Oct 17, 2008

The Worldwide Gospel

3 Min Read

In His monumental discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and His second coming at the end of the age (Matt. 24–25), Jesus covers a vast amount of territory. While all of the discourse is important, there are certain statements that stand out in the same way that higher peaks rise above an entire mountain range. One such peak is Matthew 24:14: “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.”

These words from Jesus stand in a long line of divine promises and prophetic utterances concerning the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel. The first of these promises occurs in Genesis 12:3, when God promised Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This promise is further clarified in Genesis 22:18, when God said to Abraham: “In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” The apostle Paul, in Galatians 3:16, identifies this “offspring” as Christ. So we have God’s immutable promise that through Christ all the nations of the world will be blessed.

In addition to His promise to Abraham, God gave numerous prophecies of the worldwide spread of the Gospel. Prominent among them is Psalm 22:27: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” And in one of the Servant chapters of Isaiah we find these words: “‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth’” (49:6). Note again the emphasis on the nations and the end of the earth.

Turning to the New Testament we find Christ’s command, often called the Great Commission, to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18–20). And immediately prior to His ascension He told His disciples that they would be His witnesses from Jerusalem to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Clearly, Jesus envisioned a worldwide proclamation of the Gospel that will result in peoples of all nations trusting in Him as Savior and Lord.

Finally, in the book of Revelation, we see “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (7:9). Here is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 22 and His prophecies in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 49.

It is in the light of all these Scriptures that we should understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:14 that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations.” There was no doubt in Jesus’ mind that the Great Commission would ultimately be fulfilled. And in Revelation 7:9, we see that the fulfillment of the Great Commission is seen as an accomplished fact.

The church’s response to the Great Commission began with the apostles, particularly the apostle Paul, whom God sent to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21). Over the centuries the church’s commitment to the Great Commission has waxed and waned depending on the clarity or obscurity of the Gospel at the time. Today we live in an age of unprecedented missionary activity. Over the last two hundred years the Gospel has spread to some degree over the entire world. Much has been accomplished. Yet much remains to be done. The so-called “10-40 window” of northern Africa, the Middle East, central Asia, India, and southeast Asia still remains largely unevangelized. In this area, containing almost half the earth’s population, the Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist religions present a formidable obstacle to the Gospel. In addition to the religious obstacle, most governments of these countries actively oppose or even make illegal the proclamation of the Gospel. How then should we respond to this daunting challenge to the fulfillment of the Great Commission?

Historically, the church has responded by recruitment of more missionaries, together with prayer and financial support for them. This is good, and we should continue this practice. However, there is something more we can do, and it is something every believer can and should be involved in. That is to pray fervently for the fulfillment of the Great Commission itself. This type of prayer goes beyond prayer for our missionaries and their various ministries. It is actually calling on God to fulfill His promise and His prophecies. It is earnestly asking Him to accomplish that which He says in Revelation 7:9 will happen.

Thus, we should plead with God to fulfill His prophecies. There is no doubt that God will accomplish that which He has promised to do, but He has condescended to involve us in the process through our prayers. Let us all, then, pray frequently, if not daily, for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.