THE BEGINNING OF WHAT IS TO COME: WORLD EVANGELISM
If you will open your Bible, I ask that you turn with me to Matthew 24:14.
Matthew 24 is one of the most unique chapters in the entire New Testament. In this chapter Jesus gives us a picture of what the world would look like in the final days before His return. He said the world would experience several undeniable signs and events that would act as signals that His return was very near.
It was not a question if these signs would happen but only a question of when they would happen. Jesus said these signs would come; they would most certainly happen and they would take place in the final generation just before His return, and we are that generation. Before we begin, there are three simple points to remember.
First, when Jesus laid out for us these signs and events two thousand years ago, He was giving us a picture of what the final days would look like so that when they did happen, we would see them and recognize them as signs of Christ’s great return.
That exactly why Jesus said; Matthew 24:25 See, I have told you ahead of time. NIV
These signs are not accidents. They are not a coincidence all happening at the same time. They are converging together on the world’s stage exactly as Jesus said they would, which is exactly why Jesus gave us these signs ahead of time so that when they did happen we would know His word is true and that His coming is near.
A second point to remember is that Jesus said the signs we see now are only the beginning of what is to come.
For example, what we see today in earthquakes and fearful events and famines and spiritual darkness are just the beginning of bigger events still to come. The final prophetic picture of these signs and events will not find their complete fulfillment until the tribulation hour, so that means there are much bigger events still to come.
Third, these signs and events are not hidden in some far off corner of the world, they are happening out in the open for the world to see. They are a witness to the world so that no one can have the excuse that they didn’t know.
In this series we have looked at the sign of earthquakes, famines, pestilences, spiritual deception, and fearful events in the heavens. But today from Matthew 24:14, we come to what I believe is perhaps the most important sign of all and one that we cannot afford to overlook.
When compared with all the signs, it may not appear to be the biggest or the most exciting, but when you hear it, hopefully you will realize, that it is the most important sign Jesus gave concerning His return. It is a sign very dear to God’s heart and it is a sign that will have a huge impact in the final days. Listen carefully…
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a
testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. NIV
Of all the signs we have covered in this series, this the most significant prophecy that signals just how close we really are to the return of Christ.
Jesus said before He returned the gospel would first be preached to every nation.
That is huge and so important for us to understand.
So the immediate question is; is this happening? Is the gospel being preached to all the nations, and if so, where are we on God’s time table for Christ’s return?
History clearly pinpoints that the preaching of the gospel has been going on since the time of Christ. And since that is clearly true, what and how is our generation any different from previous generations that have experienced great revivals and great missionaries’ efforts? What makes our generation different? Is this sign happening in our generation and if so, what is the evidence of that?
For example, in every generation of every century since the days of Pentecost, the gospel has been preached and thousands have been won to Christ.
Even in the dark ages of history when Christians were marked for death, the gospel was still carried to various parts of the world penetrating the hearts and souls of men.
When the first pilgrims came America, they came with the hope and idea that what they were starting would be used of God to reach the world for Christ.
Since 1731, there have been at least 3 great awakenings where the Holy Spirit shook the world with the power of the gospel and millions of people came to know Christ.
The past 280 years of church history is filled with countless stories of men and women who sacrificially laid down their lives to carry the gospel so that others could hear the saving message of Christ.
Great men and women of God such as Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, John Newton, D. L. Moody, Charles Finney, Amanda Smith and many others carried the fires of revival across Europe and America as thousands heard the gospel message of salvation through Christ. From there the preaching of God’s word crossed borders and reached many parts of the world for Christ such as Africa, India and Asia.
WORLDWIDE PREACHING TODAY
So, having heard all of that, what makes our generation different? What is the evidence that what is happening now in our generation is any different and greater than what has already happened in previous generations?
Now remember, Jesus said the signs we are seeing now are only the beginning of what is to come and that they would increase and grow in their strength and intensity.
So, can we say that about this sign? Is there evidence this sign is happening in our generation and do we have an idea from scripture what this sign will look like in the
last days before Christ returns? Absolutely; listen to the evidence.
THE WORLDWIDE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL
The biggest difference between our generation and all previous generations is the use of technology and media. Although there have been thousands of missionaries who have carried the gospel to many parts of the world, still up until WWII less than 3% of the world was reached for Christ. So in the previous generations using the very best of what they had, they were still reaching less than 3% of the world.
But in our generation that has greatly changed. More people have come to Christ in this generation than in all the previous generations combined.
We are the first generation in history where the gospel has been presented in some form in almost every nation of the world. The growth of the gospel throughout the world in this generation is astonishing. Even in the Muslim countries where Christianity is against the law, the gospel is reaching people and changing lives.
I have said many times that I believe the fall of Russia and communism played a big part in this sign. When the Berlin Wall fell and communism collapsed, missionaries immediately began carrying Bibles into the former communist bloc countries where the preaching of the gospel sparked a massive revival bringing thousands to Christ.
Just recently Franklin Graham and the BGEA preached crusades in several of the former communist countries with great results.
Again, this is happening in this generation, and what we see now is just the beginning of what is still to come.
But that’s not all; there is another piece of evidence that is absolutely mind blowing.
Wycliffe Ministries is solely dedicated to translating the Bible into every language so that every people group on earth will have access to God’s word. In their research they have discovered there are more than 6,900 different language groups in the world.
Up until WWII, at best the Bible was translated in less than 100 languages.
However, over the last 50 years, in this generation, they have translated the Bible into more than 5,000 languages with approximately 1,900 more to go. With the use of new technology, their goal is have the Bible translated into every known language by 2025 and they are working hard to achieve that goal. That is happening right now in our generation.
In addition, there is also the Gideon International Organization that has reached into more than 190 nations of the world and has produced more than 1.9 billion Bibles in 90 different languages. Again, with the use of new technology, this sign is happening
in our generation.
But there is more. With the great technology of satellite TV, the internet and radio, we are now reaching places of the world that in previous generations were impossible to
reach. Now for the first time there are parts of the world that in previous times have never heard the gospel. But now they are hearing the gospel for the first time and thousands are coming to Christ. Again, that is happening in our generation.
In the midst of persecution and war, places like Africa, India, Asia and even the Middle East are all experiencing an amazing growth of the gospel that was not there before this generation. The explosion of the growth of the gospel in Asia is nothing short of a miracle of God. Before WWII, Asia was a spiritual wasteland. But now in our generation that has greatly changed.
For example, South Korea was once a hostile nation to the gospel, but now in this generation they have one of the largest groups of Christians anywhere in the world. More than 60% of the people in South Korea are devout followers of Christ. Again, we are witnessing this sign happening right now in this generation.
Another great example is China. In spite of tremendous persecution and executions, the growth of the gospel in China is absolutely amazing. In 1949 there were approximately 800 thousand Christians in China. But that number has exploded in this generation. It is now estimated there are at least 120 million followers of Christ living in China and again this has happened in this generation.
These are just some of the evidence that clearly points this sign to our generation. There are many others. For example, more Bibles have been distributed to the masses of the world in this generation that in all of the previous generation combined.
This sign is happening on a large scale in this generation and yet most of the world is clueless to what is happening.
Perhaps you are thinking, why haven’t I heard about all of this before. The answer is because America has lost interest in this kind of thing. There was a time when reaching the world for Christ was very important in America’s society. But now America is more interested in pleasures and fame and materialism rather than following Christ and sending the gospel to the world.
It is God’s desire and His great purpose that we work to send the gospel into all the world. This is the heart of God and this is where our focus should be.
That sign is clearly happening in this generation and it is continuing to grow and will continue until Christ returns.
That brings us to a very important powerful point that we must grasp in our hearts.
To understand what you have just heard doesn’t mean very much unless you
understand this next point.
THAT WHICH IS IMPORTANT
Again, listen to the words of Jesus.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. NIV
For believers in Christ, this scripture may be one of the most important statements that Jesus made about His return. For the believer in Christ, this scripture that the gospel will be preached in the whole world should be the rally cry of our souls.
