My church held a weeklong revival meeting a while back, and the featured speaker spoke about Bible prophecy on the last two nights of the meeting. I expected these nights to draw the most interest given the high level of interest in Bible prophecy these days. I was present at each night, including the nights where Bible prophecy was the topic, because I perform several media tasks at my church, including helping people watching our live broadcast follow along with what the speaker was teaching.
I disagreed with much of what the speaker taught concerning Bible prophecy, and while listening, I thought of passages and verses that refuted what he taught. However, I did not challenge the speaker as he taught out of respect. Nevertheless, it was an unpleasant experience for me because I was witnessing people learning and accepting unsupported teachings about the end times.
I mention this recent experience because it has led to this article. This article is partially a rebuttal to what I heard at my church and an attempt to get people outside of my church to consider something they might not have considered before. The purpose of this article is to explore an overlooked aspect of the Great Commission that is relevant to understanding end time Bible prophecy.
The Great Commission
The Great Commission is a call by Christ for His followers to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Matthew 28:18-20 records the Great Commission:
“(18) And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) 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 Great Commission is frequently cited at my church to motivate the congregation to witness to people and to encourage the congregation that Christ is with them. No one at my church doubts that the Great Commission is a message directed towards Christians, and many Christians, in general, believe the Great Commission is a message directed towards them.
Let’s focus for a moment on a significant promise Christ made while giving the Great Commission: “lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Why would Christ promise to be with believers until the end of the world? Why would Christ mention the end of the world? The reason Christ referenced the end of the world in His promise is that believers will be present at the end of the world. Christ would not make this promise if believers were not going to be present at the end of the world.
The parable of the wheat and tares reinforces the idea that believers will be on Earth at least until the end of the world. Christ described the wheat (believers) and tares (the wicked) both present on Earth until the harvest (the end of the world).
“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30)
“(37) He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; (38) The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; (39) The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.” (Matthew 13:37-39)
Given that believers will be on Earth at least until the end of the world, it is beneficial to our understanding of the end times to identify when the end of the world will transpire.
The End of the World
We can learn much about the events preceding “the end of the world” by examining Matthew 24. The chapter records a lecture given by Christ on Mount Olives about the future that is commonly known as the “Olivet Discourse”. Christ’s disciples asked Him to provide a sign about two things: (1) His coming, (2) “and of the end of the world”:
“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?” (Matthew 24:3)
The request to reveal “the sign” about two events indicates that these events are related or connected: the coming of Christ is connected/related to the end of the world.
Christ complied with His disciples’ request to provide insight about what events will transpire before His coming and the end of the world. Christ indicated that there would be many unnerving events in the world including wars, rumors of wars, famine, earthquakes, pestilence, false messiahs, etc.:
“(5) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (6) And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. (7) For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. (8) All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:5-8)
Christ added that people would be hated for His name’s sake worldwide. The most challenging time that people will face this difficulty will be during the great tribulation described in Matthew 24:15-22. Christ mentioned twice in Matthew 24:9-22 that people will eventually be saved. Matthew 24:13 indicates that those who endure to the end (of the world) will be saved.
“(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. (10) And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (11) And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. (12) And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (13) But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved…(22) And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:9-12, 22)
The time when the elect will be saved shall mark the beginning of the end of the world because the elect will have endured to the end. Matthew 24:29-31 indicates that the elect will be saved immediately after completion of the great tribulation.
“(29) 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: (30) 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. (31) 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.” (Matthew 24:29-31)
Thus, the end of the world will begin after the end of the great tribulation. The signs associated with the sixth seal will follow (Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:12-17, Luke 21:25-28, Mark 13:24-27).
The Key Implication
Recall that the parable of the wheat and tares and the Great Commission both indicate that believers will be on Earth at least until the end of the world. Given that the end of the world will begin after the completion of the great tribulation, we can deduce that believers will be on Earth during the great tribulation using the parable of the wheat and tares and the Great Commission. Believers will be present on the earth until Christ comes to harvest the earth and save those who endured to the end of the world.
I expect some people to reject this article entirely and others to be uncomfortable with what I’ve written. However, I hope people understand that I am not trying to give people a false expectation of what they should expect during the end times. I have an article titled: “Will Christians See the Antichrist?” which also supports the conclusion of this article. I challenge those who reject this article in its entirety to read that article and to reconsider this article afterward.