“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3).
The eviction of the Gentiles refers to the period of time from August 1914 until Israel’s final deliverance from the Gentile nations.
This eviction occupies the same period of time as Messiah’s Kingdom assuming control of earth while displacing Satan’s kingdom of this world. The eviction ends when the Gentile governments are fully overthrown, indicating that Satan is fully bound because his control of earth is destroyed. At that time Israel will receive her judges and counselors of old, recognize her Messiah, and be lifted up as the chief nation through whom the blessings of salvation will flow to all people.
Times of the Gentiles
August, 1914 marks the end of the Times of the Gentiles, when the eviction of the Gentile powers began. Jesus explained this prophetic period in Luke 21:24, teaching that Jerusalem (representing the government of the Jewish nation and people) would be “trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Jesus thus referred to a fixed period of time when God permitted the Gentiles to exercise rulership over the earth. The chief characteristic of this Gentile rule was prophesied to be the treading down of the Jewish nation and people. The end of Gentile Times was marked by the beginning of World War I, “the war to end all wars.” This war greatly weakened the leading nations of earth, represented in the 10 toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. It destroyed the concept of “the divine right of kings” and that the nations of Europe were “Christendom,” while beginning a chain of events that led eventually to Israel’s statehood.
The restoration of Israel is a modern miracle. History shows that Israel has twice been broken as a nation and her people scattered among the nations. After a brief captivity of 70 years in Babylon, re-gathered Israel rebuilt the walls of the city and the temple but never could restore the line of David to the throne of Israel. Hundreds of years later, Jesus prophesied that the Jewish nation would again be destroyed and taken captive. This diaspora lasted many centuries, far longer than the first captivity. Jesus’ explanation of the Times of the Gentiles includes this prophecy of the second breaking of the nation of Israel.
When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, the Jewish Kingdom ended. This is vividly recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:17-20. Note the similarity with Jesus’ great prophecy of Jerusalem’s second destruction. The people would “fall by the edge of the sword,” be “led away captive into all nations,” and every stone of the Temple would be thrown down (Luke 21:24, Matthew 24:2).
Josephus records the terrible slaughter and destruction of the city that climaxed in 70 AD with the burning of the Temple by a fire so hot that the stones “screamed” and shattered. This catastrophe ended the Jewish priesthood and the services of the temple. The remaining Jewish people scattered through all the nations of the earth over the centuries.
Ninth of Av
Amazingly, one date on the Jewish calendar connects these two disasters with the end of Gentile Times. Well known to Jewish people, the destruction of both the first and second temples by Gentile powers occurred on the Ninth of Av. This day is the saddest in Jewish history being marked a day of mourning. The Book of Lamentations is read to remember the first destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Many other terrible events occurred on the Ninth of Av, such as the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492.
The relationship of the Ninth of Av to the start of World War I is not as well known. In 1914 the Ninth of Av began at sundown on August 1. This date is significant because on that same day, at 7 p.m., Germany declared war on Russia while its army crossed the western border in order to mount an attack on France. These two actions ensured that France and Great Britain entered the war. No longer could the conflict be confined to the Balkans and a war between Russia and Austria-Hungary. Germany’s actions on the Ninth of Av, 1914, guaranteed that the war would be a larger, world-wide conflict.
Historians recognize that World War I drastically changed the course of human history overturning governments, economic, and social systems. Uncertainty and insecurity became chief characteristics of modern life. Bible students recognize that World War I began a series of conflicts which have had two primary results: a progressive weakening of the nations and a promotion of the interests of the Jewish people. Before World War I ended, the British government, which had taken Palestine from the Turks, proposed a national home for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. British rule ended thirty years later with the declaration of a Jewish state in 1948.
Expectations of Bible Students
As early as 1876, some Christians believed that 1914 would mark the end of the Times of the Gentiles. They concluded this from the promised corrections in Leviticus 26 for Israel’s unfaithfulness. If Israel did not hearken to the Lord’s corrections He would punish them seven times. These early Bible students recognized that (1) seven times represent seven symbolic years, or (7 x 360 =) 2520 actual years, (2) the overthrow of Israel’s last king in about 606 BC marked the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles, and (3) 2520 years would end in 1914.1
For Charles Taze Russell, the beliefs in Jesus’ return in 1874, and the Gentile Times ending in 1914, were a powerful motivation in the harvest work of gathering the church. Brethren who came out of the false religious systems in the 1800s and early 1900s were thrilled to learn of the kingdom and the two salvations and many were united in the expectation that the church would be glorified sometime before the Gentile Times ended in 1914. This expectation became a great test to the brethren.2
In 1910 Br. Russell wondered if the church’s final work, the restoration of Israel, and the overthrow of the civil, social, financial and ecclesiastical systems could all be accomplished in the short time remaining to 1914. In the January 1914 Watch Tower he asked, “Have we been expecting the wrong thing at the right time?” When the Great War began in August 1914, it was clear that the Gentile Times had indeed ended, but what did that mean for the hopes of the brethren to be with Christ, and did the harvest work continue?
Before his death in 1916, Br. Russell recognized that it had been a mistake to connect the prophecies of the completion of the church with those of the Gentile Times. He had inferred this from the parallelism between the Jewish and Gospel harvests. Still believing that the Gentiles Times ended in 1914, he felt that it would be “perhaps a year, or two, or three” 3 before the completion of the church and the setting up of the kingdom. It has turned out to be a much longer process.
(1) Actually 607 BC would end it in 1914 because there is no zero year.
(2) The 1914 Souvenir Convention Report shows several were skeptical about October ending it all. Note George Raymond at Columbus convention, also Raymond Jolly at Asbury Park. Almost half of those who expressed themselves about it were skeptical, though most did not even mention October 1, 1914.
(3) Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 3, Thy Kingdom Come, Author’s Foreword, page i.
Aftermath of World War I
World War I was an extremely destabilizing conflict and a jarring break from the Victorian Era that preceded it. In the foreword of her book The Proud Tower, Barbara Tuchman gives this description:
“The Great War of 1914-18 lies like a band of scorched earth dividing that time [before 1914] from ours. In wiping out so many lives which would have been operative on the years that followed, in destroying beliefs, changing ideas, and leaving incurable wounds of disillusion, it created a physical as well as psychological gulf between two epochs.”
World War I greatly weakened the European nations which had hitherto dominated the world. It paved the way for revolution and the overthrow of monarchies in Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, monarchies that had existed for centuries, claiming a divine right to rule. The war destroyed faith in the religious institutions of Europe, which in support of their national governments justified the war as a righteous Christian cause. European society was greatly demoralized by the conflict. This was reflected in the art, music and literature that followed the war.
Nearly all of the world conflicts since 1914 can be traced directly or indirectly to World War I. Weak governments in Germany and Italy gave way in a few short years to fascist governments that led their people into the Second World War. The violent overthrow of the Russian monarchy opened the way for the spread of Communist revolutions over much of the earth. Weakened by the First World War, and devastated by World War II, Britain and France lost their empires, as one by one their colonies slipped away either quietly or violently. These former colonies were themselves swept into conflicts during the Cold War as U.S. or Russian proxies in the ideological conflict between capitalism and communism. Arab-Israeli conflicts also had roots in the disposition the Middle Eastern lands after World War I.
Indeed, Muslim conflict with the Western nations was only heightened by the debilitation of the colonial powers in the years following both world wars. Today’s terrorism is one of many consequences that can be ultimately traced back to World War I.
The Eviction of the Gentiles
These 20th century conflicts are further evidence that this eviction of the Gentile powers continues. Several scriptures describe the present time and this eviction process. In chapter 46 the Psalmist notes that mountains would be carried into the midst of the sea, while the hills would shake. Translating this symbolic language, the high and oppressive governments would be violently overthrown, while the lesser governments, more in tune with the people, would slowly be brought down. In both cases governments would come down to the level of the common people. Over the last century, this has indeed occurred as monarchies, claiming divine right, and communist and fascist dictatorships were overthrown and replaced by less oppressive democracies.
