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Matthew 24:1. To show Him the buildings of the temple.—Was that glorious house indeed to be left “desolate”? Would not the sight of its glories lead Him to recall those words of evil omen?
Matthew 24:2. See ye not all these things?—The expression, “all these things,” does not refer definitely to the buildings of the temple. It refers to these buildings only in so far as they were contingently connected with a more generic class of things, the things of dread significance to which our Saviour had been referring in some of His concluding remarks within the courts of the Gentiles. See Matthew 23:36, where the same expression occurs. It is as if He had said, “Are ye yet in the dark? Do ye not yet understand that Judaism is doomed, as a thing thoroughly effete and incurably corrupt?” etc. (Morison). There shall not be left here one stone upon another.—The remains which recent explorations have disinterred belong, all of them, to the substructures of the temple—its drains, foundations, underground passages, and the like (Plumptre).
Matthew 24:3. End of the world.—Consummation of the age (R.V. margin). When the “end of the world” is spoken of in the New Testament, the term αἰών, the present dispensation or order of things, is used, and not κόσμος, the planetary system, the created universe (Schaff). It is evident that the coming of Christ and the end of the world were closely connected in the disciples’ minds with the judgment that was about to come upon the temple and the chosen people—a connection which was right in point of fact, though wrong in point of time (Gibson). The near as well as the distant event is viewed as the coming of the Son of man.
Matthew 24:5. Deceive many.—Lead many astray (R.V.). No direct fulfilments of this prediction are recorded, either in the New Testament, or by Josephus or other historians. In the excited fanaticism of the time, however, it was likely enough that such pretenders should arise and disappear, after each had lived out his little day, and fill no place in history (Plumptre). See 1 John 2:18.
Matthew 24:6. Wars and rumours.—The forty years that intervened before the destruction of Jerusalem were full of these in all directions; but we may probably think of the words as referring specially to wars, actual or threatened, that affected the Jews—such, e.g., as those of which we read under Caligula, Claudius, and Nero (ibid.).
Matthew 24:7. Nation shall rise against nation, etc.—“Pestilences” omitted in R.V. Perhaps originally inserted in the margin, by some harmonist, from Luke 21:11. Occurrences of the character here indicated are recorded by contemporary historians. But “the passage combines in one view the whole of the various social, physical, and climatic crises of development in the whole New Testament dispensation” (Lange).
Matthew 24:11. False prophets.—At the siege of Jerusalem “false prophets suborned by the Zealots kept the people in a state of feverish excitement, as though the appointed Deliverer would still appear” (Milman). See also Acts 20:29; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 24:1-14
Until the end.—When the Lord Jesus and His disciples come away from the temple (Matthew 24:1), that conspicuous building is much in their thoughts, but in different ways. They are thinking of its beauty and grandeur. He is thinking, and tells them so, of its approaching destruction (Matthew 24:2). That leads them to think and inquire in turn about other things in the future (see Matthew 24:3). To these questions the Saviour replies by a word of warning, in the first place; a word of explanation, in the second place; a word of hope, in the end.
I. A word of warning.—The subject they ask about is not by any means an easy one. It is one, on the contrary, in regard to which they will do specially well to “take heed.” That is His first word on the point (Matthew 24:4). “Take heed that no man lead you astray” on this subject. Take heed of this, because there will always be a number of false guides in existence. Take heed of this, because such misleading teachers will usually be of very plausible bearing and look. Take heed of this, because they will succeed often in persuading men to believe them (Matthew 24:5). Such, in brief, will be the character of the days preceding the end! Such the state of things on earth until the “coming” or “appearing” of Christ. “Deceivers,” and “being deceived.” Many teaching what is erroneous. Many accepting it as correct. Those, therefore, who are in the midst of such will do well indeed to “take heed.”
II. A word of explanation.—Why is it that there will always be these many mistakes on this matter? Partly, of course, because of the usual folly and presumption of men. These will account, in most subjects, for almost any amount of both gullibility and conceit. It is never quite wise, therefore, in any subject, to accept all that one hears; or to take for granted that all things will always turn out eventually as they appear to be at the first. But still more, of course, will things tend to be thus in regard to that very novel and all but unexampled phenomenon here described as “the end.” That very title implies that it will be something such as never happened before. And that very fact, therefore, implies further that there will be unusual difficulty in discriminating (in connection with it) between the false and the real. Hence, therefore, what our Lord says here, first, in regard to the world. At one time the world will be full of cries of alarm; a general break-up will appear imminent; the “end” will seem close. Instead of which these signs will be signs only that the world is on the way to the “end” (Matthew 24:6). At another time there will be more than alarm—there will be actual conflict and strife, families of men against other families, and nature, apparently, against all. This is surely the very eve of the end (Matthew 24:7). Not at all; it is only a beginning, a first battle out of very many, the suffering which marks the first stage in development, and which is to be followed, naturally, by still more (Matthew 24:8). So, also, of what the Saviour appears to say, next, of the church. Many outward assailants, much bitter persecution—no friendliness to it anywhere—will sometimes mark its surroundings (Matthew 24:9). Also, much inward treachery—false teachers and disciples in abundance, evil-doing abounding, good-doing discouraged—will mark, at the same time, its condition (Matthew 24:11-12). Altogether, in short, things will look as though they could no longer be “endured”; and even faith itself will be inclined to say of them that they can no longer go on. Not so, however, even then must true faith conclude. These things are but reasons for further patience; not for giving all up. More still has to be “endured”—perhaps a good deal more—before the final closing of all. Happy he who knows this, and is, so, able to “wait” (Matthew 24:13; see also Revelation 6:10-11; Revelation 13:10; Revelation 14:12).
III. A word of hope.—Is there, then, no reliable way of ascertaining the approach of the “end”? There is; but it is to be sought by faith in quite another direction. Such hope is to be sought for, in the first place, in the continuance of the Word. Whatever may be the opposition to it on the part of the world, whatever the disloyalty to it on the part of organisations and “churches,” the preaching of the “gospel” (Matthew 24:14) shall never wholly cease in this “age.” Always there shall be some to know it—and some to teach it—in truth. Hope is to be sought for, in the next place, in the spread of the Word. The “whole world” is ultimately to be penetrated thereby. “All the nations” are to hear in turn of the message of the “kingdom.” And the more there is seen of this, therefore, the more evidence there will be, as well of the certainty as of the near approach, of the “end.” And especially will this be felt, therefore, when we consider, finally, what is said here about the purpose of thus spreading the Word. It is in order that the sound of its message may come as a “testimony” to all (Matthew 24:14). Every separate land is to hear those tidings which were meant for all from the first. No nation is to be left without this “witness” of the love and mercy of God; no nation to be without its opportunity of hearing of salvation through Christ. The inference seems irresistible. When the last nation has had its opportunity, the day of opportunity will be over. When the day of grace has been thus extended to all, it will not be far from its close. This, we say, is the natural inference. The Saviour Himself also here solemnly tells us the same. “Then shall the end come!” “Then shall the end have come.” So it might be translated.
