SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Part 3 (The Gospel Must First Be Published Among All Nations)
By Ward Fenley

THE GOSPEL MUST FIRST BE PUBLISHED AMONG ALL NATIONS

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Mark 13:10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations.

Modern prophetic fulfillment, as we have noted, has been a prominent theme coming from twentieth-century pulpits. The result has been a continued obsession among the followers of these pastors in propagating new ideas as to how certain Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled today. By simply walking into the local "Christian" bookstore, one can see grotesque literature that is being sold. The topics often deal with present-day tension in the middle-east, the "Beast," "Oil," "Armageddon," the "Millennium," and the "New World Order" are topics frequently used to seduce many into purchasing these books. Usually one can find these books on the most visible bookshelf in the store. These books claim that the false Christs and persecutions in the predictions of Matthew 24 are elements that are to take place in the twentieth century. That is, they say we are living in the generation on whom these signs are to take place.

One of the signs that many believe is taking place in our century is the fact that the Gospel is being preached in all the world. Some believe that once certain countries have heard the Gospel, it will have been fully preached in all the world, and then the end of the physical world will come. Others believe that once the last of the elect come to believe the Gospel, then the end will come. It is to be noted that the true Gospel is being preached in various places all over the world. It is also true that every one of those who have been elected from the foundation of the world will be saved. These facts, however, cannot be used to take away or cloud the obvious truths of Scripture. The clear teaching of Scripture declares that the prophecy which was spoken by our Lord in the Olivet discourse regarding the proclamation of the Gospel to the world was fulfilled by the time the Holy Scriptures were completed. At first this comes as a shock, especially to those of us who have held to certain traditions for so long. Our first objection would probably pertain to the fact that we know there are certain people who have never heard the Gospel. Once again, we must be careful to not interpret Scripture based upon our experience, but, rather, let Scripture interpret itself. Once we are committed to this rule, the truths of Scripture suddenly bring fresh insight into what some have regarded as obscure portions of Scripture. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon commented on J. Stuart Russellís somewhat consistent preterist interpretation of Scripture, The Parousia, with these words: "There is so much light shed upon obscure portions of Scripture that it can be harmful to none and profitable to all.") It is these so-called "obscure portions of Scripture" that will prove to be clear fulfillments of the prediction of our Lord that the Gospel would be preached in all the world before the last of the apostles would die (Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28).

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Even most present-day Bible scholars who affirm a yet future coming of the Lord Jesus Christ would agree that His words here cannot be mistaken. That is, once the Gospel was preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, the end would surely come. Modern eschatologists would try to argue that this is taking place now. There are some who would even dare say that this prophecy was fulfilled during the time of the apostles yet would say that the Lord did not say when the end would come. This, however, contradicts the word of God; for Jesus Himself said, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Matthew 24:34. This includes verse 14. Even without this clear time statement, the intention of Jesus was clear: He wanted the disciples to know that once the Gospel had been preached in all the world, the end of the Jewish age would be imminent: Matthew 24:32-33 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. "When ye shall see all these things," were the words of the Lord. What things? The context is unquestionably clear that the Gospel being preached in all the world falls into the category of "these things." Jesus was simply telling the disciples, "When you see the Gospel preached in all the world, then you can know that My return is near, even at the doors." This is precisely why James wrote: James 5:8-9 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. We will now examine, in detail, the fulfillments of the prophecy of Jesus that the Gospel would be preached in all the world as a witness unto all nations, and then the end would come.

The text in Matthew 24:14 contains an interesting word. It is the Greek word oikoumene. Well-known dispensationalist C.I. Scofield wrote concerning the use of the word oikoumene in the New Testament. He specifically identified the meaning of the word in Luke 2:1 which reads, "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed." Scofield comments, "Greek-oikoumene. This passage is noteworthy as defining the usual New Testament use of oikoumene as the sphere of Roman rule at its greatest extent, that is, of the great Gentile world-monarchies. That part of the earth is therefore peculiarly the sphere of prophecy." Mr. Scofield is correct in every word of his analysis. Mr. Scofieldís "sphere of prophecy," however, has a very unscriptural extension pertaining to the Roman Empire beyond the first century. Much like his followers, he seems to have believed that there would be a revived Roman Empire-something completely foreign to Scripture. Yet, in spite of this prophetic extension, we will do well to affirm his position that oikoumene is usually used to define the Roman Empire or, as those in the first century understood the word, the inhabited earth.

This is exactly what Christ had in mind when He used the word in Matthew 24:14:

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Christ, with certain intention, wanted the disciples to believe that once the Gospel had been preached in all the world (or inhabited earth) that the end would come soon. Once we are fully persuaded that Christ was not misleading His disciples or, rather, lying to them, we can approach the words of the apostles with a far greater appreciation for their interpretation of prophetic fulfillment.

