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Matthew 24 @ Historicism.com

"The Gospel of the Kingdom", by J. L. Haynes

What did Jesus mean by saying, "the Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world (Greek: oikoumene)"? (Mat 24:14 ESV) The following study was prepared for a meeting of pastors, in October of 2008, who had been invited by a Wycliffe missionary to discuss this verse and its implications for missions and evangelism. Please have your Bible open as you work through these notes. This is intended for Bible study.

Context

(Matthew 24:14 ESV) And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Verse 14 is saying what the result will be of the events predicted in vv 9-13. Notice in verse 9 that arrests and persecution come before the penetration of the Gospel throughout the oikoumene.

The synoptic passage in Luke 21:12-19 says that persecution and arrest and trials before synagogues, kings and governors will be a means of Gospel witness when these predictions are fulfilled.

Fulfillment

i. Luke, the author of the synoptic passage and of the book of Acts, narrates the events of Paul’s arrest, persecution, and trials as a primary example of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.

1. In Acts 17:6-8 other Christians are dragged before the authorities.
2. In Acts 18:12-16, Paul is dragged before Gallio and the Tribunal in Corinth.
3. In Acts 24:1-6, Paul is brought to trial before the Governor, Felix at which time he gave witness to the Gospel; at many subsequent opportunities he also witnessed to Felix.
4. In Acts 25:1-12, Paul is brought to trial before the Governor, Festus and then appeals to the King, Caesar.
5. In Acts 27:24 the angel tells Paul that he won’t die because he must still “stand before Caesar” (Jesus said “you will be brought before kings” [Lk 21:12]).
6. In Acts 28:17-28, Paul in Rome witnesses to the synagogue rulers and to a great number of Jews while under arrest. He closes his testimony to them by saying that because of Israel’s unbelief, the Gospel “has been sent to the nations” (Act 28:28).
7. Back in Matt 24:14, the prediction wasn’t just about the extent of the Gospel proclamation (i.e., “throughout the whole world”) but concluded with a statement about the purpose of the persecution-driven proclamation: “as a testimony to all nations” (which Paul told the Jews in Rome had now happened).
8. Indeed it was the persecution of Christians after Stephen’s martyrdom that propelled the Gospel proclamation to the four corners of the Roman Empire as Christians “scattered”.

ii. C.f. Romans 10:18 (Paul says the Gospel has gone to the ends of the Earth/oikoumene)

iii. C.f. Col 1:6 (Paul says that the Gospel is bearing fruit in the whole world/cosmoi)

iv. C.f. Col 1:23 (Paul says it has been proclaimed in all Creation/ktisei)

v. Word study: oikoumene/source of English word, "economy"/populated area under government (Mat 24:14)

oikoumene, ...the inhabited world, a term used to designate the Greek world, as opp. to barbarian lands, Hdt., Dem., etc.:-so in Roman times, the Roman world, N.T.: metaph., ...the world to come, i.e. the kingdom of Christ, Ib.

Summary

According to Luke’s understanding, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and according to common New Testament (and secular) usage of the word “oikoumene”, Jesus appears to have predicted that the Gospel of His Kingdom would shortly be proclaimed, in spite of opposition, throughout the whole of the existing kingdom of the Roman Empire.

i. This interpretation is confirmed first by the use of the word, “oikoumene” throughout the New Testament and especially by Luke’s use of the word in showing how Paul’s story becomes a typical representative fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.
ii. This interpretation is further confirmed by the rest of Mat 24:14 which says what will happen when the Gospel has been thus proclaimed throughout the whole oikoumene / economy of the Roman Empire:

Final thoughts about the implications of this for World Missions

Jesus' final words given in the Gospel of Matthew to the Church are crystal clear:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end (sunteleia) of the Age. (Mat 28:18-20 ESV)
In order to be obedient to our Lord, the mission of the Christian Church remains to take the Gospel to all ethno-linguistic people groups in the world, making disciples from among all such groups wherever they are found, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity and teaching them the Word of God. Although Mat 24:14 cannot be made to support a view that once the Gospel has gone to every nation Jesus will then return, there is still an important lesson for the Church today in that verse. The disciples and the early Church faced incredible hardship as they obediently took the message of the Gospel to all parts of the hostile Roman Empire within a single generation. May God help us, His Church in the 21st Century, to have the boldness to leave our comfort and endure hardship for the sake of that same mission!

 

November 3, 2008

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