D/Dean Daniel Lesson 12
The Times of the Gentiles – Daniel 2:31-32
We continue our study in Daniel 2 looking at the image, the image that appeared to Nebuchadnezzar in his dream and Daniel's interpretation. Open your Bible to Daniel 2:31. We'll just review briefly the image itself, starting in verse 31. Daniel is relating to the king the content of the dream. Remember Daniel is giving prophecy but the purpose of prophecy in Daniel is not simply to let us know about the future. It's not some kind of scheme to satisfy our curiosity about what's going to happen next and try to figure out where we are in the prophetic time line. The purpose for prophecy is always designed for encouragement in times of struggle, times of suffering, times of difficulty because we know that God's in control, that even though circumstances around us may appear to be overwhelming, that the circumstances around us may appear to be insurmountable, that in fact, the circumstances that we are facing are horrendous, just as at the time the Jews were taken out in captivity in 586 BC, it was a time when they lost everything, a time when their homes were destroyed, many of their loved ones and friends were killed, it was a time of economic and national disaster as the nation was removed, many of them were removed to a new place, a new culture, a new home and this is the framework for much of Jeremiah's prophecy, Ezekiel's prophecy, Daniel prophecy, many of the prophecies are in the Minor Prophets, it is to give encouragement that God is in control, God has a plan and just because things seem to be in complete chaos around us, there is a God who keeps everything in order. So that's the thrust. Therefore prophecy really relates to issues of the spiritual life. It relates to our understanding of doctrine and relates to an application of doctrine and we can relax in the midst of adversity.
In Daniel 2:31 we read, Daniel is telling Nebuchadnezzar the dream, "You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome.  The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze.  Its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.  You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Now at that point Daniel, starting in verse 36, is going to interpret the dream. Now that we know the content he is going to explain the meaning of it, but before we go any further into it, last time we looked at just some overview issues; we had to stop a minute and make some simple observations. The image moves down the line from gold to silver to brass, to iron, and then a mix of iron and clay. The clay here is not soft potter's clay; the clay is the brittle baked potter's clay. And of course pottery does not mix with iron. So you have two different ingredients that are being brought together that don't adhere, don't mix, don't intermingle, and together it provides an extremely unstable base. If you notice the image itself, although we don't have enough light on it, the base, from the knees down the reason that gets darker from the knees down to the feet is because in the Hebrew the word for feet includes the ankle and the calf, so that when you look at that from the knee down through the feet, including the toes, is all a mixture of clay and iron.
Let's look at the breakdown, some observations. First of all, the metals decline in value as they descend the statue, so it goes from more valuable to less valuable. Second, the metals increase in hardness and brittleness as they descend the statue so that by the time you get to the feet its extremely brittle, unstable, and that is the base for the statue so that means that the statue which represents the kingdom of man in human history is built upon a shaky, unstable foundation. Third, the metals go from heavy to light in terms of their specific gravity, so that means that the statue itself is top heavy and again is unstable. Man, by man's efforts, can produce nothing more than instability. Fourth, each kingdom except the last is represented by a homogenous metal. It's all gold, it's all silver, it's all bronze, it's all iron, and then at the bottom you get this mixture of clay, brittle potter's clay and iron. That's important to understand why, and we'll answer the question later when we get there, why is it that these go from…that they portray the kingdom of man deteriorating. That's also the picture, as it declines in value, the kingdom each metal represents is of less value, has more inherent weaknesses and problems than the kingdom that preceded it. And why is that? There are a lot of suggestions made but I think the context tells us what the answer is. Fifth, the last kingdom is the mix of metal with pottery, which is not a normal mix.
And finally, point six, the statue itself looks at the kingdom of man from man's perspective in terms of all of its glory, brilliance, power, splendor, strength and impressiveness. We're impressed by what man does, we're impressed by his culture, we're by military might, we're impressed by all of the beauty, glory and splendor that was Rome. We're impressed by the beautiful architecture that survives of the Greeks; their art, their architecture, the sculptures, that impresses us because of what their culture produces in all of its beauty and all of its glory; some of their idea of philosophy of Aristotle, Plato, the dramas of the Greeks, the dramas of the Romans, you think about Horace and Livy and others, that impresses us, but it doesn't impress God. So this is a picture of the kingdom of man, man's efforts to establish stability on his own apart from God.
