The Gospel to the Nations
Many of our lives are not very purposed. We are disorganized. It doesn’t seem disorganized because we are busy doing things. Maybe you are a student and you say that all my time is organized by my work. The housewife says, “The children organize my time.” The businessman thinks his boss orders his time. We all seem victims to other people’s demands. The Lord has a better way. He gives us life purposes that give us an overall perspective of life that shapes all that we do and think. The verse that we will look at today is one of them. It lays out before us a vision of how we should perceive life as a whole. Think of it as a pair of glasses that affects our whole vision. Of course we will still be that student, housewife or businessman, but all those activities fit under the broader purpose of what we call a world mission view.
Missions is one of the major teachings in the scriptures. It plays such an importance in our lives that it should shape just about everything we do. Think of a small piece of metal just lying on the table along with three other ones. Each one is going in its own direction. But what happens if you bring a powerful magnet nearby. Each of the pieces on the table begins to line up. This verse here is like that powerful magnet. Once this truth properly impact your life, your life begins to be shaped after its own direction. It is meant to. When you thought your time was controlled by some employer or schedule, all of a sudden you are released to a greater purpose while still carrying on your normal life activities. Instead of being overcommitted and bored, one is renewed with vigor, excitement and energy.
Let’s think a moment on how wise decisions are made. A wise decision is based on knowledge and desire for the facts and truth. To simplify things, let’s only think about the aspect of how what we know, our knowledge, affects wise decision-making. We know sometimes we know what is best but do not decide to do this. This is also very important, but we will only focus on the knowledge aspect.
· The modern perspective is the experiential perspective: he only knows what he experienced. His knowledge is very limited.
· The historical perspective significantly broadens ones knowledge. We have heard people rightly say that history is so that we do not repeat history. That is, if we learn from the past, then we will not make the same mistakes. But we must realize that our knowledge of the past is still so limited.
· But God has opened another sphere of understanding: the spiritual perspective. This enables us to perceive what we need to know in order to make the good and right decision. Indeed it does not provide us with all knowledge, but it provides us with all the significant knowledge that we need to know in order to make a right decision. (Click to read more on Decision-Making and Knowledge).
We are specifically thinking about the future here. God reveals things about the future that will impact our lives. If we do not know about these things, our decisions will be faulty. Listen to just a few words of this spiritual perspective from Revelation 1.
God gave special knowledge to Jesus which in turn revealed it to an angel to communicate it to John so he would communicate it to us God’s people. Pretty special, isn’t it. Why? As it says in Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Throughout this book we have a perspective that radically shape how we make our decisions. It is true as the past. In fact it helps us also rightly understand the past unlike much revisionist history today which distorts the true picture.
How do you make decisions? With an existential perspective? Also have a historical perspective? Is it accurate? Or do you also include the spiritual perspective that God gives to us? We want to look now at one of these events that should shape how we make decisions.
This whole chapter of Matthew 24 is one that discusses the judgment of Jerusalem and the whole world. It is often called the end times or Christ’s second coming. John in Revelation writes, “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen” (Revelation 1:7). This great event is one that overshadows all of our lives but not all live in light of its truth. Consider it reversal history. It is fact that is waiting to be recorded. That it has not yet happened doesn’t make any difference. It is true and therefore impacts our lives.
For example, say a meteorite was coming straight for the earth. Its size was so great that we gave up all hope on avoiding a head on collision with the planet earth. The impact would be so great that nothing living would expect to live. At first the report was that it was coming. We could not see it but only heard others tell us about it. But then later on at certain times, we could see it glow at night. And then it began to be apparent during the day. Each day it would get closer and closer, larger and larger. The end of life was coming. The coming object consumed our attention and conversation. Jesus announced this tragic upset of the world as we know it simply by stating, “The end shall come.”
Once we believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ and all of its peripheral events, it shapes all the things we do. There are two ways to look at the end times: the minimum and maximum way. The minimum way views the end in fear. They note the increased violence of storms, surge of killer viruses, famines and droughts, escalating war tensions. It has you wondering if the End would be coming. Actually every moment of time hurls the end time a bit closer, whether we know it or not. The Great Day of Judgment draws near even as we speak. It is a minimum way to view the end time because we have a greater way revealed to us. We do not need to live in fear and insecurity but as His people can live with the maximum viewpoint.
