And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
As one involved in missions I have often heard, even referenced myself, this verse as a challenge to get the job of world evangelization done so the Lord could return. In my heart it seemed strange that God would make the date of the coming of Jesus dependent upon our actions but that sure seemed to be what this passage was saying. After all, as I have heard reliable Bible teachers say, it is only humans who can declare the gospel since angels have never experienced it. Obviously the return of Christ was dependent upon us getting the job done, getting the gospel out to every nations, tribe, language and people. That’s an unbelievably huge (and frightening) responsibility for us weak, undependable human beings.
While teaching a series on the book of Revelation, I found a startling passage, telling of an event to come, that shed new light on this subject:
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.
So an angel will finish this task. The salvation of all mankind and the return of Jesus is not dependent upon me! (Duh.) What a relief!
Obviously this does not negate the importance of us taking the gospel “to every nation, tribe, language and people” because there are those alive in our generation who will not live long enough to receive the message from this angel. They are still dependent upon human instruments, obeying God – some of us by sending others and some of us by going ourselves – to bring them this vital message. But I am relieved to know that “the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority”(Acts 1:7) remain under His control and are not dependent upon me.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”