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Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Matthew 24

 

 

Verse 1
MATT. 24

CHRIST FORETELLS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE; SIGNS OF HIS COMING; THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE; FAITHFUL AND UNFAITHFUL SERVANTS

And Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way; and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. But he answered and said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Matthew 24:1-2)

Jesus went out from the temple ... The significance of these words is revealed in the prediction Christ immediately made of the final overthrow of the temple. When Christ goes OUT FROM any society, individual, or institution, its overthrow is certain, and the consequence is always destruction. The buildings which the disciples pointed out to Jesus with such evident admiration were fully entitled to praise. Josephus' description of Herod's temple states that the front of it was covered with heavy golden plates, that it was constructed of green and white marble blocks of immense dimensions, 67' 10:5' 10:6' in size, and that it appeared like a mountain covered with snow, the ungilded parts being exceedingly white. The golden facade reflected the rising sun with fiery splendor; and, in the words of the rabbis, "He who has not seen the temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building."[1]

Christ's prophecy of the overthrow of the temple was so remarkably fulfilled that the actual site of that once-glorious ancient edifice is now uncertain. Josephus recorded the thorough demolition and destruction of the proud walls which appeared so beautiful to the disciples; but, even if no history remained of how it was done, the present uncertainty as to the site and the utter absence of any significant remains of the ancient glory are proof enough that Jesus' words were totally fulfilled.

Nor was the destruction of the temple intended by Titus who had charge of the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. He even gave a commandment against its demolition, intending to preserve it as "a monument to the empire."[2] But the decrees of kings and emperors and generals were of no avail against the will of him who had sentenced it to destruction. Just as Pilate's order to break the legs of Christ was countermanded by the Lord, centuries before it was given, so Titus' order to spare the temple was not heeded. God's will, not Titus' order, prevailed.

Included in the prophecy of the destruction of the temple, there was also inherent the accompanying destruction of Jerusalem, also prophesied by Christ (see latter part of preceding chapter), The departed glory of Jerusalem was mentioned by Farrar in these words:

He who, in modern Jerusalem, would look for the relics of the ten-times-captured city of the days of Christ, must look for them twenty feet beneath the soil, and will scarcely find them. In one spot alone remain a few massive substructions to show how vast is the ruin they represent; and here, on every Friday, assemble a few poverty-stricken Jews, to stand each in the shroud in which he will be buried, and wail over the shattered glories of their fallen and desecrated home.[3]

In view of the size of the stones used in building the temple, it must have appeared highly improbable that every one of them would be thrown down, and yet that is exactly the way it happened. The fire which ravaged the cedar beams and furnishings within melted the gold with which much of the temple was overlaid. It ran down into the crevices of the mighty stones, and the soldiers literally left no stone unturned as they sought to recover the yellow metal that had adorned Herod's temple as loot.

[1] J. R. Dummelow, One Volume Commentary (New York: Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 701.

[2] James Macknight, A Harmony of the Four Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1950), p. 412.

[3] F. W. Farrar, The Life of Christ (New York: A. L. Burt Company), p. 378.

Verse 3
And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

The question had been propounded by the four fishermen, Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3); and only these four were present to hear the remarkable discourse which begins with the fourth verse of this chapter.[4]

Note that there are three questions raised by the disciples:

1. When shall these things be?

2. What shall be the sign of thy coming?

3. What shall be the sign of the end of the world?SIZE>

Naturally, the disciples considered these three events to be simultaneous occurrences, but in this they were mistaken. Nevertheless, Jesus answered all three questions, giving the sign of his coming, outlining the salient features of the destruction of Jerusalem, making that event a type of his second coming, and setting forth a number of details applicable to both events.

