Just as Jesus promised, the gospel has gone forth to the uttermost, the church is growing exponentially, and the hope of all the earth is now actually being made manifest to the ends of the earth. In the most difficult places, the Spirit of the living God is at work in ways we could never have thought or imagined.
In a world where smothering fundamentalist ideologies of both the scientific materialists and Jihadi terrorists have cast a pall on the theater of human aspiration, believers are spreading the good news of abounding grace in unprecedented outposts.
Even the most cursory reading of history reminds us that it has always been so: the message of Jesus thrives in what appears to us to be the most adverse conditions, in the most uncertain times, and in the most unlikely places. Indeed, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Neither the blunt cudgel of secularism in the West or the sharpened scimitar of Islamism in the East have a chance.
Against all odds, in the sprawling refugee camps of northern Iraq, where Yezidis, Christians, and Kakais have fled from the frightful ISIS invasion, Kurdish evangelical churches and Christian schools are being planted. Though the CIA has failed to infiltrate the rare earth mining operations of rural North Korea, the Chinese house churches have succeeded. In closed countries such as Myanmar, Yemen, Cuba, Iran, Afghanistan, Albania, and Somalia, the fierce persecution of Christians has hardly put a damper on the thriving underground church.
These are the good old days.
Jesus explained to His disciples that this is the way the gospel always advances in the world—side by side with every woe and every cause for pessimism is evidence for joy and everlasting hope. He said:
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matt. 13:24–30)
Explaining this parable, Jesus said:
The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (vv. 37–43)
Essentially, what Jesus was saying was that as history moves along, the basic principles of wickedness and righteousness are worked out more and more consistently. Evil matures and becomes ever more evil, ever more distinctive. Likewise, godliness matures and becomes ever more godly, ever more distinctive.
The growth of the tares will evidence itself in horrid debauchery and unimaginable abomination. Over time, as men become more and more self-consciously tare-like, more and more self-consciously of the spirit of antichrist, the curse becomes more and more evident. They persist in their rebellion even to the end, gnawing their tongues, and calling for the rocks to fall on them (Rev. 6:16). So, as history moves along, evil becomes ever more consistently evil. The tares mature.
But, thanks be to God, just as the tares continue to mature, so does the wheat. The church of Jesus becomes more and more potent as a conduit of grace. Covenantal faithfulness is worked out more and more consistently. The truth of the gospel actually becomes clearer and clearer as time goes on. The steadfast reality of the good news becomes more and more of a contrast with the vain fantasy of the philosophies of the world. The promise of the Great Commission is more widely realized as history unfolds.
Now, more than ever, we ought to be praying, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” because now, more than ever, He is answering in the most unlikely outposts of kingdom fruitfulness in the global church.