The fulfillment of the prophecy of Christ that the Gospel would be preached in all the world is found in Paulís epistle to the Romans:

Romans 10:18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world (oikoumene). Before an analysis of this passage is made, the most important hermeneutic must be applied: affirming the authority and inerrancy of the epistle of Romans as the Word of God given through the apostle Paul. Once this is established in our hearts, by faith, we can affirm that Paul was correct in saying that the Gospel had been preached to the inhabited earth just as Jesus predicted. A weak argument that is used to try and contradict this particular fulfillment is affirming that the "sound" and "words" heard throughout the world was that of the manifestation of God through physical creation. Those who hold to this view base their assumption on the Old Testament passage from which Paul quoted: Psalms 19:1-6 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. 2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. 6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. There are two possible interpretations of this passage that will uphold the integrity and harmony of the Scriptures. One is that the Psalmist is referring to the creation and its universal testimony of the existence and power of God (cf. Romans 1:20). This interpretation does not negate Paulís meaning as he applied it to the preaching of the Gospel. In fact, if the creation is intended in Psalms 19, it is only more support for Paulís argument that the Gospel had indeed gone to the inhabited earth. That is, just as much as the creation declared the glory and power of Christ pre-incarnate, likewise, the Gospel declared the glory and power of Christ incarnate. Paul was using an Old Testament truth to convey a New Testament truth, a type and an ultimate realization of the type. The other interpretation could be applied with an equal if not greater emphasis upon Paulís affirmation. That is, the heavens and firmament represent the church and her proclamation of the Gospel showing the handiwork of God in the finished work of His only begotten Son through His death and resurrection. The testimony that "there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard" may very well represent the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, making the gospel known through the gift of tongues or languages. This is precisely what God used to spread the Gospel through the inhabited earth in the first century. The "tabernacle for the sun" certainly could represent the church with the glory of the Bridegroom dwelling in her. Also interesting is the use of the masculine pronoun in the King James Version to identify the "sun," or, as Malachi describes the Messiah: Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. Even though both of these interpretations could be applied to Psalms 19, Paulís message gives us certainty concerning Godís intention. Taken within its context, one can see Paulís interpretation much clearer: Romans 10:9-18 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. It is the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified that Paul has in mind, as he does in all his epistles, when he uses the word "gospel." Verses 9 through 18 are obviously referring to the message of good news of Messiah and him crucified. Verse 9 identifies Jesus Christ as the subject of the sound and words of verse 18. Verse 11 is a quotation from Isaiah 28:16 that proclaims the coming Cornerstone of Whom, if one believes, they will never be ashamed: Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Joel speaks of this same time period: Joel 2:26-27 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. 27 And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. Romans 10:13 quotes from Joel who prophesied of a time coming called the last days (Acts 2:17) during which the means of salvation would be revealed and accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of peace and glad tidings of verse 5 are found in four passages in Isaiah: Isaiah 40:9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

Isaiah 41:27 The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings.

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Isaiah 61:1 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

Each of the contexts of these verses refers to the manifestation of Jesus Christ, a message Paul proclaimed as that which had gone to the inhabited earth.

To say that Paul was referring to the physical creation in Romans 10 is a radical distortion of Paulís motif of justification by faith, the very subject of the glad tidings whose sound and words had reached the world or inhabited earth as Paul declared and as Jesus predicted:

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Another astounding prophecy of the Lord Jesus regarding the proclamation of the Gospel to the world is found in the Gospel of Mark: Mark 13:10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations. Before we take this passage and prove its fulfillment in the New Testament Scriptures, we must understand why Jesus used the word "first." The inference to be made and the implication given is this: before a certain event would take place, the Gospel must first be published (preached) among all nations. What was to take place once this prophecy had been fulfilled? The passage in Mark 13 is the parallel passage to Matthew 24. It is the same sermon, just a different account. It is imperative that we understand that Christ was addressing a question asked by His disciples: Mark 13:1-4 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! 2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? Or, to add part of the account in Matthew: Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? As we have noted, their questions were clear. They wanted to know when Christ was going to return. This is why Christ eventually said that the Gospel must first be published among all nations. Compare the parallels of Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10: Mark 13:10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations.

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

It should be clear that Matthew was simply giving his account which is a bit more specific. Combined, the two passages read, "The Gospel must first be published among all nations and then the end shall come." The disciples wanted the signs of Christís return and Christ told them the signs that would take place. One of these was the Gospel would be preached in all the world or published among all nations and then the end would come.

