Monday, April 1, 2013

Prerequisite for the End: The Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world!

Friends,

The most important prerequisite for the second coming of Christ to happen is specified by Jesus is:

Mat 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

As of March, 2012, the world population is approximately 7.075 billion, of which Christians are supposed to be 33.32%. Which means there are 66.68% people to whom the gospel has not reached.

Given this statistics, if I were to tell you that the gospel has been preached to the whole world within the first century itself, I am sure you will search craigslist for the mental hospitals near Bangalore so that I can get some immediate psychiatric attention.

Most of the Christian theologians and preachers would ask you to "just look around" to realize that the gospel has not reached to the whole world.

If "just look around" is the basis of our faith, do we see God by just looking around? Do we realize that Christ is the savior of the world by just looking around? When have Christians started living by what is seen and observed?
2Co 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight:
All these "just look around" parties claim themselves to be believers in Sola scriptura ("by scripture alone", one of the basic principles of the Protestant movement). When have Protestants started looking around, leaving alone the 5 Solas of Protestantism?

If you hold the scriptures as the basis of your faith (Sola Scriptura):

Apostle Paul, who did more evangelizing than any other apostle, unambiguously states that the gospel has already been preached in the whole world even as he was writing his epistles.
Rom 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
Rom 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
There is no scope for any doubt, because Paul says that the sound of the gospel preachers went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

Additional witness:

Moses, Jesus and Paul said that any matter should be settled by the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses: Deu 19:15, Mat 18:16, 2Co 13:1. So, here is the second witness.
Col 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;
You may be able to cherry pick a version that present this verse in present tense or present continuous tense, but a vast majority of standard translations render this verse in past (gospel ... which was preached) or present perfect tense (gospel ... which has been preached).

If you adhere to the principle of Sola scriptura ("by scripture alone"), there is no way to escape or deny Paul's affirmation that the gospel reached its intended audience by the time he wrote the epistles to Romans and Colossians, probably, between 55 and 58 AD.

That which is written is written and we have to find answers within the written word (1Cor 4:6,  2Pe 1:20).

Can gospel be preached to "every creature"?

Mar 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature
While Jesus said this, could He have meant that the gospel should literally be preached to every creature, including animals, birds, insects and rodents?

While Paul said in Col 1:23 that gospel has been preached to every creature under heaven, did he mean that he and the other disciples were preaching to animals, birds, insects and rodents? I don't think the names mentioned by Paul like Timothy, Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus,Aquila and Priscilla are of some sort of rodents or insects.

Do literalists preach to insects and rodents? Leave alone the past 2000+ years, even if they were given another 2 billion years will they be able to preach to every creature?

If Jesus literally meant that the gospel should be preached to each individual human being on this planet why did he tell his disciples:
"whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet"? (Mat 10:14)
Remember, Jesus said this while sending them out on the apostolic mission for the first time.

Even in Mat 24:14 Jesus did not tell that the gospel should be preached to each individual person on this planet, all that He said was that the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness (testimony) unto all nations.


Reading Rom 10:18 in context.

Start reading the chapter from the beginning:
Rom 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
Even the chapter ends with a reference to Israel.
Rom 10:21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people
Even the preceding and the succeeding chapters are about the salvation of Israel.

The scripture that immediately follows Rom 10:18 is about Israel.

Rom 10:19 But I say, Did not Israel know?...
The context is abundantly clear, while Paul said that the sound and words of the preachers went into all the earth and the ends of the world (Rom 10:18), it simply meant that the gospel was preached wherever the children of Israel are there, for a testimony. (Mat 24:14)


Historical Evidence

Extensive historical records of the apostolic travels are not available (except for apostle Paul). There are evidences that apostles Bartholomew and Thomas traveled to India.

Early church father Eusebius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History (v §10) states that after the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India, where he left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. (See Wikipedia).

Early church historian Jerome also confirms that Bartholomew did travel in India. Jerome says: In India Pantaenus (another missionary) found that Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, had preached the advent of Lord Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew, and on his return to Alexandria he brought this with him written in Hebrew characters...

It is believed that Bartholomew initially preached the gospel to the Jewish diaspora in Gujarat and the north east provinces of India.

There is hardly any reason to think that it is a coincidence that Apostle Thomas disembarked at Kodungallur (in present day Kerala state of India) which is close to the Jewish settlements in North Paravoor and Mattancherry.

Though many detractors of Christian faith deny that Thomas ever came to India, Eusebius refers to the presence of Thomas in India: “He (Jesus) was present in all places with Thomas in India, with Peter in Rome, with Paul in Illyria, with Titus in Crete, Andrew in Greece, with each apostle and apostolic man in his own separate region 


Though it was initially believed that Thomas preached to 7 upper caste Hindu families in Kerala, recent studies prove that those families were Jews, thought to be upper caste Hindus because of their unusual dressing style and ornaments. Anyway, those 7 families accepted Christianity and are part of Syrian Catholic Church (the community in which I am born).


Conclusion:
  1. No matter what detractors of Fulfilled Eschatology would say, there are scriptures that prove that the gospel was full preached to the intended audience in the first century itself (Rom 10:18, Col 1:23). There are other scriptures as well.
  2. Jesus did not tell that the gospel has to be preached to every creature before the end can happen, all that He said was it was to be preached for a testimony (Mat 24:14).
  3. Extensive research may prove that the apostles initially traveled to climes where there are Jewish diaspora and preached to them.
  4. Personal opinions and looking around are not sufficient to reject scriptural affirmation.
Unlike the views of the detractors, fulfilled eschatology does not rest on a couple of scriptures, its foundations are on a wide spectrum of scriptures and historical evidences.

In the next installment we will see the meaning and scope of the word "world".

Yours in Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal

NB: I may embellish this post as I find more historical evidences.