When “The Whole World” Does Not Include The Whole World

Sometimes phrases in the english translation is not as it appears. Take for example the phrase “the whole world”.

REVELATION 3:10

“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth”

What is the whole world? Well the whole world here is the whole world minus those that are kept from the hour of trial.

COLOSSIANS 1:4-6

“4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth”

Here, “the whole world” cannot be every single person that lives on the earth, otherwise, it would mean that (1) everyone has heard the gospel in verse 5 and (2) the gospel has born fruit in every single person on the earth as it did in the Colossians, verse 6.

What this must mean is in every Christian spread about the whole world. Even then, the scope of it was not literally the whole entire world, because Paul had an ambition to preach the gospel where it had not been preached yet – meaning there were places in the world it had not been preached. So here, the phrase “the whole world” is understood as a particular group of people (Christians) and in a particular area (Roman empire).

LUKE 2:1

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”

Again, “all the world” here has a scope to it, a context, an intended particular group, namely the Roman Empire.

OTHER VERSES

In a similar token, here are some verses that seem to be “all” inclusive, when in fact they cannot mean literally “all”.

“He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” (Psalm 98:3)

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” (Psalm 22:27)

“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee,” (Ps. 22:27)

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28)

This even is true of verses that talk about Satan. In the verse below, “the whole world” refers not to every single person in the whole world, but rather, a particular group of people, namely those that are not “from God”

“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)

The point is this: sometimes when the phrase “the whole world” is referenced, it means the whole of some particular world, some group. It is not always as it seems on the initial reading.

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