Click to donate today!
THE APOCALYPTIC DISCOURSE.
This chapter and its synoptical parallels (Mark 13:0 , Luke 21:0 ) present, in many respects, the most difficult problem in the evangelic records. Many questions may be, have been, asked concerning this discourse on things to come. Which of the three versions comes nearest to what Jesus said? Did He say all that is here reported on this occasion, or have we in all the versions, more or less, a combination of words spoken at different times? Were the words here collected, all of them, or even the greater number of them, ever spoken by Jesus at any time; have the evangelists not worked up into the discourse a Jewish, or Jewish-Christian, apocalypse, or given us a composition of their own, consisting of certain logia of the Master, as the nucleus, with additions, modifications, and comments in the light of subsequent events? Finally, what is the didactic significance of the discourse, what did Jesus mean to teach His disciples respecting the themes treated: the Ruin of the Holy City, the Coming of the Son of Man, and the End of the Age, and the connection between these things? A history of opinion on these topics cannot here be given; a confident attempt at answering the questions propounded I am not prepared to make; perhaps a final satisfactory solution of the problem is not attainable. I offer only a few general considerations which may, at least, help readers to assume a right attitude towards the problem, and to bring to the study of the discourse a sympathetic spirit.
1. The time was suitable for some such utterance. The situation was this: Jesus expecting death in a few days; convinced that the moral and religious condition of the Jewish people is hopelessly bad, and that it must ere long end in disaster and ruin; surrounded by friends who are to be, after the decease of their Master, the missionaries of a new faith in a troublous time, when an old world is going down and a new world is coming into being. Here surely is an occasion to provoke the prophetic mood! At such supreme crises prophetic utterances, apocalyptic forecasts, are inevitable. Here they are, whomsoever we have to thank for them. From whom are they more likely to have proceeded than from Him who had such clear insight into the moral forces at work, and into the spiritual phenomenology of the time?
2. The aim of any prophetic discourse Jesus might deliver at this crisis, like that of all true prophecy, would be ethical ; not to foretell, like a soothsayer, but to forewarn and forearm the representatives of a new faith, so that they might not lose their heads or their hearts in an evil perplexing time not to gratify curiosity but to fortify against coming trial.
3. Prophetic utterance with such an aim would not need to be exact in statements as to dates and details, but only to be true as to the sequence and general character of events. From all we know of Hebrew prophecy it was to be expected that the prophesying of Jesus would possess only this latter kind of truth, instead of being like a “history of events before they come to pass”. The version of the evangelic apocalypse that least resembles the description of prophecy now quoted from Butler’s Analogy (part ii., chap. vii.) will come nearest to the original utterance. This consideration tells in favour of Mt. and Mk.
4. All prophetic or apocalyptic utterances have much in common; phraseology and imagery tending to become stereotyped. The prophetic literature of the O. T. had indeed provided a vocabulary, which by the Christian era had become normative for all speech concerning the future. Hence Jewish, Jewish-Christian, and Pauline utterances of this kind would in many particulars resemble one another, and it might be difficult to decide by mere internal evidence from what circle any particular utterance emanated. But it is not probable that the evangelists would introduce into a professed report of a discourse by Jesus a current apocalypse of known Jewish origin unless they had reason to believe that Jesus had adopted it, or endorsed its forecast of the future ( vide Weizsäcker, Untersuchungen über die Evang. Gesch. , pp. 126, 551).
5. As we have seen reason to believe that in previous reports of our Lord’s Discourses ( e.g. , of the Sermon on the Mount and of the Mission Discourse , chap. 10) grouping of kindred material irrespective of historical occasion has taken place, so we cannot be surprised if traces of a similar procedure present themselves here. The remark applies especially to the latter part of the chapter, Matthew 24:37-51 , which contain logia given by Lk. in other connections (chaps. 12 and 17).
Matthew 24:1 . ἐξελθὼν , going out from the temple, within whose precincts the foregoing anti-Pharisaic manifesto had been spoken. The position assigned to ἀπὸ τοῦ ἱεροῦ before the verb, ἐπορ . in the best MSS., suggests connection with ἐξελθὼν . Some, however (Weiss, Schanz, etc.), insist that the words must be taken with ἐπορ . to give to the latter a definite sense. In reality they go along with both, the full meaning being: going out from the temple. He was going away from it, when, etc. ἐπορεύετο : the imperfect, indicating an action in progress when something else happened. There is an emphasis on the idea of the verb. He was going away, like one who did not mean to return. Hence the action of the disciples next reported. ἐπιδεῖξαι : they came to their Master, going before in a deeply preoccupied mood, and tried to change the gloomy current of His thoughts by inviting Him to look back at the sacred structure; innocent, woman-like but vain attempt. τὰς οἰκοδομὰς : the whole group of buildings belonging to the holy house; magnificent, splendid, as described by Josephus (B. J., v., 5, 6), appearing to one approaching from a distance like a snow mountain ( ὄρει χιόνος πλήρει ) topped with golden pinnacles, which for forty years, in his Napoleonic passion for architecture, Herod the Great had been building to the glory of God and of himself.
