Matthew 24:14

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world [of the Roman Empire] for a witness to all nations, and then will the end [of national Israel] come.”

The good news of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and coronation of the Son of God would be preached to Gentiles in all parts of the Roman Empire before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

All the world” is here certainly a reference to the Roman Empire as the phrase is so used in Luke 2:1: “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” This was not a registration of the inhabitants of the entire world. The idiomatic expression “all the world” referred only to those of the world who were under Roman jurisdiction. This same meaning is in Romans 1:8: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” The Roman Christians’ faith was certainly not spoken of throughout the rest of the geographical world. Reference to “the whole world” is again to the perimeters or jurisdiction of the Roman Empire.

In Romans 10:18 Paul does use the phrase “all the earth,” or “ends of the world,” to refer to the whole world. He wrote, “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” We must keep in mind that Romans 10:18 was a quotation from Psalm 19:4. In prophetic language it is stated in the past tense. Paul quoted this passage in the past tense as it was written by David. This does not mean, therefore, that at the time Paul quoted Psalm 19 in Romans 10 that it had been completely fulfilled. In Romans 15:29, 24-28 Paul desired to go to Spain and preach the gospel. The gospel had evidently not yet gone to Spain at the time he quoted Psalm 19:4 in Romans 10:18. Therefore, when he made the statement of Romans 10:18, the gospel at the time of his writing the letter of Romans had not yet gone to “all the earth” or “ends of the world.”

In the context of Matthew 24, therefore, we would understand that the meaning of the phrase “all the world” refers to the Roman Empire. The practical reason for the preaching of the gospel to the Roman Empire before the destruction of Jerusalem is obvious. During Passover and Pentecost Jews of the Roman Empire would make the long journey to Jerusalem to celebrate these two great Jewish feasts.

On the particular Passover and Pentecost of the Acts 2 events, there were Jews in Jerusalem from the eastern extent of the Roman Empire, that is, Parthia and Media. There were Jews from the southern extent of the Roman Empire in North Africa. There were Jews from all Asia and Italy. This journey to Jerusalem on Passover and Pentecost was a very precious thing in the lives of devout Jews. For this reason, the apostles stayed in Jerusalem at least ten years after the Pentecost of A.D. 30, for they were still there for the meeting of Acts 15. They stayed in order to receive and evangelize each annual group of Jews who journeyed to the city for the Passover/Pentecost Feast.

In the context of Matthew 24, therefore, Jesus was warning the disciples of the Roman Empire in order to save their lives. When the gospel was preached to the Jewish inhabitants of the Roman Empire, they gave up the Sinai law that stated that Jewish males must be in Jerusalem on Passover and Pentecost (Ex 12; 23; Nm 9). Those Jews who obeyed the gospel would be taught the prophecy of Matthew 24. They would thus stay away from Jerusalem in the years to come.

When the Romans did come to Jerusalem in A.D. 70, they came on Passover and Pentecost. Those Jewish Christians who lived outside Judea believed the message of Matthew 24, and thus, were not there. Their lives were spared because they believed Jesus and His prophecy concerning the consummation of national Israel.

We could correctly conclude, therefore, that the events that transpired in A.D. 70 were the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of such, and thus, the final proof that He was the Messiah and Son of God.

[Next in series: July 31]

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