The great commission bids us go into all the world with
Gospel; and we have pointed out the evident connection with Mt. 24:14:
" This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a
witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" . This
definitely suggests that the great commission will be mightily obeyed
in the last days. When the Lord sent out His disciples upon their
preaching tour during His ministry, He envisaged them being brought
before Gentile "governors and kings... for a testimony to them and to
the Gentiles" (Mt. 10:18). But they didn't achieve this, and so He used
the same kind of language in the Olivet prophecy, in the expectation
that the Gospel would go into all the world in the lead up to AD70. But
again this didn't happen; and so the Olivet prophecy, including the
demand that we take the Gospel "unto all nations" before His coming in
glory, has been rescheduled in total fulfilment until our last days.
There are may other Biblical implications that there will be an
unprecedented spread of the Gospel to the whole planet in the last days:
- Dan. 12:4 speaks of a time in the very last days
when “many shall run to and fro (an idiom often used concerning
response to God's word: Ps. 119:32,60; 147:15; Amos 8:11,12; Hab. 2:2;
Jn. 8:37 RV; 2 Thess. 3:1 Gk.), and knowledge shall be increased [the
context is of Daniel wanting to understand about the second coming of
Jesus]... many shall be purified, and made white, and tried (in the
tribulation); but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked
shall understand; but the wise shall understand" . This increase of
knowledge of the Gospel is to be spread world-wide by many running to
and fro in the last days. The great commission will be fulfilled then
as never before.
- The parable of the marriage feast highlights
the tragedy of Jewish rejection of what could have been theirs. There
will be an ever-increasingly vigorous preaching campaign by the "
servants" , seeing that " they which were bidden were not worthy" (Mt.
22:8) - the Greek implying not enough numerically. As a
result of this preaching, " the wedding was furnished ('filled' -
numerically) with guests" (Mt. 22:10). This indicates that
in some ways, God does work to a number. Once the required number of
converts is made, then the supper can begin. Their appeal being to "
the poor...maimed... halt and...blind" suggests that the marginal and
desperate within society will be those who respond- and this is
happening right now in the triumphant progress of preaching in our day.
The servants are sent " into the highways" (Matt. 22:9), the Greek
meaning 'a market square'. This must be designed to recall
the parable of the labourers standing idle in the market place at the
11th. hour (Mt. 20:6,7). The very short probation of those
11th.-hour workers will match that of the latter-day converts. And
again, it was the old and weak who nobody wanted to hire.
- In the parable of the great supper, which is similar
but not necessarily the same as that of the marriage feast, the same
point is made. The servants going forth " at supper time" (Lk. 14:17)
fits more naturally into the context of a preaching appeal just prior
to the second coming than to the first century. The "
supper" , i.e. the Kingdom (Lk. 14:15; Mt. 22:2), is prepared, and at "
supper time" - 'Kingdom time' - the appeal is made. " All
things are now ready" (Lk. 14:17) explains the unmistakeable sense of
urgency in the commissions given to the servants to preach.
This again indicates reference to an eleventh hour preaching campaign
just prior to the second coming. The 'decorum of the
symbol' suggests that the animals being killed for the meal would
necessitate a brief period of invitation immediately prior to the
feast, rather than them being on the table for 2,000 years.
- A careful reading of Mt. 10:16-39 reveals many links
with the Olivet prophecies concerning the latter day persecution of the
saints; verses 17-21 are effectively quoted in Lk. 21:12-18. However,
Mt. 10:16 prefaces all this by saying that these tribulations will
attend those who go out preaching the Gospel in that latter day period.
At this time, when many " shall be offended" (spiritually stumble) and
" the love of many shall wax cold" for the truth (Mt. 24:10,11),
the " Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a
witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Mt. 24:14)-
i.e. the full establishment of the Kingdom. At that time, " What ye
hear in the ear (in quiet halls at the moment), that preach ye (then)
upon the housetops" (Mt. 10:27). This seems to be giving special
encouragement to persevere in preaching during the last days.
