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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 24

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-46



Harmony, pages 160-168 and Matthew 24:1-25:46; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36.

The whole prophecy of our Lord, as contained in Matthew 24-25, in Mark 13, and Luke 21, has been considered in its general terms in the preceding discussions. Some details call for special attention in this discussion.

1. False christs. – On page 160 of the Harmony, Matthew 24:45 and the corresponding verses of the others there is a warning against false christs who will come before the advent of the real Christ. It was such a difficult matter to keep the disciples from expecting the final advent of our Lord speedily, as they call "speedily." He knew they would misunderstand and be all the time on the lockout for the coming, so would increase the danger of being deceived by false christs. If one is confidently looking for the final advent of our Lord tomorrow, and he does not come, and somebody else comes claiming to be Christ, he would very likely take the one that comes. Hence these warnings on that subject, "Take heed that no man shall lead you astray. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray." Yet again in a much later stage of the prophecy he warns: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Lo, there; 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." Now, these false christs commence coming before the destruction of Jerusalem, and have been coming ever since, and they will multiply as the time approaches for the real advent of our Lord: but as we learn from 2 Thessalonians and Revelation, immediately preceding the advent of our Lord the man of sin will be revealed claiming that he is the Christ.

2. Warnings against false signs. – "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 all these things are the beginning of travail." Notwithstanding that solemn caution of our Lord, in every age of Christian history some disciples have found these events to be signs presaging the immediate coming of the Lord. In Bulwer’s romance, The Last Days of Pompeii, he, true to history, gives us an account of how the Christian people in those cities misunderstood the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. When they saw that eruption, its smoke, its ashes, its lava, its fire, its overwhelming destruction of the cities, they said, "Behold the sign of the Son of man; the end of the world is at hand." This misconception was prevalent in the early centuries and held by what, in church history, is known as the Chiliasts, that is, literally, the "thousand year" people. It was repeated later in the history of Germany by the "Mad Men of Munster," who pointed to the signs of the times as indicating the approach of the Son of man, and taught that he would, on this earth, set up a kingdom, and they were to begin that kingdom, and history tells us how the strong arm of secular power had to put down the madness of these superstitious, crazed people.

In the days of Oliver Cromwell, as English history informs us, a large part of his army was composed of what is known as the "Fifth Monarchy Men," that is, as there was the kingdom of Babylon, the kingdom of Persia, the kingdom of Greece, the kingdom of Rome, so the Fifth Monarchy Kingdom would be the kingdom of the little stone; hence they were called the Fifth Monarchy Men because) judging from the signs and commotions in England at the time, they thought that the Messiah would speedily be at hand, and they were to set up that fifth monarchy on earth. In the United States there arose the Millerites who believed in the speedy coming of our Lord, and who fixed the very day of his appearing. Edward Eggleston, true to history, has written a romance called, "The End of the World." He tells how these Millerites, having fixed the time for Christ to come, quit their business, gave away their property, and assembled on the day appointed with their ascension robes ready, expecting before that day closed to go right up to heaven) if only they could get the right flop, and when the day passed and no Christ came, then infidelity took the place of superstition concerning his coming at all.

In 1833, just ten years before I was born, there occurred a marvelous meteoric display, commonly known as the falling of the stars. Several books have been written upon this falling of the stars. Whenever you see a star fall you may know it is not a star. Stars do not fall. But when this great meteoric display occurred it seemed as if every star in the heavens were falling. So white men, black men, lawyers, doctors, preachers, and all classes alike, ran out in the street or in the road, and cried, "Behold, the sign of the Son of man; the end of the world is at hand." Our Lord here is warning against that kind of belief. Notwithstanding his warning, every generation sees some people led astray in just that way.

3. Persecution. – Let us consider the paragraph of Matthew 24:4-14, Harmony pages 160-162. Here he tries to make them understand that Christ’s coming is not imminent, because a long series of events must precede it, and he gives the series here. There will be false christs, false signs, earthquakes, long-continued persecutions of Christians. They shall be accused before synagogue and Sanhedrin) before Gentile judges and kings until the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the world. All these things must precede the coming of the Lord, and therefore that coming cannot be speedy in man’s sense of the word. As Peter taught, replying to an objection about the coming of Christ based on that fact, he says, "The Lord is not slack concerning the promise of his speedy coming as men count slackness, but it is speedy in God’s sight, for a thousand years are with God as one day." It is speedy to him. It is not speedy to us.