This view of the “age” sets before us:—
1. The sad depravity of mankind.—What a succession of pictures—of apparent disappointments—is here! What opposition and rebellion on the one side! Centuries of appeal, centuries of contempt, on the part of the world. What weakness and unwisdom on the other! Centuries of trust, centuries of coming short of it, to say nothing more, on the part of the church! The very “salt of the earth” continually tending to corruption and death!
2. The wonderful patience of God.—Bearing with all this so as to call forth (as we have seen from the descriptions given and the passages quoted) the continual astonishment of the church. Rarely, indeed, would even the people of God have been as God Himself in this matter.
3. The absolute certainty of the end.—This miracle of forbearance, in the nature of things, cannot always go on. The longer it endures, on the contrary, the surer, evidently, its close. How can God allow His own designs always to be thwarted? Or His own people always to be oppressed? Or His own Son always to be disappointed, waiting for His crown? Such never-ending delay, in a word, would differ little from falseness itself. A thing, here, not to be thought of (Titus 1:2).
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 24:2. The destruction of Jerusalem.—It was not merely the destruction of a city, but the close of a dispensation—the end of that great ago which began with the call of Abraham to come out from Ur of the Chaldees, and be the father of a people chosen of the Lord. It was “the end of the world” (cf. R.V., Matthew 24:3, margin) to the Jews, the end of the world which then was, the passing away of the old to give place to the new. It was the event which bore the same relation to the Jews as the Flood did to the antediluvians, which was emphatically the end of the world to them. If we bear this in mind, it will enable us to appreciate the tremendous importance assigned to this event wherever it is referred to in the sacred Scriptures, and especially in this momentous chapter.—J. M. Gibson, D.D.
Matthew 24:6. Consolation during pestilence.—“See that ye be not troubled,” for:—
I. National calamities work out God’s purposes.
II. Ye are in God’s hands.—“It is appointed unto men once to die.” “All the day’s of my appointed time,” etc. “Every man is immortal until his work is done.” Not fatalism but Providence is the doctrine of the New Testament.
III. Trouble does no good, but much harm (Psalms 91:6).
IV. God gives you the means of safety.—T. R. Stevenson.
Matthew 24:11. False teachers.—
1. Christians may be tempted to defection by their own teachers, who, ere people be aware, may make defection themselves, and then fall to seduce the people. “Many false prophets shall arise.”
2. This sort of temptation is ready to prevail with people, and to draw such away whom open persecution could not drive from the truth; for, it is said, “They shall deceive many,” because disputation and opposition against the truth (for which we are called to suffer), by our own teachers, when they begin to swerve from the truth, is a harder onset against a man’s faith than when fire and sword are threatened, in the case of a cause clear and not questioned by our teachers.—David Dickson.
Matthew 24:12. The weakening of love.—
1. Honest men do suffer much in their estimation, when the hypocrisy of hypocrites is discovered; for iniquity abounding breedeth mutual suspicion of one another’s sincerity, a man not knowing whom to trust, when by outbreaking of much iniquity he findeth many to be false.
2. When abounding iniquity breedeth much jealousy, as mutual esteem and confidence are weakened, so is mutual love diminished.
3. This is a sore trial when, beside the common adversary, the godly do grow suspicious one of another, and dare not trust one another, and so do grow cold in their love to one another.—Ibid.
Matthew 24:13. Final perseverance not inevitable.—When our Lord says that none can pluck from the Father’s hand those who are His, He does not say that they who are His may not themselves break or fall away from Him. The grace of God does not make our final perseverance inevitable. It makes it possible, probable, morally certain if you will, but morally and not mechanically certain. God who has made us free respects the freedom which He has given us. He does not crush it even by His own merciful gifts; and grace no more absolutely assures heaven than does natural will or the force of habit conquer the road to it. What are the causes which make endurance to the end difficult in so very many Christian lives?
I. “The persecution that ariseth because of the Word.”—Persecution is in any case friction; and friction, if only it be continued long enough, brings movement to a standstill, until there be a new supply of the impelling force.
II. The false Christs and the false prophets.—Our faith is undermined by people who talk and write in the very best English, and who have so much about them that is winning and agreeable that we cannot believe what is really going on. We cannot go on breathing a bad air, and be as we were when we lived high up on the mountain, unless we take very great precautions.
III. Then there is the weariness which steals over thought and heart with the lapse of time.—Human faculties, after all, are finite. They spend themselves and they fall back into lassitude and exhaustion. After great experiences, there is—I do not say a relapse, but a condition of less keenness of insight, less tension of will, less warmth of affection, less conscious effort of intelligence and of sanctified passion; and lookers-on say that the excitement has passed, and that commonsense has resumed its sway, and the soul, too, knows that something has passed from it—inevitably, no doubt, from the nature of the case. And with this knowledge there comes depression; and this depression is in its way a trial, permitted, as we may believe, in order to make our service of God more unselfish than it would be if it were sustained throughout life by an uninterrupted sense of ecstasy. But it is a trial under which some men have failed. And then it may be the case that all is lost, and that perseverance is forfeited.
IV. And once more there is the trifling with conscience, not necessarily in great matters, but in a number of little matters—omission of morning and evening prayers, or their curtailment; neglect of a regular review of conscience; carelessness as to the objects upon which money is spent, and as to the proportion in which it is given to works of religion and mercy; recklessness in intercourse with others, especially if they are younger or less well informed. These and like matters help forward and dull the inoperative condition of conscience, which is in itself preparatory to a great failure. Perseverance is likely to be secured by three things especially:
(1) by a sense of constant dependence on God;
(2) by prayer for perseverance;
(3) by keeping the mind fixed as much as possible on the end of life and on that which follows it.—Canon Liddon.
Matthew 24:14. The preaching of the gospel.—I. It is called the “gospel of the kingdom,” because it reveals the kingdom of grace, which leads to the kingdom of glory; sets up Christ’s kingdom in this world, and secures ours in the other world.
