Destruction Of Jerusalem And Coming Of Christ
Found also in Mark 13:1-32, Luke 21:5-33.
Our Lord's last public discourse has now been ended. The day is probably Tuesday of the Passover week (see on "Matthew 21:18",)(see on "Matthew 21:23"). He has been discoursing all day in the courts of the temple, and before turning away he draws instruction from the widow's touching gift to the sacred treasury. (Mark 12:41, Luke 21:1) He then leaves the temple, and seems never to have entered it again. In this final departure it was very natural that his thoughts should dwell on the impending destruction of the temple and the city. Moreover, as there is no sufficient reason for departing from Matthew's order (compare on Matthew 23:1, Matthew 23:13), we see that he had just before predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and his own future coming. (Matthew 23:38 f.) Six months earlier (Matthew 16:27 f.) he had declared that he would come again in the glory of his Father, as the sovereign Judge of mankind; and that some then present would live to see him "coming in his kingdom." We there found it necessary to understand that the particular coming to which this last phrase especially refers took place at the destruction of Jerusalem, which made Christianity completely and manifestly distinct from Judaism, and established the Messianic kingdom in its permanent present state. The prediction then briefly made by our Lord is now more fully unfolded. He first declares in leaving the temple that it is going to be completely destroyed (Matthew 24:1 f.); and then, sitting on the Mount of Olives, he gives the great discourse of Matthew 24 and Matthew 25.
This discourse certainly foretells in the outset the destruction of Jerusalem (e. g., Matthew 24:15-21, Matthew 24:34); and in the conclusion certainly foretells the final coming of our Lord, with the general judgment of mankind and the resulting permanent state of the good and the bad, (Matthew 25:31-46) in a way substantially equivalent to the predictive descriptions afterwards given by the apostles. To refer that closing passage to the destruction of Jerusalem is absurd and impossible. So then the discourse begins with the destruction of the temple and city, and ends with the final coming to judgment: how does it make the transition from the former to the latter topic? Every attempt to assign a definite point of division between the two topics has proved a failure. Place it after Luke 21:28, saying that up to that point only the former topic is meant, and after that point only the latter, and at once we see that Luke 21:34 must refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. Place it after Luke 21:34 or 36 or 42, and we cannot resist the persuasion that Luke 21:30 f. (and Matthew 24:36) must refer to the final coming for judgment. (compare Matthew 12:41-43, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) But if the destruction of Jerusalem was itself in one sense a coming of the Lord, why may we not suppose that the transition from this to the final coming is gradual? Then much in Matthew 24:3-36 may be taken as referring both to the former and the latter topic, while some of the expressions may refer exclusively to the one or the other. In Matthew 24:37 to Matthew 25:13 the earlier topic is sinking out of sight; in Matthew 25:31-46 it has completely disappeared, and nothing is in view but the final coming to judgment. (Luke and Mark are parallel only as far as Matthew 24:42) Similar cases occur in Old Testament, where a prediction refers to some nearer event, and also, by typical relation, to a kindred event in the remoter future. This view does not rest on the crude notion of a "double sense" in Scripture words or phrases, but on the unquestionable Scripture use of types, prophetic as well as ceremonial. For example, in Isaiah 41:8 to Isaiah 53:12, the predictions as to the "servant of Jehovah" make a gradual transition from Israel to the Messiah, the former alone being seen in Isaiah 41:8 ff., the Messiah also appearing to view in Isaiah 42:1 ff., (Matthew 12:18-21) and Israel quite sinking out of our sight in Isaiah 53. (Acts 8:32-35) Compare above on Matthew 2:15. All the Scripture predictions remained obscure till their fulfilment (compare on Matthew 24:15). Accordingly we may expect here to see somewhat clearly the fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem, but the other and yet future fulfilment must remain still quite obscure, and we should be "contented (Alex.) with a careful explanation of the terms employed, according to analogy and usage, and a reverential waiting for ulterior disclosures by the light of divine providence shining on the word." Some zealous students of prophecy have brought reproach on the Scripture by their lack of moderation and reserve in the interpretation. It should be frankly conceded that grave difficulties attend the interpretation of this discourse in any of the methods that have been suggested. The view above described is believed to involve fewer difficulties, and to yield better results, than any other theory.
Matthew 24:1 f. The temple is here hieron, the general sacred enclosure, see on "Matthew 4:5". Jesus went into the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of Israel, but never into the central building (naos) and the surrounding Court of the Priests. (Compare on Matthew 21:12) The clause 'from the temple' stands in the Greek (correct text)(1) between the participle rendered 'went out' and the verb 'was going,' and could be connected with the latter, as in Com. Ver., but is more naturally connected with the former, as in Rev. Ver. The preposition 'from' makes the temple the point of departure; the other expression, 'going out,' shows distinctly that he had been in the temple, which would be plain from the nature of the case. (Compare on Matthew 3:16) Was going on his way (Rev. Ver.), doubtless returning towards Bethany, whence he had come that morning (Matthew 21:17 f.; Luke 21:37); and the disciples interrupted his progress to show him the buildings of the temple (hieron). In Mark (Mark 13:2) they are expressly called 'great buildings,' and in Mark and Luke special attention is directed to the vast "stones" employed. Josephus says ("Ant.," 15, 11, 3) that Herod built the sanctuary (naos) of stones that were "white and strong," probably meaning a hard variety of white limestone still much used in Palestine, and that they were about twenty-five cubits long, eight in height, and twelve in breadth, or in our feet about forty by twelve by twenty, which is even larger than the stones now found in the southern angles of Herod the Great's outer wall. (See on "Matthew 21:42") In "War," 5, 5, 6, Josephus even says that some of the stones were forty-five cubits long (eighty-five feet). Doubtless the inner walls also, and pillars of the colonnades (see on "Matthew 21:12"), presented very large and 'beautiful' stones. (Luke 21:5, Bib. Un. Ver.) It is doubtful whether any other pile of sacred buildings on earth has been so vast or to contemporaries so imposing as Herod's temple. Talmud Bab. says: "He that never saw the temple of Herod, never saw a fine building." Luke's other expression, 'the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and offerings' (Bib. Un. Ver.), recalls Josephus' statement that "fastened all around the temple (hieron) were barbaric spoils, and all these King Herod offered up, adding whatever he took from the Arabians also." (Compare Revelation 21:26) There were doubtless also many votive tablets, and other beautiful objects offered by the people, to adorn all the courts and colonnades, as well as the central sacred building. Tacitus says ("Hist.," V., 8, 12), that it was "a temple of immense wealth," and so constructed as to be "an excellent fortress." Our Lord seems to have been outside of the temple when his attention was called by the disciples, but this does not show that they were observing only the stones of the outer wall, for the central building rose high above the outer court and its wall, and was visible to a great distance, as Josephus states, ("Ant.," 15, 11, 3.) Our Lord's language in Matthew 4:2 shows that he is referring to the entire structure. And Jesus said, etc. But he answered and said, is the correct Greek text. The subsequent insertion of the name 'Jesus' is a thing of frequent occurrence in the manuscripts, compare on Matthew 14:14. See ye not all these things? This called their attention to the vast and solid mass of buildings, by way of preparation for the statement that all would be overthrown, a thing which then seemed in the highest degree unlikely; indeed, we know that Titus fully meant to preserve it. (Josephus "War," 6, 4.) There shall not be left here one stone upon another. So also in Mark and Luke. Some stickle at the fact that several stones of Herod's outer wall now remain in situ, e. g., at the Jews' place of wailing, and at the southeast and southwest corners; indeed, at the southeast corner the recent English excavations reached foundation-stones supposed to have been laid by Solomon. Our Lord's language is of course popular, and such an objection is trifling. Compare Jeremiah 26:18. In fact, it is wonderful how literally the prediction was fulfilled, for very seldom was a great city so completely destroyed. Josephus says ("War," 7, 1, 1) that Titus finally ordered the whole city and the sanctuary to be razed to its foundations, except three towers and part of the western wall, and that all the rest of the city wall "was so completely levelled with the ground that there was no longer anything to lead those who visited the spot to believe that it had ever been inhabited."