In Daniel 2:36 Daniel begins to interpret for Nebuchadnezzar the dream. And as we do that I think it's important to remind ourselves of the basic principle of interpretation, and that is that we're not left with just the picture of the image to somehow come along on our own and interpret it with what we think the image represents. We're not going to look at the head and say well it's a head, there's a nose, there's two eyes, two ears, we can try to figure out what each element portrays. We don't look at the upper torso of silver and say well that includes the arms as well so what does that represent. Daniel is going to tell us what elements are worth interpreting; you can push any illustration to an extreme. That same thing is true for any analogy, any illustration that you use to teach an eternal truth, that if you push it too far it's going to break down because not every element is meant to illustrate something. So there's an overall flow here.
I emphasized last time that one of the things that we need to look at here is that it is one great statute; it is not breaking it down in terms of individual components. Daniel wants to emphasize and God wants to emphasize that this is all related, there's a flow here, there's one statue representing the kingdom of man. Now when we get, later on when we come to Daniel 7, there's going to be more emphasis on the details of some of these kingdoms, but that detail is missing from Daniel 2 and it's easy to read Daniel 7 into Daniel 2; it's easy to read later history back into Daniel 2 and say oh well, the silver chest and arms represents the combination of the Medes and the Persians because you have two arms, two kingdoms that came together and it's easy to make that kind of application. But Daniel doesn't make that application; Daniel does not interpret the metal to have that significance and so we should not interpret it that way. That might be application but it's not interpretation. That's where people get into trouble when they start trying to understand the Bible is they want to read something into it rather than taking it out of it. That's why we call it exegesis; exegesis means to draw out from the text what it means, not eisogesis, because eisogesis means to read something into the text, so we need to be very careful how we interpret this. Daniel is going to tell us exactly what is here and how it is supposed to be interpreted.
Two things that are important for understanding Daniel 2 and Daniel's interpretation: one is the sequence of the metals, moving from more valuable to less valuable, and the quality of the metals, that there's a deterioration in the quality from kingdom to kingdom. And just exactly what that means is open to a lot of speculation and a lot of debate, but I think we have a clue to it in the text itself as I have already stated.
Let's look at Daniel 2:37, Daniel turns to Nebuchadnezzar and he says, "You, O king, are the king of kings," now as soon as we read that, that phrase "the king of kings," those of you who have been around for a while or been a Christian for long ought to immediately have your ears perk up that the title "king of kings" is an important title. It is a title reserved for the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns at the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation. He's called "The King of Kings and Lord of Lords." So there's something special about this title; it is not simply a secular title. For this to come from the lips of Daniel in the interpretation of this divinely given dream says that there's something that we ought to pay attention to here, that he is the "king of kings."
So let's note a couple of things in relationship to this particular phrase. First of all, Nebuchadnezzar personally is considered to be the gold kingdom and that is standard, we often associate a kingdom, a nation an empire with its founder. You can think of the medieval Frankish kingdom established by Charlemagne and that's who we think of, we hardly ever think of who his successors were. We think of the United States often being associated with the founding fathers with George Washington. We have the name Washington everywhere, every state has a city named after Washington, there's many different buildings and things named after Washington. We think of Rome, if you think of the Roman Republic you think of Caesar. Caesar was a title from the name Julius Caesar, Gaius Julius Caesar and his name is stamped on every one of his descendents, there is Caesar Augustus, there is the Antonine Caesars, so when we think of Rome we think of Caesar. So the same thing is true, Nebuchadnezzar is the founder, he is the greatest of all of the Babylonian kings, and so even though there were a number that succeeded him, none achieved the same level of power or brilliance that Nebuchadnezzar achieved. So he is the empire personified.