I called attention in the previous discussion to the statement of the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2. Let us read that again in order to see that Christ’s coming cannot take place until every foretold, preceding event has taken place. Hence he says, "Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by any epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; let no man beguile you in anywise: for it will not be except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."

4. The great Jewish tribulation. – In Matthew 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; Luke 21:20-23, we have the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the great age-long tribulation of the Jews, shortened for the sake of some elect Jews. Then in Luke 21:24 we learn how long this tribulation shall last, viz., to the fulness of the Gentiles. But the sign of our Lord’s advent follows that tribulation. So we have no right to expect the coming of Jesus Christ until after the fulness of the Gentiles, until the end of the tribulation of the Jews, and until the conversion of the Jews.

When, then, is that sign to appear? "But in those days after that tribulation." It must be after the cessation of the Jewish tribulation. It must be after the great darkness that follows that tribulation. I have already explained what the sign was – the white throne of glory in the judgment as compared with the sign of the first advent – a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Then comes the advent itself, then they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. All three of the witnesses testify as to the personal, visible, audible, tangible advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, and every time, he is represented as coming in the clouds: as, "That same Jesus whom ye saw taken up into heaven shall so come again in like manner." No man with a Bible before him can seriously question a personal, real, visible, audible, palpable, tangible coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t preach on it enough. While the premillennialist preaches too much on the time feature of it, the postmillennialist preaches too little on the reality and certainty of it. Whoever puts the time too soon, or makes it always imminent prepares for infidelity in the reaction of disappointment. Whoever leaves it out of his preaching altogether, leaves out the great hope of the gospel.

5. The parable of the fig tree. – We come now to the parable of the fig tree in Matthew 24:32 and parallel places in Mark and Luke. They all tell about it. It is preceded by this statement in Luke, "But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads; because your redemption draweth nigh." Certain indications in the fig tree tell us when to look for the fruit. So when we begin to see the conversion of the Jews, the end of the fulness of the Gentiles, then we may rejoice and lift up our heads, for our redemption is nigh.

The crucial difficulty of interpretation is Matthew 24:34: "This generation shall not pass away until all these things be accomplished." That the commentators differ on this passage is true. Some claim this as proof that Christ himself believed and so taught his disciples to believe that his final advent would be in that generation, i.e., in an ordinary lifetime. But this claim is utterly irreconcilable with his previous, explicit teaching of the long series of events that must intervene. It utterly contradicts all his careful hedging against this very delusion. We are compelled therefore to construe this verse as referring exclusively to the question, "When shall Jerusalem be destroyed?" and then to account for its order in the discussion, or we must construe the Greek phrase e genea aute to mean "this race" – these Jews as a distinct people, shall not pass away till all these things be accomplished. It would thus become a prophecy, and a very remarkable one, of the persistence of this people through all their tribulation until the coming of the Lord.

In the preceding discussion I have given Dr. Broadus’ contention that it means an ordinary lifetime, and allowing that his contention accounted for its order in the discussion. In the same discussion also I have given my own contrary conviction of the meaning of the phrase and justified it by the context, which renders any explanation of the order wholly unnecessary. I trust the reader may understand this matter as explained, but I restate to make sure:

First explanation: "This generation" means an ordinary lifetime, and answers the question, "When shall Jerusalem be destroyed?" Our problem then is to account for its order in the prophecy, following as it does the unmistakable reference to the final advent. We thus account for it. Our Lord answers all the questions propounded by his disciples and comes to a pause at Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27; Luke 21:28. In the general sense the discussion is ended. But in order to give clearness on some points he resumes the discussion of both the destruction of Jerusalem and of his final advent. This resumption begins where the general discussion closed, and is introduced by the parable of the fig tree, which in that case refers exclusively to the destruction of Jerusalem. This Jerusalem reference stops at Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32.

The resume has no more to say about Jerusalem, but takes up the second topic, our Lord’s final advent, commencing, "But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only" (Matthew 24:36; Luke 13:22). To this topic is devoted all the rest of the discourse. On Dr. Broadus’ theory of the meaning of "this generation" there is no other explanation of the order in which the fig tree parable occurs.

On the other theory of what "this generation" means there is no need to strain an explanation of the order of the fig tree. From beginning to end the whole prophecy proceeds in order and without a pause. From Matthew 24:29 to the end the advent only is discussed. Let us consider this theory. The Greek is e genea aute, and may mean this generation or this race of people. There is no question but that e genea aute sometimes means this race of people as well as this generation. And the context, notwithstanding Dr. Broadus’ declining to accept this meaning in his commentary (and I have more deference for him than any other commentator I ever studied), notwithstanding that he says that we should not put this meaning on it, I can take the context and prove that we should put this meaning on it. He doesn’t deny that the phrase sometimes means this race of people. Then, if it sometimes means that, if that is a correct translation in some connections, may it not in this connection mean that, and does not this connection demand it?