Practically all of the difficulties in understanding this astounding chapter will disappear when it is remembered that in a single prophecy Christ foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the final judgment and destruction of the whole world, making the first a type of the latter, and choosing a number of details that apply to both. Just as the rainbow is not one bow but actually two, a primary and a secondary, so many of the prophecies of the word of God have a primary and a secondary fulfillment. "Rachel weeping for her children" (Jeremiah 31:15) and "Out of Egypt have I called my son" (Hosea 11:1) are two examples (see on Matthew 2:13,18). Dummelow stated that "Our Lord referred in it not to one event but to two, and the first was typical of the second."[5]

H. Leo Boles also noted such a characteristic of divine prophecy, saying:

Often prophetic language has a double significance. Jehovah told Adam that he would die in the day that he ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17); yet Adam lived 930 years. There was a primary fulfillment of this when Adam was separated from the garden of Eden, and a secondary fulfillment of it in his death (Romans 5:12). Isaiah foretold the birth of a son by a virgin, yet added a prophecy which confined it to his own generation (Isaiah 7:14-17). The prophet combined type and anti-type in the same words.[6]

[4] J. W. McGarvey, Commentary on Matthew and Mark (Delight, Arkansas: Gospel Light Publishing Company, 1875), p. 204.

[5] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 702.

[6] H. Leo Boles, Commentary on Matthew (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1936), p. 472.

Verse 4
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray.

This admonition was especially appropriate in view of the amazing answer Christ was about to give to a complex question, the complexity of which was unknown to the apostles and would not be revealed to them except through their experience of unfolding future events. The wisdom of God is seen in the fact that the inadvertent confusion on the part of the disciples with reference to the two events, actually to be separated by thousands of years but appearing to them as scheduled simultaneously, has preserved incontrovertible proof of the authenticity of Matthew's gospel, placing it BEFORE the destruction of Jerusalem. No writer after that event could possibly have arranged this material as does Matthew (see Introduction).

Verse 5
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and earthquakes in divers places; but the end is not yet. But all these things are the beginning of travail.

The "signs" that Jesus mentioned in these verses are essentially ordinary; and thus it may be inferred that the usual run of human conflicts and misfortunes, as well as the claims of false teachers, are not the things which shall reveal the nearness of events prophesied. Historians have pointed out that all of the phenomena above did occur in profusion before the destruction of Jerusalem. Grotius was quoted by Macknight concerning earthquakes in at least eight parts of the Mediterranean world.[7] Such things as famines, wars, and earthquakes seem to have been multiplied during that period, but hardly any period of world history failed to exhibit the same things. Thus it may be concluded that Jesus' lesson here is that all such basic phenomena may be ignored except as characteristics of human wretchedness and misfortune upon which the more imposing signs were not signs of the end. Note the repeated warning, "but the end is not yet"! Such catastrophes were to be viewed only as the "beginning of travail," and the true signs of the events foretold were to be sought, not in them, but rather in what happened to the disciples.

ENDNOTE:

[7] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 417.

Verse 9
Then shall they deliver you up into tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. And because inquiry shall be multiplied, the love of many shall wax cold.

Conditions outlined in these verses were fulfilled before the destruction of Jerusalem; and, without doubt, the same conditions will prevail before the second coming. The rising persecution and hatred from without and the deteriorating conditions within the body of his disciples were to mark the onset of both events. That called for a strong and special admonition from the Lord for his true disciples to remain faithful no matter what happened. Christ plainly foresaw that the same evil influences which had clouded his personal ministry, and through which the entire nation of the chosen people had been misled and turned against their Messiah, would not cease to operate following his resurrection and the establishment of the kingdom, but would be present in perpetuity.

Verse 13
But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

Faithfulness on the part of Christ's followers is required, regardless of the state of prosperity or adversity in the church, and without respect to hardships, doubts, and difficulties that may appear.

Verse 14
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

The success of God's design is certain, in spite of fears within or foes without. The gospel shall be preached in the whole world. The first fulfillment occurred in the proclamation of the gospel to the "whole world" of that period; and the ultimate fulfillment will be the proclamation of the truth to all nations on the planet earth! That the first fulfillment actually occurred is seen in the fact that Paul witnessed the truth before "the kings and the Gentiles, and the children of Israel." Paul declared that "The gospel which ye heard ... was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister" (Colossians 1:23). The same phenomenon will also occur before the second event, the end of the world. The end of the age is mentioned in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:20) and vividly described by the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:1-8. In retrospect, how bold was the prophecy of Christ! That the gospel of a man who had absolutely none of the worldly advantages of power and prestige, who never wrote a book, who owned no property, who was rejected by the powerful leaders of his nation, who never traveled far from home, whose chosen followers were humble and obscure men, who was born in a stable, and at last humiliated and crucified between two thieves - that the gospel of THAT MAN should last thirty years must have seemed an impossibility to those who set him at naught; but not only did it happen, it is still happening, and in the WHOLE WORLD, nearly two thousand years after the prophecy was made. There is no HUMAN explanation of such a fact.

