Last night I saw a twitter conversation going back over a subject that is near and dear to my heart: can the Great Commission be finished?Eddie Arthur says no--but if you read closely what he's saying, he's just saying there are parts that "go on" until Jesus comes. I tend to agree with him, mostly. Here's a way to think about it:
- Jesus gave us a task, and I don't think he'd tell us to do something that couldn't be done.
- References to the task are in Matthew 28 and Matthew 24. There are, of course, lots of discussions about what Jesus meant in Matthew 24. But to me, the disciples were asking Jesus about the "end of the age," and Jesus clearly said in verse 14 that the preaching of the Gospel in the whole world was tied to the end. Verses 15 and on are very apocalyptic in nature. I don't think we can completely understand this whole passage, but it seems to suggest that this task is "finishable" (it "will" be done).
- I argue in Sustainable Closure that "closure" or "finishing" must be done day after day after day in each place until it is done day-after-day in all places. In this sense, the local task can be completed for local people for this day, but yet need to be done again in the future. The simplest form of this is discipling the next generation.
- Finishing the Task will not bring Jesus back. Not in the sense that we usually mean it. We don't control Jesus. (We can see this obviously if we invert it: not finishing the Task will not keep Jesus away). God already knows when the task will be done.
- Finishing the Task does not mean everyone will believe. The Rich Young Ruler seems a warning parable in this regard.
- I resist the idea that some percentage of each people group being believers ("make disciples of every ethne"--"oh, how many disciples?") is finishing the task. Jesus wants the whole pie.
- Here's what I think we must do to count the task finished. Here, we are only talking about the cross-cultural missionary task - not the ongoing work of the church.