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Went out from the temple (εξελθων απο του ιερου). All the discourses since Matthew 21:23 have been in the temple courts (ιερον, the sacred enclosure). But now Jesus leaves it for good after the powerful denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees in chapter 23. His public teaching is over. It was a tragic moment. As he was going out (επορευετο, descriptive imperfect) the disciples, as if to relieve the thought of the Master came to him (προσηλθον) to show (επιδειξα, ingressive aorist infinitive) the buildings of the temple (τας οικοδομας του ιερου). They were familiar to Jesus and the disciples, but beautiful like a snow mountain (Josephus, Wars V,5,6), the monument that Herod the Great had begun and that was not yet complete (John 2:20). Great stones were there of polished marble.
One stone upon another (λιθος επ λιθον). Stone upon stone. A startling prediction showing that the gloomy current of the thoughts of Jesus were not changed by their words of admiration for the temple.
As he sat (καθημενου). Genitive absolute. Picture of Jesus sitting on the Mount of Olives looking down on Jerusalem and the temple which he had just left. After the climb up the mountain four of the disciples (Peter, James, John, Andrew) come to Jesus with the problem raised by his solemn words. They ask these questions about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, his own second coming (παρουσια, presence, common in the papyri for the visit of the emperor), and the end of the world. Did they think that they were all to take place simultaneously? There is no way to answer. At any rate Jesus treats all three in this great eschatological discourse, the most difficult problem in the Synoptic Gospels. Many theories are advanced that impugn the knowledge of Jesus or of the writers or of both. It is sufficient for our purpose to think of Jesus as using the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem which did happen in that generation in A.D. 70, as also a symbol of his own second coming and of the end of the world (συντελειας του αιωνος) or consummation of the age. In a painting the artist by skilful perspective may give on the same surface the inside of a room, the fields outside the window, and the sky far beyond. Certainly in this discourse Jesus blends in apocalyptic language the background of his death on the cross, the coming destruction of Jerusalem, his own second coming and the end of the world. He now touches one, now the other. It is not easy for us to separate clearly the various items. It is enough if we get the picture as a whole as it is here drawn with its lessons of warning to be ready for his coming and the end. The destruction of Jerusalem came as he foretold. There are some who would date the Synoptic Gospels after A.D. 70 in order to avoid the predictive element involved in the earlier date. But that is to limit the fore-knowledge of Jesus to a merely human basis. The word παρουσια occurs in this chapter alone (Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39) in the Gospels, but often in the Epistles, either of presence as opposed to absence (Philippians 2:12) or the second coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1).
Lead you astray (υμας πλανηση). This warning runs all through the discourse. It is amazing how successful deceivers have been through the ages with their eschatological programs. The word in the passive appears in Matthew 18:12 when the one sheep wanders astray. Here it is the active voice with the causative sense to lead astray. Our word planet comes from this root.
In my name (επ τω ονοματ μου). They will arrogate to themselves false claims of Messiahship in (on the basis of) the name of Christ himself. Josephus (Wars VI, 54) gives there false Christs as one of the reasons for the explosion against Rome that led to the city's destruction. Each new hero was welcomed by the masses including Barcochba. "I am the Messiah," each would say. Forty odd years ago two men in Illinois claimed to be Messiah, each with followers (Schlatter, Schweinfurth). In more recent years Mrs. Annie Besant has introduced a theosophical Messiah and Mrs. Eddy made claims about herself on a par with those of Jesus.
See that ye be not troubled (ορατε μη θροεισθε). Asyndeton here with these two imperatives as Mark 8:15 ορατε βλεπετε (Robertson, Grammar, p. 949). Look out for the wars and rumours of wars, but do not be scared out of your wits by them. Θροεω means to cry aloud, to scream, and in the passive to be terrified by an outcry. Paul uses this very verb (μηδε θροεισθα) in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 as a warning against excitement over false reports that he had predicted the immediate second coming of Christ.
But the end is not yet (αλλ' ουπω εστιν το τελος). It is curious how people overlook these words of Jesus and proceed to set dates for the immediate end. That happened during the Great War and it has happened since.
The beginning of travail (αρχη οδινων). The word means birth-pangs and the Jews used the very phrase for the sufferings of the Messiah which were to come before the coming of the Messiah (Book of Jubilees, 23:18; Apoc. of Baruch 27-29). But the word occurs with no idea of birth as the pains of death (Psalms 18:5; Acts 2:24). These woes, says Jesus, are not a proof of the end, but of the beginning.
Ye shall be hated (εσεσθε μισουμενο). Periphrastic future passive to emphasize the continuous process of the linear action. For tribulation (θλιψιν see Matthew 13:21), a word common in the Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse for the oppression (pressure) that the Christians received.
For my name's sake (δια το ονομα μου). The most glorious name in the world today, but soon to be a byword of shame (Acts 5:41). The disciples would count it an honour to be dishonoured for the Name's sake.
False prophets (ψευδοπροφητα). Jesus had warned against them in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:15). They are still coming.
