Is the Time of the Gentiles Fulfilled?
40 Years After Jerusalem Returns to Jewish Hands Is This the Final Generation?
I get skittish about end time predictions and dates. The landscape is littered with those "prophets" who have falsely predicted the end based upon current events or mathematical time tables, supposedly extrapolated from scripture. Around 1,000 A.D. the western world went mad with fear and speculation, and we had our own materialistic vision of the apocalypse with the Y2K scare of 2000. I remember listening to brother Kenneth Copeland say on one of his tapes that it would all be "wrapped up" by 1999. Jonathan Edwards' lesser known works deal with his speculation that he was in the end times; not to mention the failed predictions of the 7th Day Adventist's founders and the Jehovah's Witnesses many failed prophesies.
However, there is one prophet I do trust, and his name is Jesus. One of the clearest sequential prophesies of Jesus is recorded by Luke. (See full Scripture Luke 21:5-36) When Jesus is asked about the fall of Jerusalem and the time of his return by his disciples, Jesus talks about both. He first warns about false messiahs, who say to the people "this is the end." He says that there will be wars and catastrophes, persecutions, and betrayals, but that is not the end. Then he tells of Jerusalem's destruction, the "days of vengeance" against Jerusalem for its rejection of the Covenant and of God's prophets (Luke 21:22). And then he speaks about the end times, and the great shakings that come upon the whole Earth before his Second Coming. All those prophesies are very general and not time specific. However, Jesus does give one chronological clue about the times of the end. He says, "Jerusalem shall be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:4, NASB) And then he says something very interesting. He says, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place." (Luke 21:32).
If I read this chronology right, Jesus says that the end of the age of the Gentiles is accompanied by the Jewish re-establishment of Jerusalem, which is followed by signs in Heaven and Earth, and, that the generation then living will not die off until the fulfillment of all things takes place. Now here is the wild part. Jerusalem was recaptured by the Jews in 1967 during the Six Day War; it is no longer in Gentile hands. And in the Scriptures, a generation is about 40 years. 1967 to 2007 is 40 years! (Remember though that Jewish numerology is not exact, but a general number.) Wow! Jesus' words form the only precise end time chronology in the New Testament. One caveat to this 40 year scenario is that, a generation now lives on average 80 years, and the entire generation won't die off, naturally, for 120 years. So if Jesus meant that the majority of the generation won't die off, somewhere between 40 to 80 years after the re-establishment of Jerusalem, we should start seeing the signs of the end in Heaven and Earth. Of course, with Iran's nuclear intentions, those "signs" could appear much sooner than later. (As and aside, I find it very interesting that the Iranian leaders believe that we are in the end of days, that a nuclear apocalypse will bring in their Messiah, and that they want to start the war now to set the last days in motion.)
We have to remember that Jesus is Jewish. And he speaks as the Jewish Messiah, and he stands in the tradition of the prophets to Israel (Mark 6:15). He identifies with the rejected prophets throughout the history of Israel, he sees himself as one of them, and he sees the coming destruction of Jerusalem as God's judicial punishment of the people of Israel for their rejection of the Covenant's messengers:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'"Luke 13:34, 35, NASB.
"Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute, that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation." Luke 11:47-51, NKJV. (See also Leviticus 26:13-45, esp. verses 25 & 33; Deuteronomy 28:16-68, for historic precedents & predictions.)
But as with the prophets of old, Jesus also sees and promises a future restoration of Israel and Jerusalem after the punishment and new Exile. How could it be that after 2000 years, the nation of Israel is restored?? Has any people been displaced and dispersed among the nations for such a length of time without being totally assimilated into the nations of their exile? And yet, Israel is reborn! Jesus' prophecy has come to pass! Along with Paul's prophecy about Israel's rejection of the Messiah "until the full number of Gentiles come in" (Romans 11:25-26), we have two clear prophecies about the completion of the Gentile age. Both Jews, Paul and Jesus, foresaw a time of the restoration of the promises of God to the natural children of Abraham - a promise that is not superceded by the inclusion of the Gentiles into the promise of salvation.
So, my question to you is: Is the time of the Gentiles fulfilled? And if so, what could that possibly mean? Are we now at the time of the End? I cannot make heads nor tails of this prophecy except to expect some great times of tribulation and miracles. Of course, my interpretation of Jesus' words could be off for some reason, but I can't seem to make sense of it any other way. Perhaps if the Jews kick out everyone but the Jews from Jerusalem, we might have a new start date, but I think if Israel did that, it might be the actual start the apocalypse!
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, I am he! and, The time is near! Do not go after them. When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately."
Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:5-36, NRSV.