Matthew 24:1-3 . Introduction ( cf. Mark 13:1-4 ; Luke 21:5-7 ).
Matthew 24:2 . ὁ δὲ ἀποκ ., but , adversatively. He answered, in a mood entirely different from theirs. οὐ βλέπετε ; do you not see all these things? = you ask me to look at them, let me ask you in turn to take a good look at them. ταῦτα : these things , not buildings, implying indifference to the splendours admired by the disciples. οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ , etc.: not an exact description ex eventu , but a strong statement of coming destruction (by fire) in prophetically coloured language (Micah 3:12 ; Jeremiah 26:18 ). So Holtz., H.C.
Matthew 24:3 . n interval of silence would naturally follow so stern a speech. This verse accordingly shows us Jesus with His disciples now on the other side of the Kidron, and sitting on the slope of Olivet, with face turned towards Jerusalem; Master and disciples sitting apart, and thinking their own thoughts. Satisfied that the Master means what He has said, and not daring to dispute His prophetic insight, they accept the fate predicted for Jerusalem, and now desire to know the when and how. κατʼ ἰδίαν looks as if borrowed from Mk., where it refers to four of the disciples coming apart from the rest. It goes without saying that none but the Twelve were there. τί τὸ σημεῖον τ . σ . π ., etc. The questioners took for granted that all three things went together: destruction of temple, advent of Son of Man, end of the current age. Perhaps the association of the three helped them to accept the first as a fact. Weizsäcker ( Untersuchungen , p. 549, note 1) suggests that the second and third questions are filled in by the evangelist to correspond with the answer. So also Weiss in Meyer. The main subject of interrogation is the predicted ruin: when will it happen, and how shall it be known when it is at hand, so as to be prepared for it? Cf. Mk. and Lk., where this alone is the subject of question. παρουσία (literally presence , second presence) and συντέλεια τοῦ αἰῶνος are the technical terms of the apostolic age, for the second advent of Christ and the close of the present order of things, and they occur in Mt. only, so far as the Gospels are concerned. Do not the ideas also belong to that age, and are not the questions here put into the mouth of the Twelve too advanced for disciples?
Matthew 24:4-14 . Signs prelusive of the end . (Mark 13:5-13 , Luke 21:8-19 ).
Matthew 24:4 . βλέπετε : again ( vide Matthew 24:2 ), but here = see to it, take heed. Cf. Hebrews 3:12 . πλανήσῃ , lest any one deceive you; striking the practical ethical keynote of the whole discourse: its aim not to gratify curiosity, but to guard against deception and terror ( μὴ θροεῖσθε , Matthew 24:6 ) heads cool, hearts brave, in a tragic epoch.
Matthew 24:5 . πολλοὶ γὰρ ἐλεύσονται , etc., the first omen the advent of pseudo-Messiahs . This first mentioned, quite naturally. Ruin of Jerusalem and the nation will come through revolt against Rome, and the deepest cause of revolt will be the Messianic hope as popularly understood. Volcanic outbursts of Messianic fanaticism inevitable, all the more that they have rejected the true spiritual Christ. Josephus testifies that this was the chief incentive to war against Rome (B. J., vi. 54). The aim of the popular Messianic hope was independence, and all leaders of movements having that goal in view came in the name of “Christs,” whether they formally assumed that name or not. It is doubtful if any did before the destruction of Jerusalem, but that does not falsify Christ’s prediction, which is expressed in terms of an idea rather than in technical terms suggested by fact. It is not a vaticinium ex eventu ; yet strictly true, if we understand by one coming in the name of Christ a leader of the fight for liberty ( vindicem libertatis , Grotius). πολλοὺς πλανήσουσιν . The political Christs, leaders of the war against Rome, deceived the bulk of the people. Jesus wished His followers to hold entirely aloof from the movement. To warn them against sympathising with it was by no means superfluous ( vide Luke 24:21 , Acts 1:6 ).
