In Matthew 24:14, Jesus says: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Are we to understand this verse as saying that Jesus will only come after all the world has heard the gospel?
Mathew 24:14 is part of the response that Jesus makes to the disciples, when they ask about His return and the close of the age. The clearest indicator of the nearness of the coming of Christ is the proclamation of the gospel to all nations.
The command to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (Mathew 28:19-20) marks the beginning of the evangelisation of the world. This is because God envisions a Jesus-honouring, Christ-centered community of redeemed ones coming from every tribe, people, tongue and nation to be a kingdom of priests to God (Revelation 5:9, 10).
So, the straightforward answer would be that Jesus will come only after all the world has heard the gospel. However, there are a few things that we need to understand and take into account regarding this.
The spread of the gospel from the obscure streets of Jerusalem to Judea, then beyond their boundary to the area of the Samaritans (Acts 1:8) and then to the various provinces of the Roman Empire culminating with the gospel proclamation at Rome, which is the end of the then known world, is documented in the book of Acts.
While all of the spread of the gospel happened in various parts of the world (including the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe) within a short period of time in Acts, we must take into account the fact that multiple generations have come and gone for the last 21 centuries with billions of people being born and dying every century. So, we see that the worldwide proclamation of the gospel has happened numerous times throughout history.
God envisions a Jesus-honouring, Christ-centered community of redeemed ones from every tribe, people, tongue and nation
Yet, there are so many unreached places even today in the world. Also, there are several billions who haven’t heard of Jesus in our times as in times past. No matter how many efforts are undertaken today, there will still remain a lot of unreached places and people who will not have heard the gospel even once (like the Sentilenese people that John Allen Chau attempted to reach).
When Jesus says that the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed to the whole world, He means it as people groups (like the type described in the table of nations in Genesis 10), not every individual or individual nations in that sense.
Should we see missions as a means to hasten the coming of the Lord? Is He solely dependent upon us to make His arrival on the earth?
The disciples who were asking about the restoration of Israel once Jesus’ resurrection happened were told that it is not their prerogative to know the times and seasons set by the Father in His own authority (Acts 1:7). Also in Matthew 24:36, Jesus clearly says that except for the Father, no one — man, angels in heaven and even the Incarnated Son — knows the hour of the coming of the Son of Man.
Remember that Jesus who is fully God and fully man chooses not to know this in order to obediently complete the mission that the Father had sent Him to accomplish. So, the disciples need not be concerned about when Jesus will come back as King to restore Israel. They are to be His witnesses, starting from where they are, with the aim to reach the whole world. So it is with us.
The disciples were to be His witnesses, starting from where they were, with the aim of reaching the whole world. So it is with us
The Father will send His Son in His time which He sees perfect as far as world evangelisation is concerned. When He sees it fit that the whole world gets to know of the redemption through Christ, He will send Christ. We are not to think of missions as a means of coercing Christ to coming back.
– Our responsibility is to be the communicators of the gospel to whomever the Lord brings into our life or whom we come into contact with. Missions must take place and churches, along with individuals, must be serious about this mission and prioritise the work that the Lord gave His disciples before ascending to heaven.
– Be multicultural in your approach. Don’t pray only for people who belong to your country or culture. Pray for those who don’t belong to your culture and make deliberate efforts to reach out to them.
– Be sincere and blameless as disciples of Jesus in a hostile world that seeks to discredit Christianity. Perhaps, our testimonies, as individuals and churches, aren’t giving the right message about Christ to the world and that’s probably why it isn’t the right time for the Father to send the Son.
– Jesus will come at the behest of the Father when God sees it perfect that the message of the gospel has reached everywhere. Therefore, understand that He is in complete control in places that are hostile to Christianity and reaches them in extraordinary ways. He is the supreme cause in accomplishing worldwide evangelism.
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