There is a connection here with Mt. 24:17, which advises those upon the
housetops to go with Christ at the time of his coming. This implies
that at the moment of Christ's coming there will be zealous " upon the
housetops" preaching by the faithful. This latter day witness will be
accompanied by some measure of persecution. "
Ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake" connects with "
this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached for a witness unto all
nations" (Mt. 24:39,14). " My name's sake" and the Gospel of the
Kingdom's sake are interchangeable expressions (Mt. 19:12,29; Mk.
10:29; Lk. 18:29).
- Before every 'coming' of the Lord there has been a
period of persecution and zealous preaching: Noah preached
righteousness before the flood, as Lot probably tried to before the
Lord's coming down in judgment on Sodom (would God have wrought such
wholesale destruction without giving the people a chance to repent? Cp.
Nineveh and Jonah). The schools of the prophets preached from the
street corners and temple steps to warn of the coming of the day of the
Lord at the hand of the Babylonians and Assyrians. And of course the
dramatic coming of the Lord in judgment upon Israel in AD70, was
heralded by Paul and his committed band of zealots staging the greatest
preaching campaigns this world has seen.
- We have suggested elsewhere that the great
commission is repeated in John’s Gospel but in more spiritual
language. The whole world is to know the Gospel because of the unity of
the believers (Jn. 17:18,21,23); and it follows that a situation will
arise in which the extraordinary nature of true Christian solidarity
over linguistic, ethnic, social and geographical lines will make a
similar arresting, compelling witness as it did in the first century.
The Lord had prophesied that His followers over time “shall
become one flock” (Jn. 10:16 RV); they would be “perfected
into one, that the world may know” (Jn. 17:23 RV). He surely
hoped this would have become true in the first century. As the Gospel
spreads world-wide in the last days, the unity of the believers will
become all the more comprehensive, and this will of itself provoke yet
more conversions. It could have been like this in the first century-
for Eph. 3:9 speaks of how the unity of Jew and Gentile would
“make all men see” the Gospel. This is the urgency of
Paul’s appeal for unity in Ephesians- he knew that their unity
was the intended witness to the world which the Lord had spoken of as
the means of the fulfilment of the great commission in Jn. 17:21-23.
But sadly, Jew and Gentile went their separate ways in the early
church, and the possibility of world-converting witness evaporated.
- Dan. 11:32,33 speaks of how in the time of the end "
The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do
exploits...instruct many .
- The dragon/ beast made war with the seed of the
woman " which keep the commandments (word) of God, and have the
testimony (i.e. preaching) of Jesus" (12:17); it was because of " the
word of their testimony (i.e. preaching) (that) they loved not their
lives unto the death" (12:11), and then Rev.12 goes on to
describe how this final witness amidst tribulation is resolved by the
coming of Jesus and the establishment of the Kingdom.
There are some definite links between the Greek text
of Matthew’s record of the commission, and the LXX of the end of
- Daniel being sent away with God’s
promised blessing, the very picture of spiritual calmness and peace
with his maker, sure in hope, yearning for the day…this is the
very picture which the Lord gives of His preachers as He sends them
forth. If we are to understand the time periods at the end of Daniel as
literal days, i.e. a three and a half year period at the end, then we
have in the great commission a specific hint that it will be fulfilled
during the three and a half year tribulation. This possibility is
developed at length in The Last Days.
The crucial question, of course, is whether the Gospel
has truly gone into all the world. One perspective to bear in mind is
that in the preaching of Paul, ecclesias which he founded are taken as
representing a whole area- e.g. Philippi is called "Macedonia" (Phil.
4:15); Thessalonica is "Macedonia and Achaia" (1 Thess. 1:7); Corinth
is Achaia (1 Cor. 16:15; 2 Cor. 1:1); Ephesus for Asia (Rom. 16:5; 1
Cor. 16:19; 2 Cor. 1:8). In this sense Paul felt that he had fully
preached the Gospel in a circle, moving from Jerusalem through Asia to
Rome, and projecting onwards to Spain. Perhaps the Gospel goes into all
the world in the sense that believers, however small in number, are to
be found world-wide. And that seems to be where we're now up to in the