To what does Luke refer, when he records Jesus’ phrase: "the times of the gentiles" (Luke 21:24)?

Young's Literal Translation renders the verse in question as follows:

“and they shall fall by the mouth of the sword, and shall be led captive to all the nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by nations, till the times of nations be fulfilled.

The Apostle Paul makes allusion to something called the “fullness of the Gentiles” in the following passage.

Rom 11:25-27 (NASB)
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

 “The Deliverer will come from Zion,   
  He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”   
  27 “This is My covenant with them,   
  When I take away their sins.”

But are the two expressions related? My understanding is that “the times of the Gentiles” has to do with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Luke 21:20) as a precursor of a future time of tribulation (Rev 19:19).

But is that a reasonable or legitimate interpretation?

  • 1
    Your own interpretation you are asking to validate isn't clear to me. I understand the verse as meaning the Jews are taken into captivity in 70/120 AD and that Jerusalem is never rebuilt from that point forward (i.e. no temple) until the end of time basically. I'm not sure if that's the same as your theory or not. – david brainerd Jul 26 '14 at 0:52
  • 1
    @Richard I have difficulty with your question: 1) Are you merely asking for exegesis on "Times of the Gentiles"? That would be a good question. 2) Are you asking if the interpretation of "Times of the Gentiles" supports a Futurist/Dispensational hermeneutic? That would also be a good question, providing you cited your source for (1). Are you attempting to extrapolate a different meaning than what you quoted? You could address it by "answering your question" or ask a question stating your meaning(with support). – Tau Jul 26 '14 at 2:53
  • Hi Richard, I think the question needs just a bit more clarification as we aren't sure whet you intent is (see discussion in The Library starting here – Jack says try topanswers.xyz Jul 27 '14 at 11:57



“The times of the gentiles” is one of those phrases that is all too often lifted out of its context and invested with a meaning much wider than that originally intended.

The phrase itself sits within the specific context of Jesus’ Olivet prophecy, which all three synoptists record (Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21). Luke alone gives us the phrase “the times of the gentiles” (the Greek word ethnos being rendered “nations” elsewhere in the same chapter and even in the same verse):

“And they [the inhabitants of Judea v.21] shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

Matthew’s account regards this same event as a time of "...great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt 24:21) and that, for the elect’s sake, this period of tribulation would be shortened (v.22), indicating that a relatively brief timeframe is in view. That this period of “tribulation” refers to something which the generation of Jesus’ own day would, themselves, experience is made clear from the damning statements made by Jesus, which Matthew records for us in the previous chapter (Matt 23:33-38).


Robert Young’s literal version, transliterates the Greek ethnos as ‘nations’ which is consistent with its rendering elsewhere in the same passage:

“…and they shall fall by the mouth of the sword, and shall be led captive to all the nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by nations, till the times of nations be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24 Young’s Literal Translation).

Although not a literal translation, the God’s Word version, using the CNE (Closest Natural Equivalent) method of translation, correctly, in my opinion, communicates the meaning of this passage as follows:

“Swords will cut them down, and they will be carried off into all nations as prisoners. Nations will trample Jerusalem until the times allowed for the nations [to do this] are over” (Luke 21:24 God’s Word Translation).


Some, like many premillennialists (I am a ‘perennialist’ Isa 9:7) may argue that the phrase ‘times of the gentiles’ refers to a period of history, lasting many centuries, during which there has been no ‘theocratic kingdom on earth’. However, I find no justification for this view in the context of Luke's account of the Olivet prophecy (i.e. the imminent fall of the city of Jerusalem and its temple). Also, there were ruling empires in the world before there was ever a nation Israel. Does that mean there were ‘gentile times’ long before there were ‘times of the gentiles’? This idea doesn’t appear to be well founded and seems so out of context with the whole theme of Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21. The prophecy isn’t about non-Israelite nations being dominant or of a "theocratic kingdom" ceasing to exist, but, specifically, about Jerusalem being ‘trodden down’ by a foreign army or armies. This is clearly the context of the passage.


The period during which the city of Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed along with its temple, was about three and a half years (similar it would appear to the timeframe referred to in the apocalypse (Rev 12:6; 11:2) with its symbolic reference to a future time of tribulation (“a time, times and half a time”) and with reference to a very different ‘temple’ and ‘holy city’ (as John clearly regards the then and present, physical city of Jerusalem as anything but holy (Rev 11:8).