"You, O king, are the king of kings," now as Daniel is saying this to Nebuchadnezzar, just imagine what that must have been like. Remember the scene. Nebuchadnezzar is sitting on the high dais there in the throne room, in the center of Babylon surrounded by all of his great assistants, all of his cabinet members, all of his astrologers, Chaldeans, the priests, all of his advisors; many of them had tremendous power in the empire, and yet here is this 17 year old kid coming in there who's telling him a dream which none of them could do, so now he has their attention, and he is explaining what the meaning is and that the meaning of the dream has to do with the history, the future history of the Babylonian kingdom. So he is impressing Nebuchadnezzar and he is saying that everything here is yours and yours is the most valuable kingdom, you are the head of gold, you are at the head of the kingdom of man and you are the most valuable, the most significant of all of the metals. He is the "king of kings."
Now the second thing that is important to understand in terms of this title "king of kings" is to understand its significance in this passage. He says, "You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God has given the kingdom, the power, the strength, and the glory." Now what does this mean?
He goes on to say in Daniel 2:38, "And wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold." The significance of this is that God has given sovereignty over man to Nebuchadnezzar. We're going to see another passage in Jeremiah that emphasizes this, but this is a unique statement. Let's back up and look at verse 37 again, look at what he says, "the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength, and the glory." This sounds like the kind of language that's used of the Messianic kingdom. It's not but it sounds that way. He's expressing himself in the strongest hyperbole possible to indicate how much potential God has given to Nebuchadnezzar. By the way, Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled that potential. God established it though, he says "wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky," that's any place on the planet, God "has given them into your hand," now Nebuchadnezzar did not extend his empire as far as God would have allowed him. But the point we're going to see from Jeremiah is that if Nebuchadnezzar had had faith rest drill at this point and really trusted God, Nebuchadnezzar would gone out and he could have potentially conquered the entire world. God has given him that level of dominion but he never pushed it that far.
Now the other thing that this tells us, if we're thinking in terms of Biblical history is that something profound is taking place here. To whom has God promised that He will be working throughout human history? The Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant which was established in Genesis 12, God promised Abraham, because all of the Gentiles had failed, stick it into its historical perspective, al the Gentile kingdoms had failed and what was the symbol of their failure? The symbol of their failure was they established a city they called Babel, and this is who? This is the king of Babylon. They'd established a city of Babel, this was about in the middle to late third century BC, many, many years, more than a thousand years before this, they had established the kingdom of Babel and built the tower of Babel.
At the tower of Babel they were establishing their kingdom over against God. It was a sign of man versus God. And because they had rebelled against God and mankind had refused to scatter upon the face of the earth, and establish himself and fulfill the divine mandate God said I'm no longer going to work through the Gentiles as a whole, I'm going to call out one individual and I'm going to work through him, and that's Abraham. So He calls out Abraham and it's through Abraham that God promises to bless all the nations throughout all of the world. And now Israel has failed; the northern kingdom went out under divine discipline in 722 BC; the southern kingdom goes out under discipline in 586 BC, and now what's left? What's going to fill that vacuum? God is going to have a power shift from Israel and begin to work through the Gentiles. And Israel is going to be reduced to sort of a second class status for centuries. It still is in existence, and God is going to primarily give that political dominion over to the Gentiles.
Now let's go back and understand the significance of the Davidic monarchy. Remember you have the Abrahamic Covenant; the Abrahamic Covenant promised three things to Israel. They would have a specific piece of real estate that would be theirs that would extend from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River and back to the Mediterranean; from Syria down to Egypt, all of that territory, a territory they never fully controlled, was to be theirs. God promised them that, but because they never did what God said, because they never fulfilled what God had told them to do because they were disobedient, they never achieved complete dominion over that.
