"And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14)
For many eschatology-minded Christians, one of the "signs" that the end of the world (i.e. the return of Christ) is upon us will be a great "end times harvest" of souls... a great awakening across the globe in which the gospel spreads at a rate far greater than ever before, and all corners of the globe hear the name of Jesus. Based on verses like Matt. 24:14, many believe that Christ's return will only come when this "proclaimed throughout the whole world" thing happens.
Clearly, we're not there yet. But there is a lot of talk—hopeful talk—among some Christians these days that maybe we're closer than ever before.
The Internet Argument
I attended a technology conference at Biola University last week and one of the speakers was Walt Wilson, who heads up "Global Media Outreach," an Internet evangelism ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. He spoke about the Internet and how it is being utilized to spread the gospel in new ways—and to places it's never reached before. Within a few shorts years, said Wilson, the world will be covered by wifi and everyone will be connected via the Internet. What will this mean for communications? What will this mean for the spreading of Christianity?
Wilson suggested that the Internet—the world-altering innovation still just a few decades old—could very well be God working in history to prepare the global infrastructure for the "great harvest" that will usher in the new kingdom. Wilson made the interesting point that, when you consider the point in history at which Christ came the first time, you see how key the geo-political infrastructure of that time was in helping the Gospel have its initial proliferation. Just as the Roman roads of the first centuries after Christ helped accelerate the spread of Christianity, perhaps the "Information superhighway" will help accelerate the spread of Christianity in our present context, bringing the word of God in digital form, or in a downloadable app, to places physical missionaries might have more difficulty reaching.
The Asia Argument
On the same day that I heard the "Internet is God's plan for the end times harvest" argument, I also went to a screening of a new documentary film called 1040, about the explosive rise of Christianity throughout the 10/40 window—in countries like South Korea, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore & India. The film, made by Christians, takes the position that the rapid rise of Christianity in the non-western world is a crucial sign that the fulfillment of the great commission is near at hand.
One of the people featured in the film is MC Hammer, rapper-turned-pastor who mentored the filmmakers of 1040. At the film's premiere, I got a chance to talk with Hammer about what he thought about non-western Christianity and its role in the fore-running of Christ's return.
"Asia is going to play a central role in the return of Christ," said Hammer. "As Asia rises, you'll see things that you've never seen before... God is going to orchestrate his move in the 10/40 window."
Hammer also spoke about the sorry state of the American church: "Look at the American church. Look how stagnant we've become. Our approach has turned from love to ritual. To be Christ-like it to share God's love. There's no room for the selfish gospel. He belongs not only to us, but to the global community."
MC Hammer and the filmmakers of 1040 seemed convinced that the "movement of God" in previously un-Christian parts of the world represents a climax of history—an exciting shift of the worldwide momentum of Christianity (from west to east) that will unleash a mission movement the likes of which the world has never seen.
What do I think about all this? I don't know. I'm not sure either argument convinces me that the "end is near" or that the Great Commission is anywhere near its fulfillment. But it does seem like the world is at a point where a massive, global spreading of Christianity could occur. But only God knows if that hour is nigh.