The Times of the Gentiles
April 29th, 1956 @ 8:15 AM
THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-29-56 8:15 a.m.
This morning, we are to speak of The Times of the Gentiles. Last Sunday morning, we spoke of The Jews – the chosen family and people of God. This morning, it is the Gentiles.
In Luke 21:24, the Lord Jesus says: "And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." There is a very definite period, a chronological era, a time in the mind of God that God refers to as "the times of the Gentiles." That is in Luke 21:24: "And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."
Now, in the passage that we read together, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans and the twenty-fifth verse:
Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, "There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is My covenant with them; I have promised it," saith the Lord.
Concerning the gospel, they’re enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
He doesn’t change. That’s where we left off last Sunday morning.
I do not know of a more startling – – it’s almost awesome – – development in all history, from the time of creation until now, than this thing that is developing before our very eyes today. If you have ever looked at a map of Palestine of today, of this minute, you will find that that division between Israel and Jordan, between the Hebrew and the Arab, you’ll find it start up there at the Sea of Galilee, then come way over to the west and drop down to the south, then go way back again to the east and encompass the very hill of Mount Zion, then drop way back to the west again, and so go on down to the Arabah to the Negev.
Isn’t that a strange thing? For what Israel had in their hearts in this recent war in Palestine was to win Jerusalem. They may have everything else in the country, but if they don’t have the city of God, Zion – they don’t have the great capital – it is as nothing. The heart and the vision and the dream of the Jew is that he might have Jerusalem. And there they are, the line comes down this way, then goes clear to Jerusalem, then drops back again and goes on down.
And when you go to that country and listen to those people, you will hear the weirdest things. For example, on the Israeli side, they will say things like this. They will say, "In this last and recent war, there was a young group of Israel, just almost teenagers," they say, "and with great boldness, they won the entire city of Jerusalem; but for some strange and uncanny reason, they were never supported in those outposts, so they had to withdraw."
Then when you go on the other side and talk to the Arabs, you’ll find again some of the strangest and most uncanny things. They will say things like this: "Over here on our side, in this last and recent war, we had the Jewish armies in exhaustion. They were running out of ammunition. They had no recourse; they were absolutely" – – and I verified this – – "they were running out of water. They had no water at all." And you can’t live and fight without water. And just at that time, when it looked as though the Arab legions were prepared to push the Israeli armies into the sea, for some unknown reason, the King of Jordan suddenly decided that he wanted an armistice. He wanted to make peace. And that stopped the war right at the time when Israel was almost exhausted and defeated.
Well, why is it that the Israelites were not able to overwhelm the city of Jerusalem right there at the gates, right there at the wall? The new kingdom of Israeli goes right up to the wall. You can stand there on new Mount Zion, and the wall is right there. There are a lot of places there where you can stand and look over into the city of Jerusalem. Why is that? Well, it is according to the Word of God.
In Luke 21:24, Jesus said that Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. That city is not going to be given to Israel, and the Hebrews are not going to possess it, until this chronological period of time that is known to the mind of God and to which we’re going to speak this morning, until that time is run out – until God says, "This is the end." So this morning, we’re going to talk about the Gentiles and the times of the Gentiles.
There are three classes of people in the Bible that the Bible deals with as a group. One is the Jew; another is the Gentile; and the third is the church which is made up of both Jew and Gentile.
The Hebrew began in the call of Abraham. He was the first Hebrew. In Genesis 14, he is called, "Abraham the Hebrew" [Genesis 14:13].
Many people talk about, many scholars probe into, where that word comes from. Many of them are of the persuasion that it comes from the Hebrew avar which means "to cross over." Anyway, he is called "the Hebrew."
And this Hebrew Abraham, the first one, he had a boy named Isaac [Genesis 17:19, 21:3]. And Isaac had a son named Jacob [Genesis 25:21-26]. And Jacob’s son was named Israel. And Jacob’s name was changed to Israel [Genesis 32:28]. And Israel had twelve sons [Genesis 35:22-26]. And each one of those twelve sons became the head of a tribe, and they are known as the twelve tribes of Israel [Genesis :1-28]. They were together until the time of Solomon.
And in the days of King Solomon, the kingdom was divided [1 Kings 11:29-39]; and ten of those tribes of the north became known as Israel, and the two tribes in the south, Benjamin and Judah, became known as Judah [1 Kings 12:12-24]. And when the Israelites, the northern ten tribes, were taken captive in 722 by Sargon to Nineveh and to Assyria [2 Kings 17:1-8], they were largely lost to history.
