“And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end (i.e. of the Jewish dispensation) come” (Matt. 24:14).
As we continue to look at Jesus’ answer we must keep in mind the disciples’ question. If you remember from our last study, the disciples asked Jesus, “When will the temple be destroyed? When will one stone not be left upon another?” And they also asked,
“What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” We looked at the fact last time that the disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was leaving so they were not asking, “When will you return?” The word “coming” is the Greek word “parousia,” which means presence.
It signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship; His glorious appearing in power. And the “end of the age” refers to the end of the Jewish age, the Old Covenant age; not the end of the world for the gospel to be in every part of the world.
The root word Oikoumene, used for “world” in this passage, actually means “inhabited or civilized world,” not world as in global planet earth. This is the same Greek word used in Luke 2:1: “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.”
Surely Ceasar Augustus did not carry out the census in every nook and cranny of the planet earth. This world was their civilized world that was under the radar of their control.
According to a research on “The Jews and the Roman Empire” the following was stated about the Roman empire:
The Roman Empire grew over a long period of time from basically a political unit in Italy to the entire Mediterranean basin, but it took a lot of time…. It really grew out of a number of different dynamics, certainly through invasion, through conquest, but also through invitation and one could be say bequest; certainly the eastern part of what became the empire actively solicited Rome’s presence and were looking for, a firm, stable political authority and found, in Rome, that authority….In fact, in some eastern Mediterranean cities Roman business men formed actual social units, political units within the Greek cities. These then became the networks by which political power then followed. So from economic and military activity spreading out from Italy, the empire spread through North Africa, through the West all the way through Great Britain, to the East all the way to eastern Syria, and that embraced all of Greece, all of Turkey, the Syral Palestinian area. The complete Mediterranean basin was effectively Roman.
Jesus was saying that the gospel would be preached throughout the Roman Empire (which Jerusalem and Judea was inclusive) before He would come in judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple.
Remember in our last study that was about the persecution of the disciples:
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. (Matthew 24:9)
Why would the apostles be hated in all nations if they had not preached the gospel in all nations? They were hated by all nations because they preached in all nations. What they did they preach that would stir up that hatred? The gospel had at its foundation the fact that the Mosaic laws were no longer a determining factor for salvation and relationship with God. This did not go down well the Jews who all their lives were born into it for centuries. The gospel at its best was blasphemy at the worst for them hence the persecution.
The gospel going round the Roman empire was to give the Jews everywhere the opportunity to embrace the redemption in Jesus and escape the wrath that was to be unleashed. We are to continue the spread of the gospel of grace so that the kingdom of God would find more expression in its glory and power.
Bishop Newton once said, “from the writers of the history of the church, that before the destruction of Jerusalem, the Gospel was not only preached in the Lesser Asia, and Greece, and Italy, the great theatres of action then in the world, but was likewise propagated as far northward as Scythia, as far southward as Ethiopia, as far eastward as Parthia and India, as far westward as Spain and Britain.”
Tacitus a senator and Roman historian affirmed that “the Christian religion, which arose in Judea, spread over many parts of the world, and extended to Rome itself, where the professors of it, as early as the time of Nero, amounted to a vast multitude,” insomuch that their numbers excited the jealousy of the government.
Acts 2:9-11 lists several of the nations or areas which were hearing the Gospel in their own language in Jerusalem.
“Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great deeds God has done!”
Peter mentioned Judea as one of the regions whose inhabitants were hearing his message:
“But Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice, and addressed them: “You men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, know this and listen carefully to what I say.” (Acts 2:14)
When the great persecution of Acts chapter 8 took place, the Christians were scattered abroad. One of the places mentioned to where they were scattered was the whole region of Judea:
“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1)
Acts chapter 9 tells us that there were already churches throughout all Judea:
“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)
The strongest evidence to support the fact that the Gospel had been preached in all Judea is found in an affirmation Peter gave to Cornelius in Caesarea:
“That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;” (Acts 10:37)
Paul even declared that he had preached the Gospel to all the coasts of Judea:
“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20 But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” (Acts 26:19-20)
Testimony of the fact that Paul had preached in Judea is found in the epistles where Paul mentions that there are churches in Judea:
“And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:” (Galatians 1:22)
“For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:” (1 Thessalonians 2:14
From what has been shown in Acts and the epistles to the Galatians and the Thessalonians, it should be obvious that the apostles were, in fact, the witnesses of Jesus throughout all Judea.
Jesus also predicted that the apostles would be His witnesses in Samaria before His return:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
With the same frequency, the book of Acts shows the Gospel saturating the region of Samaria. This is often mentioned within the same context of Judea, as they were closely related:
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 8:1)
And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. (Acts 8:2-4)
The apostle Paul used this same word later to confirm four times that the Gospel had reached the whole civilized world as Jesus predicted
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because [the report of] your faith is made known to all the world and is [b]commended everywhere.
18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth,
And their words to the ends of the world.”
5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;
23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Jesus was saying that the gospel would be preached throughout the Roman Empire (which Jerusalem and Judea was inclusive) before He would come in judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple. This has been fulfilled, and it has no further fulfillment in our future. We are not waiting for every person to hear the Gospel so that the rapture can suddenly take place.
Evangelism is still relevant even today but it should be borne of love and through love. It should not be anchored on a god that wants to pour wrath on any one that rejects his love embrace otherwise we would he die for sinners. The message is about the goodnews of the finished work of Jesus which had led to the establishment of His kingdom here on earth. The New heavenly Jerusalem had touched down on earth in the body of Christ. The invitation is still going out today to bring many in to experience the life of God. John states that the invitation that goes forth from the New Heaven and Earth:
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)