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He leaves the temple, and in Matthew is not seen there again. What can it be now without its proper Inhabitant? But the disciples draw His attention to the ornate buildings that were really only the work of men's hands. He tells them solemnly that of all this grandeur not one stone would be left upon another. Not many years later (in 70A.D.) the Romans destroyed the city and burned the temple. It remained in a ruined state for many years; but it is reported that the Emperor Julian "the apostate," who had once embraced Christianity, then turned scornfully against Christ, ordered the Jews to return to build up the temple again, having the object of proving the Lord's prophecy false. However, the Jews, in finding the building so badly damaged, decided to take it all away and to build anew. It was fully demolished then, but they were hindered from even beginning to build again. Thus the effort to prove the prophecy of the Lord false was the very means by which it was proven true!
The mount of Olives now is the site of the Lord's enlightening discourse on prophetic events. It was from there He ascended., and will return there at the end of Israel's tribulation (Mark 11:1; Luke 24:50; Zechariah 14:4). This is a private conversation with His disciples, not intended for the world, but for those who profess faith in Christ. Their first question is "when shall these things be?" He does not enlighten them as to the time, however. It is the facts that were of importance then, not merely the chronology, which they would be unable to recognize until. they knew their own place (as the body of Christ) in the counsels of God.
We have seen that Matthew writes from a Jewish point of view, and this must be remembered in this chapter. The Lord was speaking to Jewish disciples, who of course thought only of the Jewish age, in their questioning Him. In this chapter therefore, up to verse 44 the present dispensation of grace is not considered at all, for the subject is really the end of the Jewish age. From verse 45 to Ch.25:31 however, the present age is in view, though in veiled, parabolic form. Then Chapter 25:21-46 considers the Gentile nations.
He warns them not to be deceived by the falsehood of many who would come claiming to be Christ. While these verses 5-8 apply specifically to the first three and one half years of Daniel's seventieth week, yet of course similar things have been seen during our present age. As to wars and rumours of wars they were not to be troubled about this, or nations in conflict. Famines, pestilences and earthquakes would occur in many places. These things would be only the beginning of sorrows, signs of things more serious to come.
The persecution and martyrdom of believers will be prevalent then, though we knew this has been anticipated during the entire history of the church on earth. Christians have been hated too, even though not being of the godly remnant of Israel. False prophets also have arisen during this age, as they will at the end. "As ye have heard that anti-christ shall come, even now are there many antichrists" (1 John 2:18), by whom many have been deceived. After the church is taken, lawlessness will abound, causing the love of many to wax cold. This is the great apostasy: what appeared to be love on the part of many will issue only in cold indifference to the claims of God. Even now we see the portents of this before the rapture. Mere profession is being tested, and will prove empty.
However, at that time those who endure to the end, particularly Jews who in vitally awakened faith maintain simple confidence in the living God through all the tribulation, will be saved for earthly blessing in the millennium. During the tribulation the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world for a witness to the nations: then the end will come. This Witness will be to the effect that Christ is about to come and establish His kingdom on earth. In the present church age, it is the Gospel of the grace of God that is emphasized, not the gospel of the kingdom.
It is plain from verse 15 that the Lord addresses the disciples as being representative of the remnant of Israel, for the erection of "the abomination of desolation" is even now still future, yet He says "when ye therefore shall see this standing in the holy place, let those in Judea flee to the mountains. Daniel 9:27; Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:11 are to be compared here, and connected with Revelation 13:14-15. The abomination that results in desolation is idolatry introduced by the anti-christ into the holy place, the temple in Jerusalem, which will take place at the middle of Daniel's seventieth week, and which will result immediately in the three and a half years of "great tribulation." This image to the beast (the head of the revived Roman empire) will be a direct challenge to God, for it gives Rome God's place of Protector of Israel. God will therefore send "a desolator," the king of the north, to overflow the land of Israel with a sudden thrust as of a whirlwind (Daniel 11:40).
One on a housetop is warned not to try to save anything from his house, but to escape immediately. If in the field, one ought not to return to his home even for necessary clothing. Such will be the rapidity of the attack. Pregnant women or mothers With nursing babies, unable to travel quickly, will be exposed to great suffering. They are told to pray that they should not be compelled to flee in the winter, nor on the Sabbath day, when travel was limited to a few miles. Of course the cities of Judah, particularly Jerusalem, will be the object of attack.
The "great tribulation" will be the most dreadful the world has ever seen or ever will see. It is called in Jeremiah 30:7 "the time of Jacob's trouble," for Israel will be the centre of it; get Revelation 3:10 speaks of this as "the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." All the world therefore will have its share in this unparalleled time of suffering. But this same verse shows that the church, having been raptured to heaven, will have no part in that hour. Except for the mercy of God in shortening those days, no flesh should be saved. For the Lord will appear in less than the full three and one half years, when many nations, gathered in Israel, will be determined to exterminate one another. While the day of grace has been lengthened far beyond any indication that Old Testament prophecy gave concerning it (now over 1950 years), the day of judgment will be shortened. This appears to be indicated inRevelation 12:6; Revelation 12:6, where the remnant of Israel, fleeing out of Jerusalem to the wilderness, will be sustained of God for 1260 days, 18 days short of the three and a half years. When the Lord appears to deliver her, she will no longer need this refuge.
Verses 23-26 need not be confined to the last three and a half years, however. No doubt through the entire seven years men claiming to be Christ will foist themselves upon the public, some showing great signs and wonders, as will be true of the anti-christ, the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 3:12). In fact, even today there are many antichrists (1 John 2:16). Even the elect must be on their guard, for the deceptions of such men are most plausible. The elect here are of course the godly elect of Israel. But the Lord has forewarned them, so that they have no proper excuse for being deceived.
There would be reports that Christ was in the desert (as though another John the Baptist): they were to refuse such reports. Others would claim that He was "in the secret chambers," that is, that He had come secretly, invisibly So-called Jehovah's Witnesses have made this wicked claim; for they had prophesied that Christ would come in 1918, then when this did not take place, they invented the contemptible deception that He had come invisibly. Other such foolish claims will yet be made, but the Lord speaks emphatically: the coming of the Son of Man in power and glory will be as the lightning shining from east to west, sudden, bright, and evident to all the world. He does not here speak of His previous coming for His saints, but that will be just as evident to all who have part in its great blessing.
This coming of verse 27 is plainly in judgment, as verse 26 confirms. "The carcass," the corrupt condition of both Israel and the nations, will draw "the eagles.," the executors of a well deserved judgment.
The immediate result of the tribulation would be the darkening of the sun and the light of the moon failing, stars failing from heaven, and the powers of the heavens being shaken. Whatever may be the precise physical disturbances indicated by these, their spiritual significance is of more importance. The light of the sun being darkened speaks of men's total ignorance of God, the supreme source of light. The moon speaks of Israel as responsible to reflect the light, but having failed utterly in this. The stars falling implies apostasy of those once professing heavenly light, but failing to the level of earthly-mindedness. "The powers of the heavens" remind us that "the heavens do rule" (Daniel 4:26); but these powers will be shaken by the most determined rebellion against God that history has seen; yet only "shaken," not disposed of; and only shaken in men's eyes, for "He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision" (Psalms 2:4).
This terrible tribulation will culminate with the sign of the most tremendous magnitude, that of which the Lord spoke to the high priest when He was a r rested, "the Son of Man sitting an the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" ( Matthew 26:64). The tribes of the land (of Israel ) will mourn (Cf. Zechariah 12:9-14; Revelation 1:7). This is the event toward which all history has looked forward, of which Enoch prophesied early in the world's history (Jude 1:14-15), the prophets also declaring it with one concerted voice. Observe however that this is totally distinct from the rapture, the truth of which was a mystery (not a subject of prophecy) before Paul was inspired to reveal it (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18); and which will take place a full seven years before this awe-inspiring revelation in power and great glory.
