The Great Commission
the death of Christ the disciples were well-nigh overcome by
discouragement. Their Master had been rejected, condemned, and crucified.
The priests and rulers had declared scornfully, "He saved others;
Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down
from the cross, and we will believe Him." Matthew 27:42. The sun of
the disciples' hope had set, and night settled down upon their hearts.
Often they repeated the words, "We trusted that it had been He which
should have redeemed Israel." Luke 24:21. Lonely and sick at heart,
they remembered His words, "If they do these things in a green tree,
what shall be done in the dry?" Luke 23:31.
several times attempted to open the future to His disciples, but they had
not cared to think about what He said. Because of this His death had come
to them as a surprise; and afterward, as they reviewed the past and saw
the result of their unbelief, they were filled with sorrow.
was crucified, they did not believe that He would rise. He had stated
plainly that He was to rise on the third day, but they were perplexed to
know what He meant. This lack of comprehension left them at the time of
His death in utter hopelessness. They were bitterly disappointed. Their
faith did not penetrate beyond the shadow that Satan had cast athwart
their horizon. All seemed vague and mysterious to them. If they had
believed the Saviour's words, how much sorrow they might have been spared!
despondency, grief, and despair, the disciples met together in the upper
chamber, and closed and fastened the doors, fearing that the fate of their
beloved Teacher might be theirs. It was here that the Saviour, after His
resurrection, appeared to them.
days Christ remained on the earth, preparing the disciples for the work
before them and explaining that which heretofore they had been unable to
comprehend. He spoke of the prophecies concerning His advent, His
rejection by the Jews, and His death, showing that every specification of
these prophecies had been fulfilled. He told them that they were to regard
this fulfillment of prophecy as an assurance of the power that would
attend them in their future labors. "Then opened He their
understanding," we read, "that they might understand the
Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved
Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that
repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all
nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
And He added, "Ye are
witnesses of these things." Luke 24:45-48.
days that Christ spent with His disciples, they gained a new experience.
As they heard their beloved Master explaining the Scriptures in the light
of all that had happened, their faith in Him was fully established. They
reached the place where they could say, "I know whom I have
believed." 2 Timothy 1:12. They began to realize the nature and
extent of their work, to see that they were to proclaim to the world the
truths entrusted to them. The events of Christ's life, His death and
resurrection, the prophecies pointing to these events, the mysteries of
the plan of salvation, the power of Jesus for the remission of sins--to
all these things they had been witnesses, and they were to make them known
to the world. They were to proclaim the gospel of peace and salvation
through repentance and the power of the Saviour.
ascending to heaven, Christ gave His disciples their commission. He told
them that they were to be the executors of the will in which He bequeathed
to the world the treasures of eternal life. You have been witnesses of My
life of sacrifice in behalf of the world, He said to them. You have seen
My labors for Israel. And although My people would not come to Me that
they might have life, although priests and rulers have done unto Me as
they listed, although they have rejected Me, they shall have still another
opportunity of accepting the Son of God. You have seen that all who come
to Me confessing their sins, I freely receive.
Him that cometh to Me I
will in no wise cast out. To you, My disciples, I commit this message of
mercy. It is to be given to both Jews and Gentiles--to Israel, first, and
then to all nations, tongues, and peoples. All who believe are to be
gathered into one church.
commission is the great missionary charter of Christ's kingdom. The
disciples were to work earnestly for souls, giving to all the invitation
of mercy. They were not to wait for the people to come to them; they were
to go to the people with their message.
were to carry their work forward in Christ's name. Their every word and
act was to fasten attention on His name, as possessing that vital power by
which sinners may be saved. Their faith was to center in Him who is the
source of mercy and power. In His name they were to present their
petitions to the Father, and they would receive answer. They were to
baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christ's
name was to be their watchword, their badge of distinction, their bond of
union, the authority for their course of action, and the source of their
success. Nothing was to be recognized in His kingdom that did not bear His
name and superscription.
said to the disciples, Go forth in My name to gather into the church all
who believe, He plainly set before them the necessity of maintaining
simplicity. The less ostentation and show, the greater would be their
influence for good. The disciples were to speak with the same simplicity
with which Christ had spoken. They were to
impress upon their hearers the
lessons He had taught them.
not tell His disciples that their work would be easy. He showed them the
vast confederacy of evil arrayed against them. They would have to fight
"against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the
darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Ephesians 6:12. But they would not be left to fight alone. He assured them
that He would be with them; and that if they would go forth in faith, they
should move under the shield of Omnipotence. He bade them be brave and
strong; for One mightier than angels would be in their ranks--the General
of the armies of heaven. He made full provision for the prosecution of
their work and took upon Himself the responsibility of its success. So
long as they obeyed His word, and worked in connection with Him, they
could not fail. Go to all nations, He bade them. Go to the farthest part
of the habitable globe and be assured that My presence will be with you
even there. Labor in faith and confidence; for the time will never come
when I will forsake you. I will be with you always, helping you to perform
your duty, guiding, comforting, sanctifying, sustaining you, giving you
success in speaking words that shall draw the attention of others to
sacrifice in behalf of man was full and complete. The condition of the
atonement had been fulfilled. The work for which He had come to this world
had been accomplished. He had won the kingdom. He had wrested it from
Satan and had become heir of all things. He was on His way
to the throne
of God, to be honored by the heavenly host. Clothed with boundless
authority, He gave His disciples their commission, "Go ye therefore,
and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto
the end." Matthew 28:19, 20.
