Is it possible that the gospel’s now been preached “to all nations?”
The Imperative Command
After Jesus’ resurrection, He gave His disciples some marching orders. These are found in Mark, Matthew, and repeated again in the Book of Acts. Before Jesus ascended up to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father in glory, “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matt 28:18-20). If we are His disciples, then these commands are for us too. And there is more than one command here. There is a chain of events which must occur in order.
Notices that Jesus’ disciples are given an imperative command in the Greek, where it is says, “Go therefore.”
Next, they are to make disciples of all nations.
These disciples are then to be baptized (the Greek means “to be identified with”) in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and baptized in water.
Finally, Jesus commands them to teach the new disciples the same thing that Jesus taught His disciples. Whatever commands He gave them, they are to give the new believers. And Jesus gives them the authority to do this (Matt 28:18). This is not negotiable. We must “Go!” There is no plan B.
Has every human being who’s ever lived been exposed to the gospel? No, but does that mean God is not fair? By no means! God is always fair. He would be fair to cast us all into hell. It’s not amazing that only a few are saved (Matt 7:21-23; Luke 13); it’s amazing that anyone is saved. Some would argue, “What about the innocent jungle native in the deep parts of the Amazon?” My answer to them is, nobody is innocent (Rom 3:10-12, 23). Read what the Apostle Paul’s response was to those who don’t believe in God and why he says they have no excuse: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Rom 1:18-19). Why don’t they have any excuse? Paul says it’s because “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). None of us have any excuse. We know God exists. Those who deny the obvious existence of God are only suppressing this knowledge, which means in the Greek, they are “holding down by force” this knowledge; therefore, they really are “without excuse.”
What does “all nations” mean?
When Jesus commanded the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, did this mean just reaching the nations, or reaching every single person in those nations? Later, the apostles all went into different directions to share the gospel. Some went into Asia-Minor (now Turkey), others into Africa and Rome, while some even went as far as India and Great Britain (we believe). Paul even wanted to go to Spain. Did they think they’d ever reach every single person in those nations in their lifetime? Remember, the most of early church lived with the expectation that Jesus was coming back in their lifetime. They must have realized they couldn’t possibly reach every single person in every single nation in the short amount of time they’d be alive, yet Jesus said to go make disciples of all nations. I think they understood that meant they were to go into all parts of the nations around them, knowing that not every single person everywhere on earth would have a chance to hear the gospel in their lifetimes. We know that God will still hold all people accountable for the light that they’ve been given about God. Whoever isn’t reached in “all nations” still has no excuse, because they know God exists, but they simply exchanged that truth for a lie (Rom 1:21-23). Jesus could have said, “go and make disciples of everyone in all nations,” or simply, “go and make disciples of everyone,” but that wouldn’t make sense because He said many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:14). Most it seems will reject faith in Christ.
Near the End?
One of the signs prior to Jesus’ return would be that this gospel, the one Jesus’ brought (Mark 1:15), would be preached to all nations, and then the end would come (His return to judge the world). Haven’t most nations now been penetrated by the gospel? That doesn’t mean all people in these nations have heard the gospel, but the gospel has now gone into all nations when you think about the reach that radio has had, as well as satellites, the Internet (where available), or other wireless devices. Add to these the work of missionaries and Bible tracts that have been distributed worldwide, so on the surface at least, it appears that all nations have been reached. Again, all nations do not mean all people in all nations, since that is logistically impossible. That doesn’t really matter though because all of us have no excuse, wherever we live (Rom 1:18-21). Jesus tells us when the end of the age will come in Matthew 24:14 where He says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Has that happened? If not, it is so very, very close that you can almost taste it. Of course, the church has always lived with that expectation.
Nobody knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ return. The Father has determined that in His sovereign will and nothing can change that. We can only warn those who are perishing without Christ to come to Him in faith and put their trust in Him. There is no way to know how long it will be; we can only know that it will be! When? I have no idea. Is it close? Possibly.
May God richly bless you,
Pastor Jack Wellman
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