Matthew 24:3. Going on towards Bethany, our Lord climbs the steep base of the Mount of Olives, see on "Matthew 21:1", see on "Matthew 21:17". Half way up the walking path one is apt to feel tired on a hot afternoon at the time of the Passover, and to seat himself on some ledge of limestone rock to rest. There he finds himself 'over against' (Mark) the site of the temple, at about the same height above the ravine of the Kedron. Our Lord may have sat here, or perhaps on the summit, where he would look down upon the whole city. The place at which some days before he "saw the city and wept over it", (Luke 19:41. Rev. Ver.) was about half a mile further south, on the riding road from Bethany. The time was now towards night, and the evening sun kindled the white stone and gold of the temple buildings into splendour. The disciples. Mark says, (Mark 13:3) 'Peter and James and John and Andrew,' who were the first company of the Twelve (see above on Matthew 10:2), and three of whom had been with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 17:1) This fact might have led these particular disciples to suppose that he would tell them what he would not tell the rest of the Twelve; and Matthew's general expression might be easily restricted to the four mentioned by Mark. Or it may be, as Euthym. suggests, that "they all came to learn, but four asked, as having greater freedom of access." Privately, so also Mark, as opposed to the public discourses he had been giving all day in the temple. Jesus would of course refrain from speaking plainly in public of his future coming as the Messiah, when he had not yet publicly declared himself to be the Messiah. And it would have been dangerous (Maid.) to foretell openly the destruction of the temple, (compare John 2:20) which in the case of Stephen was reckoned blasphemy. (Acts 6:13 f.) When shall these things be? So Mark and Luke. The prediction that the entire temple would be thrown down reminded them of previous predictions that he would come again as the Messiah (Matthew 16:27 f.; Luke 19:11, Matthew 23:39), for they might well suppose such an utter destruction would occur only in connection with the establishment of the Messianic kingdom, which many Jews believed would be attended by mighty changes. So the disciples privately inquire as to the time of his promised coming, and the sign of it. The sign of thy coming, (parousia), presence (Rev. Ver. margin), as in 1 Corinthians 10:10, or 'arrival' as in the phrase 'by the coming of Titus', 1 Corinthians 7:6; the idea is of not merely arriving but then remaining present. The word suggests (Ewald) that Jesus will come and stay with his people. This peculiar term is used for the second coming of Christ four times in the chapter (Matthew 24:3, Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:37, Matthew 24:39), and repeatedly by James, Paul, Peter; also in 1 John 2:28 Other terms used in the Epistles are manifestation, revelation, appearing, coming, day. The word 'thy' has a certain emphasis in the Greek. He has spoken of the Messiah's coming; (Matthew 23:39, Matthew 16:28) they are satisfied that this means his coming. And of the end of the world, or, as the Greek exactly means, the consummation of the age (Rev. Ver. margin), see on "Matthew 13:39"f. There is here no reference to any such idea as that of the destruction of the material universe (kosmos), but only the consummation and termination of the present aion, age, or state of things. A common Jewish conception was that the appearing of the Messiah would close 'this age,' and introduce 'the coming age'â€”these phrases often occurring in the Talmud. The disciples would easily transform the conception into that of a future appearance of their Master as the Messiah. Jesus had taught them that at 'the consummation of the age,' the end of the present state of things, the Messiah would destroy the wicked, (Matthew 13:41, Matthew 13:49) and they were now fully convinced that he himself was the Messiah. Thus it was natural for them to ask these questions. It is not wise to distinguish sharply between the three clauses as if representing three entirely separate points. Evidently the disciples did not separate between his future coming and the end of the present period; nor has the Saviour done so in his reply. They also then supposed that the destruction of the temple would coincide with his coming and the end of the age; the reply did not clearly show that they would in fact be far apart, but it left the way open for what has in this respect turned out to be the case. The phrases 'coming' and 'consummation of the age' would be readily intelligible to the Jewish readers contemplated by Matt., but not to Gentiles; and accordingly Mark and Luke have simply 'and what is the sign when all these things are going to be completed' (Luke 'to come to pass').(1)
The Saviour's reply, so far as included in our present section, divides itself into Matthew 24:4-14, Matthew 24:15-28, Matthew 24:29-31, Matthew 24:32-36; and this last is very closely connected with what follows in the next section. Observe that the whole discourse is evidently designed, not to satisfy curiosity about the future, but to save from misconception, restrain impatience, and stimulate to perpetual watchfulness (Matthew 24:42) and faithfulness. (Matthew 25:14 ff.)
I. Matthew 24:4-14. Misleading Signs
Found also in Mark 13:5-13, Luke 21:8-19.
Alexander: "The divine wisdom of the Saviour and his knowledge of the perils which beset his followers are strikingly exemplified in this preliminary warning against error and delusion, this exposure of false signs before giving a description of the true. This method of proceeding is the more remarkable because the course suggested by fanatical excitement is the very opposite, and even wise men who devote themselves to such inquiries are too prone to look exclusively at what is positive in Christ's instructions, without heeding this preliminary admonition, or even observing that his purpose in this first part of his discourse is not to tell what are but what are not the premonitions of the great catastrophe to which he here refers, whatever it may be."
(a) False Messiahs and other false teachers, Matthew 24:4 f.; also in Mark and Luke. Many shall come in my name (see on "Matthew 18:5"), here means more than reliance on him, for they would claim to be what he really was. (Compare Matthew 24:23-25 and Jeremiah 14:14) We have no account of any one who claimed to be the Messiah between this time and the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet there may very well have been such persons. As the Jews expected the Messiah to be a political deliverer, it was very natural that men who set up for political deliverers should pretend to be the Messiah; but as Josephus had interpreted the Messianic predictions as fulfilled in Vespasian,(1) and knew that any popular expectation of a native ruler would be highly unacceptable to the Romans, he would be likely to pass over such claims without mention. Christ, the Christ, with the article. (See on "Matthew 2:4".) Com. Ver. itself gives the article in Matthew 26:63.
(b) Wars, famines, earthquakes, affecting the world at large, Matthew 26:6-8; so also Mark and Luke, the latter expanding. These extraordinary occurrences would become a false sign by being misinterpreted, as such events often are. Wars and rumours of wars, which latter may turn out unreal. Both real wars and such rumours were abundant before AD. 70, as well as often since. Famines (Acts 11:28) are often mentioned in Old. Testament, and are still frequent in Palestine; earthquakes also frequently occur, and there are many signs of former volcanic activity. We read in Josephus and Tacitus of various famines and earthquakes in Palestine during the years preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. Persons caring to trace them out may refer to Alford or "Bible Comm." Be not troubled. Luke, 'terrified.' Alexander : "As if these commotions would necessarily imply the imminence of some great catastrophe, or of the final consummation. The necessity of this caution, not to the first disciples merely, but to their successors, is abundantly apparent from the well-known fact that pious men in every age have been continually falling into the mistake of looking on national commotions and collisions as decisive proof that the world is near its end. The meaning is not that such changes may not be immediately succeeded by the greatest change of all, but only that they are no sign of it, and ought not to be so regarded." For all these things (rather, they)(1) must come to pass, the latter term as in Matthew 5:18. Why "must," or "must needs?" (Rev. Ver.) We might simply say (Meyer) that it was necessary according to the divine purpose, the thought of which might console the disciples, as it did the Saviour. (Matthew 26:54) But does not the expression mean that in the preparation for the complete reign of the Messiah, conflict is unavoidable, not simply individual and domestic variance, (Matthew 10:34 ff.) but conflict of the races and nations, as afterwards depicted in the visions of John in Patmos? Meyer sees in Matthew 5:6 f., "the first, far off indirect prognostics of the second advent, like the roll of distant thunder." With the imagery of Matthew 5:7 compare that of Isaiah 19:2. In Isaiah 19:8, the beginning of sorrows, or, travail, and not the end, the consummation. 'Travail' is in the Greek a plural, meaning the pains of labour, the birth-pangs; (1 Thessalonians 5:8, and often in Old Testament) then any severe pangs (Acts 2:24) These things will not be merely the beginning of distresses, but of labour-pains; (compare Romans 8:22) and the end of these will be the appearance of a better state of things (compare "the regeneration," Matthew 19:28) Edersheim: "Jewish writings speak very frequently of the so-called 'sorrows of the Messiah' the word meaning labour-pains. These were partly those of the Messiah, and partlyâ€”perhaps chieflyâ€”those coming on Israel and the world previous to, and connected with, the coming of the Messiah." The particulars mentioned vary greatly, and the descriptions are quite fanciful. But they may generally be characterized as marking a period of internal corruption and of outward distress, especially of famine and war, of which the land of Palestine was to be the scene, and in which the people of Israel were to be the chief sufferers; yet none of them refers to desolation of the City and Temple as one of the 'signs' or 'sorrows' of the Messiah.
(c) Things directly affecting the Christiansâ€”persecution, false prophets, multiplied transgressions, Isaiah 19:9-13. So Mark and Luke. But they here also give a prediction that the disciples will be brought before Jewish and heathen tribunals, with persecution and scourging;
(compare Acts 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24 f.) and that they will be taught by inspiration what to say in their defense, and need not be anxious in advance on that point. (Compare Acts 4:8-13) Matthew has given a similar passage in the discourse to the Twelve on sending them out, (see Matthew 10:17-22) and therefore (we may suppose) does not repeat it here. To be afflicted, better, as Rev. Ver., to tribulation, see the word explained on see on "Matthew 13:21". For instances of persecution, see Acts 4:1, Acts 7:59, Acts 12:1, Revelation 2:10, Revelation 2:12. Ye shall be hated of all nations. Compare "as concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against." (Acts 28:22) Tacitus ("Annals " XV. 44) speaks of the Christians as "a kind of men hated for their acts of wickedness." And then shall many be offended (stumble), compare Matthew 13:21, Matthew 13:57, and see the term explained on Matthew 5:29. Shall betray (or deliver up) one another, represents a peculiarly painful feature of the situation in times of severe persecution. Tacitus in speaking of the persecution of Christians by Nero in AD. 64, says, "At first those who confessed were seized, afterwards upon their information a great multitude." And shall hate one another. Remember how Paul was hated by the Judaizers, and by various parties at Corinth.
Matthew 24:11 f. is found in Matt. only. There shall be not merely persecution but false teaching. (Compare Acts 20:29 f.; 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:1) False prophets, compare Matthew 24:24, Matthew 7:15, 2 Peter 2:1. Shall deceive, or lead astray, many, the same term as in 2 Peter 2:4 f. Iniquity, more exactly transgression of law, see on "Matthew 23:28". Shall abound, or be multiplied, as this word is everywhere else rendered. The love of (the) many, the general mass, excepting a few individuals. (Compare Winer.) 'Love' here probably means love to Christ and to his people. The great increase of the violation of God's law among the wicked will gradually tone down and chill the zeal and love of the great mass of professed subjects of the Messiah. The Epistle to the Hebrews seems aimed at such a tendency, and similar periods have often existed in Christian history. Tyndale and followers greatly enfeebled this statement by neglecting the article, and making it 'the love of many.'