The primary difference between the two accounts is Markís use of the word ethnos or "nations" versus Matthewís oikoumene or "inhabited earth." This fact will serve to support the view of the prophecy as fulfilled even further. An opponent might argue: "Yes, the Gospel was preached to the inhabited earth generally speaking but it was not preached to all nations. That has obviously not happened yet!" The Word of God is true. The book of Romans soars high with overwhelming support that the Gospel had in fact been preached to all nations. Once again, Paulís Gospel is the same Gospel throughout his epistles. The Gospel of chapter ten is the same Gospel of chapter sixteen:

Romans 16:25-26 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made know to all nations for the obedience of faith: Is this not an irrefutable fulfillment of the words of Jesus Christ? Mark 13:10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations. Paul, in the most blunt language, maintains that the prophecy of Jesus Christ regarding the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations was fulfilled. An interesting fact is that Jesus also predicted that the apostles would be hated of all nations: Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. How could the apostles be hated of all nations if the Gospel had not been preached to all nations as some affirm? Jesus not only predicted that the Gospel would be preached among all nations, He also commanded that all nations should be taught and baptized. This is exactly why the apostles obeyed Him (see the example of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:27-39). Romans 16:25 and 26 teaches us that the apostles, including Paul, were faithful in that which was committed to them as Paul also said in First Timothy: 1 Timothy 1:11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. Even in the very first words of Paulís introduction to the Romans, he declared that the Gospel had gone to the nations: Romans 1:1-6 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: Here, Paul is clearly including those in Rome as members of the elect among all nations implying that just as certain as these Romans were Christians, so were there Christians throughout all nations.

In the second epistle to Timothy, we find what many would consider a somewhat obscure passage; nevertheless, it is strong proof supporting the fulfillment of the Gospel going out to all nations:

2 Timothy 4:16-17 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. Here, the word "Gentiles" is the same Greek word ethnos, which word is used in the prediction of Jesus in Mark 13:10. Paul uses the term in a context that describes events that have passed. Paul said, "no man stood with me, but all men forsook me...notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." All of these are in the aorist tense, but the forcefulness of our present argument is once again seen in Paul's use of the aorist (passive, subjunctive) tense in saying that the preaching might be "fully (made) known." To further seal the argument, Paul then uses the aorist (active, subjunctive) tense in saying that the "Gentiles might hear" (literally, the gentiles which might hear have heard). In other words, Paul is declaring that Christ's prediction that the gospel must first be preached in all the nations had come to pass. As far as Paul was concerned, the Gentiles had heard the Gospel. A translation would be helpful at this point: "That by me the preaching (of the Gospel) that was to be made known has been fully made known and that all the Gentiles which were to hear have heard." The command to the apostles that they should preach the Gospel to all nations was reiterated again by Jesus after His resurrection: Luke 24:46-48 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. Not only were the apostles witnesses of the miracles of the Lord Jesus, including His own resurrection, they were also witnesses of the Gospel having been preached to all nations for His name. The testimony of Paul is greater than the testimony of men concerning the fulfillment of the Gospel having been preached to all nations, for it was God who spoke through Paul the word of truth.

A common argument against the truth the Bible teaches is that the Gospel was preached to the world as the known, inhabited earth at that time, the Roman Empire, but that it was not preached to the entire world (Greek-kosmos). Christ had commanded the apostles to go into all the world and preach the Gospel:

Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world (kosmos), and preach the gospel to every creature. Jesus here gives two clear commands to the apostles: one, they were to go into all the world; two, they were to preach the Gospel to every creature. The question is, were these commands obeyed and fulfilled? Was the Gospel really preached throughout the kosmos, or world, just as Jesus commanded? Did the Gospel actually reach the ears of every creature? With the same truthfulness and authority, Paul writes to the Colossians in the first chapter that both of these prophecies had taken place by the time the book of Colossians was written.

First, we see the fulfillment of the Gospel having been preached to the kosmos within the first few verses:

Colossians 1:3-6 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world (kosmos), and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; Even in the first chapter of Romans, Paul implied that the Gospel had been preached in all the world (kosmos) by testifying that the Romansí faith was made known throughout the world: Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. The Gospel had been preached to such an extent and with such fruit that the faith of the Romans had been testified throughout the world. The world had heard of the great faith of the Romans. If the world had heard of their faith, then surely they would have heard of the Object of their faith. It would be absurd to think that the world had heard of the faith of the Romans without knowing in what or in Whom they were trusting.

Paul not only declares that the Gospel had been preached in all the world, he also preached that this very same Gospel that had been preached in all the world was also bringing forth fruit. Certainly, if the Gospel was bringing forth fruit in all the world, it had to have been preached in all the world first, after all:

Romans 10:14-15 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" Godís decree to save His people is always accomplished by the means of the Gospel. It would be impossible for fruit to have been brought forth among the Gentiles in all the world without the Gospel having been preached to them. People seem shocked when they are told that the prophecy of the Gospel being preached in all the world has been fulfilled. They are even more shocked when they are told that fruit was being brought forth as a result of the Gospel being preached in all the world. This, however, falls perfectly in line with Godís decree concerning the salvation of His elect and the resulting fruit brought forth: John 15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Paul was perfectly aware of the saving, fruit-producing power of the Gospel. He was also aware that this Gospel had gone far beyond the scope of national Israel: Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

