Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:14 that His Church will be preaching the gospel to the whole world in the end times. Is this prophecy being fulfilled today?
In the previous article in this series we explored Jesus’ prophecy that God’s people will be hated by all nations in the end time and will face violent persecution.
But after Jesus talked about these dangers, He made a much more optimistic prophecy about His people. Despite the fact that they will be an unpopular minority, He said they will be doing something:
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
Like many other prophecies in the Olivet Discourse, this isn’t about a specific future event. This is about an ongoing effort that has been happening for a long time.
In a sense, it is just as much a mission statement as it is a prophecy. Jesus was telling His people what they are commissioned to do by stating it as a prophecy in absolute terms.
He said it will happen.
Jesus Christ wanted this prophecy to drive and motivate a relatively small and weak group of people to do something big.
Let’s explore this prophecy section by section to see what truths we can learn from it.
“And this gospel of the kingdom”
The first five words of Matthew 24:14 identify the gospel Jesus said His Church will be proclaiming—the gospel of the Kingdom.
Mark records that this was the same message Jesus was preaching from the very beginning of His public ministry: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15, emphasis added throughout).
This is significant, because it reveals an important marker to identify the true Church of God in modern times. There are many religious organizations that talk about Jesus and claim to represent Him—but very few of them say anything about “the gospel of the Kingdom” in their mission statements or make the “Kingdom of God” a central theme in their preaching.
His message was centered on the Kingdom of God. That message encompasses many truths that all revolve around the central truth that God’s ultimate purpose is to establish His government on this earth—and that human beings can be a part of that government by entering His family.
The true gospel of the Kingdom, when fully understood, answers all the major questions of human life.
“Will be preached”
The Greek word translated “will be preached” is the verb kerysso. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, the word means “to be a herald; … to proclaim after the manner of a herald; always with a suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed.”
When we compare this to Jesus’ parting instructions to His disciples in Mathew 28, we see that Jesus used a different word there to describe how His Church will spread His message. In Matthew 28:19, He stated, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (King James Version).
The verb translated “teach” is matheteuo, which is an academic term meaning “to make a disciple [student]; to teach, instruct.” This describes the systematic instruction of the truths of the Bible in a logical manner that helps people clearly comprehend the message and how it applies to them.
When the gospel is proclaimed, it usually includes a mixture of both preaching and teaching. In Acts 28:31, we read about the apostle Paul “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” (For more examples of this in action, read Acts 5:42; 15:35; Colossians 1:28; 1 Timothy 2:7).
“In all the world”
Jesus was clear that His Church will preach (and teach) the gospel message on a global scale. This effort began shortly after the Church received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowered them to “be witnesses to Me [Christ] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Paul also wrote that the gospel must be spread “to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18).
The apostles in the first century made an effort to spread the gospel message as far and wide as they could, but it was not possible for them to truly reach all “the ends of the world.” They preached to as much of the known world as they could travel to on foot, but it wasn’t until the modern age that this verse could be accomplished fully.
The Church of God continues to do all it can to make the gospel message accessible to “all nations” around the globe.In the 20th century, the Church of God began taking advantage of new mass communication technology, such as radio and television, to spread the gospel farther and wider than ever before. Today, the Internet provides an even more powerful tool for the Church to reach all nations.
A few words later, Jesus reiterated this point by saying the gospel will go to “all nations.”
The Church isn’t commissioned to just do a local community work. It will (and must) work hard to spread the true gospel “to all nations.” Modern circumstances make it difficult (and sometimes impossible) to reach some nations due to the ideologies and restrictions of certain governments. But the Church of God continues to do all it can to make the gospel message accessible to “all nations” around the globe.
“As a witness”
Jesus said the gospel will be preached “as a witness.”
The Greek word used for witness is martyrion. From this Greek word we get the word martyr (to die for something), but the original Greek word simply means a testimony. Greek scholar Spiros Zodhiates defines it as “the declaration which confirms or makes known anything” (The Complete Word Study New Testament, 1992, p. 934).
In the New Testament, the word was used to describe the apostles giving a testimony—an accurate eyewitness account of the facts—about the events surrounding the life and messiahship of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:21-22; 4:33; 5:32).
Since the death of the apostle John, the last of the original apostles, it’s not possible for anyone to give an eyewitness testimony of biblical events in the same way. But Jesus’ prophecy dogmatically states that a witness will continue to be given.
Discern magazine writers and staff work very hard to provide our readers an accurate and clear witness of the true gospel—and the many truths connected to it. Even though most will reject the testimony given by God’s people, they still must proclaim it, even if it serves only as a warning for some (Ezekiel 33).
“And then the end will come”
Jesus finished Matthew 24:14 by revealing that the work of preaching the gospel to the world will conclude at “the end.” In this context, “the end” refers to Christ’s second coming—which marks the end of “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).
We should note that there are other prophecies that show that how the gospel is preached will change at the very end of this age. There is a time coming when “the power of the holy people”—the Church—will be “completely shattered” (Daniel 12:7), resulting in “a famine … of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11).
The Bible indicates persecution will be the cause of this. Some of God’s people will be martyred, and others will be hidden and protected throughout the Great Tribulation (Revelation 12:14-17).
Even though there will be a time when the organized effort to preach the true gospel will be forcibly halted, the gospel will still be preached. The book of Revelation shows God will use two special men (“my two witnesses,” Revelation 11:3) to preach the gospel during the 3½ years of the Great Tribulation.
To learn more about these men, read our article “Two Witnesses.”
The work of God today
The prophecy recorded in Matthew 24:14 isn’t something far off in the future or something that has already been done and finished. It is actually, in a sense, being fulfilled at this moment as you read this.
The Church of God, a Worldwide Association, which publishes Discern magazine and sponsors LifeHopeandTruth.com, is driven by this prophetic commission. We are small, but we are determined to preach the true gospel of the Kingdom to all nations as a witness before the end comes.