THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES
The various branches of the Church of God have for many years been putting out articles, booklets, magazines and TV programs warning us of a final uprising of the power described in Revelation 13:1 as "a Beast".
Scripture, however, says that the final, Laodicean Church era is "blind" (Rev 3:17).
Does that apply to the explanation of this Beast as well?
Two basic questions must be asked right from the beginning regarding this subject:
1) What is the Beast?
2) Does God give us a length of time that pertains to the Beast?
The usual explanation as to what constitutes the Beast is that it is a succession of "earth ruling empires". This is deduced from Dan 2:39 which says that these powers "rule over the whole earth". However, what does "earth" mean in this context? Is the Bible a book about the whole Earth as we think of it? Did any of the powers generally identified as Beast powers rule over the entire globe or anything remotely close to it? No they didn't. The earth that they did all rule over was the earth that the Scriptures are about, namely the earth of Israel. Please read the article "THE SEVEN DAY BLUEPRINT" to see how God separated the earth from the sea on the third day of Creation, picturing the creation of the people of Israel in the third millennium, as well as the separation of the land of Israel from the Gentile lands in that same time period.
The Bible is an Israel focused book. As soon as we take our eyes off Israel, we lose focus in interpreting prophecy. Even more specifically, the Bible is a Jerusalem focused book. Jerusalem is central to a correct interpretation of prophecy.
In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, is told that he is the head of gold in a statue that represents the Beast powers. In Dan 7 these powers are depicted as four separate beasts. Why is Babylon the head of the statue? Why not the great Assyrian Empire that had previously captured the Kingdom of Israel? For one simple reason: the Assyrian Empire didn't capture Jerusalem.
For the same reason, Egyptian Pharaoh Necho isn't the head of the statue either. He took King Jehoahaz captive by drawing him out of Jerusalem (II Kings 23; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 10.5.2). He then appointed a new king and placed Judah under tribute, but there is no record of him capturing Jerusalem.
Nebuchadnezzar, on the other hand, is shown in Scripture to have besieged and captured Jerusalem a number of times. Kings Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah were all defeated by the forces of Babylon. The Scriptures themselves therefore show us that to "rule over the whole earth" means to rule the land of Israel including Jerusalem.
The Beast can therefore be simply described as Gentile powers that rule or control Israel and Jerusalem, and, by extension, the Jews.
How long was this rule to last?
Leviticus 26 famously details that God's people would be punished for "seven times", i.e. 2520 years, if they continually disobeyed God. This same period of time is echoed in Dan 4. Here, Nebuchadnezzar, the head of the statue, is transformed and "given the heart of a beast" (Dan 4:16) and made to act like a beast in representation of his kingdom and those Beast powers which would follow after him. The previous verse says he will "graze" "on the grass of the earth". People are depicted as grass in Scripture, e.g. in Isa 40:6-7, and the obvious meaning is that Beast powers trample down or persecute the people of God.
Dan 4:17 gives us the timing clue. It says that Nebuchadnezzar's plight will last "seven times", which for him personally was seven years.
In addition, however, using the "day for a year" principle, there is every reason to accept that Nebuchadnezzar's seven years in Dan 4 are a type of the seven times described in Lev 26, i.e. 2520 years (7 x 360) of Jerusalem being trodden down by Gentile powers.
Clearly, Nebuchadnezzar was used as a symbol of the totality of the times of the Gentiles.
Jesus Christ was fully aware of these previously given prophecies of the Old Testament and their ongoing fulfilment when, in His Olivet prophecy, He gave us one of the most important chronological clues we have:
"Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24).
When Christ spoke these words, the times of the Gentiles had already been underway for hundreds of years!
This remarkable sentence gives us four crucial elements:
1) Jerusalem is trodden down/occupied.
2) Jerusalem's occupation is by Gentile powers.
3) The occupation lasts for a specific length of time.
4) The occupation will come to an end when the "times .... are fulfilled".