Matthew 24:6 . econd sign: wars . πολέμους καὶ ἀκοὰς π .: vague phrase suitable to the prophetic style, not ex eventu ; well rendered in A. V  “wars and rumours of wars” = wars near and remote (Bengel, Meyer), or better: “actual and threatened” (Speaker’s Com. ). The reference is not to wars anywhere in the world, but to those in the Holy Land, arising, as they were sure sooner or later to do, out of Messianic fanaticisms. Christ speaks not out of foreknowledge of the actual facts as reported by contemporary historians and collected by modern commentators (Grotius, etc.), but by prophetic logic: given Messianic hopes misdirected, hence wars, hence ruin. μελλήσετε , future of a verb, whose very meaning points to the future: ye will be about to hear, by-and-by, not for a while; often delusive times of peace before tragic times of war. Vide Carlyle’s French Revolution , book i. ὁρᾶτε , μὴ θροεῖσθε , see, be not scared out of your wits ( θροέω , originally = cry aloud; later use = to terrify, as if with a scream; here passive in neuter sense). This reference to coming wars of liberation was natural, and necessary if the aim was to fortify disciples against future events. Nevertheless at this point, in the opinion of many critics, begins the so-called “Jewish apocalypse,” which Mk. and after him Mt. and Lk. have interwoven with the genuine utterance of Jesus. The latter embraces all about false Christs and apostolic tribulations (Matthew 24:4-5 ; Matthew 24:9-14 ; Matthew 24:22-23 ), the former all about war, flight, and the coming of the Son of Man with awful accompaniments (Matthew 24:7-8 ; Matthew 24:15-22 ; Matthew 24:29-31 ). Vide Wendt, L. J., i., p. 10 f., where the two series are given separately, from Mk., following in the main Weiffenbach. This critical analysis is ingenious but not convincing. Pseudo-Christs in the sense explained and wars of liberation went together in fact, and it was natural they should go together in prophetic thought. The political Messiahs divorced from the politics become mere ghosts, which nobody need fear. δεῖ γὰρ γ . Their eventual coming is a divine necessity, let even that consideration act as a sedative; and for the rest remember that the beginning of the tragedy is not the end ἀλλʼ οὔπω τ . τ .: the end being the thing inquired about the destruction of the temple and all that went along with it.
 Authorised Version.
Matthew 24:7 . urther development of the war-portent, possibly here the prophetic range of vision widens beyond the bounds of Palestine, yet not necessarily. In support of limiting the reference to Palestine Kypke quotes from Josephus words describing the zealots as causing strife between people and people, city and city, and involving the nation in civil war (B. J., iv., 6). λιμοὶ καὶ λοιμοί , famines and pestilences, the usual accompaniments of war, every way likely to be named together as in T. R. καὶ σεισμοὶ , and earthquakes, representing all sorts of unusual physical phenomena having no necessary connection with the political, but appealing to the imagination at such times, so heightening the gloom. Several such specified in commentaries ( vide, e.g. , Speaker’s C. , and Alford, from whom the particulars are quoted), but no stress should be laid on them. κατὰ τόπους : most take this as meaning not earthquakes passing from place to place (Meyer) but here and there, passim. vide Elsner and Raphel, who cite classic examples. Grotius enumerates the places where they occurred.
Matthew 24:8 . πάντα δὲ : yet all these but a beginning of pains. It is not necessary to find here an allusion to the Rabbinical idea of the birth pangs of Messiah, but simply the use of a natural and frequent Biblical emblem for distress of any sort. As to the date of the Rabbinical idea vide Keil. The beginning : such an accumulation of horrors might well appear to the inexperienced the end, hence the remark to prevent panic.
Matthew 24:9 . θλίψιν , from θλίβω , originally pressure ( στένωσις , Hesychius), in N. T. tropical, pressure from the evils of life, affliction. Again in Matthew 24:29 , in reference to the Jewish people. The apostles also are to have their thlipsis . ἀποκτενοῦσιν ὑμᾶς , they will kill you. Luke 21:16 has “some of you” ( ἐξ ὑμῶν ). Some qualification of the blunt statement is needed; such as: they will be in the mood to kill you ( cf. John 16:2 ). τῶν ἐθνῶν : not in Mark, universalising the statement = hated by all the nations, not Jews only.
Matthew 24:9-14 . Third sign , drawn from apostolic experiences. This passage Weiss regards as an interpolation into the prophetic discourse by Matthew following Mark. It certainly resembles Matthew 10:17-22 (much less, however, than the corresponding passage in Mk.), and individual phrases may be interpolations: but something of the kind was to be expected here. The disciples were not to be mere spectators of the tragedy of the Jewish nation destroying itself. They were to be active the while, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, propagating the new faith, bringing in a new world. Jesus would have them go on with their work undistracted by false enthusiasms, or warlike terrors, and to this end assures them that they will have both to do and to suffer a great deal before the final crisis of Jerusalem comes. The ground of this prophetic forecast as to their experience is faith that God will not allow the work He (Jesus) has inaugurated to perish. The gospel will be preached widely, with whatever tribulations to the preachers.
Matthew 24:10 . σκανδαλισθήσονται : natural sequel of apostolic tribulation, many weak Christians made to stumble ( vide Matthew 13:21 ); this followed in turn by mutual treachery and hatred ( καὶ ἀλλήλους , etc.).
Matthew 24:11 . ψευδοπροφῆται , false prophets. The connection requires that these should be within the Christian community (otherwise in Matthew 24:24 ), giving false presentations of the faith with corrupt motives. A common feature in connection with new religious movements ( vide on Matthew 7:15 ).
Matthew 24:12 . ἀνομίαν . Weiss and Holtzmann (H. C.) take this in the specific sense of antinomianism, a libertine type of Christianity preached by the false prophets or apostles, the word in that sense of course to be credited to the evangelist. The word as used by Christ would naturally bear the general sense of godlessness or iniquity. We may wonder at the use of such a word in connection with nascent Christianity. It would require a considerable time to make room for such degeneracy. But the very point Jesus wishes to impress is that there will be room for that before the final crisis of Israel comes. ψυγήσεται , etc., will cool the love of many. ψ . is an hapax leg. 2nd future passive of ψύχω , to breathe. One of the sad features of a degenerate time is that even the good loose their fervour. ἀγάπη , love of the brotherhood, here only in this sense in Synoptical Gospels, the distinctive virtue of the Christian, with a new name for a new thing.