Jesus points us to this other way to look at the end times. Instead of fear prompting us to obedience, He provides us another approach to the end of the earth. This is a positive and affirmative way, one which shows our desire for His return and full restoration of glory and honor. In fact we show our welcome by our active participation in His work. Let me share about a man who was greatly affected by God speaking to him through the verse in Matthew 24:14 that we will be studying.
I was given a mission biography. We all should be reading mission biographies. We spend too much time on fiction when we can get a real glimpse of history, God working in real lives expanding His kingdom on different fronts around the world and throughout time. We ought to fill our libraries with these missionary biographies. I actually have met David Adeney, the author, several times before he went to be with the Lord. He was a young missionary to China and later helped found the Discipleship Training Center that I recently visited in Singapore. But we must ask, “What shaped his life to make him a missionary to China?” ”How did he start the training center?”
In the book he actually mentions the same verse that we are discussing today which has also greatly impacted my own life. David Adeney was one of the leaders in the Christian student ministry there in England. God began to put on his heart how He wanted him to have the gospel preached to the whole world before Christ came.
It all came together on a trip to Palestine with his mother. He was having devotions on the Mount of Olives right across from Jerusalem. After the death of David’s rebellious son Absalom, the people were hesitant to bring the rightful ruler back. As he read 2 Samuel 19:10, “So why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?” and link it with the verse we will be discussing, it began a whole renewed focus in his life that certainly helped thrust him into some farm fields far away in China. David thought, “It is no longer King David for whom Jerusalem waits, but king Jesus. He had a clear view across the Kidron Valley to Jerusalem’s Golden Gate, the gate through which the Jews believed the Messiah would come. … David felt the certainty of Christ’ return as never before. Surely, he thought, Jesus’ works in Matthew 24:14 implied that the “gospel of the kingdom” had to be preached in all the world before it could happen! The idea infused him with a renewed sense of urgency.”
A renewed sense of urgency. It wasn’t fear but delight. This is the ‘Maximum View.’ He thought of a way he could personally welcome Jesus to His rightful spot by engaging in the work of spreading God’s Word. I want to take a brief look at this passage today and intermingle how this vision is getting more and more completed every day we live.
“Gospel of the kingdom”
Let’s first define what the gospel of the kingdom is. We often use the word ‘gospel’ but do not often hear the phrase the ‘gospel of the kingdom.’ Actually it is the third time Matthew uses it in his Gospel.
We see here that what Jesus calls us to is only an extension of what He already was doing. He was proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom and mentions that it will continue to be preached to the whole world. We should note that Jesus does not command us to preach it. He only says it will be preached. Once Satan could no longer censor the Gospel message, he tried to confuse it by the plethora of news that we hear. We should understand that the gospel little means ‘good news’ nothing more or less. It is a technical term referring to ‘news of victory.’ One can think of the phrase, “The war is over” or “We have won!” The exuberant spirit of the one proclaiming the good news throughout the street sends waves of joy over the people.
In fact, it might sound a bit contradictory to some of us. In our minds the gospel is associated with something good and helpful. Kingdom seems a bit harsh and strong. Kingdoms have been replaced by democracies in many countries. It is rare to see a king anymore. Perhaps it sounds too authoritative and unfair that one rules. But if we are going to be biblical Christians we need to have a strong kingdom concept. As the gospel goes throughout the world, God’s Spirit also goes and converts souls. These people become God’s kingdom.
Revelation 1:6 says, “And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” His kingdom doesn’t have borders like earthly nations. It is not fixed by land but by loyal hearts. His borders are detected by those lives that live by His ways. He is building up a people that love Him and show it by their affection, attention and obedience. If you think that when you became a Christian, it was just a personal and individual matter between you and God, you are quite mistaken. It does of course affect you on the personal level, but it also incorporates you into God’s army. Sounds like an all-inclusive draft, doesn’t it? Once you are on God’s side, the world fights against you. This is the fact. But it good news that we proclaim. We live on the edge of victory.
