“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14).
The Great Commission is also linked to another event mentioned in the Olivet Discourse: the preaching of the gospel mentioned in Matt 24:14. This link is significant for the same reason as the link with the beginning of birth pangs. It demonstrates that the church will experience the eschatological prophetic fulfillment of the preaching of the gospel to the whole world. The church will not be raptured until this prophesied event happens.
So here we have another explicit prophecy that must happen before the end: the gospel being preached “throughout the whole inhabited earth.” Since Jesus taught in the Great Commission that the church will be on earth up the end of the age, they will witness the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the world-wide proclamation of the Gospel. Five words demonstrate this point: “then the end will come” (Matt 24:14). The church will not be removed until this prophecy is fulfilled. It is simply another prophetic event that undermines an any-moment return of Jesus.
On a related noted, having established that the church will be present on earth up to the end of the age in verse 14, notice in verse 15 Jesus says, “Therefore [oun] when you see…” The interpreter should not miss that Jesus has the same audience in view after verse 14. In verse 15, Jesus begins to describe the Antichrist’s great tribulation in more detail. There is no justification to claim that the referent “you” in verse 15 and afterwards is different from the “you” before verse 14. In other words, the disciples, who represent the new community of God (i.e. the church), are the consistent audience of Jesus’ entire discourse. In short, since the “you” before verse 15 represents the church, there is no reason—except for theological bias—that it represents anyone differently in verse 15 and afterwards.