And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matthew 24:14).
This is the great commission that Jesus gave His followers:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).
The meaning of the word nations in both passages is explained in this video.
The 1800s – “The Great Century”
Since the 1800s incredible strides have been made to preach the Gospel to all people groups.
It (the 19th century) has been described by church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette as “the great century” in church history. He says, “Never before had Christianity, or any religion, been introduced to so many different peoples and cultures.” “Never before in a period of equal length had Christianity or any other religion penetrated for the first time as large an area as it had in the nineteenth century.” “Never before had so many hundreds of thousands contributed voluntarily of their means to assist the spread of Christianity or any other religion.” The nineteenth century was the greatest one thus far in the history of Christianity in terms of its extent and its effect upon mankind.1
1. Quoted in Winthrop S. Hudson, Religion in America, second edition (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973), 157
Bruce McDowell writes that: In 1800 only about 2000 of the nearly 13,000 distinct ethno-linguistic peoples in the countries of the world had been reached with the gospel. From 1850 onwards the proportion of non-Caucasian Christians in the world has grown rapidly. By 1900 over 4100 of these people groups had received the gospel. This was a massive effort through a renewed vision and interest in seeing the gospel go to the ends of the earth.
Trends to reach people groups from 1900 – Present
The Gospel continues to spread rapidly throughout the world as evidenced in the following geographical areas.
More Jews have embraced Jesus / Yeshua as Messiah since 1967 when the Jews took control of Jerusalem than in all the years between 100 AD and 1967. (Source)
At the turn of the 20th century, Christianity was virtually nonexistent in many parts of Africa but is now the faith of the majority, as the following table demonstrates:
This animated map is a powerful visual depiction of the most important movement in history: the spread of Christianity. Every frame is one year in the last 2000 years of the Great Commission. It does not show only nations that have declared Christianity to be the national religion, or even areas where professing Christians are the majority of the population. It shows everywhere the Gospel has been preached, where churches and Christian gravestones first show external evidence of that work, and where churches and Bibles are accessible today.
Charting the geographic progress of the Gospel over the last 2,000 years, this map shows the missionary journeys of the apostles, the outposts of the early church, the hotbeds of persecution, the staging grounds of the Church’s major theological battles, and more. In focusing on Christianity, it doesn’t show the geographic dispersion of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or others. Islam is on the map, but only those areas where Islam has dominated at a political level, instituting Sharia Law and persecuting Christians. We have highlighted these areas for the same reason that we show the Roman, Mongol, and Communist conquests: to provide context and demonstrate the effect that extreme persecution has had on Christianity.
The Task Remaining
These maps illustrate the task still remaining:
So just how close are we to fulfilling the Great Commission?
In a video that was once public but is now private, the Southern Baptist Missionary organization stated that for the first time in history this generation possesses the knowledge and tools to complete the great commission.
Call2all has stated that “The pace of world mission is accelerating at an unprecedented pace and this generation has the greatest potential to see the Great Commission fulfilled in their lifetime”.
Great Commission fulfilled by 2026?
Billy Graham’s Decision magazine, November, 2011:
…At meetings in Orlando, Fla., organized by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, it was announced that the world could be only 10 or 15 years away from seeing the Great Commission fulfilled. In other words, it is possible that every people group on Earth will have had the Gospel preached to them and some portion of Scripture translated into their language. To hear this announcement was astounding.
We are now seeing the greatest acceleration of the pace of Bible translation ever witnessed by the Church. Currently, Bible translation is actively under way in over 2,250 languages. (Source)
Wycliffe Bible Translators and Vision 2025
In 1999, our leaders realized that at the speed we were going, it would be at least 2150 before a Bible translation could be started for every language that needed one… Our leaders committed that we would do everything we could to see a Bible translation program in progress in every language still needing one by 2025. (Source)
At a Wycliffe Bible translators conference held just before Thanksgiving, 2016 it was stated that at least portions of the Bible will be translated into every known language within 8 years! That’s 2024!
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14)
Finishing the Task
Our goal is to see the start of Bible translation in each language by 2025, and the entire Bible translated into every language by 2033. (Source)
Great Multitude Saved
The Apostle John sees a great multitude that no one can count standing before God (Revelation 7:9-14)! Based on the description, these have called out to Jesus Christ for salvation and received eternal life! John is told that this vast multitude came out of great tribulation which would be from the second half of the 70th week of years until Jesus returns.
The Ultimate Fulfillment of the Great Commission
Jesus Christ gave His followers the responsibility to take the Gospel to all nations or people groups, and we must be obedient to that command. Just before Jesus returns an angel will proclaim the Gospel from heaven to give all people another opportunity to turn to God.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Revelation 14:6-7)
Since we are this close to fulfilling the Great Commission, what should our response be as followers of Jesus Christ? First, it should have an impact on how we live within the church. Second, it should stir within us a desire to be obedient to Jesus Christ and support missions and missionaries to take the Gospel to every people group as quickly as possible in this generation!
[Seeing] then [that] all these things shall be dissolved, what manner [of persons] ought ye to be in [all] holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (2 Peter 3:11-12)