The kingdom concept is rooted in the Garden of Eden. There Adam as king was to rule over the world. But instead of protecting the land from enemies, he gave his authority over to the enemy. He went from a win to a defeat. This is why there is room for a declaration of the good news of victory. Jesus had not yet died and defeated the enemy but having thus been purposed, it was only a matter of time before the victory would be gained through the cross and resurrection.
God’s kingdom is full of love, power and obedience. It is everything one ever would want. Adam in disobedience failed as king. Jesus, however, has not only saved us but recouped the authority and shares His kingdom of blessing with us. When we grasp the glory of this king, His kingdom and the blessings in it that last forever and ever it becomes is a great motivation for what is next mentioned.
“Preached in the whole world”
We get so much news today. We pride ourselves over our choice of news. Google News enables one to pre-select what areas of news one would like to read and how many. But this news that we speak of is quite different. There is no choice. We need to ask, “What is so important that it should be preached to the whole world?” This is like saying that we should have one radio, television, cable, web station that everyone in the world is compelled to hear in their own language. They have no choice. They must listen to it. I once was given this radio receiver in Russia by Far East Broadcasting Corporation (FEBC). It was made to receive only one radio station, a Christian one.
Or instead maybe we could pick out one place where everyone in the world should come together every year to hear this one message. This year it would be 6,500,000,000 people. But no stadium or field is equipped to gather this amount of people in one place. But even if you did, then it would be rather difficult to get all 6,912 languages of the world translated. Those from India would alone need 415 languages.
We recently visited two states in India: Andhra Pradesh where Telegu (70,000,000 1/4th of US population) is spoken and Orissa where Oriya (31,700,000) is spoken. We were near the borders but even so the pastor who helped us so much in Andhra Pradesh was quite limited when introducing us in Orissa. He had to speak English so the translator could speak in Oriya!
Look at the difference in the text! I would hate to be in charge of distributing brochures of the event.
The Lord has done wonders with Billy Graham’s mass evangelism, but we all know that this has its limitations. When in Andra Pradesh, if one wags his head like this (back and forth to the side), it doesn’t mean no but ‘Yes, that is a good idea.’ But where would you get a speaker for such an event? Even if we had a star speaker like Jesus, it would be difficult. There wouldn’t be any personal touch. People would wonder if he was a self-made millionaire. Even so, Jesus decided not to stay around. He went to heaven but said He would assist us in this work of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. ‘Us!’ you wonder. That is right. We are in charge of proclaiming and making disciples. We wonder if He would do better than choosing us but that is not debatable; those are our present circumstances.
Instead He sent His Spirit upon His people with different gifts that they would complete His will. He has assigned some as pastors, apostles, pastors, evangelists and teachers. To each Christian He has given a spiritual gift to use to further His purposes. And of course, He has given to all of us the privilege and power of prayer. He has given us wealth resources, time resources, and many other things including language gifts.
“Shall be Preached”
Did you notice that word ‘shall’ or ‘will’ in some versions? “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached.” God’s plan is not optional. We can plea ignorance, insufficient funds, lack of time, or even lack of focus. That won’t work. Why? Because it will be done: with or without us. When God decides to get something done, it gets done. The mission fortunately doesn’t depend upon computer-savvy Americans or industrious Singaporeans. If so, and they got lazy, too focused on computer games or infected with media-fuzz, than the mission would not be accomplished! “The gospel of the kingdom (however) shall be preached in the whole world for a witness.” There are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ when God speaks! His plan is going on right now. The good side of this is that if you are interested, He will use you in this process.
This is what Keng and I saw when we went to India. The gospel is going out. We trained Christian leaders: pastors, evangelists and church planters. We met some apostles too. Very few of them have seminary education. In fact many haven’t graduated from high school. And yet God is using them. We heard their amazing stories about what God is doing through their lives.
