Great Commission is not complete: Part 3

This post is the final post of a three-post series on the topic of whether the Great Commission has already been completed, and a response to an article a friend of our ministry sent on this topic, which is found here, which is the article we’ve been using as our example of one line of thought on this topic.

One of the problems us Bible teachers have is that many times, we want the Bible to fit our narrative, rather than allowing the Bible to lead us to the place it wants to take us. This happens far too often and it’s one of the key reasons that Hermeneutics, that is the study of the principles of Biblical interpretation are so handy. One of the issues with the GCIC article is that the author does not adhere to the hermeneutical principle that as we assume the Bible is authoritative, we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Far too many assumptions are being made in an effort to get to a point. A few key examples:

In trying to make the point that the ‘end of the age’ that Jesus mentions in Mark and Matthew 13 is signified by the destruction of the temple in AD70, but clearly as we showed in the last post in this series, that is clearly not the case.

The author follows that up by stating, ‘Paul confirms the fulfillment of the Great Commission in Colossians 1:23 by claiming the Gospel “has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.” That’s a surprising claim for modern readers who mistakenly think Paul is saying every individual got a one-on-one Gospel presentation. But we must integrate it into our theology. The Apostle Paul believed that the Gospel had been heard all around the world.’ (Again, straight from the article) One of my favorite hermeneutical principals is that we must understand the Bible passage we want to interpret grammatically first before we can understand it theologically. Let’s look at Colossians 1:23 in that light and see if we can’t see what Paul is exactly writing about here.

In Colossians 1:21-23 Paul states, ‘And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creationunder heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.’ It’s verse 23 we want to focus on for our purposes today, ‘the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creationunder heaven.’ At first glance, we’d automatically say that either Paul was just flat out wrong, or there’s more to the passage since the Gospel, even in the year 2020, some 1958 years after Paul wrote Colossians, we know that there are still thousands of people groups (ἔθνος in Greek) that have not head the Gospel even once. In stating that the Gospel has been proclaimed to all creation under heaven, he is quoting Jesus who stated in Mark 16:15, that we should all ‘“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’ I contend that if we understand correctly both the grammatical tense and the origin of the quotation Paul is citing we will find that there is no hyperbole here at all.

The key phrase to examine here is ‘which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven.’ In the Greek, it’s τοῦ κηρυχθέντος ἐν πάσῃ κτίσει.  This is an Aorist passive participial phrase. This type of Aorist participle is notoriously hard to translate because it is one of the most flexible constructions in Koine Greek. This is mainly because there are several ways that the word κηρυξοντος could be translated. It could be ‘preached’ or ‘was preaching’ indicating an ongoing action. When we look at the construction of the Greek sentence here, I propose an alternative translation that brings out both the continual aspect and the passive construction leaving a translation that no longer implies that the preaching work is completed:

“This gospel that you heard, the one being preached to all creation under heaven”

Final Conclusions

We’re thankful for the opportunity to read and examine the GCIC article, and there are a couple of points that we agree with. We agree that Christians cannot ‘speed up’ the second coming of Christ by finishing the task of the Great Commission faster. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 that ‘he day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.’ We also agree with the arbitrary method that some organizations determine how many unreached and unengaged people groups there are. On the other hand, we believe that the Great Commission task has not been completed and believe that any attempt to state that there is a Biblical case that the Great Commission has already been completed just doesn’t hold up under serious examination. Whether we look at Jesus’ statement that the end will come after the Gospel is proclaimed to all people groups, or Paul’s statement that the Gospel is being preached to all creation, we are still in the midst of the ‘pre end of the age’ times, and we will not see it’s fulfillment until all the remaining 7400 people groups that are unreached and/or unengaged have faithful witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus within their midst.

We welcome any thoughts, comments or suggestions! Contact us here!

mike

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