilation. The order of events listed in Zechariah 13:7-9 describes the history of the Jewish people in a nutshell. First, the Shepherd Jesus is killed. Then the people of Israel are scattered. Then two thirds perish, even the little ones—1.5 million children were murdered in Auschwitz. Then the remaining one third in the land will be purified so that in the end: “They will call on My Name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zech. 13:9b).

There are blessings for Ishmael, but God’s everlasting covenant was made with Abraham, and later confirmed to Isaac, and later to Jacob. The Bible says that all the peoples and the nations of the earth must bless Israel…and then they will be blessed by God. But when they curse Israel, they will be cursed, according to Genesis 12:1-3. The issue is not  that one is a descendant of “Ishmael”, that one is an Arab or a Palestinian, for we know there are great blessings for “Ishmael.” The issue is whether or not one respects God’s promises and covenants with Israel and the Jewish people. We, the “Christian world,” and every other nation, including the “Islamic” world, must learn this lesson. If we do, we will be blessed.

World Powers
When did “the times of the Gentiles” begin? Some say it was when Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. Since that time, Israel has never been totally independent. Five successive kingdoms that have gained world power are symbolized in dreams and visions in the book of Daniel (ch.2; 7): the Babylonian kingdom, the empire of the Medes and Persians, the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, which divided into the Eastern and Western Empires. The fifth and last kingdom appeared to be a revival of the Roman Empire on a worldwide scale. The coming of the Son of Man marks the end of the last kingdom and the establishment of the eternal Kingdom of the Son of Man.

Between the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of that last kingdom, there have been numerous conquerors of the Promised Land, including the Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Turks, French, and British. Indeed, many Gentile feet have trampled upon Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Furthermore, the European Union is in some sense a revived Roman empire (although this time it is part of a world in which there are more and larger power blocks than existed in the time of the writers of the Bible). More and more the map of Europe appears as it did under the Romans. The arrival of the last world kingdom is fast approaching.

“Until” Promises the End of Persecution and the Beginning of an Eternal Kingdom
There can be no permanent peace yet, for the Bible assures us that the antichrist still has to appear. He will be a pseudo-Christ in the place of (and opposed to) the real Christ. The Greek word anti can mean both “against” and “in the place of, instead of.” When he appears, the Gentiles will again tread Jerusalem underfoot, literally, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. The whole world will be part of the system set up by the antichrist, and anyone opposing that system will not be able to buy or sell. They will be marginalized, persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed (see Rev. 13:11-18), just as Christians were persecuted during the Nazi regime and under communist dictatorships, and still are in the contemporary Islamic world.

When that happens, we will come to appreciate the significance of the little word “until” in Luke 21:24! It promises that the persecution of those days soon will end. The Gentiles will not have the final word. Oppression, persecution, murder, cruelty, hunger, sickness, and death will not have the final say in this world. Christ will have the last word, when He destroys the powers of darkness and kills the lawless one, the antichrist, and sets up His own Kingdom. Ultimately, He is Israel’s only hope. He is the Church’s only hope. He is the world’s only hope. You may be armed to the teeth, as Israel is today, but you will be powerless against the whole world unless, as when David faced Goliath, God is on your side and gives you the victory (see 1 Sam. 17:47).

For our encouragement, the Bible assures us that the antichrist’s final worldwide reign will be limited in length, lasting for a mere three and a half years, 1260 days (a time + 2 times + half a time = 3 and a half times = 42 months). What a relief! The mere existence of Israel itself and the return of the Jewish people as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy is a sign of hope. God is still in charge and leading history toward His final goal, the establishment of His eternal Kingdom. He will come to give Israel rest.

All of Israel will be saved (see Rom. 11:26), the law will go forth from Jerusalem (see Isa. 2:2-4; Zech. 12:10-14), and the nations will no longer learn war (see Micah 4:1-3).

The Bible says that a highway will be built from Egypt to Assyria (today’s Iraq), and that Assyrians will go to Egypt and Egyptians to Assyria, and both will worship God together. They will worship not Allah, but YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In that day Israel will be included with Egypt and Assyria as a blessing in the midst of the earth, with the Lord of Hosts saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance” (Isa. 19:25b; see also verses 19-25a). The period of darkness that is coming over the whole world, including Israel and believers in Jesus Christ, will end in the glory of the Kingdom. The “until” stands as a guarantee of the new age for all, including Israel and Jerusalem.

Do we realize that we are on our way there? Perhaps our tent pegs would not be anchored so securely in this world were we to realize that as believers and the spiritual seed of Abraham we are on our way to that Promised Land, to His eternal Kingdom.

Adapted from Why Israel? by Rev. W.J.J. Glashouwer, ch. 6, The Second “Until”—Until the Times of the Gentiles Are Fulfilled.

The book Why Israel? is available via www.c4israel.org/c4i/webshop

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