Will Christ Return to Earth Before the World has been Evangelized?
Dr Oswald Smith
By Dr Oswald Smith
IF YOU will turn to the Gospel according to Mark, the thirteenth chapter and the tenth verse, you will find these words: "The Gospel must first be published among all nations." Then if you will turn to the Gospel of Matthew, the twenty-fourth chapter and the fourteenth verse, you will find the same statement, but with something added. It reads like this: "This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached among all nations and then shall the End come."
Before I comment on these passages I want to clarify my subject. I am not asking the question, "Will Christ return to the Air?" In fact, I am not speaking about the Rapture at all. My question is: "Will Christ return to earth? Will He come to establish His Kingdom and reign? Will He return to put an end to this Age and usher in the next? Will He return to earth before the world has been evangelized?"
Note also, if you will, that I am not asking if He will return to earth before the world has been Christianized. The word I have used is "evangelized", and there is a world of difference between Christianization and Evangelization. To understand the message, therefore, you must understand the subject: "Will Christ return to earth before the world has been evangelized?"
When I first read the passages to which I have drawn your attention, and especially the one in Mark, I was puzzled. Why, I asked myself, did Jesus use the word "first"? Why did He not just say, "The Gospel must be published among all nations"? That would have made sense. That I could have understood. But that is not what He said.
He interjected the word "first." He stated that the Gospel must first be published among all nations. What did He mean? Why did He use the word "first"?
The First Reason
To begin with, I think He wanted to point out the urgency of the task. He wanted to say that before we did anything else, we were to evangelize the world.
This generation can only reach this generation. This generation cannot reach the last generation because the heathen of the last generation are all dead and gone. The Christians of the last generation were responsible for the heathen of the last generation. This generation cannot reach the next generation because when the heathen of the next generation will have been born, the Christians of this generation will have died.
The only generation that we can reach is our generation and unless we evangelize this generation it will never be evangelized.
In our Canadian Northwest we have great harvest fields. Every autumn special trains, loaded with harvesters, are rushed to these fields. Why the haste? Why the hurry? Why not take our time? Why not do it later? Why must it be done now? Because it is now or never. The harvest will not wait. There may be another, but this harvest will be lost, and lost forever. It must be garnered in within the limits of a single harvest season or it will perish. Hence the haste. So it is with the Lord's harvest. There may be those who will reach a future generation, but this generation will be lost and will perish unevangelized. Hence, the urgency.
Some one generation must complete the evangelization of the world. Why not our generation? Why leave it to another? The last generation did not do it, and the next may not. It must be completed, I say, within the limits of a single generation. Why not within the limits of our own? We can do it if we will.
But, you say, if it has already taken nearly two thousand years to evangelize thirty-five per cent of the human race, how can the remaining sixty-five per cent be evangelized within the next few years? Will it not take another two thousand years to complete the task ? I think not. With our speeding-up methods of evangelization, it can be done in this generation. With our modern inventions it is possible.
The Second Reason
In the second place, I think He wanted to point out that the world had to be evangelized before He Himself would return to reign. If you will read the entire chapter, you will discover that it has to do with the End-time of this present dispensation and the ushering in of the Golden Age. But as He relates the events, one by one, suddenly He pauses and He says this: "But first, before these things can come to pass; before the Age can end and the new Age be born, first, this Gospel must be published among all nations."
In Matthew's Gospel you have these words added: "Then shall the end come." That makes it dear. The meaning cannot be mistaken. The Age will end when the world has been evangelized. In other words, before Jesus Christ will return to earth to reign in millennial splendour, power, and glory, His Gospel must be proclaimed to every tribe, tongue, and nation. There must be some in heaven from every race, according to Revelation; hence, our greatest obligation is to give His Gospel to all mankind. Acts 1:8 says it will be done. Matthew, I know, speaks of the Gospel of the Kingdom. I am preaching both the Gospel of the grace of God and the Gospel of the Kingdom, constantly.
The Gospel of the grace of God is the good news that Jesus died for sinners. The Gospel of the Kingdom is the good news that Jesus is coming back to reign. Both messages must be proclaimed; and whether it is the Gospel of the grace of God or the Gospel of the Kingdom, it makes no difference. In both cases, it is the Gospel, the good news. And it must be published before the end comes.
Oh, that our statesmen knew the programme! They are trying to get rid of war and bloodshed, to abolish poverty and sickness; and, as far as possible, to eliminate death. They hold their Peace Conferences; they sign their pacts; they spend their money for relief; and they think they can accomplish their purpose. How little they know!
If they knew God's plan they would organize and send out the largest army of missionaries they could muster, tens of thousands of them. They would place their radio stations at the disposal of Christian agencies. They would use their newspapers for the publishing of the Gospel; and in a few years they would succeed in reaching every man, woman, and child; and the whole world would be evangelized. Then Christ would be here. He would set up His Kingdom. War would be no more; sickness and poverty would be gone; seldom would there be a death for man would live his allotted life. The millennium would be established and man's rule ended. Christ would take over the reins of government and rule this world in righteousness. There would be prosperity never known before. But the rulers do not know and the church struggles on. The world still waits to be evangelized and Christ does not return.
When, oh when, will we see God's plan? How long must He wait before we get down to business and do the job?
This is an abridged excerpt from Dr Oswald Smith’s book, The Passion For Souls.