Of course, Gary DeMar admits that kosmos has a more extensive meaning than oikoumene. However, nowhere in his article does he admit that kosmos means the Adamic creation– that is, the entire physical globe. DeMar only says that it is a “word that can have a more global meaning.” This is by way of reluctant consent. Because of his preterist localization of the Great Commission, the Great Tribulation, and the second coming, DeMar is unable to claim universality for the word kosmos.
But a simple look at its usage in the New Testament Scriptures supports a universal meaning. Take John 1: 10: “He was in the world (kosmos), and the world (kosmos) was made by him, and the world (kosmos) knew Him not.” The world created by Christ is certainly the Adamic world, and not the world defined by the boundaries of the ancient Roman empire. Hear what Paul says: “God that made the world (kosmos), and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth (ge), dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17: 24). This surely implies universality. See also Matt. 13: 38; Luke 9: 25; John 4: 42; Romans 3: 6, 19; 5: 12-13; 1 Cor. 5: 10; 6: 2; 2 Cor. 5: 19; Gal. 6: 14; ; 1 Tim. 1: 15; 1 Peter 5: 9; 2 Peter 1: 4; 1 John 2: 2; 5: 19.
Enough evidences can be adduced from Scripture to prove that kosmos signifies the world as created by God, and is not limited by first-century geographical concepts. ON the other hand, oikoumene does have a more technical sense, signifiying the world as inhabited by men. Whether its meaning, however, may be consistently restricted to the first-century Roman empire, is rather questionable.
Citing Matthew 24: 14, DeMar alleges that Christ used oikoumene instead of kosmos, because He wished to show that the Great Commission would have a localized fulfillment within the time-frame of the first-century generation. Then to bolster his assertion, DeMar grabs hold of the typical audience-relevance argument, and writes: “Notice that also Jesus tells His disciples that the things outlined in Matthew 24 will happen to them. Jesus makes this point by His continual use of the second person plural ‘you.’ “
Now let us back up for a moment, and take a closer look at the word oikoumene. We’ll suppose that it means “the Roman empire of the first century.” But if DeMar should insist on a consistent usage, he’ll be forced to concede that Preterism contains grave flaws. For the geographical limits of oikoumene, while they fit his concept of the Great Commission, are in another sense not strict enough to support his localized view of the parousia.
In Acts 17: 31, for example, Paul tells the Athenians that the habitable world (oikoumene) is about to be judged. Then, in Luke 21: 26, we read that prior to Christ’s second advent in glory, “men’s hearts will fail them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the habitable world (oikoumene): for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” Likewise, when speaking of the tribulation, John calls it an “hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world (oikoumene), to try them that are dwelling on the earth (ge)” (Rev. 3: 10).
Here is where DeMar becomes snared by his own hermeneutics. For if oikoumene signifies the first-century Roman empire, within which confines the Great Commission was carried out, then the above texts would force us to admit, for the sake of consistency, that the tribulation preceding Christ’s second advent must cover the same geographical territory. At least it should be comparable in extent: else there is no such thing as a static definition of oikoumene. It is on this last score, however, that Preterism breaks down. Which is doubtless why DeMar, reluctant to have this brought out, reverts to his audience-relevance argument.
But even this argument proves nothing more than a surface evasion. For while Christ used the second person plural when addressing His audience, a consistent application of DeMar’s own method reveals the audience to be much broader than the four disciples to whom Christ spoke. To show what we mean, hearken to what Christ says: “They shall deliver YOU up to be afflicted, and shall kill YOU” (Matt. 24: 9). But speaking of later events He says, “When YOU, therefore, see the abomination of desolation,” etc.
Now it is clear that if Christ’s teachings were restricted to His immediate audience, as DeMar asserts, then Christ contradicted Himself. If they were to be killed first, how was it possible for them to see the abomination of desolation? It is obvious that Christ’s audience embraces a larger group of individuals. Addressing this group, Christ says that some will be killed, whereas others will live to see the abomination of desolation. Identifying the larger, transcendental audience is essential to a correct exegesis of the text. Instead of doing this, however, DeMar allows his preconceived view of “this generation” to determine the scope of Christ’s message. But this makes a consistent interpretation of oikoumene impossible.
