Conceptualization: Understanding The Concept Of Purpose Behind The Vision
From the beginning of time God had a divine purpose on which He based His relation with and His promises and prophecies to mankind.
God reveals His purpose to believers:
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:9-10)
God's divine purpose from the beginning of time has been to unify all of heaven and earth in Jesus Christ. His vision is global in nature and...
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise...but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
God's purpose is salvation for the world. Because it is His purpose, it must become our purpose. We must make His global cause a priority.
There are many needs in the world including hunger, poverty, sickness, and social injustice. Traditional missions have been involved in all of these areas, and rightly so, for the Bible teaches such concern.
But the vision of the harvest fields, of reaping men and women for the Kingdom of God, must remain a priority. The other needs are met once communities of responsible believers are established.
Missions involves all levels of human need but spiritual harvesting, the winning of lost men and women to Jesus Christ, must be to us as it is to God: The priority purpose.
The Old Testament
God's purpose can be traced from Genesis to Revelation. His Word is a history of how He dealt with individuals and nations to fulfill His purpose.
The Great Commission was first given when God said to Adam and Eve...
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it... (Genesis 1:28)
Adam and Eve were to populate the earth with descendants who were as they were: Created in the image of God, living souls in fellowship with a living God. Physically they were to produce children. Spiritually they were to produce believers.
Later God established an everlasting covenant with Abraham. This covenant was global in nature for He said to Abraham:
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 22:18)
...and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 28:14)
From Abraham came the nation of Israel. God used Israel as a witness to surrounding nations. The nations of the earth were blessed as God revealed Himself to them through Israel.
During the time of the plagues in Egypt God told Pharaoh that the judgments were sent to show him that God was above all others:
For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people: that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. (Exodus 9:14)
When Israel faced the challenge of the flooded Jordan River, God dried up the waters so that the people of the earth might recognize His hand:
That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever. (Joshua 4:24)
When David met Goliath on the battlefield he said God would give him the victory so the entire earth might know there was a God:
This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee,
and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. (I Samuel 17:46)
After the Kingdom of Israel was established, Solomon caught the vision of the global purpose of God he expressed the desire that...
...all the people of the earth may know Thy name, to fear Thee, as do Thy people Israel. (I Kings 8:43)
David issued a call to the harvest fields of the nations of the world when he cried:
Declare His glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people. Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth... (Psalms 96:3,10)
Two of the Old Testament prophets, Daniel and Jonah, ministered cross-culturally.
This means they took the Gospel message to nations other than their own.
Daniel was a witness to God while serving as an official in Babylon. Jonah was a missionary to Ninevah.
Isaiah declared that Israel was God's witness among the nations:
Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: Who among them can declare this and shew us former things?...
Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am He: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Saviour.
I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed...therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. (Isaiah 43:9-12)
The entire record of the Old Testament is a history of God using Israel as a witness to the nations of the world.
The Old Testament reflects God's divine purpose as He dealt with individuals and nations to bring them to the knowledge of the true and living God.
The New Testament
The Old Testament prepared the way for the fulfillment of God's purpose in the coming of Jesus Christ. The New Testament records the ministry of Jesus as He fulfilled God's will and purpose. When Jesus challenged His disciples with the vision of the harvest He said:
My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work. (John 4:34)
The entire life of Jesus was dedicated to harvesting men and women for God. It was the purpose of His life to reach the fields of the world:
And He said unto them, I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also; for therefore am I sent. (Luke 4:43)
When Jesus went back to Heaven, He left us with the Great Commission which is the mandate behind the vision of spiritual harvest. It is recorded in five different places in the New Testament:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 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. (Matthew 28:18-20)
And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents: and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:15-18)
Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:45-49)
...As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21)
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
As believers, it is our responsibility to fulfill God's purpose as we are now His witness to the nations of the world.
The book of Acts records the birth and early life of the Church. The central theme is summarized in the phrase "ye shall be witnesses unto Me" (Acts 1:8).
The pattern of this expanding witness can be traced throughout the book of Acts:
Witness to the Jews: Acts 1:1-8:3
Witness to both Jews and Gentiles: Acts 8:4-12:25
Witness to Gentiles: Acts 13:1-28:31
The early church was born in a great demonstration of power as recorded in Acts 2. God began the process of creating a new body of people, the Church, through which His witness would flow to the nations of the world:
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God. (Ephesians 3:9-10)
God's purpose is that by the Church His plan of redemption through Jesus will be made known throughout the world.
The Epistles in the New Testament explain the position, order, privileges, and duties of members of the Church. A well-ordered Church capable of not only articulation [teaching] but of demonstration [showing] of the power of God was to provide the labor force in the harvest fields of the world.
In Revelation 1-3, John recorded the lifestyle of seven local churches at the end of the first century. Through this record we view the condition of the Church two generations after Pentecost.
Some of the churches had forgotten their purpose. Some were cold spiritually and had no power. But regardless of the condition of the church reflected in these chapters, the divine purpose of God had not changed:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20)
To any man....from any nation, tribe, and tongue...God desires to reveal Himself. From the beginning of time, God's purpose has not changed.
1. Study Revelation chapters 1-3 which are God's message to seven churches in Asia.
Make a list of the qualities in these churches which God commends. How would these qualities aid the churches in their extension of the Gospel?
Make a list of the problems in the churches which God identifies. How would these problems prevent the church from fulfilling its purpose as a witness to the nations of the world?
2. Continue your study of the world in the Word. During the next year read the entire Bible with the global cause of God in mind.
Identify all of the verses which concern God's dealings with the nations of the world. Use a special colored pen or pencil to underline these verses in your Bible.
Some words to watch for which will help you identify the verses are listed below:
-Nation or nations
-Gentiles (which means every nation other than Israel)