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A history of the Gentiles (part 4):

Jerusalem trampled underfoot,
570-1830

 

The famous prophecy in Revelation

 

Revelation 11:2: "But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty [and] two months."

This seems to draw on Luke 21:24, referring to the time between the destruction of AD 70 and the Second Coming: "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."

What is "trampling underfoot"?

In the New Testament, to tread or trample underfoot (Greek "pateo" or its derivative "katapateo") has two possible meanings.

First, when used of believers, it shows power over enemies. Hence Luke 10:19: "I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy"

Second, when used of unbelievers, it shows complete lack of understanding. Hence Matthew 7:6: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."

The reference from Matthew 7:6 seems to be closest in language to the prophecies of the Gentiles trampling Jerusalem under their feet.

Who are the Gentiles?

The term "Gentile" strictly refers to the descendants of Japheth - the Greeks, Romans, Europeans, etc. The descendants of Shem were given the covenants of God, the descendants of Japheth and Ham were not. However, God is not racist and he does not play favorites. Anyone - Jew or Gentile or whoever - can accept the Abrahamic covenant and be adopted into the house of Israel by joining Jesus' church. So it is more accurate to refer to the Gentiles as the non-believers.

The meaning of "trample underfoot" also suggests that Revelation 11 refers to non-believers rather than biological non-Jews.

Also, Revelation 12 was written late in the first century AD. At that time, many (perhaps most) of the Christians - the saints of God - were biologically Gentiles. So clearly John is condemning spiritual Gentiles rather than biological Gentiles.

So Revelation 11:2 means...?

So Revelation 11:2 apparently means "for 1260 years, Jerusalem will be in the power of unbelievers who do not understand the prophecies.

 

A spiritual AND a physical fulfillment:

 

When did the Gentiles control and disregard Jerusalem?

A spiritual interpretation is easy. This verse refers to the time when the true church was controlled by the "horn". This was the period 570-1830, as discussed elsewhere.

This has echoes of Daniel 7:23: "The fourth beast ... shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces."

But what about a physical fulfillment of this prophecy? When was the literal city of Jerusalem in the hands of Gentiles - those who did not understand the true doctrine? Remember that, even when it was controlled by the nation of Israel, the people were often in a state of apostasy. So it would be more accurate to ask, "when did true believers have access to Jerusalem?"

History shows that this was exactly the same period - 570 to 1830.

It was later than AD 70

The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was of great importance to the unbelieving Jews, but of less importance to the believers in Christ. Christ had warned his people to flee when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20). The true believers could escape from Jerusalem in good time, and return whenever they wished.

True, Rome was still in charge of the city, but they had been for many many years before. That did not stop true believers from worshipping there. (Even during the intermittent persecution of Christians, Rome was no more likely to ban Christians from Jerusalem than from any other city).

It was later than 135

Eventually Jerusalem was rebuilt. In AD 135, a revolt of the Jews under Bar Kochba led to all Jews being banned from Jerusalem. The loss of the state of Israel is dated from that point. This was devastating to the Jews, but less serious for true believers in general.

The Jews, in rejecting Christ, had lost the true significance of Jerusalem and the temple long before. So the loss of their homeland, though a terribly tragic event, did not fulfil the prophecies about the true believers losing Jerusalem. Those who understood the significance of Jerusalem, the faithful Christians (or at least those without Jewish ancestry) were allowed to continue living in Jerusalem, or Aelia Capatolina as it was renamed. (See "The Stones and the Scriptures"by Edwin Yamauchi, London: Inter-Varsity Press 1973, p.99).

It was later than the Roman period of control

Rome continued to control Jerusalem. And true Christians could still worship there. (Although without apostles to lead them, Christians were gradually forgetting the significance of the house of Israel, and true Christians must have been a tiny and dwindling minority).

After a while the Romans became more favorable to the Christians, and Christianity even became the state religion. If anyone remembered the real significance of Jerusalem, they were free to live there, visit there, and worship there while Rome had control.

The minority who believed the Bible

The majority of Christians of course had forgotten the true significance of Jerusalem. They thought, as most Christians do today, that the tribes of Israel were done away with. They thought that being a Jew (or any other particular tribe of Israel) had absolutely no significance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They did not believe the Bible.