We also see the fulfillment of the Gospel being preached to every creature just as Christ commanded: Colossians 1:23 ...If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Notice the clear use of the aorist or past tense of the verb to preach. The passage does not say, "which will be preached." Neither does it say, "which is being preached." The Truth says, "which was preached to every creature." Paul was well acquainted with the use of the present and future tenses in the Greek language. He could easily have used either of these tenses, but then he would have lied. Thus, his epistle to the Colossians could not be regarded as the inspired word of God. However, those who have been mercifully saved believe, by Godís grace, that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" 2 Peter 1:21. Therefore, as professing Christians we must concede to Godís holy Word that the Gospel, which Christ predicted would be preached to every creature, was fulfilled just as Paul said it was. From these two passages in Colossians, we can be certain that Christís command/prediction in Mark 16:15 to the disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature was fulfilled.

There is yet one other passage concerning the extent of the preaching of the Gospel as it pertains to the coming of the kingdom of Christ. This concerns a prophecy that speaks of the Gospel being preached, specifically, in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. It is found in the very book where the actual accounts of the Gospel being preached take place: the book of Acts:

Acts 1:6-8 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Verse 8 of this particular passage is not usually analyzed as one containing any eschatologically significant material. We will see, however, that the book of Acts places a strong emphasis on the fact that the Gospel reached certain regions. Not only is there an emphasis on the regions where the Gospel was preached but also an emphasis on the extent to which it was preached in those particular regions. Our present passage uses the words "Jerusalem", "Judaea", "Samaria", and "uttermost parts of the earth" to set forth the regions where the apostles would be preaching the Gospel. It is intriguing that Jesus proclaimed the scope of the Gospel immediately after He was questioned regarding the timing of the restoration of the kingdom of Israel, which of course would take place at His appearing (2 Timothy 4:1). This seems to be very important with respect to the relationship between the scope of the preaching of the Gospel and the end of the age. This is evident in Matthewís Gospel: Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Much like the book of Acts, Jesus responded here to virtually the same question of the apostles: "When shall these things be and what shall be the sign of Thy coming and the end of the age?" Placed together, the two passages are strikingly similar: Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

Acts 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Acts 1:7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
 
 

Clearly, the writers are intending to convey a significant point: once the Gospel had been preached within the areas specified, the end (the return of Christ) would take place. The question is: can we prove from the Scriptures that the prophecy in the book of Acts took place?

The first location Jesus mentions as one of the places where the apostles would be His witnesses is, appropriately, Jerusalem. We need not look far into the book of Acts to find the first example:

Acts 2:1-14 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: From there, Peter went on to explain that the outpouring of the Spirit was that which was spoken by the prophet Joel. He explained that those who were hearing the Gospel and seeing the miracles were in the last days of the Jewish age before that great and notable Day of the Lord. Luke, however, makes certain that his audience understands the location of the place where the Gospel was preached: Jerusalem, just as the Lord Jesus predicted. Verses 16 through 47 record the magnificent sermon of Peter and the subsequent effect it had upon the hearers. In fact, verse 41 tells us that three thousand souls were added to the church that day.

In Acts 3, while he was still in Jerusalem, Peter, by the Spirit of God, commanded a lame man to walk. He then proceeded to explain the power of the Gospel to heal wicked sinners after the people gazed upon him and the other apostles as if they were the ones with the healing power. In verses 14 through 26 Peter explicitly proclaimed the Gospel again to those at Jerusalem. Verses 4 through 6 of chapter four show not only the effects of the Gospel but also the location:

Acts 4:4-6 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. 5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, 6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. Five thousand more came to know Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Gospel at Jerusalem. Even the Godless Pharisees could not deny the fact that something incredibly miraculous was happening in Jerusalem: Acts 4:14-17 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. 17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. The Pharisees declared that the notable miracle was manifest to all them that dwelt in Jerusalem. However, in order to suppress the truth, they persecuted the disciples so that the truth would not spread. Many would like to join these Pharisees in trying to stop the truth that the Gospel has come to Jerusalem. The Scriptures teach that it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18). We cannot deny it!

To further confirm that the Gospel was being preached and that great miracles were being performed at Jerusalem, Luke tells us that even those outside Jerusalem started coming to the city because of the great things that God had done:

Acts 5:16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. However, the high priest and the Sadducees would have none of this Gospel fulfillment: Acts 5:17-18 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. Yet, God commanded this to be fulfilled: Acts 5:19-20 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. Jerusalem was being saturated with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Gospel was even being preached in the Temple. The extent of the penetration of the Gospel had moved the God-haters to declare that the Gospel had filled Jerusalem: Acts 5:26-28 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. It is a blessing to see God use the testimony of the enemies to proclaim His truth. And no wonder: Psalms 66:3 Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee. Even Godís enemies agreed that the apostles had filled Jerusalem with their doctrine. Strongís concordance uses fine words to describe the meaning of this word "filled": "make replete, i.e. (lit.) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (fig.) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy." Jerusalem had been crammed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Might we be crammed with the truth to affirm the fact that the prophecy of Jesus that the Gospel would be preached in Jerusalem has already been fulfilled. Lest we have not been fully convinced that the Gospel had been preached in Jerusalem, let us continue.