II. This gospel, sooner or later, is to be preached in all the world, to every creature, and all nations discipled by it; for in it Christ is to be salvation to the ends of the earth; for this end the gift of tongues was the first-fruits of the Spirit.
III. The gospel is preached “for a witness unto all nations”; that is, a faithful declaration of the mind and will of God concerning the duty which God requires from man, and the recompense which man may expect from God. It is a record (1 John 5:11); it is a witness for those who believe, that they shall be saved; and against those who persist in unbelief, that they shall be damned.—M. Henry.
The end.—“Then shall the end come.”
1. When the gospel has been preached to all the world.
(1) As a witness unto it.
(2) As a witness against it: a savour of life or death.
2. When the fulness of the Gentiles is come in.
1. God’s faithfulness demands it, in aid of His church, endangered by worldliness (Matthew 24:12).
2. Iniquity demands it.—“Lawlessness” shall abound. “Where the carcase is,” etc.
1. Suddenly, as a thief in the night.
2. By cosmic irregularities; powers of nature shaken.—Proctor’s “Gems of Thought.”
Matthew 24:15. The abomination of desolation.—I.e. “the abomination that maketh desolate,” “the act of sacrilege, which is a sign and a cause of desolation.” What special act of sacrilege is referred to cannot be determined for certain. The expression may refer
(1) To the besieging army. Cf. the parallel passage in Luke, “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies.” Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr., translatesDaniel 9:27; Daniel 9:27 in this sense: “Until the wing (or army) of abominations shall make desolate.”
(2) The Roman eagles; the E.V. margin, Daniel 9:27 reads: “Upon the battlements shall be the idols of the desolator.”
(3) The excesses of the Zealots. See Jos., B. J., IV. vi. 3 (Carr). The holy place.—The temple. Whoso readeth, etc.—See R.V. Evidently the words of the Evangelist and not of the Lord.
Matthew 24:16. Flee into the mountains.—The great body of Christians took refuge at Pella in Peræa. Eusebius, H. E., III. 5.
Matthew 24:17. Not come down.—A person could make his escape, passing from roof to roof, till at the last house he would descend the stairs that led down its outside, without having entered any building (Edersheim).
Matthew 24:18. Clothes.—Cloke (R.V.). The outer garment; the field labourer would work in the short tunic only.
Matthew 24:20. The Sabbath day.—Living as the Christians of Judæa did in the strict observance of the law, they would either be hindered by their own scruples from going beyond a Sabbath day’s journey (about one English mile), which would be insufficient to place them out of the reach of danger, or would find impediments—gates shut, and the like—from the Sabbath observance of others (Plumptre).
Matthew 24:21. Great tribulation.—No words can describe the unequalled horrors of this siege. 1,100,000 Jews perished; 100,000 were sold into slavery. With the fall of Jerusalem Israel ceased to exist as a nation. It was truly the end of an æon (Carr).
Matthew 24:22. No flesh.—The warfare with foes outside the city, and the faction-fights and massacres within, would have caused, had they been protracted further, an utter depopulation of the whole country (Plumptre). For the elect’s sake.—Those who, as believers in Jesus, were the “remnant” of the visible Israel, and therefore the true Israel of God. It was for the sake of the Christians of Judæa, not for that of the rebellious Jews, that the war was not protracted (ibid.). Shall be shortened.—Several circumstances concurred to shorten the duration of the siege, such as the scanty supply of provisions, the crowded state of the city, the internal dissensions, and the abandonment of important defences (Carr).
Matthew 24:27. As the lightning.—The idea is that of universal self-manifestation (Morison).
Matthew 24:28. Carcase … eagles.—Vultures (R.V. margin). As the carcase everywhere attracts the carrion-eaters, so do moral corruption and ripened guilt everywhere demand the judgment (Lange).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 24:15-28
A partial ending.—“The end is not yet.” “The end” cannot come till all nations have heard the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 24:6; Matthew 24:14). This is certainly true in the widest sense of the words. It is not an argument, all the same, against the possibility of a narrower and preliminary interpretation thereof. There is an expression, on the contrary, towards the beginning of the present passage (“Let him that readeth understand”), which seems to indicate the reverse. In the details of the passage itself, also, there are certain things which look the same way. Some of these do so, on the one hand, by the apparent exclusiveness; of their character. Others do so, on the other hand, by the apparent conclusiveness of their fit.
I. Their singular exclusiveness.—This is noticeable, in the first instance, in regard to the question of place. That which is now in view, e.g., affects “Judæa,” but not the neighbouring “mountain” (Matthew 24:16, R.V.). Also the “house,” but not the “house-top,” nor yet the neighbouring “field.” Also, apparently, only that part of Judæa which is within actual sight or easy report of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15; cf. Luke 21:20). Everything, in short, appears to be even studiously limited from the point of view of locality. Much the same seems true, next, from the standpoint of nearness of time. The things about to be hereafter in that restricted locality, are spoken of as being much as they were at that time when the Saviour was speaking. Just the same questions, e.g., which then affected the men of Judæa—questions of family life, of the nature and character of the seasons, of Sabbath-day observance—would be affecting them then; and affecting themselves also, to whom He was speaking, in their own persons and lives—so the language seems to imply (Matthew 24:19-20). The same appears to be true, lastly, as to the question of duration. For one thing, the “tribulation” in prospect was not to go on for ever. Not to go on even to its natural term—so it seems to be implied. That fearful trial, on the contrary, was to be “cut short” on account of the very fearfulness of its nature (Matthew 24:22). For, had it gone on, it would, necessarily, on that very account, have wrought a “full end.” And that was not, by any means, what was intended at present. Not a “full end” of the “age.” Not a “full end” of that “elect” race so specially visited by it (Matthew 24:22; Psalms 105:6; Psalms 106:5). Not of that elect “race,” for the sake of that “elect remnant” of it, which was never wholly to perish (Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5; Romans 11:28). In all these ways, therefore, this part of the chapter seems to take us away from what is broadest, and to confine our attention to that which is, in every way, on a limited scale. Not far off in place—not far off in time—not long in duration, because of its very intensity: these seem to be the three principal lines of the tribulation it describes.
II. The singular conclusiveness of some of these future details. Though plainly thus on a much smaller scale, this preliminary “ending” will nevertheless show itself to be an ending, by having in it many of the same features as the great ending itself. One of these has to do with the concomitants of the visitation in question. In certain latitudes and states of the atmosphere the appearance of the sun is usually marked by the appearance of mock-suns as well. Something the same is true in connection with every special “appearing” of the Light of the world. Men think they see Him, when He is about to appear, even where He is not (Matthew 24:23-24; cf. Luke 3:15). Another detail has to do with the special manner of manifestation described. Here we are looking at it from the side of its glory. The visitation spoken of, whatever its limitations and nature in other respects, is not to be a thing “in a corner.” It is not to be seen only by those afar off, where few men are to be found. Not to be discovered only by those within walls, like so many of the discoveries of science. It is rather to be like that flash of the lightning, which even the least observant, be they where they may, cannot prevent themselves from observing (Matthew 24:25; Matthew 24:27; also Luke 17:20). And another feature yet has to do with the occasion of the manifestation now meant. Here we are looking at it from the side of judgment. It is when the “transgressors have come to the full”; when “the iniquity of the Amorites” is complete; when Noah has stepped into the ark; when Lot has left Sodom behind him, that God is found to visit in judgment (See Daniel 8:23; Genesis 15:16; Luke 17:27; Luke 17:29). The same rule exactly is to hold good in the kind of ending meant here. Only where there is, as it were, a dead body already, will the birds that feed on it come (Matthew 24:28).
From the points thus noted we may see, in conclusion:—
1. That there is much reason for putting a specially Jewish interpretation on this part of the chapter, and regarding it as predicting that visitation of judgment which brought about the destruction of Jerusalem some forty years from this date. Certainly this would answer to what we have seen as to express narrowness of locality, nearness of time, and limitation of duration. Certainly, also, we know that there were false Christs enough about then; and that the visitation was conspicuous enough in its character; and that Judæa and Jerusalem, when the Christians had fled from them, had become like a “dead body” indeed from a spiritual point of view. So far, therefore, it may very well be that the Saviour had this in view in this place.
2. That there is some reason for not strictly confining the passage to this. In looking at the nearer the eye can hardly avoid seeing something of the farther as well. The like will be true of the tongue which attempts to describe it. As a rule, it will say that which applies to the nearer alone. As an exception, it may say some things which apply to the farther as well—perhaps, we may add, in all their fulness, to the farther alone. If this appear true in the present instance, the patient student will not consider it an argument for rejecting either interpretation, but for combining the two in their way. And this, even though there may still be some uncertainty with regard to that “way.”
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 24:15. The abomination of desolation in the Holy Place.—
1. God hath instruments at His pleasure to destroy strongest cities, and can make those whom men abhor most to be the instrument of their destruction.
2. Lest the faithful should still dote upon the ceremonies of the law, and figurative shadows, after the Messiah’s coming, it was very needful that the city and temple both, whereunto the sacrifices and chief ceremonies were restricted, should be destroyed and abolished, as the prophet Daniel had foretold.
3. For understanding the Word of God when it is read, careful attention, and all means of knowledge must be used. “Let him that readeth understand.”—David Dickson.
Matthew 24:16-22. Counsels and warnings.—
1. When the Lord is to pour out His wrath on a place, if, all circumstances being considered, a man shall find it both lawful and possible to withdraw himself from that place, it is wisdom to be gone (Matthew 24:16).
2. If the judgment overtake a man so suddenly as there is no time nor means given to escape, then let men lay by all thought of worldly goods, and bestow their minds and time on that which is most needful; that is, for preparation unto death (Matthew 24:17).
3. In such a case, if a man with the loss of all he hath can have his life for a prey he fareth well (Matthew 24:18).
4. In the time of general calamities, God’s ordinary benefits make a man more miserable than if he wanted them, as children, riches and honour; when they must now be gone, and can give no more comfort unto us, then are they matter of our woe (Matthew 24:19).
5. Troubles may be mitigated by prayer unto God, who can dispose means of deliverance, and can mix the cup of our grief, so as our misery may be more endurable (Matthew 24:20).
6. God’s judgment upon despisers of the gospel, and rejecters of mercy offered in Christ are most severe; therefore the destruction of Jerusalem was of all calamities that ever came upon a people the most lamentable (Matthew 24:21).
7. In most confused and calamitous times the Lord hath a care of His own elect, and remembereth mercy towards them in the midst of wrath (Matthew 24:22).—Ibid.
Matthew 24:23. Warnings against false guides.—
1. As the main danger of the church is from seducers, who shall strive to divert men from the true Christ, so their main care should be to see that their faith do not miscarry. Therefore, saith Christ, “believe it not” if another Christ be offered unto you.
2. As at all times, so chiefly in times of trouble, Satan studies to delude men with pretences of saviours and salvation, which are not real, because in time of trouble men are most ready to receive anything which doth promise relief or release, and so to embrace delusions instead of Divine help. Therefore it is said, “Then”—that is, when the trouble is great—will it be said, “Lo, here is Christ.”
3. After our Lord’s ascension neither is another Christ to be expected, nor the true Christ to be found bodily and locally present in any place on the earth.—Ibid.
Matthew 24:25. Warnings must be heeded.—
1. The Lord’s forewarning of the danger from false prophets should stir up all to be the more watchful, and it shall make men inexcusable if they shall be seduced.
2. The doctrine of election doth not give warrant unto security, but should be made use of for diligence and watchfulness.
3. This forewarning showeth that, albeit the elect shall not be altogether, and without recovery, deceived, yet they may be so far mistaken, as it had been good they had watched. Much sin and misery may befall a man by not watching, albeit at length he may be brought forth of it. “Behold, I have told you before” maketh the Lord free of what ill unwatchfulness may let in.—David Dickson.
Matthew 24:28. The carcase and the vultures.—The figure gives a profound and strong expression of:—
I. The necessity of judgment.
II. The inevitableness of judgment.
III. The universality of judgment.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
The law of Divine judgment.—This illustrates:—
I. The suddenness, the usefulness, and the necessity of judgment.—Inevitable, swift, unerring as the vulture’s descent on the carcase, is the judgment-coming of the Son of man to corrupt communities and corrupted men.
II. The law of judgment.—It is this: Wherever there is entire moral corruption, there is final punishment; wherever there is partial corruption there is remedial punishment. God in His capacity as Governor of the world, as Educator of mankind, is bound to destroy corruption. It is necessary that the vultures should devour the carcase, lest it pollute the air and breed a pestilence. It is necessary that corrupted nations should be blotted out, lest they infect the world with evil which may delay the whole progress of mankind. And our sense of justice goes with the destruction. Nor, when we are wise, do we think that such justice shows want of love.—S. A. Brooke, D.D.
