I’ve been thinking about the “end of the world” lately, or, more precisely, the return of Christ. The topic has been in the news lately and I’ve been given a few books on the subject over the last 6 months or so. I have felt that I have always been out of step with the traditional stream of thinking on the end times, so let me share some of my thoughts. No doubt I may offend some of my readers, and I would welcome differing opinions.
The expectation of Christ’s imminent return has been common since New Testament times. Indeed, even Paul expected Christ to return within his lifetime. It was not to be. From my reading it seems that Christians in every place and every century have predicted His return within their lifetimes, that the signs of the times clearly pointed to the right conditions for the coming Judgment Day. Still we wait – expectantly – but wait we must. Genuine and sincere believers postulate various models of the end time events and timelines. We marshal our favorite passages from Revelation or Daniel or the other prophets to bolster our eschatology, while simultaneously dismissing, or worse, rejecting others who hold differing beliefs. We are more concerned about building our model than building each other up. Many live in the shadow of His coming and yet don’t live any differently than the world around them.
Yet in all the discussion about the end time events and all the predictions about its proximity and the required activities that the Church should be engaged in to hasten its arrival, it seems to me we miss one very important condition that Christ declared must be met before He comes. In the middle of His end time teaching found in the Gospel of Mathew He says,
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Mathew 24:14, ESV)
Regardless of the timing of the rapture, tribulation, millennial reign, abomination of desolation, or any other favorite concept, one thing must happen – all nations must hear the gospel. The word “nation” here does not mean political boundaries but people groups. All the tribes and peoples in the world must hear the gospel. This is an absolute condition. In fact, it is clear from the picture John paints of heaven that this must happen. Listen:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 5:9-10, ESV)
There will be representatives from all people groups of the earth worshipping Christ. So fulfilling this condition is a must. The end will not and cannot come until this realized.
And yet do we believe this? How many of us or our churches are focused on ensuring this happens? How many among those who analyze prophecies and correlate them to current events actively pursue proclaiming the Kingdom to every nation? Are we so enamored with His Second Coming that we forget the reason for His First Coming – to save the world? Yes it’s true that we long for Him. We groan for the restoration of the world. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come Lord Jesus.” Yet the need is great and the Bride needs to stop planning her wedding feast and instead start inviting the guests.
So what does this mean practically? At the very least, we must be praying, praying for the unreached people groups. To that end I would recommend the website www.OperationWorld.org. Pray for any missionaries or mission organizations working to reach these groups. Pray for what else God may be calling you to do to hasten Christ’s return. Finally, pray that our hearts would resonate with His heart for the people He loves and for whom Christ gave His life. Can we do any less? Yes, Christ will return, but not until we obey His call. The rest of the details pale in comparison.