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.
(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.
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)
- 1. Luke 2:1, the census ordered by Caesar Augustus was for “all the oikoumene”.
- 2. Acts 11:28, Agabus foretold that a famine would be “over all the oikoumene” and Luke adds, “this took place in the days of Claudius”.
- 3. Acts 17:6, the mob dragged Jason and some others before the authorities accused them saying, “these men… have turned the oikoumene upside down”.
- 4. Acts 19:27, Demetrius says that Diana/Artemis is worshipped by “all Asia and the oikoumene”.
- 5. Acts 24:5, the Jews charge Paul, before Governor Felix, saying that Paul “stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the oikoumene”.
- 6. Romans 10:18, Paul quotes Psalm 19:4 and says that the Jews have heard the Gospel because the prophets’ voices “have gone out to all the earth and their words to the ends of the oikoumene”.
- 7. In Hebrews 2:5, the writer refers to the fulfillment of God’s word in 1:13 (“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” c.f. Psa 110:1) as “the oikoumene to come”.
- 8. Liddell-Scott’s Lexicon defines oikoumene thus:
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:
- “…then the end (telos) will come”.
- The telos is then explained as the coming doom on Jerusalem prophesied by Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27, and interpreted by Luke in the parallel passage of Luke 21:20-24 as the destruction of the city and the scattering of her people.
- We see in this chapter (Matt 24) a difference in nuance between the word “end” (telos; Mat 24:6, 13, 14) and “close” in the ESV (sunteleia; Mat 24:3).
- The word sunteleia (ESV: "close") is used in verse 3 by the disciples when they ask about the “close of the age” (c.f. Jesus’ use of the word in Mat 13:39, 40, 49; 28:20). It means the “consummation” of life as we know it, of the present order of things.
- The word telos is used in verses 6, 13 and 14 to speak about the specific fulfillment that Jesus had in mind when he predicted the destruction of the Temple (the prediction that got the disciples all worried, and prompted them to ask their questions in verse 3, to which the rest of the chapter is Jesus’ lengthy response). The word telos means a goal or target or what is aimed at (like in the word, “telescope”). Friberg’s Lexicon gives the first meaning of the word as, “as an action achievement, carrying out, fulfillment (LU 22.37)”.
- So when Jesus says in verse 14, “…then the telos will come”, He is talking about the fulfillment of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple that he had just predicted in Mat 24:2, and about which Daniel prophesied in Dan 9:24-27. History shows that this telos of the prediction of Jerusalem’s destruction came about very shortly after Paul announced triumphantly, the Gospel “has gone out to the ends of the oikouneme (Roman Empire)” (Rom 10:18) and “has been sent to the nations” (Acts 28:28). Paul wrote the words in Romans 10:18 in about AD 57. And he pronounced the spread of the Gospel to the nations, in Rome, shortly before His death in AD 67. 3 years later, in AD 70, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army and the Jewish people were scattered throughout the Earth, as they remained until modern times.
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:
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
Next page: J. S. Dobbie on "The Rapture" (click the "next" button at the bottom of this page)
- Josephus - part 1
- Josephus - part 2
- Philip Mauro on "The Olivet Prophecy" in the Gospel of Mark
- Philip Mauro on the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70