Reading through the Bible together
In this chapter, Jesus leaves the Temple which ends the debates over spiritual authority initiated by the religious leaders recorded in Matt. 21-23. As He was leaving, Jesus predicted the utter destruction of the Temple (Mat 24:2). The disciples now seek a private conference with Jesus for further explanation, and part of Jesus’ response is His famous discourse on the signs of His second coming. One of those signs is often misunderstood in Seventh-day Adventist circles.
In verses 4-8, we have a series of signs from false “Christs” and false prophets to wars, famine and earthquakes, yet “the end is not yet,” and “these are but the beginning of the birth pains of the “end.” These early birth pains are followed by persecution of God’s people, betrayal, more false prophets, lawlessness and love growing cold (vs 9-12). But, Jesus says, the one who endures to the end will be saved (vs 13).
Now we reach the misunderstood verse: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” This verse is often preached as if Jesus spoke in a conditional sentence: “IF the gospel is preached to the whole world, THEN the end will come.” This is reflected in our call to “finish the work so Christ can come.” Our members believe us when we preach this and they note that the non-Christian world, such as the “10-40 window” which is heavily Muslim or Hindu, is growing its population faster than Christians can preach to them. So some members quietly conclude that if Christ cannot come until we reach every last person with the Gospel, then He must not be coming for a very long time, and their lifestyles declare they believe Christ is not coming very soon.
In reality, the Greek grammar of Matt. 24:14 is a statement of prophetic fact, just like the wars, famines, and earthquakes. Grammatically, the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world is thus a SIGN of Christ’s coming, not just a condition. The good news is that the Gospel WILL be preached to the whole world and that Jesus is certainly coming! We have a work to finish BECAUSE Jesus is coming, not to make Him come. When as members we believe that Christ’s coming is certain and that we have but a limited time to prepare the world for His coming, we will put away out silly arguments and controversies in congregational life, and be revived spiritually and get working in earnest. I personally have seen dysfunctional, unruly churches become revitalized and united when they believe we have a work to finish BECAUSE Christ is coming soon, which is certainly true. With the rise of the internet and social media, the Gospel is truly penetrating the world. This is being fulfilled before our eyes. Jesus certainly is coming soon! Let us act like He is coming soon by preparing our part of the world to receive Him.
Stephen Bauer, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Southern Adventist University