The last place we went, for example, is about a forty-year-old pastor that has only been pastoring 4 years. He had been a government administrator in the health division for many years. Wherever he went, he would make disciples first leading them to Christ. Finally, he came into full-time ministry by being overwhelmed of the need. Now his congregation is 400, just four years later. And there are, I believe, 3 other branch churches. People are coming to know the Lord all the time. God is doing marvelous things. Who cares if you have to walk through a long distance of deep, sticky, wet reddish clay mud to get to church? God is there! Now trying walking through that area when it is pitch black! But who cares? God is there!
You should see some of the young people who are on fire for the Lord. They might not have jobs but instead they are out leading people to Christ.
My daughter last year went to the far northeast of India near Burma. She was drawing pictures that would help the various tribal groups learn a written language so they could read the Bible. What happened is this. One person heard of the gospel and believed. Then he goes to another tribe. And on and on we have numerous tribal groups now having believers with no scripture and no written language. The gospel shall be proclaimed in every race, tribe and nation. Do you see how God is not limited to first spending $80,000 dollars on seminary training? God has other methods.
You might ask how long until this whole plan is accomplished. We cannot tell. Even with our modern and up-to-date charts and statistics, we are still baffled by a lot of factors. How do we really know that a certain tribe has no believers when in fact the gospel went in through one person and now spreading it everywhere? It is hard to find out what really is happening. Do outsiders really know what is happening even in the four places where we went? I doubt it. It is rather confusing. Christians from all over the world are working hard at the same task, but it is not very well coordinated. Right now certain leaders are trying to get more coordinated. But frankly, the Lord Jesus is coordinating the whole plan. The gospel of His kingdom is spreading mighty quickly. But so much more work needs to be done. In many places, the people coming to belief in the gospel of His kingdom is not keeping up with general population growth.
God has insisted that this Gospel of His kingdom proclamation should go to the ends of the world. It will happen. It is happening right now. It is on the way to being finished. It is a race of judgment against mercy. Governments focus on rescuing the living from the judgments. But they are doing a poor job. India now has the second highest HIV rate. People are perishing. Hurricanes, earthquakes and diseases are decimating the lands. In other places it is war. It is a race of bringing God’s good news of eternal life or having the masses perish.
“For a witness to all the nations”
You should note that there is a strong emphasis on completion here in Matthew 24:14. ‘Preached in the whole world’ and ‘for a witness to all the nations.’ The phrase ‘the whole world’ refers to the inhabited earth. We might think of it as the jungles of Indonesia, the mountains of Bhutan and the innermost tribes of Africa. Wherever there are people, the gospel must be proclaimed. The phrase here used ‘to all the nations’ is similar to the one in the Great Commission ‘make disciples of all nations.’ The word ‘nations’ is actually used to describe the different tribes and national groups. A world ‘people group’ has become popular lately in mission circles. ‘People groups’ are those groups of people having some commonality usually in language, habit, thought, living circumstance and often ancestors. The Greek word is ‘ethnos.’ The English word ‘ethnic’ is derived from it. In any case, you and I can be very sure that the Spirit of God is mightily working all throughout the earth to all the tribes to spread His gospel. Let me share a few more stories.
I was once sitting down at a lovely meal with a couple on an island. Maybe you want me to share what special dishes were on the table. I will resist the temptation. We have more important things. One couple present was sharing with us. He trains Christian Muslims. Although governments do their best to hold back the Gospel from the Muslims, God has started converting some of these Muslims. Right now they go to different churches, but they have matured and now realize that they need to be their own churcha Christian 'Muslim' church. Could this be a beginning of a great breakthrough? I believe so. The Spirit is on the move. But there is a race with judgment. We all know about the tsunami which destroyed Aceh, the stronghold of Islam where it first entered Indonesia. They need God’s message of peace, love and self-control. One pastor there said that he expects that great things will be happening among the Muslim people in not too long. Praise God!
Perhaps you are not too excited about disturbing other cultures. You perhaps think they are doing fine. Many Christians have had their brains washed empty with the world’s talk. They are wrong. How do I know? Simply because their Creator says so. He says that we need to preach to them the gospel of the kingdom. The world believes that peace comes from non-interaction. Each tribe ought to have their own beliefs and customs, and that Christians should leave these tribes alone. Let me give you an example I just heard about.