Verse 15
When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains: let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out the things that are in his house.

In this place, Christ again used an expression which was customary for him when quoting the prophets. He did not declare that "Daniel said" those things but that it was spoken "through Daniel," thus referring the message to God as the giver rather than to Daniel who conveyed it. This constitutes a strong witness for the authenticity of the book of Daniel. Here also is a clue to understanding the broad implications of the prophecy. The "end" spoken of by Daniel was not to take place for a long, long time after the abomination of desolation was set up (Daniel 12:11); and this proves that the Saviour's words apply to that far-off and final end of the world, no less than to the end of the Jewish economy which was accompanied by the shattering of the power of the holy people and the making of an end to "the continual burnt offering" (Daniel 12:7-11).

The abomination of desolation is usually held to mean the encirclement of the Holy City by the Roman armies prior to its destruction. That the Christian might have the opportunity to flee after such a deployment as that might have appeared impossible, due to the encircling armies; but the army of Titus, commanded by Cestius Gallus, for some inexplicable reason, lifted the siege, providing the Christians a chance to escape. In Book II of his Wars, section 24, Josephus said, "For Cestius removed his army, and having received no loss, very unadvisedly departed from the city."[8]

The reference to taking the things out of one's house was to emphasize the need for haste and urgency. It is a historical fact that the Christians did, in fact, take flight to safety during the brief respite allowed them by Gallus' withdrawal.

ENDNOTE:

[8] Josephus, Wars, Book VII, Sec. 9.

Verse 18
And let him that is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on a sabbath.

Our Saviour's concern for the sorrows and misfortunes of men is apparent in these tender words. He was especially grieved for mothers and their children. The reference to going back for a cloak was due to the fact that most agricultural pursuits were carried on without a cloak, that is, with the upper part of the body naked. His admonition to "pray" regarding the precise time of the flight proves that even in times of calamity the child of God, through prayer, may alleviate suffering and misfortune, and soften the harsh winds of adversity. That those prayers were answered appears in the actual date of the fall of the city, which occurred in the Jewish month Ab (July-August), following a five-month siege in the spring and summer of A.D. 70.[9] No endorsement or acceptance of the sabbath as a permanent institution may be inferred by our Saviour's reference to it here, although it does seem that, due to Jewish background, many of the disciples did keep it. In fact, such was true long afterwards, even in Rome (Romans 14:5).

ENDNOTE:

[9] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 702.

Verse 21
For then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be.

That such a calamity did befall Jerusalem is a matter of historical record. Josephus gave the tally lists of the thousands slain in various cities and villages and places the number slaughtered at the fantastic total of ELEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND! This was more than four times the loss of life when the nuclear device destroyed Hiroshima! True, some scholars question Josephus' statistical accuracy, but added to his testimony is this word from Jesus; and this writer rejects the view that Josephus, a Jewish historian, would have falsified a record in order to confirm what Christ had prophesied. One may set aside Josephus, but who would dare to set aside the Saviour's prophecy? Particularly pathetic was the wretched plight of 30,000 young Hebrew men crucified upon the walls and in the vicinity of Jerusalem, so many, according to Josephus, that all the green trees in the area were cut down to make crosses, and all the lumber stores exhausted. The cry, "His blood be upon us and our children," received an awful retribution in kind and a terrible fulfillment in such a demonic atrocity.

Verse 22
And except those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.

This was fulfilled in the relatively short duration of the siege which lasted only five months. That some degree of mercy was granted "for the elect's sake" lends New Testament emphasis to the principle taught in the Old Testament to the effect that ten righteous persons would have prevented the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain.

Verse 23
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or, Here; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand. If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not.

