Before his letter to the Romans ( at least if bible chronology is correct ), the apostle Paul wrote this to the Church at Corinth, 'For if their being cast away [ is ] the reconciling of the world, what [ will ] their acceptance [ be ] but life from the dead?' ( Romans 11:15 ) The Jews of the first century A.D. were Paul's primary referent here, but many people, myself included, seem to think that we can rip this statement from its first century context & apply it to our world. Our English Bibles, in this case, use the transliterated Greek 'kosmos', which means simply 'orderly arrangement'. The question of whether or not this statement from Scripture can or even should be applied to the 'world' of the 21st century is not a simple one.
In the context of Paul's words, we can see that he is speaking of an entirely different world, the 'world' of the Jew & Gentile. Some would say that our 'world' is NOT so different, as we still have those who are 'perishing', in essence, we still have Pharisees, as well as those who are 'outside'! It IS rather hard to argue with this brand of logic, sometimes, because we DO have some ( Christians ) who would ( almost ) put the Pharisees to shame, there are those who have undoubtedly perished ( Hitler, Pol Pol, etc. ) & there are definitely those who, for all intents & purposes, remain firmly 'outside'. ( The question might well be asked though, 'outside' what?
If my readers are at all familiar with the 'city' language used by Jesus in the Gospels & perpetuated by John in the Revelation, then it should be abundantly clear that we, the People of God are the Referent here! Jesus referred to us, His disciples as 'a city that is set on a hill' ( Matthew 5:14 ) & John the Revelator saw the 'heavenly Jerusalem' or 'holy city', when She descended from 'Heaven' as the Bride of Christ. Zion was used, most famously in the Psalms to refer to the dwelling of God on Earth, or what we might know as His Temple. The City of David, or Jerusalem itself, was also refereed to as Zion.
As we get into the Greek Scriptures, or what is called the New Testament & the teachings of Jesus, we understand that the monuments we read of in the Hebrew Scriptures simply served to point to Something Greater! That Something Greater was, of course, the Very One who gave them this Good News. As the Body of Christ, we too are Members of that Something Greater. We are Citizens of that City which came down from 'Heaven' & in fact, are that City, as He ( God ) has established His praise in us ( Psalm 48:1 ). In this sense, then, there are still those 'outside'; if we, the Church, the Body & Bride of Christ, are truly the City of God, then there are those who remain outside the gates, so to speak!
The 'world' that the apostle lived in & wrote of doesn't seem, sometimes, to have been all that different from ours, but it was! Paul wrote during a time of transition, the period following the death & Resurrection of Israel's Messiah & the Destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple in AD70. This period could also be viewed as a time of cleansing wherein the mere symbols were being discarded so that the Greater Reality could shine the brighter. The 'world' that we have inherited sometimes seems dark & dingy, but the Light that we carry has shone in the darkness. Jesus said that WE are 'the light of the world' ( Matthew 5:14 ); we are here to shine forth that Light & dispel the darkness!
Jesus reconciled that 'world', the 'world' of the Greeks & Jews! Speaking of the Gentiles ( or Greeks, as some translations put it ), Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth, giving them hope that though Israel was being cast away ( for the moment ), their rejection would not be total, but was in fact itself a shining symbol pointing to the Life of the Messiah. The Reconciliation accomplished by the Christ was the Redemption of the 'world' of Jew & Gentile; our mission is the redemption of this 'world', one in which we must learn to reconcile with those for whom the Christ died!
Charles Haddon Shank