In Acts 6, we see an interesting result of the Gospel having been preached to all Jerusalem. Once thousands had repented of their evil deeds, there was a lack of ministry to some of the Hebrew widows, which is itself a sign that fruit was being brought forth because of the preaching of the Gospel. There became a need to gather Christians to participate in this ministry. The effect was magnificent:

Acts 6:6-7 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. Even some of the priests, and that, a great company, repented of their wickedness in order to serve the Lord Jesus. Along with these priests coming to the faith, the number of disciples in Jerusalem was multiplying greatly. The conclusion that should be reached is that the Gospel was flowing through the streets of Jerusalem and the Temple to such a degree that Luke could use very descriptive words like "multiplied greatly," and, "a great company." Remember, these were disciples made in Jerusalem first. This should remind us of the commands of Jesus: Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Matthew 28:19-20 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

The apostles were obedient to these commands, and the fruit became manifest in Jerusalem first.

In Acts 21, an exciting account of the preaching of the Gospel takes place involving the apostle Paul. Angry Jews dragged Paul out of the Temple and testified of the effect of the Gospel by the mouth of this single apostle:

Acts 21:27-31 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. 31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. It is amazing how many twentieth-century professing Christians claim that the Gospel has almost been preached in all the world. Most professing American Christians would certainly say that the Gospel has been preached in all the United States. Why is it that we do not see more cities in an uproar? Perhaps what IS being preached is not the true Gospel after all. Jerusalem clearly had the true Gospel preached to them through Paul and the other apostles. The result of their preaching was not only thousands coming to faith in Jesus Christ but also thousands in an uproar against those who preached the Gospel.

Aside from the book of Acts declaring the preaching of the Gospel to Jerusalem, Paul also wrote a clear statement in the book of Romans that the Gospel had been fully preached to Jerusalem:

Romans 15:18-19 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, 19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Paul believed that the Gospel had been fully preached. Was he mistaken or misled? As Christians, we believe that Romans is as much a part of the Word of God as the book of Acts. Therefore, we accept it as inspired and believe the apostle Paul. Likewise, we believe every account set forth which supports the truth of the prophecy that the Gospel would be preached in Jerusalem was fulfilled.

Acts 1:8 specifies Judea as one of the regions where the Gospel would be preached:

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. The question is: can we show the same overwhelming Scriptural support that the Gospel was preached in all Judea as it was in Jerusalem? Certainly!

Acts 2:9 lists several of the nations or areas which were hearing the Gospel in their own language in Jerusalem. One of those areas was Judea:

Acts 2:8-9 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia... It may not seem significant, at first glance, that Judea was mentioned as one of the regions whose inhabitants were hearing the Gospel. However, when we consider the fact that of these thousands, many were Jewish, then we should conclude that those who were converted would certainly preach to others of the same nationality. Yet, even with the strong probability that this was the case, we will focus on what Scripture has to say about the matter.

Peter mentioned Judea as one of the regions whose inhabitants were hearing his message:

Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: Peterís words were not merely words, they were the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the very same Gospel predicted to reach Judea before the return of Christ.

When the great persecution of Acts chapter 8 took place, the Christians were scattered abroad. One of the places mentioned to where they were scattered was Judea:

Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. Once again, we can safely assume that if these men were true Christians, they would very likely have preached the Gospel that saved them from the lake of fire. After all, it is always exciting to spread good news. Therefore, since they were scattered throughout Judea, it is, again, safe to assume that these Christians probably preached throughout Judea.

Acts chapter 9 tells us that there were already churches throughout all Judea:

Acts 9:31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. Perhaps the strongest evidence to support the fact that the Gospel had been preached in all Judea is found in an affirmation Peter gave to Cornelius in Caesarea: Acts 10:37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; Peter was led in all truth. He did not utter some vain and uncertain imagination. He spoke the words of God: the perfect, sure, right, pure words of God (Psalms 19:7,8). We must believe the words of God and cast down those imaginations that are so tempting to dissuade us from the truth.

Paul even declared that he had preached the Gospel to all the coasts of Judea:

Acts 26:19-20 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20 But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. Testimony of the fact that Paul had preached in Judea is found in the epistles where Paul mentions that there are churches in Judea: Galatians 1:22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:

1 Thessalonians 2:14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:

From what has been shown in Acts and the epistles to the Galatians and the Thessalonians, it should be obvious that the apostles were, in fact, the witnesses of Jesus throughout all Judea.