But until every trace of the church was wiped out in the late sixth century, there must have been some people who still believed the scriptures. There must have been still some people who realized that tribe of Judah had an eternal place in the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Revelation 7:5) and that remembered the Old Testament prophecies regarding Jerusalem (such as Isaiah 2:3 - the word of the Lord would go from Jerusalem in the Last Days).

As long as any of these believers survived and were free to worship in Jerusalem, Jerusalem was not trampled underfoot of the Gentiles.

 

Jerusalem after 570

 

After 570, Jerusalem was lost

I have argued in this web site that the last scrap of the true church was finally lost in AD 570. The last true believers, "the man child" (see quotes and discussion) was taken to heaven. And as soon as this happened, Rome lost its grip on Jerusalem. What was the point in Christians controlling Jerusalem if all the Christians were apostate?

In AD 570, the true believers were gone. Up to this time Rome (now known as the Byzantine empire) had controlled Jerusalem.

Up to this time, Justinian had managed to keep the Persians away Holy Land or its neighboring countries. But in AD 570, the Persians began to advance, taking control of Yemen (Arabia Felix) in that year. The writing was on the wall for the churches in Jerusalem. Anyone who followed current events would have done well to start packing his bags in AD 570.

In AD 572, the Persians (the Sassanians) began to have wars with the Byzantine empire over the control of the middle east.

Palestine's "Middle Ages"

In AD 614, the Persians finally gained control of Jerusalem. According to one source, they also destroyed "most of the churches" at this time. Any remaining writings which showed the true significance of Jerusalem (e.g. the role of the tribes of Israel, temple work, prophecies of Jerusalem's place in the Second Coming, etc) would no doubt have been destroyed.

One hundred thousand Christians were massacred. According to one respected source, this could be called the start of Palestine's "middle ages". - see "The Jews in the Roman World" by Michael Grant (London: Phoenix, 1999) p. 288, quoting Kondakov.

At this time, thousands of monks and clergy were slain, the suburbs were burnt, churches were demolished, and multitudes were taken away. (Wm Smith 1:1016)

For most of the next thousand years, Jerusalem was not in Christian hands. Even when Christians did briefly regain it, such as during the crusades, they showed by their actions that they were not Christian any sense that Christ would recognise. They had lost true Christianity. Hence unbelievers were trampling Jerusalem underfoot.

Eventually Jerusalem came to be controlled by the Ottoman empire - based in Asia Minor, the old seat of Byzantium. Now, very literally, the "little horn" was in control of the Holy Land.

 

 

Jerusalem after 1830

 

1830: the turning point

The Ottomans continued their firm hold on the Holy City, and there was no Christian in the world who understood the significance of Jerusalem, and had the authority to do something about it. Then in 1830 that all changed.

In 1830, the true gospel was restored. Now at last it would be possible for the ancient prophecies regarding Jerusalem to begin to be fulfilled. The wheels were set in motion.

After centuries of relative stability, everything started shaking politically in 1830. "Under the Ottoman Turks, Palestine continued to be linked administratively to Damascus until 1830, when it was placed under Sidon; then under Acre; then once again under Damascus until 1887-88, at which time the administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire were settled for the last time."

Beginning in the 1830s, westerners could reach Constantinople (now Istanbul) by steamship. It was now possible for a true believer to once again walk the streets of Jerusalem, and other Ottoman cities. A process of westernisation began. Gradually old traditional institutions were replaced by modern western ones. The first bridge across the Golden Horn was built in 1838. In 1839 a charter was issued, guaranteeing security to subjects, whatever their religion. Westernization was accelerated by the Crimean War (1853-56) and the quartering of British and French troops in Istanbul. (- Britannica)

After 1830, Jerusalem was regained

In 1830, the Ottoman empire had its first major blow. In 1828-29, while the Book of Mormon was being translated and the priesthood was being restored, the Ottoman empire was facing attacks by Russia and rebellion from Greece. It lost Greece, whose independence was recognised by the west in 1830.

In 1831, Mohammed Ali, the ruler of Syria, attacked Asia Minor. By 1833 he had gained control of Egypt. Both north and south of Jerusalem, the Ottoman hold was being broken.