Let’s lay the matter out. If Christ was speaking exclusively to a first-century audience, then there had to have been a first-century tribulation co-extensive with the territory covered by the Great Commission. For DeMar already fixed the meaning of oikoumene as pertaining to the geography of the Roman empire. But as he cannot give evidence of a tribulation that widespread, he drops further examination of the word, and brings in some collateral argument to boost his thesis.
Let us be honest with the text, however, and admit that DeMar’s definition of oikoumene proves the very opposite of his assertion. For its contextual usage in Luke 21: 26 and Rev. 3: 10 extends the Great Tribulation (an event immediately followed by Christ’s parousia) beyond the limits authorized by Preterist interpretation. DeMar’s eagerness to localize and restrict the parousia by arguing for a limited fulfillment of the Great Commission produces a parallel inconsistency which falsifies the very concept he sets out to prove. Like Frankenstein’s monster, it threatens to destroy its maker.
If oikoumene signifies the world as inhabited by men, then it may apply to a geographical area much larger than the Roman empire. Its extent may, in fact, cover the Adamic world. Therefore, when Christ says: “And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (oikoumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24: 14), it is not esential that we interpret His words in any first-century sense. Only the events themselves will determine when the Commission is fulfilled, and the end of the age is come.
Taking the phrase “all nations,” however, DeMar argues that the term often has a limited geographical application. He cites eleven examples from the Old Testament and the New, in which terms like “all the nations” and “all the earth” are used in localized, and not a universal, sense. However, DeMar apparently does not see that these are merely examples of synecdochical usage. Synecdoche (of the whole) is a literary device in which the whole is put for the part. An example may be found in Genesis 6: 12: “And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt: for all flesh had corrupted His way upon the earth.” Another instance is seen in Matthew 3: 5: “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan.”
Nobody would be so rash as to assume that because Noah and his family were not included in the phrase “all flesh,” they therefore were not flesh. Nor would anyone assert that Judean residents who failed to go out to meet John Baptist were not residents of Judea. But this would be the logical result of accepting Gary DeMar’s thesis. On the other hand, if one identifies synecdochical usage when it occurs, the discrepencies vanish away. Synecdoche is a figure of speech which can be readily identified.
Contrary to DeMar’s assertions, the Bible preserves a very extensive notion of geography. Moses was chosen by God to be the world’s first historian, and as such he chroncled the dispersion of the Gentiles in language that leaves little room for allegations of geographical ignorance. Read Genesis 10: 1-5. That the Hebrews also had knowledge of lands far beyond the ken of the earliest cartographers, may be seen in passages like Jeremiah 25: 15-26, as also Isaiah 49: 12, where the prophet mentions China.
Of course, Preterists often adopt the rationalistic argument that the ancients thought the earth was flat, and that therefore we must read “flat earth” concepts into the Holy Scriptures. However, this outright denies the inspired authorship of the Bible. On the contrary, some of the ancients believed that the world was round. And this accounts for their speculations regarding the antipodes. (see Lactantius, Div. Inst. III. xxiv; Hippol. Ref. I. v). Where did they derive their knowledge? Quite possibly, from the Hebrew prophets and sages, to whom the oracles of God were committed.
In light of all the above facts, we find that Gary DeMar’s arguments of a “limited geography” are completely off-the-wall, as well as unwarranted by Scripture. Because of his Preterist presuppositions, he has little choice but to adopt such arguments. When the evidence is carefully weighed, however, we arrive at quite opposite conclusions. In fact, we are prepared to dogmatically assert that whenever the doctrines of Christian salvation are involved, trerms such as kosmos, ge, oikoumene, are to be understood in their Adamic and universal sense.
As sin is universal, so is the need for salvation. The revealed purpose of the Great Commission is to spread the message of Christ’s salvation to all nations under heaven. Far from being exhausted in the first century, we see this as being incomplete in our own day. Until this great commission has been exhaustively and comprehensively fulfilled, we are justified in claiming that “the end is not yet.” Until the witness is complete, Christ’s second coming remains a future event. And though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel than that which we have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1: 8).