The signification then would be that other nations will rise and fall and pass away, but this race of people, the Jews, will not pass away. They will be here when Jesus comes. It becomes a prophecy of the perpetuity of the Jewish people. Since the call of Abraham until the present time, while Assyria, Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, and scores of other nations have passed away, this people has persisted in continuity of being.

The argument from the context appears in a preceding discussion. The next thought is Matthew 24:35.

6. The certainty of the advent. – "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away." Put the word of Jesus Christ against the heavens above and the earth beneath us. They may pass away, and they will, but "thus saith the Lord" is indestructible. He says that he is coming back. He will come back. No matter what the course of nature teaches as set forth in the second letter of Peter, when man looking at it stated, "Since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they have done from the foundation of the world:" Spring, summer, autumn, winter, a series of ever recurring events is called the course of nature. They say that has been from the beginning. Jesus says that if he puts in a word against that course of nature, the course will fail, but his word will stand, and he says he is coming.

7. The time of his coming. – Take Matthew 24:36, "But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only."

The Son, in the limitation of his humanity, as a man, did not know. Michael doesn’t know; Gabriel doesn’t know; the angels in heaven do not know the day of the coming of the Son of man. God knows.

"God the Father hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained." (1) It is all important to fix the mind on this capital point, viz.: It is not liable to come any day. As the first came only in the fulness of time, so the second. The day of his first coming was like the day of his second coming will be. It is as fixed and immovable as the day of his first coming. Never forget the words of Paul, to the Athenians: "God hath appointed a day" (2) Certain pessimists reverse Daniel’s stone image of the growth of the kingdom and our Lord’s parable of the mustard seed. They have a tadpole interpretation of the kingdom, big at the head and "petering out" at the tail. They hold that matters will wax worse and worse until at the advent only a handful of saints will be in the world, and claim this passage as a proof text. They argue from the few saved in Noah’s day to the few when Christ comes. They utterly mistake the point of likeness.

The day of the advent is not like the day of the flood in the fewness of the saved) but in the suddenness of the coming in each case. In both cases the wicked are surprised and are swept away unprepared.

8. Noah and the flood. – This paragraph finds a point of likeness between the coming of the flood and the final advent. It is our business to make no mistake on what is the likeness in point:

"In that day they were eating, 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." That is, it shall be as unexpected as the coming of the flood. That very day when the flood came the wicked were buying, selling, and marrying, and giving in marriage, and going right along, not believing that there would be any flood. The point of likeness there then is the suddenness and unexpectedness of that coming to the wicked. The coming is like a flash of lightning, startling even those who are watching the clouds.

In the text (Matthew 24:40-41) he shows that it will be unexpected to the righteous. He does the same thing in the parable of the ten virgins. They are all of them, the true and the false alike, asleep. They were startled by that coming. That separation the angels make will be utterly unexpected to the good man that was taken and the bad man that was left, to the good woman that was taken and to the bad woman that was left.

9. The warning of the parables. – Four parables follow in succession, all of them bearing on the suddenness and unexpectedness of his coming. The first is the parable of the man sojourning in another country, who before he went away gave authority to his servants, just as Jesus, before he goes up to heaven, will say to his disciples, "All authority in heaven and in earth is given unto me. I give it unto you, and I tell you what to do: go and preach the gospel to every creature and make disciples of all nations." The parable anticipates the fact. The man sojourning in a far country does not tell his servants the day of his return. So the second parable, that of the householder, leaves the master of the house ignorant of the time when the thief comes. The thief does not write a letter to this householder saying, "On next Thursday night I am coming to burglarize your house," nor does he, on arrival, ring the bell and send in his card.

The parable of the ten virgins is of like purport to good and bad. It matters not that one be awake at the time of the advent. All the ten slept. The thing that matters is preparedness. Get ready and keep ready. A soldier, though asleep, is ready, if, when the sentry fires at midnight and the drum beats, he can put his hand at once on his clothes, musket, and cartridge box. He is unready, if, when the alarm awakes him, he must in the dark hunt up things, clean his musket, and fill his cartridge box. These five wise virgins, though sleeping, were ready, because they had bought oil for their lamps. The five foolish virgins were unready, because they had not made this provision.

