“The fulness of the Gentiles” and “The times of the Gentiles”—same or different?

“THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES” AND “THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES”—SAME OR DIFFERENT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Romans 11:25: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

Luke 21:24: “And they 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.”

Are these two terms—“the fulness of the Gentiles” and “the times of the Gentiles”—the same event on the Bible timeline? Dear friends, let us search the Scriptures for the answer. It helps to read the context, context, context!

When writing to young Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). If we are to understand and enjoy the Bible, we must “study… rightly dividing the word of truth.” What does this mean exactly? We need to make the proper divisions in God’s Word that God Himself has made in His Word, the Holy Bible. Unless we recognize these divisions, there will be unanswerable confusion when we approach the Bible. Just look at the 40,000 denominations in Christendom!

Dispensational Bible study is simply placing verses on a timeline, starting in Genesis (left) and ending in the Revelation (right). Rather than making all verses valid for every moment in human history, as denominational theology does, right division involves placing God’s instructions to man as they were given progressively. For example, God did not reveal all of His will to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Certain instructions were true for them, things that are not true for us. God did not reveal all of His will to the nation Israel. Whatever God revealed to Israel, He expected them to believe and do. That is not what God wants us to do today either.

The Holy Spirit wrote that Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). In Paul’s epistles alone, we find our doctrine, our duty, our walk, and our destiny. These are the Bible books of Romans through Philemon, written to us Gentiles in the Dispensation of the Grace of God (Ephesians 3:2). Whenever we grab verses in Paul’s epistles and try to make them fit with the rest of the Bible, trouble and confusion are sure to arise. Whenever we grab verses outside of Paul’s writings and try to fit them into Paul’s writings, trouble and confusion are sure to arise. These two errors are the primary reasons why Christianity is so messed up today.

Let us now look at these two verses—Luke 21:24 and Romans 11:25—and how right division clears up the confusion and ushers in such clarity.

“THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES”

Luke 21:24: “And they 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.” The Lord Jesus picked up on an expression first coined in Ezekiel, chapter 30, verse 3: “For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen.” The Prophet Ezekiel served between the first invasion of Jerusalem by Babylon (606 B.C.) and Babylon’s final invasion and destruction of Jerusalem (586 B.C.). The “day of the LORD” is the time when God has cast Israel out of her land. At the time of Ezekiel’s ministry, Israel is not yet fully deported out of the land of Palestine. But, that time is approaching.

Israel was to be God’s chief nation in the Earth. But, she failed to keep all of His commandments, the Mosaic Law. They broke that Old Covenant. So, God let Israel be scattered amongst the Gentiles, exiled from their Promised Land. You can read about this in Leviticus 26:27-39. We read from Exodus 19:5-6: “[5] Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: [6] And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” That promise was conditional. God would only make Israel His kingdom of priests if Israel listened to Him without exception. But, as Jeremiah 31:31-32 says of Israel during Ezekiel’s time: “[31] Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: [32] Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:”

As we know, Israel failed to be God’s nation. So, the Gentiles would rule over her instead. Gentile empires would dominate her Promised Land. Satan’s governments would rule over that land of Palestine. For example, see Psalm 106: “[41] And he gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them. [42] Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.” In 722 B.C., the Assyrians took Israel’s northern kingdom captive. In 586 B.C., the Babylonians came in and destroyed Jerusalem, and Israel’s southern kingdom, Judah, was deported. The Medes and the Persians became the dominant Gentile powers once Babylon fell. The Greeks and the Romans then ruled over Israel. Even today, Israel is not the dominant nation in the Earth as God intended. The time of the Gentiles is ongoing. Heathen/pagans/unbelievers still trod Jerusalem’s streets. Gentiles are still trying to take Israel’s land from her.

Still, Satan’s activity in Israel’s land will culminate after our Dispensation of Grace. When the Antichrist appears after the Rapture, Satan will rule Israel’s land with an iron fist, killing any and every person who does not participate in his false religious system. We learn this in Revelation chapter 13, and Daniel chapters 8 and 11. Paul talks about this in some detail in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. The Antichrist will rule during a time period known as “the seven-year Tribulation,” or “Daniel’s 70th week” (Daniel 9:24-27). Approximately halfway through those seven years, the Antichrist will be manifested for what he really is. Unbelieving Israel will learn just how evil and satanic he is, but by that time it will be too late.

