The Gospel must first be preached to all nations
Key verse 13:10
“And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
Last week we had heard the good news. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus opened a new and living way for sinners to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus proclaimed the good news of God. “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” In today’s passage, Jesus teaches about the end of age. It contains amazing prophesies about the end times though it sounds horrible. You may want to know the time and the signs of the end of age just like the disciples. But the most important teaching is the correct view on human history and God’s primary role in it. We can see the underlying main power forces controlling our history and setting its course from behind. It is God. God is in control. If we understand and learn this lesson, we can become history makers living great lives, working together with God. We can become God’s workers and bear much fruit. May the Holy Spirit open our eyes today to see human history from God’s point of view. May God help us to be part of God’s History by preaching the gospel to all campuses as our first priority. Amen.
I. Prophecies about the Temple (1-2)
Let us read verse 1. “As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”” The temple which Herod built was one of the wonders of the world. All construction works took around 82 years. According to Josephus, a first century Romano-Jewish historian, it was built of huge marble stones—some of these stones were 40 feet long, 12 feet high and 18 feet wide. It was covered with a large golden dome. And in the sunny morning, these gold plated stones reflected the fiery sun rays and people could not look at it. It was indeed spectacular. The disciples were much impressed by those massive stones and magnificent buildings just like we are impressed when we go to New York and climb up the Top of the Rockefeller or the Freedom Tower and we cannot but exclaiming “Wow!” out of amazement. On August 2001, I went up to the top of WTC for the first and last time. I was amazed by the massive buildings on every sides – East, West, South and North. The building was pride of America.
What was Jesus’ answer? Look at verse 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.” Jesus did not share their interest. He seems to throw cold water on their cheerful mood. “Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.” The disciples were shocked by Jesus’ prediction about the temple. To the Jews, the temple was not just a building, but the house of God, the glory and pride of Israel. They might think the temple – this magnificent building – would stand forever. But Jesus was talking about the destruction of the temple. Usually they were concerned only about what food to eat and what position to take, but this time they took the word of Jesus seriously.
This prediction of Jesus was literally fulfilled when Roman General Titus invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the temple completely in 70 AD. Jesus’ prediction here teaches us how to see things of the world. The disciple was fascinated by the impressive temple buildings. But we all know that things of the world will perish, spoil or fade away. Nothing in this world is permanent. That is true. Such magnificent buildings were destroyed 70 years later. Even WTC which was the pride America had collapsed when hijacked Airplanes crashed just 3 weeks after my first and last visit. Historians estimate that around 1,100,000 people died in Israel in those years and the state of Israel came to an end. This is a prophetic picture of God’s judgment, which will certainly take place at the end of human history.
What was the reason behind such tragic events? Do you know? Yes, the main reason was the sin of Israel. The nation of Israel was called as kingdom of priests for the whole world but they only wanted to enjoy milk and honey. God called them as his workers but they refused to be God’s workers. They threw his purpose behind their backs and began to enjoy sin. God sent many prophets to warn them but they beat them and killed them. Finally, God sent his Son (Mark 12) as a ransom sacrifice for the sins of the whole world but they crucified him by the hands of Romans. Finally, God poured his judgment on them and the country ceased to exist, up until the last times, when Israel was recreated in 1948 after WWII.
Jesus did not want the disciples to be fascinated by the glittering of the temple, but to see God’s judgment coming upon his people. This picture is also a great warning for us not to be impressed by 2 weeks luxurious vacation to Hawaii, but see the amazing value of 3 days Campus fishing Bootcamp. It is like a poor widow’s offering that really amazed Jesus for she honored God from her heart. It is a warning for America, a country blessed by God to be a kingdom of priests for the whole world and later drawn into idolatry and sin. God’s judgment will certainly come on the whole world, just as it was predicted through the destruction of the temple.
II. Signs of the end of the world (3-9)
Let us read verses 3-4, “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” After a while on the same day, Jesus was sitting with Peter, James, John and Andrew on the Mount of Olives opposite the same temple. We can imagine that the disciples were gazing at the shining stones in the twilight, as they meditated on Jesus’ prophetic words. They would tried to imagine the destruction of the temple. Since this was a kind of impossible, they longed to know more from Jesus, who knew all the answers, sitting right there with them. The disciples didn’t say, “Teacher, That’s impossible. We cannot believe it.” Rather they believed Jesus’ words and asked him two questions: first, “When will they happen?” and second, “What will be the sign?” Let’s hear Jesus’ answer to their questions.
First, watch out for false saviors. Look at verses 5-6. “Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many.’” False saviors will come in Jesus’ name and deceive Jesus’ people. In our times, Christians are coerced to give up their claim that Jesus is the only way for salvation and accept and respect others’ ideas and religions as of equal credibility. In this kind of atmosphere, we can feel uneasy and compromise with false saviors in order to get along with others. But Jesus tells us to watch out that no one deceives us. We must hang on to Jesus our true and ONLY savior. “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” (1Ti2:5)
Second, do not be alarmed. Jesus said in verse 7-8a, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. ” Indeed, we hear of wars everyday: ISIS in the Middle East and Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Russia against Ukraine, anti-government militants in the Philippines, Sudan, Pakistan, and many other countries. And everybody these days seems to be concerned about North Korea’s nuclear threat. But Jesus said, “Do not be alarmed. Such things must happen…” Instead of worrying, we must believe that God is in control. As Jesus said, the end is still to come. It is God who will bring the world to an end, not human wars. We must trust God and have a great assurance of his love.
Look at verse 8b. “There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” In addition to wars, there are natural disasters such as earthquakes, famine and other natural disasters. Natural disasters are so terribly powerful that makes man powerless and hopeless. Sometimes 1000s people were killed in a second by a flood and mudslide. Most of natural disasters are not what we can prevent. There are endless wars and rumors of wars and tragic news about natural disasters. How should we respond? “Do not be alarmed, but trust God Almighty who is in control.” Jesus says in verse 8b, “These are the beginning of birth pains.” Birth pains are difficult to bear. But birth pain is the sign of a new life’s coming. In the same way, troubles and sufferings of the world are the prelude of the coming of God’s glorious kingdom. The world will not be end by wars or natural disasters, but the kingdom of God will come. When the kingdom of God comes, all pain and suffering of this world will be forgotten!! We will have new life in God’s kingdom where God reigns. So when we hear of wars and natural digesters, we Christians are to renew our hope in God’s glorious kingdom. Fear makes us powerless and useless, but living hope in the kingdom of God makes us the faithful and wise servants of God; powerful witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Third, be on your guard. In the last day, Christians are to be persecuted painfully. Verses 9-13 show us how Christians are persecuted and how to overcome persecutions. Jesus says in verse 9b, “You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.” Christianity was born with persecution. It has grown in persecution. It will end with the glorious kingdom of God through persecution. To Christians, persecutions are inevitable, because our Lord Jesus was persecuted. Ungodly people hate Christians. Why? Jesus says that the world hates us because Jesus has chosen us out of the world (Jn 15:18-19). As we know so many Christians around the world are going through persecutions right now. Over 50,000 Christians in North Korea are imprisoned in labor camps, tortured and executed. Today even here, in the North America, Christians are persecuted in a different ways. Even family members hate us and persecute us (12-13). We should not be afraid of persecution, because Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to help us (11). He said in verse 9: “On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.” These persecutions that we go through have a clear meaning: to witness about the Gospel of Jesus to the rulers of the world. Persecution is opportunity for us to be witness of Jesus. We must be on our heard. We may never give up our faith due to persecutions. Instead, we must endure hardship as an opportunity for our faith to grow and to be witness of Jesus Christ. This reminds us of James Bible Study last summer. James 1:2-5 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Let us rejoice in persecutions, rejections or misunderstanding. When we persevere under trials, Jesus will give the crown of life in the kingdom of God.
III. The Gospel must first be preached (10-13)
So, when will the end of the world actually come? Let us read verse 10. “and the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” This means that when the Gospel HAS BEEN PREACHED in all nations, the end will come and the history of the world will terminate! Here we can learn a very important lesson: preaching the Gospel is the driving force behind the history of humanity. When the preaching is done, the end of world comes with Jesus’ second coming. Jesus teaches us that human history has a firmly set direction: world’s salvation through the preaching of the Gospel. In history, there have been kings, queens and their fancy kingdoms; there had been powerful men like Alexander the Great or Constantine the Emperor. It seems like History of mankind had been led by these so-called powerful people of the world. However, God had been led the history according his purpose and his plan - “Salvation of the world” - through those who obeyed him. Those who lived without God were meaningless, the symbol of empty way of life, no matter how powerful or how beautiful they were. However, those who participated in God’s world salvation history through their faith and obedience were so precious to God that he puts their names in the book of life. What is really matter at the end of the age is not what men have been achieved. It is the gospel which must first be preached to all nations. This bible is the history of God, the world salvation history which God had planned, God had promised, God had carried out and God had completed through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Now this completed gospel must first be preach to all nations.
However, many people easily fail to see the value of preaching because Satan, the ruler of the world, blinds us with glittering riches and fancy buildings of this world. Some people forget the glory of the world mission and get lost in Manhattan or Seattle. Some others may get so busy that they no longer burn for preaching the Gospel. Others get involved in politics with muuuuuuuuch talking, because they get fascinated by the glamorous speeches of Trump or by the gorgeous looks of his beautiful wife. May God help us understand and remember that “all men are like grass, all their glory is like flowers in the field. The grass withers and the flower fall.” The invisible hand of God rules the history from behind the scenes for the only one purpose that really matters: preaching the Gospel to all nations!
What is God doing in our generation? What are we doing in America? Sharing one word of God, carrying out 3 1:1 Bible study, teaching 5L2F Giving Spirit, struggling to write repentant testimony, struggling to somehow gather together and pray together for sheep and campus mission seem not so important; Not so significant – when we compare these to magnificent businesses in the world. We might think that it would be better to first establish our carrier as A Students, Medical Dr. ; even it would be better to earn money than to join prayer meeting or campus fishing. However, that is not true. “Watch out that no one deceive you.” We may not be deceived by glittering riches and fancy buildings of this world. We may see things in God’s point of view; We may understand the history form God’s point of view. God is in control. Powerful people are only pawns in God’s hands. They decorate the first pages for a while and the next moment — they are gone! “The gospel must first be preached to all nations.” Sharing one word of God is so precious. Outreaching to strangers and preaching the gospel is so wonderful that God even love the feet whose preach the gospel. In this end times, preaching the gospel is what God really wants us to do. Preaching the Gospel! That is why God sent his son Jesus. That is why Jesus came to this world and sacrificed his life. That is why Jesus called the disciples and sent them out – “Preach the gospel to all nations!”
“Preaching” is what God use to save sinners. Romans 10:13- 14 “Everyone who called on the name of the Lord will be Saved.” How then, can they call on the one they had not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” God saves all people through preaching. For 2 weeks, I have been carrying out 3 team 1:1. In fact, these 1:1 were not longer than 10 minutes – sharing one word of God “Jesus is the way, and the truth and the life.” Even though he knew all my weaknesses, God called me, saved me, brought me here in NJ to preach the gospel to all students in this campus.
If a movie was made, covering human history from its beginning to end, then who would be the producer of the movie? Yes, God! Who would be the main actors? The main actors would be humble shepherds and missionaries who preached the Gospel. And then somewhere down in the footnote, Alexander the Great and Constantine the Emperor would be written in small letters, participating only in some episodes.
I praise God, who called us as preachers of the Gospel, as the main characters of HIS history, HIS-STORY !! And I pray that all of us make a decision of faith to live as God’s workers in these last days before the end of the world. We should not live for money and pleasure, thinking that this world is endless and we will enjoy forever in this world. This is very wrong! Instead, our everyday should be like the last day, drawing us closer to the end of the history and reminding us that Jesus’ Gospel must first be preached to all nations! May God help us preach the Gospel to the end. Amen.