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Concerning the end of the world and when this will happen Mark 13:10 says:

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (NIV)

Has the gospel been preached to all nations?

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    Nations like China and Iran still don't have Christianity flowing through them. I would probably suggest it hasn't yet.
    – Matt
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 18:50
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    Primarily opinion-based.
    – Double U
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 19:00
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    In terms of Bible translations, only about 300 million people in the world speak a language in which the Bible has not been translated at least in part. That is less than 5% of the world's population. So, I would say every nation has been reached, but not every tribe or tongue, at least not yet.
    – Narnian
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 18:55
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    @Narnian,With the technology we have available etc,If you take an educated guess,how long would you think before every tribe and language hear the gospel? 5,10,20, 40, 50 years?
    – 77 Clash
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 19:13
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    @77Clash I would estimate at least by the end of this century. See answer here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/16150/…
    – Narnian
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 20:24

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No.

The word translated 'nations' is ἔθνος (ethnos), from which we derive the word 'ethnic'. It is talking about ethnic communities, which we might call people groups today, not political states.

The Joshua Project estimates that there are 16,825 people groups in the word. Of those, 7,287 are unreached, by which they mean "less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Christian Adherents". Because there are so few Christians in an unreached people group they will struggle to evangelise their own group with the gospel, which means many Christians believe they need outside missionary help. This represents 2.91 billion people.

The International Mission Board estimates there are 2,945 unengaged people groups. An unengaged people group is one where there are no Christian in the group, and no plan for anyone to take the gospel to them. They estimate there are over 190 million people in unengaged people groups.

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  • I like International Mission Board's definition of "unreached" a lot better than Joshua Project's. The latter seem to be creating definitions of reached and unreached totally out of thin air.
    – user1160
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 3:36
  • They look the same to me? JP: "The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Christian Adherents." IMB: "A people group is unreached when the number of Evangelical Christians is less than 2% of its population."
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 3:40
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    I think they're reasonable definitions. Would you call the Bengali Shaikh people reached if they had 1 Christian out of 218 million? 10 Christians? 1000? 1 million? This is a huge people group and they live in a large area, so even if there were 1 million Christians it is likely that many of the remaining 217 million people wouldn't have any contact with them. 2% is arbitrary, but it's a good approximation of how big a Christian community needs to be in order to be a significant rather than an insignificant minority.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 3:51
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    Yes but that's really exactly the point. Evangelisation always needs to keep happening. The issue is whether a people group needs a lot of help or not. Because people from the same group are usually more effective evangelists and because there are only limited resources it is wise for us to send missionaries to those who need it most. These mission agencies use these definitions of reached and unengaged to help them strategise how to use their resources (people and money) most effectively so that every person on the planet will hear the gospel, whether through a local preacher or a missionary.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 4:18
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    If you'd said that I would have agreed! Yes they made up a definition, and it's a very useful one for what they do. And personally, it's a useful definition for me too - I pray regularly using the Joshua Project's Unreached People Group of the Day app.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 4:22
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I believe this was fulfilled. In Col. 1:23, the apostle Paul wrote,

If you remain in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached among every creature which is under heaven, of which, I Paul, was made a minister

εἴγε ἐπιμένετε τῇ πίστει τεθεμελιωμένοι καὶ ἑδραῖοι καὶ μὴ μετακινούμενοι ἀπὸ τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ εὐαγγελίου οὗ ἠκούσατε τοῦ κηρυχθέντος ἐν πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει τῇ ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν οὗ ἐγενόμην ἐγὼ Παῦλος διάκονος

At least, if you choose to believe it was fulfilled, you have a biblical justification for doing so.

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  • And yet, if it had already been preached to every creature, why did Paul need to be made a servant for it? This is probably more of a question for the Hermeneutics site, but I wonder what 'preached' in this verse really refers to? I suspect its more talking about the event of the resurrection than evangelism.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 3:12
  • What Mark 13:10 says, followed by what Mark 16:15 says, is the same thing that Paul said occurred (past tense) in Col. 1:23. "Every creature" simply means "among all the nations." I mean, if Paul declared that the gospel had been preached among every creature, doesn't that include every nation? :) There's no way around it. :)
    – user900
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 3:26
  • But sometimes the same words are used in different ways, such as the supposed conflict between Paul and James. I don't dispute that the same words are used here, but I do wonder if Mark and Paul mean different things by them. I think it's fair to ask what Paul means because we know that he didn't preach the gospel in Australia or the Americas...
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 3:30
  • See also 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."
    – user900
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 3:33
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    I don't think "I believe..." makes for a very good answer here.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 20:06
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+100

Colossians 1:23 is translated in the NIV and several other translations as follows…” proclaimed”… “under heaven”. Paul may have been referring to the gospel in the stars. The zodiac has been found in some ancient Hebrew temples, and would have been a great mnemonic for recalling the Biblical message at a time when the written word was expensive and sparsely available. The stars are available everywhere, although different in the northern and southern hemispheres. Explanation of the meaning of the constellations would still be required even if they could be seen everywhere.

I think there is general agreement on terms. Preaching the gospel can be verbal and does not require the Bible to be published in every language and dialect. Mark 13:10 was a command to the apostles decades before the gospel first appeared in written form. The apostles did not understand this command to mean 'published', or they would have rushed out and written a gospel immediately. 'Nations' is to be read as understood in the first century: as ethnic groups, not as political entities, and presumably not as individual towns or local communities.

Colossians 1:23 says the gospel has been preached all over the world, to everyone under heaven, but clearly this was not yet true, because the author of Colossians was only aware of the Mediterranean/Near Eastern world. The author of Colossians tells us that the gospel had been preached to all nations within that geographically limited world, so his is the meaning I would use for 'preach'.

The Joshua Project shows numerous communities as 'unreached' even in Europe, United States and Australia (including two of Australia's biggest cities). The Joshua Project definition of unreached can not mean that there are so many places where the gospel has never been preached, even if only on a street corner or in a house. The International Mission Board estimates are likewise measures of success, not of preaching. I do not see in Jesus' statement in Mark 13:10, a command to the apostles to preach to all nations, that the gospel must be accepted and believed by a substantial proportion of each ethnic group. It seems that Jesus' command is fulfilled by having preached the gospel, even if people choose not to believe.

Colossians tells us that the gospel had been preached all over the Mediterranean/Near Eastern world by around the middle of the first century, although we know the great majority of people had never personally heard the gospel. By the same standard, the gospel has now been preached all over the entire world.

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  • I think you're right that Mark 13:10 doesn't suggest that people much accept the gospel in every ethnic group, but I'd note that the IMB's "unengaged" definition is exactly about ethnic groups which it is believed that no one has ever preached the gospel to.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 0:06
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    @curiousdannii I take your point and credit you with finding this reference in the first place, but see this definition differently: "A people group is engaged when a church planting strategy, consistent with Evangelical faith and practice, is underway". /cont Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 0:43
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    ... cont/ 1) "A church planting strategy" is (to me) a step beyond having preached to a nation; such a strategy implies a) that the gospel has been preached; b) that there is enough interest (success) to develop this strategy. 2) "Consistent with Evangelical faith and practice" is restrictive - it would mean, for example, that many South American communities, being entirely Roman Catholic, would be judged "unreached." 3) There seems to be an emphasis on local community (people groups), which is fine for the IMB strategy, but here we are talking "nations." Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 0:45
  • Yeah the evangelical requirement is stricter than it should be. But I think their definition of ethnic people groups is still appropriate.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 2:41
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Prominent dispensationalist John MacArthur understands this passage to be a prophecy that will be fulfilled in the future, but not primarily through the church's work of evangelism. Instead, his literal approach to Revelation indicates to him that immediately prior to the outpouring of the bowl judgments (Revelation 16), God will send an angel to "supernaturally present the gospel to every person on earth":

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6–7, ESV)

MacArthur argues:

That will be the final and total evangelization of the world, miraculously proclaimed from heaven. After that proclamation man's day will be finished [...] and his opportunity for salvation will be over.


MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Matthew 24:14

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  • Revelation 5:9-would appear to be saying that it is not only Nations that have been reached! New International Version: And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every TRIBE and LANGUAGE and PEOPLE and NATION.This happens before Revelation 14:6-7
    – 77 Clash
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 15:15
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While word translated 'nations' is ἔθνος (ethnos) is the word from which we derive the word 'ethnic', according to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, this word is defined as "body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions", the Lexicon tells us it should be translated as Nation or People in this context (it can also be translated as Gentiles) and the majority of the translations cited are "Nation".

Strong's Concordance agrees and records that this word is translated as "nation" or "nations" 67 times and "people" or "pagans" only 3 times.

Operating under the assumption that the translators knew what they were doing and translated this correctly, yes - the Gospel has been preached to every nation.

The Jesus Film Project reports

The film has been seen in every country of the world and translated into hundreds of languages since its initial release in 1979.

Through use by The JESUS Film Project, and more than 1,500 Christian agencies, this powerful film has had several billion viewings worldwide since 1979. On top of that, the great majority of those heard the story of Jesus in a language they easily understand.

As a result, more than More than 200 million people have indicated decisions to accept Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.

This film depicts the life, ministry and death of Jesus - the Gospel.

According to the project, the film is available in 1390 languages (currently) with more added every year. A complete list can be found here.

Because the film has been shown in every country in the world, the Gospel has therefore been preached to every nation.

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  • -1 Nation != nation state. The idea of a nation state/country did not exist in the time of the NT, so it couldn't possibly be what the verse is referring to.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 10:53
  • If the idea did not exist then, it certainly does now. Yet the translators still choose to translate as "Nation" and not "Nation State". As I said, I am presuming for the sake of this answer that they knew what they were doing. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 15:20
  • But that's exactly my point. They translated it as "nation" - ie the 16 thousand or so ethnic people groups, not the 206 sovereign states. So while the Jesus film is definitely widely disseminated, its being shown in every country doesn't mean that it's been shown to every nation.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 15:30
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No. According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature,

One valid translation of this word is "Gentile" and Strong's Concordance records that it is translated this way in 93 of 163 appearances. Threfore, this word should more likely be translated as Gentile.

Since the Gospel has not been preached to every Gentile, the requirement of Mark 13:10 has not been filled.

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Before even trying to unravel the mystery behind Jesus statement in Mark 13:10 we need to first determine just what and who Jesus meant. The two key words here are published and nations.

King James translation

Mark 13:10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations.

Greek Orthodox

10 καὶ εἰς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη δεῖ πρῶτον ι κηρυχθῆνα τὸ εὐαγγέλιον.

Definitions of the Greek words:

  1. ἔθνος

ethnos (eth'-nos) n.

  1. a race (as of the same habit), i.e. a tribe

  2. (specially) a foreign (non-Jewish) one, Gentiles

  3. (usually, by implication) pagan

KJV: Gentile, heathen, nation, people

  1. κηρύσσω

kerusso (kay-roos'-so) v.

  1. to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel)

KJV: preacher(-er), proclaim, publish

Since Jesus spoke Aramaic and the Gospels were written in Greek we can not know for certainty these are accurate meanings, but since Greek is a verb oriented language, the meanings must be very near exact.

So We can say with assurance that what Jesus was saying is that the Gospel must be proclaimed to all tribes, which also would be all languages.

So how many languages are there?

Ethnologue (published by SIL International), whose detailed classified list as of 2009 included 6,909 distinct languages.

