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Matthew 24:9-14 (ESV):

9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

  1. What is meant by 'all nations'?
  2. Is there room, in light of the historical evidence, to interpret this prophecy as having achieved fulfillment prior to A.D. 70?
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    (ALL NATIONS) The word "nations" in Greek is 'ethnos' from which we get "ethnic." is concerned about all ethnic groups, people created in His image! Did ethnic God groups from around the inhabitable Roman world ( Gk . "oukoumenen") hear the Gospel by 70 A.D.? The book of Acts recorded that in Jerusalem during Pentecost people were there "out of every nation under heaven"! But note the words of Paul: "Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." (Romans 10:18) "Whatever "all" and "throughout" means, it is seen as fulfilled.
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 22:14
  • @user38524-Is There Room? Not only is there room for this fulfilment by 70A.D., it is mandated by Jesus's no uncertain declarations: This generation shall not pass until... (Matthew 23 :36, 24:34). He also inserted the word, "certainly," for emphasis! So, however that Gospel was meant to be fulfilled, it had to be by 70 A.D. The statements by Paul in his letters confirm such a position. (Romans 1:8, Colossians 1:6, cf Romans 10:18)
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 21:10
  • @raygrant says "this fulfilment by 70A.D. … is mandated by Jesus's no uncertain declaration" — No it isn't. Matthew 23:36, "All these things shall come upon this generation." is talking about the Scribes and Pharisees (and presumably the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.), not about the end-times. And Matthew 24:34 "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." may be talking about the end-times, but here "this generation" refers to the generation that sees all the signs that the end-time is imminent, not to the people he his currently talking to. Commented Apr 11 at 20:29
  • @Ray Butterworth - Thank you for your response. I would merely suggest you look at the number of times Jesus used the word "YOU" in the first section...and consider the import of the contrary conjunction (peri de, Gk.) that begins the second section. Jesus's repeated emphasis of "no signs" in the second section sets it apart from the first section wherein was given several signs. The contrast is telling! Peace! Maranatha!
    – ray grant
    Commented Apr 13 at 21:05

4 Answers 4

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There are two lines of evidence to answer this question.

Acts 2

The list of nations in Acts 2:5-10 includes a list of 16 nations - all within the Roman empire at the time.

Thus, there is good evidence that the Gospel was preached within the period covered by the book of acts to the entire Roman world. Indeed, this was so effective, that Constantine became "Christian" and "conquered in the name/sign of the Cross" (how genuine his conversion was is highly questionable) and demonstrates the huge influence Christianity had on the subsequent history of the Roman empire.

History

It is quite obvious that within Acts, there is no record of the Gospel being preached in places like "Germania", India, China, Japan, southern Africa, the Americas, Russia, etc. Secular records after the time of the NT show that some of these placers needed many more centuries for the Gospel to be preached.

CONCLUSION

The answer to the OP's question is:

  • "Yes" to all the nations in the Roman Empire
  • "No" to all nations on earth
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    Good answer, although something is missing: what of the two senses (Roman Empire or the whole earth) was intended by Jesus?
    – user38524
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 22:29
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator - "whole earth" is not mentioned in the text. My personal view is that "all nations" means all nations of the world, even those outside the Roman Empire.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 22:32
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator - that is correct. God is very patient - see Matt 24:14 - the end comes only after the Gospel is preached completely.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 22:38
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    @Spirit Realm Investigator (and Dottard) So the scripture says ‘every nation’ heard the gospel (Acts 2:5) - but you don’t want to accept that? It actually says all nations under heaven!
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 4:09
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    @Dave - it doesn't say that every nation heard the gospel, it says that Jews from every nation heard it. Verse 41 says So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. If the distribution was more or less even, it means that each nation had a few hundreds. If I preach a message to 100 Chinese, does that mean that I've preached the message to the whole nation of China? If I preach something to 100 Hindus, does that mean I've preached to the whole nation of India? Are 10 Russians the same as the entire nation of Russia?
    – user38524
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 4:48
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What is meant by 'all nations'?

If one interprets it as hyperbole, it means the Roman world at that time.

Is there room, in light of the historical evidence, to interpret this prophecy as having achieved fulfillment prior to A.D. 70?

Yes.

On the other hand, if one interprets it literally, then there is a future fulfillment. Four chapters later in Matthew 28:

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This alludes to Matthew 24:

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Here the context shows that all nations is associated with the end of the age which is a future fulfillment.

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  • Interestingly enough, many Chinese-style characters (especially ones in traditional Chinese) reflect the Gospel and the Bible, if you look for it. Google Images search for "the gospel in chinese characters" This is a potential sign that, even if it didn't reach the whole world before AD 70, it probably did reach further in the Ancient and Medieval times than is commonly thought. Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 2:48
  • Right. Thanks for the link :)
    – user35953
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 14:04
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All Nations The Greek word for nations: is 'ethnon'. From which we get the word, "ethnics." This word is used throughout the N.T., especially when declaring the inclusiveness of the Gospel message, and membership in the Church. (2 Timothy 4:17 all nations should hear, Acts 2:5 people from every nation (ethnicity), Matthew 24:9 hated by all nations (ethnic groups).