To make very plain what Christ knew and meant, He might just as well have said:
Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the seven times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Counting 2520 years from the first capture of Jerusalem by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar in 575BC, brings us to the last year of World War II, 1945 (see the chart accessible on the "HOME" page). That was the last year of the statue of Daniel 2: the last year of the Beast.
1945 is when "the times of the Gentiles" came to an end.
The times of the Gentiles came to an end at this point, as Jerusalem and the Jews ceased to be trampled down by Gentile forces.
As explained on the page "THE TWO WITNESSES", from this point on it took three and a half years for the Jews to stand up on their feet and to get their country and capital back (Rev 11:11).
Now, of course people will say this can't be possible, because they think the Kingdom of God will immediately follow on from the demise of the Gentile powers. This is similar to what many said in Christ's time, when they rejected Him as the Messiah of Dan 9:25 because he wasn't immediately setting up His Kingdom.
If the demise of the Gentile Beast powers was going to be immediately followed by the Kingdom of God, the prophecy in Dan 2 would say that the feet of the statue were struck by the "great mountain". Rather, it says that the feet were struck by a "stone that became a great mountain".
Today we are in that "became" phase. The current State of Israel is the intermediate stage between the times of the Gentiles coming to an end and the setting up of the Kingdom of God upon Christ's return.
In the meantime, Churches of God keep pumping out material about the Beast and its supposed final resurrection, in total ignorance of the fact that the Beast has been defeated (by the stone, i.e. Christ). Its eighth and final head, Catholicism/Christianity, called "Babylon the Great" in the book of Revelation, has fallen. Since the end of the Second World War, the formerly Christian nations have largely departed from what Christianity they had, and been overrun by non-Christians and their false religions. There are, for instance, over 25 million Muslims living in European Union countries, as well as many people of a variety of other false persuasions. This is in fulfilment of the prophecy that says "Babylon is fallen and has become the dwelling place of demons and every unclean bird". (Please read the page "BABYLON IS FALLEN").
Rather, these are the fulfilments of prophecy the Churches ought to be proclaiming:
1) The restoration of the nation of Israel.
2) The ongoing demise of Babylon/Christianity and the other Beast powers that for so long trampled down Jerusalem and persecuted the Jews.
Instead, they keep flogging a "dead horse", desperately wanting Germany or Europe to reawaken and become a power again and fulfil their prophecies. If a few Neo-Nazis cause a stir in Europe, the COG's are quick to jump up and proclaim that the Beast is rising. Sure, there are still people with nationalistic tendencies and aspirations, but they are unable to make a fist. They have departed from the Christian religion that gave them their strength. They have lost their power: their churches are virtually empty.
Mindless entertainment, drugs, partying and depravity consume the formerly Christian nations. They are so weakened by sin, that there is no power left to harness.
Remarkably, when the Second World War was still raging, Herbert Armstrong (HWA) said it was the final stand of the Beast. He was right! However, because he, much like the people in Christ's day, "thought the Kingdom of God should immediately appear" (Lk 19:11) at the conclusion of the war, and it didn't, he changed his tune and began preaching about another final rise of the Beast powers. In doing this he made two enormous errors:
1) HWA failed to see that the Beast powers/the times of the Gentiles constituted a specific length of time, that is, 2520 years.
2) HWA failed to understand that the restoration of the nation of Israel was the result of the Beast powers/the times of the Gentiles coming to an end.
Since that time, the errors have kept on being repeated and compounded by the Churches of God.
The general misinterpretation of the Olivet prophecy, and the belief in a worldwide, Beast led, "great tribulation" just prior to Christ's return, have greatly contributed to the spiritual blindness in evidence today.
The "great tribulation" was a terrifying event that befell Jerusalem and the Jews in the first century AD, but confined to such a location that fleeing from Judea to the surrounding mountains was enough to escape it.
Please see the page "THE REAL SEVEN SEALS" for a full explanation of the Olivet prophecy.
I do hope this brief explanation makes it clear where we are in prophecy today, with the days of the Beast, the times of the Gentiles, well and truly behind us. Please see the page "REVELATION 13 - THE BEAST" for a full commentary on Revelation 13.