Matthew 24:13. He that shall endure unto the end, that through life endures persecution (Matthew 24:9-11) without flinching, and with multiplied transgression all around him maintains warm Christian love (Matthew 24:12); compare Revelation 2:10. Or 'unto the end' may mean not through life, but unto the end of these trials. Luke gives (Luke 21:19) the kindred and remarkable expression, "in your patience ye shall win your souls" (correct text and translation), implying that men may gain possession of their own spiritual nature through patient endurance of the ills of life.
(d) A corrective to the false signs, Revelation 2:14; Mark 13:10. Notwithstanding the persecution from without and the false teaching and diminished love within, the gospel will be everywhere preached; then, and not till then, will the end come. This gospel of the kingdom, the good tidings (Rev. Ver. margin) that the Messianic kingdom or reign is near (see on "Matthew 4:23"; see on "Matthew 3:2"), which the Saviour was and long had been engaged in proclaiming. Compare the beginning of our Lord's preaching in Galilee, Mark 1:15. Preached, kerusso, see on "Matthew 4:17". In all the world, more exactly, in the whole inhabited (earth), as in Rev. Ver. margin. This term, oikoumene, is repeatedly used in Luke (and Acts), not elsewhere in the Gospels. From it comes the modern Popish phrase, "an oecumenical council," one whose members gather from all the inhabited earth. This statement, that the gospel shall be preached in the whole inhabited earth, and the following expression for a witness unto all (the) nations, could be regarded as a hyperbolical prediction of what was fulfilled before the destruction of Jerusalem, even as Paul wrote to the Colossians (about AD. 68), concerning "the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven." (Colossians 1:23, Rev Ver) It will evidently be fulfilled much more thoroughly before the second coming of Christ; yet Paul's phrase, and the apparent primary reference here to AD. 70 as 'the end,' should restrain theorizers from insisting that the second coming of Christ cannot take place until this has been fulfilled with literal completeness. For a witness, or, testimony, in order that testimony may be offered them concerning the Messiah and his salvation, such as they may believe if they will.
II. Matthew 24:15-28. One Great Sign At Jerusalem;
also in Mark 13:14-23, Luke 21:20-24. In Luke 21:15-22 the Saviour states what they must do upon the occurrence of this sign, and in Luke 21:23-28 warns against misleading pretensions and propositions.
(a) The sign, and what they must do, Luke 21:15-22. When ye therefore shall see. What inference is expressed by 'therefore'? He has said that the end is coming (Matthew 24:14), and that those who endure to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:13); when therefore they see a certain sign, let them promptly flee, in order to save themselves. (Matthew 24:16 f.)
Matthew 24:13 apparently refers both to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the final coming of Christ; an inference from it in the former sense is that which here follows. The abomination of desolation. The Greek construction makes it the abomination characterized by desolation, which might be as a token or as a cause of desolation. This vague phrase is further described by adding spoken of by (through) Daniel the prophet, viz., spoken of by God through the prophet, compare Matthew 21:4, and see on "Matthew 1:22"; see on "Matthew 2:5". This addition is wanting in the correct text of Mark, (Mark 13:14) having been added in the common text from Matt. It is stated in Daniel, (Daniel 9:26) that 'the anointed one,' the Messiah, 'shall be cut off,' and 'the people of the prince that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary... and he shall cause the sacrifice and the meat-offering to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate,' or (margin, Rev. Ver.), 'upon the pinnacle of abominations shall be one that maketh desolate.' In this last sense it was understood by the Sept., which renders 'upon the temple (hieron) (shall be) the abomination of the desolations.' In Daniel 11:31, Daniel 12:11 the Sept. has 'abomination of desolation,' as here. The writer of 1 Maccabees 1:54 applied this phrase to the heathen altar which in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes was set upon the altar of Jehovah. It is evident that our Lord interprets the prediction in Daniel as referring to the Messiah, and to that destruction of the city and the temple which he is now foretelling; and his interpretation is authoritative for us. What this predicted 'abomination of desolation' would be, was an obscure question. Many a prediction of human action was necessarily obscure till the fulfilment came, because otherwise it would have so influenced believers as to fulfil itself, and would have thus failed to be valid as a superhuman prediction to strengthen faith in him who spoke it. (John 14:29.) Our Lord cites this obscure expression without explaining it, simply pointing out that it demands attention from the reader of Danielâ€”let him that readeth understandâ€”and implying that if really understood it has the reference he is indicating. Some suppose the parenthetic remark to be that of Matthew, addressing the reader of the Gospel; but this is made improbable by the fact that Mark gives the same parenthesis verbatim, for although Mark (in the correct text) does not mention Daniel, yet the peculiar and well-known phrase would suggest its source in that book. Luke, (Luke 21:20) probably because the phrase was obscure and difficult, paraphrases it by an expression (or perhaps reports an additional expression, compare Luke 19:42), which suggests to us the interpretation: 'When ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is near.' Literally, it is 'being encircled by armies,' when you see the process going on, then flee. Notice that Luke retains the term 'desolation.' Now we cannot always interpret the phraseology of a passage from that of a parallel passage, but there is always a strong probability that their meaning is substantially the same. It is possible that Luke describes an occurrence without the city, and Matthew, some concurrent desecration of the temple, represented by the abomination of desolation. But it is much more likely that 'the abomination of desolation, standing in the holy place' means some object connected with the Roman army under Titus that encircled and captured Jerusalem, which object foretokened speedy desolation. The Roman military standard, with its eagle of silver or bronze, and under that an imperial bust which the soldiers were accustomed to worship, standing anywhere in the holy city. (Matthew 4:5) would be a violation of the second commandment, would be abominable in the eyes of all devout Jews, would in itself desolate the holy place, according to their feeling, and would foretoken a yet more complete desolation. Holy place cannot well mean distinctively the temple in this case, for when the Roman standards stood in the temple it was too late for fleeing to the mountain. One or two years before the Saviour thus spoke, Pilate had outraged the Jews by bringing into Jerusalem by night such military standards, having on them the emperor's bust, and only upon vehement and protracted entreaty did he consent to remove them (Jos."Ant.," 18, 3, 1). The masculine participle for 'standing' used by Mark (Mark 13:14, correct text) might refer to the emperor whose bust the standard bore, or to the general whose authority it represented. The term 'abomination' is oftenest used in Old Testament as denoting idols, or objects connected with idolatry. The horror of civil war in the temple (Jos."War," 4, 9, 11 f.) would not so well account for this phrase, nor correspond to the connection in Daniel. Some prefer simply to understand the Roman power, as abominable and desolating.
Matthew 24:16. Then. The signs previously mentioned will not show that the end is near; but when this sign is seen, then the followers of Christ must at once leave Jerusalem and the entire district of Judea. Flee into the mountains seems to be a general phrase, not denoting any particular mountains. In the Maccabean time the Jews had become familiar with the idea of hiding in ravines and caves of the mountains. Eusebius states ("Hist." III., 5, 2 f.) that at the time of the siege by Titus the apostles had gone to preach the gospel to all the nations, and that the people (laity) of the church in Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain divine communication given by revelation before the war, removed and dwelt in a city of Perea named Pella. Epiphanius has a similar statement. Merrill, "East of the Jordan," leaves no reasonable doubt that Robinson was right in identifying Pella with the ruins called Fah'l, lying just across the Jordan valley eastward from Bethshean, in a beautiful and healthy situation. The ruins indicate an important city. Epiphanius says that when Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem, changing its name to Ã†lia (AD. 135), the Christians a second time withdrew to Pella. It is not clear from Eusebius at what precise time the Christians withdrew from Jerusalem; it may have been (so Plump. and Edersh. think) in AD. 68, but it seems to have occurred after Titus took command, which followed the death of Galba, AD. 69 (see Joseph "War," 4, 9, 2). During the siege, in AD. 70, Titus allowed many Jews to withdraw from the city ("War,"5, 10, 1), and the Christians may have left then. Such an abandonment of Jerusalem was not unprecedented, for after the affair of Cestius, in AD. 66, "many of the distinguished Jews left the city, as if swimming from a sinking ship" ("War," 2, 20, 1).
Matthew 24:17 f. The flight is to be prompt, immediate. The top of an Oriental house is flat, with only slant enough to carry off the rain, and with a battlement or parapet to prevent persons from falling. (Deuteronomy 22:8.) This roof is usually reached by steps from the inner court. (Mark 2:4) In a city, where the houses adjoin, one might go along the roofs from house to house without descending to the court and the street. Josephus ("Ant.," 13, 5, 3) represents some Jewish soldiers as quelling a tumultuous rebellion in Antioch by going on the roofs of the palaces to cast down missiles upon the crowds in the streets, and then leaping from house to house and setting fire to the dwellings of the people. So here, he which is on the housetop (e.g., Acts 10:9) will find it the shortest way to escape from the doomed city to pass from roof to roof, and must not go down to take anything out of his house.(1) In like manner, neither let him which is in the field at work, and has laid aside his outer garment, (Matthew 5:40) return to the place where he laid it, but he must flee straightway. Origen understands return to the city, but that would take a long time, and the prohibition of it would not indicate great haste; besides that decorous persons would not leave the outer garment at home, but would wear it in going from the city to the field. These are strong expressionsâ€”such as the Saviour frequently used, see on "Matthew 5:39"â€”to show that the flight must be extremely prompt, when the predicted sign appears.
