Return to Index Page
The Gospel Preached in all the World
By Richard Gunther
There have been many attempts to set a date for the return of Christ. I
remember a zealous young man who visited my school many years ago, who drew a
timeline on the blackboard and marked off the years and dates when he expected
the trumpet to blow. Needless to say he was wrong. Since then I have come across
many other well-meaning Christians who have also finalized certain dates, but
they have been wrong too. (For my
own thoughts on this matter see my article ‘Signs of the End of the Age’)
Not only Christians have been misguided in their attempts to finalise the
day and hour. Many cults have gone to extraordinary lengths, basing their
behaviour on some particular day in which they expect the great event to happen.
In Wellington, for example, one cult was so sure they had picked the correct
day, they prepared a ‘runway’ down near the waterside and ran along it,
flapping their arms, apparently to ‘help’ the Lord get them off the ground
in the Rapture!
The whole Christian period, from Pentecost to today, is littered with
disappointed predictions, so it never surprises me to find yet another zealous
Christian with yet another theory.
One day a member of a missionary society, called New Tribes, put it to me
that Jesus cannot return until the gospel has been preached to every
tribe and nation in the world. I do not know if this is the ‘official’ line
of all the New Tribes missionaries, but as far as this individual was concerned,
the one thing preventing, or delaying the return of Christ was the fact that
individuals from literally every tribe had not been reached with the
The text this person used to justify his belief was Mat. 24:14:
gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness
to all the nations, and then the end will come”.
There are two important features of this verse which ought to be noted.
First, the expression “in all the world” and second the words “as
a witness”. It is also important to notice what Jesus did NOT say. He did
not say that all the world would be saved, or that all the world would receive
the gospel. All he said was that the gospel would go out into all the world as a
“witness”. In other words, all the world could hear the gospel if it so
What Jesus meant, I believe, is that the witness of the gospel
would be available to all the world in a general way, that anyone in the world
who really wanted to know the gospel would have some access to it. God does
promise to be ‘findable’ to all who seek Him, and there are many testimonies
of this. I have heard of people in remote, isolated parts of the world praying
for contact with God and receiving some miraculous sign, such as a single Bible
in their own language suddenly coming to them, or a Christian arriving out of
nowhere. When people call out to God, God ‘shifts heaven and earth’ to reply
I am reminded of a time when the Chinese government did a census. This
was a vast and enormous undertaking, in a land as large as China, with its
thousands of millions of people, yet the forms were printed and circulated, and
the information was collected. This showed me that even a land as large as China
could contact all its inhabitants with information. So even China, if it so
desired, could present the gospel to every one of its inhabitants. Furthermore,
the gospel is being broadcast into that land, (not, of course, by the atheist
government), so anyone with a Radio may hear it. As well as this, China is now
in contact with the Western world, and through the Internet is able to access
all sorts of things, including the gospel. I am not trying to make a case out of
a single country, but the general point is that if any country, now or in the
past, really wanted to hear the gospel, it would not be impossible.
But getting back to the Bible, we ought to look at the expression “in
all the world”.
“world” in Greek = oikoumene = habitable world, earth or land.
When Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1) decreed that “all the world”
should be taxed, he meant the dominions under Rome’s jurisdiction. He did not
mean all the people’s of the world outside Rome’s influence. He did not mean
such people as the Mayan, or South American jungle tribes, Eskimos, Laplanders,
Mongols, Chinese and so on. “all the world” meant, “all the Roman
Again, in Acts 11:28 the “great dearth” was predicted to
strike “throughout all the world”, which meant “all the Roman world”,
not the whole literal Earth.
Again, in Acts 17:6 the Christians were accused of “turning the
world upside down” (See also Acts 17”31, 19:27 and 24:5). Did the Christians
literally turn the world upside down? No. Did the Christians turn every nation
on the whole planet upside down? No. They affected only the inhabitants of the
Paul says, in Rom. 10:18, that in the days of Israel during Old
Testament times, the words of the prophets had gone “into all the earth, and
their words to the ends of the world”. What these Hebrew expressions meant was
that the words of the prophets had gone a long way, but certainly not as far as
the north pole or South America.
Again, in Col. 1:6, Paul says that the gospel had already gone into all
the world! (world = Greek kosmos = the world as created, ordered and arranged).
Please note that Paul is saying that, in his day, that is, nearly 2000 years
ago, he considered that the gospel had already gone into all the world.
Since Paul’s time there has been a Reformation and many large Christian
gospel-distribution movements (such as the British and Foreign Bible Society,
the many Missionary societies, the thousands of evangelists and so on, all
reaching out into the world with the gospel.) Yet Paul said that even in his own
day the gospel had already gone out into all the world.
So it is untenable to believe that Jesus cannot come until the last tribe has been reached with the gospel. Jesus could come at any time.
Back to Index Page