The great point of this parable is: There can be no preparation after Jesus comes. The time for preparation is then forever gone. John the Baptist came to prepare men. Jesus, at his first advent, came to prepare men. At the final advent he comes not to save, but to reward and judge.

10. The purpose of the final advent. – This purpose is clearly taught in the parable of the talents, so far as his professed servants are concerned. Going away, he made them stewards of his goods. But "now after a long time the Lord of these servants cometh and maketh a reckoning with them." If hypocrites, they utterly perish. Why does he come, so far as they are concerned? What is the purpose of his coming? To make a reckoning with them – their stewardship ceases. So far as the Christians are concerned the purpose of the final advent is, by their works, to show what fidelity as Christians they have exercised in the service of the Lord. If they have done well they receive a reward; if they have done unrighteously they suffer loss, but they are saved, yet as by fire, says Paul. The object of the coming, then, so far as Christians are concerned, is to reckon with them as to their Christian stewardship. But the fulness of the purpose appears in the last paragraph of the prophecy: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory and all nations shall be gathered before him." Why gathered? That tells us why: They are separated instantly. The righteous take the place at the right hand and participate with him in the judgment. The wicked are sent away into everlasting punishment.

And every time the coming of the Lord as to its purpose is expressed, that same lesson is taught – that he doesn’t come to teach; he doesn’t come as a vicarious sacrifice for sin; he doesn’t come to make intercession for his people in his priesthood ; he doesn’t come to rule as a king, but he comes to turn over the kingdom. He does come to judge.

I want to get the thought of that judgment before you. Revelation 20:11 says, "I saw a great white throne and him that sat on it, before whom the heavens and the earth fled away and there was found no place for them." The earth will be regenerated by fire. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. He winds up the present earth and the present heavens at his coming, "and the dead, small and great, stand before him," for judgment, "and the books were opened." Now notice: "And the dead were judged out of the books according to their works."

11. Some questions. – very briefly answer some questions. If Christ’s first advent was a far-off, fixed time and not a sliding scale of possibilities, then is it true that Christ may come at any time? It is not true. He couldn’t come before the Spirit was given, as he promised. He couldn’t come before Jerusalem was destroyed, as foretold. He couldn’t come before the fulness of the Gentiles and the conversion of the Jews, as he foretold. He couldn’t come before the great apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin, as he foretold. Then why exhort everybody to watch? I wouldn’t know how to answer that question at all if Christ was liable to come at any time, but I do know how to answer it if the day of his coming is fixed and far away. I know how to reply to it.

It is quite important to answer this question fairly, for three things are clear from our Lord’s teaching: (1) the final advent is a fixed, definite date; (2) the series of foretold intervening events necessitates a far away date; (3) yet every man is exhorted to look for it, in his day, and be ready.

The first part of the answer consists of this fact: There are many comings of the Lord, and each is related to the final coming:

The Lord comes in the Holy Spirit: "I will not leave you orphans: I will come to you" (John 14:18). The relation of this advent to the final advent is shown in Acts 2:19-20.

The Lord comes in judgments, as at the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 21:40-41). And this coming, like the flood, is related to the final coming, as in the prophecy.

The Lord comes at the Christian’s death (John 14:3; Acts 7:56; Matthew 24:44-51). Otherwise the warning in Matthew 24:44-51 would be only a scare to all but the generations living when Jesus comes.

The second part of the answer consists in this: That while the final advent is a long way off to the race of man, between that advent and the individual of the race there is only the time till the individual’s death. With death his watching and his preparation cease. If he dies tomorrow unready, he will be unready when the advent comes to the race, though that may be centuries hence.

When I die I will get out of time into eternity. I am not charged or credited with anything that I do after I die. All that the judgment takes cognizance of are the deeds that are done in the body, not after one gets out of his body. The only time for me to prepare for the second advent is while I am living, and though that advent to the race may be a thousand years off, it isn’t a thousand years to me; it is just a number of days till I am dead. The only time I can watch, can pray, can get ready, is before I die. Therefore, he says, "I say unto you all, Watch, be ready."

We must keep before us distinctly these two points: The coming of Christ historically to the race at a fixed day far away, and the coming of Christ to the individual when he dies; at the depot of death he meets us if we are Christians. The purpose of the advent is to judge both the righteous and the unrighteous.

12, The one ground of judgment. – That is the treatment accorded to Christ in his gospel and in his people. That is set forth in the end of the lesson. Jesus says to those on his right hand, "Come, ye blessed of my Father. Because I was sick and ye visited me, I was hungry and ye fed me, I was in prison and ye ministered unto me." Then shall they say, "Lord, when did we do this? You were not on earth while we were living." "Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye did it unto me. I identify myself with my gospel, my cause, my people."