Matthew 24:19-22, Woe is here said compassionately, while in Matthew 28:13 it was denounced as a thing deserved. A flight so prompt and hasty must involve great hardship and difficulty for delicate women, and for all if it should be in the winter.(1) So the traditional law as to a Sabbath day journey, that it should be not more than two thousand cubits, about ten hundred and fifty yards, would prove overwhelmingly inconvenient, if the flight should occur on the Sabbath day. Some (Wun.) held it lawful to violate this when in peril of life; and such a course our Lord would certainly have approved (compare on Matthew 12:2 ff.); but it would be to any strict Jew a painful and embarrassing necessity. Moreover (Hessey, in "Bible Comm."), "it was no doubt considered wrong to assist the traveller, however urgent his errand, in his movements on the Sabbath day. All possible impediments therefore would be thrown in the way of the fugitives by those who were still zealous for the supposed requirements of the law." Our Lord seems to imply that his Jewish followers will be still scrupulous about the traditional mode of observing the Sabbath up to the destruction of Jerusalem.
It was indeed this event that first made the Jewish Christians clearly understand the ceremonial law to be no longer binding (compare on Matthew 16:28). Pray ye that your flight be not is a non-final construction, see on "Matthew 5:29".
Matthew 24:21. For, reason for the injunction of Matthew 24:16, which was expanded by Matthew 24:17-20. This reason is that the sufferings attendant upon the destruction of Jerusalem, will be without parallel in past or future history. (Compare on Matthew 24:29.) We might regard this also as the hyperbolical language often used in prophecy; (compare Daniel 12:1, Joel 2:1) yet in this case it may be taken literally, for certainly no recorded distresses have been so vast, so prolonged, so terrible, as those described by Josephus in the "Jewish War." We are not surprised to find him saying (5, 10, 5),"no other city ever endured similar calamities, and no generation ever existed more prolific in crime." Compare his Preface to the "War," 4. The elect (Matthew 24:22) would seem to be the elect among the Jews, (Isaiah 65:9) the Jewish Christians. If the destruction and desolation inflicted by the Romans during the siege and overthrow of the city, and afterwards at various points, had been continued much longer, they would have swept away all Jews who were then Christians, and all who afterwards became Christians-yea, the whole Jewish race. Should be shortened, etc., Rev. Ver. Had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved, is the necessary meaning of the Greek; 'saved' means the saving of the life, Matthew 9:21 f., compare on Matthew 1:21, Mark 13:20 refers the shortening expressly to Jehovah. That others should also be saved for the sake of saving the elect, reminds of Genesis 18:23 ff. Luke adds (Luke 21:21, R. V.) 'and they shall be led away captive into all nations' (compare Jos. "War," Book 7), 'and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.'
We cannot say that Genesis 18:15-22 does not at all refer to the times just preceding our Lord's final coming; but no such reference shows itself. The terms of Genesis 18:22 might readily be so understood, but 'those days' can hardly mean anything else than the days of the flight from Judea. (Matthew 24:16-20.)(b) False pretensions which must then be guarded against, Genesis 18:23-28; so Mark 13:21-23; not in Luke.
Matthew 24:23-25. Further cases of false Messiahs. (Compare Matthew 24:5.) A pseudo-christ, one who falsely claimed to be Christ, must be, distinguished from an anti-christ, an opposer of Christ (Epistles of John); compare the somewhat similar designation in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Shall shew great signs and wonders, compare on Matthew 16:1, and for the terms see on "Matthew 12:38". Shall deceive, or lead astray, same term as in Matthew 12:4 f., 11, and in Matthew 18:12 f. (Compare Deuteronomy 13:1 ff.; Revelation 13:13) Alexander: "This prediction, in its strict sense, is among the passages which seem to show that even real miracles are not sufficient of themselves to prove the truth of any doctrine, but only one part of a complex demonstration, at once sensible, rational, and spiritual."
Matthew 24:26 f. The true Messiah's appearing will be sudden and visible to all. The desert or wilderness, (Matthew 4:1) and the secret chambers, (Matthew 6:6) are contrasted. He will not be known to have appeared elsewhere, and will not be found by searching in the wild, thinly inhabited regions, or in the private portions of some city house; his appearing will be visible to all, as a flash of lightning. (Compare Luke 17:23 f.) The coming, compare on Matthew 24:3. The Son of man, the Messiah, see on "Matthew 8:20". Here 'the coming of the Son of man' answers to 'thy coming' in Matthew 8:3.
Matthew 24:27 is closely connected by for with Matthew 24:26, which last points to the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet the language of Matthew 24:27 seems specially appropriate to the final coming; and it may perhaps be understood as referring to both. (Compare on Matthew 24:3.) Also is an inadequately supported addition in the common text. And shineth, or is seen, as in Matthew 6:5; not that the lightning goes to the west, as 'shineth' might suggest, but that its light is seen even that far. The thought therefore seems to be (Weiss) that the Messiah's coming will be alike visible to all, and so there will be no occasion for some to tell others where he may be seen.
Matthew 24:28. Compare Luke 17:37, and the same image in Job 39:30. Wheresoever the carcass is,(1) there will the eagles be gathered together. As the eagle proper rarely feeds on carrion, the word probably here denotes a carrion-kite, which Pliny classes with eagles (Grimm), or a great vulture as large as the eagle, which now abounds in Palestine, and is called eagle by the natives (Thomson, III, 221). The meaning of the saying as here applied seems to be, that things will come to pass when the occasion for them exists. When Jerusalem is ready for destruction, the Roman armies will gather and destroy it; when the world lies awaiting the final appearance of Christ to judgment, he will come. Kendrick (in Olsh.) considers, with less probability, that it means the swarming of the false prophets to prey on the corrupt mass of Judaism. Calvin, after some Fathers, understands the children of God as gathering to Christ and feeding on him, an idea repulsive in itself, and out of harmony with the connection, in which ("Bible Comm.") Christ comes not in grace, but in judgment; yet many later writers have unwisely adopted this view. It is hardly possible, as formerly fancied by some, that our Lord meant an allusion to the Roman eagles.
III. Matthew 24:29-31. Signs In Heaven
Mark 13:24-27, Luke 21:25-28.
Immediately. The phrase is not exactly 'immediately after'; the adverb 'immediately' is connected with 'the sun shall be darkened,' etc. The substantial sense is however the same. So far as this passage relates to the destruction of Jerusalem, we may suppose that the events it indicates were to follow immediately after those predicted in 15-28. As regards the ulterior reference to the final parousia, there may prove to be in like manner some close consecution, but only the fulfilment is likely to show. After the tribulation of those days, viz, the tribulation attending upon the destruction of Jerusalem, see especially Luke 21:21. The English term tribulation is often regarded as interesting, from its supposed connection with the Latin tribulum, a threshing-sled with sharp teeth to beat the grain out of the straw. But the Greek certainly has no such association, and means simply pressure, oppression, affliction (e. g., 2 Corinthians 1:3-8). Of those days, is naturally but not necessarily the same period as 'those days' in Luke 21:19 and Luke 21:22. The sun shall be darkened, etc., compare Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15, Amos 8:9, Isaiah 13:9 f.; Ezekiel 32:7, Revelation 6:12. These passages incline one to understand the expressions as a mere image. And so with the following expression, the stars shall fall, meaning not some stars, but the stars generally. Compare Isaiah 34:4. The powers of the heavens, the forces which dwell in the heavens and keep them stable the shaking of which will disturb their stability (Meyer). Luke condenses all this into 'there shall be signs in sun and moon and stars,' and then adds some other striking imagery, as 'the roaring of the sea and the billows.' (Luke 21:25 f., R.V.) Some Premillennialist or Adventist writers hold (Hanna) that with Matthew 24:29 begins the account of the introduction of Christ's personal reign on earth, extending to Matthew 25:30, and after that is described the general judgment at the end of the millennium. But it is extremely doubtful whether we ought to introduce into the Saviour's discourse such ideas supposed to be drawn from the Apocalypse.
Matthew 24:30. The sign of the Son of man in heaven. The Jews had repeatedly asked for such a sign, (Matthew 16:1, Matthew 12:38, John 2:18) and the disciples had just inquired as to the sign of his coming. (Matthew 24:3.) He here tells the disciples when it will appear, but does not tell them what the sign will be, nor can we clearly perceive from the connection. Some Fathers fancied that it meant the appearance of a cross in the sky, as in the famous story of Constantine; but this is quite unwarranted. It may be (Calvin) that the sign will be nothing more than the Saviour's own coming on the clouds, as just afterwards mentioned, and as predicted in Daniel 7:13.
Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn. (Compare Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah 12:12, Revelation 1:7) Not simply the Jews shall mourn, but all men. This may have been true in some partial sense at the destruction of Jerusalem. Is it not probable that many Jews who had heard the apostles preach, or who had read the Gospel of Matt., did then remember the rejected Jesus, how he predicted all this calamity and ruin, how they voluntarily assumed the guilt of his blood, (Matthew 27:25) and did mourn bitterly? But the prediction will doubtless be completely fulfilled at the second coming of Christ. Coming in the clouds of heaven, etc. (Compare Matthew 16:27) Com. Ver. obscures the variation of this expression in different passages. The Greek has 'on the clouds' here, Matthew 26:64, Revelation 14:14-16; 'in clouds'; (Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27) 'with the clouds' (Mark 14:62, Revelation 1:7, Daniel 7:13)
Matthew 24:31. Send his angels (see on "Matthew 13:41".), A great sound of a trumpet. With a trumpet of great sound (Rev. Ver., margin), i. e., with a loud-sounding trumpet (Buttm.), is the natural translation of the most probable text.(1) It might possibly be translated as in Com. and Rev. Ver., but not naturally, for so the word rendered trumpet would have in the Greek an emphatic position without any discernible reason (Weiss). The image is drawn from a herald sounding a loud trumpet to announce the approach of a monarch, or of his representatives, and to assemble the people that they may hear his commands. From this saying Paul probably derived the expressions of 1 Corinthians 15:52. And they shall gather together his elect, etc. Notice how often this term 'the elect' is used (Matthew 24:22, Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:31), and so Mark in each case. (Comp, above, Matthew 22:14) From the four winds, a common designation of what we now call the four points of the compass. From one end of heaven to the other, a phrase drawn from the old conception of the earth as an oblong plain, bounded at each end by the sky, the horizon. Such familiar phrases are used in Scripture as they are among us, without becoming responsible for the conformity of the conception they involve to the physical fact. The meaning is that the elect will be gathered from every part of the earth in which they are found.
