Many evangelicals believe we are now in the Last Days before the Second Coming of Christ. Before the end the gospel of the kingdom must be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (Matthew 24:14).
According to some missiologists, however, there may be some 3,000 people groups that have not heard the gospel. Typically, such people groups are highly resistant to the gospel. The Messiah is at the door, yet a monumental task remains to be accomplished before He appears.
How can we preach the gospel fruitfully to the billions who have not yet heard in the relatively short time remaining? Consider what Acts tells us about the missionary efforts of the early disciples.
The original followers of Jesus faced vigorous opposition from Jews and Gentiles. Yet within a few generations the gospel had spread rapidly to the ends of their known world.
Why is it so different in missions today?
First, today’s missionaries face a new obstacle: the history of colonialism in the Third World by “Christian” Europeans which has hardened the hearts of the people toward Christianity.
Secondly, the way the gospel is preached by most missionaries is markedly different from that of the early disciples. Powerful miraculous healings frequently accompanied their preaching as convincing evidence to idol-worshiping Gentiles that Jesus is the Messiah and the only way to the One True God. Often such miracles resulted in vast harvests of souls. Such supernatural evidence is often lacking in the ministries of most missionaries today, resulting in relatively little fruit.
Thus we are faced with the dilemma of little time remaining before the coming of the Messiah, yet billions of gospel-resistant peoples yet to hear the gospel. Let us go to the Scriptures:
John 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (NIV, 1985 Edition)
The incomparable miracles Jesus performed were the actual evidence that He and the Father were one—that He is the very Son of God. After this, however, comes a promise which on the surface is so difficult to accept that it has generated various interpretations.
John 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
These works which Jesus promised believers will do must refer to the antecedent miraculous works Jesus cited in verse 11—as evidence to the world that He is the Son of God and the Messiah. When preaching the gospel to the lost, therefore, believers should heal the sick just as Jesus did.
The difficulty arises in believing and carrying out this incredible—and to some nearly nonsensical—promise.
Let’s see what Jesus gave His disciples and commanded them to do even before the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them at Pentecost:
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. …6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
Similarly in Luke 10:9 Jesus sent His 72 disciples to “heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Thus we see that Jesus gave power and authority to His disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons as supernatural evidence to the lost that He is the Coming King and the Messiah. Later in Acts after the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them at Pentecost, we see that multitudes of Gentiles also responded to the gospel as the disciples healed the sick using this very same power and authority.
Since 2000 our ministry has been training disciples exactly how to heal the sick using this power and authority as Jesus commanded His disciples. “Ordinary” workers are beginning to do the miraculous works that Jesus did—healing the sick and casting out demons on a consistent basis—whenever they proclaim the kingdom of God to gospel-resistant peoples. The blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. Great harvests similar to those recorded in Acts are being reaped today by nameless indigenous disciples. During these Last Days, missions as seen in Acts is being restored—opening the way for the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the Second Coming of the Messiah.