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 duration 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, 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 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 over Jerusalem - the centre of the whole earth in God's eyes. He states in Eze 5:5 "Thus says the Lord God: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her".
The Beast can therefore be simply described as Gentile powers that rule over 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" or 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 rulers of the Beast powers who would follow after him. The previous verse says he will "graze" "on the grass of the earth". People are depicted as grass, 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 method, 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 gives 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 occupied/trodden down.
2) Jerusalem's occupation is by Gentile powers.
3) The occupation lasts for a specific length of time.
4) The duration of time will come to an end when the "times" are fulfilled.
To make very plain what Christ meant and knew, He might 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). This year equals 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.
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, rejecting 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 are 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 having come 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, that is Christ). Its eighth and final head, Catholicism/Christianity, called Babylon 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 some 20 million Muslims living in European Union countries, and many other 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").
Instead, 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 this "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 COGs are quick to jump 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 strength. They have lost their power; their churches are virtually empty.
Entertainment, sport, drugs, alcohol, partying, and the pursuit of money are all that consume the formerly Christian nations. Let's not even begin to mention sexual depravity. Then there's the appalling modern computer generated music and the endless fascination with, even addiction to, new technologies and inventions. The list goes on.
Nothing weakens people like sin. The formerly Christian nations are sick with sin. There is no power left to harness.
Remarkably, when the Second World War was still raging, Herbert Armstrong said it was the final stand of the Beast. HE WAS RIGHT. However, because he "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 did not see that the Beast powers/the times of the Gentiles constituted a specific length of time, that is 2520 years.
2) HWA failed to see that the restoration of the nation of Israel was as a result of the Beast powers/the times of the Gentiles coming to an end.
Since that time, the errors keep 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 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 that this brief explanation makes it clear where we are in prophecy today, and that the days of the Beast, the times of the Gentiles, are well and truly behind us. Please see the page "REVELATION 13 - THE BEAST" for a full commentary on Revelation 13.