Certainly, no human being did more to promote Jesus’ gospel of the Kingdom more than Billy Graham over the last 100 years.
I can’t imagine any Christian would dispute that. Some estimates show he reached 2.2 billion around the world during his prolific ministry.
Is there another leader about to fill those shoes? Is there someone alive today who could come close or even exceed such a remarkable and anointed lifelong effort? Do we have another 100 years to finish the job and bring the gospel to the world’s population of 7.6 billion? Can it be done quicker in this age of digital communications reaching about half that number? What about places like North Korea, purposely cut off from outside communications by a tyrannical, anti-God government?
And, lastly, is it time to redefine the way most believers even think about the gospel?
Firstly, I think there are many gifted evangelists capable of reaching more people more than 2.2 billion people during their lifetimes. Billy Graham provided a model for others to follow – a simple, yet profound, message of love, repentance, grace and personal salvation. His son, Franklin Graham, comes to mind. He has built an amazing global ministry and shares so many of his father’s characteristics, not the least of which is being an outstanding communicator. And digital communications, which didn’t exist throughout most of Billy Graham’s active years of ministry, certainly make getting the gospel out to much of the world more efficient and faster, though barriers are as strong as ever in places like North Korea, where mere possession of a Bible can be and has been punished with the death penalty.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
I would like to focus very precisely on the language Jesus used in this statement and, indeed, frequently when he referred to the gospel. It’s important because it appears that the end of this age will not come until the gospel is preached to “all nations.”
What did He mean by “this gospel of the kingdom”?
At least five times in the gospel accounts, Jesus or the gospel writers used this term – “gospel of the kingdom.”
Have you ever wondered what that means?
It is a term I focus on frequently in my latest book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age.” I think it’s a very important, defining term.
Normally, when believers refer to the “gospel,” what they mean is the message of personal salvation. But, is the “gospel of the kingdom” bigger than that – more inclusive?
I believe it is, without question. There’s more to the gospel than most Christian teachers ever consider. It’s about more than personal salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus offered mercifully through grace to those who repent of their sins. There’s also something that the apostles dreamed about and to which all the prophets pointed.
What is that?
It’s the restoration of the Kingdom on Earth when Jesus returns – a kind of paradise equated to the re-creation of the Garden of Eden by some of the prophets. This would be not a heaven we don’t know, up in the clouds or above them. It would be a heaven on Earth.
Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel all alluded to a Garden of Eden-style restoration of Israel and apparently rest of an Israel-centric world Kingdom under the Kingship of the future Messiah.
When I remind people about this heavenly Kingdom on Earth where all will be judged following the return of Jesus, many are surprised. That’s because most prophecy watchers are so focused on what’s coming next – the judgment of the world – that they overlook the very good news of the Kingdom to Come on Earth as it is in heaven, as the Lord’s Prayer itself mentions.
I find that this has so much appeal to people when I talk about it – especially young people who have never heard it before. I believe that is because man was made for Earth. It’s what we know. Who hasn’t dreamed about what the Garden of Eden was like? Who wouldn’t want to see the world restored to the kind of paradise it was intended to be when God created it?
Is it possible the next Billy Graham might incorporate this true, accurate and appealing message into the gospel as Jesus and the apostles did? Might that be the message the entire world is just waiting to hear?