And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
The expression, "in all the world," can only mean the "world" as men then thought of it. Our Lord's statement is verified in the fact that there was "hardly a province of the vast Roman empire in which the gospel had not been preached before the destruction of Jerusalem." The "world" is an altogether larger idea to us; but the gospel has to be preached to "all the world" as we apprehend it. The Apostle Paul uses very broad terms. He speaks of the gospel as having gone out into all the earth (Romans 10:18); as being present in all the world; and as having been preached in the hearing of every creature which is under heaven (Colossians 1:6, 23). A difficulty is suggested. These representations do not seem to match the facts in the apostolic age or in any other age. The gospel has not actually reached every part of the earth yet; and it has been effective unto the salvation of but a minority of the human race. Some have thought they could find explanation in the limitation "for a witness;" as if the conversion of "all nations" were not the design of the gospel preaching. This idea may, however, be presented in an exaggerated form. We may see the reasonable senses in which the gospel is a witness to all nations.
I. THE GOSPEL WITNESS IS A WITNESS FOR GOD. The right knowledge of God comes, always has come, always must come, by revelation. A creature, limited by the senses and sense relations, cannot reach the apprehension of unseen things without help. Such a creature, having the help of revelation, is yet constantly disposed to materialize its apprehension: this is seen in the disposition to make visible symbols of the unseen God. This tendency takes the coarser forms of idolatry, and the more refined forms of philosophy. The gospel, then, is a witness, because it is a fresh and corrective declaration of what God is, what God thinks, and what God requires.
II. THE GOSPEL WITNESS IS A WITNESS AGAINST IDOLATRY. This may be illustrated by St. Paul's work at Lystra and at Athens. Take such points as these.
1. Preach the gospel, and men see that the true God asks for love. So it witnesses against all religions of fear.
2. Preach the gospel, and men see that the true God can only be served by righteousness. So it witnesses against all immoralities of rites and ceremonies.
III. THE GOSPEL WITNESS IS A WITNESS CONCERNING MEN. Preach it, and the "thoughts of many hearts will be revealed." It will prove everywhere a "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." What is strange is that, wherever the gospel is preached, men are discovered to themselves, and know that they are sinners. That is the beginning of the gospel mission. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.