Understanding Matthew 24:14 – What is a Witness?

By Ryan Shaw

“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

In the previous writing we considered the gospel of the Kingdom. We looked at what the Kingdom of God is and how it unveils in three distinct phases. Life in the Kingdom, and loving, obeying and serving the King at the center of the Kingdom, is the crux of the gospel.

We said the Kingdom of God works in and through the body of Christ, the church, to extend its available experience of the divine rule of God throughout the world. God’s Kingdom is experienced in the world through the gospel of the Kingdom as disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all ethnic groups… (Matthew 28:19)”

Jesus clearly relates our present verse to the Great Commission and its fulfillment. At the beginning of chapter 24 the disciples ask, “What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?” He answers in our present verse, “this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all ethnic groups and then the end will come.”

Some have reduced this verse to mean merely telling everyone about Jesus is our goal. This is not what Jesus seems to be saying. Simply providing a tract or telling an individual “Jesus loves you,” does not mean we have necessarily given them a Biblical witness.

Being a witness includes at least two-fold criteria.
First, a witness is culturally relevant to the hearer.
Second, it includes a demonstration of power.

A witness must be culturally relevant to the people they are trying to reach. This means the hearer grasps the truth being communicated about Jesus and His Kingdom in a way that aligns with their worldview.

Paul did this everywhere he traveled. Whether speaking to Jews or Gentiles, he deliberately used culturally understood ideas to explain the gospel and win them to Jesus.

The “witness” gets out of their own cultural understanding and willingly crosses over to seek to communicate in an understandable way to the hearer. They find bridges in the culture and host religion which is used to help the hearer identify with the truth being communicated.

Often, we have thought we were being a “witness” when we have not yet done so according to Jesus’ criteria. We’ve communicated from our own cultural worldview yet without making Jesus and His Kingdom applicable to the individual or group.

We rejoice that we’ve “preached the gospel” to the unreached when in reality that person(s) has no more understanding of Jesus and His Kingdom than he/she did previously. In fact, it is possible the foreign declaration of truth has hardened them toward seeing Jesus as a foreign, irrelevant reality to their people.

The second criteria of a witness found in Scripture includes a demonstration of power. Paul revealed, “My speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom but in demonstration of the spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4).”

This demonstration of power may include a miracle, healing, deliverance or other form of God showing Himself superior to created order. Yet, it will always include a deep sense of conviction and a gripping of the heart related to the words being spoken.

As the Jews listened to Peter preach on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:37 tells us they were “cut to the heart.” This meant they understood that what was being communicated was indeed true and they had made a terrible mistake in rebelling against Jesus.

The source of this spiritual power is not us as disciples, but the result of cultivating a living fellowship with the Person of the Holy Spirit. A “witness” is merely a vessel through whose communication the Holy Spirit can “cut to the heart” of all ethnic groups.

We want to root ourselves so deep in life-giving fellowship with the Holy Spirit that every time we speak, spiritual power is released upon the hearer. None of us are there yet but this is what Jesus has made available through the New Covenant and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and we are meant to wholeheartedly go after it.

When the gospel of the Kingdom is communicated in a culturally relevant way to the hearer and comes through a vessel consistently tending a living fellowship with the Holy Spirit, a “witness” can take place.

It is often thought Jesus is revealing only one such “witness” (opportunity to hear truth) is necessary for every individual. For a small few this may be true. But for a true grasp of the implications of receiving the gospel of the Kingdom to firmly take root in the heart of the unreached, more opportunities are needed.

This is why Jesus calls us in the Great Commission passages to spread ourselves out, taking our families and professions, and deliberately settle among people with little chance to hear a true “witness.” The gospel of the Kingdom takes time to transform an entire ethnic people group and cannot be cut short.

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