Matthew 24:13 . ὁ ὑπομείνας , he that endureth; the verb used absolutely without object. The noun ὑπομονή is another of the great words of the N. T. Love and Patience, primary virtues of the Christian: doing good, bearing ill. The endurance called for is not merely in love (Fritzsche), but in the faith and life of a Christian in face of all the evils enumerated. εἰς τέλος , to the end, i.e. , of the θλίψις , as long as there are trials to endure. σωθήσεται , shall be saved in the sense of Matthew 16:25 . The implied truth underlying this test is that there will be ample time for a full curriculum of trial testing character and sifting the true from the false or temporary Christian.
Matthew 24:14 asserts the same thing with regard to the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom: time for preaching it in the whole world, o all nations, before the end. Assuming that the terminus is the same this statement seems inconsistent with that in Matthew 10:23 . But the aim is different in the two cases. On the earlier occasion Jesus wished to ensure that all Israel should hear the gospel before the end came; therefore He emphasised the shortness of the time. Here He wishes to impress on the disciples that the end will not be for a good while; therefore He emphasises the amount of preaching that can be done. Just on this account we must not strain the phrases ἐν ὅλῃ τ . οἰκ ., πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθ . They simply mean: extensively even in the heathen world. But they have the merit of setting before the disciples a large programme to occupy their minds and keep them from thinking too much of the coming catastrophe.
Matthew 24:15-22 . The end at last (Mark 13:14-20 , Luke 21:20-24 ). ὅταν οὖν , when therefore , referring partly to the preceding mention of the end, partly to the effect of the whole preceding statement: “This I have said to prevent premature alarm, not, however, as if the end will never come; it will, when therefore, etc.”; the sequel pointing out the sign of the end now near, and what to do when it appears. τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως : this the awful portent; what? The phrase is taken from Daniel as expressly stated in following clause ( τὸ ῥηθὲν , etc.), vide Daniel 9:27 ; Daniel 11:31 ; Daniel 12:11 . There and in 1Ma 1:54 it seems to refer to some outrage on Jewish religious feeling in connection with the temple ( ᾠκοδόμησαν β . ἐρ . ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον are the words in 1Ma 1:54 , similarly in Matthew 6:7 ). In a Jewish apocalypse, which this passage is by some supposed to form a part of, it might be expected to bear a similar meaning, a technical sense for a stereotyped expression. Not so on the lips of Jesus, who was not the slave of phrases but their master, using them freely. Then as employed by Him it must point to some broad, easily recognisable fact, which His followers could at once see and regard as a signal for flight; a fact not merely shocking religious feeling but threatening life, which He would have no disciple sacrifice in a cause with which they could have no sympathy. Then finally, true to the prophetic as distinct from the apocalyptic style, it must point to something revealing prophetic insight rather than a miraculous foresight of some very special circumstance connected with the end. This consideration shuts out the statue of Titus or Caligula or Hadrian (Jerome), the erection of a heathen altar, the atrocities perpetrated in the temple by the Zealots, etc. Luke gives the clue (Matthew 24:20 ). The horror is the Roman army , and the thing to be dreaded and fled from is not any religious outrage it may perpetrate, but the desolation it will inevitably bring. That is the emphatic word in the prophetic phrase. ἐρημώσεως is genitive of apposition = the horror which consists in desolation of the land. The appearance of the Romans in Palestine would at once become known to all. And it would be the signal for flight, for it would mean the end near, inevitable and terrible. ἐν τόπῳ ἁγίῳ , one naturally thinks of the temple or the holy city and its environs, but a “holy place” in the prophetic style might mean the holy land . And Jesus can hardly have meant that disciples were to wait till the fatal hour had come. ὁ ἀναγινώσκων , etc.: this is most likely an interpolated remark of the evangelist bidding his readers note the correspondence between Christ’s warning word and the fact. In Christ’s own mouth it would imply too much stress laid on Daniel’s words as a guide, which indeed they are not. In Mark there is no reference to Daniel, therefore the reference there must be to the gospel (on this verse consult Weiss-Meyer).
Matthew 24:16 . οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἰ ., those in Judaea who have no part in the struggle, with special reference to disciples of Jesus. There would naturally be some in the city, therefore the counsel to fly must refer to a point of time antecedent to the commencement of the siege. ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη , to the mountains outside of Judaea, i.e. , east of the Jordan; general as befits prophetic speech. The actual place of refuge was Pella, as we learn from Eusebius, H. E., iii., 5, 3.
Matthew 24:17-18 . ividly express the urgency of the flight. ὁ ἐπὶ τ . δ ., etc., the man on the house top must fly without stopping to get articles of value in the house down the outside stair and off. τὰ ἐκ τ . οἰκ ., elliptical = the things in his house, from his house. ὁ ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ , let the man in the field, on hearing the fatal report, fly in his tunic, not returning home for his upper robe. “No man works in his mantle, the peasant leaves it at home, now as in Christ’s time” (Furrer, Wanderungen , p. 117).
