By Ryan Shaw
Jesus gives us clarity in defining the fulfillment and scope of the Great Commission in Matthew 24:14. “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.”
This is crucial for the body of Christ to grasp. We are too often guilty of spiritually misunderstanding the times we live and what the outworking of the will of God might look like, specifically in relation to the Great Commission.
Earlier in chapter 24, Jesus’ disciples had asked Him what it would be like near the end of the present age, when He would return in glory. Jesus depicts a period of great challenge to the body of Christ, revealing it as the beginning of sorrows (v. 8)
He highlights spiritual deception arising through false Christ’s (v.5), nations and kingdoms having increased military and ethnic conflicts (v.6), economic warfare (v.7), famine, pestilence and earthquakes destroying infrastructures (v.7).
All these have happened throughout history to a degree but in the generation of the fulfillment of the Great Commission, they will dramatically increase and come to the most chaotic head in history. Hardship among believers will be widespread, persecution and martyrdom dramatically increasing among the saints (v.9).
All this will be too much for many believers who bought into a false message of comfort and ease and will be offended at God, allowing their hearts to grow cold (v.10, 12). This is referred to by Paul and others in the New Testament as the Great Apostasy or turning away (2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1).
Many believers in that generation will fall away, rejecting God in their lives out of a false perspective of His love. Evil will be rampant, as Satan rages in desperation against Jesus and His beloved bride.
Though Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul in His Epistles clarify we can never know the day or the hour of the fulfillment of the Great Commission and Jesus’ return, they all agree that we are to know the signs and trends.
All of the signs and trends given have happened throughout history. The difference is that each of them is significantly increasing over the last 15-20 years in unmistakable terms and we can expect them to continue to do so. Simultaneously, we can expect the Harvest is being prepared among every ethnic people group on the planet.
In the midst of this somber outlook, Jesus includes verse 14 about the timing of His return. The purpose of history itself is the outworking of the Kingdom of God among all peoples.
Many factors will play a role in a monumental turning to Jesus never before seen in history. These include great spiritual power being released upon message bearers (alternative term for missionary) as they communicate Jesus as King, circumstances aligning for hearers among the unreached to be desperate for Truth, and disillusionment growing with the lies of false religions.
The fulfillment of the Great Commission happens in the midst of great challenges, difficulties and a raging enemy seeking to derail it at every turn. Yet, Jesus’ Church will not shy away or faint from fear.
Instead, she will rise with true boldness facing the enemy’s onslaught through the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimonies and loving not their lives even unto death. This glorious process will not be cut short by Satan’s attempts to harm Jesus’ body (though many will be martyred in those days).
Daniel 11:32 confirms this process. This is a prophetic passage looking directly to the generation leading to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the return of Christ.
Though the wicked will flourish at that time more than any other in history, the “people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.” The darkness will get darker and yet the brightness of His shining light will simultaneously increase and bring in the Great Harvest of multitudes from among all ethnic groups.
God’s manifest presence revealing Himself, His dynamic empowerment of His people, signs and wonders testifying of Jesus and more will converge. We have never seen the kind of spiritual power He is getting ready to release as the body of Christ aligns with His heart in the Great Commission.
The key in the Daniel passage is that we are those who truly “know our God.” It isn’t Bible College or Seminary degrees that enable us to “Know our God.”
It’s a living, abiding, communing, obeying, surrendering, vibrant heart relationship where Jesus is being continually formed in us and we are becoming consistently conformed to Him.
Are we preparing ourselves and serving in Jesus’ great commission with the right mindset? Are we allowing Scripture to inform how we see the outworking of the will of God in the Great Commission?
We do not want to be ignorant of Jesus’ own prophecy surrounding the context of the fulfillment of the Great Commission. In this way we are not surprised or caught off-guard by the challenges we see all around us. Instead we respond with clarity, boldness and purpose as we align with His perfect will in the earth.