Let's look at one passage to pull this together, Deuteronomy 28. The parallel chapter is Leviticus 26:1-3 but here I just want to look for a summary background in Deuteronomy 28. Deuteronomy was basically a sermon that was taught to the Jews just before they went into the land. We've studied it in survey fashion that Deuteronomy was based on what was called at that time the suzerain vassal treaty form. That was a technical type of contract or covenant between an overlord or suzerain, a great king and his people. And as part of that document, typical covenant for the ancient world at that time, it would conclude with a blessing section and a cursing section. If you do what you are supposed to do, this is what I, the great king, will do for you. If you don't do what I tell you to do then this is how you will be cursed. I want to look at the blessing section in Deuteronomy 28; this is profound. I've never heard anybody really push this before but listen to what God promised.
Deuteronomy 28:1, He says, "Now it shall be, if you," you, you Jews, "will diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth." Now we've studied this, when we studied prophecy and we were going through dispensations and covenants and we came to the millennium we saw that this is the same thing that will ultimately be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom, but this isn't a millennial promise. It will be fulfilled then but God is saying right now, you Jews, as you stand outside the land of Israel on the plains of Moab, ready to invade the land of the Canaanites, that I am giving to you, if you go in there and you do everything I tell you to do and you're diligent to do everything I tell you to do, then you will be the premiere nation on all the earth, right now, Old Testament times. I'm not talking about First Coming, I'm not talking about the millennial kingdom, God would have done it for Israel then, but they failed.
Deuteronomy 28:2, He says, "And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the LORD your God.  Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country." There will be incredible prosperity throughout the land. Verse 4, "Blessed shall be the offspring of your body," that's going to include health for everyone in the nation, "and the produce of your ground," no land would be as productive as their land, "and the offspring of your beasts," there would be health among all of their animals, the cattle and the sheep and the goats, "the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.  Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.  Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.  The LORD will cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you," and in Leviticus it indicates that no matter how large the army would be that would come against them, even if they were overwhelmed by 10, 20, 30, 50 fold, they would still defeat them; God would bless them and they would have dominion over all the earth.
This is Old Testament stuff; this is not waiting to the millennial kingdom. Now ultimately that's when it's going to be fulfilled but the potential was there in the Old Testament, just as the potential was there when Jesus Christ came at the First Advent. The message of John the Baptist was, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Well, they didn't repent so the kingdom was postponed, but it was a real, legitimate offer. The potential was that if the Jews had accepted Jesus Christ as Messiah at the First Coming, then He still would have had to die, sin still would have been paid for, but the millennial kingdom would have come in right then. They could have had it in the Old Testament. Now the Abrahamic Covenant promised three things, it promised a land, it promised a seed, which was fulfilled in the Davidic Covenant, that it was going to come through David and the Davidic line; and it promised blessing, that it was through Israel that all the nations would be blessed. So Israel has a two-fold function. They are a covenant nation because God established them as a nation on the basis of a covenant. That is crucial to understand; that sets Israel apart from all other nations; Exodus 19, God says I have called you to be a kingdom of priests. No other nation is called to be a kingdom of priests; no other nation has a covenant with God. That sets Israel apart from every other nation in human history. And they would be led by the descendants of David, according to the Davidic Covenant.
Now the Davidic Covenant has a commentary on it in the Old Testament, there's an expansion of the Davidic Covenant. It's given originally by God to David in 2 Samuel 7, but it's expanded in Psalm 89; so turn to Psalm 89 and I want to look at the context; I want to focus particularly on verses 26-27 but it's meaningless with context. Remember a text without a context is usually a con job. It's talking about David and how God is going to bless David and his descendants. Let's begin in Psalm 89:19. The Psalmist, we don't know who wrote this Psalm, is addressing God and says: "Once Thou didst speak in vision to Thy godly ones, and did say, 'I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people.  I found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him,  With whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him." So it's talking about divine blessing to empower David as king to establish a nation.
Psalm 89:22 is going to promise military blessing and success, "The enemy will not deceive him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him," divine protection for him and for the nation. And then supernatural ability and victory,  "But I shall crush his adversaries before him, and strike those who hate him.  And My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him, and in My name his horn," that horn is a metaphor for power, his position, his prestige, "will be exalted." Now notice what it says in verse 25, "I shall also set his hand on the sea," he's going to have success in naval warfare, "and his right hand on the rivers," Now we know that Solomon had a navy and Solomon extended the control of Israel over the seas but this is a promise to David that was not fulfilled by David.