According to Wm Smith's Bible Dictionary, Mohammed Aly, Pasha of Egypt, took Jerusalem in 1832.

In 1834 Jerusalem was seized by the Fellahin. But in 1840, the other powers agreed that the Ottomans should control Jerusalem at that time.

It was not God's will that this should continue. So the next year (1841) the Almighty sent his apostle, Orson Hyde, to dedicate the land for the return of the Jews.

The spirit of change descended on the politicians of Europe. From this period, European politics was dominated by what they called "The Eastern Question" - "what to do about the Ottoman empire?" Over the years that empire was gradually weakened. In became known as the "Sick Man of Europe." The only question was, how to remove it without upsetting the balance of power?

"Kings as nursing fathers"

Through the nineteenth century the Jews began to return. Slowly at first, then more quickly. The idea of Zionism gained strength.

The Ottoman empire was finally dissolved at the end of the First World War, and the state of Palestine was given to Britain. As prophesied, kings were acting as the land's "nursing fathers" (Isaiah 49:23). The Jewish homeland was finally declared independent after World War Two, and the rush of returning Jews now became a flood.

 

What does the official Jewish history say?

 

David Ben Gurion, The first prime minister of Israel, conceived and wrote a history of the Jews and Israel, called "The Jews in Their Land" (London: Aldus Books, 1966). What does he have to say about the periods 570 and 1830?

Before and after 570

Since the second century (e.g. Bar Kochba), Rome had tried to keep things peaceful in Jerusalem, through a system of tenant farming that was more or less acceptable to all sides. The next couple of hundred years were fairly uneventful until the late fourth century.

The end of the fourth century, you will recall, was the time when Pelagius, the British monk, was beginning to see that Christianity was in a bad way. (He began to debate Augustine after 405). Just before that, a former British proconsul and close friend of the emperor Julian was assigned to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. Julian hated what he saw of Christianity at the time, and felt that the best thing he could do was to allow each part of the empire to worship how it wished. Hence, he has come to be known as "Julian the apostate." (p. 187-189)

Perhaps as a reaction to Julian's efforts, after his early death (he only reigned for 20 months) the tenant farmer system was ended. This had the effect of discriminating against the Jews, and encouraging them to drift away from Palestine. The Christians became highly anti-Jewish at this time. Both effects would have tended to weaken the Christian appreciation for Jerusalem as a holy city. But also in this period, the church sent many scholars and monks to Palestine, so perhaps all was not lost. But this was a period of gradual decline, especially for the Jews, who were (for example) forbidden to repair any but the most crumbling synagogues, and synagogues were sometimes looted by mobs who then left them to the church.

This sad condition continued for two generations of relative pace until the reign of Justinian (527-565). As in so many areas, Justinian was decisive in the history of Jerusalem. "Justinian played havoc with Jewish domestic affairs." ... "Justinian [who considered Jews to be heretics] aimed to root out the Jewish religion and force Jews to convert." ... "Justinian's policy of annihilation [which included building on sacred spots and driving out the Jews who lived there - literally treading the sacred places underfoot] was continued by his successors" ...(p.193-194) As noted in the page about Justinian, the decline of Byzantium can be dated from the military reversals of 570. When Justinian's successor added new laws of religious persecution in 571, we can pretty much accept that any understanding of Jerusalem and the true gospel had been lost. The effect was to distance the Jews from the Christians, so neither could learn from each other. The Jews sided with the Persians when they took Jerusalem in 614.(p.198).

The Persians promised to rebuild the temple. But the Persians betrayed the Jews and persecuted them instead. When Byzantium again gained control of Jerusalem (after 14 years under the Persians), the emperor Heraclius promised safety to the remaining Jews. Then he proceeded to kill every Jew he could find in Jerusalem. "So began the worst and the last of the anti-Jewish campaigns." The surviving Jews either 'converted' to Christianity or fled to the hills, and they welcomed the Arab conquest when it came. (p.199) The Arab tribes in Palestine were not united, and minor wars were common up until the Crusades. After the Crusades, the Mamelukes (Egyptians) gained control, and then in 1517 (the year that Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of his church) the Ottoman Turks conquered Jerusalem. Jerusalem continued to be trodden under foot until the early nineteenth century.

