In a culture driven by video games, the surreal has often become the preferred reality. Living in an artificial world of fantasy—that can be restarted, resurrected, and replayed without end, and with minimal discomfort—appeals to many over dealing with human-interacted life. Digital maps that engage the user, without needing to step out into the outdoors, have become an end of themselves, disconnecting many from what they used to point towards.
Games can be fun, but they can also consume and distort. Real life has an end game. It cannot be restarted so easily, nor can losses be reset. Life ages, aches increase, players are replaced. Those who stay engaged in the real world have to face that everything contributes to a final destiny.
In our series on mapping the commission given to the Church, the same reality holds. There is a culminating purpose to the command to go into all the world in Jesus’ name. The commission has an end point.
This series will focus on 6 features of the map:
Defining the Commission
Commissioning the Commission
Sustaining the Commission
Maintaining the Commission
Measuring the Commission
Culmination of Mission
The stated reason for the Church commission is to fill the heavenly house of God with his children.
“‘The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’” (Act 2:39-40)
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.’” (Lu 14:23)
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mk 10:14-15)
We share the glorious message of hope in Christ, to those who are broken and repentant of their sins, for eternal life. The Great Commission points toward salvation in Jesus, promised to those who become disciples, who confess their faith openly through baptism, and who submit obediently to the leading of the Spirit dwelling in them through everything taught by Scripture, as defined at the start by the mission given first to the original apostles. Going into all the world is about inviting those called by God to step through the narrow gate into everlasting life with the Lord.
So it will be said about the Church commission:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Tit 2:11-14)
It all comes together at the return of Jesus. The focus is not upon the death of believers, but upon the trumpet call of God that announces the arrival of the Great King to resurrect his own who have responded rightly to his commission.
“he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Heb 9:28)
The commission points to Jesus’ promised return. That is the focus. That is the hope. That is why we do what we do and endure everything for the sake of the gospel.
To be clear, the culmination of the Church commission results in both salvation for faithful Christians, as well as in damning judgment for those who refuse the message. Life only has two gears, a forward and a reverse, with no neutral in between.
A lifeless, cheap gospel will avoid this part of the mission message. But, it is still something taught by the Lord as a real and pending judgment. Hell is coming for those who refuse to respond to the Church commission.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26-27)
“the dead were judged according to what they had done…If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev 20:12, 15)
“This will happen when Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” (2 The 1:7-10)
As part of the gospel, taught through the efforts of the commission, judgment has already begun for believers. The good news, for those who accept it, is that the punishment for sin falls upon Jesus as demonstrated through the Cross. There is discipline for all God’s children to endure, but no wrath. The wrath of God is meant for those under sin, which either is upon Jesus for believers, or upon those who reject Jesus as their Lord.
As defined earlier, the commission given to the Church is a continuing extension of the Lord’s earthly commission, but it is not simply a human mission. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit with a commission. He not only indwells believers and empowers us to go as the Lord commanded, but he will “come to you” and “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn 16:7-8). The commission to go make disciples and teach God’s words requires a joint Spirit/Believer going and a combined message of both hope and Hell–an offered choice of salvation or damnation. Judgment has begun with believers and will culminate before the Throne of God with every knee bowed before Jesus–some in submission, some in defiance.
The offer, presented through the continuous and faithful efforts of Christians who carry the commissioned message to a hurting world, is to choose Savior-suffering over self-suffering. It is a call to accept life over death. It is encouragement that there is a much better way to live, enjoy, and overcome all struggles. It is to take that hope and push ourselves forward, ever onward, to give sips of living water to those who thirst.
The map records a secret treasure; a trail of invitations and hints that lead through unmarked jungles toward the fountain of youth; toward gifts and rewards beyond our wildest dreams. Those who learn how to read the signs and follow the thin, godly trail, will reach glory, fame, and riches forever, to celebrate with all those who accepted our message, responded to the gospel, and participated in the commission to the ends of the earth.
Grab your map. God bless you. And, GO.