And it goes on to say in Psalm 89:26, "He will cry to Me, Thou art my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation," indicating the spiritual maturity of David. Verse 27, "I also shall make him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth," "…the highest of the kings of the earth," the king of kings. God is saying in this section in Psalm 89 that the destiny for David is to be the king of kings, not the greater son of David who is Jesus Christ, He will be the king of kings, but that God has promised through the Davidic dynasty that God is going to raise up this dynasty and at some point it is going to be the greatest dynasty and power on earth, and it specifically will be led by David. Now we saw when we studied Ezekiel, the millennial kingdom in the Ezekiel promises, that there are two key figures in Israel's millennial kingdom; one is called "the prince," and that prince is David, he is called a prince in his relationship to Jesus Christ who will be ruling and reigning over Israel. He is also called the king in relationship to his role over the people. So David will be resurrected and will rule over Israel in the millennial kingdom. And this is when this is fulfilled. So God has made a promise to Israel in the Old Testament that He would make them the greatest of all the nations and all the nations would turn to Israel. But they failed and when they failed and the northern kingdom was taken out under divine discipline in 722 and the southern kingdom in 586 BC, then that promise was put in abeyance and has not yet been fulfilled.
But the simple point I want to make here is that there was a potential for Israel to overpower all nations in the Old Testament and to rise to the highest position of power and prestige and dominance in the ancient world but they failed because of their idolatry and their disobedience to God. And so when they failed, when they lost that… the promise included two things, it was a political and military power, first of all, and secondly spiritual power. Those two things are linked together in Israel, political and military power and spiritual power. But what happened when Israel was taken out under divine discipline, they lose that, the potential is lost, it's put off until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and it is in their place that God raises up Gentile nations who then become the political overlords over Jerusalem. And this begins a time in history called the times of the Gentiles.
There are two important phrases we have to understand in relationship to God's timetable in prophecy. The first it the time of the Gentiles and the second is the fullness of the Gentiles and we'll cover these under the doctrine of the times of the Gentiles. The doctrine of the times of the Gentiles is covered in Luke 21:20-28
Point number one under the doctrine of the times of the Gentiles: it's based on the Davidic Covenant and the Davidic kings were to be "king of kings." The Davidic kings had the potential to be the kings of kings, Psalm 89:26-27. This potential was lost in the ancient world in 605 BC at the time that the Jews were first defeated by Nebuchadnezzar and the first group of captives were taken out and deported to Babylon. Daniel was one of that group. All during the period of the monarchy in Israel the Davidic kings were divinely vested with this potential for world supremacy. However the fact that they violated God's law and did not obey Him they lost that potential and it will only be restored to regenerate Israel in the millennium. It is not ended for good because these were unconditional promises God made at the Abrahamic kingdom.
The second point: in 605 BC potential world supremacy was turned over to the Gentiles and this time period of Gentile supremacy is referred to as the "times of the Gentiles," in Luke 21:24. The context here is that Jesus is describing the Second Coming when He returns. Let's look at an overview of the chapter. In Luke 21:20-24 we have the warning that the days of vengeance are coming. "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.  Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city." Compare this with Matthew 24 you realize that this takes place towards the end of the Tribulation, that at that time Jerusalem, according to Zechariah 12:1-2 is going to be attacked by four armies: the king of the north, the king of the south, the antichrist, the king of the west, and the king of the east with an army of two hundred million is going to be coming across the Euphrates, and they will all converge on Israel at a place called Har Megiddo in the Hebrew, and it's come down in English as Armageddon, it's the plain of Esdraelon north of Israel. But it's an eight stage battle and it culminates at the valley of Jehoshaphat right outside of Jerusalem. So what Jesus is warning them is that when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then that is the time of the end and they need to evacuate and head for the hills, and get out of Jerusalem just as fast as possible. These are then called "days of vengeance" in verse 22, "because these are the days of vengeance, in order that all things," that is all prophecy, "all things which are written might be fulfilled."
