The "Times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24), or the period in which Gentile supremacy continues in the earth, began when Judah became the vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and governmental power was transferred to the Gentiles, as had been predicted in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:17). The "Times of the Gentiles" will end when the Son of Man returns in power to earth to judge the nations, and establish His Kingdom.
We have already seen that Israel was Jehovah's chosen nation. In Jerusalem was His temple, and in Zion His seat of earthly government. To the chosen city the tribes went up to worship, and from it as a centre, rule was exercised. The Divine purpose was, that through Israel His way should be made known on earth, and His saving health among all nations (Psa. 67:2). But Israel proved unfaithful, and was punished for her sin. The Gentile monarch, Nebuchadnezzar, was allowed to besiege the chosen city, to add to the "servitude" the "captivity," and carry Judah's king a captive to Babylon, to raze the Temple, and complete the "Desolations." Thus ended Divine worship and Kingly rule in Jerusalem. The sceptre passed into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, who was the first Gentile monarch to whom God committed governmental rule (Daniel2:37;4:22). and thus began the "Times of the Gentiles." But while the sceptre of government was for a season taken from Israel and committed to the Gentiles, the Divine glory did not follow it. Ezekiel, who prophesied at the same period as Daniel, saw the glory reluctantly rise from the temple, and after hovering for a time above the city, go up to heaven. There it remains, until the Son of Man returns, bringing the glory back to earth, when the government of earth which has failed in the hands of the Gentiles, as it did in Israel, shall be vested in the hands of the Son of Man. Then "all peoples, nations, and languages shall serve Him."
The origin, character, and duration of these times, are given in two visions. The vision of the Great Image, as recorded in Daniel 2:31-35, was given to Nebuchadnezzar the king, but forgotten by him. Daniel brought it back to his mind and interpreted to him. The image gave a continuous view of the Times of the Gentiles, in their unity, while the various metals of which it is composed shews the progress of deterioration, from absolute government, to utter democracy. The "Head of Gold" represented the Babylonian or Chaldean power, as it was seen in Nebuchadnezzar. To him the prophet said—"Thou art this head of gold" (verse 38). He was monarch and absolute ruler over the entire kingdom of Babylon (Chap. 1:1). The character of his government was represented by gold. He received it from God. "Thou O king, art a king of kings, for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom" (verse 37). Alas!—as the following chapter shews—he used the power thus committed unto him, for his own glorification, and the persecution of those who were the true servants of God. His pride of heart is seen in the golden image set up on the plains of Dura, and his misuse of the power committed to him appears in the command given for all to worship it. In this he is the type of Antichrist, the last Gentile monarch, whose prophet will "cause as many as would not worship the image of the Beast to be killed " (Rev.13:15). There is only One who will rightly exercise aright the absolute authority which has already been committed to His hands (Matt. 28:18). He is the Lamb of God, the perfectly obedient One, who proved by His subjection while in "the form of a Servant," His fitness to hold the sceptre. Men have often reached earth's thrones by force and injustice, cruelly treading down the weak, and using the power they have gained to crush the righteous. But the new sight earth shall yet see with wondering eyes, will be "a Lamb upon the throne," a King of Righteousness and of Peace," under whose benign sceptre the poor and the needy shall find shelter and defence, and the wolf and the lamb shall lie down together (Isa.11:6).
The Second empire, as represented in the breast and arms of silver, was the Medo-Persian, as we learn from Daniel 5:28-30. It arose after the Chaldean, but its power was "inferior" to the Chaldean. This is shewn in the less valuable metal used to represent it. And we learn that Darius, though he laboured to deliver Daniel from the den, was unable, as others associated with him in government had planned and carried out a plot which he was bound to ratify. Nebuchadnezzar would have cast them into the den rather than yield to their demand, for his power was absolute. But Darius, who had associated with him the aristocracy in government, could not.
The Third empire is the Grecian, represented by the thighs of brass. It was founded by Alexander the Great, through his military prowess, and at his death it was divided among his generals, who in turn lost it.
The Fourth empire is the Roman, represented by the legs of iron. This as we learn from Luke 2:1; 3:1, was the power that ruled when Christ was born. Its progress, as seen in the iron, was by conquest. "Forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things, and as iron that breaketh all these shall it break in pieces and bruise" (v. 40). It was fierce and terrible, and as we know, its representative crucified the Son of God, and persecuted His saints.
In the seventh chapter of Daniel, these four empires are seen in a vision given to the prophet, under the figures of four wild beasts. How differently the man of faith sees earth's kingdoms from the man of the world! Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image, and was evidently so charmed with it, that he made one like it, but all of gold-all of what represented his own part of it-to be an object of worship. Daniel saw four wild beasts rise up out of the raging sea—a Lion, a Bear, a Leopard and a nameless monster with ten horns on its head. The interpretation given to Daniel shews that these four wild beasts represent the same empires as the metals of the image. There, the deterioration of their power is seen, here, how they misuse the power committed unto them.
The Roman Empire has already existed, and passed away, although the kingdoms that composed it remain. But, as we learn from the Book of Revelation, it will exist again at the time of the end, in a new form of ten kingdoms, and will finally be ruled over by THE Antichrist—as Kaiser.
The Stone cut out of the mountain without hands, falling on the feet of the image and breaking it to pieces shews, that when Christ returns to earth as Son of Man, the end of Gentile rule will be brought to pass through judgment. The whole of the image disappears, and the Stone which smote it becomes a great mountain. This stone, as the prophet informs us, represents the kingdom which the God of heaven shall set up, which shall fill the whole earth. This will be the millennial kingdom of the Son of Man.
We learn, therefore, that the "Times of the Gentiles " will end at the return of the Lord Jesus as Son of Man, having been invested in heaven by the Ancient of Days with the Sovereignty of Earth (Dan. 7:13). He will then wear His many diamonds (Rev.19:12), on that day, and His name announced is "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (v. 16).
What though the chivalry of Europe, headed by their last great Emperor and his prophet, are gathered to make war against Him? What though the nations rage, and the wicked join hand in hand? What though the world-powers band themselves together to resist Him? The hour of God's wrath and judgment has come. "He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Rev.19:15). The Beast and his prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire: its first tenants. Ringleaders and accomplices in sin, they go to their eternal doom together without dying. Their deluded followers are slain. Then follows the sessional judgment of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46), those Gentile nations which had not formed the kingdom of Antichrist, many of whom had heard God's glory declared by the remnant of Israel (see Isa.65:19), who owned the message and welcomed the messengers whom the Lord calls "My brethren." Thus the wicked are gathered out and punished, while the righteous are spared, and pass into their places in Christ's earthly kingdom prepared for them " from the foundation of the world." The heavenly people were chosen for their inheritance "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4).
Such is the character, and such must be the inglorious end of the boastful Gentiles. May God's' people seeing this, keep themselves separate, with unspotted garments from the spirit and course of the world, alike in its pleasures, its politics, and its empty profession, ever content to occupy the place of "strangers here," and pursue the path of "pilgrims" passing on to the rest and home beyond.
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus, with Subsequent Events in Heaven and on Earth by John Ritchie. 3rd ed., enl. Kilmarnock, Scotland: John Ritchie, .
Selections from The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus