CLAIM: Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Mt. 24:14). Preterists claim that the term “whole world” refers to the Roman Empire—not the entire globe. They reason that the NT authors use this expression in this way (Rom. 1:8; 10:18; 16:19; Col. 1:6, 23; Lk. 2:1). While the entire globe hasn’t been reached with the gospel, the NT authors used hyperbolic language to claim that the Roman Empire did heard about Christ. Is this a reasonable interpretation of this passage?
RESPONSE: We are certainly open to biblical authors using hyperbole. However, this isn’t an appropriate case of hyperbole.
First, the context for “the end” is Matthew 24:3. There we read that Jesus was answering when “the end of the age” would occur. Thus when Jesus says, “And then the end will come” (v.14), he is thinking of the end of human history.
Second, the expression “all the nations” is used in Matthew 28:19. There, the same expression refers to the entire globe. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Mt. 28:19). This is, of course, global and not local.
Third, while the expression “whole world” sometimes refers to the Roman Empire, it also sometimes refers to the entire globe. Thus we need to use discernment to be sure which usage Jesus has in mind here. Literally, the expression “whole world” means “the inhabited earth.” Futurist Thomas Ice writes,
The word is a compound of the usual term for ‘world’ (kosmos) with the addition of a prefix from oikos, which means ‘house,’ thus the ‘inhabited’ or ‘lived-in’ part of the world. The inhabited world could refer to the Roman Empire, if supported by the context (for example, Luke 2:1), for Roman arrogance thought that nothing of significance existed outside of their realm. However, Acts 17:31 is surely speaking about the whole globe, for no individual will escape God’s judgment.
Fourth, Romans 10:18 and 16:19 really do not support the Preterist view. Romans 10:18 cites Psalm 19 which was written 1,000 years before Paul. Romans 16:19 refers to the church—not the world being evangelized.
Fifth, Romans 1:8, Colossians 1:6, and Colossians 1:23 refer to the gospel SPREADING, rather than REACHING the entire world. Ice writes, “Paul uses the Greek preposition “in” (en) in all three passages…. As a dative of sphere, telling us ‘the sphere or realm in which the word to which it is related takes place or exists.’”
 Ice, Thomas, and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation, past or Future?: Two Evangelicals Debate the Question. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999. 133.
 Ice, Thomas, and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation, past or Future?: Two Evangelicals Debate the Question. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999. 134.