The Times of the Gentiles -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 125:497 (Jan 1968)
Article: The Times of the Gentiles
Author: John F. Walvoord


The Times of the Gentiles

John F. Walvoord

Recent events in the Middle East have focused attention on the political and prophetic significance of Israel’s possession of their ancient capital of Jerusalem. For the first time since A.D. 70, Israel is in complete possession of the city of Jerusalem and its surrounding territory. Under these circumstances, it is only natural that attention should be focused upon the prophecy recorded in Luke 21:24, “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 by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Does the present occupation of Jerusalem signify, in keeping with this prophecy, that the times of the Gentiles have come to an end? A superficial study of this passage would seem to indicate that this is the case, and that now Israel is moving into a new phase of its long history. Careful students, acquainted with the history of the interpretation of this verse, however, sense the danger of reaching too hasty a conclusion. As a matter of fact, there are a number of important considerations which affect the interpretation of this passage.

The Question of Definition of Terms

Expositors, pondering the meaning of Luke 21:24, soon become aware of the fact that this term, “the times of the Gentiles,” is found only here in the Bible. The problem of definition of terms, therefore, becomes an acute one, inasmuch as in this passage we have only the description that Jerusalem “shall be trodden down by the Gentiles” as indicating the character of this period. Under these circumstances, a variety of definitions may be expected depending upon the theological presuppositions of the interpreter.

If all varieties of interpretation be considered, at least half a dozen different views could be itemized. In general, however, they can be classified as postmillennial, amillennial and premillennial.

Postmillennial definition. Typical of the postmillennial view is that advanced by Plummer who interprets the passage spiritually as meaning Gentile possession of the spiritual promises of Israel. Under this interpretation, Jerusalem symbolically is considered representative of Jewish promises of blessing, and Gentiles trodding down the city of Jerusalem means Gentile possession of the promises forfeited by Israel for unbelief and failure. Plummer indicates preference of this view over five other alternatives which he mentions.1

Amillennial definition. Although the amillennial view i...

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