Jesus also predicted that the apostles would be His witnesses in Samaria before His return:

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. With the same frequency, the book of Acts shows the Gospel saturating the region of Samaria. Often it is mentioned within the same context of Judea, as they were closely related: Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. We must infer again from this passage that just as those who were scattered in Judea very likely preached the Gospel there, so also those who were scattered to Samaria did the same; i.e. preached the Gospel throughout Samaria. This is most certainly proven in the transition to our next passage within the same chapter: Acts 8:2-4 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Everywhere? Obviously the writerís intent was to make certain those students of the word understood that the Gospel-preaching of which Jesus spoke was having its fulfillment. Those who are not students of the word will only be confounded with the writerís clarity. May God give us grace.

Philip is perhaps most well-known for his dialogue with the Ethiopian eunuch whom God converted between Jerusalem and Gaza. However, greater miracles than this took place by his Gospel-preaching in other areas as well. Specifically, in this rather lengthy passage, we see Philip and Peter participating in the Gospel proclamation and fulfillment in the region of Samaria:

Acts 8:5-25 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. 9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. 24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. 25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. With the underlined passages in mind, we see that not only was the Gospel preached in Samaria, but the same pure Gospel, as it always has when preached, yielded fruit. Notice, first, that through Philipís preaching, Christ was preached unto them (verse 5). Second, we see the immediate fruit that abounded, the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake (verse 6). Third, one of the inevitable results of receiving forgiveness of sins and escape from the terror of God is joy; thus, there was great joy in that city (verse 8). Fourth, after their conversion, they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized (verse 12). (It should be noted that Simon, the sorcerer, also believed and was baptized; however, in his particular case, this can be appropriately dubbed a false conversion. This is evident in verse 21 where Peter exposes that Simonís heart was not right before God. Peter also commanded him to repent of his wickedness and pray that the thought of his heart would be forgiven. Even beyond this, Peter declared that Simon was in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity-quite the opposite of a Christian who has been freed from the bondage of iniquity.) Fifth, it was confirmed to the apostles that Samaria had received the word of God (verse 14). One must make a comparison with how we might describe a revival in the twentieth century. Suppose there was a presentation of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ at the Forum in Los Angeles, California, and thousands came under the horrifying conviction of sin, repented of their wicked deeds, and trusted Christ for the salvation of their souls from the wrath of Almighty God. Certainly there would be cause for great joy, but would we really go so far as to say that Los Angeles had received the Word of God? In a city of 17 to 20 million people, a few thousand is still a relatively small number. Yet it was confirmed to the apostles that Samaria had received the Word of God. Though this probably did not mean that every single soul in Samaria fell under the conviction of sin, enough people did that the writer of the book of Acts would confirm that Samaria had received the Word of God. This should cause us to see the extent to which the Gospel had effectually worked in the hearts of the Samaritans. Sixth, they received the Holy Ghost (verse 17); once again, a blessing that only comes upon those who have had true saving faith in Jesus Christ. Seventh, after they had saturated this particular city of Samaria, the apostles continued preaching in many of the villages of the Samaritans. This particular context is filled with overwhelming proof that Samaria had become gloriously inundated with the Gospel of Jesus Christ just as He said it would. If this is not enough proof that the apostles were His witnesses unto Samaria, there is more.

These last two examples of the Gospel being preached to Samaria are not nearly as detailed as the passage in Acts 8. However, when the Gospel is preached many times, the result is the formation of a church or churches. From these next two passages, it is clear that churches were formed and brethren found in Samaria as a result of the propagation of the Gospel:

Acts 9:31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

Acts 15:3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

We see not only the testimony that there were actually organized churches in Samaria, we also see that they were edified, they walked in the fear of the Lord, the Holy Ghost comforted them, and they multiplied. This is a glorious example of the effectual working of the sovereign grace of God to flood Samaria with the light of the Gospel. This same sovereign grace yielded churches as well as inevitable fruit within these churches, and no wonder: John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. As with all His promises, this promise was fulfilled. This is, without a doubt, what we have seen concerning the preaching of the Gospel to the Samaritans and their subsequent conversion. To God be the glory.

Finally, Jesus promised that the apostles would be the witnesses of His Gospel to the uttermost part of the earth

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. This part of the prophecy was likewise fulfilled with as much certainty as the other prophecies. Many would argue that this could not possibly have happened. "After all," it is said, "there are places in the world that have not been reached with the Gospel." According to their way of thinking, they may be right. But what is Godís way of thinking? One must remember that the chief reason men object to the Scriptures is because the Scriptures continually oppose manís way of thinking. If we can find in the Scriptures the fulfillment of this prophecy, then we must be willing to change our view of the word "earth" as it appears in this prophetic context.

Consider the same phrase, "uttermost parts of the earth" as it is used in another context:

Matthew 12:42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. Here, Jesus identifies the origin of the Queen of the south as the uttermost parts of the earth. This queen was the Queen of Sheba. There is general agreement that the territory from where she came is somewhere in Southwestern Arabia. Jesus considered Arabia as the uttermost parts of the earth or land. That is, it was typical to identify a place of considerable distance as the uttermost parts of the land. Therefore, Arabia could be regarded as such. Usually when one thinks of the uttermost in reference to land, they think of the farthest place. Arabia was considered as one of the farthest places within the area of the inhabited earth as they knew it.