So the people who lived thereafter knew the Jewish people by the name of Judah – "Judahs, Jews." That’s where the word "Jews" comes from. It come from "Judah, Judahs" – "he is a Judah; he is a Jew."
Now the southern kingdom of Judah abode until 606 BC and then 598, then 587, when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians, came and carried them away [2 Kings 25:8-11].
Now the times of the Gentiles begins with Jeremiah, the prophet of God, when he said that the Lord God had given the land of Palestine into the hand of the king of Babylonia according to Jeremiah 27; and I read:
And Jeremiah said, "Thus saith the Lord,
‘Now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given also to serve him.
And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.’"
[Jeremiah 27:1-2, 6-7]
He’ll be overcome and his kingdom be divided up.
‘"And it shall come to pass, that the nation and the kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish,’ saith the Lord, ‘with the sword, with the famine, with the pestilence, till I have consumed them by [his] hand.’"
Then Jeremiah says:
And I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, "Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people.
"Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, ‘Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon’: for they prophesy a lie unto you.
‘"For I have not sent them,’ saith the Lord, ‘yet they prophesy a lie in My name.’"
And for that, they took Jeremiah and put him in a miry pit [Jeremiah 38:6].
He was not patriotic. There they were fighting a war against the king of Babylon trying to preserve their independence and freedom, and Jeremiah said, "If you fight against the king of Babylon, you’re going to die by the famine, by the pestilence, and by the sword, because the Lord God has said, ‘I have given this land to the king of Babylon.’"
And the Lord God runs this world. However we may think the Senate runs it, or the U.N. [United Nations] runs it, or the NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] runs it, or SEATO [Southeast Asia Treaty Organization] runs it, or Russia runs it, or the United States runs it, the Lord God runs this world. It’s in His hands. And the Lord God said, "I have given this land to Babylonia; I have given it to Nebuchadnezzar" [Jeremiah 27:6-7]. The reason for it, of course, was the violent iniquities and gross blasphemies of the people of the Lord [Jeremiah 26:1-9].
Now, Daniel, the prophet, describes the whole course of this "times of the Gentiles" when the Lord took the land away from Israel and gave it to Nebuchadnezzar, and he describes the whole course of that time. In the second chapter – – is it second or third? Isn’t it the second chapter? In the second chapter of the Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream, and he forgot what it was. And the enchanters couldn’t tell him, the sorcerers couldn’t tell him, and all the necromancers and all of the sages, they couldn’t tell him [Daniel 2:1-13], but Daniel could for these things are all known to God [Daniel 2:14-30].
And in the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had – and Daniel told him what the dream was and the interpretation thereof, and then Daniel gave the entire course of the times of the Gentiles [Daniel 2:31-45]. There’s a head – the great colossus, the great image, there’s the head made out of gold [Daniel 2:32]. There are the breast and arms made out of silver, and there are the belly and thighs made out of brass. There are the two legs made out of iron [Daniel 2:33]. There are the feet and the toes made out of iron and of clay.
And Daniel said, "That first kingdom up there, the head of [gold], is your kingdom, O, Nebuchadnezzar!" [Daniel 2:37-38] That’s the Babylonian kingdom. That’s the one into whose hands God gave the land because of the trespass of the people. Then that next kingdom, the one out of silver – the breast and the arms – that’s the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians [Daniel 2:39]. Then that next kingdom, the belly and thighs of brass, that’s the kingdom of the Greeks. Then that next kingdom, the kingdom made out of iron, strong as iron – divided into two parts – that’s the kingdom of the Romans [Daniel 2:40-41].
And then the feet and the toes made out of iron and of clay, that’s the divided world that we see today: some of it strong, some of it weak, some of it like iron, some of it like clay [Daniel 2:42-43] – a great strong nation like the United States, like Russia, a weak little nation like Uruguay, or Nicaragua, or Afghanistan. And that’s the way that this world is going to be until, until – and Daniel saw a great stone cut out of the mountains without hands, and it smote that image on the feet; it smote him on the toes [Daniel 2:34-35]. It’s the prophecy of God, so said Daniel [Daniel 2:45].
He said: "That’s the kingdom of heaven that’ll be set up and that’ll never be destroyed, and it came and it smote that image down there on its toes, on its feet. When the course of this time runs out, the times of the Gentiles, there is coming out of glory the great Deliverer, and He’s going to smite these Gentile nations and judge them and set up in this earth a kingdom of God that shall never be destroyed" [from Daniel 2:34, 44-45]. That’s what Daniel said. He said those exact words. That’s the course of the times of the Gentiles.