After 1830

Ben Gurion records how the great Napoleon himself tried to restore the city. At the gates of the city, with his armies, he issued a proclamation in 1799. He called on all Jews to aid him in "the restoration of ancient Jerusalem." It should have been easy - Jerusalem at this time was just an unimportant backwater of the Ottoman empire, and Napoleon was practically unstoppable. But God did not want it to happen just yet, and Napoleon had to withdraw his troops. Napoleon had quoted the prophecies of the restoration of Jerusalem, in the hope of gaining more aid. But Napoleon did not know that the divinely decreed date was to be 1830, not 1799.

"Strategic, political, and religious factors raised Palestine (and all Syria) to international importance during this period. After the Crusades [800 years earlier] - and especially after their annexation to the Ottoman Empire - Palestine and Syria became outlying provinces of little importance to the masters of Constantinople. The revolts [of the occasional local ruler] ... were not important enough to disturb Constantinople, which continued to regard them as merely minor annoyances.

"Then in October 1831 the Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha (son of Mohammed Ali, ruler of Egypt) invaded by land and sea. .... In May 1832 Acre [including Jerusalem] fell to the invaders. ...

".. Ibrahim was not satisfied with making only administrative changes, but tried to revolutionize society itself. He abolished the administrative taxes and the collecting of tolls from the devout and pilgrims [and instituted other reforms that would, in effect, allow Christians and Jews to once again move freely to Jerusalem. He allowed the restoration of four synagogues in Jerusalem] ... According to a Christian writer, the restorations cost 1,000,000 piasters."

- "The Jews in Their Land" p. 258

While it was technically possible for Christians to visit Jerusalem before Ibrahim took over, it was much easier after his reforms. And what was happening just before the invasion of 1831? In 1827 (the year the Book of Mormon translation began) Sir Moses Montefiore visited Palestine and encouraged the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The local Ashkenazim applied for permission to restore the ruins of their old synagogue, and had just begun when the Egyptians invaded in 1831. In 1840 (the year before Orson Hyde dedicated the land) Sir Moses visited again, and began several projects for restoring the city. Jerusalem's first printing press was founded in 1842 (a year after Hyde's prayer) and books and newspapers began to appear.

How did the Jews begin to return to their land? "A significant start was made by Israel Bak between 1837 and 1839. A practical man with a deep faith in the Jews ability to rebuild the Land, he began working as a pioneer in agriculture and industry - with his own hands and his own money. [He first arrived] in Safad in 1832." (p. 268) It was at this time - the 1830s - that the British, the major world power, took a special interest in finding practical steps for creating a Jewish homeland (p.269). "Kings their nursing fathers."

Another key figure was Rabbi Yehuda Bibas of Corfu. He was inspired by the political events of 1830. He toured Palestine, encouraging the Jews to train, to become self-sufficient, and to study worldly skills in order to " 'wrest Palestine from the Turks under the leadership of the Messiah, just as the Greeks had rescued their fatherland'" (p.269) Montefiore and Bilbas were the great pioneers. Everyone else followed on and built on their work.

Conclusion

Today the gospel is restored. The Jews have their promised homeland again. All those who wish to accept God's covenants regarding Jerusalem can do so. Thanks to the events of 1830, the Gentiles no longer tread Jerusalem under their feet.

Note to LDS readers on the interpretation of Revelation 11

LDS readers may recall that Bruce R. McConkie (in Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol.3, p.510 and elsewhere) stated that this "42 months" nededm in 1820. But I have suggested that 1830 is a better date. It is probable that Elder McConkie used "1820" as just a general term for the restoration, and he could just as easily have said 1830. He went on to say, "The detailed application of the 42 months to this period is yet to be revealed." I do not claim to reveal that "detailed application" on this page. I am simply pointing out what the history books say. Modern prophets have indicated that every other example of the 1260 prophecy refers to the period 570-1830 (see quotations). But they have not specifically mentioned this reference in Revelation 11. So Elder McConkie is right to be cautious. However, circumstantial evidence is very strong, as I have just shown. It seems very likely that this reference in Revelation, like all the others, refers to the period 570 to 1830.

 


the bottom line

If ever a prophecy was fulfilled, it was the one about "the times of the Gentiles"!

 

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