23 November, 2021

illumiNations: A Bible Translation in Every Language by 2033!


by | 1 November, 2021 | 0 comments

By Greg Pruett

Consider the chaotic world around you. You might conclude we live in dark times. But in the less visible world of God’s kingdom, this could be God’s finest hour! We live in that historic moment when God’s Word will soon reach every language community on earth.

In the 1940s, the visionary originators of the Bible-translation movement first started gaining traction with the idea that everyone should have Scripture in their own language. They had no idea the coming generations would document more than 7,300 languages in the world. Brave men and women gave their lives in rural villages, steaming jungles, and spreading cities worldwide. But the task of translating Scripture into every language simply was too great—until now. Today we can see the milestones drawing inevitably nearer. Will God use this current generation of young people to sprint across these great mission milestones we see just ahead?

Prophets told us this moment would come. Four thousand years ago, God told Abraham that all nations would one day be blessed through his offspring (Genesis 22:18). Daniel explained that a moment would arise when every language community would know Jesus, saying, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man. . . . All nations and peoples of every language worshiped him” (Daniel 7:13-14, emphasis mine). Isaiah foretold this historic moment with vivid imagery: “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him” (Isaiah 11:9-10). There are no dry spots on the ocean! As Isaiah foretold, one day soon, there won’t be one single language community left on earth that hasn’t been drenched by wave upon wave of the subtle, transformative power of God’s Word in a form they understand.

Ten Ministry Organizations Working Together

Ten Bible translation agencies have at last fully acknowledged that the global task remains too enormous for any one organization to succeed alone. They have banded together for illumiNations, an alliance of translation partners whose mission is “to make God’s Word accessible to all people by 2033.”

In recent decades, God has been powerfully answering the prayer spoken by his Son shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one . . . so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21). Now 10 of the largest Bible translation organizations are setting aside individual logos and egos to coordinate their collective energies around accomplishing four major objectives that we call “All Access Goals” (described in the next section).

It has been exhilarating to meet with the other nine CEOs and the five resource partners on the steering committee. It’s not at all what I expected. We have gradually become friends more than colleagues, as mutual respect and understanding have continued to grow. It hasn’t been easy to cooperate with so many different partners representing groups of people that span the globe and the full scope of Christian ideas, but the rewards have been great. Focusing on the Bible and getting it to more people has proven to be a uniquely powerful unifier. No matter who, no matter where, we all want everyone to engage Scripture and to be transformed by knowing the God of the Bible.

I have eagerly participated with a sense of awe as these organizations have even learned to raise funds together and operationalize work groups to take on different strategic tasks and collaborative efforts. This concerted unity feels like a sign of the end times . . . and maybe that will turn out to be true.

Four Audacious Goals

In the illumiNations movement, there are four All Access Goals:

• that 95 percent of the world’s population will have a complete Bible in their language by 2033—that’s a Bible for every language with more than 500,000 speakers!

• that 99.96 percent of the world’s people will have at least the New Testament by 2033

• that even the smallest languages in need of Scripture will have at least some Bible chapters by 2033

• that the top 100 written languages of the world will all have at least two excellent translations by 2033

These goals are achievable, but it won’t be easy. Much must change for us to succeed. By faith, we can see God may already be moving among us to make these audacious goals a reality, but failure is still possible. It takes faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). That’s why I am so excited to participate. It’s possible my energies could be a deciding factor! Every little bit makes a difference. So, we are striving to radically expand the number of partners and church movements worldwide all focusing on the same endeavor. We can do in this generation what no generation has ever done.

The parched places on earth are gradually being covered like water covers the sea . . . but our target date for achieving these four goals is just 12 years away!

One More Person Needed

None of us can predict the future. We don’t know if the global church will rise to the challenge in this generation. Some of that depends on you. We don’t know exactly when the entire world will have access to God’s Word, but we can see the road map unfolding one crease at a time. The deciding factor could really be you—and followers of Jesus worldwide just like you.

The math shows it will happen at some point in the near future—but how soon? I believe God has put that decision largely in your hands and in mine, just like Peter explained: “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11-12, emphasis mine). We all can take meaningful action that will make a true difference.

Your first opportunity is to join forces with us in prayer. Just as Jesus commanded, we all have a duty to wrestle with God in prayer . . . to beg the Lord of the harvest to send workers into his harvest field. In my experience, prayer movements have a way of inviting the power of God to transform the impossible into the inevitable. Your prayers could be the key!

But you could also give your life. You may not think of yourself as a Bible translator, but the scope of the team is wider than that. Many of the last remaining languages without Scripture are within the borders of nations that only welcome businesses—not ministries. Your career path may have ideally prepared you to join forces with us to advance the cause of Bible translation among some of the last languages on earth with no Scripture. You won’t know if your marketplace skills fit the task unless you ask us at Pioneerbible.org.

And, of course, you can give resources. We are calling on Christians everywhere to take the 12-verse challenge. The average cost of translating a single verse of the Bible is $35. You could do that! What if an army of everyday donors rose up to translate a verse a month for the next 12 months, or even the next 12 years? Would these audacious goals suddenly become doable? I know of only one way to find out. Go to illumiNations.Bible and join the 12-verse challenge. There are even instructions on that website for how your church can make the 12-verse challenge a generosity project. You can become an important part of the Bible-translation movement.

The signs of the end are around us. What do you see God doing in our generation? I see God moving in his church worldwide to finally fulfill the words of the prophet, covering every place on earth with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Back when Jesus was born, that’s what God was doing new in that generation, and yet so many people failed to recognize it and failed to get involved. They completely missed the moment when the Word of God became flesh and came to the earth the first time. And the Word of God is still coming, crossing every remaining language barrier on earth. We all have the chance to participate. Don’t miss it!

Greg Pruett serves as president of Pioneer Bible Translators. He and his wife, Rebecca, along with their three children, lived in West Africa for more than 12 years, where they completed a translation of the entire Bible into the Yalunka language. His first book, Extreme Prayer: The Impossible Prayers God Promises to Answer, was published by Tyndale in 2014.

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