leaving His disciples, Christ once more plainly stated the nature of His
kingdom. He recalled to their remembrance things He had previously told
them regarding it. He declared that it was not His purpose to establish in
this world a temporal kingdom. He was not appointed to reign as an earthly
monarch on David's throne. When the disciples asked Him, "Lord, wilt
Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" He answered,
"It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father
hath put in His own power." Acts 1:6, 7. It was not necessary for
them to see farther into the future than the revelations He had made
enabled them to see. Their work was to proclaim the gospel message.
visible presence was about to be withdrawn from the disciples, but a new
endowment of power was to be theirs. The Holy Spirit was to be given them
in its fullness, sealing them for their work. "Behold," the
Saviour said, "I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye
in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on
high." Luke 24:49. "For John truly baptized with
water; but ye
shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." "Ye
shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye
shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in
Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:5, 8.
knew that no argument, however logical, would melt hard hearts or break
through the crust of worldliness and selfishness. He knew that His
disciples must receive the heavenly endowment; that the gospel would be
effective only as it was proclaimed by hearts made warm and lips made
eloquent by a living knowledge of Him who is the way, the truth, and the
life. The work committed to the disciples would require great efficiency;
for the tide of evil ran deep and strong against them. A vigilant,
determined leader was in command of the forces of darkness, and the
followers of Christ could battle for the right only through the help that
God, by His Spirit, would give them.
His disciples that they were to begin their work at Jerusalem. That city
had been the scene of His amazing sacrifice for the human race. There,
clad in the garb of humanity, He had walked and talked with men, and few
had discerned how near heaven came to earth. There He had been condemned
and crucified. In Jerusalem were many who secretly believed Jesus of
Nazareth to be the Messiah, and many who had been deceived by priests and
rulers. To these the gospel must be proclaimed. They were to be called to
repentance. The wonderful truth that
through Christ alone could remission
of sins be obtained, was to be made plain. And it was while all Jerusalem
was stirred by the thrilling events of the past few weeks, that the
preaching of the disciples would make the deepest impression.
ministry, Jesus had kept constantly before the disciples the fact that
they were to be one with Him in His work for the recovery of the world
from the slavery of sin. When He sent forth the Twelve and afterward the
Seventy, to proclaim the kingdom of God, He was teaching them their duty
to impart to others what He had made known to them. In all His work He was
training them for individual labor, to be extended as their numbers
increased, and eventually to reach to the uttermost parts of the earth.
The last lesson He gave His followers was that they held in trust for the
world the glad tidings of salvation.
When the time
came for Christ to ascend to His Father, He led the disciples out as far
as Bethany. Here He paused, and they gathered about Him. With hands
outstretched in blessing, as if in assurance of His protecting care, He
slowly ascended from among them. "It came to pass, while He blessed
them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." Luke
disciples were gazing upward to catch the last glimpse of their ascending
Lord, He was received into the rejoicing ranks of heavenly angels. As
these angels escorted Him to the courts above, they sang in triumph,
"Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises
Lord, to Him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens. . . . Ascribe ye
strength unto God: His excellency is over Israel, and His strength is in
the heavens." Psalm 68:32-34, margin.
were still looking earnestly toward heaven when, "behold, two men
stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why
stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from
you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into
heaven." Acts 1:10,11.
of Christ's second coming was ever to be kept fresh in the minds of His
disciples. The same Jesus whom they had seen ascending into heaven, would
come again, to take to Himself those who here below give themselves to His
service. The same voice that had said to them, "Lo, I am with you
alway, even unto the end," would bid them welcome to His presence in
the heavenly kingdom.
As in the
typical service the high priest laid aside his pontifical robes and
officiated in the white linen dress of an ordinary priest; so Christ laid
aside His royal robes and garbed Himself with humanity and offered
sacrifice, Himself the priest, Himself the victim. As the high priest,
after performing his service in the holy of holies, came forth to the
waiting congregation in his pontifical robes; so Christ will come the
second time, clothed in garments of whitest white, "so as no fuller
on earth can white them." Mark 9:3. He will come in His own glory,
and in the glory of His Father, and all the angelic host will escort Him
on His way.
Thus will be
fulfilled Christ's promise to His disciples, "I will come again, and
receive you unto Myself." John 14:3. Those who have loved Him and
waited for Him, He will crown with glory and honor and immortality. The
righteous dead will come forth from their graves, and those who are alive
will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air. They will hear
the voice of Jesus, sweeter than any music that ever fell on mortal ear,
saying to them, Your warfare is accomplished. "Come, ye blessed of My
Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
world." Matthew 25;34.
the disciples rejoice in the hope of their Lord's return.
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