Matthew 24:19-20 describe the pathos of the situation: woe to women with child, hey cannot get rid of their burden; and to women nursing, they cannot abandon their children as men can their money or their clothes ( διὰ τὸν δεσμὸν τῆς φύσεως , Euthy. Cf. Chrys. and Theophy.). A touch this worthy of Jesus, sign mark of genuineness.
Matthew 24:20 . προσεύχεσθε , etc. ( ἵνα μὴ with subjunctive instead of infinitive as often in N. T. after verbs of exhorting, etc.), pray that your flight be not in winter ( χειμῶνος , gen. time in wh.) or on the Sabbath ( σαββάτῷ , dat., pt. of time). The Sabbatarianism of this sentence is a sure sign that it was not uttered by Jesus, but emanated from a Jewish source, say many, e.g. , Weizsäcker ( Untersuchungen , p. 124), Weiffenbach ( Wiederkunftsgedanke , i., p. 103) approving. But Jesus could feel even for Sabbatarians, if they were honest, as for those who, like John’s disciples, fasted .
Matthew 24:21 represents it as unparalleled before or after, n terms recalling those of Daniel 12:1 ; Matthew 24:22 as intolerable but for the shortness of the agony. ἐκολοβώθησαν (from κολοβός , κόλος , mutilated) literally to cut off, e.g. , hands or feet, as in 2 Samuel 4:12 ; here figuratively to cut short the time: nisi breviati fuissent (Vulgate). The aorist here, as in next clause ( ἐσώθη ), is used proleptically, as if the future were past, in accordance with the genius of prophecy. οὐκ ἂν , etc.: the οὐκ must be joined to the verb, and the meaning is: all flesh would be not saved ; joined to πᾶσα the sense would be not all flesh, i.e. , only some, would be saved. ἐσώθη refers to escape from physical death; in Matthew 24:13 the reference is to salvation in a higher sense. This is one of the reasons why this part of the discourse is regarded as not genuine. But surely Jesus cared for the safety both of body and soul ( vide Matthew 10:22 ; Matthew 10:30 ). The epistle of Barnabas (iv.) contains a passage about shortening of the days, ascribed to Enoch. Weizsäcker ( Untersuchungen , p. 125) presses this into the service of the Jewish apocalypse hypothesis. διὰ δὲ τ . ἐκλεκτοὺς : the use of this term is not foreign to the vocabulary of Jesus ( vide Matthew 22:14 ), yet it sounds strange to our ears as a designation for Christians. It occurs often in the Book of Enoch, especially in the Similitudes. The Book begins: “The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and righteous who will be living in the day of tribulation when all the wicked and godless are removed” ( vide Charles, The Book of Enoch , p. 58). The idea attaching to the word here seems to be: those selected for deliverance in a time of general destruction = the preserved. And the thought expressed in the clause is that the preserved are to be preservers. Out of regard to their intercessions away amid the mountains, the days of horror will be shortened. A thought worthy of Jesus.
Matthew 24:21-22 . he extremity of the distress .
Matthew 24:23-28 . False Christs again (Mark 13:21-23 , Luke 17:23-24 ; Luke 17:37 ).
Matthew 24:24 . ψευδόχριστοι , in the same sense as in Matthew 24:5 ; there referred to as the cause of all the trouble, here as promising deliverance from the trouble they, or their like, have created. What would one not give for a Deliverer, a Messiah at such a dire crisis! The demand would create the supply, men offering themselves as Saviours from Rome’s power, with prophets ( ψευδοπροφῆται ) preaching smooth things, and assuring a despairing people of deliverance at the last hour. μὴ πιστεύσητε , says Jesus (Matthew 24:23 ), do not believe them: no salvation possible; listen not, but flee. καὶ δώσουσιν , etc., and will give great signs and wonders. The words recall Deuteronomy 13:1 . Desperate situations require a full use of all possible powers of persuasion: signs and wonders, or the pretence of them: easily accepted as such by a fanaticised multitude, and sometimes so clever and plausible as to tempt the wise to credence. ὥστε , with infinitive to express tendency; often inclusive of result, but not here. εἰ δυνατὸν , if possible, the implication being that it is not. If it were the consequence would be fatal. The “elect” ( τοὺς ἐκλεκτούς ) selected by Providence for safety in the evil day would be involved in the general calamity. Christians, at Israel’s great crisis, were to be saved by unbelief in pseudo-messiahs and pseudo-prophets.
Matthew 24:25 . ἰδοὺ π . ὑ ., emphatic nota bene , showing that there will be real danger of misplaced fatal confidences. Hence further expatiation on the topic in Matthew 24:26-28 in graphic, pithy, laconic speech.
