We live in what appears to be a dark day. A little more than year ago two kids walked into Columbine High School and opened fire on their classmates. In fact, just this week a kid from that school committed suicide. No one is sure if it is related, but one of his friends was a victim in the shooting. And this is becoming typical. I think back to just a few years ago of David Koresh, as he led people to believe he was the Christ and led many to their deaths. Wars, especially in the Middle East, are as common to their lives as ordinary tasks are for us. Sin is becoming so rampant and public, that one cannot turn on his or her television without seeing sin. In numerous places Christians are being persecuted and dying for their faith. In fact, the Bible League tells of a Pastor in China being killed behind his pulpit, right in front of his people. And even natural disasters seem to be heightening. Earthquakes have increased every year this century, and there is a famine right now in Ethiopia taking the lives of numerous people. And in the midst of all this, people seem to be leaving the Church daily, people whose love once seemed to burn so fervently. We live in what seems to be a dark day.
But Jesus told us these things would happen didn’t He? In this passage He tells us that many would come saying they are the Christ, that we would hear of wars and rumors of wars, that there would be famines and earthquakes, that Christians would be hated on account of His name, that lawlessness would be increased, and that many people’s love would grow cold. We are in this time.
Have you ever read about the Pharisees and thought that they should’ve realized that Jesus was the Christ, or that the disciples should have sooner? I mean, after all, the Old Testament prophecies had told all about Him. They should have realized that they were living in times that had been prophesied about for years. Beloved, we are in their same position today, and many of us do not realize it.
This list of horrible things Jesus was teaching was given as a sign that His return was getting very near. I believe that we are very much living in that day. If the church age can be called the last days, then we are in the last of the last days. These dark days should be seen as a sign, a fulfillment of this prophecy in Matthew 24.
For a couple of weeks I have been speaking to us about God using us to channel through which He may send provision and individuals equipped to take the gospel to every nation. I believe God would do that with every group of His people in this nation if they would look to Him with faith. I believe we should all recognize the great task of taking the gospel to every nation. This text says, “yes” to the question, “Is this vision in God’s ultimate plan as something we should do?”
In the midst of all these horrible things happening in the last days, there is a beam of light piercing directly through the darkness. What will happen in those days (in these days) is that God will sweep His hand with a thrust of missionaries taking the gospel to every nation (people group), and they will hear the gospel. There will be converts from every nation, and then the end will come. And I believe that if we are to be obedient, then we should join in that effort. I challenge all of us today to pray and strive for the effort set before us, the effort of distributing His grace to every nation.
Let me point out three aspects of this effort that we need to understand.
1) Preaching the gospel of the Kingdom to every nation means proclaiming the message until every people group has heard the gospel.
Jesus does not simply mean here nations like Argentina, America, China, Scotland, etc. Rather, he means people from every people group. Those groups who are not recognized as a nation , but are tribes speaking unknown languages in places where the gospel has not been taken.
Revelation 5:9 confirms this, for it says, speaking of that day, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book, and to break its seals, for you were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." Brothers and sisters, on that day when we will see our Lord face to face, there will be more than just black and white. There will be people from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
God will call them as He sends out His laborers into the harvest. I want to be among that group. I want us all to be among that group. I pray that these two fellowships would play a great role in taking the gospel to every people group. Be it literally, or in praying for laborers, or in sending our money to support laborers, may this task burn within our hearts. It did within the heart of the Apostle Paul.
In Romans 15:18-21 he wrote, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far a Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And I thus aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation; but as it is written, ‘THEY WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND.’”
Paul wanted to take the gospel to people who had no news of Christ. These groups of people are still around today. We need churches whose heart is that of Paul’s. Facts were once given a number of years ago that only 10% of our missionary efforts from North America are to people groups who have never heard the gospel. But this is changing. God is sweeping His hand.
2) Let me give you a reason why this should inflame your heart to join this effort and move of God. Let me share with you the ultimate purpose for God doing this.
God is utterly concerned about exalting Himself among every people on this earth. He longs for every people and nation to glorify Him. Therefore the heart of reaching these unreached peoples is that God may be glorified above all things. In Romans 15:9 Paul says he wanted the nations to glorify God for His mercy and for Him to receive praise among the nations. That is what will inflame your heart. It is a passion not even simply to love people, but it is a passion for God. Loving people will flow out of a passion to love God. A passion for missions must be driven by a passion for God.
This is what the church needs if we are to reach this goal, for there is a price to be paid. We are not taking the gospel to a group of people who are waiting to lovingly receive you. No, we are talking about missionaries going into lands where they might live impoverished, they might be stoned, they are men who are laughed at, mocked, and even killed. This is not a romantic idea. If you try to set your passion on man and not on God, your passion will die quickly. What is the only thing that will enable men to enter back into the center of a tribe and preach the gospel when they have already beaten him and thrown him out of the city? It will not be a dreamy look in their eyes, it will be a passion for God to receive the glory that He is due—glory from people in every tribe, tongue, and nation. It is the cry of Isaiah 12:4, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” That is the only passion that will put us on our knees yearning for laborers to be sent, will result in us pouring our financial blessings, and our lives into this purpose.
It is only when this mission is accomplished (when there are converts from every people group) that our Lord will return. We need a passion that longs to be with Him. A passion that leads us to cry out in our prayers as we beg our Lord to return.
3) And finally, I want you to know this—this mission will be accomplished.
Christ will call out His people from every tongue, tribe, and nation. He tells us in John 10:16, “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd.”
For years it seemed the church did not recognize sheep of a different color. In fact, we live in that result today, where we might have two churches beside each other—one with black people and one with white. And I think God was screaming to us, “They are My sheep too.” But I don’t want us to become content with efforts like today or with declarations that we want to be interracial. This is great, but we need to shoot even higher. We do not simply need to focus on ourselves but on God calling sheep from every nation.
He will call them, and they will hear His voice. The question is not what will happen. Piper writes, “His triumph is never in question, only our participation in it or our incalculable loss. We can be drunk with private concerns and indifferent to the great enterprise of world evangelization, but God will simply pass over us and do his great work while we shrivel up in our little land of comfort.” God will accomplish His purpose.
And let me tell you that it is getting close. In June of 1997, there were (according to one research group) 579 peoples in the world which did not have any church missionary effort in them. In July of that same year, the Global Consultation on World Evangelization met in Pretoria, South Africa with the result that all but 172 of these peoples were targeted by mission agencies. It is going to happen and it is getting close. We are living in a time unlike the world has ever seen. We are living in a time with this beam of light in the darkness. The Church taking the gospel to every people group will happen. And when it does, the end will come.
God has people in every place. Let this be an encouragement. There are men like William Carey who believed this and started today’s modern mission movement. He went to India in 1793, and his family lived in poverty. He saw his first convert seven years later. And God used his faith and obedience to begin a sending out of laborers like never before. In Carey’s time there he translated the entire Bible into six languages and parts of it into twenty-nine other languages. The tablet on his grave reads, as he requested, “A wretched, poor and helpless worm, On Thy kind arms I fall.”
The Apostle Paul was beaten and ready to leave the people of Corinth because they were not accepting of the gospel and were severely beating him when God told him in a dream, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10). Paul would later write to those who believed on His Word, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).
He knew that it was only God who could call people to himself, and that his job was to simply be obedient to take the gospel to every nation. God is looking for people with the willingness of William Carey and the Apostle Paul. And He will use them to complete the task of gathering for Himself a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. May He find that we are those very people whom He may use—people longing day and night for our Lord to come. May we find we are among those longing, praying, and being used as God sweeps His hand one final time. May His grace be with us. Amen.