Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
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.
We have had occasion before to point out the importance of the preaching of the gospel in the new dispensation as one of the signs of Christ’s coming. Jesus spoke of false Christs and of false prophets, warning us of their cunning deception and that their strong influence is leading many astray. The implication always was that we should maintain the truth, and defend it as long as we live. Jesus encourages us: “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11).
The emphasis is on the fact that the gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations. This is extremely important because, before this is accomplished, the end of the ages cannot come.
In the old dispensation the gospel was limited almost exclusively to Israel as a nation. The covenants and the promises were given to the Jews, and the message of the prophets was directed mainly to the Jews as nation. But in the new dispensation the church has become universal, gathered from all the nations of the earth, so that the spread of the gospel must also be among all nations. Therefore one of the signs of the times is the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
This is a very important sign. You will notice that, while the other signs speak of the development of sin and God’s judgment upon the wicked, this sign speaks in a more positive sense of the preaching of the gospel. This sign is significant also because of the importance of the spread of the gospel throughout the world. Revelation 6 says concerning the white horse that “he that sat upon him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering and to conquer.” This refers to the work of the exalted Lord sending forth His servants to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. By this powerful Word the church is gathered and the world is made ripe for the final judgment.
The gospel is the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus and is referred to here as the gospel of the kingdom.
This kingdom is God’s kingdom. This may well be emphasized. God is not in heaven for our sakes, to serve us, as many seem to think, but we are on the earth for God’s sake, to worship and praise Him. We are taught to pray: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” And this prayer is concluded with the doxology: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.”
This kingdom is also Christ’s kingdom under God. He is appointed eternally as the Servant par excellence, the Head and Mediator of His people. It is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has chosen us in Him from before the foundation of the earth and redeemed us by His blood and merited for us a place in His kingdom. He has redeemed and merited for Himself and His people a place in God’s kingdom. God raised our Lord from the dead and exalted Him at His own right hand, entrusting Him with all power in heaven and on earth. He now carries out God’s counsel, working all things for the salvation of His church and the coming of God’s kingdom.
That kingdom is spiritual and heavenly. Its citizens are referred to as the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is an entirely mistaken notion that this kingdom will still arise here on earth with a Christian government, a Christian legal system, Christian business associations, and in a Christian society. Scripture always emphasizes that God’s kingdom is fully realized only in the new creation, even as Christ says: “My kingdom is not of this earth.”
The kingdom of Christ is, first of all, spiritual. Its citizens are born again as new creatures in Christ Jesus, possessing in their hearts the life that is from above. They are pilgrims and strangers on the earth, spiritually minded, as they seek the things above where Christ is at the right hand of the Father.
They are also heavenly citizens. They have the principle of eternal life in their hearts. They experience the beginning of heavenly joy. They know the peace that passes all understanding. Therefore, in the midst of an evil world and still wrestling with sin that wars in their members, they enjoy the blessing of contentment, confident that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. They cherish a hope that never dies.
The realization of God’s kingdom is in the new creation. The apostle John writes: “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there was no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him” (Rev. 22:1-3).
Jesus speaks of this gospel, thereby referring, first of all, to the warning He has given concerning false Christs and false prophets rising in the church, lawlessness developing in the world, and God’s judgments in nature. But in a broader sense Christ is referring to the gospel that He proclaimed while He was on earth, and the truth as it is presented to us in the Holy Scriptures.
This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is proclaimed by Him through His ambassadors and applied to the hearts of His people by His Spirit. It is also the gospel concerning Him, for He is the Word that became flesh, the revelation of the Father, revealing unto us all the fullness of God. There is therefore no other gospel than the gospel that proclaims salvation in Jesus Christ. For there is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved than the name of Jesus, just as there is no salvation apart from the cross of our Savior. Therefore the answer to the question of the Philippian jailer: “What must I do to be saved?” still applies today: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
This gospel must be and is being preached unto the ends of the earth. The spread of the gospel in the new dispensation began in Jerusalem, spread to Antioch of Syria, and from Antioch to Asia Minor, into Europe, across to the British Isles and the Americas. From there the gospel is being spread, especially in our day into the Orient. The power of the gospel is evident among every nation, race, tribe, and people, unto the far ends of the earth and the islands of the sea. There is virtually no area anymore where the gospel has not been proclaimed.
This gospel must be proclaimed among all nations for a witness that all nations must hear. This proclamation is not a general, well-meant plea for all men to accept the salvation offered to them. It is a two-edged sword that makes separation between the believer and the unbeliever, between the righteous and the unrighteous. Jesus says in Matthew 10:34, 35: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” That is the evident result of the preaching of the Word. False Christs and false prophets arise and deceive many. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, so that those who hold the truth under in unrighteousness turn to the worship of idols and to every form of uncleanness and lawlessness, and not only do those things, but take pleasure in those who do them. The result is that their cup of iniquity is filled and God is justified in His judgment.
At the same time the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, for it is a savor of life unto life as well as a savor of death unto death. The gospel is the revelation of the God of our salvation, revealing to us the riches of His grace and all His blessed promises. It is the power that draws His elect out of darkness into light, out of death into life, and changes children of Satan into sons and daughters of the living God. It creates communion with God, drawing us into Hisintimate covenant life and blessedness. It gives us a living faith whereby we know and experience the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, even the secrets of the Lord, for we see that which eye cannot see, and hear that which ear cannot hear, the things that are revealed to those who fear God. We experience peace with God, the joy of eternal life and a hope of the glory that awaits us upon the return of our Lord.
When the gospel has reached all nations, even to the ends of the earth, and has performed its work, the end will come. Not before. The Lord is longsuffering, not willing that any of His elect should perish, but that all are saved. Only then, when the last elect is prepared for glory, will the end come.
The stone of Daniel’s vision that is cut out of the mountain will crush all the nations of the earth, and the kingdoms of the earth will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ forever and ever. That arouses in us the prayer, Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly.