(based on an article by Frank Haegler)
Throughout the world, there are many fine organisations who make it their prime “mission” to spread the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ to every known person. No doubt, millions of people through the ages have been saved through such efforts, and we give thanks to God for this.
Often, it is said, when the whole world has had the chance to hear the gospel message, and the task of global evangelism has been completed, Christ will then return for His bride. Of course, many such missionary organisations see themselves as helping to fulfil the Great Commission as spoken by Christ in Matthew 28:19 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”.
To take the words of Christ literally and to do one’s best to obey them is indeed a noble thing. Nothing wrong could be said about individuals who have taken these words and acted upon them, often to their discomfort or even peril. Some have given up homes, jobs, family, many comforts and yes, sometimes even their lives.
In times past I have been told that I would make a ‘good missionary’ but I never felt ‘called’ to the mission field. More than that there has been a disquiet inside when I think of those that have chosen this path, mostly with good intentions, but often to the detriment of their families.
Is it our job to take the message of Christ to the uttermost parts of the earth? Will Christ return even if everyone on earth doesn’t hear,? The thought must be that, if they don’t hear, then the Lord won’t or can’t return.
The Lord’s return is not dependent upon us, surely. When people quote the verse above I think they forget some of the other verses in Matthew that the Lord spoke. Ones like Matt. 10: 5b – 7 “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Or the Canaanite woman to whom the Lord said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24).
The Great Commission also comes after many parables and much teaching on the coming kingdom, a kingdom that was linked to Israel. This kingdom needed a King and this was to be the Lord Jesus, of course.
We know that the majority of Israel rejected the King. They crucified Him and even through the re-offer of the kingdom throughout the Acts period they continued to reject the message. Had Israel repented the kingdom would have come then and there (Acts 3:19).
So what about those who have never heard the gospel?
Stuart Allen deals with this in his book on Romans and Galatians: “Furthermore we are assured in Scripture that the righteous Judge of all is able to do what no human judge can do, that is, He assesses what an individual would have done if his circumstances had been different. ” (“The Galatian and Roman Epistles of Paul” p.65).