Luke 21:23, "Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people." Now it just occurred to me when I read that verse that there's some confusion going on today that filters to me through various people who are listening to tapes around the country and one area of confusion is the result of some things that are said in the Left Behind novel series written by Tim LaHaye. Now there are many good things in that, and remember it's fiction, but nevertheless it reflects his theological understanding. And he has a rather unusual understanding about what will take place at the rapture. A lot of people wonder, well if I'm raptured, what about my kids if they haven't reached the age of accountability. And LaHaye thinks if your children haven't reached the age of accountability then all children, all over the world, who haven't reached the age of accountability will be raptured.
Now there's a problem with that. See, if a child dies before reaching the age of accountability, and the age of accountability is the age at which they reach God-consciousness, where they can understand that God exists, where they realize that there's something greater, that everything isn't just here, that there must be a Creator, they recognize that there is a Creator, Romans 1:18-20, and we studied Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says that God has set eternity in the hearts of man, Psalm 119, "the heavens declare the glory of God, so all those passages indicate that every single person at some point reaches the stage of God-consciousness. Some may be younger, some older, but at that age where they reach a knowledge that God exists and they're able to understand and respond to the gospel, then they're accountable. They make a decision either to know God or not to know God. If they're positive at God-consciousness then God will bring them the gospel. We see that that's true with Nebuchadnezzar in this story and God is using all of this to bring Nebuchadnezzar to not only God-consciousness but to an understanding of the gospel and the need to respond in faith to the gospel.
The problem with LaHaye's contention is that if a three year old who hasn't reached the age of accountability at the time of the rapture is not taken at the rapture they don't lose the opportunity to respond. If you die at the age of three you're never going to get that chance again, Hebrews 10 says that it's appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. After you die there is no second chance. But see, they don't die at the rapture, and a three year old is going to live and be ten years of age by the end of the Tribulation, if that ten year old survives and during time they can make a decision for or against Christ. So those children will live. To me the more interesting question is what's going to happen to the infants who are on the earth at the time of the Second Coming; are they going to automatically be saved and go into the millennial kingdom.
Well, the Bible doesn't answer all those questions and too often we have illegitimate speculation and what we need to realize is that God is just, He's absolutely righteous and whatever he does will be fair and just. He hasn't specifically answered those kinds of questions but there is a warning here to mothers who are with child and to those who have babies, that this is a horrendous time of suffering. Luke 21:23, "Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babies in those days, [for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people.]" There's no indication that just because they are babies and infants that somehow they're going to be exempted from the horrors of the Tribulation. So I do not agree at all, I think that LaHaye is on extremely shaky theological ground with that contention of his and there's no Biblical support for it whatsoever, in fact it violates a number of principles. So here in verse 23 there's a warning to those who are there.
Luke 21:24, "And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles," now this section up to now is a type of what's going to happen in the Tribulation, which is what I've been talking about. But the specific application of verse 20-24 is 70 AD, when Israel went out under divine discipline in 70 AD, it's talking about at that time when all of this calamity came, that the children, the babies, those who were nursing were going to suffer all the calamity, all the distress that would come upon them, just as those in the Tribulation will at that time. They are to flee. This is used also as a type of what happens at the end of the Tribulation. So it says when the Romans come, this is talking specifically about 70 AD, "they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." And that's where we get the phrase, "times of the Gentiles."
So Luke 21:24 tells us that there will be Gentile domination of Jerusalem. So the question then comes, what is the beginning and what is the end of the times of the Gentiles. When did the times of the Gentiles begin? There are basically two positions; one is that the times of the Gentiles begins with Daniel 2, with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 605 BC. The other view is it didn't begin until 70 AD. Before we get into the details on that we have to understand that there are three distinct interpretations of the times of the Gentiles. We did a little introduction to prophecy and we looked at postmillennialism, amillennialism and premillennialism. Just to review, postmillennialism means that Jesus Christ returns at the end of the millennium. The Church Age is gradually going to get to a point where the majority of people on the earth are believers, it's going to be a time of unprecedented blessing, and it is at the end of that period that Christ will return. We do not believe that's what the Bible teaches.
