“This Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through all the world for a witness to all people; and then the end will come.” -- Matthew 24:14 (Good News Translation)
Throughout Christian history, there have been believers speculating that the prophesied End Times were just about to start. Some audacious ones have even set specific dates. Not long ago, for example, radio preacher Harold Camping had people talking about his declaration that the present world order was going to end in May of 2011. When that did not happen, Camping revised his prediction foward a few months to October. By the way, he had earlier set 1994 as the year when the End Times would arrive.
In 1988, a best-selling book by former NASA engineer Edgar Whisenant predicted that the Rapture of believers would happen that year in September. Pat Robertson had predicted it for 1982. The Jehovah’s Witnesses last calculation for the end of history as we know it indicated 1975 would be the year. Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, predicted the End Times would begin in 1972.
All those predictions were wrong (for a long list of erroneous End Times predictions: http://tinyurl.com/d3t7kh7). Almost none of those touting a precise timetable seem to take into account Matthew 24:14. People predicting End Times dates usually focus on things like wars, increasing wickedness and natural disasters. They talk about bad things like the increased fierceness of storms, the surge of killer viruses, severe famines and droughts, and escalating tensions between nations.
What they rarely point to are Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:14 in which He said the ultimate End Times sign is the preaching of the gospel to all people.
One question to be raised about Matthew 24:14 is: What exactly does it envision? Does it mean getting the gospel to every single person or earth? The term translated “people” in Matthew 24:14 is plural and thus could or should be rendered as “peoples.” In this sense Matthew 24:14 could mean having a viable Christian witness within every single ethnic and people group.
To be sure, whatever is envisioned, great progress has been made in accomplishing that task. The Good News of Jesus Christ is being preached today in more places around the world than ever before. Nonetheless, we still have a ways to go. At least 5,000 distinct people groups have no church planting movement in their midst.
Many of the doomsday “signs” which people seize on are things that generate fear. The sign Jesus gave in Matthew 24:14 -- the gospel being proclaimed everywhere -- should do the opposite. The thought of all people clearly hearing the Good News should generate delight at what will happen as we approach End Times.
If Matthew 24:14 is true, then declaring the Good News to the ends of the earth is not something optional. It has to be accomplished. Will we be an obedient part of making it happen?