Is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to His disciples, that they spread the faith to the all the world (Mark 16:15). This commission was given to His disciples in AD 30 and this preaching of the gospel was a required accomplishment before He would return (Matt. 24:14), as promised, before all of his 1st century faithful believers would die (Matt. 16:27-28, 24:34). The Greek word Jesus used in Matt. 24:14 for world was “oikoumene,” which His 1st century apostles would have clearly understood was meaning the “known world of the Roman Empire” (same Greek word used in Luke 2:1 translated in many English Bibles as “world;” Luke 21:26 as “earth;” Acts 11:28 as “world;” Acts 17:26 as “world;” Acts 19:27 as “world;” Acts 24:5 as “world;” Rom. 10:18 as “world;” Rev. 3:10 as “world;” Rev. 16:14 as “world” to name a few).
Are we supposed to believe that the same Greek word is being used…yet different interpretations? No, the inspired writers are trying to tell us that the gospel was to be preached throughout all the ‘world’ (oikoumene: the Roman Empire) before Jesus came in judgment upon the temple and city of Jerusalem in AD 70.
This becomes even more revealing when we see how the inspired writers used all of the following verses (and Greek words) to emphatically declare the completion of the mission which was given to them by Christ: First, at the day of Pentecost there were people in Jerusalem from “every nation (ethnos) under heaven” (Acts 2:5-11). Those people took the gospel with them as they left Jerusalem after the feast, and became witnesses to the world of their Lord and Savior. Let us take a look at the various ways the Holy Spirit inspired the writers to record how this proclamation of the gospel had been preached throughout the world: Colossians 1:5-6 (Kosmos), 23 (every creature = Ktisis) (Paul just said in “past tense” that the “exact same two words” of the Great Commission in Mark 16:15 were fulfilled); Romans 1:8 (Kosmos. Did people in Australia and America hear about the faith of the Romans? Clearly the context and scope is speaking of the known world – the Roman Empire); Rom. 16:26 (ethnos); Rom. 1:5 (ethnos); Acts 21:21 (ethnos); Luke 21:24 (All the Ethnos. Did the Romans take them to Australia, America and every country on the globe? Clearly we can see referenced is it was referring to the Roman world to which they controlled); 1 Thessalonians 1:8 (every place); 1 Timothy 3:16 (Kosmos), 2 Timothy 4:17 (all the Gentiles), Titus 2:11 (all men). It is so important that we also “scriptures to interpret other scriptures” and not try to impose any of our presuppositions or systematic theologies into a text.
While the Great Commission, as delivered by Christ to His disciples, was “audience relevant” directly to them for the 1st century proceeding the return of Christ before they all died, a “continued commission” is applicable to every believer forever going forward. A Christian’s primary duty is to spread the gospel to fulfill the forever promise of God to, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” (Isaiah 9:7).
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 7 Lesson 1 Matt. 24:1-14”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 7 Lesson 1 Appendix 2”]