It is practically impossible to suppose that 1 Corinthians 15:30 f. relates simply to the destruction of Jerusalem. As the latter part of the discourse (Matthew 25:31-46) clearly refers to the second coming of our Lord, it seems unavoidable to suppose a similar reference here; see also the corresponding passage, Matthew 13:41. But Matthew 13:34 will presently declare that 'all' the foregoing matter will occur during the existing generation. Then as we cannot believe (with Meyer and others) that the Saviour mistakenly expected his parousia to be within that generation, it follows that Matthew 13:29-31 must refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. The difficulty is relieved by understanding a typical relation between the destruction of Jerusalem and his final parousia, on the ground of which relation Matthew 13:29-31 really points in some sense to both events. (Compare above on Matthew 24:3.)
IV. Matthew 24:32-36. These Signs Will Suffice To Show
Mark 13:28-32 (very nearly the same words); Luke 21:29-33. From the fig tree, placed first in the sentence, and thus emphatic. He may have looked at some fig tree near them, just as in the same vicinity he had five days before used a fig tree for an object-lesson. (Matthew 21:20.) But the article, 'the fig tree,' does not necessarily indicate a particular tree, but may mean only that kind of tree, or that class of objects. Learn a parable (Rev. Ver., her parable), or simply 'the parable,' the one which the fig tree has to teach. Everything in nature has its moral analogies; Jesus has set us the example of perceiving these and using them for religious instruction. The word parable (see on "Matthew 13:3") is here used in its general sense of an illustrative comparison, as in Matthew 15:15, there being here no narrative such as we commonly mean by a parable. When his branch... leaves. The 'his' is the old possessive of 'it,' which was originally 'hit,' and is still often so pronounced by the vulgar. The possessive its was just beginning to be used when the K. James version was made. It is found in Shakespeare, though he generally uses his. (Schmidt "Shak. Lex.") Its is not in K. J. Ver., Ed. 1611, though now found, Leviticus 25:5. We find his as neuter repeatedly in Old Testament, (e.g., Psalms 1:3, Exodus 25:31, Exodus 36:17, etc.) and several times in New Testament (Matthew 5:13, Acts 12:10, 1 Corinthians 15:38)
The parallel passage in Com. Ver. of Mark has 'her branch,' which Rev. Ver. adopts here, personifying the fig tree as feminine (like the Greek), and so in Revelation 6:13; compare Matthew 22:2. Is yet tender The Rev. Ver., Is now become tender, gives the exact meaning. 'Is yet tender,' Tyn. and followers, suggests that the tenderness is about to cease, when the Greek means that it has just become complete. When ye shall see all these things, probably those of Matthew 24:15 and Matthew 24:29 f. Know that it is near. (Matthew 24:31.) The Rev. Ver. gives 'He is nigh,' or in margin, 'it is nigh,' viz., his coming (Matthew 24:27), or 'the kingdom of God is nigh', (Luke 21:31) all obviously amounting to the same thing. The 'he' is most naturally suggested by what precedes, and is supported by James 5:9. Edersh. thinks "it can scarcely be supposed that Christ would speak of himself in the third person"; but see in this very discourse Matthew 24:31 and Matthew 25:31 ff.
Matthew 24:34. Verily, I say unto you (see on "Matthew 5:18"), calling attention to something of special importance. This generation, as in Matthew 23:36, also Matthew 11:16, Matthew 12:41 f.; and compare Luke 17:25 with Luke 21:32. The word cannot have any other meaning here than the obvious one. The attempts to establish for it the sense of race or nation have failed. There are some examples in which it might have such a meaning, but none in which it must, for in every case the recognized meaning will answer, and so another sense is not admissible. (Compare on Matthew 3:6) Some of the Fathers took it to mean the generation of believers, i. e., the Christians, etc., after the loose manner of interpreting into which many of them so often fell. We now commonly make the rough estimate of three generations to a century. The year in which our Lord said this was most probably AD. 30, and if so, it was forty years to the destruction of Jerusalem. The thought is thus the same as in Matthew 16:28; and compare John 21:22 f. Till all these things be fulfilled, or, more exactly, take place, 'come to pass,' see on "Matthew 5:18". The emphasis is on 'all.' All the things predicted in Matthew 5:4-31 would occur before or in immediate connection with the destruction of Jerusalem. But like events might again occur in connection with another and greater coming of the Lord, and such seems evidently to be his meaning. (See on "Matthew 24:3".)
Matthew 24:35. Heaven and earth shall pass away, etc. (see on "Matthew 5:19"), still further emphasizes the importance of what he is saying, which was introduced by 'Verily, I say unto you.' It was hard for the disciples to believe that their Master would come again and utterly destroy the temple and the holy city (Matthew 24:2 f.), and work such great changes as have been indicated by Matthew 5:29-31, within that generation; and so he asserts it very solemnly, compare John 16:7. We learn also in 2 Peter 3:7 f. and elsewhere that heaven and earth will pass away; not that they will cease to exist, but that they will be changed into something entirely new.
Matthew 24:36. The predictions he has made will receive a fulfilment within that generation (Matthew 24:34), to be witnessed by some then living; (Matthew 16:28) this much he solemnly declares, but the time he will not more exactly state, for indeed the precise time no one knows but the Father only. Of (concerning) that day and hour. It is mere quibbling to say that still we may ascertain the year and month. No, not the angels of heaven, compare on Matthew 18:10. The Rev. Ver. gives 'neither the Son.' It is difficult to decide whether these words are here genuine.(1) They are certainly genuine in Mark, (Matthew 13:32) and so were spoken by our Lord on this occasion. In fact, the thought they convey is implied in but my (the) Father only, for otherwise we should have expected 'but God only.' Compare Matthew 20:23, Acts 1:7. The 'my' of the common text is spurious.
This statement of our Lord as to himself can be explained only by referring the ignorance to his human mind. We read of him at twelve years of age that he 'advanced in wisdom and stature' (or 'age'). If he then advanced in wisdom, he did not cease advancing at the age of twenty or of thirty. If his knowledge was incomplete at twelve, it was still incomplete at thirty. Indeed, a finite mind could not contain all knowledge. If there was to be a real Incarnation of the Eternal Word, then the body he took must be a real body, and the mind a real mind. How his divine nature could be omniscient, and his human mind limited in knowledge, both being united in one person, is part of the mystery of the Incarnation, which we need not expect to solve. (Compare Philippians 2:7) But to be limited in knowledge, does not necessarily involve erroneous information or conceptions. The human nature of the Incarnate Deity was infallibly preserved from sin (compare on Matthew 4:1), and so, we may believe, from error of judgment.
So remarkable a statement seems much more natural if it relates not simply to the destruction of Jerusalem, but also, and mainly, to the second coming of which our Lord goes on to speak in the immediately succeeding verses; and we have seen that the passage as a whole appears to predict both events. This saying ought to repress all curious inquiry as to the precise time of his second coming, to prevent reliance on any arithmetical calculations, and also to foster confidence in him. The disciples greatly wished to know the precise time; in every age many have been eagerly seeking to determine, and some fancying they have ascertained it, only to be disappointed; but he expressly warned against this from the outset, and impliedly bade us be reconciled to an ignorance shared by the high angels, and (Mark) by the Son himself. The humiliating failures by so many well-meaning Christians in this matter, should bring no reproach to their Master, but cause him to be honoured all the more. And if the God-man, the Mediator, left this and many other things, (Matthew 20:23) to the Father alone, how cheerfully should we his followers rest in ignorance that cannot be removed, trusting in all things to our Heavenly Father's wisdom and goodness, striving to obey his clearly revealed will, and leaning on his grace for support. Whether this particular limitation upon the Saviour's knowledge was removed after his resurrection (Matthew 28:18), we cannot undertake to judge.
Homiletical And Practical
Matthew 24:2. Henry: "A believing foresight of the defacing of all worldly glory will help to take us off from overvaluing it."
Matthew 24:4 f. In times of great trial we must carefully avoid false guidance and comfort. Griffith: "Men's first impulse under trouble is to catch rashly at every person who seems to promise relief."
Matthew 24:6. Henry: "It is against the mind of Christ, that his people should have troubled hearts even in troublous times."
Matthew 24:12. Love waxing cold. (1) Through discouragement from apparently fruitless efforts to do good. (2) Through resentment at ingratitude and injustice. (3) Through general influence of evil example and environment. Happy the few who resist all such tendencies, whose love is warm even amid surrounding chill, for they shall be useful to men, shall honour Christ, shall themselves be saved. (Matthew 24:13.)
Matthew 24:14. Preaching the gospel. (1) It is the gospel of the kingdom. (2) It is adapted to all the world. (3) Christ commands his people to preach it to all (Compare Matthew 28:19) (4) Christ predicts that it will be preached to all. Are we personally receiving it, and busy in proclaiming it?
Matthew 24:16. Henry: "In times of imminent peril and danger, it is not only lawful but our duty, to seek our own preservation by all good and honest means; and if God opens a door of escape, we ought to make our escape; otherwise we do not trust God, but tempt him."
Matthew 24:20. Henry: "Though the ease of the body is not to be mainly consulted, it ought to be duly considered; though we must take what God sends, and when he sends it, yet we may pray against inconveniences."
