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THE GOSPEL AND THE WORLD

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  March 8, 2012 — 6 Comments

As a preteristic postmillennialist, I believe that the first portion of the Lord’s Olivet Discourse deals with the approaching destruction of the temple in AD 70. Consequently, the future “great tribulation,” does not encumber the postmillennialist’s optimistic outlook on the historical long run.

But why do I believe this? Why do I believe the tribulation transpires in the first century? Why do I not believe this was a prophecy of the coming of the Jack Van Impe Ministries International?

I do this for two very basic reasons: (1) The Discourse starts with a question regarding Christ’s prophecy of the destruction (Matt 24:2–3). And Jesus ends that section of the discourse with the declaration that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34). This is all clear enough.

However, a problem arises. How are we to understand Christ’s statement that the gospel was to be preached in all the world as a witness? “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matt 24:14). This looks like a formidable objection against a first-century fulfillment. But looks are deceiving.

First, the meaning of the word “world” (oikuemene) here does not necessarily refer to the entire planet. We may glean many examples of a more restricted meaning from various Scriptures. For instance, in Acts 24:5 Paul causes dissension among the Jews “throughout the whole world.” Surely this means their world, the world of their lives and experience, the Roman empire. It says nothing about how the Jews living in Antarctica at the time were responding to Paul’s teaching. Nor those in Cleveland.

Second, even more significantly Lthe New Testament informs us that the gospel is preached throughout the entire known world of that day: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Rom 1:8; cp. Col 1:6, 23). This is precisely what Jesus prophesied around AD 30 in his Olivet Discourse.

Thus, in the Olivet Discourse Jesus simply states that the gospel will be preached in the entire known world of that day before these events reach their climax. The preterist-postmillennial position holds its own against this objection. An important consequence of this careful exegetical analysis is: we no longer have to believe that Matt 24:14 was a prophecy of the coming of the Jack Van Impe International Ministries.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

6 responses to THE GOSPEL AND THE WORLD

  1. Bob Vigneault March 8, 2012 at 6:30

    Jews in Cleveland??? Obviously, Kenneth, you’re referring to the obscure legend that after John the Baptizer uttered his rebuke to the Pharisees that “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” he proceeded to do so. Those jews, it is said, did indeed emigrate and settled in Cleveland, Ohio shortly Before Jerusalem Fell.

    Strange, Jack Van Impe has never mentioned this legend.

    Thank you for the article sir.

  2. Blaine K. Newton March 8, 2012 at 6:30

    First of all, I guess it’s good that we have now officially been able to dispense with the JVI International Ministries. :p This passage proves how our earlier conditioning from other schools of thought can get in the way of how words are used.

    In debates between Ken Gentry vs. Tommy Ice and Gary DeMar vs. Tommy Ice, Dr. Ice’s objections to the preterist interpretation was that it puts the cart before the horse. That is, the “this generation” in Matt. 24:34 must be governmed by the evidence that are described in the portions preceeding it, and since (according to Ice) ALL those things hadn’t taken place, therefore, vs. 34 can’t refer to the generation then living.

    Another one of the sticking points in the debates from Ice seemed to be Matt. 23:39:

    Matt 23:39 – For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”

    So, if you haven’t already, you may want to clarify the interpretation of this particular verse, too, since it seems to play such a major role in the opponents scheme and their opposition to the preterist interpretation of the Matt. 24 passage.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. March 9, 2012 at 6:30

      Blaine:
      I dealt with the Matt 23:39 on Feb 16 in an article titled: “Matthew 23:39 and Preteristic Postmillennialism.”

  3. JVI – how is he relevant/ worth mentioning? Van means “from” and Impe means _______? The only reason he’s still on TV is ROXELLA needs a new pair of shoes. Is there a better example of isogesis than JVI reading the newspaper and patronistically interpreting The Holy Bible, and end times, in light of current events?

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. March 13, 2012 at 6:30

      If Van Impe were to leave television the men’s hair spray market would collapse, leading to further unemployment.

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