Look at the wicked. They are condemned now, but at the judgment there will be taken into account their deeds done in the body: "How did you treat Christ offered to you as a Saviour in his gospel? How did you treat his cause, his people?" And when he tells them that they did not come when he was sick, they did not give him food when he was hungry, they did not clothe him when he was naked, and did not minister unto him, they will say, "When, Lord? We don’t remember ever seeing you." He answers, "Yes, but you saw my people, you had my gospel preached to you." And in the same way the good angels will be confirmed, the evil ones with the devil condemned, and their treatment of Christ will be taken into account.

1. Why the necessity of warning against false christs?

2. What is Christ’s warning on this point?

3. Has history verified the wisdom of this caution of Christ? If so, how?

4. Who is to be the culmination of all the antichrists?

5. What was Christ’s warning against false signs?

6. What is the historical proof that men have mistaken natural phenomena for the sign, erred in fixing a date, and have misconceived the nature and time of the kingdom, with grievous results?

7. What are the events outlined by our Lord in Matthew 24:4-14 which show that the coming of Christ is not imminent?

8. What does Paul say must come first?

9. What is the importance of the doctrine of the advent and the preacher’s duty with respect to it?

10. What is the lesson of the parable of the fig tree according to the construction of Matthew 24:34?

11. Restate the two theories of interpretation and show the argument for the author’s position.

12. In what statement does our Lord show the certainty of his coming and how does this answer the objection offered by the mockers referred to in 2 Peter 3:4-7?

13. What does Jesus say as to who knows the time of his coming and how explain this statement as it applies to Christ?

14. Cite positive proof that the day of his final advent is not a sliding scale of possibilities, always imminent, but a definitely fixed and unalterable date, and compare it, in this respect, with the date of his first advent.

15. Two opposing views are preached: one, pessimistic as to the world prevalence of the gospel under the Spirit dispensation presenting the gospel kingdom as a tadpole, i.e., big at the head but tapering into a fine-pointed tail; the other, optimistic, as to the world prevalence of the gospel, as a little stone in its beginning and growing into a mountain and finally filling the whole earth. Which of these is the scriptural view and the proof?

16. What, then, is the explanation of Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24; Luke 17:26; Luke 18:8?

17. What four parables follow bearing on the suddenness and unexpectedness of his coming and what the point illustrated in each respectively?

18. What is the purpose of his coming with reference to hypocrites? With reference to Christians?

19. If a justified man goes immediately to heaven when he dies and an unjustified man to hell, why bring them from these places of joy and torment before a judgment seat at the end of the world?

20. What reference to this is in the book of Revelation and what are the books to be opened at the judgment? Answer: For the answer to the last part of this question see sermon, "The Library of Heaven"; first volume of sermons by the author.

21. If Christ’s first advent was a far-off, fixed time and not a sliding scale of possibilities, then is it true that Christ may come at any time?

22. What events must come first as foretold?

23. What three things are clear from our Lord’s teachings on this point?

24. Then why exhort everybody to watch?

28. What is the one ground of the judgment? Illustrate in the case of the Christians, the sinners, and the angels, respectively.

Verses 1-51



Harmony, pages 160-166 and Matthew 24:1-51; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36.

This section commences on page 160 of the Harmony. But first, by way of review, let me recall attention to the greatest indictment ever written against a nation; and, second, the greatest penalty ever assessed against a nation; and third, the greatest hope ever suggested to a nation. This indictment, this penalty, and this hope, together with the questions they invoked, introduce our Lord’s great prophecy and constitute the occasion of it.

Certain passages in Matthew 21-23 contain the indictment, the penalty, and the hope. In Matthew 21, commencing at Matthew 21:23, we find the parable of the householder who planted a vineyard and set a hedge about it, and digged a wine press in it and built a tower) and let it out to husbandmen and went into another country. Then he sends his servants from time to time for the fruits of that vineyard. His servants are maltreated – some of them put to death. He keeps sending them as the years roll by. They keep on persecuting and killing them. Finally he sends his son and they kill his son. This parable is an indictment against the Jewish nation, and closes with the penalty, "When therefore the Lord of the vineyard shall come he will miserably destroy those miserable men, and will let out the vineyard to other husbandmen, who shall render him the fruits in their season."

We cannot mistake here either the people indicted, the severity of the indictment, or the double character of the penalty assessed. And we should mark well that the enforcement is more than once called a "Coming of the Lord." The second part of the penalty is the giving of the oracles and kingdom of God to other peoples. In Matthew 22, and also in the form of a parable, we find a restatement of both the indictment and the penalty. The indictment is their rejection of invitations to a marriage feast and maltreatment of his messengers. The vineyard represents the kingdom of God and the marriage feast his gospel. The penalty here is also twofold. First, others obtain what they reject and "The king was wroth and sent his armies and destroyed the murderers and burned their city."

Having thus veiled indictment and penalty under the form of parables, in Matthew 23 he openly arraigns them thus: "Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter. Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more the son of hell than yourselves. Ye swear by the minor things and ignore the greatest: For example, ye swear by the gold of the temple instead of the temple which sanctifieth the gold, and by the gift upon the altar instead of the altar which sanctifieth the gift. Ye tithe mint and anise and cummin and have left undone the weightier matters of the law – judgment, mercy, and faith. Ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Whiled sepulchers outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Wherefore do ye also outwardly appear righteous unto me, but inwardly are ye full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Ye build the sepulchers of the prophets and garnish the tombs of the righteous, as if to say, If we had been living in the days of our fathers we would not have participated in their martyrdom. Fill ye up the measure of your fathers, ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers. How shall ye escape the judgment of hell? And, behold, when afterwards I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of them ye shall kill and crucify and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you shall come all the righteous blood shed on the earth from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the porch and the altar. Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets and stoneth them that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered your children together even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. Behold your house is left unto you desolate. Not one stone shall remain standing upon another. Ye shall not see me henceforth until ye say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

We see the nature of this indictment – that it covers the whole period of the Jewish history, in all the probations of mercy. From the call of Abraham to the settlement in Canaan was 490 years; from the settlement in Canaan to the establishment of the Jewish monarchy was 490 years; from the establishment of that monarchy to its downfall was 490 years; from the going forth of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah the first time, was 490 years – nearly twenty centuries of separate periods of mercy. In every probation they failed. They failed in their pilgrimage. They failed in the land under a theocracy. They failed under the monarchy. They failed in the interval between the return from exile and the coming of the Messiah. They grossly fail when Messiah comes. They shut up the kingdom of God, murdering the messengers of God – prophets, evangelists, martyrs.

The penalty is: "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." The duration of the desolation is "Until ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," that is, until their reception of the rejected Messiah. And this is the Great Hope held up before them – their salvation through Messiah on their conversion, which conversion precedes and introduces the millennium. What an indictment! What a penalty I What a hope! Two things in this last passage call for explanation and emphasis:

1. How could a nation organized at Sinai 1491 B.C. be held guilty of all the righteous blood shed from Abel’s time long anterior even to Abraham’s call, much less their later national organization? The answer is: Salvation through sacrificial, vicarious blood was the one heritage of hope for a lost world after man sinned. Abel was the first martyr. This heritage of hope for the world was committed to them; their murder of the Messiah, who was the object of Abel’s hope, was an endorsement of Cain and of every succeeding persecutor who walked in "the way of Cain."

2. It was a sin against their own unity. Mark the word, "together": "How would I have gathered you together!" Jesus was the true patriot working for the preservation of national unity in the only way by which it could be obtained. As a hen who sees the hovering hawk ready to swoop down upon the scattered brood, would call them by a warning cluck to run to the shelter of her wings, so Jesus, seeing his people helpless, scattered, a present prey to division and internal strife, and doomed to become the prey of the Roman hawk, sought to unite and shelter them.

When, therefore, he said in the Temple after his rejection: "Not one of these stones shall be left upon another," his disciples come to him privately at Olivet, saying, "When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" This threefold question has a sevenfold answer. Often our Lord answers more questions than are propounded, and these are the questions that he really answers:

(1) When shall Jerusalem be destroyed?

(2) What the sign of this destruction?

(3) What the extent of this tribulation introduced by this destruction?

(4) When the conversion of the Jews, and its relation to the final advent?

(5) When the final advent of our Lord?

(6) What is the sign of that advent?

(7) What the purpose of that advent, or in what office does Jesus come the next time?

