A Startling Fact

“I will perform a sign among them. And I will send those who survive to be messengers to the nations…and to all the lands beyond the sea that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. There they will declare my glory to the nations.”  —  Isaiah 66:19

John R. Mott was born in Livingston, New York, in 1865. While studying at Cornell University, he met the English missionary, J. K. Studd, who led him into “a reasonable and vital faith.” Shortly thereafter, Mott attended a conference led by the famous American evangelist Dwight L. Moody. During the conference, Mott joined one hundred other men who volunteered to commit their lives to foreign missionary service.

In 1910, when Mott was forty-five years old, he chaired the Edinburgh Missionary Conference. In his opening address Mott said, “It is a startling and solemnizing fact that even as late as the twentieth century, the Great Command of Jesus Christ to carry the Gospel to all mankind is still so largely unfulfilled.” It is an unbelievable fact, isn’t it?

Mott’s influence dramatically changed the church’s involvement in world missions. He traveled the world tirelessly, convening conferences were the needs and opportunities for worldwide mission were presented, and recruiting and training the many young people who responded to his challenge. Yet almost a century later it is still a “startling and solemnizing fact” that there are billions of people about whom the Lord would say, “[they] have not heard of my fame or seen my glory.”

The Lord intended that his people should “declare [His] glory to the nations,” and he promised a day when missionaries would bring “people back from every nation” (66:20). These people would become worshippers “from week to week, and month to month” (66:23), and some of them would function as “priests and Levites”–servants of the living God (66:21).

This ancient picture of the people of God in action needs to be studied by the church. In so much of the world, men and women still have not heard of God’s fame or seen His glory. What is the problem? Why is this the case?

The Lord told Isaiah, “I will gather all nations and peoples together, and they will see my glory. I will perform a sign among them. And I will send those who survive to be messengers to the nations” (66:18-19). First, God gathers people to himself. Then, he shows them a “sign”–the cross and the empty tomb–and “sends” those who, because of the Cross, “survive” God’s judgment to be his messengers. But those who never see the significance of the Cross never understand the need of men and women to survive the judgment and accordingly see no reason to be sent as messengers.

There’s another “startling and solemnizing fact.” There are millions who have seen the sign of the cross and have survived the judgment. But when they were sent, they never went. That is why so many have not heard of the Lord’s fame. That is an unbelievable fact that the world will find absolutely unbelievable!

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