Shall wax cold (ψυγησετα). Second future passive indicative from ψυχω. To breathe cool by blowing, to grow cold, "spiritual energy blighted or chilled by a malign or poisonous wind" (Vincent).
The love of many (η αγαπη των πολλων). Love of the brotherhood gives way to mutual hatred and suspicion.
Shall be preached (κερυχθησετα). Heralded in all the inhabited world. Εν ολη τη οικουμενη supply γη. It is not here said that all will be saved nor must this language be given too literal and detailed an application to every individual.
The abomination of desolation (το βδελυγμα της ερεμωσεως). An allusion to Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11. Antiochus Epiphanes erected an altar to Zeus on the altar of Jehovah (1Macc. 1:54,59; 6:7; 2Macc. 6:1-5). The desolation in the mind of Jesus is apparently the Roman army (Luke 21:20) in the temple, an application of the words of Daniel to this dread event. The verb βδελυσσομα is to feel nausea because of stench, to abhor, to detest. Idolatry was a stench to God (Luke 16:15; Revelation 17:4). Josephus tells us that the Romans burned the temple and offered sacrifices to their ensigns placed by the eastern gate when they proclaimed Titus as Emperor.
Let him that readeth understand (ο αναγινοσκων νοειτω). This parenthesis occurs also in Mark 13:14. It is not to be supposed that Jesus used these words. They were inserted by Mark as he wrote his book and he was followed by Matthew.
Flee unto the mountains (φευγετωσαν εις τα ορη). The mountains east of the Jordan. Eusebius (H.E. iii,5,3) says that the Christians actually fled to Pella at the foot of the mountains about seventeen miles south of the Sea of Galilee. They remembered the warning of Jesus and fled for safety.
On the housetop (επ του δωματος). They could escape from roof to roof and so escape, "the road of the roofs," as the rabbis called it. There was need for haste.
In the field (εν τω αγρω). The peasant worked in his time and left his mantle at home then as now.
In winter nor on a sabbath (χειμωνος, genitive of time, μηδε σαββατω, locative of time). In winter because of the rough weather. On a sabbath because some would hesitate to make such a journey on the sabbath. Josephus in his Wars gives the best illustration of the horrors foretold by Jesus in verse Matthew 24:21.
Had been shortened (εκολοβωθησαν). From κολοβος, lopped, mutilated, as the hands, the feet. It is a second-class condition, determined as unfulfilled. It is a prophetic figure, the future regarded as past.
For the elect's sake (δια τους εκλεκτους). See Matthew 22:14 for another use of this phrase by Jesus and also Matthew 24:31. The siege was shortened by various historical events like the stopping of the strengthening of the walls by Herod Agrippa by orders from the Emperor, the sudden arrival of Titus, the neglect of the Jews to prepare for a long siege. "Titus himself confessed that God was against the Jews, since otherwise neither his armies nor his engines would have availed against their defences" (Vincent).
Lo, here is the Christ, or here (ιδου ωδε ο Χριστος η ωδε). The false prophets (Matthew 24:11) create the trouble and now false Christs (ψευδο-Χριστο, verse Matthew 24:24) offer a way out of these troubles. The deluded victims raise the cries of "Lo, here," when these false Messiahs arise with their panaceas for public ills (political, religious, moral, and spiritual).
Great signs and wonders (σημεια μεγαλα κα τερατα). Two of the three words so often used in the N.T. about the works (εργα) of Jesus, the other being δυναμεις (powers). They often occur together of the same work (John 4:48; Acts 2:22; Acts 4:30; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:4). Τερας is a wonder or prodigy, δυναμις, a mighty work or power, σημειον, a sign of God's purpose. Miracle (μιραχυλυμ) presents only the notion of wonder or portent. The same deed can be looked at from these different angles. But the point to note here is that mere "signs and wonders" do not of themselves prove the power of God. These charlatans will be so skilful that they will,
if possible (ε δυνατον), lead astray the very elect. The implication is that it is not possible. People become excited and are misled and are unable to judge of results. Often it is post hoc, sed non propter hoc. Patent-medicine men make full use of the credulity of people along this line as do spiritualistic mediums. Sleight-of-hand men can deceive the unwary.
In the wilderness (εν τη ερημω). Like Simon son of Gioras (Josephus, War, IV,9,5,&7).
In the inner chambers (εν τοις ταμειοις). Like John of Giscala (Josephus, War, V,6,1). False Messiahs act the role of the Great Unseen and Unknown.
As seen (φαινετα). Visible in contrast to the invisibility of the false Messiahs. Cf. Revelation 1:7. Like a flash of lightning.
Carcase (πτωμα). As in Matthew 14:12, the corpse. Originally a fallen body from πιπτω, to fall, like Latin cadaver from cado, to fall. The proverb here as in Luke 17:37, is like that in Job 39:30; Proverbs 30:17.
Eagles (αετο). Perhaps the griffon vulture, larger than the eagle, which (Aristotle) was often seen in the wake of an army and followed Napoleon's retreat from Russia.
