What Is the Meaning of the Times of the Gentiles Being Fulfilled, Lk. 21:24?
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.
Classical and Dispensational Premillennialists believe this text is speaking of an event which is yet future. Dr. Michael Brown, a Classical premillennialist, in a recent broadcast, cited this text but offered no explanation other than to quote it. He never commented on what it might mean.
From the text, we have a scene of Jerusalem's destruction. "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 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. (Lk. 21:20-24)
Now that we have the entire section before us, we can begin to dissect it to get an understanding of it.
- The context is clearly the Roman invasion of Judea in the first century.
- The warning to flee to the mountains from the surrounding area of Judea, and to those in the midst of the city. Those in the rest of the country were not to enter this war zone.
- Travel by foot proved difficult for pregnant mothers and those nursing infants would have difficulty traveling. Winter months also proved an even greater hardship.
- The distress would be in the land upon "this people" a phrase that refers most often to God's Old Covenant people.
- As a direct result of the Roman invasion they would fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations. (Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus records that many Jews were led away captive following Rome's victory.)
- Jerusalem would be trampled under foot until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled.
Now, let's take this last point (#6). What does it mean to "trample" under foot? The idea is the crushing or smashing of grapes with the foot. (Rev. 14:20) This refers to the complete destruction the Romans made of Jerusalem.
The times of the Gentiles being fulfilled refers to the period of forty two months or the three and a half years that Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans.
In Revelation 11:1-2, John is told to measure the temple of God, the altar and those who worship there. But the "court" which was outside the temple proper, they were to leave out because it was given to the Gentiles.
This is a figurative description and Apocalyptic code word for Jerusalem. Verse one, refers to the new people of God as the temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6;16). The court refers to the unbelieving Jews. As a result of their unbelief, they had become as the Gentiles who were not permitted to enter the temple proper.
This is in contrast to the saints (the church) who were granted boldness to enter into the holiest of all. (Heb. 10:19-20) The unbelieving Jews were vessels fitted for destruction and were not allowed to enter the most holy place as Christians (Jews and Gentiles in Christ who made up the new temple and body of Christ, Eph. 3:6, 19-22).
Therefore, John, describing the old nation as the "court" said they would be given to the Gentiles and trodden under foot for 42 months. As a side note, this is one of the proofs that Revelation was written before A.D. 70, i.e. before the Jewish temple was destroyed.
42 months equals the time Jerusalem was under siege until they were destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. That also corresponds with what the Lord said in Lk. 21:20-22, that when Jerusalem was surrounded by armies these were the days of vengeance that all things written would be fulfilled.
The significance of what John wrote is this: The Gentiles were not to be responsible for the destruction of the temple proper. Josephus relates that the seditious Jews were responsible for the destruction of the temple proper. The Romans destroyed everything else. The Roman destruction was to last 42 months, the actual length of the war from the time Vespasian and his army entered Palestine in the spring of 67 A.D. until Jerusalem was completely destroyed in late summer of 70 A.D. Since Jerusalem was the head of the Jewish state, the whole war against the Jews was considered treading on Jerusalem. Arthur M. Ogden, The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets, Commentary on Revelation, p. 251
Finally, Jesus made it clear that no matter what definition one gives to the "times of the Gentiles", they are completely fulfilled before the generation then living passed away.
"So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place." (Lk. 21:31-32).
Therefore, the treading down of Jerusalem and the times of the Gentiles were both fulfilled before the first century generation passed.
Dr. Michael Brown's claim that the times of the Gentiles are yet occurring today are both illogical and ill-conceived.