Matthew 24:26 . ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ , a likely place for a Christ to be (Moses, Israel’s first deliverer). μὴ ἐξέλθητε , go not out ( cf. Matthew 11:7-9 ). ἐν τοῖς ταμείοις ( vide Matthew 6:6 ), in the secret chambers, the plural indicating the kind of place, not any particular place. Both expressions in the desert, in the secret recesses point to non-visibility. The false prophets bid the people put their faith in a Messiah not in evidence, the Great Unseen = “The hour is come, and the man is somewhere, out of view, not far away, take my word for it”. Interpreters who seek for exact historical fulfilments point to Simon son of Gioras, and John of Giscala: the former the Messiah in the desert of Tekoah, gathering a confiding multitude about him; the latter the Messiah in the secret places, taking possession of the interior part of the temple with its belongings in the final struggle ( vide Josephus, B. J., iv., 9, 5 and 7; Matthew 24:6 ; Matthew 24:1 , and Lutteroth, ad loc. ).
Matthew 24:27 . ὥσπερ γὰρ , etc.: the coming of the true Messiah, identified with the Son of Man, compared to the lightning, to suggest a contrast between Him and the false Christs as to visibility , and enforce the counsel to pay no heed to those who say: He is here, or He is there.
Matthew 24:28 . πτῶμα , carcase, as in Matthew 14:12 , q.v. ἀετοί , eagles, doubtless the carrion vultures are meant. The reference of this proverbial saying, as old as the book of Job (Job 39:30 ), in this place is not clear. In the best text it comes in without connecting particle, the γὰρ of T. R. being wanting. If we connect it with Matthew 24:27 the idea will be that Messiah’s judicial function will be as universal as His appearance (Meyer and Weiss). But does not Matthew 24:28 as well as Matthew 24:27 refer to what is said about the false Christs, and mean: heed not these pretended Saviours; Israel cannot be saved: she is dead and must become the prey of the vultures? (So Lutteroth.) In this view the Jewish people are the carcase and the Roman army the eagles.
Matthew 24:29 . εὐθέως . Each evangelist expresses himself here in his own way, Lk. most obviously adapting his words to suit the fact of a delayed parusia . Mt.’s word naturally means: immediately, following close on the events going before, the thlipsis of Jerusalem. One of the ways by which those to whom εὐθέως is a stumbling block strive to evade the difficulty is to look on it as an inaccurate translation by the Greek Matthew of פִתְאֹם , supposed to be in Hebrew original. So Schott, Comm. Ex. Dog. ὁ ἥλιος … σαλευθήσονται : a description in stock prophetic phrases (Isaiah 13:9 ; Isaiah 34:4 , Joel 3:15 , etc.) of what seems to be a general collapse of the physical universe. Is that really what is meant? I doubt it. It seems to me that in true prophetic Oriental style the colossal imagery of the physical universe is used to describe the political and social consequences of the great Jewish catastrophe: national ruin, breaking up of religious institutions and social order. The physical stands for the social, the shaking of heaven for the shaking of earth (Haggai 2:6 ); or in the prophetic imagination the two are indissolubly blended: stars, thrones, city walls, temples, effete religions tumbling down into one vast mass of ruin. If this be the meaning εὐθέως is to be strictly taken. θέγγος , applicable to both sun and moon, but oftener applied to the moon or stars; φῶς oftenest to the sun, but also to the moon. Vide Trench, Syn. , p. 163.
Matthew 24:29-31 . The coming of the Son of Man (Mark 13:24-27 , Luke 21:25-28 ). Thus far the eschatological discourse has been found to bear on the predicted tragic end of Jerusalem. At this point the παρουσία , which, according to the evangelist, was one of the subjects on which the disciples desired information, becomes the theme of discourse. What is said thereon is so perplexing as to tempt a modern expositor to wish it had not been there, or to have recourse to critical expedients to eliminate it from the text. But nothing would be gained by that unless we got rid, at the same time, of other sayings of kindred character ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels. And there seems to be no reason to doubt that some such utterance would form a part of the eschatological discourse, even if the disciples did not ask instruction on the subject. The revelation as to the last days of Israel naturally led up to it, and the best clue to the meaning of the Parusia-logion may be to regard it as a pendant to that revelation.
Matthew 24:30 . καὶ τότε . Amid the general crash what longing would arise in Christian hearts for the presence of the Christ! To this longing the announcement introduced by these words “and then ” responds. τὸ σημεῖον τ . υἱ . τ . ἀ . The question what is this sign has greatly perplexed commentators, who make becoming confessions of ignorance. “We must not be positive in conjecturing,” Morison. “What this shall be it is vain to conjecture,” Cambridge N. T. Is the reference not to Daniel 7:13 , “one like the Son of Man,” and the meaning: the sign which is the Son of Man, τ . υ . τ . ἀ . being genitive of appos.? So Weiss after Storr and Wolf. (“ σημεῖον υἱοῦ , similis est illis quibus profani passim utuntur quando dicunt βία Ἡρακλέος ,” i.e. , “vis Herculis seu ipse Hercules,” Wolf, Curae Phil. ) Christ His own sign, like the lightning or the sun, self-evidencing . καὶ τότε κόψονται , etc.: a clause not in Mk. and obscure in meaning; why mourn? because they recognise in the coming One their Judge? or because they see in Him one who had been despised and rejected of men, and penitently (taking the sin home to themselves) acknowledge His claims? (“believed on in the world,” 1 Timothy 3:16 ). ἐρχόμενον … πολλῆς , description of the coming, here as in Matthew 16:27 , Matthew 26:64 , in terms drawn from Daniel 7:13 .