Immediately (ευθεως). This word, common in Mark's Gospel as ευθυς, gives trouble if one stresses the time element. The problem is how much time intervenes between "the tribulation of those days" and the vivid symbolism of verse Matthew 24:29. The use of εν ταχε in Revelation 1:1 should make one pause before he decides. Here we have a prophetic panorama like that with foreshortened perspective. The apocalyptic pictures in verse Matthew 24:29 also call for sobriety of judgment. One may compare Joel's prophecy as interpreted by Peter in Acts 21:16-22. Literalism is not appropriate in this apocalyptic eschatology.
The sign of the Son of Man in heaven (το σημειον του υιου του ανθρωπου εν ουρανω). Many theories have been suggested like the cross in the sky, etc. Bruce sees a reference to Daniel 7:13 "one like the Son of man" and holds that Christ himself is the sign in question (the genitive of apposition). This is certainly possible. It is confirmed by the rest of the verse: "They shall see the Son of man coming." See Matthew 16:27; Matthew 26:64. The Jews had repeatedly asked for such a sign (Broadus) as in Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; John 2:18.
With a great sound of a trumpet (μετα σαλπιγγος φωνης μεγαλης). Some MSS. omit (φωνης) "sound." The trumpet was the signal employed to call the hosts of Israel to march as to war and is common in prophetic imagery (Isaiah 27:13). Cf. the seventh angel (Revelation 11:15). Clearly "the coming of the son of man is not to be identified with the judgment of Jerusalem but rather forms its preternatural background" (Bruce).
Putteth forth its leaves (τα φυλλα εκφυη). Present active subjunctive according to Westcott and Hort. If accented εκφυη (last syllable), it is second aorist passive subjunctive (Erasmus).
This generation (η γενεα αυτη). The problem is whether Jesus is here referring to the destruction of Jerusalem or to the second coming and end of the world. If to the destruction of Jerusalem, there was a literal fulfilment. In the Old Testament a generation was reckoned as forty years. This is the natural way to take verse Matthew 24:34 as of Matthew 24:33 (Bruce), "all things" meaning the same in both verses.
Not even the Son (ουδε ο υιος). Probably genuine, though absent in some ancient MSS. The idea is really involved in the words "but the Father only" (ε μη ο πατηρ μονος). It is equally clear that in this verse Jesus has in mind the time of his second coming. He had plainly stated in verse Matthew 24:34 that those events (destruction of Jerusalem) would take place in that generation. He now as pointedly states that no one but the Father knows the day or the hour when these things (the second coming and the end of the world) will come to pass. One may, of course, accuse Jesus of hopeless confusion or extend his confession of ignorance of the date of the second coming to the whole chain of events. So McNeile: "It is impossible to escape the conclusion that Jesus as Man, expected the End, within the lifetime of his contemporaries." And that after his explicit denial that he knew anything of the kind! It is just as easy to attribute ignorance to modern scholars with their various theories as to Jesus who admits his ignorance of the date, but not of the character of the coming.
The days of Noah (α ημερα του Νωε). Jesus had used this same imagery before to the Pharisees (Luke 17:26-30). In Noah's day there was plenty of warning, but utter unpreparedness. Most people are either indifferent about the second coming or have fanciful schemes or programs about it. Few are really eager and expectant and leave to God the time and the plans.
Were eating (ησαν τρωγοντες). Periphrastic imperfect. The verb means to chew raw vegetables or fruits like nuts or almonds.
At the mill (εν τω μυλω). So Westcott and Hort and not μυλων (millhouse) Textus Receptus. The millstone and then hand-mill which was turned by two women (αληθουσα) as in Exodus 11:5. This verb is a late form for αλεω. There was a handle near the edge of the upper stone.
Watch therefore (γρηγωρειτε ουν). A late present imperative from the second perfect εγρηγορα from εγειρω. Keep awake, be on the watch "therefore" because of the uncertainty of the time of the second coming. Jesus gives a half dozen parables to enforce the point of this exhortation (the Porter, the Master of the House, the Faithful Servant and the Evil Servants, the Ten Virgins, the Talents, the Sheep and the Goats). Matthew does not give the Parable of the Porter (Mark 13:35-37).
In what watch (ποια φυλακη). As in Matthew 14:25 (four watches of the night).
Broken through (διορυχθηνα). Digged through the tile roof or under the floor (dirt in the poorer houses).
That ye think not (η ου δοκειτε ωρα). It is useless to set the day and hour for Christ's coming. It is folly to neglect it. This figure of the thief will be used also by Paul concerning the unexpectedness of Christ's second coming (1 Thessalonians 5:2). See also Matthew 24:50 for the unexpectedness of the coming with punishment for the evil servant.
My lord tarrieth (χρονιζε μου ο κυριος). That is the temptation and to give way to indulge in fleshly appetites or to pride of superior intellect. Within a generation scoffers will be asking where is the promise of the coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:4). They will forget that God's clock is not like our clock and that a day with the Lord may be a thousand years or a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8).
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 24". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany