More people live on the surface of the earth today than in any time in the past. As I write this, the US census pop-clock estimates that there are 7,037,380,192 people on the earth. Of course, that is only an estimate. I mean, who can count that many people? Still, that is a lot of people.
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was like a woman who put a little yeast into a lump of dough and worked it in until it permeated the entire lump. So it is with the Kingdom of God. Jesus declared the Gospel --the yeast-- into the lump of humanity 2000 years ago.
When He spoke the words about the Kingdom and dough, the lump was much smaller, as far as world population goes --about 200 million on the entire earth. When Jesus spoke those words about yeast, there were only a few dozen true believers on the planet. And, with the exception of Jesus Himself, those few had no idea what they even believed, yet! Within a couple of years from the time Jesus spoke this parable, the number of believers would become 120, and then quickly, 5000 or more. They were all concentrated in a small but important area of the world. The yeast was in the lump. The spread was about to begin.
The portion of the lump of dough that the yeast was placed was the Jewish part of the lump. If you are going to get some yeast into the lump of the world’s population, there is no better place to start. Why? Because the Jews are communicators and they live all over the place. Being persecuted for centuries is not pleasant, but it does present some strategic advantages for the spread of the Kingdom of God.
Israel had more than once been scattered throughout the empires of man (the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans all had their times of pushing them around). So when Jesus placed the yeast of the Gospel of the Kingdom into this Jewish lump, it naturally radiated out to synagogues throughout the world. From the synagogues, it emanated out to the Gentiles --why? Because Jews communicate with their worlds. They were the best and most natural conduit for the spread of this glorious gospel. The yeast was into the dough. The gospel of Jesus the Savior was spread throughout the small nations of an underpopulated world. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The yeast, once it was placed in the dough, is not leaving. It will spread through the entire lump. Fast forward to 1963. This was a very important year to me for it is the year of my birth! Self-indulgent? Maybe a little. But actually, the span of my own life gives a picture of why we live in the best of times.
When I was born, the population of the earth had grown 15 times over the1950 years since the time of Jesus. From 200 million to 3 billion. What progress had the gospel made in those years? Well, history tells the story. To be sure, the march of the good news of Jesus had carried on to the nations of the earth over and over. And in 1963, when I was born, there were 3 billion people, total. Now, watch this: It is estimated that if things continue as they are, there will be 3 billion Christians on the earth by the year 2050 (so said an article by the late Chuck Colson).
Even if that guess is off by a few hundred million, that means that the number of people who know Jesus will soon be the same amount as the number of people on the earth when I was born. Far out. (For the younger generation, people born in 1963 say “far out” at times when you would say things like, “that’s sick!” or “legit!”).
In my lifetime, the number of Christians in South Korea went from 3% of the population to 30%. The yeast is beginning to move through the lump of dough with startling speed!
When I was born, China had been under the blanket of communism for 14 years. In 1949, there were an estimated 1 million Christians in the world’s largest nation. It seemed that yeast had not permeated the lump so much in China. How many Christians were in China 14 years later when I was born? No one is really sure. However, today, there are 100 million (another estimate). Some expect that number to double or triple within the next 10 to 15 years. So, let’s compare: When Jesus said the Kingdom was like a woman who put yeast in dough, there were 200 million people on the globe. In my life time, it is likely that 200 million in China alone will become believers in Jesus. These are the best of times! Already, Christians outnumber communist party members in China! Awesome!
Should I take the time to review the growth of the gospel in Sub Saharan Africa? While the atheists crow in Western Europe about the triumph of godless scholarship, in Africa, the yeast is on the move. It is estimated that the number of Christians on the African Continent has tripled to 390 million in just 35 years! I am 48. All that happened while I have been alive. Africa has as many Christians as twice the people who lived on the earth during the time Jesus declared the gospel in 30 AD. Yes! That rocks! (for the young, “that rocks” means the same thing today as it does to people born in 1963).
South America? Well, here things get complicated because nominal Catholicism (Catholic in name only) describes the vast majority of the population. However, that said, the growth of evangelical, Bible believing Christians is exploding in South America. What does that mean? It means that authentic faith in Jesus and His gospel is breaking out like wildfire.
I could go on, but you get the picture. We live in the best time ever. Why? because there are more people on the earth than ever. And that number is growing. The population of earth has more than doubled in my life time! When I was born, there were 3 billion people on the earth, less than a third knew Jesus. When I die, if I live a few more years, it is likely that 3 billion people will be alive that know Jesus. Wow.
And you know what? It can’t be stopped. No man, no nation, no army, no philosophy, no competing religion, no forces on this earth nor in the spiritual realm can stop this march of God throughout the history of our fallen species. God’s love and forgiveness is proving to be an unstoppable force.
The humble man from Nazareth is taking over the earth. He is the true king of humanity. Jesus said that the Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest seed in the garden, but when it grows, its plant is the largest and its branches become a home to the animals. So it is with the Kingdom. From this one Man, Jesus, in this tiny oppressed nation, Israel, the seed has been planted. 2000 years later, the seed has grown. The mustard plant is mature and in full flower. People from all over the world are running to it, and finding shelter. We live in the best of times.
Thank God that you live in 2012. Tell the world of God’s great kindness. The things you will see will be more amazing than those things seen over the last two thousand years. You are seeing the great harvest of God, the glory of the Kingdom which is about to come in fullness.