A Different Perspective on Matthew 24
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:14). Herbert Armstrong spoke these words for many years to describe what he felt was his role in the Great Commission Jesus gave to His church.
But what does this verse actually mean? Let’s analyze it for a greater understanding of what it was Jesus actually was referring to so long ago.
First, we know that “gospel” means “good news.” The gospel of the Kingdom is the good news, not only of the coming of the Kingdom of God, but also what his Kingdom is all about and how people can enter into it. The Kingdom of God is God’s kingdom. It includes all of God’s word, His will, and His way. This is what must be preached in all the world as a witness. Has this been done yet?
Some say this work has already been fulfilled by the Worldwide Church of God in the days of Herbert Armstrong. But the end has not come since that work has been accomplished, and all the churches of God are now small and scattered. Because of this, many are concerned about when this great work will be done. And let’s not forget the economic collapse of the U.S., which many are expecting. If this should occur, we will have all we can do to just barely survive, much less think about producing an expensive worldwide gospel-preaching work.
When you think about all that the message must be, and all the places it must reach, the gospel-to-the-world work is not a small undertaking. Who will do it, and when will it be done?
What Is “The End”?
The scriptures tell us who will preach the gospel to the world, and when it will take place! When you put the scriptures together properly, you will find the answer to this question.
Notice the word “end” in Matthew 24:14. When does the Bible say the end shall be? “The harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels” (Matthew 13:39)! Next we can look in Revelation and see when this harvest (which is the end) is to take place.
Revelation 14:14-20 describes the harvest. Here are the angels reaping, just as it says in Matthew 13:39. But when will it be? Read all of Revelation chapter 14 to get the context. In verse 1, Jesus is standing on Mount Zion, and the saints are with him. So we can see that, at the time of the harvest, which is identified as the end, Christ has already come!
But today we see that Christ has not already come. The gospel has not been preached to the world as a witness. Of course, there have been many preachers for many centuries, doing their best. But have any of them been able to make a witness to the whole world?
A New Look at Matthew 24
We are coming to a new understanding, which can give us a whole new perspective on Matthew 24! Now we can review these scriptures and see what we may have missed before.
Matthew 24:1-2: “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Here Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple, which took place in A.D. 69-70.
Verses 3-8: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Notice that when the disciples asked, “When shall these things [that is, the destruction of the temple] be?”, Jesus replied that deceptions, wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes will come, but that they are only the beginning of sorrows.
Verse 9: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” These and other scriptures indicate that the beginning of sorrows culminates in the Great Tribulation, which is the affliction of the saints.
Verse 10-13: “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Great offense, deception, and iniquity are described, in the context of the tribulation.
Verse 14: “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.” As we saw earlier, comparing this verse to Revelation 14:1, 14-20, the end, when the gospel is preached to the world as a witness, takes place after Christ returns. So these first 14 verses of Matthew 24 have given us a general picture of the events from the beginning of sorrows, through the tribulation, and up to the end, which is the harvest after Christ returns.
In the next verses in Matthew 24, Jesus backs up a little in time to describe some of the events to take place, and gives us a more detailed survey.
Verses 15-22: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” These verses give us a warning of what to look for just before the tribulation.
Verses 23-28: “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” These verses give us warning of what to look for during the fulfilling of the tribulation and leading up to the coming of Christ.
Verses 29-31: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Here we have the tribulation, followed by the heavenly signs. In Revelation the corresponding scriptures would be Revelation 6:9-11 (the fifth seal, describing the tribulation) and 6:12-17 (the sixth seal, or the heavenly signs). The four horsemen, (the first four seals in Revelation) would therefore correspond with the events described as the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:3-8).
The beginning of sorrows must be very great, because in Revelation 6:8 we see that it results in the death of one-fourth of human life on earth. And it will not be cut short, because we know from Revelation 11:15 that Christ does not come until the sounding of the seventh trumpet, which is part of the seventh and final seal.
Continuing in Matthew 24, verses 32-35: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” This is the conclusion of that passage.
When Will These Things Be?
Now, if we were to ask the question, “When will the gospel be preached to the world?”, we can see from what we have just read that it will be preached just before the end comes (Matthew 24:14). And when does the end come? At the time of the harvest at the end of the world (Matthew 13:39; Revelation 14:14-20).
To see this more clearly, let’s look in Revelation 14, before the verses describing the harvest, to see when the Gospel will be preached in all the world, as a witness. Revelation 14:6 says, “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.”
This is it! This is the gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God, going to the world, which was spoken of in Matthew 24:14! It was not preached by Worldwide! It will not be preached by any of us. It will be preached in all the world, after Jesus has come, by the first of the three angels, before the harvest takes place!
What Are We to Be Doing, Then?
What conclusion can we reach regarding this? To begin with, we should realize that the scriptures don’t actually say that the church will accomplish this preaching of the gospel to the world. Scripture only says that this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached. We have always assumed that the church was the instrument to preach it. In all our Bible study, we need to be careful to note what the scriptures say, and what they do not say.
Secondly, we all have a work to do, according to Matthew 28:19, in baptizing and going out into all the world, teaching everyone to observe all things that Christ commanded. But we need not worry that just because we are a tiny group, and are not performing a great worldwide work, that we are somehow not doing God’s work. Whether our fellowship is large or small, whether we believe we are great or little, we are all part of God’s work.
In addition, we don’t need to worry about how we can do something to unify and bring about the great worldwide work of preaching the everlasting gospel ourselves, for now we can see that Christ will send His angel to accomplish it after His return, before the end!
The Bible doesn’t tell us that preaching the gospel to the world just before Christ’s return is our job, or any man’s job. Our job, as disciples of Christ, is outlined in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go ye therefore into all the world ...”
We can’t do the first angel’s job for him. We just can’t! Instead, let’s concentrate on doing what Christ told His church to be doing.