Matthew 24:29. Immediately.—But immediately (R.V.). A prophecy resembles a landscape painting, which marks distinctly the houses, paths, and bridges in the foreground, but brings together, into a narrow space, the distant valleys and mountains, though they are really far apart (Bengel). Sun … moon … stars … powers.—The solar light of Christ’s truth shall be dimmed, the lunar orb of the church shall be obscured by heresy and unbelief, and some who once shone brightly as stars in the firmament of the church shall fall from their place (Wordsworth). Our Lord speaks here in language as essentially apocalyptic as that of the Revelation of St. John (Revelation 8:12), and it lies in the very nature of such language that it precludes a literal interpretation. The words are better left in their dim and terrible vagueness (Plumptre).
Matthew 24:30. The sign of the Son of man.—Some say a visible cross; others the presence of the Son of man Himself (Daniel 7:13). Lange says, “It is the shining glory of the manifestation in general as distinct from the personal manifestation itself.” Whatever it shall be “when it appears, its import will be instantly recognised by the faithful” (Carr).
Matthew 24:31. A great sound of a trumpet.—Omit “sound” on high MS. authority, translate: with a great trumpet. The image would be suggestive to the Jews, who were called together in the camp by silver trumpets (Numbers 10:2 fol.). Moreover, the great festivals, the commencement of the year, and other celebrations, were announced by trumpets (Carr).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 24:29-31
A wider ending.—“After the tribulation of those days” there ariseth another. This seems to signify that that other tribulation shall be of a different kind. The description which follows carries out that idea. The “appearing” or “coming” of which it speaks is to be unlike that spoken of before in two cardinal ways. Unlike, first, in regard to the signs which precede it. Unlike, secondly, in regard to the effects which follow it up.
I. The signs which precede.—This is true, on the one hand, in regard to the place of their appearance. The sign spoken of in the former case, was a sign upon earth—something standing where it ought not in the temple on earth (Matthew 24:15). All the signs spoken of in this case are connected with “heaven.” The one, therefore, had to do only with the “place of God’s feet” (Isaiah 60:13). The others were concerned with what He speaks of as His “throne” (Acts 7:49). Also, these latter “signs” are to be connected with all that is specially great in the heavens—the “sun” that gives us our days; the “moon” by which we measure our seasons; the “stars” which guide us at night. Also, once more, in these signs, these glories are shown us with all their glory gone, as it were. The sun is shorn of its brightness, the moon is deprived of its beauty; the stars are losing their place. Everything in heaven, in a word, which had previously spoken to men of stability and rule (Psalms 119:89-91), shall then be speaking of disorder and ruin. There was even greater difference, on the other hand, in regard to the significance of these signs. The “abomination of desolation in the Holy Place” (Matthew 24:15), meant very much—even the presence of that which was detestable instead of that which was acceptable, and of that which destroyed instead of that which protected and blessed. But the “sign of the Son of man in heaven” (Matthew 24:30), must mean very much more. More in the way of direction—it points to that great One Himself, who is to be the Judge of mankind (John 5:22; Acts 17:31, etc.). More in the way of distinction—it is so connected with that great One as nothing else had previously been, and so is to be seen by all, and also understood by all, as “the sign” of Himself. Its nature now, in a word, it is difficult to surmise. Its significance then, it will be impossible either to overrate or to miss. Evidently, therefore, in regard to this “coming,” we are, on all these accounts, in a far higher atmosphere than in that contemplated before.
II. The effects which follow.—These are such as to correspond in every way to the comparative greatness of the signs. In the way, first, of extent. The sign in the temple was a sign to one people and creed; only therefore, to those, and not, even so, to them all. These other signs, being signs in “heaven,” are signs to mankind; and all, therefore, who belong to mankind, are affected thereby. “All the tribes of the earth,” and not one tribe only, know of them now (Matthew 24:30). In the way, next, of emotion. All are “mourning” (ibid.); and mourning openly, so the description implies, as though “cutting” themselves in their sorrow. In the way, after that, of manifestation. The Lord Himself (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16)—the face and form of the evident Representative of the whole of mankind—in those “clouds” which are the “dust of His feet” (Nahum 1:3), and with every accompaniment that tells of greatness and majesty—shall be seen then by all eyes (Matthew 24:30). In the way, finally, of division. Up till then, the good fish and the bad, the tares and the wheat, the believers and the hypocrites, will be more or less mingled, if not in God’s sight, in the eyes of mankind (2 Timothy 3:16-17). From that time, when this Judge of all is thus manifested, that condition of things is no more. Now the “angels” go forth with another “trumpet” than that of the gospel. Now where those other messengers had gone previously to bear “witness” (Matthew 24:14) these come to divide. And that, moreover, as also those others previously, in all parts of the world (Matthew 24:31). In a word, universal separation—total separation—final separation—is the last “effect” that follows these “signs.” And the last argument, therefore, that goes to prove this “ending” to be the ending of all.
In all this we see much ground, on the one hand, for comfort and hope. When “the end” comes, we see, plainly, what an end it will be! How clear its tokens! How wide its influence! How penetrating its power! How total its changes! How abiding its issues! “Behold, I make all things new!” What hope can be better than this, if that which is “old” be as described in this chapter? See before Matthew 24:1-14.
Much ground, on the other hand, for patience and modesty. For patience. Those who have such a future before them can well afford to wait. In this sense, as well as others, “he that believeth shall not make haste.” For modesty—in not attempting to forecast all that shall follow the end. The very glory of the prospect before us prevents us from foreseeing it clearly. Who can possibly imagine what is to be when “all” things are made “new”? Will it not most likely be different from anything ever dreamed of before? And none the less desirable, but all the more so, on that very account?
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 24:30. Christ’s glorious appearing at the end of the world.—Consider:—
I. What the glory is in which the Lord Jesus Christ will appear at the end of the world.—
1. In His own glory, as Mediator, which He entered into when He ascended, as the reward of His sufferings and death (Ephesians 1:20-23). In His own glory, as Judge of all, unto whom they must bow, and from whom they must receive their final doom (Philippians 2:10-11).
2. In the glory of His Father.—That is, in the glory of the Godhead. His Father and He are one, and so their glory is one. This glory was veiled in His humiliation, by His human nature.
3. In the glory of all the mighty angels.—(Matthew 25:31). The whole court of heaven shall attend upon the Judge of the world, that they may be present with Him at this great act.
II. Some things which evidence the greatness of this glory in which Jesus Christ will come.—You may form some idea of it, from some preceding appearances upon lesser occasions. How great was the glory He appeared in when He gave the law upon Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-18)! When He was transfigured! When He appeared to Paul on His way to Damascus!
III. Why the Lord Jesus will come the second time in so great glory.—
1. As a recompense to Him for His abasement.
2. To beget a great reverence and awe in all who are to be judged by Him.
3. That all the world may see it, and His people thereby be made glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:13), and that His enemies may see what they have lost by being shut out from the sight and enjoyment of this glory.
4. That He may carry home His saints as His bride with greater state and solemnity, unto His Father’s house, where He hath prepared mansions for them.—Anon.
Matthew 24:34. Be fulfilled.—The words do not necessarily imply more than the commencement of a process, the first unrolling of the scroll of the coming ages (Plumptre).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 24:32-35
The certainty of the end.—The more wonderful the character of any announcement, the greater the demand it makes on our faith; and the greater the degree, therefore, to which our faith in it stands in need of support. Our Saviour seems to recognise this in the passage before us. Wonderful is that great consummation of change of which He had just spoken. All things are to become different from what they are now (Matthew 24:30-31). This is difficult to believe—the more difficult because of the length of time in which they have gone on as they are (cf. 2 Peter 3:4). To meet this thought the Saviour speaks the parable now before us—in which He will be found to draw our attention, after the manner of parables, first, to certain familiar natural facts; and, secondly, to certain important spiritual verities which are illustrated thereby.
I. The natural facts.—These are found in the general region of vegetable life and development. “Behold the fig-tree and all the trees” (Luke 21:29). See how things are among them. These are exemplified, next, in the region in question, in one particular instance. “From the fig-tree learn her parable” (Matthew 24:32, R.V.). Few trees are better known or more valued than this. In this, therefore, you may see, as well with ease as with especial significance, what I ask you to note. Also, in this example, see, next, the special phenomena which I ask you to note—how the fig-tree, as the seasons come round, changes in appearance and condition, and puts forth its leaves and its buds, and then produces its pleasant fruits. Also, how she begins to do this—when summer is near—even before we see other indications of summer’s approach, and so proves, to those who observe this, that the breath of summer is already stirring within her; and that summer itself, therefore, is on its way to us already, and will be fully amongst us before very long. And this we argue, be it observed yet further, because of what we know of the year and its seasons, and of the unvarying order and regularity with which God has long ago appointed—and still brings about—the successions of day and night, and summer and winter, and seed-time and harvest (Genesis 8:22). On this same order, indeed, we rely with such certainty, that we speak with certainty of all it implies—of the speedy coming of summer; of its effects on the trees; of the sequence of these effects; of those to come first; of those to succeed; of the whole procession of events, in a word. Insomuch that when we see the first of them, we feel as sure of the rest of them as though we saw them as well. Also, sure of them, yet further and finally, within a very brief time. “We know that summer is nigh.”
II. The spiritual verities to which these familiar facts are applied. First of all, in the direction of sphere. The God of nature is the God of history too. As He does in the one case, so in the other as well. As He orders the fields and the gardens, so He administers nations and churches. As with the fig-tree, so with higher growths also. Next, in the direction of the causes at work. These are as secret to us in the one case as they are in the other. We cannot see the influences which are operating in the trees, in the spring-time, to alter their condition and look. Neither can we see the forces at work, in certain stages of the history of communities of mankind, to change their condition and look. We see the results only, not their origins; what is external only, not what is working within. At the same time, in these external consequences we see, in both cases, on this very account, what are tokens and signs. Such a change, for example, in the one case, as the appearance of buds on a fig-tree is a sign that forces are at work there which will bring about other like changes of greater magnitude before long. In other words, they are the results of the agitation of nature at the nearer approach of the sun. So with those changes in the appearance of human societies at certain critical seasons in their experience of those things of which the Saviour had spoken above (Matthew 24:29-30). That obscuring of the bright, and displacing of the high, and unsettling of what had long been stable, of which He there speaks, are things which, when they come to pass, mean much more than themselves. They are evidences of forces at work which will produce greater results in their turn. In one word, they are the unconscious agitations of society at the approach of its Maker. Consequently, as before, they are not only assurances of certainty, but of swiftness as well. The season that sees the “bud” sees also the “fruit.” The “generation” that sees the beginning sees also the “end” (Matthew 24:33-34). When the Son of man is thus “at the doors,” He will soon be inside them. When once inside them He will soon finish His work. Cf. Romans 9:28; 1 Samuel 3:12; Proverbs 29:1, etc., etc.
We see from these things, in conclusion, and that in an eminently cogent and striking manner:—
1. How to look on this world.—The present condition of things around us is a mere interregnum—a period of transition—having the seeds in it of its own passing away—something as “mortal” as we ourselves. That very feature in it which leads some to think otherwise is the strongest proof of this truth. “All things” for the present “continue as they were” (2 Peter 3:4), because the “season” for changing them has not arrived. As it were, it is “winter” with them at present; the Sun is away. There could not be a better proof that they will begin to be altered the moment the Sun begins to approach; and that they will be altered indeed then, and altered swiftly; and altered finally too.
2. How to look on Christ’s word.—As the only stable thing we know of; stable indeed; stable for ever, immovable itself, and therefore moving everything else. See Isaiah 40:6-8; 1 Peter 1:23-25. Hence also the derived stability of those who are conformed to that will (1 John 2:17).
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 24:32-33. Signs in the kingdoms of nature and grace.—
I. One God who is King of both.
II. He sends signs of natural changes and of moral events.
III. At signs in nature men prepare; much more should they make spiritual preparation for the greater event.
IV. The natural sign speaks of the faithfulness of the God of nature; so the moral sign speaks of His faithfulness as God of grace and King of glory.—J. C. Gray.
Matthew 24:35. The perpetuity of the words of Christ.—
I. Here we have a fair and bold comparison of two things: one which seems the slightest and most evanescent you can think of; another which seems the very ideal of all that is substantial and durable. Here are on the one side a few words, and on the other side the great solid world. Yet the Saviour dares the comparison. He invites the comparison between the endurance of the words He utters and the endurance of the stars, the earth, and the ocean.
II. It is approaching towards two thousand years since the days of Christ’s three years’ ministry on earth.—Though no magic was impressed on the syllables which flowed from the lips of the Redeemer to arrest their natural passing away, still it is true and certain that they have not passed away, and cannot pass away while the world stands. For one thing, they have not passed away, in this sense—that when they were spoken the simple narrative of the Evangelists took and perpetuated them; and in these four Gospels we have the words of Christ preserved.
III. But it is a little thing to say that Christ’s words were perpetuated on paper.—We should not set much store by the fact that upon printed pages by millions and millions the words of our Redeemer have outlived the storms and the wear of ages; we should not mind much about that if it stood by itself; but take it with this, that these words are so marvellously adapted to the needs of our immortal nature that those who have once felt their power would feel it was parting with life to part with them. Earthquakes, deluges, might sweep this world, but you must unpeople it before the words of Christ could pass away from it.
IV. Though the last Bible perished, as perish it may in the wreck and ruin of this world, though the blessed words of Jesus were to do what they never can—fade away utterly from the remembrance of the glorified soul—even then these words would live on in the effects they had produced.—A. Boyd, D.D.
Matthew 24:36. But of that day and hour, etc.—“Neither the Son” is introduced in the R.V. Dr. Morison says, that though not in the great body of the MSS., these words were probably in the autograph of Matthew. They are found in the three oldest MSS., the Sinaitic, the Vatican, and Cambridge, and in many copies of the Old Latin Version; as also in the Harclean Syriac, and the Æthiopic and Armenian Versions. “The eternal Word in becoming flesh ‘emptied Himself’ (Philippians 2:7) of the infinity which belongs to the Divine attributes, and took upon Him the limitations necessarily incidental to man’s nature, even when untainted by evil and in fullest fellowship, through the Eternal Spirit, with the Father” (Plumptre).
Matthew 24:40. The one shall be taken, etc.—See R.V. The day of judgment will be, as by an inevitable law, a day of separation, according to the diversity of character which may exist in the midst of the closest fellowship in outward life (Plumptre).
Matthew 24:41. Grinding at a mill.—Two women sit at the mill facing each other; both having hold of the handle by which the upper is turned round on the nether millstone (Thomson).
Matthew 24:43. Broken up.—Broken through (R.V.). The houses were built largely of mud.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 24:36-51
The uncertainty of the end.—We ought to know the season, we cannot know the moment, of the “appearing” of Christ. So the Saviour teaches us here. “Of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the Son Himself,” in a sense (Matthew 24:36). How will the appearing of Christ, in consequence, come on the world? How should the thought of it, meanwhile, tell on the church?
I. How it will come on the world.—It will come on it, first, while men, as a rule, are thinking of everything else. The story of Noah and the deluge is an illustration of this. Coming on men as that did in almost total disbelief of his warnings (we read of no one outside his own family believing in them at all) it found the men of that day thinking of everything else. They were full of engagements which all took for granted that there was nothing to interrupt them at hand (Matthew 24:38-39; cf. also Luke 17:28, “they planted, they builded”). And they were doing this to the very verge of the visitation itself. They did not believe in the flood till they found it had come, and never thought of it until it swept them away. Even so would it be, the Saviour declares here, with regard to His “coming.” What had been true of the type would be true of the antitype also. What had happened in Noah’s day would happen also in His. Not till that “door,” also, was being “shut” (Genesis 7:16; Matthew 25:10) would men see it was open. That day when it comes will find men, also, as they are to remain. Men will be found differing then, as they differ now, about the things of the kingdom. Although as a rule then they will not be thinking of the approaching appearing of Christ, there will be some among them who do. There will be some, then, in short, who “love His appearing,” although most others do not. These differing classes, also, will be found at that time, even as they are now, much mingled together. Just as now, in one “field” there may be “two men,” or, now, at “one mill” there may be “two women,” who are as far asunder in heart on this question of Christ’s appearing as they are near together in person, so will it also be then. But so, on the other hand, on that day of days, it will not continue to be any longer. That day, on the contrary, shall for ever separate these “unequally yoked” ones. And shall separate them also, be it further observed, to wholly separate lots. Those who are “left” are not left to be saved! Only those “taken” are taken to life. There is no intermingling, there is no re-arrangement, after that date!
II. How the knowledge of these things should tell on the church.—How it should tell on them, first, as to what they should do. They should use the information thus given them about the end in order to be prepared for it when it comes. It was even so, of course, that in regard to all things of importance, all men of sense would proceed. No householder, e.g., who had received information as to the time when the housebreaker intended to visit him, would fail to make use of it in getting thoroughly prepared for his visit (Matthew 24:43). Even so must they act in regard to that day which was to “come as a thief.” Having been so expressly told this they must make use of this knowledge so as to be “prepared” for that day. And since it might come any day they must be prepared for it every day, as the only way to make sure (Matthew 24:44). This same knowledge should show them, next, why they ought to do thus. They ought to do so, on the one hand, as a question of duty. The knowledge thus imparted to them, and the capacity bestowed on them by means of which they were enabled to realise both its importance and truth, were not things given them for their own advantage alone. They were more than a privilege. They were also a trust. And they were bound, therefore, to use these things for the benefit of others as well (Matthew 24:45; 1 Peter 4:10). And nothing, they might rely on it, would be more pleasing to their Master, and therefore more “blessed” for them, than to be found doing so at the end. Let them be always “ready,” therefore, if they would be ever doing what was best for themselves (Matthew 24:46-47). Let them think of this also, on the other hand, even as a question of life. This duty was one which could only be neglected by them at their uttermost peril. Not thus to do was to do the opposite in effect. Not to impart thus to others was in practice to rob them. Not to argue from the uncertainty of the hour of Christ’s coming in the way of obedience was to go in the way of rebellion (Matthew 24:48). It were hard to say, therefore, whether there was more of treachery or of presumption in such conduct; or anything more truly deserving the worst doom of which we hear in God’s Word. It would almost seem, in a word, as though not to be hoping for, and so not to be ready for, the appearing of Christ, was to be in a position in which we can expect nothing from it but ill.
How worse than valueless are the predictions of men!—Practically the voice of the antediluvian world was a prophecy in opposition to the preaching of Noah. The like is true of the voice of the world since, in regard to the preaching of Christ. We know what became of that earlier “voice.” We know what is to become of the other. The louder it cries, and the longer it lasts, and the more “prophets” it comes from, only the more manifest, at the last day, will be its falseness and shame. The revelation of this truth is almost as old as our race (Jude 1:14-15; see also Romans 3:4; Romans 3:19).
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 24:37-39. The Flood.—
I. How universal the doom.
II. How marvellous the general apathy.
III. Safety only in the ark.
IV. Christ our ark.—J. C. Gray.
Matthew 24:40-41. Diversity in character.—The world’s work will be going on then as now; there is also the thought of a real separation in this life beneath an external sameness.—A. Carr, M.A.