The amillennial position teaches that the current age is the time of the kingdom spiritually, and that Jesus is presently in heaven on a spiritualized Davidic throne, and that history will end when Jesus Christ returns and then we'll go into the eternal state. That's the amillennial view. Postmillennialists interpret the times of the Gentiles as meaning Gentile possession of the spiritual promises of Israel. The postmillennialist will say that what this means is Jerusalem represents the Jewish promises, they get into allegory here, they spiritualize it, Jerusalem isn't physical Jerusalem it just represents all of Israel and it will be trampled down and they will no longer have the possession of the promises of the Old Testament and all those promises will be given to the Gentiles and Israel will never receive them again. The amillennialist add something to that; it's very similar to the postmill view except they introduce the idea of judgment, that there will be judgment, the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles indicates that Gentiles will be judged in that period of time.
So if we were to diagram this, the postmill view says here we are, Jerusalem equals the promises, they've been nullified to Israel and they've been given to the Gentiles in this age and everything goes is optimistic and goes through a greater and greater period until Jesus Christ returns at the Second Coming. Now the amill view is similar but the amill view introduces the idea that there will be a judgment on the Gentiles at the end, when the fullness of the Gentiles comes about. The premillennial view is different. The premillennial view looks at it this way; that from…and I believe the times of the Gentiles began in 605 BC, we'll look at why in just a minute, that in 605 BC God had taken Israel out under the fifth cycle of discipline, the Gentiles are given political power and it is through the Gentiles that there will be, through the Gentile empires that there will be political stability on the earth. The Jews are out under the fifth cycle of discipline, they do return in 535 BC and have…[tape turns]
…always under the over-lordship of Gentiles, they are under the control of the Assyrians, they are under the control of the Romans, later they're under the control of different Arab tribes after 70 AD, but they still are the source of spiritual blessing because that's the basis in the Abrahamic Covenant. The times of the Gentiles go until the Second Coming. We'll look at the term "fullness of the Gentiles" in a minute. Fullness of the Gentiles ends at the rapture because that's when the Church is evacuated to heaven and then there's a return to a Jewish emphasis right after the rapture. But the times of the Gentiles goes from 605 BC to the end of the Tribulation.
Now let's think through what this means; think through a couple of implications of this. First of all, we must distinguish between client nations and covenant nations. This is not always done. The term "client nation" itself is not a Biblical term; it is used to… it comes out of modern political parlance, really, just as the Soviet empire expanded into satellite nations into Eastern Europe, those were client nations; the same thing would be true with the United States. Back during the time of the cold war there were certain nations that were our allies that we supported and then expanded and implemented our policies. So the term "client nation" was adopted because God is using in human history not the nation He has chosen and called out, the Jews, but sort of second best, He's operating through these second tier Gentile nations in order to bring about His plans and purposes for mankind. He doesn't have a covenant with them; there's no covenant relationship between God and the Roman Empire, between God and the Frankish Empire, between God and the Holy Roman Empire, God and the United States of America, or God and the British. There is no covenant there, but God is using those nations to protect Israel and to provide a base for missionary activity.
For example, you go back to Ireland in about the 5th, 6th century AD and you discover that there was a tremendous revival that took place there, there were hundreds if not thousands of Irish that trusted the Lord under the ministry of Saint Patrick, and Patrick wasn't Irish, he was a Britain and he was captured as a young boy and taken as a slave to Ireland, and then when he finally escaped he went back home, he had training, and he had a desire to take the gospel to the Irish. Well, in a couple of generations from Patrick there were believers in the north of Ireland who then established a monastery on the island of Iona, out between Ireland and Scotland, and the head of the monastery was a monk by the name of Columba, and Columba taught the gospel, they copied the Scriptures, they translated the Scriptures to put it into the hands of ordinary people and they sent missionaries out into Scotland, back to Ireland, down into England, they sent missionaries to the Scandinavian countries and the gospel went all over northern England from that one little seminary base, that monastery on the island of Iona. That's the function of a client nation, that there's a nation that is going to have believers there, that are going to send out missionaries and be a source of continuing the blessing of the gospel. But that's grounded, ultimately, in the Abrahamic Covenant, and in Israel.
