I’ve been thinking about milestones lately. That’s probably because recently I celebrated a significant birthday—a milestone in my life. Everyone can identify important markers in his or her life or journey with Christ. We reflect on those key events and decisions that shaped our character and influenced our future. We thank God for those accomplishments He has empowered us to experience and give Him the glory.
As I read the Old Testament, I imagine a landscape dotted with manmade landmarks—piles of rocks, placed as a memorial to an event, a covenant or an encounter with God. The people of Israel were instructed to explain the significance of these landmarks whenever their children asked what they meant. Tangible reminders of God’s provision and faithfulness, they were placed alongside of the road, to be observed and appreciated by all who passed by.
In Matthew 24 Jesus referred to milestones that will become prominent as we approach the end times. His disciples asked Him, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (v. 3). His answer was surprisingly detailed:
“For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many” (v. 5).
“ You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (v. 6).
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (v. 7).
“There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (v. 7).
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (v. 9).
“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (v. 10).
“Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (v. 11).
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (v. 12).
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (v. 14).
How many of these “milestones” are we seeing in our own times? It was this final one—preaching the gospel in the whole world—that motivated our founder, A. B. Simpson, to create an alliance of churches to send workers to all nations with the gospel message. Today we prioritize nearly 75 percent of all revenues in support of taking the gospel to those in other countries who are without a testimony to Jesus’ love and salvation. The remainder of our budget supports and reaches those in our own country who are far from Christ.
Jesus told His disciples that when they see these markers along the road, they should know that His coming again is near. He encouraged them to understand the times and the urgency of spreading the good news about Himself. His final words to His followers were about taking the gospel to everyone—in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.
In celebrating my milestone birthday, I often tell people that I see more of my life in the rearview mirror than in the windshield. When I look back, I see God’s love and faithfulness to me as He called a young engineer to walk with Him through an amazing journey. When I look ahead, I see the hope of His return becoming sharper and more motivating every day.
Some of you have heard me say, “Time is short, and hell is hot.” I’m not being casual with the doctrine of eternal torment, quite the opposite. It propels me forward. One of our core values states: Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully devoted disciple. Would you join me in living every day in light of the mile markers of His return?