Rev. Slopsema is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Jesus is instructing His disciples concerning the signs of His coming and the end of the world.
There shall be wars and rumors of wars. Nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There shall also be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in divers places. The church shall be hated of all nations for Christ’s sake. Her members shall be delivered up to be afflicted and shall even be killed. There will be false Christs and false prophets, deceiving many.
And now there is also this sign. The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world for a witness unto all nations.
This sign of the preaching of the gospel is unique from all the other signs Jesus has mentioned thus far. Notice that when Jesus mentions wars and rumors of war, He adds that the end is not yet. And when Jesus speaks of famines, pestilences and earth- quakes in divers places, He indicates that this is only the beginning of sorrows.
But now when Jesus speaks of the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, He adds that then shall the end come. This sets the preaching of the gospel apart as the chief sign of Jesus’ coming, to which we must also pay very close attention in these latter days.
Jesus speaks of the gospel of the kingdom. The kingdom here is the great kingdom of God and of heaven. This kingdom was pictured by the Old Testament kingdom of Israel in Canaan with its temple and throne in Jerusalem. The foundation of this kingdom was laid when Jesus laid His life down at the cross as an atonement for sin.
This kingdom was established when Jesus ascended into heaven. At that time God exalted Jesus to His own right hand, crowning Him with power and great glory. In that power Jesus brought to pass the great kingdom. The kingdom is not yet complete, of course. It will be completed when Jesus comes again at the end of the ages. But the kingdom is already now an existing reality in heaven.
There is one more thing we ought to understand about the kingdom at this point. This kingdom is a kingdom of fabulous wealth. Its riches, however, are not the riches of silver and gold or natural resources. Its riches are the glorious riches of salvation Christ has earned at the cross for all His people.
Jesus speaks about the gospel of this kingdom.
The word “gospel” simply means “good news, glad tidings.” The gospel of the kingdom is therefore the good news about the kingdom. It’s the good news that the kingdom has come, that in the kingdom is to be found the salvation of God in Jesus Christ, that this salvation is a free gift of God to all and everyone who believes in Jesus Christ . . . .
This is good news, indeed!
This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world for a witness unto all nations.
The word “preach” is a very interesting and important word. It means “to herald.” A herald was an official message-bearer of the king, recognizable by his special dress. He represented the king and spoke officially for the king. When the king desired to send a communication to the various realms of his dominion, he did so through his heralds. Because the king spoke through his heralds, the word of the herald had the force and authority of the king’s word and must be heeded.
In like manner must we understand the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus is the king of the kingdom. It is Jesus’ desire, as king, to make known to mankind the good news of the kingdom and its great salvation. Therefore, Jesus has appointed various men as His heralds to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom on His behalf.
The first heralds were the apostles of the New Testament church. To them Jesus revealed the fullness of the gospel of the kingdom and sent them out to proclaim it on His behalf. With great care Jesus also recorded the fullness of this gospel infallibly (inerrantly) in the New Testament Scriptures by divine inspiration.
Also today Jesus has His heralds who proclaim the gospel of the kingdom as recorded in the Scriptures. They are the ministers of the gospel duly called and commissioned by Jesus through the Christian church.
Now Jesus makes a very important prophecy about the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world for a witness unto all nations.
Up until this time in history the gospel of the kingdom had come to just one nation, the Jews. God proclaimed to them, and them alone, the gospel of the coming kingdom.
But that, says Jesus, is about to change. For the gospel of the kingdom (not just what will take place but also what has already taken place) will be preached to all the world. The gospel will be proclaimed to every nation under heaven so that the witness of the kingdom will eventually be everywhere.
Jesus can make this prediction, of course, because He is the king of the kingdom, Who will send out His heralds throughout the world. And we have seen this prophecy come true in history. The gospel of the kingdom began in the time of the apostles in Jerusalem. From there it spread to Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Through the labors especially of, the apostle Paul the gospel was brought to Asia, Greece, Rome, and even Spain. Throughout the centuries the gospel has continued to spread in a westward direction so that today the gospel is being preached in the whole world as a witness to all nations.
Jesus proclaims that when the gospel of the kingdom is preached to all the world, then the end shall come.
The end refers, first of all, to the end of the world. History and the world as we know it will end one day. The end will come when Jesus returns from heaven to judge the living and the dead. At that time Jesus will destroy this present creation along with the ungodly. And from its ruins He will make a new heavens and new earth.
That end, says Jesus, will come, when the gospel of the kingdom is preached to all the world!
That means that the end of the world can not be all that far away anymore. For in especially the last 100 years the gospel has come to all the nations. You will search in vain today for a nation to which the gospel of the kingdom has and is not being proclaimed.
But the end of which Jesus speaks also refers to the attainment of a goal. We often speak of end in the sense of goal or purpose. That’s also the idea here. God has a goal or purpose in history. That goal is the gathering of His church.
Eternally God has chosen to Himself a church in Jesus Christ. From all eternity God has known and loved each member of this church. In love He has also ordained each member to eternal life.
Now the one goal God has in all of history is to gather this church unto Himself. What is the gathering of the church? The gathering of the church is the work of God to bring His people one by one to faith and salvation in Jesus Christ. This is the one great work of God throughout all history. All that God has created and all that He brings to pass in history is designed to serve the purpose of this great work of God.
Now when the church has been fully gathered, the end or goal of God in history will be accomplished. And then Christ will also come again from heaven to bring an end to this present creation. For this present world and its history will have served its purpose.
Now Jesus indicates here that all this will take place when the gospel is preached to all the world for a witness unto all nations. When the gospel has been preached to all the nations, then the goal of God in history (the gathering of the church) will be accomplished. And then Christ will also bring an end to everything.
We must understand that these two things are not just coincidental. It’s not just a matter of coincidence that the goal of history in the gathering of the church will be reached at the same time that the gospel is preached to all the world. Rather, the one is Gods means to accomplish the other.
Bear in mind that it is primarily through the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom that God in Christ gathers His church. Through the preaching God brings His people one by one to faith in Jesus Christ and to the salvation of the kingdom that is theirs in Christ. And so over the years as the preaching of the gospel makes its way throughout the world, the end of God to gather His church is reached.
And then Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead and to make an end of this present world.
This also explains why the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom can serve as a sign of Jesus’ coming and of the end of the world. For it is through the preaching of the gospel that Christ paves the way for His coming and the end of all things.
This implies a very important calling for the church to preach the gospel.
The prophecy Jesus makes here of the gospel being preached to all the world was made by Jesus to His disciples on the very week of His crucifixion and death. In harmony with this prophecy the risen Lord returned to these same disciples and charged them that they must go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
This great commission came to the apostles as representatives of the church of the new dispensation. The church is called to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
This calling the church accomplishes primarily through her ministers and missionaries. But this is a work that must involve the whole church with all her members. The members of the church must support the preaching of the gospel financially, through her prayers, and certainly with a godly witness of their own.
That church (or denomination of churches) that takes this calling seriously and strives to preach the gospel wherever the Lord gives an open door will have the great privilege of being used by God to accomplish His greatest work in history, the gathering of His church.
Pray earnestly that our churches also may be faithful to this calling and be used by God to gather His church not only from among our own generations but also from those outside the household of faith.