As previously pointed out in other answers,, the list of people in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost, covers a wide swath of ethnic groups from all parts of the Roman Empire! These people returned to their homelands giving testimony to the dynamic Gospel of the Kingdom. This word is marturion in Greek. To give 'testimony' is to testify so that persons may get knowledge of something, knowledge that will be of benefit to them. (Thayer's Lexicon) (Compare Acts 10:34-43, 1 Timothy 2:3-7, Luke 21:13, and Acts 1:6-8 (witnesses).

Throughout the whole World The Greek word is oikoumenen, and it refers to the habitable world which was, in the New Testament era, the "entire Roman Empire." The NIV translated it as such in Luke 2:1, "taxed the entire Roman world." (Compare Roman 10:18, to the ends of the world)

{It is interesting to note that Paul also used kosmos in other verses in which he said that their faith had gone into the whole world (Romans 1:8). See also Colossians 1:6, ...the truth of the Gospel is come unto you, as it is in all the world... (kosmo). Perhaps Paul is using this word as a synonym for "all the ethnics."}

The End There is no doubt that Jesus is referring to the "end of the Jewish nation, Temple, and with that the end of the Mosaic era." Jesus had repeatedly announced the beginning of the Kingdom of God throughout His ministry. This was to replace the Old Covenant (Luke 16:16, See Hebrews 8:13 "ready to perish") Instead of Jewish exclusiveness, all nations were to be included in the Kingdom! (Romans 16:25-27, 1 Timothy 2:3-7, Acts 10:34-43)

It is important to not that the word for END used in the disciples' questioning was sunteleias (Gk.). Which is the same word Jesus used for "the Harvest time" in Matthew 13; the End of the World. But when Jesus spoke of the End in response to their question here, He just used the simple telos, which refers to any kind of minor ending: End of the Law, end of Judaism, end of sacrifices, etc.

That this End was to happen at the Destruction of the Temple in 67-70 A.D. is underscored by Jesus saying--not once, but twice--Verily, I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation (Matthew 23:36, 24:34) The word for "generation" means a "contemporary generation" of time (approximately 40 years).

And so along with the End of the Temple worship, the "Gospel had been proclaimed throughout all the Roman world (habitable land, oikoumenen)" by 70 A.D. With the old Jewish theology out of the way, this Gospel of the Kingdom has full reign with Jesus as its King of Kings!

And it must be emphasized that this Kingdom can spread unhindered and settle down anywhere because it is not a physical, territorial empire, but a Kingdom within you (Luke 17:21), a Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17) An everlasting Kingdom!

For a scholarly verse-by-verse commentary on Matthew 23-25 (the Olivet Discourse) see Raymond Grant, Times, They Are A'Changing, and Marcellus Kik, Matthew 24.

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YES - that happened immediately - the ‘day’ the ‘church’ started. Day 1. The initial ‘intent’ or audience of Matthew 24 was addressed to the Jews, who had via history been dispersed throughout all the other nations. Those ‘nations’ heard the gospel at Pentecost. On Pentecost, all [able] Jews needed to travel to Jerusalem, from every nation. So they were ‘conveniently’ present when the gospel was first preached. We read ...

ACTS 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place

And the fact that all nations were present is read a little further down...

ACTS 2:5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.

These men all heard the gospel. Men of, from all nations. Exactly as we read in Acts 2. And they returned and ‘proclaimed’ the gospels. They went back to their nations and ‘preached’ Jesus, as they had both heard, and seen evidence of while in Jerusalem.

The statement “and then the end will come” is referring to the ‘age’, the ‘age of the end’. And in the Jewish mind/thinking at that time, this ‘age’ referred to the ‘age after Torah’ - the one we are in now, the ‘age of the Gentiles’, which we call the church age, which started at Pentecost 2000 years ago, as prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24.

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  • @DaveAGE AFTER TORAH? From reading Edderscheim and other N.T. Background texts, the Jews taught of two eras: the Present age, and the age to come , which was the age of Messiah. They NEVER spoke of an "Age of Gentiles." The age of Messiah, introduced by Elijah and "birth pangs", was to be one in which the Gentiles were judged. ( Perhaps a few Gentile "God fearers" were allowed to participate in it.) They certainly did not consider a "Church age." And there never will be a Gentile Age in God's eyes since "the wall of separation" between Jew and Gentile is torn down (Eph. 2:14)
    – ray grant
    Commented May 28, 2023 at 22:14

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