Uttermost Parts of the Planet?

A commonly quoted verse used to instruct (command) Christians to go to all the nations of the world with the message of the Kingdom is Acts 1:8.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [NKJV]

Every translation at Bible Gateway translates "γῆ" or "ge" as either "earth" or "world." But is that correct? Now, depending on context, as in English, some Greek words can have different implications (see below for another possible implication). But does the context of Acts 1 demand we use "earth?"

Let's look at the verse in context:

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8)

 Before we explore the implications, let's look at how "ge" is understood during the Lord's ministry.

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

“Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

(Matthew 2:6, 20-21)

Applying this to the instructions to the future 12 rulers over Israel (who are instructed in Matthew 10 to not preach the kingdom outside of Israel) in Acts 1, we now get:

 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the land.”

This limits their ministry to the land of Israel. This is consistent with their calling as "apostles to the circumcision" (Gal 3) and a continuation of the Lord's command to "not go into the way of the Gentiles" in Matthew 10. We have looked at their ministry in the Acts elsewhere. Suffice it to say, they never went to Gentiles (save Peter, once) and we no reason to believe that before the revelation of the current dispensation to Paul (Eph) they ever left Palestine.

And I know of no one who argues they ever came close  to visiting every part of the planet. Would Rome be the "uttermost" part of earth? Even Paul desired (and may have gone) far beyond that to Spain. Yet we have no reliable witness of any of the 12 going beyond Israel. Again, after Paul's revelation, they may have gone to nearby regions, but certainly never to the "uttermost parts of the earth."

"Uttermost" is translated from the Greek word " ἐσχάτου." Strong's definition has in part, "properly, last, final (the furthest, extreme-end)." Even if we believe Peter got to Rome, how is that "the extreme end" of the earth? The excuse is given that the reference is to "the known world," but that does more violence to "the end of the earth" than limiting them to Israel and "the end of the land."

A common practice among Christians is to wantonly replace Jerusalem with their hometown without cause. We hear things like "Chicago is my Jerusalem." But even if we allowed such violence to scripture, do these people go to "the end of the earth?" Even if they become missionaries to Guatemala, is that the end of the earth (the "extreme -end") from Chicago? Allowing that the verse even states "end of the earth" (and not the land), how do we take it away from those to whom it was given?

Looking back at the so-called "Great Commision" in Matthew 28, how many "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations?" Most never make any attempt to leave their hometowns. 

Once we allegorize something, especially out of its context, we destroy scripture and it can then mean anything. "Jerusalem" ends up meaning any city. "Ends of the earth" becomes hosting a "revival." Etc. This does violence to the Word and is a hindrance to interpretation, the right division of the Word.

I believe Acts 1:8 and the "Great Commission" of Matthew 28 were both given to same group, the 11 (12) Apostles of the Lamb. We have no right to claim these. And for those who do, you might want to read the details and examine if you are actually obeying. 

More context for Acts 1:8

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” -Acts 1:4-5
So, I can plug in any city here as well? If so, how do I know which city to plug in? No, he commanded THEM (the 11) to wait in Jerusalem. This, after 40 days teaching them about "the kingdom of God." And that message of the Kingdom is very different than the message we have today. For theirs concerned the establishment of the promised kingdom in Israel.

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” - Acts 1:6

To believe the kingdom they were taught  is what we preach today is to believe that the enlightened, chosen apostles of the Lamb spent 40 days with the risen Lord learning about the Kingdom of God and somehow got it very wrong. Let's not slander them this way.

Also note, there was still an Israel.


We offer one alternative to the idea of the witness of the 12 going to all the nations in all the Earth. 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matt 24:14
The Lord could very well be referring to the ministry of the 12 during the millennium wherein israel shall serve as priests and witnesses to the nations. Not the timing. This is just before the end of an age (world). It is during the time of Jacob's Trouble (the Great Tribulation).

This is reflected in the so-called "Great Commission" of Matthew 28.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Again, we see "the end of the age" in view. And although "all authority on heaven and Earth" had just been given to the Lord Jesus Christ, all things were not yet under his feet.

For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. -Heb 2:8

So, whereas there is nothing left not subject to him (his authority), we do not see it in practice. More specifically, they did not see it in the Acts Age at the time of the writing of Hebrews. These were people waiting for the Great Tribulation. Although all things were under his authority, some would still have to die (Matthew 24). The gospel of the kingdom (Israel's Kingdom) would be declared during that time and certainly in the millennium.

This is the hope for which Paul was a prisoner. The hope for which he was in chains in the Acts Age (Acts 26, 28, etc.)




Comments