There are two seemingly opposing statements in Scripture about how far the gospel will be preached before Jesus returns. In one statement, Jesus says, “for truly I say to you, you will not finish going throughthe cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:23b) In that statement, it looks like Jesus is saying that the gospelis not even going to reach the nation of Israel, let alone the entire world, before He returns.
But in another statement, He says, “This
gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) We know that Scripture does not contradict, so we need to rightly divide this one (2 Timothy 2:15).
Based on these passages, my understanding is that when Jesus
said “shall be preached in the whole world” He was referring to all people groups, but not each and every person. This seems to be consistent with what He said in Matthew 10:23b. He says there you shall not finish going through the cities. So we might get into a city, but not entirely through it. Even based on the grammatical sense of that sentence, we might not even start to evangelize some cities. If this applies to Israel, from where the gospel started to be preached, then how much more does it apply to the rest of the world, as well?!
It’s a sobering thought to think that the entire world (at a
personal level) might not have heard about Jesus at the time of His return. But it appears consistent with what the Scriptures teach.
So then, every nation will hear. But not every person from every nation
will be reached. That, to me, is the gist of what the Scriptures are teaching. Now the word “nation” is “ethne”, from which we derive “people group”. So a “nation” in Scripture is more than just a political entity. In one country, there might be several “nations” or “people groups”. In Canada, for example, where I am from, I can think of at least three distinct Canadian people groups — the “First Nations” (native people, who themselves consist of numerous people groups), the “French Canadians” and the “English Canadians” (and there are scores more that have immigrated).
In all, how many people groups
are there in the world? According to the “Joshua Project” (http://www.joshuaproject.net) there are a total of 16,598 people groups, of which more than 6910 (to date) are still unreached. Wow! On average, that’s more than 40 people groups per country!
How long do you suppose it will take to reach all of these people groups, so that at least some from each people group are able to hear and respond to the gospel? It would seem that this may take yet a while to do.
Evangelism has been happening for centuries. And there are still more than 40% of all people groups that are as yet unreached! How long will it take to reach all of these people groups? Based on the sheer math of it all, it has taken about 2000 years to reach about 60% of the people groups. Given advances in technology and all, it would seem that we’ve still got a long way to go! On a purely mathematical level, we’d need hundreds more years.
But based on numerous factors, I don’t really think the world has even a hundred years before Jesus returns (please see “When is Jesus Christ Returning?” at https://fcet.biblemessages.com/when-is-jesus-christ-returning/ and “He is coming back
sooner than you may think”, at http://www.fcet.org/eclipsearticle.html which details very accurately the up and coming eclipses in 2014 and 2015 which I believe unmistakably point towards the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ around this time (if you read the article you will understand that the eclipses do not specify the day or year, but an approximate time period)..
If the Lord is indeed coming back around this time, what then of the
approximately 40% of people groups that have yet to be reached with the gospel message? This, I believe, is where the great tribulation period comes in. The Bible talks about a time on earth in which there will be great tribulation. It is mentioned in both the Old Testament (Daniel 12:1) and the New Testament (Matthew 24:21). And it will last three-and-a-half years (Daniel 12:7, Revelation 12:6, 14). Specifically, in Revelation 7 and 14, we read about a time of evangelism that will take place in which a multitude from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues are reached with the gospel of Christ.
There it is. According to the Bible, this is when the remaining unreached people groups are
going to be reached. And it will only take three-and-a-half years to complete the job. Amazing.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no
one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands” (Rev 7:9)
“And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal
gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev 14:6)
The return of the Lord is at hand.
Are you ready? Trust in the Lord, for when all is said and done, we must
all stand before Him to give an account. Should you not have a personal relationship with Christ, I would encourage you to read one of our many personal testimonies that have been submitted, available at http://www.fcet.org/pg/27.html.