Has Matthew 24:14 been fulfilled?
“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.”
Has this portion of the Olivet Discourse been fulfilled? Many today contend that it is still a future hope. What do you think? Our presuppositions are so comprehensive that even considering this a viable question may cause us to reach for the Rolaids. "Of course it hasn't been fulfilled", some bristle. Has the entire world been permeated with the Gospel? What about the peoples' of New Guinea or the indigenous tribes of the Amazon? But is this truly the intent of Jesus' bold proclamation? "Of course", we say. What else could Jesus have meant by "throughout the whole world"? Let's pause for a moment to consider the idea of what "world" meant in a first century Jewish context.
At first glance this sounds like a rather simple issue until we consider the fact that there are 287 usages of "world" in the KJV. For example, in the case of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world", the word "world" was translated from the Greek word kosmos. Did you know that in Strong's Greek concordance there are more than 8 potential definitions of kosmos. For centuries this most famous verse has been used as a proof text against the doctrine of sovereign grace (election) because it appears rather obvious that God loves every person in the "world", not just the "elect". (As a sidebar check out this video for a more thorough understanding of John 3:16 and particularly Jesus' use of "world")
So if you read the KJV, remember that "world" may not necessarily mean exactly what you think it means. In the KJV, the "end of the world'" found in Matthew 24:3, should read "end of the age" because the Greek word "aion" was incorrectly translated "world".
Let's look at another example of "world" and how it may have added confusion to our understanding of the question at hand: Has the Gospel been preached to "all the world"?
Luke 2:1 (KJV) And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. Is this passage suggesting that the entire world is under the taxing authority of Rome? Of course not. In this verse, Luke uses oikoumene as the Greek word for "world". The NASB translation gives us greater insight into the word's actual meaning.
Luke 2:1 (NASB) Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. Did the decree go out to South America or the Far East? The Scriptures are Jewish. The NT is an extension of the OT and therefore must be viewed in that context. Up until Acts 10, what had been Jesus' stated mission and to whom was the early church sent to proclaim the Gospel? In Matthew 15:24 Jesus said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." In Matthew 10:5-6 we read, These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
This is the reason for Peter's strange vision of unclean meat which he finally understood as the ministry to the Gentiles. "Rise Peter, kill and eat". The Gospel was to go out to "all the world" not just the lost sheep. In Romans 9:25-26 Paul wrote, As He says also in Hosea, "I will call those who were not My people, 'My people ,' And her who was not beloved , 'beloved.' " 26 "And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people ,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."
It's clear that the trickle of living water flowing from the Temple in Ezekiel 47 was to eventually include the Gentiles, however, if the "all nations" exhortation of Matthew 28 (great commission) was at that time intended to include the Gentiles, then not only would Peter's vision have been unnecessary but these devout disciples of Christ were derelict in their duties for at least 10 years.
Sometimes forgetting that these prophetic words were spoken by and directed to the Jews, we can skew our perceptions such that we think these early commands were understood to be global in nature. As we hearken back to Caesar's decree, "world" or "inhabited earth" apparently did not intend to include every person on the planet. It should be noted that if we do not read the Scriptures with the understanding that they were written in the context of the Hebreic culture, then we will forever be confused therefore causing us to develop misguided conclusions.
Let's move on to the content of the chart below. Consider the following prophesied verses (chart's left grid) and their corresponding fulfillments (right grid). I think you may be shocked to find the answers clearly embedded in the Word of God. We don't have to venture into subjective conjecture. The evidence is found within the greatest offensive weapon ever created--the Sword of Hebrews 4:12. How miraculously inspired is God's Word? The object of each specific gospel proclamation prophecy contains a Greek word that shows its fulfillment using that same Greek word. For example, "world" is used as oikoumene in Matthew 24:14 and kosmos in Mark 16:15 and in their fulfillments in Romans 10:18 and Romans 16:25-26 respectively.
The bottom line is that, much like the rest of Jesus' prophetic words in the Olivet Discourse, "Truly I say to you [the disciples], this generation [not 'that' generation] shall not pass away until all these things take place" (Matthew 24:34) was fulfilled within the "this generation" 40 year time referent [30-70 AD] just as it had been predicted.
Some admit, after considering "audience relevance", that the components of Matthew 24 did indeed come to pass between 30 and 70 AD (resurrection to holocaust). However, they conjecture that it will be fulfilled again sometime in our future.
The first question we should ask is, "Why?" What's the point other than to meet our presuppositional expectations? What would lead any of us to believe that these fulfillments were mere shadows of future fulfillments? Is there one shred of Scriptural evidence to support this conclusion? We have developed a "Groundhogs Day" mentality without realizing that the revelations of the New Covenant are the spiritual manifestations of Old Covenant mysteries.
The ensuing questions should be, "How can the Gospel be preached to "all the world" again?" (Matt 24:14) A little repetitive redundancy seemingly just to preserve our paradigm? How can 'the end' come more than once? (Matt 24:14) And how can there be a two 'great tribulations', "such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be." (Matt 24:19)
It's vitally important to know that Jesus' promises are always on time, in spite of our sometimes faithless proclivities to perpetually and perhaps unintentionally believe otherwise! I'm not casting stones here. I was in the same eschatological boat not very long ago. However, when someone threw me a lifeline, I decided to use it. It's great to be back in the boat! Things are making a whole lot more sense. God's Word is truly amazing!
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Greek oikoumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14)
"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 (Greek oikoumene)" (Romans 10:18)
"And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek ethnos)"
"...My gospel... has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations (Greek ethnos)..." (Romans 16:25-26)
"And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world (Greek kosmos) and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15)
"...of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world (Greek kosmos), as is bringing forth fruit...," (Colossians 1:5-6).
And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Greek ktisis) " (Mark 16:15)
"...from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature (Greek ktisis) under heaven, of which I, Paul became a minister" (Colossians 1:23)
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Greek ge)" (Acts 1:8).
"But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth (Greek ge), and their words to the ends of the world" (Romans 10:18)