So we have to distinguish between client nations and covenant nations, and that Israel is a covenant nation and the Gentile nations are client nations. If you don't do that, and Israel is not held as something distinct, but if you think that she's a client nation just like all the other Gentile client nations, then you're forced to go into a 70 AD starting point for the times of the Gentiles because Israel has to go out completely before you can have the times of the Gentiles and there can be a shift, because you only have one client nation operating at one time in history. But if Israel is distinct, and she is, then you can have a client nation existing at the same time as a covenant nation. And Israel is existing as a covenant nation in the land but not all of them are in the land; remember the northern kingdom was taken out in captivity. So you have the Hasmonean dynasty taking place during the 2nd century BC and you have Israel in the land during the 1st century under Roman dominion, and then you have a return of Jews to Israel at the present time. But Israel, throughout all of these various manifestations, where there are Jews in the land and where there is an autonomous nation in the land, they are still there at the blessing of Gentile nations. If the United States had not supported Israel in 1948 Israel would have been wiped out by the Arabs. If the United States were not continuing its support of Israel, Israel would be overrun by the Arabs in a flash, but because there are nations, Gentile nations, supporting Israel and protecting Israel, there is a nation in the land but it still under the overlordship of Gentile client nations.
So Israel went out under divine discipline in 605 BC and that started the time of Gentile dominance of Jerusalem. This is further emphasized in Luke 21:24 by the statement, "they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot," this is a present participle of the verb pateo, which means to walk on, to trample, to conquer, to control. And it is used metaphorically of the idea of control. And so Israel has generally been under the control, under the dominance of Gentile powers and exists… if there has been any peace, any independence, it's been under the overlordship of a Gentile power ever since, and it will not end until the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let's go back and pick up the significance of Nebuchadnezzar and look at Jeremiah 27. Daniel said Nebuchadnezzar, "you, O king, are the head of gold." Now look at what God promised Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah 25:5-8. God says, "I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight." Dominion and power belongs to God; nations don't just rise up by chance, God is the One who controls history. Verse 6, "And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, My servant," remember Nebuchadnezzar is not saved at this point, but He is God's servant in that he is fulfilling God's plan and purpose for human history. "I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him.
 And all the nations shall serve him, and his son, and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings will make him their servant.  And it will be, that the nation or the kingdom which will not serve him, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the LORD until I have destroyed it by his hand."
That's carte blanche; God was going to give complete power to Nebuchadnezzar, we've seen it here, we've seen it back in Daniel, if Nebuchadnezzar had pushed and wanted to expand his kingdom nothing was going to stand in his way. God would have given him everything. He did not, few of us live up to the potential or seize the potential that God has given us and Nebuchadnezzar was no different. So Nebuchadnezzar had a tremendous position in history and this marks a shift, Daniel 2:38 marks a shift in God's plan in the ancient world, to shift the political dominance away from Israel.
Now another thing that we ought to note is that this takes place, this prophecy takes place in about 603 BC. What's fascinating is that at that time in human history tremendous changes took place throughout the earth. In the next hundred years many of the major religious systems that were on the earth today were developed. Buddhism was developed; Zoroastrianism was developed, Confucianism was developed, all at this same time, it's within a hundred years that you have the early Greek philosophers and the foundation for all of the Greek philosophical systems, the pre-Socrates, Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, all with 150 years or so of this decree. There is a major shift throughout the Gentile powers at this time because God is going to establish Gentile powers as the power base that is going to override Jerusalem, the political power, philosophical power goes to the Gentiles and the Jews are going to be limited in their expansion for the next several millennia.
We'll come back and look at the second kingdom next time as we continue our study on God's plan for human history.