Paul said that the gospel had been proclaimed to everyone in the world (Col. 1:23). How was that possible two thousand years ago?
Jesus had prophesied that the gospel would be proclaimed throughout the whole world in the almost four decades between his death and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in AD 70 (Matt. 24:14; cf. 24:1-34).
About a little more than a decade before Rome sacked Jerusalem, Paul wrote letters to the churches at Rome, Colossae, and Thessalonica stating that the gospel had in fact been proclaimed to all creation (Rom. 10:18; Col. 1:5-6, 23; 1 Thess. 1:8).
How was that possible without the use of airplanes, Internet, telephones, trains, automobiles, etc.? Consider Acts 19:9-10, which states that Paul and other Christians “reasoned daily…for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”
Asia – Asia Minor, now modern-day Turkey, Iran, and Iraq – was an area around the size of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma combined. It took only two years of daily evangelistic efforts by not only him but all the other disciples in his area to bring the gospel to everyone living in that large area.
The first church of Christ in Jerusalem started by growing from 120 to 3,000 in one day (Acts 2:41). It then grew every single day (Acts 2:47) so that the number soon rose to 5,000 (Acts 4:4). It continued to “multiply” (Acts 6:6). Even after persecution caused it to scatter (Acts 8:1), the church as a whole in that region again “multiplied” (Acts 9:31). A little over a decade later, the Jerusalem church was said to once again have “thousands” of believers (Acts 21:20). Why? Because all of them went around telling others about Jesus (Acts 8:4).
All of them were involved in evangelism, not just a select few (Acts 8:4). In some form or fashion, using whatever abilities and talents God had given them (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:14-27; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), all of them were involved in the work of evangelism…and the church grew as a result (Eph. 4:15-16). Not only that, but the gospel spread very far geographically in a relatively short period of time as Christians talked to everyone they knew about Jesus, converted more Christians, and then those Christians talked to everyone they knew about Jesus, converted more Christians, and then those Christians continued to do the same…
Do the math. If every single member of a congregation of 125 Christians brings the gospel to just two different souls each week, 250 different people would receive the gospel by the end of the week. If this is done every week for one year, then 13,000 people would get the gospel. 65,000 by five years. 130,000 by ten years. 325,000 by 25 years…if only 125 Christians shared the gospel with two different people each week.
What would happen if 125 Christians shared the gospel with five different people each week for 25 years? (812,500) Ten different people each week for 25 years? (1,625,000) And then add to that formula the fact that conversions would be happening (1 Cor. 3:6), and those new converts would also be talking to others about Christ (1 Tim. 2:2). Can you see how the early church could easily reach the whole world with the gospel in almost 40 years?
Remember something else also. We read that the evangelist Philip was “carried away” by the Holy Spirit after baptizing the Ethiopian in the desert, and “found himself” at a different place where he then started preaching the gospel again (Acts 8:39-40). This could mean that God miraculously transported Philip from one place to another. Thus, the possibility exists that during the first century God could have miraculously provided travel assistance to Christians in their efforts to reach the whole world with the gospel.
So who is to say that God did not miraculously bring first century Christian evangelists to mission fields on this planet far from Israel and Rome during the almost 40 years between Jesus’ death and Jerusalem’s destruction? It is not out of the question, considering we see how He helped Philip.
Matthew traveled to Ethiopia before he was killed in AD 60. Mark was burned in Egypt. Jude was crucified in Iraq in AD 72. Bartholomew was said to travel to “heathen nations” (possibly the Orient) before being killed by the sword or by clubs. Thomas went to India before being killed there by a spear. Simon the Zealot, it was said, traveled to parts of Africa and even to Britain before being killed by pagans in AD 74.
It is certainly possible that these Christians who traveled to far away places converted others, who themselves traveled to other places and preached to others, who in turn did the same…in the process covering the entire globe with the good news as the New Testament said took place.
With our modern means of travel (cars, airplanes) and communication (the Internet)…what are we doing to bring the gospel to as many people as we possibly can?