Okay, that was little digression, and we need to be getting back to Luke 21:24. Luke chapter 21 (Matthew chapter 24; Mark chapter 13) is Jesus’s famous Second Mount Olivet Discourse. He is giving His disciples a grand summary of the end-times scenario. “Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” (Luke 21:7). In Matthew 24:3, the question is worded, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Verses 20-24 of Luke chapter 21 are Jesus’ comments about the midpoint of that seven-year Tribulation. Gentile armies will come into Jerusalem and walk its streets. They will do so until the seven years finish. Then, Jesus Christ will return and destroy them all, and establish God’s literal, physical, visible kingdom in the Earth! Israel will finally be God’s chief nation in the Earth (see Romans 11:11-29).

“THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES”

Romans 11:25: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

Sad to say it, but “ignorant” describes 99.9 percent of Christians today. They could not communicate basic Bible truths if their lives depended on it. But, they still read “Christian bestsellers,” sing and dance in “Christian worship,” and claim to be “filled with the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Spirit through Paul urged us in Romans 11:25 not to be “ignorant” of the fact that Israel is spiritually blinded today. We are not Israel. We have not replaced Israel. God is not finished with the nation Israel. Today, God is forming the Church the Body of Christ, not His earthly people but rather His heavenly people.

The most common theme of Paul’s ministry and message is that salvation and blessing is coming to the Gentiles through the fall of Israel. We receive that Gospel message of Christ’s finished crosswork from the preaching and writing of Paul, our apostle, God’s spokesman to us. The Bible says in Romans 11:11-13: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:”

But, as the rest of Romans chapter 11 goes on to say, especially in verse 25, Israel is not fallen forever. She is not blinded forever. God is not permanently finished with her. Israel is only blinded until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” There is a time when Israel will be restored to God. There is a time when Israel’s prophetic program will resume. We read about this in the books of Hebrews through the Revelation, the conclusion of prophecy, the culmination of all the Old Testament prophecies.

“The fulness of the Gentiles” is when God is finished forming (“fulness” = completion of) the Church the Body of Christ, which is composed of Gentiles. (Since Israel is fallen, even Jews are considered Gentiles in God’s mind today.) God will end our Dispensation of Grace one day. He will close our mystery program one day. He will not reach Gentiles without Israel forever. The Church the Body of Christ will not continue on this Earth forever. One day, we who have trusted Jesus Christ exclusively as our personal Savior, we will be taken to heaven, at the “Rapture,” to do God’s will there in the heavenly places. After that, Israel’s program can resume where it paused 2,000 years ago. Again, Hebrews through Revelation document this continuation of Israel’s program. One day, Father God will restore Israel with the New Covenant, cleanse her of her sins, and make her His people. See Hebrews chapters 8 and 10.

CONCLUSION

There is a tendency for people to correlate these verses and terms—“the fulness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25) and “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). Nevertheless, the language is different, demonstrating that they involve two different sets of circumstances. The Lord Jesus picked up on an expression first coined in Ezekiel 30:3. Paul, however, did not derive his term from anywhere in the Old Testament. This alone shows us that the Lord Jesus and Paul are relating two different events. Paul’s term (Romans 11:25) involved a “mystery,” something not previously known but later revealed by God. If Jesus in His earthly ministry (Luke 21:24) spoke of what Paul would later write, could the Holy Spirit honestly write that Paul’s doctrine in Romans 11:25 was a secret? Of course not, for Jesus Himself would have already told His Jewish disciples in Luke 21:24 years earlier. There would be no “secret” for God to reveal to us through Paul!

“The times of the Gentiles” has been operating ever since the Babylonians began deporting Jews to Babylon. For over 2,500 years now, Gentiles having been ruling over Israel and her land, when Israel was supposed to be God’s chief nation had she not disobeyed Him. “The fulness of the Gentiles” involves God forming the Church the Body of Christ of people without distinction (Jews are considered Gentiles in the Dispensation of Grace). This has only been going on for the last 2,000 years (beginning with the Apostle Paul). “The fulness of the Gentiles” will end at the Rapture, when the Body of Christ is complete, while “the times of the Gentiles” will conclude at Jesus Christ’s Second Coming at least seven years later.

Also see:
» What is Replacement Theology?
» Are we “grafted in” to Israel? What does Romans 11:16-24 teach?
» Why was Saul’s name changed to Paul?

One response to ““The fulness of the Gentiles” and “The times of the Gentiles”—same or different?

  1. Pingback: Joy to the World! #3 | 333 Words of Grace

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