Matthew 24:31 . μετὰ σάλπιγγος φ . μ ., with a trumpet of mighty sound, another stock phrase of prophetic imagery (Isaiah 27:13 ). καὶ ἐπισυνάξουσι τοὺς ἐκλεκτοὺς α ., and they (the angels or messengers) shall collect the elect (as in Matthew 24:22 ; Matthew 24:24 ), showing that the advent is described in terms suited to the situation previously depicted. The Christ comes for the comfort of those preserved from the general ruin. ἐκ τῶν τ . ἀνέμων : not merely from the mountains east of the Jordan, but from every quarter of the arth where faithful souls are found; tho of Isaiah 27:13 again audible here.- ἀπʼ ἄκρων , etc., echo of phrases in Deuteronomy 30:4 , Psalms 19:7 . This Parusialogion is not to be regarded as a didactic statement, but simply as a λόγος παρακλήσεως for the comfort of anxious spirits. With that aim it naturally places the Parusia within the reach of those it is designed to comfort. After the ruin of Israel there is no history; only the wind-up. Jerusalem destroyed, the curtain falls. Christ’s didactic words suggest another aspect, a delayed Parusia, vide on Matthew 16:28 . From the foregoing exposition it appears that the coming of the Son of Man is not to be identified with the judgment of Jerusalem, but rather forms its preternatural background.
Matthew 24:32 . ἀπὸ τῆς συκῆς , etc., from the fig tree learn its parable, rapid condensed speech befitting the tense state of mind; learn from that kind of tree (article generic) the lesson it can teach with regard to the moral order: Tender branch, young leaf = summer nigh. Schott, Comm. Ex. Dog ., p. 125, renders ἀπὸ τ . σ . ope ficus = ficum contemplando. On the form εκφυη vide notes on Mk.
Matthew 24:32-36 . Parabolic close (Mark 13:28-32 , Luke 21:29-33 ).
Matthew 24:33 . οὕτως κ . ὑ , so do ye also when ye see all these things, recognise that it is nigh, at the doors. What are “these things”? what “it”? The former are the things mentioned in Matthew 24:15-21 ( ὅταν οὖν ἴδητε , Matthew 24:15 ), the latter is the παρουσία .
Matthew 24:34 Solemn assurance that the predicted will come to pass. πάντα ταῦτα is most naturally taken to mean the same things as in Matthew 24:33 , he main subject of the discourse, the impending destruction of the Jewish state. Jesus was quite certain that they would happen within the then living generation ( ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη ), not merely through miraculous foresight but through clear insight into the moral forces at work.
Matthew 24:35 . eclaration similar to that in chap. Matthew 5:18 concerning the validity of the law.
Matthew 24:36 . περὶ δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης καὶ τῆς ὥρας , of that day and hour. The reference is to the coming of the Son of Man, the expression throughout the N. T. having the value of an “indisputable fixed terminus technicus ,” Weiffenbach, Wiederkunftsgedanke , p. 157. οὐδεὶς οἶδεν , no one knows, a statement made more emphatic by application to the angels of heaven, and even to the Son ( οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός ). The meaning is not that Jesus disclaims even for Himself knowledge of the precise day, month, or year of what in Matthew 24:34 He has declared will happen within the present generation; whether, e.g. , the crisis of the war would be in 69 or 70 A.D. That is too trivial a matter to be the subject of so solemn a declaration. It is an intimation that all statements as to the time of the παρουσία must be taken in a qualified sense as referring to a subject on which certain knowledge is not attainable or even desirable. It looks like Jesus correcting Himself, or using two ways of speaking, one for comfort (it will be soon), and one for caution (it may not be so soon as even I think or you expect). His whole manner of speaking concerning the second advent seems to have two faces; providing on the one hand for the possibility of a Christian era, and on the other for an accelerated Parusia .
Matthew 24:37 . αἱ ἡμέραι τ . Νῶε , the history of Noah used to illustrate the uncertainty of the Parusia .
Matthew 24:37-42 . Watch therefore ( cf. Luke 17:26-30 ; Luke 17:34-36 ).
Matthew 24:38 . ἦσαν with the following participles is not an instance of the periphrastic imperfect. It rather stands by itself, and the particles are descriptive predicates. Some charge these with sinister meaning: τρώγοντες , hinting at gluttony because often used of beasts, though also, in the sense of eating, of men (John 6:58 ; John 13:18 ). So Beza and Grotius; γαμοῦντες καὶ γαμίζοντες , cuphemistically pointing at sexual licences on both sides (Wolf, “omnia vagis libidinibus miscebantur”). The idea rather seems to be that all things went on as usual, as if nothing were going to happen. In the N. T., and especially in the fourth Gospel, τρώγω seems to be used simply as a synonym for ἐσθίω . In like manner all distinction between ἐσθίειν and χορτάζεσθαι (= to feed cattle in classics) has disappeared. Vide Mark 7:27-28 , and consult Kennedy, Sources of New Testament Greek , p. 82.
Matthew 24:39 . οὐκ ἔγνωσαν , they did not know, scil., that the flood was coming till it was on them.
Matthew 24:40-41 graphically illustrate the suddenness of the Parusia . εἷς εἷς (Matthew 24:40 ) instead of εἷς ἑτέρος , o μία μία in Matthew 24:41 . Of these idioms Herrmann in Viger (p. 6) remarks: “Sapiunt Ebraismum”. παραλαμβάνεται , ἀφίεται , one is taken, one left. The reference may either be to the action of the angels, Matthew 24:31 (Meyer), or to the judicial action of the Son of Man seizing some, leaving free others (Weiss-Meyer). The sentences are probably proverbial (Schott), and the terms may admit of diverse application. However applied, they point to opposite destinies. ἀλήθουσαι , grinding: ἀλήθω , late for ἀλέω , condemned by Phryn., p. 151. ἐν τῷ μύλωνι (T. R.), in the mill house . ἐ . τ . μύλῳ (W.H  ), in or with the millstone. The reference is to a handmill, which required two to work it when grinding was carried on for a considerable time women’s work ( vide Robinson, i., 485; Furrer, Wand. , p. 97; Benzinger, p. 85, where a figure is given).
Matthew 24:42 . γρηγορεῖτε , watch, a frequently recurring exhortation, implying not merely an uncertain but a delayed Parusia , tempting to be off guard, and so making such repeated exhortations necessary. ποίᾳ ἡμέρᾳ , on what sort of a day, early or late; so again in Matthew 24:43 , at what sort of a watch, seasonable or unseasonable.
 Westcott and Hort.
Matthew 24:43 . γινώσκετε , observe, nota bene . εἰ ᾔδει : supposition contrary to fact, therefore verbs in prot. and apod. indicative. ὁ κλέπτης , admirably selected character. It is the thier’s business to keep people in the dark as to the time of his coming, or as to his coming at all. οἰκοδεσπότης suggests the idea of a great man, but in reality it is a poor peasant who is in view. He lives in a clay house, which can be dug through (sun-dried bricks), vide διορυχθῆναι in last clause. Yet he is the master in his humble dwelling ( cf. on Matthew 6:19 ).
Matthew 24:43-51 . Two parables: the Thief and the Two Servants , enforcing the lesson: Watch!
Matthew 24:45 . τίς , who, taken by Grotius, Kuinoel, Schott, etc. = εἴ τις , si quis , supposing a case. But, as Fritzsche points out, the article before π . δοῦλος is inconsistent with this sense. πιστὸς , φρόνιμος : two indispensable qualities in an upper servant, trusty and judicious. θεραπείας (T. R.), service = body of servants, οἰκετείας (B., W.H  ), household = domestics.
 Westcott and Hort.
Matthew 24:46 answers the question by felicitation. μακάριος , mplying that the virtue described is rare ( vide on chap. Matthew 5:3 ): a rare servant, who is not demoralised by delay, but keeps steadfastly doing his duty. ἐπὶ π . τ . ὑπάρχουσι , this one among a thousand is fit to be put in charge of the whole of his master’s estate.
Matthew 24:48 . he other side of the picture ἐὰν δὲ … ἐκεῖνος : not the same individual, but a man placed in the same post (“cui eadem provincia sit demandata,” Schott). χρονίζει (again in Matthew 25:5 ): the servant begins to reflect on the fact that his lord is late in coming, and is demoralised. ἄρξηται , he (now) begins to play the tyrant ( τύπτειν ) and to indulge in excess ( ἐσθίῃ καὶ πίνῃ , etc.). Long delay is necessary to produce such complete demoralisation.
Matthew 24:50 . ἥξει : the master comes at last, and of course he will come unexpected. The delay has been so long that the unworthy servant goes on his bad way as if the master would never come at all.
Matthew 24:51 . διχοτομήσει , he will cut him in sunder as with a saw, an actual mode of punishment in ancient times, and many commentators think that this barbarous penalty is seriously meant here. But this can hardly be, especially as in the following clause the man is supposed to be still alive. The probable meaning is: will cut him in two (so to speak) with a whip = thrash him, the base slave, unmercifully. It is a strong word, selected in sympathy with the master’s rage. So Schott: “verberibus multis eam castigavit”. Koetsveld, De Gelijk. , p. 246, and Grimm (Thayer) but with hesitancy. Beza and Grotius interpret: will divide him from the family = dismiss him. μετὰ τῶν ὑποκριτῶν , with the hypocrites, i.e. , eye-servants, who make a great show of zeal under the master’s eye, but are utterly negligent behind his back. In Lk. the corresponding phrase is τῶν ἀπίστων , the unfaithful.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 24". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany