The Kingdom Preached in All the World
Worldwide evangelism and missions are a sign of the end times
One of the clearest and most detailed messages Jesus ever gave about the end times can be found in Matthew 24, when He was speaking privately to the disciples on the Mount of Olives. They asked Him, “What will be the sign of Your coming?”
He answered them with several signs for them to look for. If you are a frequent reader of these articles, you already know many of these signs:
False prophets and false Christs (Matthew 24:5,11)
Wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6)
Pestilences and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7)
Lawlessness (Matthew 24:12)
Those are negative signs and, because all of us see our society falling away from God on a daily basis, these things tend to capture our attention the most. Turn on any news station and you’ll hear about wars, earthquakes, lawlessness and other terrible events. The world is filled with heartache, frustration and negativity!
But one of the things Jesus mentions is a positive sign of the end times. You can find this at the end of His list:
“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
As we get closer to the Rapture, followed by the Tribulation, Jesus says we will see a rapid increase in the spread of the Gospel. So the question we need to ask ourselves are these: Is evangelism spreading? Are more people coming to Christ? Are unreached people groups finally encountering the message of Jesus?
The answer is YES.
The Expansion of World Missions
Ever since Jesus died and rose again, there have been Christian missionaries who give their lives to telling His story to others. The original disciples were among the first, as was the Apostle Paul. Many of those spreading the message of the Kingdom in the first centuries of Christianity were Catholic missionaries, monks and nuns. After the Reformation in the 16th century, Protestant missionaries then began to travel all over the world.
But these were still relatively few in number—until the 19th century. These statistics from Christianity Today about the expansion of the Church are especially interesting:
In 1800, perhaps 1 percent of Protestant Christians lived in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. By 1900, this number had grown to 10 percent. Today, at least 67 percent of all active Protestant Christians live in countries once considered foreign mission fields. And the church is still growing rapidly, even explosively, in many areas—Korea, sub-Saharan Africa, Singapore, and the Peoples’ Republic of China.
In 1800, most of the world’s Christians lived in Western Europe and North America, and only 1 percent lived outside those places. During that time, around 75 percent of the world had never heard the name of Jesus.
But Protestant mission work began to explode during the 1800s, and missionaries traveled all over the world. By the 1900s, there were 15,000 European and Protestant missionaries around the world, and maybe half the global population had heard the message of the Gospel. Back then, however, travel was exceedingly difficult. Life as a missionary was hard. Many missionaries died.
Even so, Christians took seriously the call to go make disciples of all nations, and in the 20th century the modern missions movement grew even more. By the year 2000, only a quarter of the world’s population had not yet been reached. Today, there are actually more Christians outside North America and western Europe than inside these traditionally Christian regions.
Read that quote again from Christianity Today:
Today, at least 67 percent of all active Protestant Christians live in countries once considered foreign mission fields.
To me, that represents a supernatural outpouring of the Spirit. The Gospel of the kingdom is being preached across the world. Today, Christians of all types make up around a third of the world’s population.
Many Haven’t Yet Heard
But there are still large segments of the world population who are unreached. The most recent estimates from the Joshua Project, a missions research group, indicate that around 7,400 people groups are considered unreached by the message of Christianity. In other words, these are people groups where fewer than 2 percent of members claim to follow Jesus. The vast majority of these groups have had minimal exposure to teachings about Jesus at all.
The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention believes that there may be around 3,000 ethnic people groups who are “completely unengaged.” In other words, there are no known believers among them and no church-planting activities taking place.
Here are some statistics from the Joshua Project that capture my attention:
Worldwide, Evangelical/Charismatic Christianity is growing. But the growth occurs at around the same rate as the growth of Islam.
81 percent of the world’s non-Christians do not know a single follower of Jesus.
Right now, the number of non-Christians in the world is increasing faster than the number of Christians.
I wrote recently that one reason the Church has not yet been raptured could be because God is waiting for more people to be saved. As Paul wrote to Timothy, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
God may not call you to the mission field, but He calls all believers to share Christ. Peter wrote that we should “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” Paul wrote that we are “ambassadors for Christ,” helping others be reconciled to God.
Miraculously, more people on Earth have heard the Gospel than ever before, and this convinces me we are near the end of the end. But there is still work to be done. Please pray for the efforts of Christian missionaries as they seek to reach people groups with the hope of the Gospel.
And do your own part to share Jesus with your friends, family and colleagues. When Jesus does return to rapture the Church, the last thing you want is for them to be left behind, asking themselves, “Why did __________ not tell me?”