Although the disciples saw Christ ascend, the very fact that they expected him to return made them vulnerable to the claims of false Christs, pretending to be the Messiah. Christ warned that his second coming would be worldwide, glorious, sudden, and open for all the world to behold, thus contrasting sharply with the secretive pretensions of false Christs in secret chambers, remote wildernesses, or deserts. That many such pretenders did arise prior to the destruction of Jerusalem is fully attested. H. Leo Boles said:

Many persons, impostors, and self-deceived, aspire to fill the places of persons of honor. Many did come claiming to be the Christ. There is still a constant stream of men claiming to be God's chosen servants, leading multitudes into sin and infidelity with pretended claims.[10]

The mark of secrecy, as of something hidden, known only to the "insiders," was an unfailing characteristic of false Christs and false teachers; but not even the first advent of Christ was distinguished by any such concealment. Those marvelous things of the true Christ "were not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). The very heavens burst into praise the night he was born. His great wonders were performed before vast multitudes, and his credentials as the true King were presented repeatedly before the highest tribunals of the people, both Jews and Gentiles.

ENDNOTE:

[10] H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 469.

Verse 27
For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

It has been pointed out that Vespasian and Titus were returning from a campaign in the east against Rome's perennial foes, the Parthians, when they decided, on the way back to Rome, to make an end of rebellious Jerusalem. Thus, the destroying power came from the east to the west, although it is said that Titus actually launched his attack from the western side of the city.[11] Whether this should be considered mere coincidence or not, it is a remarkable fact. Of course, the primary meaning of the prophecy would apply to the sensational, worldwide, glorious revelation of Christ at his second coming.

Regarding the carcass and the gathering of the eagles, dogmatism may be out of place, but it seems clear enough that the Jewish state was the carcass. Having rejected Christ and planning at that very moment to accomplish his murder, and standing ready to persecute to death his disciples, Israel no longer possessed any right to exist as a separate and chosen people. It had been forfeited. Judaism was morally dead, corrupted and reprobate at the very center and head of their polity. She was not only morally dead but judicially dead also, Christ having pronounced her doom and sentenced her to destruction. A carcass was an appropriate symbol. The eagles? Strangely enough, eagles were the invariable decorations of the Roman standards, under which the veteran legions of Titus gathered to press the siege of the city. Although some scholars, such as Plummer, reject this passage as a reference to the Roman legions,[12] one must nevertheless confess that the analogy is there.

Extending the figure to its ultimate fulfillment at the end of the age, when the world itself will have become morally dead and when her day of grace has ended, God will also overwhelm it with destruction.

[11] Encyclopedia Brittanica (1962 edition), Vol. 13, p. 7.

[12] Alfred Plummer, Commentary on Matthew (London: Elliot Stock, 1909), p. 365.

Verse 29
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.

These are the most difficult words in the whole discourse because they appear to link the second coming with the destruction of the Jewish state, yet we know that this was not the meaning. Christ's reference to the prophecy through Daniel, a little earlier, indicates a long separation between the two events. Therefore, the words of this verse should be understood as a reference to the end of time and the final judgment, of which things the destruction of Jerusalem was only a type. Thus, the words about the carcass and the eagles have a prime application to the judgment of the world, morally dead, ravaged by the birds of prey, and undergoing countless sorrows and tribulations as a result. Their reference to the fate of Jerusalem is not vitiated by this view, because Jesus deliberately described both events with one set of symbols. Proof that Christ knew the two events would be separated by a most extensive period of time is seen in Luke 21:44, "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, UNTIL THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES BE FULFILLED!" A very long period of time, called by Jesus "the times of the Gentiles," was to follow the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews among all nations. The disciples, including Matthew, might have been confused into thinking the two events would occur simultaneously, but Christ knew otherwise. See also Romans 11:25 and Daniel 9:27. From such considerations as these, we do not hesitate to make "those days" of the passage here refer to the tribulation that shall precede the final end of the world, a tribulation more fully expounded by Christ a little later. Certainly, we reject the speculation of Edgar J. Goodspeed who supposed that Matthew composed these words AFTER the fall of Jerusalem, as "a welcome solution for the problem that perplexed them."[13] On the contrary, the author of Matthew's gospel, by the amazing manner in which the prophecies were intermingled, provides overwhelming proof that the "problem" did not exist at the time he wrote. It is upon this undeniable fact that fair-minded scholars find solid ground for receiving a very early date for Matthew, certainly BEFORE the destruction of Jerusalem.

Reference to the sun, moon, and stars presents a problem. Language such as this is perhaps hyperbole, and was sometimes used concerning the removal of illustrious princes and rulers from their estates. Similar language in Isaiah 13:10 likely refers to the fall of Babylon. Lightfoot went so far as to say that the Jews used such extravagant language to refer to the ruin of a single family.[14] However, with all due deference to learned opinion, this commentator finds it very difficult to accept these words of Christ as mere hyperbole. Hebrews 12:26-29 identifies "those things which are shaken" as our material world, both the heavens and the earth! Furthermore, there is strong evidence that even in Isaiah 13:10ff, far more was intended than the mere overthrow of Babylon (which, incidentally, is the Old Testament type of spiritual Babylon which will be overthrown at the end of the age). If it should be objected that the sun, moon, and stars cannot actually fall, it may be replied that if our planet were "shaken" (as the Scriptures affirm it will be) and removed out of its orbit, the sun, moon, and stars would surely appear to fall, bringing about a literal fulfillment of Christ's prophecy. That Peter understood some such catastrophe would actually occur is plainly evident from the text of 2 Peter 3. As Plummer declared:

That judgment is expressed in symbolical language, but it is no mere image to terrify children; it represents something very real and very awful, and all who hear of it must take account of it in shaping their lives.[15]

[13] Edgar J. Goodspeed, The Story of the Bible (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936), p. 59.

[14] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 431.

[15] Alfred Plummer, op. cit., p. 398.

Verse 30
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

The sign of Jesus' coming is thus his actual appearance on the clouds of heaven in great glory. It will not come in a more enlightened social conscience, or in some marked increase of benevolence among men and nations, nor in some sudden forward leap of civilization. The second coming will be a personal and glorious return of Christ in the skies. A materialistic, secular, and wicked age will not accept such a view, a fact prophesied by Christ in the revelation that all the tribes of the earth would "mourn" when they see it, a mourning that would NOT occur if some invisible, psychological, or spiritual return occurred. Christ plainly taught that his second coming would be bad news indeed for the great majority of mankind.

WHEN the second coming will occur is not and cannot be known, except to the "Father" (Matthew 24:36). Reference to Christ's coming "on the clouds of heaven, etc." is similar to the words he used before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:62) and also coincides with the message of the angels who said upon the occasion of his ascension that "in like manner" he would come again (Acts 1:11). The mourning of the tribes of earth should be particularly noted. When evil men, at last caught up in the catastrophe of the final judgment, shall know then, when it is too late, that Jesus is indeed God come in the flesh and that the Father has committed judgment unto the Son because he is the Son of man, no imagination can be strong enough to picture the wretched sorrow of the myriads of the wicked thus summoned to the judgment on the great day.

Verse 31
And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

These words show the strong grounds for referring this portion of the discourse to the final judgment. The parables of the tares and of the fishnet mention the angels that shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just. The sound of the trumpet is also invariably associated with the judgment and the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Also, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 stresses the appearance of angels with Christ in his coming for judgment.

Verse 32
Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch has now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that summer is nigh; even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors.

There is a season for spiritual things and for moral development, no less than for summers and fig trees. A discerning person can sense the onset of summer by the behavior of the natural creation around him; and a spiritually perceptive person can also ascertain the approaching judgment of God, whether upon an apostate city like Jerusalem or upon an evil and reprobate world.

One significant departure of some of the versions from the Greek text should be noted. Instead of "HE is nigh" in Matthew 24:33, the Greek has "IT is nigh," thus being a plain reference to the judgment. The ability to predict the visitation of God's wrath extended to the destruction of Jerusalem, but not to the coming of the final judgment. The disciples predicted with great accuracy the fall of Jerusalem, and most of them fled to Pella during the siege and were spared, but no such ability pertains to the knowledge of the end of the world and the second coming.

Verse 34
Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished.