Matthew 24:23. Faith is a characteristic of Christianity; but belief of truth involves stern refusal to believe in falsehood. Henry: "There is not a greater enemy to true faith than vain credulity. The simple believeth every word, and runs after every cry."
Matthew 24:30 f. The final and glorious coming of Christ. (1) It will be sudden, Matthew 24:27. (2) It will be not in the form of a servant, (Philippians 2:7) but as the Divine King, with power and great glory. (3) It will cause mourning to all who have rejected him. (Revelation 1:7, Hebrews 6:6) (4) It will bring all his scattered people together in unspeakable and eternal blessedness, compare 2 Timothy 4:8. Henry: "Sooner or later, all sinners will be mourners; penitent sinners look to Christ, and mourn after a godly sort; impenitent sinners shall look unto him whom they have pierced, and though they laugh now, shall mourn and weep in endless horror and despair."
Matthew 24:36. The great day. (1) There is a definite day on which Christ will come to judgment, compare Acts 17:31, 2 Timothy 1:12. (2) The precise day is wholly unrevealed, and known only to God the Father; attempts to fix it by calculation are idle. (3) Our great concern is to be ready when that day comes, and we shall do this by constant and watchful service of Christ, Matthew 24:42; compare Matthew 25:1-14.
Matthew 24:37 to Matthew 25:13.
Watch Continually For The Coming Of Christ
Only the early part of this section has a parallel in Mark (Mark 13:33-37) and Luke (Luke 22:34-36); but Luke has more extensive parallels in earlier discourse. As to the general contents and the divisions of this discourse on the Mount of Olives, see at the beginning of Matthew 24. From this point we have now reached, the destruction of Jerusalem sinks rapidly out of view. The passage in Matthew 24:37-44 might be understood as having also a primary reference to that event, regarded as a coming of Christ, but it contains no expression requiring to be so understood. Still less indication is there of such a reference in the two illustrations of Matthew 24:45-51 and Matthew 25:1-13. But throughout this section everything naturally suggests that final coming of Christ to judgment, which is alone brought to view in the closing paragraph of the great discourse, Matthew 25:31-46. There would be no profit in working out a possible allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem in some parts of this section, and we may confine ourselves to its obvious and supremely important teaching as regards preparation for the final coming. Our Lord first declares that his coming will be unexpected, as illustrated by the coming of the flood and the coming of a thief, and bases on this an injunction to watchfulness (Matthew 24:37-44); he then further illustrates the same fact and consequent duty by the supposed case of a good and bad servant (Matthew 24:45-51) and by the parable of the foolish and wise virgins. (Matthew 25:1-13.)
I. Matthew 24:37-44, Watch, For He Will Come Unexpectedly
Compare Mark 13:33 and Luke in the earlier discourses he gives in Luke 17:26-35, Luke 12:39 f.
(a) Illustration from the coming of Noah's flood.â€”37-39. But as, Rev. Ver., and as. But some of the best documents read 'for as,' which would easily be changed by copyists because somewhat obscure; it is therefore probably correct. (Lach., Treg., W. H.) It does not exactly give the reason why the day and hour is unknown, (Matthew 24:36) but a confirmation of the statement that no one knows: men will not even be thinking of it when it arrives. Also is genuine in Luke 17:26, but not here, nor in Matthew 24:39. The coming, see on "Matthew 24:3". The Son of man, see on "Matthew 8:20". On a former occasion our Lord had added another illustration to the same effect from the times of Lot, Luke 17:28-32. Here, as often before, the question arises whether we shall suppose that Jesus used these illustrations only once, and one or other Evangelist has made a dislocation; or that he repeated. To one who has had experience of itinerant preaching to popular audiences, the supposition that an illustration was repeated at some new place and time seems so perfectly natural that there is no occasion for the other hypothesis.â€”The coming of Christ will find men in general busy with the ordinary pursuits of life, as in the time of Noah; only those who are prepared as he was will escape the sudden and unexpected destruction. It follows that our Lord's coming certainly cannot be at the end of a thousand years of universal and perfect piety, for in that case all would know the exact time, and all would be devoutly and eagerly expecting the event. Compare Luke 18:8. Took them all away, with emphasis on 'all.'
(b) Persons most intimately associated will be separated by that unexpected coming.â€”40f. Two (men). The Greek has only 'two,' but the connected words are masculine, as with the following 'two' they are feminine. In the field,(1) in the cultivated district appertaining to some supposed city. One shall be (lit., is) taken, taken along, perhaps by the angels sent to gather the elect. (Matthew 24:31) The same Greek word is rendered 'receive' in John 14:3; for the idea, compare 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The Greek has here the present tense, which is more vivid than the future would be. Some understand the term to mean taken along by the destroying agencies attending Christ's appearance, as the flood carried all away. In either view of this phrase the main thought of the passage remains the same; it shall be well with one and ill with the other, and there will be no time then for preparing. Two women grinding at the mill. This domestic labour is still frequently performed in Palestine by women, and was observed there by the present writer. The lower millstone, say twelve inches in diameter, is placed on the ground and perhaps fixed in it; the upper stone is turned by a peg near the outer edge. One woman sits on the ground, (Isaiah 47:1 f.) so as to have the mill steadied between her knees, the other crouches on the opposite side. Sometimes the stone is much larger, and each crouches on one side. One pulls the peg towards her through half a circle, the other seizes it above or below and completes the circle; or else both retain their hold, and one relaxes while the other pulls. With the free hand one now and then puts a little grain into the central orifice of the revolving stone. To the jerky motion of the stone they keep time by a low, wailing chant. "The sound of the grinding" (Ecclesiastes 12:4) may be only the rumbling and ringing noise made by the revolving stone, but more probably refers to this chant.(2) The two women are apt, in the nature of things, to be mother and daughter, or older and younger sister, or friendly neighbours, or slaves in the same house. Yet even these will be separated by the Lord's second coming, the prepared one being accepted, the other having then no time to prepare.â€”Some larger millstones were turned by an ass, (Matthew 18:6) and others by water, where this was available, as is now to be seen in many places. "The Greek Anthology" (Wet.) has a statement that "in ancient times" women used to grind, before the art of grinding by water was discovered.â€”A third illustration of the same kind is given in Luke 17:34 as used on an earlier occasion viz., that of two men on one bed.
(c) Application of these illustrations.â€”42;(3) Mark 13:33. What hour. Rev. Ver., on what day. This is read by many of the best documents, and was easily changed by copyists into 'hour,' by assimilation to Matthew 24:44. Thus of the two words in Matthew 24:36, we have one in Matthew 24:42 and the other in Matthew 24:44, and again both in Matthew 24:50 and Matthew 25:18. Your Lord cometh. Elsewhere he always says 'the Son of man cometh,' as in Matthew 24:44; compare Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:37, Matthew 24:39, Luke 12:40, Luke 17:24, Luke 17:26, Luke 17:30, Luke 21:36. The expression 'your Lord cometh' connects itself closely with 'his Lord' in the illustration that presently follows, Matthew 24:45-50, and so in Luke. Probably this expression led to the phrase "our Lord cometh," which was so common a saying among the early Christians that Paul quotes it in the Aramaic, Maranatha; (1 Corinthians 16:22) compare Philippians 4:5, James 5:7, 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 2 Peter 1:16, 2 Peter 3:10. Tyndale and Geneva use 'master' all through Matthew 24:42-50; Wyc., Cran., Rheims, have 'lord,' K. James 'Lord.' WÃ¼nsche says the Rabbis also declare that the Messiah will come when least expected; so every one must hold himself ready, and he who does not, will have himself to blame if he is shut out. Indeed, this is a principle applying to everything which is certain to come, but at an uncertain time. Hence it applies exactly to our own death, for which we ought to make ready in advance and to stay ready always.
(d) A further illustration and its application.â€”43 f.; compare Luke 12:39 f. This illustration was often repeated by the apostles, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3, Revelation 16:15. Know this, or this ye know. The Greek second plural has the same form in the indicative as in the imperative, hence occasional ambiguities, as in John 5:39, John 14:1. The good man (master) of the house, see on "Matthew 10:25". In what watch. The night, from sunset to sunrise, was divided by the Jews in earlier times into three, but under the Romans into four periods called "watches," compare Mark 13:35, and see above on Matthew 14:25. Broken up, literally digged through (Rev. Ver. margin), implying walls made of mud or of sun-dried bricks, which are still common in many parts of the world, compare on Matthew 6:19. Therefore (Matthew 24:44), the propriety of the injunction being inferred from the foregoing illustration. Be, more exactly, become, get ready; ye also, as the householder must do if he would be ready whenever the thief comes. The Son of man, as in Matthew 24:37, Matthew 24:39; see on "Matthew 8:20".
II. Matthew 24:45-51. Let His Coming Find You A Good Servant And Not An Evil One
Mark 13:34-37, Luke 21:34-36; compare an earlier discourse in Luke 12:35-38, Luke 12:42-46.