Now, the end of that time is also revealed to Daniel. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel is one of the most beautiful and one of the most interesting of all of the chapters in the Bible. It starts off like this:
In the first year of Darius the Mede . . .
In the first year of his reign I Daniel, understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
And I set my face unto the Lord God, to pray, to supplicate with fasting and sackcloth and ashes:
And I prayed, saying . . .
Now, let me tell you what that is. When you read that, oh, you just read it. This is what that is: "In the first year of Darius the Mede" – that was the year that Babylonia fell; that was the year that the Persians came and overwhelmed that great and ancient city. So that year is 538 BC.
In 538 BC, in the first year of the fall of Babylon – the first year of Darius the Mede who was an underling of Cyrus who conquered the whole empire – "In that year," Daniel says, "I was reading the prophet Jeremiah" [Daniel 9:1-2]. And this was where he was reading. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, this is what Daniel was reading. The eighth, the ninth, and the tenth verses, I read:
Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, "Because ye have not heard My words,
Behold, I will send and take . . . Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring him against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof . . .
Now the eleventh verse: "And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years" – seventy years [Jeremiah 25:11]. Jeremiah prophesies that the king of Babylon is coming against Palestine, that the king of Babylon will overwhelm the country, and that the country will be desolate seventy years. But after seventy years, the people will have opportunity to go back home again and to re-inhabit Jerusalem in their native land.
So now look at this. In the first year of Darius the Mede, in that year, Daniel understood by reading Jeremiah that God would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. So Daniel was taken captive in 606 BC, and when he figured it out, sixty-eight years had passed. So there was just two years remaining according to the prophecy of Jeremiah. There were just two years remaining. Between 538 BC when Daniel is reading this and 606 BC when Daniel was taken captive, sixty-eight years have passed and there’s just two years remaining.
So Daniel, reading that prophecy in the Bible, Daniel came to understand that the day when the people would be at liberty to go back home again and to build Jerusalem again and to build the temple again, that that day was almost at hand [Daniel 9:2]. So Daniel set his face to the Lord to seek by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes, and he prayed [Daniel 9:3-4]. And my dear brethren, this is one of the most beautiful of all of the prayers in the Bible – Daniel’s prayer, reading the prophecy of Jeremiah and knowing that the time was at hand when the people could go back to Jerusalem. Look at it for just a moment:
O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, I beseech Thee, let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain . . .
Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of Thy servant, and his supplications, and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.
O my God, incline Thine ear, and hear; open Thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by Thy name: for we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousnesses, but for Thy great mercies.
O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God: for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.
Did you ever hear a man pray like that? That’s Daniel’s prayer when he read in the prophet Jeremiah that after seventy years they could go back home and sixty-eight years had already passed. I tell you, when you’re working with God, when you’re working with the Book, the Lord sees that future just like we can see the past. And the Lord writes it out, reveals it, puts it in His Book, and you can see it.
Now, a remarkable thing happened, a remarkable thing. While he was speaking in prayer, Gabriel came – the angel Gabriel [Daniel 9:21]. And Gabriel said to Daniel, now the twenty-fourth verse:
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins . . . to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to set up the vision and the prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: then it will be built . . . After threescore and two weeks Messiah will be cut off . . .
Twenty-seven: "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease . . . " [Daniel 9:27].
Now I have just a moment. That’s one of the profoundest prophecies in all God’s Word.
Gabriel says to Daniel: "There are seventy weeks determined upon thy people" [Daniel 9:24]. The Hebrew is "seventy sevens," and almost all of your translators will translate that "seventy weeks of years" – each day a year; one week, seven years – "seventy sevens."
"There are seventy weeks of years that are determined upon thy people, until this great final kingdom of everlasting righteousness, the kingdom of heaven is come in" [Daniel 9:24]. God says it’s seventy sevens upon the Jewish people until that final kingdom comes in. That is an exact chronological time that God sets.
Now He does something strange in it, and we’ll see what that is. He divides that into a week – into seven sevens, a week of seven, seven weeks and threescore and two weeks, sixty-two weeks, which makes sixty-nine [Daniel 9:25]. And then he sets one week off by itself: the seventieth week is down here by itself [Daniel 9:27]. He tells Daniel that after sixty-nine weeks, Messiah is going to come and be cut off [Daniel 9:26]. Well, when you figure that out, that’s either 483 years, 365 days to the year, or 475 years if, like the Bible takes, 360 days to a year. And when you figure it out, that’s the exact time that the Lord Jesus came and when He was cut off.