I answer, in exposition of our Lord’s great prophecy, these seven questions, because he answers them. This prophecy is found in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and in Luke 21, presented in the form of a harmony in the textbook. It is the longest prophecy in the New Testament except the book of Revelation. It has awakened more interest, stirred up more curiosity, called forth more comment, and developed a greater bulk of literature than any other one passage in the Word of God. I know of no part of the Word of God, except that relating to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, of greater interest to the Bible student. In discussing this great prophecy I know that I shall, in my interpretations, run counter to the views of many good brethren, but not upon a point which raises a question of fellowship. Always among the Baptists, and indeed other denominations, variant views as to the final advent of our Lord have not been allowed to raise a question of fellowship. A man may be an unquestioned member of the church, whether he be premillennialist or postmillennialist.

Let us now take up these questions in order. I have never yet seen a comment on this entire prophecy that did not evince great difficulty in determining how much of it refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, and how much of it to the final advent. Even so great a commentator as Dr. Broadus balks at that. Some, in order to harmonize, dislocate and rearrange parts of the text. This is wholly unnecessary. Indeed, it is easier to understand in its natural arrangement, without any change in the order of the several historians. It does not need a single word or sentence in it to be put in another place. It comes exactly right where it should. It is an amazing thing to me that anybody ever had any difficulty on the subject. After hedging carefully against several points upon which they were likely to be deceived, viz.:

(1) Against false christs

(2) Against false signs

(3) Against any idea of his speedy coming

(4)Warnings against persecutions Our Lord first answers the questions when Jerusalem would be destroyed, what the sign of it, how long the tribulation which that destruction would introduce; then when the conversion of the Jews and its relation to the final advent, what its sign and for what he would come.

Now let the reader take the Harmony, page 162, and draw a pencil mark across the page just above Matthew 24:15. All the matter of prophecy preceding this mark is devoted to corrections and misapprehensions, and warnings against being deceived on the several points enumerated above. Draw next a pencil mark across page 164 just under Matthew 24:28. In that space he gives the double sign of the destruction of Jerusalem, the duration of the tribulation it introduces, and a second caution against false christs. Draw next a pencil mark across page 165 just under Matthew 24:31. In that space he gives the general time and sign of his final advent and the advent itself. Draw the next line lower down on page 165 just under Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33. The only difficulty in arrangement comes in this section. This difficulty arises from construing "this generation." But no matter what the construction, the order is all right. The section comes just where it should come. Dr. Broadus insists that "this generation" shall have its ordinary meaning, the average period of life for the living, thirty or forty years. If his contention be tenable, then the section answers the question, "When shall Jerusalem be destroyed," and what follows must be applied to the final advent. But certainly the Greek phrase, e genea aute, does sometimes mean "this race" of people, i.e., here "the Jewish race." And it should be so rendered here if the context demands it. And, in my judgment, all the context does demand it. If we look back to the indictment (Matthew 23:31-35) it is race guilt. If we look at the penalty and its destruction (Luke 21:24) it is race penalty. If we look back to the great hope suggested (Matthew 23:39) it is race hope, certainly not to be realized by that generation in the ordinary sense of the word, nor, in fact is it even yet realized. Why then may we not render the phrase, e genea aute, this race of Jews shall not pass away, shall not be blotted out as other conquered peoples have been, but shall be preserved as a monument of wrath, as Moses foretold, until after the fulness of the Gentiles, and thus become earth’s greatest monument of mercy in the way of their salvation? This puts our Lord in harmony with Moses (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Deuteronomy 30:1-10) and with Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:21-37:14) and with Paul (Romans 11:1-36). With this interpretation all difficulty vanishes. No word or sentence is out of its proper order, and we do not need the last two cross lines of divisions, for everything in the prophecy from the previous line drawn just under Matthew 24:28 relates to the final advent. The destruction of Jerusalem stops squarely with Matthew 24:28 and Luke 21:24. We now take up the questions answered by our Lord:

If Dr. Broadus is right about the meaning of "this generation," when shall Jerusalem be destroyed? The answer to it is, in the lifetime of "this generation." "All these things shall come upon this generation." This prophecy was uttered A.D. 33; Jerusalem was destroyed A.D. 70. Men then living, before they died, saw the fulfilment of all that part of it which relates to the destruction of Jerusalem. If he is not right, our Lord leaves it vague like the time of his advent.

The next question: What shall be the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem? His answer is: "When you shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, standing in the holy place, where it ought not to be, and when Jerusalem is encompassed with armies," for this setting up is connected with the encompassing of Jerusalem with armies. Those two things must come together. "When ye shall see Jerusalem encompassed with armies and then shall ye see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, set up where it ought not to be;" that is the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem. Abomination, Greek, bdelugma, means an "idol," a graven image, and therefore an abomination. Abomination is a derivative meaning. It is an abomination because it is a graven image, contrary to the Second Commandment: "Thou shalt make no graven image to bow down before it." The first abomination of desolation set up in the holy place was by Antiochus Epiphanes when he entered in the Temple a statue of Jupiter Olympus and demanded that it should be worshiped.

Now, this second abomination of desolation is a desolation of desolations. This brings greater desolation upon the Jewish people than Antiochus had brought. What was that graven image? We know exactly what it was. We first get acquainted with it when Jerusalem was not encompassed with armies and Josephus gives us the account. This same Pilate, at that time Roman Procurator, sent from Caesarea, the seaport of that country on the Mediterranean Sea, a legion of Roman soldiers and had them secretly introduced into the city and sheltered in the tower of Antonio overlooking the Temple, and these soldiers brought with them their ensigns. The Roman ensign was a straight staff, capped with a metallic eagle, and right under the eagle was a graven image of Caesar. Caesar claimed to be divine. Caesar exacted divine worship, and every evening when those standards were placed, the Roman legion got down and worshiped the image of Caesar thereon, and every morning at the roll call a part of the parade was for the whole legion to prostrate themselves before that graven image and worship it. The Jews were so horrified when they saw that image and the consequent worship, they went to Pilate, who was at that time living in Caesarea, and prostrated themselves before him and said, "Kill us, if you will, but take that abomination of desolation out of our Holy City and from the neighborhood of our holy temple." While that was an abomination, Jerusalem at their time was not encompassed with armies. "When ye shall see the abomination which makes desolation spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, set up where it ought not to be, and see Jerusalem encompassed by armies," that is the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem. The greatest desolation ever wrought in the world on a people, was made under that standard and by the Roman power. Therefore, it was the abomination that maketh desolation. The Christians saw that sign and profited by the advice of their Lord, as contained in this very prophecy. If a man was on top of the house he did not come down the stairway on the outside to go back in the house for anything; if he was out in the field, he did not go back to the house, but fled to escape the awful doom assessed upon the Jewish nation. And it is a matter of history that the Christian people did recognize that sign and did flee across the Jordan to Pella, in the mountains of Moab, and did escape, by following the suggestions of their Lord, the doom that came upon that nation. So, two of the questions have been answered: When shall Jerusalem be destroyed? and What shall be the sign of its destruction?

We will take up the third question in the next discussion.

1. Where is our Lord’s great prophecy found?

2. What constitutes the occasion of this great prophecy?

3. What is the form and substance of the gravest indictment ever drown against a nation?

4. What is the double character of the severest penalty ever assessed against a nation, where do we find a restatement of both the indictment and penalty, what do "the vineyard" and the "marriage feast" represent and how is the twofold penalty here brought out?

5. Having veiled the indictment and penalty in the form of parables, how does he openly arraign them?

6. What does this indictment cover and what are the great periods of Jewish probation in which they failed?

7. What was the duration of the penalty?

8. What was the brightest hope ever suggested to a nation?

9. How could a nation organized at Sinai be held guilty of all the righteous blood shed from the time of Abel?

10. What was the nature of their sin and what Jesus’ effort to prevent the very judgment that came upon them for this sin?

11. What threefold question did the announcement of this awful penalty evoke from the disciples and what is the sevenfold answer?

12. What can you say of the importance of this prophecy and the interest excited by it?

13. What of the difficulty of interpretation by commentators and their method of solution?*

14. What points upon which they are likely to be deceived does our Lord hedge against in the first part of this prophecy and he answers what questions immediately following?

15. Where draw the lines in the Harmony and what does each line separate?

16. What paragraph contains the difficulty of this arrangement and what phrase is its crux?

17. What is Dr. Broadus’ interpretation of "this generation"?

18.. What is the contextual argument for a different meaning?

19. Assuming that in Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32; the Greek phrase, e genea aute, means "this race" of people, i.e., the Jews,. give outline of the prophecy.

20. If Dr. Broadus be right about the meaning of "this generation," when should Jerusalem be destroyed? If he be not right, then when should Jerusalem be destroyed, and how does either interpretation obviate the necessity of changing the order of the words?

21. On what one point of inquiry does our Lord here, as always elsewhere, refuse a specific answer and in what way does the New Testament ever answer a question of this kind? Answer: The inquiry as to time or date. Answers on inquiries of this kind are given by showing the order of events and their relation

22. What was the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem and what was the explanation of it?

23. For whose benefit was this sign given, what its attendant warnings, and what the historical proof that they recognized it and profited by the warnings?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 24". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/matthew-24.html.
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