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Matthew 24:1 . The buildings of the temple. Herod had gradually rebuilt the temple, taking down one part, and raising it anew, so that the worship was not interrupted. Hence it was still the second temple renovated; the vessels, the priests, and even all the stones fit for use were still employed. After consulting a body of sacred critics on this subject, I find Dr. Lightfoot bears the palm. He does not detail lexicons, but being himself a rabbin of the first class, he everywhere illustrates the sacred text by Hebrew and contemporary literature. The walls were built of white, green, and variegated marble. One part of it resembled the waves of the sea, and was a great curiosity. Several of the blocks of marble in the foundation were from twenty one to twenty three cubits in length. They were three cubits and a half in height, and six in breath. Herodotus, in Euterpe, says that some of the stones in the temple of Vulcan in Egypt, were so large as to destroy the roads in dragging them to their place. They built for generations yet unborn.
Matthew 24:2 . There shall not be left one stone upon another. Titus burnt the temple in the same month and on the same day as the Chaldeans had burnt it before, as is affirmed by Josephus, who witnessed the conflagration. He left Terentius Rufus in command, who dug up the foundation of the temple, and part of the city; but the western wall with three towers was spared, being of use to the Roman soldiers. See on Micah 3:0.
Matthew 24:3 . What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? To these enquiries our Saviour gave direct answers. His coming was to punish the jews, whose measure was full, as the prophets had long before predicted. Isaiah 51:4; Isaiah 51:6, Joel 2:28; Joel 2:32. The signs of his coming were the appearance of false Christs, Roman wars, and the severity of persecution of the christians in Jerusalem. The first course of the church was to take heed, to seek divine guidance, and stedfastly to keep the faith.
Matthew 24:4 . Take heed that no man deceive you. This was the first caution; and the grand point was to hold fast the faith amid the vicissitudes of life, and the revolutions of nations; for the church shall outlive all the storms and tempests, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. In these words St. Paul cautioned the churches against being spoiled through gentile philosophy. Colossians 2:8.
Matthew 24:7 . Nation shall rise against nation. The Greek word εθνος ethnos, here rendered “nation,” signifies gentiles. This prophecy was strikingly accomplished in the miserable death of the wicked Nero. The Roman army in Spain proclaimed Galba emperor; but Otho, ambitious of the purple, slew him. Vitellius defeated Otho, and ascended the throne. But the mutinies and revolts against him emboldened Vespasian to claim the imperial honour. He then commanded in the east, and his claims threw the whole empire into confusion. After this man had through rivers of blood obtained the throne, many wars of a smaller kind broke out among the nations of Syria. In Mesopotamia, and in Egypt, a very great number of the Hebrews were slain. At length, being infatuated to their own destruction, and thinking this a favourable crisis to recover their independence, the jews openly threw off the yoke. Vespasian sent Titus his son against them, and completed their ruin, according to the prophecy of Daniel and of our Lord. See Daniel 9:24-27. A sore famine had also prevailed during the reign of Claudius. Micah 3:12.
Earthquakes in divers places. Both Pliny and Macrobius mention the earthquake which happened in the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, and destroyed twelve cities of Asia.
Matthew 24:14 . This gospel shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end [of the jewish state] come. In about twenty five years, St. Paul wrote to the Romans, saying that the sound of the ambassadors’ feet had gone out to all the Roman world: chap. 10. Eusebius says, “the gospel was like the sun, enlightening the world at once.” The prophecies which the christians carried with them were the witnesses, providence attesting their accomplishment by the most signal visitations on the jews, and by the preaching of the gospel to the gentiles. Dr. Steinkoff, a Lutheran minister in London, told me, that though Frederic the great of Prussia was an unbeliever, he once was heard to say, that the prophecies respecting the jews were so striking, that after all there must be some degree of credit attached to them.
