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.
In Matthew 24 God teaches us that all of history must be understood in the light of its end. False prophets and apostasy, wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, tribulation and iniquity, even the rise and rule of Antichrist himself are signs of Christ’s second coming. They can be understood properly only when we look at them as progress towards the goal of the fulfillment of God’s purpose: the glory of His name through the salvation of the church in the new heavens and earth. The things and events of history are signs because God so governs every one of them that they all, willing or unwilling, knowing or unknowing, serve the advancement of His cause in the world.
This is also true, perhaps especially true, of the preaching of the gospel.
By the term “gospel of the kingdom” the text tells what is the content of the preaching which the church does. We may describe that content in different ways, but here the Scriptures direct us to look at it from the viewpoint of the kingdom.
The kingdom of which Jesus speaks here is the kingdom which God promised to, and typically established in, the nation of Israel. But the Old Testament kingdom was only typical. It was not the end, but only the beginning, of that which God has eternally purposed to establish. The kingdom was realized in the kingdom established by Jesus’ death, ascension, and pouring out of the Spirit: the church.
That kingdom is a heavenly kingdom, not of this world. The establishment of it begins in this world, and for a time it exists in this world, but it is always, in its essence, heavenly. It has a heavenly king: God in the exalted savior Christ. Its citizens become citizens by a heavenly work, and by the bestowal of heavenly characteristics: regeneration and everlasting life. Its full glory and final establishment cannot be until all of the citizens have been born and taken to heaven and the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ in the new heavens and earth.
We must therefore look at the establishment of the kingdom of God as a process. This process began with the establishment of the typical kingdom of the Old Testament, or, better yet, with the promise of God in Genesis 3:15. It will end only when the last elect child of God has been glorified. And from the beginning to the end God builds that kingdom by gathering its citizens.
This work God accomplishes by the preaching of the gospel.
The gospel shall be preached in all the world. There is implied here the fulfillment of the command which Jesus gave to His disciples after His resurrection when He said, “Go ye into all the world, and teach all nations . . . .” Before the end comes every nation, tribe, and tongue under heaven will have heard the gospel of the kingdom. God will not rest, and will not let His church rest, until this word of Jesus has been fulfilled.
The gospel is preached to all nations for a witness. The gospel gives a faithful and sure testimony to the work of God in Christ, the establishment of the kingdom in righteousness, and the promised perfection of that kingdom in heaven. It testifies that the Lord is coming in judgment, and calls on men everywhere to repent and believe. The testimony of that gospel is both a savor of life unto life and a savor of death unto death. Many reject and refuse to believe the witness of the gospel, and hear the sentence of Christ, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” But a few, the chosen, believe, and at the second coming hear the sentence, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” The gospel of the kingdom goes forth as a witness to all nations, therefore, in order that eventually the multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, may sing before the throne and before the Lamb.
And that is the connection of the preaching of the gospel with the end. On the one hand the end cannot be until the catholic church has been fully gathered. All of God’s elect must be saved. On the other hand the end is when the church has been fully gathered. There will be no need any longer that this world continue to be: God will have accomplished His purpose in it.
That is why the preaching of the gospel is a sign of the second coming. But we must be very careful here. This sign cannot, just as the other signs cannot, tell us the day and hour. When these things begin to come to pass we may look up and lift up our heads, for our redemption draweth nigh, but at the same time we must remember that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night, and that it will seem to us that our Bridegroom tarries long.
We may not therefore take it into our heads that the signs are fulfilled and that we may sleep while we wait. It may seem to us that the gospel has indeed been preached to all nations, and we know that, if it is not true yet, it is very nearly true: our redemption draweth nigh. But the Lord has not come: the signs are not yet completely fulfilled.
Therefore hear again the words of our Lord, “GO ye therefore, and teach all nations . . . .” Hear it with a renewed knowledge of its urgency. There is no more important thing for the church of today than that urgent “Go ye . . . .” Let nothing, no matter how important it may seem, let nothing, not wars or the threat of war, starvation, pestilences, or earthquakes, iniquity or tribulation, wicked men or the powers of hell, let nothing divert you from the preaching of the gospel. By the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom the end is coming.
And let not one of you think that he can be free from this burden. On every minister of the Word there is laid the command to preach where the Lord calls or sends. And on every child of God who hears that Word there is laid the command to carry it with him from the church to the world, to live it and to speak it and to let the light of the truth shine as from a hill. Do not think, people of God, that the ordained preachers of the gospel must or can or will do all your work for you. They speak to you in order that you may speak to others. The preaching of the gospel must not stand alone. It is the command, power, content, and end, for your witnessing. If you will not speak, God will give what you now hear to others who will.
Preach confidently and boldly. Though the whole course of history seems to be against you and contrary to the purpose of our God, nothing can prevent or delay the swift return of our Lord. Nothing can stop the preaching of the gospel to the nations until the last one of God’s elect children has been saved. Wicked men will take you before their councils, they will mock and beat you, and command you to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. If you obey God rather than men they will kill you and drive you to the mountains, but the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, the end will come, and you will be, with all who have gone before you, heirs of the everlasting kingdom of heaven.
Preach everywhere. Send out your missionaries wherever it pleases God to open a door. Pray for them and support them by whatever means you can. But also, at every opportunity, and in every place, give answer with meekness and fear. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Preach enthusiastically. God will use you for the salvation of His own, and for the establishment of His kingdom. Preach therefore with the sure hope that the end of your work is the perfection of God’s kingdom, and the joyful hearing of the words of your Lord, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”