The mission of the church between now and the return of Jesus is to announce the Good News of his Kingdom to all men.
Jesus tasked his church with announcing his gospel to all nations. The New Testament summarizes his message as the “good news of the Kingdom of God.” In him, God’s rule over the earth is being established, though often in unexpected and paradoxical ways. By the time Christ returns, he will have established total sovereignty over the nations and subjugated all His “enemies,” especially the “last enemy,” death.
All men are invited to accept his offer of life while the opportunity remains. The day is approaching when it will be too late to respond positively to the gospel of the kingdom. And embracing his message requires a complete reorientation of life. The level of commitment required to be his disciple is total. In this life, nothing is more important than how we respond to his summons to believe the “good news” and to follow him wherever he leads.
By his death and resurrection, Jesus defeated all the forces that were hostile to God, including Satan, death, and sin. His resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost signaled the commencement of the “last days” – the reign of the Son from the “right hand of God” – just as promised by Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible – (Psalm 2:2-8, 110:1).
Christ’s victory on Golgotha means that the “ends of the ages have arrived.” Even now, the “forms of this age are in the process of passing away.” Sin and death may continue for a time, but the decisive victory has already been won. Already, Jesus is reigning on the messianic throne for his Father. Even now, he is reclaiming the earth for the kingdom of God – (1 Corinthians 7:29-31, 2 Corinthians 5:16-18).
Satan’s defeat was achieved on Calvary. Since then, the Son of God has been putting down all “powers and principalities” that are opposed to his rule, and he will continue to do so until all that remains is the unopposed rule of God throughout the Cosmos – (1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Hebrews 1:5-14, Revelation 1:4-6).
Consequently, the Church has been tasked with proclaiming the “gospel of the Kingdom to all nations” until the very final moment of his return in glory. And since he now does reign, it is imperative for his followers to herald his victory throughout the earth – “Go and teach all nations…to observe all things whatever I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you even unto the end of the age.”
Believers are his “witnesses,” the envoys of Jesus commissioned by him to summon all men to enter his kingdom, and to preach “repentance and the remission of sins in his name among all nations.”
Just before he ascended to heaven, he commanded the disciples to tarry until “they received power after the Holy Spirit came upon them.” Thereafter, they would become his “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth,” witnesses to men and women from every nation – (Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:45-48, Acts 1:7-9, 3:19-21).
That mission must continue until the “end,” to the very day and hour when he appears “on the clouds of heaven.” Nowhere did Jesus order his disciples to engage in the social, economic, or political reformation of the existing world order. Instead, we are tasked with preparing a people for everlasting life in the “age to come,” to call out a people separated for His name and service.
None of this means that the church must disengage from the world. Far from it! But Christ’s disciples are called to engage with humanity by preaching his gospel. Put another way, without his salvation and the establishment of God’s kingdom throughout the earth, the world will remain forever in darkness and without hope. After all, God has chosen the “foolishness of preaching” the word of the cross to confound the so-called ‘wisdom’ of the world – (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).
The present world order and its institutions have been judged already on the Cross. Even now, they are in the process of “passing away.” To spend time and effort reforming the things that have been judged already and sentenced to disappear is pointless. “Why work for the meat that perishes?”
When Jesus predicted the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple while on the Mount of Olives, the disciples asked when that tragic event would occur, and what would be the “sign” of the “coming of the Son of Man.”
To the first question, he responded – Before the termination of the generation that was contemporary with him. To the second, he warned – No one EXCEPT GOD ALONE knows the hour, day, “season,” “seasons” or “times” of his return.
However, there is one factor that will determine “when” he will appear – “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole habitable earth for a testimony for all nations, and then shall the end come” – (Matthew 24:14, 24:36, Acts 1:6-8).
The completion of the church’s mission is THE “sign” of the “end,” for the end of this age cannot come until that task has been completed. The very fact that the “end” has not arrived provides irrefutable evidence that the church’s mission remains incomplete. He will not appear “on the clouds of heaven” until his message has been proclaimed to all the nations of the earth. Therefore, all who wait anxiously for his “arrival” must, above all else, preach the Gospel!