In the next few broadcasts we will be considering signs that strike very close to home for many of us. They are signs we will see taking place in the church itself. The particular sign we consider today is a positive one. It is the preaching of the gospel to all nations. Jesus writes in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
Notice what Jesus says concerning the sign of the preaching of the gospel to all nations: When all nations have heard the gospel, then shall the end come. Today we will examine a sign that will clearly indicate just how soon Christ will come. When the gospel is preached in all of the world, when it has reached all the various nations of this world, and God has called all His elect children unto faith and repentance, then shall the end come. This is the sign we study today. It is a beautiful and triumphant sign for the true church of Jesus Christ, one we rejoice in.
There are three elements to consider in this sign of Christ’s return. Number 1: The gospel. Number 2: Shall be preached. And number 3: In all the world. Each one of these elements we need to consider if we are to understand fully the sign that is mentioned by Jesus Christ here in this verse.
The word “gospel” used here in Matthew (and in all Scripture) is really an Old-English term that refers to “good news.” When we speak of this term in connection with Christianity, then, it refers to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. The idea is that the entire human race has been plunged into the abyss of sin. When man fell into sin, then sin swallowed us up and has taken control of our lives. The human race now stands under the horrible sentence of death. We are all doomed. The whole human race is under condemnation. We are all liable to eternal death and punishment in hell on account of sin.
The good news is that God in His grace has provided a way out of the guilt and condemnation of sin. And that way is found in the cross of Jesus Christ. On the cross, Christ died in order to pay the price of sin and remove our guilt. On the cross, Christ also has crushed the hold sin had on us and the power Satan exercised over us. Salvation from sin—that is the good news! That is the gospel.
But Christ is more specific concerning this good news in this verse we consider. He speaks here of the gospel of the kingdom. He refers to the kingdom of God. How is this kingdom good news? Well, when God’s people are delivered from sin and death, then, as we learn in Colossians 1:13, we are transformed into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. In other words, with our salvation we have been taken from the kingdom of darkness and unbelief and given by God a place in His kingdom in this world.
This kingdom is of a spiritual nature, of course. We cannot find any one particular nation or kingdom in this world that we can call the kingdom of God. The citizens of this kingdom are gathered from out of all nations of this world. They are together become members of the body of Christ who agree in true faith. In other words, God’s kingdom is made up of the elect church gathered out of all of the world. And that is the good news of the kingdom. We have become, together with God’s saints of all times and all nations, citizens of Christ’s kingdom. Christ sits enthroned in the heavens at God’s right hand and rules over His kingdom from sea to shining sea. And we are citizens of this grand and glorious kingdom.
That is the gospel of the kingdom that must be preached. Take note of this second element of this sign. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached. And Christ adds, “For a witness.” The sign is not that God’s people will witness to all the nations. The sign is more specific than that. The gospel must be preached in all the world. Preaching is an official work of the church institute in this world. The term used here for preaching means to “herald.” A herald is a trusted servant that the king appoints and sends out into his kingdom to inform or declare to the citizens of his kingdom his official decrees. And that is the preacher of the gospel. He is an ambassador, called and sent out by Christ, through His church, officially to proclaim the Word of Christ, the gospel of the kingdom.
So what Christ is telling His disciples here is that the gospel must be heralded in all the earth by the church.
The third element of this sign is: The gospel shall be preached in all the world. And Jesus defines this for us further when He says that this gospel must be a witness to all nations. The end of the world and the second coming of Christ cannot come until all the nations of this world have heard the gospel preached to them. Sometime in the course of history the gospel must have been proclaimed to every nation of this world. The gospel must be a witness or testimony to every nation, every people of this world. It shall either be a testimony for good to the salvation of some, or a witness against the many who heard and rejected the gospel. But the gospel shall be preached at one time or another throughout the course of the new dispensation to every nation, every people, every language of this earth.
Then, and then only, will Christ come.
There are a number of observations that we should make concerning this preaching of the gospel. First of all, we must recognize that this sign is intimately related to the work of the church in missions. Christ gave the church her great commission in Matthew 28:18, 19: “Go ye and teach [or disciple] all nations, baptizing them and teaching them.” The church of Jesus Christ has taken this commission of Christ seriously. She has, since the time of Pentecost, gone out into the world and striven to spread the gospel of Christ to every nation, language, culture, and people of the earth.
What we see in this calling of the church is the running of the white horse of Revelation 6. The white horse is the first of the four horses let loose to run through the earth. We read in Revelation 6:2, “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” This white horse symbolizes the triumphant proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom. The church has gone out into this world with the gospel and has conquered the nations of this world for Christ.
One cannot help but see how the gospel of Christ’s kingdom has shaped and molded societies and peoples and nations of this world. How the gospel has done this can be traced in the historical accounts of the spread of Christianity and in the history of missions. That white horse of the gospel has run in a predominately western direction. Not that it has not been preached to eastern nations. It has. The church has been faithful to preach to all nations without discrimination. But the gospel, according to God’s counsel and plan, has taken root in western nations of this world. It has influenced these nations greatly in the past—in their culture, in their governments, and in their laws.
But the church sees the need for that white horse to run to and fro throughout the earth, gathering God’s people from scattered peoples and nations. A great mission enterprise took place in the main during the 1800s in what has become known as the greatest century of missions. At that time there was a tremendous push to infiltrate all of the earth with the gospel of Christ’s kingdom. Statistics say that after that century, less than two percent of the nations of this world were yet without the gospel. In the past one hundred years since then, the Christian church has been laboring hard to reach that last two percent.
The gospel shall be preached in all the world, and then shall the end come.
Now there is the sign. What do you think? Is Christ coming soon? If it is true that very few of the nations of this world have not yet received the gospel, how close is the return of Christ? How soon will the Christian church succeed in leaving a witness to all nations?
When, finally, that witness has gone forth into all the earth, another development will take place. The Antichrist will come to power. That antichristian kingdom will succeed, for a short period of time, to silence the witness of the true church. False Christianity will still have a loud voice in that kingdom, but the witness of the true church will be silenced. We read of this in Revelation 11:3, 7, and 10: “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore [that is, one thousand, two hundred and sixty] days, clothed in sackcloth. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth.”
These two witnesses are the official preaching of the gospel by the church and the witness individual believers leave in their lives. These two witnesses will lie dead in the streets during the reign of Antichrist. When the gospel of the kingdom is suppressed, when we are no longer able to preach the truth of God’s Word, and the witness of true believers no longer is allowed, then we know that the end is close.
We ought not fail to notice in the verse we consider in Matthew that the gospel must go forth to all nations of this world before the end comes. It must. The gospel, Jesus tells us, shall be preached. It, of a surety, will be preached in all the world before the Antichrist silences the witness of the true church. In other words, Christ will divinely protect His church in order that she might preach that gospel where it is needed. The gospel will go forth unimpeded. Of course! Christ has been given power in heaven and on earth. He reigns supreme in the heavens. He directs the affairs of this world. His is the preeminence. And He will see to it that the gospel is directed toward all the nations and peoples of the earth.
Christ has so directed all of the events that take place in history in order that the church might be protected and free to preach the gospel. There were times of persecution when it seemed the witness of the church and the preaching were suppressed. It seemed as if the cause of Christ was lost at those times. It seemed that the true church of Christ and the gospel had all but disappeared in history in the days prior to the Reformation. The true gospel had been suppressed. But the cause of Christ never died. The preaching of the Word of God was loosed, so that freely it could run its course through this world once again. Many a missionary has died for the sake of the spread of that gospel. But it has gone forth powerfully, effectually, unto the salvation of God’s elect people.
The gospel, Jesus teaches us in our text, shall be preached in all the world as a witness to the nations. Divine protection. Otherwise, the church would have failed.
That brings up an important question. Why? Why was the church divinely protected in order that the gospel might go forth into all the world? Why is it so necessary that every nation and people of this world hear the gospel of Jesus Christ? Well, the answer is found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” The church of Jesus Christ is a universal church. It is found in all the world. And God loves that church found in this world. For that reason, Christ gathers His people from all over the world. Every one of God’s elect people must be brought to faith and repentance before Christ comes to take that church with Him to eternal glory. The church is the body of Christ. Every believer is a member in particular of that church. Would Christ leave one of those members behind unsaved before returning to take the church to be with Him in glory? Of course not! Every one of them must be brought to faith and repentance.
Christ accomplishes this through the preaching of the gospel. Christ is not willing that even one of His people should perish in unbelief. This is what the passage in II Peter 3:9 teaches us: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Now, I am fully aware that the truth of this passage is twisted to express the Arminian error. The Arminian insists that this passage teaches that God is not willing that anyone in this world should perish in sin. But when forcing a passage to say something that it does not say, what happens is that the true beauty of that passage becomes obscured. The truth of God’s Word is robbed of its assurance and its comfort for God’s people.
What Peter teaches us in these few verses is this: The church for centuries, since the time of Christ’s ascension, has preached the return of Christ. But Christ has not yet come. The wicked world scoffs at the church because Christ has not returned as the church has said. So we begin to think that the Lord is slack in fulfilling His promise, that is, He’s slow in fulfilling what He promises. But Christ is not slack in His return. God’s time clock is not the same as ours. One day with God is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. We may not judge God according to the terms of time. Christ tarries because He is longsuffering to usward. He is longsuffering toward His church and His people.
This is why Christ has not yet returned as He promised. He is not willing that any of His elect people should perish but that all should come to repentance. Christ has not yet returned because He will have every one of His children brought to faith and repentance first. He is not willing that any, not even one, of His people should perish.
When that gospel has gone forth unto all nations and brought every elect person to repentance and faith, then shall the end come. There will be no more reason for this old world of sin to continue on. God’s purpose to glorify His name by means of a people saved unto eternal life will finally be accomplished.
This is what gives us incentive, too, as a church of Jesus Christ. Missionaries are sent out into this world in order to preach unto the salvation of every one of God’s people. What a glorious task. What incentive to preach. God is gathering His church. God is saving His people. And when that last elect saint is brought to repentance and faith, then the preaching of the gospel will no longer be needed.
What better reason is there for the church to be busy in missions. The church desires that return of Christ. We pray for it. Then let us be busy preaching the Word in season and out of season. Let us do it in all the world because Christ will use that preaching to bring about His return.
Let us preach until we can preach no more.
Let us pray.
Our great and our glorious God, to Thy name be praise and glory forever and ever. Thou dost gather a people unto Thyself from the beginning of time to the end—an elect church chosen in Jesus Christ. Thou hast chosen to do that through the preaching of the gospel. May Thy church be faithful therefore to proclaim the good news of salvation to sinners. And wilt Thou be pleased to use that preaching of the gospel to gather Thy church unto the very coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And as we look for that coming through the preaching of the gospel, may we pray together as Thy children: “Come, Lord Jesus, yea come quickly.” For Christ’s sake alone we pray these things, Amen.
Rev. Wilbur G. Bruinsma (Wife: Mary)
Ordained: October 1978
Pastorates: Faith, Jenison, MI - 1978; Missionary to Jamaica - 1984; First, Holland, MI - 1989; Kalamazoo, MI - 1996; Eastern Home Missionary - 2006; Pittsburgh PRC - 2016.Website: www.prcpittsburgh.org/
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