The title of this article is taken from the words of Christ spoken in Matt. 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” This was in response to the question of His disciples, “Tell us . . . what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” One of the signs of Christ’s coming is the preaching of the gospel to all the nations.
And of all the signs of Christ’s coming mentioned by the Scriptures, this sign of the preaching is the chief and most important. For first the gospel must be preached in all the world unto all nations; and thenshall the end come. The second coming of Christ and the end of all things wait for and are dependent upon the spread of the gospel. The end cannot come until the gospel has been preached to all the nations. But once that has been accomplished, then the end comes.
To understand this we must see that Christ cannot come at just any time. All things must be ready. The time must be ripe. In the first place, all the elect must be gathered and brought to salvation. And in this present dispensation God has His people in every tribe, tongue, and nation. They must all be gathered before Christ can come again. But in the second place, the cup of iniquity must be filled so that the world becomes ripe for judgment. Sin must grow and develop until the sin of man’s wicked heart manifests itself in the worst possible way. This in turn means the rise and culmination of the Antichrist. For when Antichrist shall come and establish his universal kingdom of darkness, sin will have been manifest as sin. The terrible wickedness of man’s heart and his enmity against God will have been fully revealed. And man will be ripe for final judgment. Upon these two things, therefore, the day of Christ depends—the full ingathering of the church and the filling of the cup of iniquity by the world. When these two come to pass—and they will be accomplished simultaneously—then the end comes: not before, not afterwards, but then.
And the preaching of the gospel to all the nations is the chief means Christ uses to accomplish this. It is through the preaching of the gospel that Christ, first of all, gathers His church from among the nations. This is symbolized in Rev. 6:2 by the drive of the white horse. “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” As the white horse runs its course through the nations and as its rider shoots his arrows of the Word into the hearts of God’s elect, they are brought to faith and conversion and salvation in Christ. In like manner, the Apostle Paul teaches us in I Corinthians 1 that the preaching of the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Christ gathers His church from the nations by the preaching.
But in the second place, Christ also uses the preaching to bring about the development of sin in the world. The gospel not only has a positive effect; it also has a negative effect. It not only softens; it also hardens. It not only brings the elect to repentance; it also brings the reprobate to rebellion and defiance against God. The Word of God is a two-edged sword: it cuts two ways. It is a savor of life unto life and a savor of death unto death. And, therefore, it is through the preaching that the necessary development of sin in the world is also accomplished. Without the drive of the white horse the sin of natural man could not develop as it ought. The Antichrist would not come. The cup of iniquity would not be filled; and neither could the world be made ripe for judgment.
Clearly, then, the second coming of Christ depends upon the preaching. The end of all things must wait until the white horse has fully run its course and the gospel is proclaimed to all the nations, having its two-fold effect. Only then can the end come. And then shallthe end come. It is in this connection that we find a rather interesting article in the “Religion” department of the Jan. 9, 1978 issue of Time magazine. The article is entitled, “Beyond Babel.” paragraphs:
“The tongues of men have proliferated considerably since the Tower of Babel helped explain how the sons of Noah came to converse in so many different languages. Today there are 3,000 languages in the world, most of them oral only, which makes life difficult for Christian missionaries sworn to spread the word of God as widely as possible. Most Bible societies, in fact, concentrate mainly on getting adequate translations into major written languages. But the Summer Institute of Linguistics has a longer reach. For the past 42 years, following the teachings of its founder W. Cameron Townsend, S.I.L. teams have been seeking out tiny, isolated tribes in remote corners of the world. With a little help from tape recorders, phonetics and the science of linguistics they create written language out of the primitive spoken word; eventually they teach the tribesmen how to read primers written in the vocabulary they talk, and present them with a readable New Testament printed in their native tongue.
“As a labor of love and an example of global evangelism and literacy instruction, the overseas work of S.I.L. and its U.S. counterpart, known as the Wycliffe Bible Translators, cannot be matched. It has brought reading and Bible translations to 90 previously illiterate tribes, and is currently at work with 650 more.”
What catches our attention here is, first of all evidence of the running of the white horse of the book of Revelation. The gospel is being spread throughout the world. It is true, of course, that the emphasis in this article is upon Bible translating rather than preaching. Yet all this work of the S.I.L. presupposes and is in the context of the preaching. And it may also be true that from our Reformed perspective this work of the S.I.L. may not be all that we would like it to be, both from the viewpoint of its content and its method. Nevertheless, the fact remains that what we have here is further evidence of the running of the white horse.
But what catches our attention here, in the second place, is the evidence of how close we are to the end of time. The spread of the gospel is a fairly accurate gauge to determine how close we are to the end. For in the days of the Apostles the preaching of the gospel began in Jerusalem. From there it spread and has continued to do so throughout the New Dispensation. Never has the gospel stood still. Always the white horse has continued its victorious march in a westward direction. And, according to Christ Himself, when the gospel shall have been universally proclaimed so that all nations shall have received the witness of the gospel, then the end comes. By paying attention, therefore, to the spread of the gospel, we can get a fairly accurate picture of where we are in history.
And just how far has the gospel advanced today? It has advanced to the point where organizations such as the Summer Institute of Linguistics are turning to isolated tribes here and there, who have no written language, and are providing them with Bibles! And that speaks volumes. That tells us that the gospel ha been almost universally proclaimed. That tells us that the white horse of Revelation has about completed its drive. Missionaries, churches, Bible societies do not turn their attention to “isolated tribes in remote corners of the world” unless the gospel has already been proclaimed throughout the main and more accessible civilizations of humanity. And this assertion is born out by the facts. It is simply a fact that the Word has been proclaimed in every country of the world. It is simply a fact that indigenous churches have also been established in every land. The modern-day missionary has an almost impossible task to find a field where the gospel has not already preceded him.
And that indicates but one thing: the end is not, can not be, all that far off. For “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come.” We should not put the day of Christ’s coming into the far and distant future. To do so is simply not to recognize one of the key signs of the times.
And what does this all mean practically speaking?
This means, first of all, that the church has cause for rejoicing. The day of the Lord is at hand! We can see Him coming, even through the spread of the gospel. All evidence points very clearly to the fact that before long we will see Him on the clouds of heaven with His holy angels. And that means deliverance from this present weary night of sin and death. That means salvation and final glory in the perfected kingdom of our God. Do you look for that with eager expectation? Do you long for that? Then, rejoice! For the precious object of your hope is about to be realized.
But, in the second place, this means that we must for the meantime arm ourselves with the whole armor of God. For the days in which we live are evil. And they shall continue to increase in wickedness until the very end. Even now all things appear to be ripe for the coming of the Antichrist, whose coming shall mark the fulness of the development of sin in man. But this should not surprise us. This tremendous growth of sin in the world is merely the negative effect of the spread of the gospel into all the world. As the gospel is more and more proclaimed, even to the remote corners of the earth, we can expect sin to grow and develop by leaps and bounds. We must not be surprised by all these things. And neither must we be alarmed. For this is the work of our Lord, Who even now sits at the right hand of God. He it is Who sovereignly brings all these things to pass. He is preparing all things for His second coming. And He will certainly care for and preserve His church in the midst of them. But, nevertheless, it is our calling as the saints of God to fight even to the end and to be faithful. Let us, therefore, put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.