The Times of the Gentiles
By Britt Gillette
When is Jesus coming back? That’s a question Christians have asked for almost two thousand years now. Some say we can’t know anything at all about the timing of His return. They quote scripture saying, “No one knows the day or hour of my return except for the Father” (Matthew 24:26). But at least they believe Jesus will return. The rest of the world is a different story. They would have us believe He’s never coming back. They literally fulfill scripture by claiming, “What happened to the promise of Jesus to come back? Since the days of our ancestors, everything remains the same as it was since the world was first created!” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
Yet, despite these claims, we can be sure of two things:
1) Jesus is coming back, and
2) We can know the general time-frame of His return.
The Bible is clear about the certainty of Christ’s return, and the scriptures are filled with statements from Jesus and the prophets regarding the timing of His return. But for this article, I’d like to focus on a single specific statement made by Jesus. Once you study it, you should have no doubt that He’s coming – and coming soon.
Jerusalem As a Sign
Not only is Jesus coming soon, but we have every reason to believe He will return in the expected lifetime of most of the people reading this article. How can I be so sure? Because Jesus said so.
When the disciples asked Jesus to tell them the signs of His coming and the end of the age (Matthew 24), He described a number of signs to look for. One of those signs involved Jerusalem. Jesus told the disciples Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies, destroyed, and its citizens either killed or carried off as slaves into all the nations of the world. Then, Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles come to an end (Luke 21:20-24).
Did this happen? Yes.
Approximately thirty years later, the Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem. They put down a Jewish revolt, slaughtered thousands, destroyed the Temple, and carried the Jewish people to the farthest corners of the world to serve as slaves. And from the year A.D. 70 onward, Gentiles (non-Jewish people) controlled the city of Jerusalem. These events fulfilled the words of Jesus.
Gentile control of Jerusalem started with the destruction of the Temple and continued for centuries thereafter. Here’s a historical breakdown of who controlled Jerusalem and when:
Roman Empire (70-325)
Byzantine Empire (325-637)
The Caliphates (637-1099)
The Crusaders (1099-1187)
The Mamluks (1187-1516)
Ottoman Empire (1516-1917)
British Empire (1917-1948)
In June 1967, a military build-up in Egypt prompted Israel to launch a surprise invasion. What took place in the days that followed is known as the Six Day War. The result? Jewish possession of Jerusalem for the first time since A.D. 70. And Jewish control continues to this day.
Did you catch that? For more than four decades, the Jewish people have controlled Jerusalem. And this is one of the primary signs Jesus said would precede His return. In fact, Jesus said once this happens, look up because His return is near (Luke 21:28). He didn’t say, “look up and then one hundred years will pass” or “a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, so I may come a thousand years later.” No. He said, “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are over, and then I will return.”
So what should you conclude from this? One thing for sure – Jesus is coming!
No One Knows
“But wait!” you might say. “How can this be? Doesn’t Jesus say no one can know the time of His coming?” Yes. It’s true no one knows the day or the hour of His coming except for the Father (Matthew 24:26). Jesus also says He “will come like a thief in the night” (Matthew 24:33) and “at an hour when least expected” (Matthew 24:34). But none of these statements imply we can’t know the general time-frame of His return, and why would Jesus tell us to look for certain signs if no one can know when He’s coming?
The answer is clear. He wouldn’t. We can know the general “season” of Christ’s return. In fact, He commands us to watch for it (Mark 13:33-37). Jesus says those who watch won’t be caught off guard (Matthew 24:45-46), and Paul says we won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief because we are children of the light and the day (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8). How is that possible if we can’t know the general time-frame of His return?
The Signs of the Times
Remember, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day because they failed to recognize the signs of His coming. He said, “You know how to look at the sky and predict the weather, but you don’t know how to recognize the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:1-3). Has Jesus changed His expectations? No. He expects our generation to recognize the signs of His coming too.
So what are those signs? Fortunately, Jesus told us point blank what they are. The loss and repossession of Jerusalem by the Jewish people (Luke 21:20-24) is just one of those signs. If this is the only sign Jesus told us to look for, it would be more than enough to conclude His coming is very near. Yet, it’s only one of many signs Jesus and the prophets told us to look for.
Jesus said the Gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth (Matthew 24:14). Do we see that happening today? Isaiah said the Jewish people will be re-gathered in Israel (Isaiah 11:11-12). Are they? Daniel said travel and knowledge will increase (Daniel 12:4). Have they? Today, these signs are either fulfilled or in the process of being fulfilled, and the Bible contains many other signs of His coming. The convergence of all these signs is further evidence that Satan’s days on earth are numbered. So rejoice. Jesus is coming soon!