Matthew 24:45-47. Servant, doulos, slave, see on "Matthew 8:6". Wise is not the general Greek word, but means more exactly prudent, discreet, shrewd, etc., with varying shades of good and bad meaning, as in Matthew 7:24, Matthew 10:16, Matthew 25:2 ff.; Luke 16:8. It here probably signifies prudent and judicious in the means and methods of faithfully serving the master; or possibly, prudent in subserving his own true interest by fidelity to his master. Household. The Greek word denotes the whole body of domestics. The servant in question is the head steward, charged with the special duty of regularly supplying all the domestics with food; along with that he exercised a general control, observe, made ruler, or set over, and sometimes assumed the right to punish (Matthew 24:49.). Meat, food, which was formerly the meaning of the English word 'meat.' In due season. To distribute the food regularly and promptly was an important point of good management in a steward. Blessed is more exactly happy, as in Matthew 5:3 ff.; another beatitude. His lord, when he cometh, from some journey, or some other place of residence. Shall find so doing, faithfully and judiciously supplying the domestics with food, i. e., performing the special duties of his position. Verily I say unto you, calling special attention, compare on Matthew 5:18. Will make him ruler (or set him) over all his goods, over all his property of every kind, and not simply over his body of domestics. Compare Matthew 25:21, Luke 19:17, Luke 19:26. Our Lord here puts honour upon those who serve him by comparing them, not to a menial or ordinary slave, but to the intelligent, faithful, and trusted head-slave of the household, like Joseph in Potiphar's house. Many have understood a specific reference to ministers, and from this notion has arisen a singular mixed text, widely current in the language of devotional meetings, "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving to each his portion (Luke 12:42) in due season" (but see Rev. Ver. of 2 Timothy 2:15). That our passage really refers to all Christians is confirmed by Mark 13:37, "And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." The passage may be applied to ministers a fortiori, as having all the ordinary responsibilities of Christian life, and others that are extraordinary.
Matthew 24:48-51. With the faithful diligence and happy reward of the good head-servant (in any supposed case) is now contrasted the behaviour and punishment of the head-servant in case he turns out an evil one. Evil is opposed both to faithful and to prudent. (Matthew 24:45.) But and if. So also in Tyndale and all his followers. In Middle English and was used in the sense of 'if' (Skeet), afterwards distinguished from the copulative and by writing it an, as in Shakespeare's "an it please you," "and thou lovest me," etc. When this conditional use of and grew indistinct to the mind it was strengthened by adding if, so as to make in Shakespeare 'an if,' and here, 'but and if'; modern usage omits the and, and the old phrase 'but and if' now looks very strange. Compare Luke 12:45, Luke 20:6, John 6:62, 1 Corinthians 7:11, 1 Corinthians 7:28, 1 Peter 3:14; in the three last passages Rev. Ver. unwisely retains 'and.' Shall say in his heart, compare 'to say within yourselves,' in Matthew 3:9. The heart, as always in Scripture, is here the seat of thought as well as of feeling, see on "Matthew 6:19". Delayeth his coming. Tarrieth expresses the correct Greek text. It contained a delicate intimation to the disciples that Jesus was not coming again in a very short time (compare on Matthew 25:19). Shall begin, com. On Matthew 11:20. And to, rather, shall eat and drink with the drunken, carousing at the master's expense, instead of keeping the household in order and exercising a prudent economy. In a day, implies that he comes from some distance; and in an hour, amplifies and makes more impressive, as so often in Hebrew parallelism. Shall cut him asunder, cut him in two. This is the exact meaning of the term, and no other has any support from Greek usage. The Old Latin translates by dividet, 'will divide,' or findet, 'will cleave'; Pesh. 'will divide'; and Memph. takes great pains, 'will divide him in his middle.' Such a severe punishment was practised among the Hebrews; (2 Samuel 12:31, Hebrews 11:37 Sus 1:55) and Wet. gives various examples from Greek and Roman writers. Some think it must be here simply a hyperbole for severe scourging, because of the following phrase: And appoint his portion with the hypocrites. This makes a sudden transition from the illustration to the thing illustrated. 'Cut him in two' is the image, a severe temporal punishment; 'his portion with the hypocrites' is in eternity. That hypocrites (see on "Matthew 6:2") are grossly offensive in God's sight, and must be severely punished, was a thought familiar to the minds of the disciples (Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16, Matthew 15:7, Matthew 16:3) and just freshened through the discourse of that same day. (Matthew 23:13-29) The good servant will be exalted to the highest position a servant can have (Matthew 24:47); the bad servant, who drank with the drunken, shall dwell with the hypocrites. Now if 'appoint his portion' makes a transition from the earthly punishment to the punishment of hell, (Matthew 25:41, Matthew 25:46) there is no occasion for objecting to the literal and only established sense of 'cut him in two,' and no ground for the alternative rendering of Rev. Ver., margin. The weeping and the gnashing of teeth (see on "Matthew 8:12".)
Luke having given a similar comparison to the good and bad steward in an earlier discourse, (Luke 12:42-46) does not here repeat it, nor yet wholly pass it by, but sums up the thought in the comprehensive and impressive sentences of Matthew 21:34-36.
Watch Continually For The Coming Of Christ, Continued
III. Matthew 25:1-13. Parable Of The Ten Virgins
Not found elsewhere. This beautiful parable is a further illustration of the variously illustrated injunction to 'watch', (Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:44) which is repeated at its close, (Matthew 25:13) in such a form as to recall also the great statement of Matthew 24:36, and thus link all the discourse up to this point in the closest connection. Our Lord is still sitting on the Mount of Olives, late in the afternoon of his last day of public ministry (see on "Matthew 24:1", see on "Matthew 24:3".)
Matthew 25:1. Then, viz., at the time of the Saviour's coming (Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:44) The kingdom of heaven, the Messianic Dispensation (see on "Matthew 3:2".) Be likened unto (see on "Matthew 13:24".) The omission of certain details, and the desire of interpreters to prepare for this or that homiletical application, have led to much difference of opinion as to some points of this tender and beautiful story. But scarcely any of these seriously affect the main lesson of the parable, and they should not be allowed to occupy much space in an expository sermon or Sunday-school lesson. It was the custom to hold weddings after nightfall. The bridegroom and some friends went to the house of the bride, and after religions ceremonies there he set forth towards his own abode in a grand procession, which was illuminated by torches or lamps in the hands of the participants, and often preceded by musicians. In the utterly dark street of an Asiatic city, every one who goes forth at night is expected, and in modern Jerusalem is strictly required by the authorities, to carry a light. (Compare Psalms 119:105) Other invited guests, who had not gone to the bride's home, could join the procession at any point, and enter with it into the bridegroom's residence, to share in the festivities. But without a burning lamp or torch they could not march in the procession, and so could not enter the house. In order to join the procession conveniently, such persons might assemble beforehand at different points along the proposed route, and wait for the bridegroom's approach. Some recent commentators urge that the bridegroom must here be conceived as on his way to the bride's house, to hold the festivities there, since in the application Christ comes from heaven to earth to establish his kingdom; but it is useless for the sake of a painful literalism, to imagine a departure from custom. In 1 Maccabees 9:39 only the bridegroom is mentioned as coming forth, with a grand procession and musicians; and yet just above (Matthew 25:37) we see that they were "bringing the bride." When the bridegroom came from a distance, the festivities were sometimes held at the residence of the bride, as in Genesis 29:22, Tobit 8:20 ff. In that case, however, the virgins would not have lighted their lamps till news came that the bridegroom was near, and after that the delay on his part would be unnatural, whereas according to the common view, the delay of the wedding procession in setting out from the bride's house is natural enough. In that case, also, not the bridegroom, but the father of the bride, would have decided whether the five should be admitted. It seems tolerably evident from Tobit 8:10-12 that the marriage feast is at the house of the bridegroom. Still, the general lesson remains the same in either view of this particular. The "Western" type of text has, with its usual free handling, made it read 'went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bride,' in order that the text might distinctly conform to custom. The bride is really not mentioned throughout the parable, doubtless because Christ's people in this image are represented by the attendants.
The story in itself considered has curious points of naturalness and verisimilitude. Young girls would be specially interested in a wedding, prominent in its ceremonies, and distressed at missing the festivities. Bridal ceremonies are very apt to be delayed beyond the time appointed. It is evident that great delay is here supposed, for otherwise the maidens would not themselves have been arrayed and assembled so long beforehand as to have time for all falling asleep while they waited.
Ten may be regarded as merely a round number, sufficiently large to shew interest in the occasion. Compare Luke 19:13. We learn however from Lightfoot that the Jews "delighted mightily in the number ten. A synagogue must have at least ten present; an order or ring of men consisted not but of ten at the least." WÃ¼n. adds that ten men must be present at a wedding, in order to utter the requisite blessings. Compare Ruth 4:2. Josephus says ("War," 6, 9, 3) that not less than ten men must assemble to partake of a paschal lamb. Morison reminds us how these uses of the number might be suggested by the ten fingers, as was the decimal basis of numeration.
The word for lamps is different-from that of Matthew 5:15, and regularly means a torch, (John 18:3, Revelation 8:10) and we know that the Greeks and Romans commonly used torches in marriage processions; but here it seems to denote a lamp fed with oil, though it might be a sort of torch fed with oil (Rev. Ver. margin). In processions, such a lamp was borne on a wooden pole (Edersheim); and was doubtless protected from the wind, probably (as now) by a covering of wood, or of cloth supported by a wire frame (Smith's "Dict."). These lamps held but little oil, and would need to be replenished. As the lamp was indispensable, and the movements of a bridal procession were uncertain, prudent persons would carry with them vessels of oil, but these were very unpleasant for persons in festive apparel to carry, and the imprudent might conclude to risk it with the oil in their lamps. They would all set down the lamps and leave them burning, because they were constantly expecting the approach of the procession. If we conceive them as waiting at the bride's house, it would have been silly to leave the lamps burning, before there was any announcement of the bridegroom's approach; especially as in that view he would be coming from a great distance. Goebel maintains that the foolish had empty lamps, the vessels being those which formed part of the lamps. This fancy is devised in order that the oil may mean divine grace, without any hitch in the interpretation; but it makes the foolish virgins simpletons. Wise(1) is the word meaning prudent, etc., see on "Matthew 24:45". Tarried is the same word as in Matthew 24:48, and one of the links of connection between the two illustrations; compare also Matthew 25:19. Slumbered and slept is lit., nodded and were sleeping Persons sitting up and overcome by drowsiness first nod and presently begin to sleep continuously.
Go ye out, or, come ye forth. The latter is more probably the meaning than 'go ye out'; the Greek word oftener means come than go, which is usually expressed in New Testament by the word used in Matthew 25:9, compare Matthew 3:5, Matthew 20:29; and the cry would naturally be made by persons in the street who saw the procession approaching, rather than by persons in the house; nor would the latter have occasion for making a loud, clangourous cry, such as the Greek word denotes. There was a cry, or more literally a cry has arisen, a vivid expression which transports us into the midst of the scene. Behold, the bridegroom! like 'Behold, the Lamb of God!'; (John 1:36) but many copyists added, as in Com. Ver., cometh. Trimmed is the word rendered 'garnish' in Matthew 12:44, Matthew 23:29, and denotes adorning, beautifying; they poured in oil, trimmed and drew up the wick, wiped off the lamp, did everything that would make it beautiful and bright. Our lamps are going out, the Greek having the present tense and not the perfect; correctly translated in Tyn., Rheims, and margin of Com. Ver. Lest there be not, Rev. Ver. says peradventure, etc. The wise kindly abstain from express refusal, and only imply it by the words, 'Peradventure there will not be enough for us and you, go rather, etc.' (Compare Plumptre.) In attempting to buy oil at midnight, they would find few or no shops open, and would be much delayed. Bruce fancies that it was a second folly to go after oil, when if they had but remained they might have been admitted without it. But (1) the whole tone of the story, and all that we know of the wedding customs, implies that a burning light was necessary. Without it they would not have been showing honour to the bridegroom, and could not have been distinguished at the door from strangers or other persons having no right to be admitted. (2) The advice of the wise to go and buy must, on Bruce's view, be taken as cruel mockery, or possibly as dictated by the unreflecting selfishness of persons hurried and disconcerted; either of which would seem excessively incongruous and improbable. To the marriage (feast), as in Matthew 22:2 ff. The door was usually in the middle of one side of a house, leading by a passage under the second story to the inner court, upon which all the rooms of the house opened. When this outer door was shut, all connection with the outside world was cut off. Persistent knocking, and loud entreaty addressed to the bridegroom personally, might at length bring him to the door. Verily I say unto you, a solemn assurance, compare on Matthew 5:18. I know you not. They have no claim to be received as guests; he does not even recognize them as acquaintances. (compare Matthew 7:23)
The application of this beautiful parable is obvious, but is surpassingly tender and pathetic. It teaches the same lesson as Matthew 24:37-42, Matthew 24:43-51, that the only way to be ready when Jesus comes is to be ready always. The term 'virgins' must not be given a spiritual significance, as if denoting pure Christians; for five of these represent persons not really Christians at all. The division into two halves must surely not be supposed to teach that at the coming of Christ half the people in the world or in any community will be ready to meet him, and half not ready; it was simply the most natural division of the round number, there being no special reason for dividing otherwise. The bridegroom tarried might suggest to the disciples that their Lord would not come immediately. (Compare on Matthew 25:19) The fact that all the ten were sleeping should not be made a reproach to true Christians. It was not wrong for the virgins to sleep under the circumstances; they were neglecting no duty in so doing, provided they bad thoroughly made ready for the bridegroom's coming. To understand it as meaning that the successive generations of mankind must fall asleep in death (various Fathers and some modern writers), is wholly unwarranted and seems strangely unsuitable. Whether the foolish virgins are to be considered as representing "church members," there is nothing to show; they are persons who profess, and honestly think that they are Christ's friends, and expect to meet him with joy. To take lamps and no lasting supply of oil, suggests that superficial and temporary interest in divine things which is so often witnessed; compare Hosea 6:4. The hurried and fruitless attempt, when the moment arrives, to make the preparation which ought to have been made in advance, is deeply pathetic, and touches a sadly common fault in regard to readiness for meeting Christ at his coming, or for meeting the messenger whom he sends to bear us away, even death. The inability of the prudent virgins to help the foolish in their extremity reminds us that piety involves personal conditions and relations to Christ that are not transferable. I know you not. This will not be rejecting persons who ask to be saved, but disowning persons who claim to have been saved, to have been ready and waiting for his coming.
To find some separate spiritual meaning in the lamps, the vessels, the oil, and the sellers of oil, etc., seems here worse than idle. (Compare on Matthew 13:3) Maldonatus counts fifteen separate items having spiritual significance, and Keach thirteen. It is very unwise here to bring in the idea of the bride as meaning "the church." (Ephesians 5:25) The bride is not mentioned in the parable, and, as already suggested, for the obvious reason that Christians here appear as friends waiting to join the procession. Bring in the bride as the church, and you introduce inevitable confusion of idea through a mixture of distinct images. It ought to be everywhere carefully remembered that if "mixed metaphors" are bad for rhetoric, they are worse for exegesis.
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour(2)repeats the solemn refrain of Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:44, Matthew 24:50. The whole passage from Matthew 24:36 to Matthew 25:13 should be read in worship as one, and this refrain brought out with special emphasis; just as one reads Psalms 42 and Psalms 43, with the refrain of Psalms 42:5, Psalms 42:11 and Psalms 43:5; or like the refrain in Psalms 80:3, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:19, and various other Psalms. This is not saying that the passage before us is, properly speaking, poetical; it rather presents an oratorical repetition of the practical theme, after each separate illustration."Watch" does not here mean keep awake, as opposed to the sleeping of Matthew 25:5, but be so heedfully expectant as not to be caught unprepared.
Homiletical And Practical
Matthew 24:37-39. The flood, as a picture of Christ's final coming. (1) Men knew not when it would be, and did not really believe it would ever be; compare Luke 18:8. (2) Men were too busy with ordinary affairs to stop and think about God's merciful warning. (3) Men in general were caught unprepared, and swept into destruction. (4) Those men who believed and made ready found themselves safe, and had a blessed future.
Matthew 24:40 f. The most intimate associations of this life will in many cases be severed, in a moment and forever, by the coming of Christ. And so death, though for none an eternal sleep, will be for many, alas! an eternal separation.
Matthew 24:42. The coming of our Lord. (1) We know not when he will comeâ€”need not knowâ€”cannot knowâ€”should not wish to know, compare Matthew 24:36. (2) We shall be ready when he comes if we are ready always, compare Matthew 24:43 f. (3) We should watch, not in dread but in hope, for it will be our Lord's coming, compare 2 Timothy 4:8, Titus 2:11-14. (4) Thus are we better prepared to serve him when he does come; (a) with patience under trouble, compare James 5:7; (b) with gentleness and forbearance towards others, compare Philippians 4:5; (c) with all holy living and piety, compare 2 Peter 3:11 f.; (d) with efforts to make all men likewise ready to meet him, compare Matthew 24:14.
Matthew 24:45-47. A good servant of Christ. (1) He is aware that the responsibilities of Christ's service require not only faithfulness, but prudence, discretion, good sense. (2) He is conscious of duties to his fellow-men, and is exact and punctual in performing them, as being also duties to Christ. (3) He is always ready to meet Christ, because always busily engaged in Christ's service. (4) He will be rewarded for serving Christ here by better opportunities of serving him hereafter.
Matthew 24:45-51. The good and the bad servant contrasted. All men are in one or another sense Christ's servants, and will be held by him to account, compare 1 Corinthians 5:10. (1) The good servant is faithful and wise; the bad servant is unfaithful and foolish. (2) The good servant is busy in serving Christ by benefiting others; the bad servant is unkind to others, and engrossed with selfish gratifications. (3) The good servant will welcome the Lord at any moment; the bad servant will be caught unawares. (4) The good servant will he exalted to higher honours and wider usefulness; the bad servant will be terribly punished, dwelling forever amid hypocrites, and filled with bitter but vain regrets.
Matthew 25:1-13. The Ten Virgins. (1) The coming of our Lord ought to be thought of as a joyful event. (2) The time of his coming is uncertain and may be delayed, so that preparation for it must be permanent. (3) Not all those who call themselves his friends, and nominally await his coming, will be found really ready when he comes. (4) Hurried attempts to make ready then, will prove a failure. (5) Oh the bitter grief and disappointment of having meant, and professed, and long appeared, to be his friends, and then encountering the closed door and the solemn voice of refusal.
No light had we: for that we do repent:
And, learning this, the Bridegroom will relent.
'Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.'
No light, so late! and dark and chill the night!
Oh, let us in that we may find the light!
'Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.'
Matthew 25:8. Henry: "Those will see their need of grace hereafter, when it should save them, who will not see their need of grace now, when it should sanctify and rule them."
Matthew 25:11. Jerome: "What does it profit to invoke him with the voice whom by works you deny?"
Matthew 25:12. Henry: "With regard to those that put off their great work to the last, it is a thousand to one that they have not time to do it then. While the poor awakened soul addresses itself, upon a sick-bed, to repentance and prayer, in awful confusion, it scarcely knows which end to begin at, or what to do first; and presently death comes, judgment comes, and the work is undone, and the poor sinner undone forever."
Matthew 25:13. We need not wonder at the frequent repetition, and fourfold illustration, of "Watch, for ye know not," seeing that human nature is so prone to heedless sloth or to preoccupation with worldly affairs.â€”All these exhortations to watch, and be ready, for the Lord's coming, will apply without material alteration to the duty of preparation for death, which will in an important sense summon us to meet Christ, and will leave fixed and permanent the relation in which we shall rise to meet him when he does come. (John 5:28 f.)
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Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 24". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany