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We have in this Chapter the Lord Jesus instructing his disciples, and in particular he foretells the destruction of the temp1e: and with it is blended the promise of his future coming.
"And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. (2) And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
It is worthy our observation, that this was the last visit Jesus made to the temple. So that when he left it, it was to return no more. And when Jesus left it, the glory was departed from it. The Prophet Haggai was commissioned by the Lord, to tell the people, that the glory of this latter house should be greater than the former. And it was made so in the presence of Jesus when he entered it, in substance of our flesh. Haggai 2:9 . But when the Lord of his temple departed, then what Jesus said in the close of the foregoing Chapter, was fulfil, led: your house is left unto you desolate. Matthew 23:38 . What a precious thought to all his redeemed; Jesus never leaves them! Hebrews 13:5 ; Matthew 28:20 . This prediction of Jesus, we are told, was literally fulfilled when Titus sacked Jerusalem. For though the stones of the temple, were some of them of an enormous size, yet so it was, not one of them but what was broken or thrown down. The prophet Micah, had said, Zion should be ploughed as a field. Micah 3:12 . And here was the accomplishment, Reader! what an awful thing is it, even considered only in a temporal point of view, am I as it respects nations to slight Jehovah's Christ? And how awful, in the day in which we live is it, to consider what a Christ despising generation is the present.
"And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (4) And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. (5) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (6) And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. (7) For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. (8) All these are the beginning of sorrows. (9) Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. (10) And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (11) And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. (12) And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (13) But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (14) And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
While we consider the great events here spoken of, as having a peculiar and special reference, to the then age, and to the end of the Jewish state as a nation, we may, without violence, consider our Lord's words, as having a further respect to the events of his gospel, which followed. False Christs and false prophets, are signs always to be noticed in the Church history. Wars, and rumours of wars, are all ministering to Christ's kingdom. Every period in the Church to the present hour, hath been marked with these things. They are exercises to the faithful, and truly profitable, under the Spirit's teaching, to establish the heart in grace. Moreover, the expressions of enduring to the end and being saved, meant nothing more than a temporal deliverance; and when the Gospel had been preached in all nations, the end then being come: meant not the end of the world, but that when the disciples were gone forth after the day of Pentecost; this was the last sign of Christ's prophecy, concerning the overthrow of Jerusalem, and so the end of the Jewish state was come.
"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (16) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: (17) Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: (18) Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. (19) And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! (20) But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: (21) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (22) And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."
I cannot think with some, that the Prophet Daniel referred to some image set up in the temple, by way of profaning it. For we read in the history of those awful times, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, that on the soldiers entering the temple and finding no image there, as they had been accustomed to in their idolatrous services, they ridiculed the Jewish religion, saying, that, they worshipped the clouds. I rather am inclined to interpret the passage in Daniel, which is called, the overspreading of abominations, he shall make it desolate, Daniel 9:27 ; as having respect to the Roman armies. But be this as it may, the Lord Jesus pointed to this as the immediate forerunner of the impending ruin. The verses which follow, are descriptive of great misery. But in the midst of this awful view, I beg the Reader not to overlook that sweet verse of mercy to the elect. Except those days, said Jesus, be shortened; (that is, the sweeping destruction going forth at that visitation) there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake, said the Redeemer, those days shall be shortened. Reader! do not overlook the mercy; and much less overlook the Lord of the mercy. If the days had been lengthened out, as the savage Romans wished, until the whole seed of Israel had been cut off: from whence could there have been a race preserved for the propagating the seed of Christ, out of which the elect after the flesh were to come? Here as in that beautiful similitude of the cluster in looking on, which the new wine is found Isaiah 65:8 . Was one which said: destroy it not; for a blessing is in it. So, saith the Lord, will, I do for my servant's sake, that I may not destroy them all. Reader! who shall say, from that hour to the present, and so on to the end of time, how frequent and how numerous, the instances, where mercy is shewn to the graceless, for the elect's sake, which in the Adam race of nature, are to come forth from their loins. How many among the unregenerate live on, and are preserved; because Christ's seed after the flesh are appointed in their day and generation? Did the world but know this; or could the world but be made sensible of the blessings they derive from Christ's seed; would they persecute them as they now do, and like Pharaoh to Israel, often make their lives grievous by reason of their bondage. Exodus 2:23 . Oh! ye ungodly, ye careless, and christless people of this land! What would ye do were the Lord to call home his own, and house them all at once, from your persecutions? Surely you may truly say with the Prophet: Except the Lord of Hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah! Isaiah 1:9 .
"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. (24) For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
I detain the Reader again, at this blessed statement of the Lord Jesus, concerning the safety of the elect. No signs nor wonders shall deceive them, our God saith; that is, shall deceive them to their injury, so as to hurt them really so in the present life, (see Romans 8:28 .) much less for the life to come, by any falling away. They may, and they will be frequently made the dupes of artifice, and the laughing stock of the world, and the drunkards' song. But this is no injury. And as they were chosen in Christ without respect to anything of merit in themselves, before the world began; so are they secured in Christ to grace and glory. But let them remember, and remember it with all thankfulness, that all their safety here, and happiness hereafter, is not the result of their faith in Christ; but the sole purpose of their being elected in Christ. And the very reason wherefore they are kept in safety is, because they are chosen in Christ: so that their faith, and love, and joy in the Lord, are the effects of their election, and not the cause. Oh! the preciousness of this truth, and the security of God's people! Read that sweet scripture, Isaiah 54:14 to the end.
"Behold, I have told you before. (26) Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. (27) For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (28) For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together."
I pause at this verse, respecting the carcass, and the gathering together of the eagles, to correct any error which might arise, as if it implied, that where Christ and his Gospel are, believers will flock. No doubt to Christ the gathering of the people shall be. But the term carcass, would but in suit with the person and glory of Christ. I rather conceive that by carcass, is meant the slaughtered state of the Jews; and that the Roman soldiers, whose ensign was that of an eagle, would be assembled to their destruction.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (30) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (31) And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (32) Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: (33) So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (34) Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. (35) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
The darkening of the sun and moon, and falling of the stars, are certainly meant in a figurative way; and were intended to imply, that on the dispersion of the Jews, those awful events should follow which the Prophet foretold, when the Lord would cause the sun to go down at noon. See the whole prophecy, Amos 8:8 to the end. Neither when the Lord speaks of the Son of Man coming to judgment, could be meant, that immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem, would be the day of final judgment; but rather the judgment on the Jews, for rejecting the Lord of life and glory, and the sending of his Angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and gathering his elect, implies, his ministers going forth to preach the Gospel, which with the effect, is spoken of both by the Prophet and the Apostle. Isaiah 27:13 ; Revelation 14:6 . And the limitation of those events, to the then generation, in which Christ predicted them, is a plain proof to what they referred. For it was not full forty years after, when Jerusalem wan destroyed; so that consequently many lived to see the accomplishment.
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
I desire to look at this verse singly, from the abuses made of it by the enemies to the Godhead of Christ. Had the Sceptic limited the sense of it, as it is evidently intended, to the day of Jerusalem's destruction, and not referred it to what it never; was intended to have regard, to the second coming of Christ; he would have seen that the God. Head of Christ was neither honored nor dishonored in the business. As the God-Man Christ Jesus, all judgment is committed to Christ, on purpose that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. And he who alone is to be the judge of quick and dead, must know both the time and all the process connected with it. But on the occasion of Jerusalem's visitation, to which this verse refers, though Christ had so fully foretold the whole events which should take place, he doth not say the year was not known, for he himself had declared that that generation should not pass away till all were fulfilled; but our Lord's expressions, are of that day and hour. And all consciousness of time was lost when the calamities took place on that devoted city.
"But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (38) For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, (39) And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (40) Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (41) Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (42) Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (43) But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. (44) Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (45) Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? (46) Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. (47) Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. (48) But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; (49) And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; (50) The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, (51) And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
All that is here contained, though full of the highest instruction, yet, being so very plain and evident, will not require any comment more than its own beautiful order and simplicity. The readiness and watchfulness our Lord commanded in the prospect of the impending judgments he foretold, may by the same unanswerable reasoning be applied to the Lord's second coming, to judgment, and to every man's departure out of life. For what, in fact, is the day of judgment to the whole world, but the day of death to every individual. Hence the only readiness is, being one with Christ, in an union with his person, regenerated by his spirit, washed in his blood, clothed in his righteousness, and habitually ready in the lively exercise of faith and hope, for the expectation of his coming; that when his Lord shall call, at midnight, or cock-crowing, or in the morning, he may arise at the joyful call, and mount up and meet the Lord in the air, and so forever be with the Lord. Oh! the blessedness of that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing!
Blessed Lord Jesus! be thou everlastingly loved and adored, in that thou earnest forth from the bosom of the Father, to make known the sacred purposes of his holy will and which were all purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. And blessed be thy name for that love and grace in thine heart, in having taught thy people their safety amidst all the judgments going on in the world; and amidst all the deceptions of devils and men lying in wait to deceive. Yes! yes! thou dearest Lord, in this blessed Chapter we learn, that it is impossible so to deceive thine elect, or that any real injury can follow. Oh! Lord! give thy people grace to trace their mercies to the fountain head; and to know that their safety as well as their happiness, ariseth from their being chosen in thee, and not from anything in themselves. And my soul, in a day like the present, let no reports of false christs, or false prophets at all move thee. Jesus will keep; Jesus will preserve; Jesus will secure his own. And the day is hastening, when he will come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in fill them that believe. In that, all-decisive hour, Lord grant that I may be found in thee, waiting thy approach, and not be ashamed before: thee at thy coming! Amen
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 24". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany