Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 24:14a (Holman) This good news of the kingdom will be
proclaimed in all the world. . .
“This good news of the kingdom” refers to the most significant information God wants people to know. It is the epitome of communication, the most important message ever delivered: how to be made right with God.
God sent His only begotten Son (John 3:16) to reign as the King of Earth. He seeks subjects, wanting to rule on the throne of every human heart.
Our text was a bold claim for a Galilean carpenter to make. All four Gospel writers record Jesus spoke of a worldwide ministry. This prediction was too awe-inspiring for them ever to forget. They served a Lord who truly believed His kingdom would reach “from the rising of the sun to its setting”.
“Will be” was a statement of certainty. Jesus foresaw the fact nothing would be able to stop His Kingdom’s advance–not persecution (this actually helped), apostasy, false teachers, multiplied evil, or love growing cold.
Even as we approach the end of the age, when evil will reach its ultimate crescendo, a bright beacon will always shine in the darkest times. The bad will worsen; the good improve; both locked in an ever-intensifying war till the end. Satan’s evil will cover the Earth. Jesus’ good news will too.
Our Gospel can be taken to the entire world with confidence because it does well in all cimates and places. It succeeds in torrid zones, unscorched by the heat. It prospers in the frigid, unnumbed by the cold. It thrives in the sands of Africa, the tundra of Canada, and the fertile plains of the USA.
The Gospel will succeed in its ongoing worldwide march. “Plunge her under the wave, and she rises the purer from her washing; thrust her in the fire, and she comes out the more bright for her burning. . . .She cannot die, she must live; for she has the power of God within her” (Spurgeon).
Matt. 24:14b . . .as a testimony to all nations.
The Gospel we share–the good news of redemption made possible through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus–is “a testimony”, a reliable declaration of God’s mind and will. The Gospel reveals what God expects us to do in response to His works among us. It tells where we came from, God created us; where we are headed for eternity; and why we are here, to know our Creator and to enter an everlasting relationship with Him.
This “testimony” will go “to all nations”, but beware over-confidence. This text’s optimism did not negate the fact it would be a tough assignment.
Nations have often proven to be harsh, hostile territories to enter. Why risk it? Because Jesus died for every person in every nation on the planet.The Holy Spirit illustrated this truth at the first of Church history. At Pentecost (AC 2:9-11), the Gospel was clearly spoken to people in every direction from Jerusalem. Parthians, Medes, and Elamites lived far east, in modern Iran between the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf. Mesopotamians came from what is now Iraq. Judea was the province Jerusalem was in.
Cappadocia is now eastern Turkey. Pontus was north of Cappadocia, on the Black Sea. We call “Asia” Asia Minor; it covered the southwest and west part of the Turkish peninsula. Phrygia was southwest of Pontus, and east and north of Asia Minor. Pamphylia was on Asia Minor’s south coast.
Pentecost included visitors from Egypt, Libya near Cyrene (home of Simon who bore Jesus’ cross), and Rome. This may explain the church at Rome’s early existence. Tacitus, Roman historian, said there were enough Christians in Rome by 64 A.D. to catch Caesar’s eye and stir his suspicion.
Crete is an island southeast of Greece. Arabs lived southeast and east of Israel in the desert (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria); Petra was their capital.
Several languages being miraculously spoken at Pentecost forecast the worldwide proliferation of the Gospel. The miracle of tongues was a stark lesson; the Gospel was intended for all the people groups separated at Babel.
The Pentecost miracle said loud and clear, “No exclusiveness here!” Languages still play a huge role in the spread of the Gospel. The Bible in part or whole had seventy years ago been translated into 300 languages; that number now exceeds 2000. The resolve to reach “all nations” continues.
This was an assignment that would take at least 21 centuries to finish. After Pentecost, Philip won the Ethiopian Eunuch (AC 8), probably from what is now north Sudan. Paul added the region of Cilicia (CL 1:21), east of Pamphylia on Asia Minor’s south coast, and Galatia (GL 4:13), southwest of Pontus. Someone took the word to Bithynia (1 P 1:1), west of Pontus, and to Scythia (CL 3:11), now south Russia, between the Black and Caspian Seas.
Paul carried the word into Europe, to Greece, and on to Illyricum (RM 15:19), northwest of Greece and east of Italy. Paul intended to take the word all the way to Spain (RM 15:24-28), then known as the ends of the earth.
Paul said the faith of the church at Rome was “being reported in all the world” (Romans 1:8b). He said the Gospel was “growing all over the world”, and being proclaimed “in all creation under heaven” (CL 1:6,23). These were references to the Roman Empire, the known world of his day.
Through 313 A.D. (Constantine) Christianity penetrated the Roman world despite (because of?) persecution. The catacombs of Rome bear eloquent eerily silent testimony to the suffering early believers endured.
From 313 to 800 A.D. (Constantine to Charlemagne) missionaries like Patrick, Columba, and Boniface carried the Gospel into Western Europe.
From 800 to 1492 A.D. the faith reached Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and the Eastern Slavs (Russia). The Gospel found fertile soil in the Western World. It became a springboard for the greatest mission expansion in Church history. Many think the Church will continue its westward march, increasing its influence in the East—in China, India, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia.
This fixes the focus squarely on us. The mission pendulum has swung our way. We must not be content with lackluster Kingdom expansion work.
Why should God bless mediocrity? If a worldwide vision is not in us, why claim to be serving a worldwide Savior. Jesus’ blood bought this world. Every inch of our planet must be sought for the Kingdom of God’s Son.
Obviously Jesus meant for His Gospel to always be spreading where it has never been before. The question is; who did He expect to do this? I think the answer looks suspiciously like the people assembled here in this room.
The Great Commission was not given to denominations, mission agencies, national or state conventions, local associations, or even to local churches. These all exist to be channels through which the ones called to fulfill the Great Commission can work—you, me, and every other believer.
I learned this for myself in October 1997 on a mountain in China, where God broke the heart of this preacher for the world. For years after that moment a fire burned in me for missions like a boiling cauldron. I could hardly speak of our unreached people group without my voice trembling.
God, in His infinite grace and for His own Sovereign purposes, spread this revival to our whole church. The Glory blazed among us for several years, but as students of revival tell us, no revival lasts forever. It is not possible to live in the Glory for long. Like all revivals, our missions revival ultimately achieved its God-ordained purposes. Then the task of organizing and systemizing its results fell to us. This we’ve been doing for many years.
God let the blaze of our missions revival cool, but He never rescinded our obligation to be on mission. It is incumbent on all of us to pray, to give, and to go. Few are called to go fulltime, but all are to go at least part-time.