By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Please , explain “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk. 21:24).
Reply: From the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave a discourse to His disciples about the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish nation (Matt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21:15-36). He pointed out the signs which would appear before that great catastrophe. Much of this description is symbolical, similar to the writings in Daniel 7-12 and Ezekiel 38-48, also Zechariah 9-14. Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, describes in detail the horrible events as they took place during the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Romans.
Jesus had already predicted the end of the Jewish nation before that Mount of Olives discourse. In the parable of the wicked husbandmen, Jesus portrayed the Jews rejecting and slaying the Son of God (Matt. 21:33-34). Jesus culminated the message of the parable in verses 42 and 43 when He asked the Jewish leaders, “Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the comer; This was from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” When Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, both the city and the Jewish nation were punished for their sins, the Jewish nation coming to an end.
Jesus predicted the defeat of the Jews at the hands of the Romans in Luke 21:24: “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all the nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles. . . . ” The Roman commander Titus mustered an army of more than 80,000 men and began his attack upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Within a few months the city was completely destroyed. According to Josephus 1,100,000 perished by the sword, pestilence and famine and 97,000 were carried away. Thus the first part of Luke 21:24 was fulfilled.
Various interpretations have been given to the last phrase of the verse: “until the time of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.” Some believe that it refers to the period when the Gentiles would have the same spiritual opportunities as the Jews (Mk. 13: 10; Rom. 11:25 etc.); others believe that it is the period when the Gentiles themselves would become subject to divine judgments. Whether this phrase refers to a time after the destruction of Jerusalem and the punishment of the Jews is not certain. It does seem in harmony with the context that Jerusalem would be completely destroyed by Gentiles -Roman armies, A.D. 70. This desolation would continue until God would decide that His divine retribution should end. This makes sense, but we cannot be dogmatic as to the meaning of this obscure passage. We can be certain, however, as to what Jesus was not talking about. It is poor exegesis to remove the phrase from its historical setting and context and project it to the future, when Jerusalem will be rebuilt and will be re-occupied by the Jews with Jesus coming back and reigning there upon a literal throne. This is the premillennial view and it is nothing short of wide-eyed and fanciful imagination. It has no foundation in the Scriptures whatsoever.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 7, p. 197
April 3, 1986