Families of one Muslim sub-culture have been ruined by multiple divorces. Their families are a disaster. There is one untouched Indian tribe way up in the mountains not too far where we were. They have not been civilized. They hardly wear any clothes and are rather savage. Christian preachers are not allowed in there. Recently a couple of preachers went there and were arrested and fined. Just like in China, one has to go undercover to go there. But it does raise the question, “Are they better off without the gospel?”
We should first remember that Jesus thought it very important. In fact, the great fierce judgment is being held back, time in a sense is being extended, so that God’s gospel of love is going to each and every place. This is why I frankly state that any notion that the gospel constrains a culture rather than frees it is worldly. It is outright wrong. Now I do agree that the false gospel will constrain a culture. We see this all around us. People do not believe in the Bible and do not follow Christ. They are cultural Christians. They are no help to anyone. God will spit them out of His mouth. They say they are Christians but do not at all represent Christ with their Sunday worship clothes and dead services. They live as if Christ is not real.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ frees people to be who God has designed them to be: humble, faithful, loving people. They are radical in that they are directed by the words of a king but gentle because they are softened by the heart of their Savior. If the so-called gospel has locked you in a religion rather than making you a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you are imprisoned by a fake gospel. It offers nothing but deception and judgment. This is not what is happening when these people come to know the Lord. When the gospel is being brought to these tribes, they are finding truth, hope and love. Marriages are being restored. Honesty enters the community. Forgiveness and reconciliation take place. Read more missionary biographies and you will see this!
You should see the masses of Hindus who worship this one idol. Each group in a small area spend great sums of money on making this idol with an elephant head which in about two weeks time is dumped in the water. They have parties and celebrations but they have nothing but pain, debt and personal suffering. God shows us how to trade guns for love, anxiety for peace, divorce for beautiful marriages, rebellion for godly children, arrogance for humility. And on the list goes. This is why people are giving up their lives to proclaim this message of hope.
A brother just wrote about the spreading of the Gospel in China.
Several of the missionary/pastors above know that their lives could be in imminent danger. One place in the past few years had witnessed a few martyrs. But this does not stop them. Why not? Because the change in their lives and in those that believe are worth giving their life for Christ. Love, God’s love has been born in them.
Let me share why I love Pastor Stephen’s work and have agreed to work with him. Other than being faithful and a very capable administrator, he and his father have a great passion to get the gospel out to the greater area where they are. With 34 districts, only half of them have a church. Starting in the new year they are going to start visiting each of them with the gospel. They have already visited each of those mandals (districts) and coordinated fasting and prayer times with other Christian leaders in those areas. Now they are going to preach and start churches.
After making this gospel tours through our the district and conducting the mandal wise prayer conferences, it is observe that so many villages not covered with good news of Jesus Christ and also hundreds of villages having no churches and pastors or evangelists. So the burden was increased in my heart and planning to preach the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to all the villages in a systematic manner, that is village to village in the V. district , which is having 3007 villages in all 34 mandals. The harvest ids plentiful but the workers are few Mt 9:37. (Pastor Stephen)
In one recent district they went to, only 40 villages out of 222 had the gospel witness.
Do you see what is motivating them? Money? No. They are giving the little money they have. Prestige? No. Who knows what they are doing? Go to the city if you want to build a name for yourself. It is the compelling message of Christ to proclaim God’s gospel to the ends of the earth. They are moved by the ‘Maximum View’ that moves them and the other brothers and sisters who will cram 12 people or so in a rented old vehicle and travel several hours just to preach the gospel.
A few years ago God put it on my heart to cry out to God to somehow allow me to be part of reaching an unreached area. God has answered my prayer by bringing me to those who are doing this very work. I can assist in strengthening and focusing the pastors and evangelists. This is my joy that I can be part of this work. I am literally thrilled when I see people give and pray for this trip. Why? Because you too are actually helping fulfill Christ’s words here. There are lonely times. There are many dangerous times. I know my family is here. But I go where God leads. If we live under the fear of losing wealth, health or life, then we are strangers to those listed in Hebrews 11. Let us be the men and women of faith who herald forth the gospel.