This verse is the grounds for construing the whole discourse as a prophet of the destruction of Jerusalem and referring it exclusively to that event; but careful attention to the exact words Christ used removes the problem. Jesus used "these things" to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and "that day" to designate the judgment. Thus, this verse cannot apply to the second coming and final judgment but to the destruction of the Holy City, for he said that that generation would not pass away until all "these things" be accomplished. Furthermore, "this generation" has a much broader meaning than the lifetime of those who heard him. If Christ had intended that kind of meaning, he would have used words similar to those of Mark 9:1. Therefore, we look for some special meaning of the term GENERATION. As regarded the destruction of Jerusalem, "generation" had a limitation to the lives of persons then living; but, as regards the final judgment, "generation" referred to the descendants of Abraham, meaning the race of the Jews and that they would not cease as a separate people until the end of time. If such an explanation appears ingenious, it should be remembered that in describing two events, plainly separated by centuries of time, some expressions would of necessity have double meanings; and it is the view here that such an understanding of the word "generation" is positively required and that such does no violence whatever to the text.

Verse 35
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

This verse affirms two propositions: (1) that heaven and earth shall pass away, and (2) that Christ's words shall not pass away. The reference to the first of these grew out of the fact that he had just described the passing away of the heavens and the earth, and he made his word to be more permanent and abiding than any material substance. Christ's word shall judge men at the last day (John 12:48). Long afterwards, Peter was to remember these words of Jesus and write, "The word of the Lord endureth forever" (1 Peter 1:25).

Verse 36
But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only.

Note again the contrast between "that day" of this place and "these things" spoken earlier, indicating that Christ clearly differentiated between the immediate and remote fulfillment of this great prophecy. The Arian heresy was founded, in part, upon these words of Christ to the effect that he did not know the day and hour of the judgment. Aside from the uncertainty with regard to these words forming a part of the original text (see the margin of the ASV), it should be remembered that there were many things Christ did not choose to know during the days of his fleshly limitation. It was no part of his divine mission to impart knowledge of any category unrelated to man's salvation from sin. The words, therefore, do not imply any limitation whatever upon his godhead or divinity. A due regard to this verse would have prevented many religious teachers throughout the ages from making fools of themselves in predicting the time of the second advent. The precise day and hour of the judgment and destruction of the ungodly is unknown and unknowable by men. However, God DOES KNOW the day and the hour. Why? Because God has appointed it (Acts 17:31).

Verse 37
And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark. And they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. Then shalt two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left: two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left.

A number of similarities between conditions prior to the flood and those before the final judgment may be noted. The vast majority will have rejected God's word. There shall be no awareness of impending disaster. The normal pursuits of mankind will continue, as always. Ignorance of God and of his designs for mankind will continue up to the very hour of judgment; and the righteous shall continue to live in close proximity to the wicked until the very last. No thought of judgment or of reckoning shall disturb the minds of people; and THEN it will occur suddenly, universally, in a single day, and at a time when men shall least expect it. No wonder, therefore, that the admonition to "watch" was made a part of the discourse. The men in the field and the women at the mill show that no separation between the righteous and unrighteous shall be made until judgment.

Verse 42
Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.

The most urgent conclusion from the preceding discourse was presented in a single word by Jesus, "watch"! Since it is impossible to know the day or the hour, the true disciples must be ready ALWAYS. The second coming will occur at a time when men do not expect it, and that should set at rest the speculations of those who have thought to discover it. The constant watchfulness of a householder against a thief is made a parable of the watchfulness of the Lord's followers against the day of judgment. Christ refers to himself in Matthew 24:42 as "your Lord," another incidental witness to his godhead.

Verse 45
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord tarrieth; and shall begin to beat his fellow servants, and shall eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth it not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

This parable changed the figure from a householder guarding against a thief to that of servants waiting for their lord's return, having, in the meantime, full control of the lord's household, his goods, and all his property. This parable is a profound persuasion for custodians of the treasures of the kingdom of heaven, who, in a sense, have charge of the Lord's kingdom until he returns; and they should be diligent to feed and care for the Lord's household with due respect to the accounting that all must give who undertake so sacred a task. Privilege carries its own responsibility, and the false teacher is certain to be judged and condemned in due season. The "weeping and the gnashing of teeth" are expressions used by Jesus to convey some idea of the anguish and despair of the condemned who shall be cast into the outer darkness.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 24:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=024". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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