The End of the Age
A few days before he was crucified Jesus spoke prophetically and at some length about the course of history and the “signs of his coming and the end of the age”*. Some parts of his prophecy are not easy to grasp, but there are some statements which are very clear, very relevant, and need to be taken to heart, especially by our own generation. These statements are not just for prophetic “geeks”, but demand a practical response from the 21st century church.
Time to Look Up!
Perhaps the most compelling of these statements is Matt 24:14, “This gospel will be preached in all the world and then the end will come”. For a despised Galilean rabbi who was about to be executed as a criminal this would seem the most absurd of statements, bordering on the fanatical. Humanly there was zero hope of fulfilment. In 2012, however, we should be looking around the world in sheer wonder and amazement at the overwhelming evidence of its increasing fulfilment. There is scarcely single country in which the gospel has not been preached and in which there are no Christians. In the last century tens of millions of people have become Christians, and every day large numbers are being converted in the most difficult of countries and circumstances
Two things reinforce the importance of this prophecy of Jesus for our own times. The first is that Jesus added to his words about the gospel being preached in all the world the phrase, “and then the end will come”. People speak quite loosely and often misguidedly about “end times signs”, but there is nothing loose about this word of Jesus; nothing could be more clear or definite. “The end”, of course, means his return, the culmination of the current historical process. Jesus said, “When you see these things come to pass look up”, and the preaching of the gospel in all the world is precisely ‘one of these things’. It’s time to look up!
The second thing which reinforces the importance of this prophecy is that the speed with which the gospel is spreading worldwide is escalating rapidly. It is only since the 18th century that the evangelical gospel has really begun to go worldwide, and the 20th century probably saw more converts than all the previous centuries put together. All nations have been reached; it remains now to reach all tribes and peoples. This should certainly make us “look up”. Furthermore it should hugely encourage the church to put as much effort as possible into the task bringing about the fulfilment of the prophetic word of Jesus. I cannot imagine anything other than real excitement in the heavenly places about what is happening with the gospel in the world. May it grip our hearts too.