Verse 31 has sometimes been wrongly applied to the rapture. At the rapture the Lord will not: send His angels: He will come Himself for believers (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The trumpet will sound, but this clarion call at the rapture is intended only for the saints of God, dead and living. In contrast, angels with a great voice of a trumpet are sent to gather the elect of Israel from every direction back to their promised land, which will be at the end of the tribulation. Compare Isaiah 27:13. The feast of trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25) symbolizes this.
The parable of the fig tree connects directly with this, for the fig tree speaks of Israel returned to her land after the captivity. When brought out of Egypt, Israel was seen as a vineyard in a fruitful hill (Isaiah 5:1-7), but after the captivity is called "a fig tree planted in His vineyard" (Luke 13:6-9), for it was only a remnant that returned, and then only of Judah and Benjamin. Not bearing fruit after patient labour (of the Lord Himself on earth and of Hi s disciples in the early history of the book of Acts-- up to Chapter 7), the fig tree was cut down, and Israel has for centuries been reduced to nothing. Yet "there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again" (Job 14:7). In fact, we have already seen Israel sprouting, returning to her land, becoming a nation again. She is at least very close to putting forth leaves, so that we know that the summer of millennial blessing is not far away. The generation that sees the leaves break out on the fig tree will see the fulfilment of this blessing.
The truth of this is emphasized in verse 35. Though heaven and earth pass away, not so with the Lord's words. We have every evidence today that the time is near. Yet the day and the hour of it are reserved for divine intelligence. Many have defied this declaration by setting dates, which efforts have proven only their own folly. Though faith is watchful, expecting His coming very soon, it would be unbelief to suggest any date or time for this.
The days of Noah are likened to conditions which will exist at the time of Christ's coming as Son of Man. Before the flood men lived in indifference to what the word of God had warned, continuing eating and drinking, marrying, etc., with no attention paid to the testimony of God. Noah had warned them, but they "knew not until the flood came and took them all away." So at the coming of the Son of Man in judgment men will be taken by surprise in spite of the fact that many previous warnings have been given them.
Verses 40 and 41 show that the judgment will not be sessional, though selective. This is not the rapture, for it speaks rather of one being taken in judgment, the other left living. In each case the one is taken evidently by death. Whatever may be the means of death, the power and wisdom of the Lord is in sovereign control of this, allowing those only to die who are His enemies, while preserving the others alive, except in the case of these who will be killed as martyrs, who will inherit greater blessing in heaven (Revelation 20:4).
As the period of awesome tribulation judgment draws to its close the Lord will come, but in an hour not previously known by anyone. Therefore men are told to watch. At that time He will come as a thief , unexpected and unwelcome, so at least let men be ready. At the rapture (which is earlier) He will not come as a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:4), but for expectant believers. Verse 44 ends the Lord's consideration of Israel in this prophetic discourse, pressing the fact of His coming then as Son of Man.
From verse 45 to Ch.25:30 the subject is that of a separative judgment in connection with the professing church, no longer with Israel. The servant in verse 45 is seen therefore to be given a special trust in being set over his Lord's household, with the object of his providing food in due season. Is this not the proper character of every believer today? For all in the assembly are given gift by which to nourish one another (Ephesians 4:7). If the Lord in coming (at the rapture) finds one carrying this out faithfully, He will reward him with the blessing of setting him over all His goods. This compares with the precious dignity of reigning with Christ (Revelation 5:9-10).
On the other hand, if the servant is merely a professor of Christianity, with no heart for the Lord, he is an evil servant, who has no real faith as to the coming of the Lord. He will therefore expose his hardness of heart by ill treatment of his fellow servants (others who serve the Lord), and careless association with self-indulgent worldlings. In his case the Lord will come in judgment, not the rapture, but at a later time, unexpected nevertheless, for he will have learned nothing by the fact of believers having been taken to glory when the Lord comes at the rapture. He may have mocked at those he called hypocrites, but will be consigned to weeping and gnashing of teeth together with hypocrites, for eternity! Weeping indicates remorse, but gnashing of teeth shows there will be no repentance, but a miserable attitude of stubborn rebel lion which will find no opportunity to express itself.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 24". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19