Matthew 24:15 . The abomination of desolation. The statues of idols are often branded with the epithet “abomination,” or with words of like import. Isaiah 2:8. Ezekiel 30:13. The idols which Antiochus set up in the temple are called by this name; 1Ma 1:57 . Edit. Montan. English, Matthew 24:48. Theophylact says it was the statue of the commander set up in the Adytum of the temple. The Adytum is the chancel or more private place of the priests. We may add, that the Romans carried with great pomp the image of their emperor, and a golden eagle, besides the golden eagle on their standards. Hence this idolatrous army is the abomination which maketh desolate. The sign to the church was seeing the idols and standards in the holy place, or holy land. “Then let him that readeth understand” that Daniel’s prophecy is accomplished. “The people of the prince that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary: and the army of abominations shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that which is determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Daniel 9:26-27. What a luminous prophecy the fortress of revealed religion, and the terror of wily infidelity.
Matthew 24:16 . Let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains. Of Hermon, Sirion, Nebo, and Idumea, beyond the JorDaniel
Matthew 24:17 . Let him which is on the house top, the roof of his house, not come down, for goods and raiment. The Romans being in full march against the rebel city, to save his life was more than to save his riches. This teaches us that fleeing to Christ is like the flight of Lot, it is an escape for our life; an escape which many, alas, delay till the winter of old age, which renders conversion difficult, if not hopeless.
Matthew 24:19 . Woe to them that are with child. Their temporal privations and troubles would be greatly encreased. Those who remained, endured the sorest of all sieges, and those who fled had hard work to procure subsistence.
Matthew 24:20 . Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, lest you perish with hunger and cold.
Neither on the sabbath day, which must refer to the christian sabbath. Here all journies of pleasure, and all driving of carts and waggons are prohibited. The day is holy. It is a sign of the covenant, and the desecration of the day is a forfeiture of covenant mercies. Ezekiel 20:12; Ezekiel 20:20.
Matthew 24:22 . Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved. Jerome remarks that the siege of Jerusalem under the Romans was more severe than that under the Chaldeans. The war being occasioned by rebellion, as in both the sieges, the jews expected no quarter. Their situation therefore being desperate, the factions augmented their calamities by internal wars. But the Lord showed them pity at last.
Matthew 24:24 . There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders. Theudas, a false Christ, is named in Acts 5:36. Theophylact also mentions Dositheus, who springing from the seven sects of the jews, raised a sect called by his own name. The aptitude of the last age of the jewish nation to superstition, magic, and revolt, are three striking proofs of its depravity. It was this propensity of the age which caused Simon Magus to become so popular in Samaria; yet when he saw the superiority of divine endowments, he offered the apostles money to buy the gift of God. These magic prophets were so dexterous, that if it were possible, they would have deceived the very elect. This phrase does not signify an absolute impossibility of deception, for the best of men are often deceived. This will appear from examples. Paul hastened, “if it were possible for him,” to be at Jerusalem before the feast of Pentecost. Again; “if it be possible,” as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. That deception was not impossible, even in the disciples, appears from our Saviour having bidden them to watch and pray, and to let no man deceive them. But having given his friends all the leading signs of the times, there was no need for one of them to be deceived. The wonders of self-inspired prophets always immerge their blaze, like the expiring lamp, in a fœtid fume, to the utter disgrace of religion and the triumph of infidels. This has hitherto been the issue of all the insane and visionary prophets in England, Germany, and France: and this was the issue of all those who attracted attention among the unbelieving Hebrews.
Matthew 24:30 . Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man. The jews had officiously asked a sign of Christ, and a fiery meteor was seen over the city, and was sometimes thought to assume the appearance of a sword, as Josephus asserts. But the true sign was the Roman armies: “where the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” This carcase is the jewish nation, devoured by the sword of the Roman eagles, and wasted by pestilence and famine. Thus the sun of the Hebrew temple was darkened, the moon of the commonwealth became as blood, which blood largely flowed in all the land; and the seventy one stars of the sanhedrim fell from their golden chairs. Of the correctness of this application we cannot doubt, when it is considered that the prophet Isaiah used the same figurative language to describe the fall of Babylon. The day of the Lord cometh, says he; for the stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof shall not give their light. Isaiah 13:10. Joel also, following Isaiah, describes the last ruin of the jews by similar metaphors. The fall of Roman princes also is represented by stars falling from heaven, and as a figtree casting her redundant and untimely fruit when shaken of a mighty wind. Revelation 6:13.
Matthew 24:34 . This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. This prediction received a literal accomplishment, for though many no doubt died in the interval, yet that generation which despised Christ as a prophet did not wholly pass away, till their eyes beheld his vengeful approach. It was only thirty seven years from our Lord’s crucifixion to the coming of the Roman armies to destroy the city and temple of Jerusalem, which in the course of a lengthened siege of two or three years was completely effected.
Matthew 24:36 . But my Father only. See on Mark 13:32.
Matthew 24:40-41 . Then shall two be in the field two women grinding at the mill. When the Romans first invested Jerusalem, Gratus, left in command, was called off to quell a revolt, which gave many so disposed time to escape; believers fled, while unbelievers remained to perish in the siege. It shall be the same in the final coming of Christ, when the saints shall rise to meet the Lord in the air; the wicked shall be left to weep and wail their utter loss of heaven and eternal life.
Matthew 24:51 . Shall cut him asunder. They cut the victims in pieces at sacrifices, and when princes contracted covenants. This was therefore a punishment inflicted for perfidy. Hence it is highly probable that Isaiah, who according to Jerome was sawn asunder, was accused of rebellion, because he had opposed idolatry. It was a punishment not only among the oriental nations, but also among the Greeks and Romans; and has often been inflicted on rebels in this nation and in Ireland. See Whitby, Hammond, and the Synopsis.
The private conversations of our Lord with his disciples were social, luminous, and almost without reserve. The time was now come to abate their admiration of the fading temple, that they might transfer their hopes to the evangelical house which should abide for ever. They asked three questions concerning the signs of the times, his second coming, or the end of the world or age. To each of these he gave most impressive replies. After warning them against false prophets, he armed them against apostasy, by saying that in those sore seasons of temptation and persecution, the love of many would wax cold. This was but too true with regard to the church of the circumcision; many of them, misguided by judaizing teachers, fell from the faith; and St. Paul levels a variety of arguments against those teachers in his epistles. But though ecclesiastical history be silent concerning the converted jews, there is no doubt but on seeing the fall of the temple many of them were so confirmed in the faith of Christ as to abandon circumcision, and take their lot with the believing gentiles. Embracing the prophecies of Christ they saved their lives, while their unbelieving countrymen perished. Yet other jews, zealous of the law, still adhered to Moses and to Christ, and were in after times called Nazarenes. But neither life, nor death, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword, could part them from their Lord. Let us learn hence, not to be too much afraid of the cross, for Jesus is Lord of the tempest as well as the calm. The present grand point of fear in the Church is, the abomination that maketh desolate; the antinomianism of effeminacy within, and atheism without, a conformity of professors to the world, and consequently a contempt of religion by a licentious age.
The trait in this chapter which strikes us most is, the high and glorious character of Christ as a prophet. He talked of futurity at ease, as one that talks of his own affairs. Contingency with man was all to him an open vision. If the circumstances related by St. Luke, chap. 21., be associated with this chapter, this prophet was no other than the God of futurity talking with mortal men. Hence he described all the wickedness of the age, the falling away, the approach of the Romans, the escape of the church when Gratus raised the siege, the sore carnage which followed when the Romans returned and took the city, the dispersion of the jews among all nations, and the occupation or treading down of Jerusalem by the gentiles. The day and hour of the fall of the city, it was not proper to disclose, but he almost told the year. And forgery of those prophecies was impossible; for before Jerusalem fell, christianity was spread from the old Assyrian, to the extremities of the Roman, empire.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 24". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany