During a discussion about the last days the disciples ask Jesus, “And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus replies, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). To the same question, Mark records Jesus’ answer this way, “And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations” (Mark 13:10). In this case the emphasis is on the necessity of the gospel reaching the world before the end comes.
In Matthew’s version of the Great Commission, similar themes are reiterated. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . . and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In Luke’s version, Jesus says the gospel “should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Before his ascension, the Apostles query, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:7). He responds, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Who are the Nations?
The nations likely refer to the Gentile nations, in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3). In context of the Abrahamic covenant the nations are the ones listed in the Table of Nations (Genesis 10‒11). These same nations are mentioned in Isaiah 66:18-20 as having a part in God’s end-time plans.
When preaching to the philosophers on Mars Hill Paul says God determines the borders of “all nations” and that he “now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:26, 30). God wants Gentiles to be included among his people.
Announcing of the good news of God’s kingdom to Gentiles is our God-given mission for the present age. God appointed the church—with the keys of the kingdom in hand—to be his means of getting his gospel to the nations. Therefore, the church must ever be kingdom-focused and kingdom-driven. From the Book of Revelation, we know that in the end the mission will be accomplished:
After these things I looked and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . . crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).
[For more on the church and the kingdom read “Heaven on Earth …” (Harvest House), available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.com].