THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION
Larry Ray Hafley
From Illinois: "Col. 1:2,x-Matt. 24:14-Matthew says when this gospel is preached in all the world then shall the end come. In Colossians 1:23, the last part of the verse says, and which was preached to every creature.' Now, isn't this a contradiction?"
Our querist presents a logical question based on his view of Matthew 24. The Lord specifically says the end shall come when the gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the world (Matt: 24:14). Colossians 1:23 expressly says the gospel "was preached to every creature." So, if the end has not come, this is a contradiction, and what is equally as bad, the promise of the Lord failed, and Jesus taught falsely.
A note of caution is in order. We should not be so quick to charge the Bible with contradiction or the Lord with error. Whenever we see an apparent mistake, let us examine ourselves; let us be quick to charge ourselves with misunderstanding, but let us be slow to point an accusing finger at the very word of God! When one who reverences the word of the Lord sees an apparent conflict, he will immediately inventory his own interpretation. Instead of challenging the Bible, he will automatically assume that he, and not the word of God, is in error.
Our querist's confusion is a direct result of his misunderstanding of "the end" spoken of in Matthew 24:14. He fancies "the end" to be the end of the earth, the universe, the world, when the Lord shall come, the dead shall be raised, judged and receive reward or retribution. As stated above, with this view his question is natural.
What, then, is "the end" if it does not refer to the second coming of Christ and the end 'of the world? The disciples did not know the true nature of the kingdom of God. They looked for a royal, regal ruler of temporal might and majesty (Jn. 6:14, 15; Matt. 16:21-23; Acts 1:6). This can be seen from the fact that the apostles vied for positions of prestige in the kingdom (Lk. 22:24). This they would do only as they conceived of a material kingdom of worldly pomp and power (Matt. 20:20-28). When, therefore the Lord spoke to them of the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:1, 2), they thought he referred to his second, judgmental coming, for to them the destruction of the temple was equated with the end of this present order. Wesley says in concurring fashion, "The disciples inquire confusedly, (1) Concerning the time of the destruction of the temple; (2) Concerning the signs of Christ's coming, and of the end of the world, as if they imagined these two were the same thing."
"How often have prophetic teachers . . . insisted that the end of the world would come after the Gospel has been preached as a witness to all nations. In saying this they have wrenched the verse out of its context. We see in the passage that Christ indicates no change of subject; he is still answering the disciples' question as to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. And the verses that follow (15-21) show that he is speaking of an event in the locality of Judea. In other words, he is not speaking of the end of the world" J. Marcellus Kik, Matthew XXIV, p. 41).
In verse 34 of Matthew 24, the Lord says of the events of Matthew 24:2-33, "This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled." Thus, whatever was contemplated, it cannot refer to anything in our day or anytime beyond that generation. Compare Matthew 23:36, "All these things shall come upon this generation." Significantly, the gospel was preached "in all the world" in their generation (Col. 1:6, 23; Rom. 10:18). The destruction of Jerusalem and the demolition of the temple occurred in their generation. Their house, said the Lord, was to be left unto them desolate (Matt. 23:38). The temple was to be totally destroyed (Matt. 24:2). This was accomplished in A. D. 70 with the devouring of Jerusalem by the Roman armies under Titus. It was achieved after the gospel had been preached in all the world, just as the Lord said it would be.
Truth Magazine XIX: 45, p. 706