“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).
The other day a friend asked if I thought that this verse shows that the Rapture is very soon. He said that studies show that every people group on earth will be reached with the gospel within a few years. And Bible translators say that the Bible will be in every language on earth in a few years as well. I don’t know if those things are true. But that isn’t what the Lord was talking about in Matt 24:14.
Notice that the Lord was talking about the gospel of the kingdom, not the gospel of justification by faith alone as found in Galatians. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news that the kingdom is being offered to Israel and it could come in seven years or less. That message was preached by the Lord Jesus and His apostles in the first century (Mark 1:14-15: see here for a recent blog discussing that text and the gospel of the kingdom). That was not the message on how an individual is born again. For the kingdom to come, Israel (not the Gentiles) must be a believing nation in fellowship with God.
Matthew 24-25 is all about the Rapture and the Tribulation. The end that the Lord was speaking about in Matt 24:14 was the end of the Tribulation and the end of this age. The Millennial kingdom would follow.
Hypothetically, the current progress in missions may mean that it will be easy for the good news of the kingdom to go to all the nations during the Tribulation as Jesus had said. However, we do not know if these claims are true. (I doubt they are.i) Even if they are, we do not know that the situation we have now will continue. Things could get worse before the Rapture. Besides, all the believers will leave when the Rapture occurs. The Tribulation begins with few, if any, believers on earth.ii
There is so much confusion over the word gospel. Often when people read it, they think that the saving message is in view. But that is rarely the case. That is the sense in Galatians and maybe in a few other verses in the NT. But never in the Gospels does the word gospel refer to the message of everlasting life for the believer.
It is likely that the 144,000 Jewish evangelists of the Tribulation will be the ones taking the gospel of the kingdom to the nations. They may be able to evangelize in languages they never learned (remember Babel).
One final point. We are not called to preach the gospel of the kingdom.iii That was a message for the time of Christ, and it will be a message during the Tribulation. But we would be lying if we said that the kingdom will be here in seven years or less. It will be seven years after the start of the Tribulation and the Rapture occurs a month or two before the Tribulation starts. So, we might guess and say that the kingdom is likely to start in less than eight years. But we can’t be sure. The Lord is coming “like a thief in the night.” Thieves do not announce the night they will come. We are to be watchful since the Rapture could be today. But it also could be years or decades or even centuries from now.
When the Rapture occurs, the good news is that the kingdom will come in just a month or so over seven years. Guaranteed.
i In 1976 I was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ when we announced that we had reached everyone in the United States with the saving message via the I Found It campaign. Our goal was to reach every single person on earth by 1980. We may have presented the I Found It motto to lots of people. But we did not present a clear gospel to everyone in the U.S. and everyone in the world. Most of the people doing missionary work today hold to Lordship Salvation or works salvation. They are not presenting a clear gospel. Plenty of work remains to be done today in the U.S. and around the world. And since the church will leave when the Rapture occurs and only unbelievers will be left, there will be plenty of missionary work necessary to bring the gospel of the kingdom to every nation.
ii There will be two witnesses who share the promise of life in Christ and whose message will be backed up by signs and wonders. They are discussed in the first half of the Book of Revelation. We are not told when or how they come to faith. I suspect that they come to faith during the 30 to 60 days between the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation. Possibly the Lord Jesus appears to them, like He did to Saul on the road the Damascus. They likely then lead many Jews to faith in Christ even before the Tribulation begins. By the time the Tribulation begins, many of the 144,000 evangelists might already have come to faith. But none of this future revival will be dependent on modern missions, with the possible exception of the fact that the Bible has already been translated into most languages.
iii We do, of course, preach the message that the kingdom is coming soon (with soon being 1989 years and counting since Jesus ascended to heaven). But the gospel of the kingdom is more than saying that the kingdom is coming soon (cf. Mark 1:14-15).