The coming of Jesus Christ will be the single greatest cosmic event in all of human history. For those who know Christ, and love Christ, the coming of Christ will be a time of great joy and anticipation. But for those who do not know Christ and have rejected His truth, the coming of Christ will be a time of terror and judgment.
And it is these people, those who are lost and without Christ that desperately need to hear the gospel. This is what drives me to teach the word and to pray for the lost and to hope for a revival that would bring the message of God’s great salvation to the world.
So here is the point; it is impossible for us to understand the significance of what this means without an understanding of eternity. The true value of the human soul can only be measured by eternity. With our limited minds it is impossible for us to grasp the full concept of eternity. We measure life by time and space, but eternity exceeds those limits.
Our minds cannot grasp a million years, a billion years or a trillion years. The Bible says that when you breathe your last breath you will step into a new dimension called eternity where you will live forever, and forever and forever…
Here’s the point that must be driven into our souls. Today and every day to come, thousands will step into eternity, lost and without Christ. Every day that we fail to present the gospel to the world is another soul lost for eternity.
I want you to get the magnitude of what that means in your mind.
If we believe the Bible and if we believe it is God’s word of eternal truth, then we must also believe that when people step into eternity without Christ, they are lost forever.
This is exactly why the preaching of the gospel to the world is so important.
It is not God’s desire for anyone to be lost.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. NIV
There is a powerful message here for us to consider. One of the main reasons why Christ has not yet returned is because of His great love and desire for every person to experience salvation and eternal life. He is willing to wait with the hopes that many
will repent and not perish. It is His desire that every nation hear the gospel and as believers in Christ, is our responsibility to do all we can to make that happen.
WHAT WILL THE FINAL PICTURE OF THIS LOOK LIKE?
So, in closing, does the Bible give us a final picture of what this will look like?
I think there are at least two things that give us a picture of what is to come.
First, let’s look back at what Jesus said about the end time preaching of the gospel.
He said; this gospel of the kingdom will be preached (not maybe, not hope so, not might be, but will absolutely be preached) in the whole world as a testimony to all nations…
Jesus said the worldwide preaching of the gospel will absolutely take place and it will be a testimony to all the nations of the world.
Second, with that in mind, let’s look at two places in Revelation.
Lets first look at Revelation 14;
Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water." NIV
There is a lot happening here, but the main point I want to drive home is this;
It is God’s great desire to reach the world; every nation, tribe, language and people, with the eternal gospel of salvation. This is so important to God that He will use whatever means He has available, including His angels to get it done.
Here’s what this means to me; if reaching the world with the gospel is that important to God, how much more so should it be important for me?
Now look at Revelation 7:9 and following. This is one of my favorite verses. Listen to the power and beauty of what it says.
Revelation 7:9 After this I (John) looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." NIV
This is what the final fulfillment will look like in God’s kingdom.
Think of it, gathered around the throne of Christ will be a massive number of people from every nation, of every tribe and of every language.
So again, what we see happening right now in this generation is just the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus said that before He returns, the gospel will be preached to the whole world, and then the end will come.
So whenever you hear of the gospel being preached and lives being changed in the
remote parts of the world, just know that the end has just moved a little closer.
WHAT ARE WE TO DO NOW?
So, to put all of this together, what are we to do with this information? What is our part in this? Of all the signs Jesus gave regarding His return, this is the one that falls on our shoulders.
First, think about what it will be like to see people from all over the world that are in heaven because of you. Think what it would be like to see people there because you chose to give and invest in the bringing the gospel to their part of the world. And there are many ways we can make that happen.
Second, we must consistently pray for the gospel to reach every nation
Third, I suggest you make a list of people and nations and begin today to pray for the lost to be saved, and for the nations to hear the gospel.
Fourth, ask God to show you how you can financially and prayerfully support Missionary efforts.
Fifth, be determined in your heart that until Jesus returns and as long as you have breathe, that you will do all you can to reach all the world with the gospel.
And finally, after all that we have heard so far in this series, the most important question you will ever answer is, am I ready to meet Jesus Christ if He came for me today?
Are you prepared for eternity? Do you know where you will be 10 billion years from now? Are you absolutely certain of your eternal destiny? That is the most important question of your life and it is a question that only you can answer.