Now, there remains one other week, this seventieth week [Daniel 9:27]. Well what is this strange thing? All right, this is it. This is it. In the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul says – now listen to the great prophecy and Word of the Lord: "For which cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if you’ve heard of the grace of God given to me: How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery . . . " [Ephesians 3:1-3].
Now the word "mystery" in the Bible is not an enigma. It’s not something you can’t – not a riddle. A mystery is something that was hidden in days past. The prophets didn’t know it. Nobody knew it in days past. God hid it and revealed it to us today. That’s what he means by a mystery: "How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery . . . Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men" – the prophets never saw it. The prophets never heard of it – "as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel" [Ephesians 3:3, 5-6]. The mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God: that the Gentiles were to be made fellow heirs in the great Kingdom of the Lord God of heaven.
So what happened is this. There was no prophet. There was no seer. There was never any revelation made in days past of this great church age, this day of grace, this period of the Holy Spirit. It was a mystery, says the apostle Paul, and it was not made known unto the sons of men, but it is just now revealed to the holy apostles and prophets that the Gentiles should be made a part of His everlasting kingdom [Ephesians 3:3, 5-6]. And the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, this whole preaching of this age – the course of this age – they never saw. They never – it was never revealed to them. It was a mystery hid in the heart and the mind of God.
So when you turn back here to this prophecy in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, there is between that sixty-nine weeks when Messiah came and was cut off and that final seventieth week, there is this great period. We don’t know how long it is. It’s called "the times of the Gentiles." It’s called "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" [Luke 21:24].
There is a period of time between the time when Messiah was cut off – when Jesus died, when Israel rejected their rightful King – and the time of that final week when God brings to pass all of those things written in the Revelation. There is this indetermined period of time in which we now live and in which we now preach the gospel and in which we have the opportunity to bring all the Gentiles of the world into the great Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now how long is that kingdom? I mean, how long is this era? We do not know. But it will end when the last one that God has elected to be saved, when the last one comes in. When the body of Christ is made up, when the last one to be saved is saved, when the body of Christ is complete, then that end time comes: the church is called up to God, the resurrection, the changing of our bodies, the transfiguration of all of God’s children.
That’s why – that’s what was meant in the first chapter of the Book of Acts when the disciples came to the Lord Jesus and said: "When they were come together, they asked of Him, saying, ‘Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?’" [Acts 1:6] And the Lord said, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power" [Acts 1:7].
When is it that this thing is given back to Israel? When is it that the seventieth week is fulfilled? When is this great and final consummation of the work of the Lord, the seventy weeks that are determined upon the people of God?
It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons when God will start dealing with Israel again. God’s clock is stopped for Israel. God’s clock is running now for us, for the whole world, for all of the Gentiles and all of the peoples of all the nations of creation.
When that time ends, when the body’s complete, then God shall deal again with Israel. If you remember last Sunday, they’ll be going back to Palestine. They’ll be going back in unbelief. They’ll be going back unconverted [Ezekiel 22:17-22, 36:24-28]. In that [seventieth] week, in the middle of it, whole lot of things God tells us about how Israel is going to be saved. Oh, these things, these things in the hands and in the purposes of the Lord God!
Now we sing a stanza of a hymn, and while we sing one stanza of a hymn, somebody you, somebody you give his heart to the Lord, put his life in the fellowship of the church. While we sing the song, into the aisle, down here to the pastor: "Pastor, here I come, and here I am." On the first note of that first stanza, "My heart is set. I have decided in my soul," giving your life in trust to Christ or coming into the fellowship of the church, while we sing this stanza, you come.
OF THE GENTILES
A. Abraham the first
Hebrew (Genesis 14:13)
B. Isaac, Jacob –
Jacob’s name changed to "Israel" (Genesis 32:24-28)
C. Israel’s twelve sons
are the patriarchs of the twelve tribes
D. Two kingdoms –
Israel and Judah
E. In Babylonian
captivity, people of Judah called "Jews"
F. The land never
theirs again in freedom
II. The Gentiles
A. Times of the
Gentiles a definite chronological period in the mind of God
with Nebuchadnezzar and Babylonian captivity (Jeremiah
27:6-8, 12, 14-15)
2. The full
course foretold by Daniel (Daniel 2:31-45)
3. The end
foretold by Daniel (Daniel 9:1-3,16-19, 24-27,
seventy weeks (Revelation 4-19, 1 Thessalonians
4:11, 1 Corinthians 15:50-52)
Armageddon (Revelation 9, 16:14-16, 19:11-13,
18-20, Isaiah 63:1-3)
III. The church
A. Mystery revealed (Ephesians 3:1-6, 9)