It should not surprise us to learn that earth (Gk. ge), like oikoumene, can often be referring to the general area of Israel. This can be observed in these passages:

Matthew 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

Revelation 6:8-10 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. 9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

Jesus made Himself very clear when He said that the apostate Jews of His day in the earth (land) would be the ones on whom the judgment for the death of the prophets would come. The passage in Revelation confirms the judgment that would come upon the earth (Israel) for their apostasy and slaughter of the prophets.

Can we be certain that this particular aspect of the judgment is referring to Israel? Remember the words of Christ:

Luke 13:33-34 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! In comparing the two contexts, it becomes evident that "earth" is referring to Israel. Therefore, why should it be thought a thing incredible for God to use earth to describe the immediate nations surrounding Israel?

With these things in mind, the fulfillment of Acts 1:8, found in Romans 10:18 is clearly seen:

Romans 10:18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. Even though the majority of professing Christendom might disagree, we must agree with the inspired apostle Paul as he was moved by the Holy Spirit to write these words (2 Peter 1:21) declaring the fulfillment of Acts 1:8. The sound of the Gospel had indeed gone into all the earth. It is the view of this inspired apostle that matters. If he believed that the Gospel had been preached in all the earth, then as believers in the Word of God, we must believe the same.

Something that must not go unnoticed is that these same prophecies that the Gospel would be preached throughout the world were also prophesied in the O.T. For example: in Genesis 17, Abraham was told he would be the father of many nations (verses 5 and 6). The same promise was made to Isaac (Genesis 26:2-4). These prophecies were fulfilled through the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

Luke 1:68-73 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,

Romans 4:13-17 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Romans 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:

Galatians 3:7-9 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Galatians 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Numbers 14:21 teaches that there would come a time when the earth would be filled with the glory of the LORD: Numbers 14:21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD. This glory is none other than that New Covenant glory which had begun by the Spirit and was consummated by Jesus Christ being completely formed in the first-century believers (including Gentiles). This same glory continues to fill all those who put their trust in Jesus Christ as Savior: Luke 2:30-32 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

John 11:40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

Romans 5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

1 Thessalonians 2:12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

1 Peter 4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

Revelation 21:10-11 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

Revelation 21:22-26 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. 25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. 26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.

We have already noted that the Gospel had reached the world and was bringing forth fruit (Colossians 1:5,6). This was predicted frequently in the book of Psalms: Psalms 22:27-28 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations.

Psalms 24:1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalms 47:1-3 To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. 2 For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. 3 He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.

Psalms 65:2 O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.

Psalms 66:3-4 Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee. 4 All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.

Psalms 67:1-7 To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song. God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. 2 That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. 3 Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. 4 O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah. 5 Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. 6 Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. 7 God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

Psalms 68:29-32 Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee. 30 Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war. 31 Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. 32 Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah:

Against any refutation, the Scriptures have made clear the fact that the Gospel had reached its destination just as the Lord Jesus had promised. He predicted that the Gospel would be preached throughout the Roman Empire (Matthew 24:14), and then the end would come. This was fulfilled by the time Paul had written the epistle to the Romans (Romans 10:18). Jesus also predicted that before the end of the Jewish age would come, the Gospel would be preached among all nations as a witness unto all nations (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:15). This prophecy was also fulfilled by the time Paul wrote to the Romans (Romans 16:25,26). Jesus even commanded the apostles to go into all the world (kosmos) and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) which command/prophecy was proclaimed as fulfilled in Colossians 1:5,6, and 23. Finally, before His ascension, Jesus declared that the apostles would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Who was right? The twentieth-century scholars, or the first-century apostles? The argument might be raised, "The apostles were saying that the Gospel had been preached to the world as they knew it, but the Gospel has to reach the world as we know it before Christ will return." First, where does the Scripture speak of Christís words being fulfilled during the twentieth century "as we know it"? This is the worldís way of trying to make the Bible fit their standard of unholiness. Second, why would the apostles even mention the fact of the Gospel reaching its destination if there was no prophetic significance? All that would do is confuse those to whom they were writing. After all, their readers were perfectly aware that Christ had predicted His return once the Gospel had been preached in these areas. What other predictions were there besides those of the Lord? From the Scripture, we can be certain that all these predictions regarding the destination of the Gospel were fulfilled. Matthew 16:2-3 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? With the appearance of John the Baptist crying as a voice in the wilderness, the wicked Pharisees were oblivious to the messenger preparing the way of the Lord. In their stiff-necked rebellion, they even disregarded the miracles of Jesus Christ as signs of the times. The presence of Messiah was the sure sign that salvation and judgment were imminent.

