How Near is the End?

14 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. [1]

Most of us are familiar with the stereotypical images of weird nutcases standing on a street corner, dressed in a disheveled manner and carrying a sign of impending doom, “The End is Near.”  We see it in movies, cartoons and on TV shows…and in real life!  To boot, the term preaching has been reduced in our society to being paramount to haranguing or at the very least, nagging. (“You don’t have to preach to me!”)  You get what I mean.

I would submit to you that two things have precipitated this attitude: one, Christians acting badly and two, Christians acting badly.  There is of course another possibility for this attitude and that is that many really do not like to think about the possibility of the end of planet earth as we know it being near.

However, we may look at this idea of the end being near, one thing is clear: Jesus’ statement intimately links Christians reaching all nations with his return.  So, an important thing for us to think about today is; how does the church know when it has accomplished what Jesus expects?  What does he mean by saying that the gospel will be preached as a testimony to “all nations”?

The Greek words translated “all nations” have a variety of possible interpretations.  The one typically used in mission over the past forty years among evangelical missionaries is “people groups.”  In other words, the term refers more commonly to cultural and ethnic boundaries rather than political boundaries.[2]

Strong dispensationalists will argue that this refers to the middle point of the seven years preceding Christ’s second coming.  I’m not so sure Jesus would have had such an immediacy and urgency in his speech had his words been designated mainly for that time.  I say, let us proclaim the gospel through our living and words to every people group.  Who knows what would happen if every Christian did that today?

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 24:14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, p. 399). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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