  • Ruminator - yes, I'll certainly do that. – Richard May 13 '18 at 20:17
  • Jerusalem is the holy city not because it is sinless but because God has consecrated Jerusalem as his everlasting home and the home of his People, the Jews for ever. – Ruminator Sep 18 '18 at 19:52
  • The Jewish leadership rejected their messiah by God's design to provide an opportunity for the gentiles: Romans 11:25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. 27And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” The new covenant was made between God and his people, the Jews, only. – Ruminator Sep 19 '18 at 11:22
  • Isaiah 62 is still to be fulfilled: NIV Isaiah 62:11The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’ ” 12They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted. God has an everlasting plan for Israel and the faithful remnant of the Jews. Jesus will reign for ever over Israel (under the God of the whole earth). – Ruminator Sep 19 '18 at 11:33
  • Also, the new covenant is not made willy-nilly with individuals but is a new covenant with Israel as a whole: Jeremiah 31:34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” – Ruminator Sep 19 '18 at 11:42

The Idea in Brief

The "Times of the Gentiles" is the period of time when the visible theocratic kingdom on earth is absent. That is, when the visible theocratic kingdom on earth existed, the Biblical referent of time was in reference to what Jewish ruler(s) were in power. When the theocratic kingdom on earth ended with the departure of the glory of the Lord (right before the Babylonian Captivity), the Hebrew Bible then referenced Gentile powers as the referent of time from that point forward. This Gentile rulership began at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, and continues to this day, and therefore the fulfillment of the Times of the Gentiles awaits a future day, when the visible theocratic kingdom will be established again on earth.


In the Hebrew Bible, the theocratic kingdom on earth began at Sinai, when the glory of Yahweh dwelt in the Tabernacle (glory-dwelled = "shekinah") and later in Solomon's Temple. First Moses, the judges, and then the Jewish kings were the divinely-anointed representatives of the leadership of this theocratic kingdom on earth. Before Sinai, God's covenants with man (e.g., Noahic and Abrahamic) the divine revelation was direct and personal; at the Covenant at Sinai, however, was the first formal establishment of the Government of God (theocratic kingdom), through which the nations of the earth would be blessed.

Therefore the referents of time for the theocratic kingdom were not based on the age of the world, but based on the reigns of these respective Jewish leaders at the time. For example, Hebrew Scripture references the reigns of the Jewish kings as time-referents, since they had represented the leadership of the theocratic kingdom (even when divided).

1 Kings 16:23 (NASB)
23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king over Israel and reigned twelve years; he reigned six years at Tirzah.

The rule of Jewish kings was the basis of gauging time, since their rulership was the executive authority of Yahweh, who was the Head of State of the theocratic kingdom, even if divided. The laws of this kingdom came from the Torah.

However, when the Babylonian Captivity occurred, the glory of Yahweh had departed the Temple and this theocratic kingdom on earth ended: thus the reign of Jewish kings had terminated (and so there was no longer any more referent of time based on the reign of any Jewish kings). At this time the prophet Daniel introduced the images of reigning Gentile powers on earth as rapacious animals, whose power on the earth would one day end. So post-exilic Hebrew Scripture such as Zechariah and Haggai reference the reigns of these Gentile powers (and not Jewish kings) as the time-referents, and so these -- thus "the Times of the Gentiles." The following graph provides an overview of "the Times of the Gentiles."

The last eight chapters of Ezekiel (approximately 20% of the book) concerns dozens of measurements, which suggest the literal establishment of the new temple, where the glory of Yahweh will one day dwell. (The dozens of references to precise measurements with a ruling measuring rod suggest that this temple is literal.) It was in this context of the apocalyptic end that Jesus was alluding in Luke 21:24 to the fulfillment or completion of the "Times of the Gentiles," when Gentile rule would end in the world in general and over the Promised Land in particular. That is, Jesus was alluding to the time when these rapacious Gentile powers would no longer dominate the earth.

At the current time (today) we are living in the invisible kingdom of God (under the New Covenant), where the temple is the body of the believer in the individual and collective sense. That is, the believer operates in the kingdom of God while on earth (please see Acts 26:16-18 and Col 1:13). Since this kingdom is invisible, there is no exercise of direct theocratic authority on earth. That is, there is no direct exercise of the Torah within this invisible kingdom. The beginning of this invisible kingdom was the inauguration of the New Covenant at Pentecost.

On the same day that the New Covenant was given at Pentecost was the same day that the Old Covenant was given at Sinai. Also, the same dates that the Jews escaped Egypt (and when the Egyptian Army was destroyed) are the same dates as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other word, the Old Covenant and New Covenant, respectively, were announced publicly to Israel on the same dates on the Jewish calendar in precise coincidence. The only twist for the New Covenant was the revelation of the "Mystery" later revealed to the Apostle Paul, who declared that Jews and Gentiles are now one in the mystical Body of Christ (Eph 3:4-12). This twist of the New Covenant was not part of the Hebrew Scriptures, and the Apostle Paul relates that when the Mystery is over, then Israel will once again become the locus of history for the return of the visible theocratic kingdom on earth.

Rom 11:25-27 (NASB)
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

 “The Deliverer will come from Zion,   
  He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”   
  27 “This is My covenant with them,   
  When I take away their sins.”

This Mystery is an intercalation, or heretofore undisclosed interruption, to the divine time table. When Jesus prophesied the destruction of Israel by the Romans in Mark 13, Matthew 24, and Luke 21, the destruction of indeed occurred in AD 70. However, the Second Advent of Jesus Christ did not occur immediately after AD 70 as was expected, because the intercalation of the Mystery (as revealed to the Apostle Paul) had begun after Pentecost when the Gentile Roman Centurion and his Gentile family spontaneously received the Holy Spirit without any intercession or laying of hands by Peter (Acts 10:1-48). The baptism of the Gentiles (Cornelius and his family and cohort) shook the Jewish Christians who alone were the recipients of the national announcement of the New Covenant at Pentecost.

When the intercalary period of the Mystery is over (the rapture discussed by the Apostle Paul in 2 Thess 2:1-16), is when God will reestablish the visible theocratic kingdom on earth again. (The literal temple described in the last 20% of the Book of Ezekiel will be the locus of the visible Kingdom on earth.) The reader must note that the Christians in Thessalonica were not Jews, but Greeks living in Greece, and so when they feared the Day of the Lord had already started (2 Thess 2:1-2), they were not scared for themselves that the Romans were going to overrun Palestine anytime soon, but that the consummation of the Mystery had begun, and that the worldwide judgment of God (as later described in the Revelation of John) had already begun and they (the Thessalonian believers) were somehow "left behind."

So the "Times of the Gentiles" refers to the indefinite intercalary period of time on earth, which will one day end when the Lord comes back to earth to reestablish his rule and authority on the earth, when "the nations will be broken with a rod of iron and shattered like earthenware" (Ps 2:9 with Rev 2:26-27, Rev 12:5, and Rev 19:15). This havoc before the establishment of the visible kingdom will be the ultimate fulfillment of the words spoken by Jesus in Mark 13, Matt 24, and Luke 21 (and the words written by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation, which was written after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70).


In conclusion, Scripture points to the literal establishment of the theocratic kingdom on earth at some point in the future, which will be centered on the Temple described by Ezekiel (and which translates into the eternal Zionic Jerusalem described in Revelation 21:10-27, where the measuring rod appears again suggesting literal events and objects). And so, we can infer that the "Times of the Gentiles" is the period of time when the visible theocratic kingdom on earth is absent.


Let's analyze this first:

Luke 21:28

And they shall fall by the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations.

70 ad. When the Romans invaded Jerusalem, the Children of Israel had fought with the Romans. Some stayed in Jerusalem and fought and were slaughtered. The Romans put a (border) around Jerusalem and starved them out. That's why

Luke 21:23

Woe unto them that are given suck, in those days....

They put a "BORDER" (sound familiar) around Jerusalem (as a way to win because they couldn't defeat them head on) and people were eating their kids. Luke 21:21 Then Let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains..... When the Children of Israel fled, they fled to the Atlas Mountains in Africa until they went into slavery.

Deutoromony 28:68

And the Lord shall bring you into Egypt (HOUSE OF BONDAGE/SLAVERY) again with ships, by the way I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it NO MORE again. (The Children of Israel was not to see their homeland Israel anymore): and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, (in otherwords, slaves) and no man shall buy you.

Sound familiar?

Luke 21:20

And when he shall see Jerusalem compasses with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.

But as a reference point, you have to ask yourself, "who are the Gentiles" What do the bible means, trodden down?

Look at how they are living over there. Hint: Their lifestyle.

Revelation 2:9

I know that works, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy (lies) of them that say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 3:9 backs 2:9 up.

  • Can you please add some formatting to this to make it more readable? Thanks. – Ruminator May 13 '18 at 13:50
  • Some paragraphs would help and some bullet points, maybe. – Nigel J May 13 '18 at 19:54

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