In Daniel chapter 2 the prophet interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the multi-metallic image to be four successive Gentile empires that would exercise dominion over the world. He identified Nebuchadnezzar, the one who destroyed Israel’s dominion, as the head of gold, and the start of this period of Gentile dominion. In verse 35 Daniel explains the destruction of that dominion by a stone that breaks the image in pieces and grinds them up until the remnants are blown away as easily as chaff. This grinding and blowing away illustrates how the Gentile powers are evicted and removed. The great nations and empires of earth have themselves been broken into pieces. In other words new, smaller nations have risen from the ruins of the old.
Elijah’s vision of the wind, earthquake and fire shows successive phases of conflict that would precede the longed-for blessings of the kingdom for all the families of earth. The vision also shows a degradation in the mode of conflict. Winds represent wars, earthquakes revolutions, and fire pictures anarchy. One can readily see that wars are conflicts between nations, revolutions are conflicts within nations, whereas anarchy is conflict among individuals. In the February 1916 Watch Tower, Br. Russell wrote that “National animosities will become personal animosities.” Human conflict has degraded to the point where commentators today speak of “failed states,” where government is so weak or ineffective that it has little control over its territory. Failed states are often described as anarchic and as breeding grounds for terrorists.
Military theorists refer to “asymmetric warfare” in which large and militarily strong nations engage in unconventional conflict with terrorists, cyber warriors and other opponents who have limited means for waging a traditional war. The war on terror is a good example of asymmetric warfare: a weak opponent challenging a strong nation by unusual means. The prophet Joel foretold that plowshares would be beaten into swords and the weak would say I am strong (Joel 3:10). Everyday items like plowshares would be turned into weapons. The terrorists’ use of airplanes in the September 11 attacks is a clear example of this kind of warfare and the weak saying that they are strong.
Jeremiah 25:31-32 describes this eviction as evil going from nation to nation and a whirlwind raised from the coasts of the earth. The 1989 overthrow of Communism in Eastern Europe and the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings illustrate how protests in one nation can travel swiftly and infect other societies with conflict.
So why did God design a long period of eviction of the Gentile powers rather than ending it swiftly in 1914? Why did He not complete the church, and bring in the kingdom as so many expected?
Since 1914 mankind has observed Satan’s empire being taken apart piece by piece. The highest and most oppressive governments that existed amongst men, the divine right monarchies, were the first to be relegated to the trash heap of history. Next in order were the fascist governments and colonial empires. The world has watched as these governments have each successively been weighed in the balances and found wanting. The world continues to watch and weigh the worth of the remaining governments and institutions of earth, all of which will be found wanting and require removal.
During this eviction period, the tremendous increase of knowledge, coupled with the overthrow of empires and governments, permits men to attempt new forms of rule, improve the condition of people, and create better societies. God permits men to try their own hands at bringing in the Golden Age. Mankind seeks to eliminate pain, hunger, poverty, and old age, conditions that have been accepted since the dawn of human history. While great progress has been made in the material improvements of life on earth among some countries, man can- not free himself from sin and selfishness, nor can he reverse the pollution of the human heart and mind. As prophesied, mankind is more discontented, troubled, and stressed than ever before, despite the most materially favorable conditions that man has ever seen.
Both the bringing down of earth’s governments and the battle for the rights of the common people are important preparations for the full establishment of God’s kingdom among men. Isaiah 62:10 describes this preparation period as the casting up of the highway and the removal of stumbling stones. This prophecy recognizes that the purpose of the eviction process is to make the conditions ready for mankind to progress swiftly when the highway of holiness is opened. This preparation includes removing the institutions of earth as well as anything that would impede the spiritual progress of mankind, the stones which would stumble mankind, and the lifting up of mankind to consider the common good, which corresponds to the casting up of the highway.
Rather than being a long delay in God’s plan, the eviction of the Gentiles is thus seen to be an essential part of the permission of evil. With the greatest population on Earth, God is allowing mankind to experience a thorough lesson in the worth of earth’s institutions, past and present, and to know the effect of sin even under the most favorable material conditions. This long period has tested the faith of the Jewish people in their promises and prepared them for the wonderful and high privileges of instructing and nurturing the world of mankind. Through it all, God has permitted the last body members of the church to share sympathetically in the common experiences of man during this troublous and shattering time. “Though it [the vision, seem to] tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come” (Habakkuk 2:3).