Much pioneering work in documenting the languages of the world has been done by missionary organizations (such as the Summer Institute of Linguistics, now known as SIL International) with an interest in translating the Christian Bible. As of 2009, at least a portion of the bible had been translated into 2,508 different languages, still a long way short of full coverage.

I may be wrong, but as I see it that Scripture will be fulfilled when the Bible is translated into all those languages and presented to them.

Much translation has been done since 2009, but I am unsure how many are left to be translated and published.

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  • Beckham,so are you saying that the word has not been preached to all nations?
    – 77 Clash
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 20:53
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    @ 77 Clash you are misreading Mark 13:10 it does not say "preached" it says κηρύσσω which is more accurately translated"published" than preached. I do not know which Jesus was referring too, but the list of languages I referred to was compiled by Missionaries and since they are in the business of spreading the Gospel I am inclined to believe that they preached it as they were compiling the list. As I said I may be wrong but that is my belief. anyone is welcome to either disagree or agree as they are led.
    – BYE
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 21:53
  • Beckham,I see what you mean.I think the internet will be a "big player."
    – 77 Clash
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 22:26
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    κηρύσσω and εὐαγγελίζω. Both can be translated and understood as "preached," as in orally proclaimed. κηρύσσω emphasizes the action (proclaimed), while εὐαγγελίζω emphasizes the object (what is proclaimed), that being, good news. Matt 3:1 - In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea. You're not trying to tell me that John was publishing scrolls in the wilderness of Judaea, are you???
    – user900
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 22:40
  • @ H3br3wHamm3r81 Of course not my point is that that word in most of Mark, Matthew and Luke, is translated preached and here it is curiously translated published. In some other translations it is even translated as proclaimed, and given in Mark 13:10. I was as I noted giving my PERSONAL opinion and not trying to force it on anyone.
    – BYE
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 23:15
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Colossians 1:6 (GOD'S WORD® Translation)

This Good News is present with you now. It is producing results and spreading all over the world as it did among you from the first day you heard it.

Colossians 1:23 (New Living Translation)

The Good News has been preached all over the world

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    @curiousdannii excuse me. 61AD was a reference to Paul, 84 NIV Referencere says he wrote Colossians in about 60AD. But if you want to get technical only Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Galatians are UNDISPUTED Paul epistles, called Hauptebriefe. Next time edit it out if you dont like it. Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 2:32
  • I didn't dislike it, I just didn't know what you were referring to. I wondered if there was some event that happened then.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 2:35
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Not all Christians agree on what it means to "preach the Gospel."

It is an opinion - I am not sure whether dogma - within the Orthodox Church that the the Gospel can be proclaimed only by the Church and not by heretical sects, since otherwise not the true Gospel (capital "G") would be preached, but rather some other "gospel" (viz. Galatians 1:8, 2 Corinthians 11:14). Therefore, the opinion is that those who receive the Gospel only properly receive it when it is preached to them by the Orthodox Church. Since Eastern Orthodoxy has not yet reached the entire world, it follows from the above opinion that the Gospel has not, in fact, been preached to all nations.

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Other answers scope this prophecy to political entities (actual nations), ethnic groups, or collections of people distinct by a combination of factors such as language, geography, political isolation, etc. that impose barriers to communicating the gospel. The definition is important to the implementation of the evangelistic project, but not the answer. Peoples rise and fall. Nations come into being and are overthrown. Languages split into dialects or are extinguished when nobody speaks them any more. The honest answer is that we don't know if there are new people groups, however defined, that will form in the future. If so, then the gospel has not reached all peoples yet.

Many theories of eschatology posit that a one-world government will arise in the end times, with Behemoth and Leviathan and their confederate nations dominating the planet. The conformity imposed by such a system may be the force that stops new people groups from forming and destroys all distinctions but two: the lost and the saved. New languages will not be tolerated, nor any religion but that of the Beast.

Absent an overwhelming power that prevents diversity, the prophecy cannot be fulfilled. That time will come, but has not yet arrived.

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