Matthew 24:42. Christian watching.—I. In Christian watching there is implied a vigorous exercise of a Christian conscience.—
1. When we wish to quicken and increase the power of conscience, we must do so by teaching it to be more and more keen in perception. Conscience must stand before us, as a watcher on a ship stands, guiding the bark of the soul through the wild waves and the thick darkness of this deep night of life, and crying out to us, from moment to moment, in the voice of the great Lord whose echo it is, “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
2. But conscience requires also to be wide in its range of vision—it must omit nothing. It must not fret over trifles, but it must not leave them out; it must recollect, it must learn increasingly to recollect, that attention to the little things of every day is an element in that attitude of a Christian which the Lord calls watching.
3. You must exercise conscience to assist you in wise decision.
4. Conscience must also, finally and above all things, be peremptory in command. Conscience may be wrong, it may make mistakes, but it must never be disobeyed. To disobey conscience is to commit the last disloyalty—it is to learn to be untrue to yourselves.
5. Conscience needs illumination It needs the illumination that comes from prayer, from the Scripture, from the wise advice of patient and experienced friends.
6. It needs more, it needs reinforcement; it needs the presence of the Lord of conscience; it needs to feed upon the power of Christ.
II. There is another point in Christian watching which I must note. It is not only by the exercise of conscience, it is by a patient practice of thoughtfulness.—To take thought and make it pass into a permanent form; to lay hold upon will and make it act in one definite direction;—to do that is to set the life sweeping onward, like a resistless current, in one direction; it is to place the whole soul in one steady attitude; and this definite directing of the current of life, and this steady fixing of the attitude of soul—this and nothing else is what our blessed Redeemer calls watching.—W. J. Knox-Little, M.A.
Watching for the Lord’s coming.—The idea is, Ye know not whether the day or hour of the Lord’s coming be characterised by the quality of comparative immediacy or of comparative remoteness. And yet the Lord had told His disciples that many events would occur before this glorious appearing. Wherein, then, the consistency of the injunction of this verse? It is found in a combination of two assumptions.
1. That the Lord was speaking, not merely to and for His Apostles, but to and for His disciples in all places and times.
2. That He took a broad view of spiritual realities, and the bearing of the great events connected with His kingdom on individual souls. So far as the soul’s real interests, and its great duties, are concerned, it is of no real moment whether it shall remain incarnate till the coming of the Lord, or be “absent from the body” long before that event. Spiritual watchfulness in either case is equally needed.—J. Morison, D.D.
Matthew 24:43-44. The uncertainty of life the great reason for holiness.—
I. The character of the existing dispensation would be altogether changed were we enabled to foresee whatever could happen.—It would no longer be a dispensation of faith, but a dispensation of sight. We find it intensely difficult in our ignorance to submit ourselves to God, in whose hands we are. What would it be if we had acquaintance with the future, and so were in a measure independent; and could make our plans with certainty as to their issue. The wife would be a widow while her husband lived, the child would be an orphan while yet blessed with parents, if the funeral were foreknown and the day of separation clearly revealed.
II. It is practically of very little importance whether we can give satisfactory reasons why the future should be hidden, and for the declaration that the unveiling it would produce far greater preparedness for the termination of life. It might, on the whole, be advantageous, or it might on the whole be disastrous, that the day of death should be known; but the arrangement to which we are to conform is one in which the day is absolutely unknown; and it must be our business rather to labour at acting agreeably to the circumstances in which we are placed, than to determine what effect would be wrought were those circumstances changed.—H. Melvill, B.D.
Matthew 24:45-51. The faithful servant and the wicked one.—
I. Their opposite spirit.—The one waits for the coming of the Lord; the other puts no faith in that coming.
II. Their acts.—The one takes care of the household’s nourishment; the other makes himself a despotic lord, who abuses the faithful, and wastes the goods of the house in riotous living.
III. Their recompense.—Blessed and miserable surprise at the advent of the Lord. The one is elevated to the highest dignity, the other is condemned and destroyed on the spot.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Matthew 24:45-47. The Lord’s true steward.—
1. Faithful.—To his Lord. To the end (Matthew 24:46).
2. Wise or prudent, for himself, and in relation to those under his care. The “word in the Greek is that which ethical writers had used to express the moral wisdom which adapts means to ends, as contrasted with the wisdom of pure contemplation, on the one hand, or technical skill on the other” (Plumptre).
II. Function.—“To give them meat (their food, R.V.) in due season.” The daily or monthly allowance. “This imagery, drawn from a large Roman estate, has given rise to the oft-recurring thought of the stewardship of the Apostles and ministers of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 4:1; Titus 1:7 (Cambridge Bible for Schools). “There is an art, as it were, of spiritual dietetics, which requires tact and discernment as well as faithfulness. The wise servant will seek to discover not only the right kind of food, but the right season for giving it” (Plumptre).
III. Reward.—“He will set him over all that he hath” (R.V.); “thus conferring upon him the highest honour and reward of which he is susceptible” (Morison).—H. M. Booth.
Matthew 24:48-51. The unfaithful steward.—
I. His conduct.
1. Presumptuous.—“My Lord delayeth His coming.”
2. Self-assertive.—“Smite his fellow-servants.” More than neglect; “abusing them in the spirit of a petty tyrant” (Morison).
3. Self-indulgent.—“Eat and drink with the drunken.”
II. His punishment.
1. Absolutely certain.—“Shall come.” “Our putting off the thoughts of Christ’s coming will not put off His coming” (M. Henry).
2. Surprisingly sudden.—“In a day when he looketh not for Him.”
3. Terribly severe (Matthew 24:51). “Some have felt surprised that our Lord did not shrink from the horror of the word (‘cut him asunder’). Ah! but it was the horror of the thing which He dreaded, and wished to avert. It was the infinite pity of His heart that led Him to use a word which might prove the very strongest deterrent. Besides, how significant it is! Think of whom He is speaking,—servants set over His household to give food in due season, who, instead of doing this, maltreat their fellow-servants and ruin themselves with excess. Think of the duplicity of such conduct. By office in the church, ‘exalted unto heaven’; by practice, ‘brought down to hell’! That unnatural combination cannot last. These monsters with two faces and one black heart cannot be tolerated in the universe of God. They shall be ‘cut asunder’; and then it will appear which of the two faces really belongs to the man” (Expositor’s Bible).—H. M Booth.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 24". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany