Must the Whole World Hear?

Stephen Terry


Commentary for the September 26, 2015 Sabbath School Lesson


“and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14, NIV

It is a modern day paradox that some Christians believe that the Parousia is imminent, yet those who proclaim this are often “preaching to the choir.” In other words, this has too often become God jargon that post-modern Christians share among themselves but make little personal effort to share with the non-believing world. In the ancient world, when a Christian was beheaded, like Paul the Apostle, the act of martyrdom begat many more Christians. Recognizing this, Tertullian wrote in the late Second Century, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”[i] Yet, when we hear of Christians beheaded today, instead of welcoming waves of new Christians into the church, we are more apt to send waves of Cruise and Hellfire missiles, 500 pound bombs, and armed drones after the miscreants who would dare to attack Christians. Perhaps this is because Christians now have their trigger fingers on enough destructive power to rival God and the apocalypse, raining fire from the sky.

Some have identified the lamb-like beast[ii] of Revelation, chapter 13, with the United States. They point to the fact that it came from the earth rather than the sea as indicative of it being a new country, and the two horns of the beast symbolizing power based on the two foundations of civil and religious liberty.[iii] One might see how such a comparison might favor such an interpretation. But as the metaphor suggests, any lamb-like imagery is false for the verse in Revelation goes on to say that it speaks like a dragon. In other words, purporting to be Christian, it actually speaks with the voice of the Devil for Revelation also reveals the connection between the dragon and the Devil in the previous chapter.[iv] They are one and the same. However, lest some think that this means that the United States is the Devil, please note that the verse does not say that the beast is the dragon. It only says that it speaks with the voice of the dragon. In this, some in Muslim countries who refer to the United States as “The Great Satan” are perhaps inaccurate. Maybe in the end it does not matter though. For those who are on the receiving end of that voice, it is no doubt a hellish experience.

How do we in America then stand before the world and proclaim the Gospel? How do we reclaim the innocence that allows us to do so without hypocrisy? Is it even relevant anymore? While Paul took the gospel across the Roman Empire, there were those who questioned its relevance even in his day. The Ephesians saw it as a threat to their lucrative trade in silver shrines to the Greek goddess Artemis (Diana in Latin).[v] The Jews saw it as a threat to Judaism.[vi] The Romans saw Christianity as a challenge to the cult of Emperor Worship and state sponsored persecutions martyred many. While some debate in one example whether the Decian Persecution in the middle of the Third Century actually targeted Christians, a number of notable Christians died rather than sacrifice to idols or the Emperor as commanded by imperial decree.[vii] In light of such opposition, even unto death, it may be hard to make a case that it was in any way easier to share the Gospel in the time of the early church. Yet some of our most famous, ancient forebears did not shrink from offering their lives if it meant another soul could be saved.

Today, though, we not only appear to avoid such sacrifices, but we may even question whether or not the Gospel should be preached. Some may feel that God is no longer relevant for modern man. Others may feel that religion is still relevant, but which one? They question how we know that God is not working in different ways with different cultures, and even consider it arrogance for Christians to assert the supremacy of their religion. Even among those who accept the Gospel, and Christ as the Truth, there is a plethora of denominations considering one another in apostasy over various minutiae of theology and practice. It is as though each one is saying, “Isn’t God lucky to finally have us, who alone have discovered the truth?” It is as though, we have all wanted to construct a great tower reaching to heaven,[viii] but the chaos and confusion of our various faiths has caused us to scatter in myriad directions, yet we remain hopeful of somehow finding our way home again.

Is it possible in this Post-Modern world to reclaim the initiative of the early church? Does it even matter? With sports to watch on television, video games and home theatre systems, do we really need to go out into the world and talk to people about Jesus? After all there is Three Angels Broadcasting Network, The Hope Channel and Trinity Broadcasting as well as many media ministries like Amazing Facts and Faith for Today. Surely the message is out there already. Why do we need to do anything except send a few dollars to support these outreaches? Even if we do not actually ask these questions, does our lifestyle say it for us? Perhaps it is because of a fundamental misunderstanding of what “witnessing” is all about that we even question our need for outreach.

Some may think they cannot speak for the faith because they do not have enough of an understanding of the theology of their denomination or even of general Christianity. However, what is a witness? It is someone who testifies about what they have seen or experienced. No judge would expect a witness to be able to expound on the finer points of civil and criminal law. In fact, if the witness began to do so, the judge would probably instruct them to stick to what they saw and not embellish their testimony with legal theories. In the same way, we might find a parallel in what we are to share about Jesus. Theology has its place, for theologians, just as the law is the purview of lawyers, but the witness shares their experience with Jesus, not theories about theodicy, obscure prophetic interpretations, or wrangling about legalism and all its implications. Let the pastor in his or her pulpit strain those gnats out of the soup. Instead we are to simply share what a blessing our relationship with Jesus has been to us, and invite others to share the experience. This should not be difficult. After all, if we find a great café, or a wonderful recipe, or even a great website, we have little problem sharing that with others. If we have found something great in our relationship with Jesus, why not share that as well?

Perhaps we hesitate because we question our own relationship to Jesus. The excitement we felt when we first gave Him our hearts and stepped into the baptismal tank has waned. Because we no longer have that initial thrill, we wonder if we are still connected. Perhaps it helps when we look at the metaphor of Jesus as the Bridegroom and the church as the bride. The marriage experience reveals that it is not realistic to expect an unending honeymoon. Seemingly endless streams of laundry, dirty dishes, lawn mowing, home maintenance, utility bills, mortgage payments, and many little dramas of everyday life bring us quickly out of the honeymoon euphoria. However, even though we may no longer have that honeymoon experience, we still bear witness to our relationship to one another through the many little attentions we give to each other, to our partner’s needs, and he or she to ours. We may also wear a wedding band to give witness to the world that we are indeed married. We do not cease to bear witness to our relationship because the earlier thrill has subsided. Perhaps it should be the same with our relationship with Jesus.

While some may struggle with whether or not outreach is still relevant, or whether or not the Gospel must be preached to the entire world, maybe they are missing the point. The point is not about what is required to fulfil what is expected by God. That may be works based appeasement. If one has that perspective, it may be entirely understandable why they question it. But if it is instead about the answer to a very simple question, then outreach may be entirely relevant. That question is, “What is God doing in my life?” A second question that then naturally flows from the first is, “Who am I telling about it?” Being a missionary whether at home or in foreign lands may be that simple.


[i] “Apologeticum,” Tertullian, 197, CE.

[ii] Revelation 13:11

[iii] “The Agelong Struggle for Religious Freedom,” Daniel and the Revelation, Uriah Smith, Southern Publishing Association, 1944, pgs. 561-582.

[iv] Revelation 12:9

[v] Acts 19:23-41

[vi] Acts 18:12-13

[vii] "Decian Persecution,"

[viii] Genesis 11:1-9




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