Two days before the Passover, while sitting on the Mt. of Olives, the disciples ask Christ three questions concerning:
1) the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem,
2) the sign of His Second Coming and
3) when this present age and Satan’s rulership over mankind would end (Matt. 24:3).
Christ answered their first question in Matthew 24:4-12.
In verse 8, the disciples were reminded that events leading to the destruction of the temple in the first century were only the “beginning of sorrows.” The writings of Peter, John, Paul and Jude testify to the accuracy of Christ’s words and the difficulties God’s Church faced after being established.
The beginning of sorrows would greatly test the faith of the brethren in the first century, making Christ’s words in verse 13, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” so important. “The end” for the majority of the 1st resurrection is death in “the faith” (Heb. 11:13).
In Matthew 24:14, Christ moves forward nearly 2,000 years into the future to reveal the sign of His Second Coming. This prophecy is to be fulfilled before the final era of God’s Church and world events leading to Jesus Christ’s return.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.”
This is the sign Christ gave to indicate His Second Coming was drawing near.
Following the fulfillment of verse 14, Christ discusses events to occur immediately prior to Great Tribulation such as the 'abomination of desolation' being set-up (verse 15), an opportunity for those living in Judea to flee Jerusalem (verses 16-20) and a graphic description of the destruction Great Tribulation will bring on this earth (verses 21-22).
Christ also warned about the deception to occur during Great Tribulation, telling His disciples that “if it were possible, even the elect” would be deceived by the work of “false christs and false prophets” (verses 23-25).
In verses 29-31, Christ answers the disciples’ third question, telling them the heavenly signs accompanied by the 7th trumpet would bring an end to this present world and the rulership of Satan the Devil.
Matthew 24:14 is a prophecy for a specific time. Its fulfillment was to occur prior to Christ’s Second Coming, but not in immediate succession. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong understood when the fulfillment of this prophecy would happen and wrote about it on pg. 12 of his booklet, “Are We in the Last Days?”
"Then in verse 14 Jesus comes to answer his disciples’ second question: “…and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world?” (verse 3).
In verse 14 he answered that question, Jesus himself knowing it would not happen until some nineteen hundred years later. Here is Jesus’ own answer to when the end of the world would come.”
“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.”
That gospel was not preached to the world from about the middle of the first century until near the middle of the twentieth century.
Jesus was speaking, not of the end of earth’s existence, but of the end of this world—this age—this present civilization in a world ruled by Satan, who still sits on the throne of the whole earth. However, remember Satan sits on that throne only because God allows it. But God shows us in Bible prophecies, not the date or the year, but the approximate time when he will send Jesus Christ to end this world."
It is interesting to note how Mr. Armstrong combined the disciples second and third questions into one question. However, Christ is very clear the gospel will go out as a witness first and then the end of this present age will follow.
To better understand the meaning of Matthew 24:14, two important words within this verse need to be examined. First, is the word “preached”, which means “to proclaim as a herald, without including the idea of teaching.”
The gospel of God’s Kingdom going to the world was only an announcement. This message had nothing to do with the conversion of people as a means for individual salvation.
The second word is “witness.” This word refers “to something evidential” or “evidence given.” In other words the gospel message to be proclaimed was evidence to the world God’s Kingdom would soon be established on the earth.
It is very clear for those who eyes to see and ears to hear that Matthew 24:14 is only a witness to the world. Once the witness has gone out, it allows for events leading to the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth to begin.
Jesus Christ is very clear Matthew 24:14 is a prophecy, which first, must be fulfilled before end-time events can occur.
This provides a stark contrast to the instruction the disciples were given in Matthew 28:19-20 concerning their ministerial responsibilities within God’s Church.
The failure of the ministry to understand and teach the meaning of these verses to God’s Church is having a very negative impact on God’s people. The impact of this failure will be examined in Part 3.