Kingdom Strikes Back: Mission and Missionary (Part 2)

The prototype of the”Great Commission” is found in Isaiah 49:6: “…a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” After the Babylonian captivity, a question arose: “Can God change his mind?” There was a consensus among the Jewish intellectuals that since his people disobeyed, God might have changed his mind and stopped loving them. Still, in their hearts they had hope that a deliverer would come. The Jews thought Jesus was going to destroy the Roman Empire and establish a Jewish kingdom.

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.” The kingdom strikes back. The season of God has come! By choice, humans joined the enemy’s camp. At first, it seemed as though the enemy was winning. But God had a plan to take back the world from the enemy. The author of Mark’s gospel saw God’s redemptive story unfolding before his very eyes. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus destroyed the power of sin and death and restored God’s rule.

The kingdom of God is at hand. But it is not quite here yet. Until God completes this restoration of his kingdom, we have an errand to run.

The gospel of Jesus Christ brings a new global perspective to God’s work in the world. Jesus could not have evangelized the entire world by himself. As the Father had sent him, he was now sending the disciples. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). The word translated as disciple stems from the Greek word mathetis. That word, mathetis, is derived from tthe word mathe with the inflection on tis. Mathe means to learn. (We have the English word mathematics which is believed to have come from mathe.) Thus disciple means learner. The gospel writers had this nuance in mind when they used the term mathetis in their writings. The NIV translators applied their best judgment from the context and inserted a preposition “therefore” at the beginning of Matthew 28: 19. The literal translation goes something like this: “As you are going make disciples…”

John 20:21 is John’s version of the Great Commission. John used the Greek word apostello which means “send.” This second meaning of apostle applies to all believers. In the same way that God sent Jesus into the world, Jesus was sending his disciples and us into the world to make disciples of all nations. Some of us think that we think that we can be a high school teacher or computer programmer or medical doctor and be a disciple at the same time, and that we need to balance our commitments between these two callings. But the truth of the matter is that we are all disciples from first to last. The very purpose of our lives is to learn from Jesus and grow in his image, becoming like him in his perfect humanity. We emulate the beauty of Jesus in real life, so that this world becomes a better place because of us. Discipleship is a gift and a privilege and what we do in every aspect and corner of life.

In the book of Acts, the gospel ministry gained momentum and spread like wildfire, crossing the boundary into Gentile territory. Jewish believers did not know what to do with the Gentile believers. The Jewish Christians had a hard time accepting Gentile believers into their synagogue-like fellowship meetings. The issues were cultural. Peter and the other apostles sought to settle this matter in the light of the gospel. They convened the Jerusalem conference to hear out the case under the leadership of James, the brother of Jesus. After prayerful deliberation, they understood that both Gentiles and Jews believed the same Christ and received the same Spirit; there was no difference (Acts 15). This was the turning point in world mission. The apostle Paul was vindicated and found new impetus for his personal ministry among the Gentiles. The apostles served their generation and proclaimed the gospel to the ends of the known world.

In this two-part series, we have been discussing the topic, “How can we read the Bible through the lens of God’s mission?” We can read the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, as one single unit with the theme of God’s redemptive mission. The people involved in the Bible stories were were ordinary women and men. But God called them and worked through them to revealed his redemptive plan. Did God’s mission fail because his workers failed? As long as God lives, his world mission will not fail. The degree of godlessness in the world seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. I asked a number of students at Yale about their spirituality. By my assessment, the level of spirituality — the percentage of students deeply interested in spiritual matters — stands at about 10%. In 1724, when Jonathan Edwards was a tutor at Yale, that percentage was about 60%. Over the years, spirituality at Yale has sharply declined. Obviously, we have been failing to reach Yale students with the gospel. Yet God’s work is going strong and he will restore his rule at Yale.

Every company or organization today has a mission statement. Their mission statement reflects the company’s or organization’s goals and commitment to maximize their potential. God’s mission statement is to redeem our earth. UBF International is dedicated specifically to campus mission; our guiding principle to serve campus mission more effectively. But if we are aligned with God’s mission, we cannot limit ourselves to campus students. We should be ready to welcome anyone, and not exclude anyone who does not happen to be a student. We cannot exclude ministries who are not specifically engaged in campus mission. If we emphasize UBF’s unique mission to the exclusion of others, God’s mission will be tainted. Our mission is not the mission of any person or organization. Our mission, the true mission of the church, is God’s mission.

The ultimate purpose of God’s mission is to establish the worship of God. Look at the composition of worshipers described in Revelation 21. It includes all ethnic groups. In the New Jerusalem, there will be people who are yellow, red, black, chocolate, white and every other color. Our God is the God of the universe. He is the God of love and justice.


  1. Jennifer Espinola

    Abraham, thank you so much for this encouraging view of God’s history. We have been blessed like our ancestors of old to hear God’s voice and respond to his world mission command. God is still directing the course of history, even while using fallible men like ourselves. I think the point you made about God’s mission is important- that no one ministry can supersede God’s world mission view with its own unique purpose. As we meet with students and pray for them to grow as disciples, our hopes and expectations must be tempered by the fact that God may be calling them in a different way apart from campus mission. Ultimately, every disciple must receive the call of mission very personally from the Mission-maker Himself.

  2. This reminds me of the speech that Stephen gave right before his death (Acts 6)- a global tour of God’s salvation history.

    “We shall have gone deeper than the deeps of heaven and grown older than the oldest angels before we feel, even in its first faint vibrations, the everlasting violence of that double passion with which God hates and loves the world”
    – G.K. Chesterton