This isn’t just about me a preacher but about you and all of us here. The end is coming. The Gospel of His kingdom shall be proclaimed to every tribe. But we should note that we have an option. If we live to protect what we have, then we will lose it all. But if we invest our lives in the advancement of the proclamation of the gospel, then we win all.
The Minimum View sees the end is coming. Judgments will come in increasing regularity and with increased ferocity just like birth pangs. If this is our perspective, then we will live in fear of losing what we have and in fact lose it all.
But we also can live by the Maximum View. We can live under the heralding of the gospel, the power of His promises and the knowledge of His presence. When we live to make Him known, then our lives are in align with His great Gospel thrust. This is the reason we have a mission month. It interrupts everything but for good purpose. We are being challenged as to how we can work along with Him in His great purposes. Every strong Christian has a strong mission outlook.
God is delaying judgment so that more people, more people from different nations and tribes, can hear, believe and be discipled. This gives us great motivation to share the gospel with those around us here in our area. If we only focus on the coming judgment, then we have really missed the opportunity to bring God’s glorious news to others. God delays judgment so that mercy abounds. God is extending time that all the unreached peoples hear God’s good news of His kingdom.
· You might be from some distant land. God might want you to go back and start making disciples. Learn how to do it here and then return. Yes, you could stay and live comfortable lives here. But this life of ease is not what life is about here on earth. What we call secure will increasingly be threatened as the days go on. Go with God’s purpose and you will never regret it.
· Some of you are planted here in Pittsburgh. But you do not have a mission worldview. You just want to keep things going in a promising way. Stop and get off the world. And join God’s kingdom growing plan. It does not mean that you will be a missionary but that you begin to see how God can use you here to reach out to others worldwide. If you have the gift of hospitality, then invite others over. But no matter what you do, make disciples.
· You might be one that God is calling out for His work of proclaiming the Gospel. You do not, you cannot, stay in your comfortable position. He wants you somewhere. Maybe it is clear; maybe it is not. But you know He is calling and you now are wanting to be obedient. The word of God like David Adeney has so entered your blood that you must go. Make that commitment, share it with a leader among you and look to God how He will train you to go.
· Lastly, pray. Every Christian can pray that it shapes the events on earth. Yes you need to be disciplined. When God’s words act as a fire in your heart, just start responding to Him and you will see that others around you also catch the vision of interceding that those from every nation, tribe and race hear the gospel of His kingdom. It is happening. Join with those that pray in far away continents. They are praying. They are fasting. They are giving their few coins to God’s work. And it is going on. We need to respond to Him or be spit from His mouth.
What a glorious work we are called to attend to. It is the most fascinating age to live in. But we must live in faith lest fear occupy our hearts. The king is coming soon. We welcome Him by working hard for Him.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come. (Matthew 24:14).
Preached at the Oakland International Fellowship
Study Questions on Matthew 24:14 and The Gospel to the Nations
1. Quote Matthew 24:14 by memory. Practice until you get it right.
2. In the message, it is mentioned that there are three ways people make decisions. What are they and what is the difference between them and the results of their decisions?
3. What does the term ‘reversal history’ refer to?
4. What are the two ways to face the coming judgment?
5. Where was David Adeney a missionary? What verses compelled him to have a ‘Maximum view?’
6. What does the term ‘gospel’ mean?
7. Why did Jesus use the phrase ‘gospel of the kingdom?’
8. How would you explain to another person, “Where is God’s kingdom?”
9. Do you think everyone should hear the gospel of Christ? How many people are there?
10. What will happen if some people do not carry out their part of the mission work? What work has God given you or your church?
11. Share one or two stories how God is completing His great work either from this message or elsewhere.
12. Why do some people think that the gospel shouldn’t be shared with other more primitive cultures? How would you respond to someone that thought like that? How would you explain much Christianity around us that seems so dead?
13. Look at the four applications. Which one is God using to speak to you the most?
14. Christ is coming back. Which approach are you taking to life? The Minimalist View or the Maximum View?
Other Matthew articles:
Biblical Foundations for Freedom