The Lord Jesus made exact predictions of the signs that would certainly show that His return was imminent. He responded very directly to the disciplesí questions:

Matthew 24:1-3 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? The two questions were simple and to the point: "when shall these things be (the destruction of the Temple in verse 2, desolation, etc.) and what will be the signs showing the nearness of your return and the end of the age?" Jesus did not mislead them. He answered their questions of when He would return and what signs would take place just before He returned. He addressed the signs first. Particularly, He laid open the signs that would take place before His return: Matthew 24:4-14 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Not only did He prophesy exactly what signs would take place, He also prophesied when He would return:
 
  Matthew 24:34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. The unfolding of the Scriptures has meticulously showed that the predictions of false Christs, persecutions, and the preaching of the Gospel to the world would take place before the end of the Jewish age. The false Christs came, (Acts 8:9-11; 13:6-10; 16:16; 20:29-30; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4,12-15; Galatians 1:6-9; 2:4,5; 5:7-12; Philippians 3:18-21; Colossians 2:8,16-23; 1 Timothy 1:19,20; 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 2 Peter 3:1-4; 1 John 2:18,22,23; 4:1-6; Jude 1:4-19), the Christians were persecuted and gave testimony before Gentiles, kings, and governors, (Acts 4:1-3,15-18; 5:17-21,27,28,33; 6:9-15; 8:3; 9:15,16,23,24,29; 12:1-5; 13:44-52; 14:1-7,19-22; 16:19-24; 17:5-8; 21:26-33; 22:22-30; 23:12-15; 24:10,22; 26:1; Romans 8:16-18,25; 1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 7:25,26; 2 Corinthians 1:3-10; 4:8-11,16,17; 6:4-10; 7:4,5; 11:23-33; 12:10; Galatians 1:13; 2:11,12; 3:1-4; 4:12-14; 5:7-12; 6:12-17; Philippians 1:12-14,19-30; 4:11-12; Colossians 1:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 1:5,6; 2:1-16; 3:1-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; 2 Timothy 1:7-12; 2:7-12; 3:12; Philemon 1:10; Hebrews 10:23-39; 11:23-26,35-40; 12:1-11; James 5:7-9), and most significantly, the Gospel was preached to the whole world, the last sign that would show that the return of Lord was imminent, (Romans 1:1-8; 10:18; 16:25,26; Colossians 1:3-6,23; Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-14; 4:4-6,14-17; 5:16-20,26-28; 6:6,7; 21:27-31; 8:1; 9:31; 10:37; 26:19,20; Galatians 1:22; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Acts 8:2-25; 15:3). Matthew 16:1-3 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? Jesus asked this question to Pharisees who had only seen the appearance of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and His miracles. Yet Jesus still marveled at the fact that these Pharisees were not able to discern the signs of the times. They were unable to see that the time for God to judge His people was near and that the everlasting kingdom was about to begin. Perhaps even more amazing is that professing Christians in the twentieth century have, at their fingertips, the very word of God that proclaims the fulfillment of even greater signs. In spite of the clear testimony of Scripture that the signs of the times were fulfilled during the Apostlic era, the "church" continues to redefine the signs of the times as it has throughout history. This type of fanaticism has plagued all of us at one time or another. Only God can open the eyes of our understanding. Once He grants this grace, we will be able to accept the Biblical definitions and declarations of fulfillment. Then our interpretation of the signs of the times will be determined by Scripture and not by modern fanaticism. Humans are, by nature, fanatics. This is precisely why the apostate Jews crucified the Lord of glory. They had fanatical ideas about the kingdom of God and the reign of Messiah. Therefore, when they saw the Messiah "cut off," they were unable to accept His definition of the kingdom: i.e., "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation...for behold the kingdom of God is within you." This did not fit the view of the kingdom as held by the Pharisees. Therefore, they killed Messiah. But why? As Jesus said, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." The same is true today. Professing Christians are refusing Christís definition of the kingdom. This is exactly why fanatics and false prophets keep predicting the return of Christ. They do not want a spiritual, unseen, everlasting kingdom (2 Corinithians 4:18). Instead, they want something more, or rather, less than what Jesus has given to all who are in Him.

Can we discern the signs of the times? With even more revelation than the wicked Pharisees were given, will we continue to seek for signs in our times even though they were fulfilled in the first century? The question Jesus asked the Pharisees should especially cause those of us in the twentieth century, affected by the power of technology and the media, to consider whether we are basing our interpretation of the fulfillment of signs on what is appealing to us. Have we been so seduced by fanaticism that we will refuse the testimony of the Scriptures-thus continuing to follow the lusts and creeds of men? If Jesus is, indeed, the Lord of glory, and His apostles were, indeed, inspired, then we can be sure that "the testimony of the LORD is sure making wise the simple." May God graciously grant us wisdom in this important area concerning the signs of the times.

Ward Fenley


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