…Until the Whole World Hears…
When news of the Coronavirus crisis broke, a common thought was that this outbreak was a phase of the end times. Financial systems were failing, medical science could not keep up, and the world was endangered by not only a little-known virus but how slovenly the global outbreak was handled in the United States following the carnage in China, Italy, and other European nations. What hope remains for the rest of humanity if global superpowers were brought to their knees by this virus? The only solution seemed to be isolation, and almost nothing could be done while nations waited for things to simply blow over.
With the announcement of global cancellations, no major event was safe, not even the 2020 Summer Olympics. The eschatological conversation is one that must be had, but not without understanding. In Jesus’ teaching on Mount Olive in Matthew 24, Jesus says something that we should heed, even as we face yet another global crisis. In this text, Jesus is talking to his disciples about the end times, but in a similar teaching in Luke 21, He is talking to the congregation in the temple. The disciples inquired about the timing of the events described by Jesus, and though He did not give them dates, He gave them details. In Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus details events that will let them know that the end is near. Looking at the landscape of the world now, could we be close? One of the details that believers have looked to for years is the outbreak of wars and rumors of wars in the world (verse six). Nation rising against nation coupled with famine, pestilence, and earthquakes in diverse places have put us all on notice. Still, Jesus said, “see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet…All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6b, 8).
And this gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Finis Jennings Dake says of this verse: “…to nations, not every individual in every nation, for many will not hear until the Millennium …THEN-when the gospel of this Kingdom is preached again as a witness to all nations. This could only refer to the original gospel, including preaching, teaching, and healing, as it began with Christ and the early church. It could not be an announcement of the coming Kingdom, for people of nations now pray “Thy kingdom come.” This clearly teaches another great outpouring of the spirit and a revival of the N.T. program in all fulness.”[i]
How to reach the masses, men of ev’ry birth, for an answer Jesus gave the key:
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, Will draw all men unto me.”
Lift him up, lift him up, still he speaks from eternity:
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, Will draw all men unto me.”
Lift Him Up, Johnson Oatman
What then, is the directive? I believe that we have before us a unique opportunity to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are also to let the world know that Christ will return and we need to be ready to meet Him when He does whether we are dead or alive (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). It would be irresponsible and short-sighted to allow this pandemic to pass without spreading this two-fold message. With the influx of virtual church services and digital streaming, the gospel is going out over the world wide web at numbers never before seen. Though this is no guarantee that everyone will believe and accept Christ into their hearts, many will do that and align themselves with the Kingdom. Matthew Henry says it this way, “it is called the gospel of the Kingdom, because it reveals the Kingdom of grace which leads to the Kingdom of glory. The gospel is preached for a witness to all nations: that is, a faithful declaration of the mind and will of God concerning the duty which God requires from man, and the recompence which man may expect from God…it is a witness, for those who believe, that they shall be saved, and against those who persist in unbelief, that they shall be damned. The end of the world shall be then, and not till then, when the gospel has done its work in the world.“[ii]
In Mark 4, once Jesus and the disciples finally reached the Gadarenes, the man who was tormented by a legion of spirits met them at the coast. He was delivered, but when the people saw him “clothed and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15), they were afraid and sent Jesus away—back to Galilee. The man (now freed) wanted to join Jesus but was commanded to go to his hometown and tell everyone what Jesus had done for him. As I consider this unique opportunity presented by this quarantine, I cannot help but praise God for the Word going forth and further than before. There is great turmoil in the earth, believers have a chance to break the bondage of terror compromising lives all over the world. How? By becoming involved in telling the world about Jesus. As Dr. J.B. Horton says, “go ye is still in the bible!” Keep telling the world that Jesus saves, and share the message of hope during times of despair. The world needs to hear it!
What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
since Jesus came into my heart!
I have light in my soul for which long I had sought,
since Jesus came into my heart!
Since Jesus Came Into My Heart, Rufus H. McDaniel
The man was in a coastal city of the Gadarenes (a region comprised of ten cities) but was sent home to Decapolis (quite a journey) to tell everyone just how good the Lord had been to him. Have you ever stopped to think just how impactful that was? The journey home may not have been short, but the whole way home, he told people about Jesus. Keep in mind that many of those people had probably already seen him in his former state, under demonic oppression. This reminds me of Haggai 2:9 which told the remnant of Israel that the restoration of Solomon’s temple would be greater than its former glory. They would see it greater than it was, even in its original condition. That’s the change Christ makes in our lives and most of us have lots of people to tell about that wonderful change in our lives! The man told others and who knows how many people each of them told. Who knows what the impact of your testimony will be, except you tell it? What about sharing your faith publicly? Do your friends and family know about Jesus? Many of us can’t share our faith in the workplace as proselytizing is forbidden at work and on the premises, but with many jobs still closed, we now have an uninhibited opportunity.
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness…
Psalm 100:1, 2a
Even testifying about how the Lord has kept you and your family safe and sustained during the pandemic could turn someone’s heart toward the Lord. Have you or someone you know survived the Coronavirus? Will you share that good news? In Acts 2:6, the bible tells us that when the people gathered in the upper room were filled with the Holy Ghost, it was “noised abroad” and people nearby heard it and came to see what it was. They were confused in part because Galileans were speaking a language each of them could understand—their own language. The bible says that people from every nation under Heaven were in Jerusalem that day, what a coincidence, right? On the contrary, there are no coincidences with God. Remember, God has a plan. They all heard that day and the bible says that after Peter’s missive, about three thousand souls were added to the Kingdom (Acts 2:41). In Genesis 11:7 God confused the language of the descendants of Adam who sought to build a city with a tower reaching the Heavens. In the book of Acts, with the advent of the Holy Ghost and birthing of the church, the people once scattered were hearing the same language again…in Jerusalem, as the spirit gave utterance! The people would again be scattered though. Jesus told the Apostles this in John 16:32 and in Acts 1:8, and it is confirmed in Acts 8:4 with the record of Philip preaching in Samaria, following Stephen’s stoning and Saul’s persecution of Christians. Notice, they preached the gospel as they were scattered, while they were scattered and even because they were scattered. What does this mean for us? It’s time to get noisy! On social media, on the phone, in the grocery store, post office, wherever we are and as the Spirit gives utterance…speak and let the gospel be heard! Let it be known! One by-product of this pandemic for believers is evangelism. And, why not? As the world grapples with an unknown future, let’s share the surety of the Savior with everyone who hears our ‘noise’. Remember, there are no coincidences so understand that the Lord has people positioned to hear the ‘noise’ He makes through us! Because salvation has come to us, let’s take it to others! Christ brought deliverance to the demoniac and he took it throughout the region on his way home in Decapolis.
We have heard the joyful sound:
Spread the tidings all around:
We Have Heard the Joyful Sound, Priscilla J. Owens
Remember, there was a reason they needed to make it to “the other side”, and it was not long after their arrival on the coast that the demoniac met Jesus. The alarm we’re sounding is for souls! Even though the world is experiencing trouble, this may well be only the beginning of sorrows. Do you sense the urgency to tell people about Jesus who can not only save you from the storm, but save your soul? There should be an increase in our efforts to share Christ not to simply “save” but to also make them aware of God’s great plans for them that began at the cross. Jesus wants to be your everything and will help you achieve everything He has planned for your life, this pandemic (and any others to come) notwithstanding!
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Before we focus on the coming of the end, let’s focus on preaching the gospel to all the world! Christ is the Savior of the whole world and our anchor in the storms of life! Though it defies logic to even think about dropping an anchor in the midst of the sea, it’s good to have one such as Christ in the midst of a storm to keep you “grounded” and even right side up. Jude, the brother of Jesus ends his letter to believers with this closing salutation, “now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling…” (Jude 24). This anchored posture will keep you afloat so that you are not driven away by the winds of the consuming storm and every wave of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) that presents itself as salvific. Christ is our anchor and also the solid rock upon which we cast our hope of safety. This duality is reminiscent of Christ who is also the root and offspring of David. He told John the beloved Apostle that He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 22:13). Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness! We cast our hope on the root of our hope to receive deliverance when we need it! In Hebrews 6:19 we have this encouragement about our hope in Christ as the writer declares, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast…” With this steadfastness, we hope in the Lord! We will not fear (Psalm 46:3; Hebrews 13:6) but we will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4)! Make this declaration with me that our souls will be anchored by our hope in the Lord. Christ is coming back and we are sounding the alarm and telling the world that Jesus saves!
I’ve found a Friend, who is all to me,
His love is ever true;
I love to tell how He lifted me
And what His grace can do for you.
Saved, Saved, Jack P. Scholfield
This lockdown that has effectively ended one school year early and postponed the start of another, shaken the stock market, ruined job markets and left millions unemployed on top of the growing public health crisis has an inadvertently positive effect, souls! Hold on, we are not at the end just yet, but what if we are at the beginning of the end? Your statement of faith better be solid! In response to the pericope in question (Matthew 24:6-14), theologian Matthew Henry says, “a prescription of the duty of the day; see that ye be not troubled. Is it possible to hear such sad news, and not be troubled? Yes, where the heart is fixed, trusting in God, it is kept in peace, and is not afraid, no not of the evil tidings of wars. Be not put into confusion or commotion: see that ye are not. There is need of constant care and watchfulness to keep trouble from the heart: but it is against the mind of Christ, that his people should have troubled hearts, even in troublous times. We must not be troubled, because we are bid to expect this.”[iii]
My prayer is that you are encouraged and strengthened by the Word of the Lord presented in this book. As provided by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, please take necessary precautions, and follow the guidelines outlined to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. This storm is working to an expected end. This crisis is not cause for alarm, but with it, we are sounding the alarm so that the people of God may accurately discern the times and let the word be heard, everywhere!
[i] Dake, Finis. “Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible: the Holy Bible, The Old and New Testaments, with Notes, Concordance and Index.” Dake Publishing, Inc., (Large Note Edition) 1996, (f) Page 27 (New Testament).
[ii] Henry, Matthew; Scott, Thomas. “Commentary on the Holy Bible, Matthew- Revelation.” Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc, 1979, (V) pg. 121
[iii] Henry, Matthew; Scott, Thomas. “Matthew to Revelation.” “Commentary on the Holy Bible, Matthew- Revelation.” Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc, 1979, (2) pg. 120.