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Christ foretelleth the destruction of the temple: the persecutions for the gospel: that the gospel must be preached to all nations: that great calamities shall happen to the Jews: and the manner of his coming to judgment. The hour whereof being known to none, every man is to watch and pray, that we be not found unprovided, when he cometh to each one particularly by death.
Anno Domini 33.
Mark 13:7. Such things must needs be;— "That is, not by any necessity imposed of God, but from the wickedness of the world."
Mark 13:9. In the synagogues ye shall be beaten:— It is certain that whipping and beating were punishments inflicted in the synagogues. Thus Paul punished the Christians, Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11. And that it was customary to whip both their wise men and their disciples, when guilty of any perverseness, may be fully proved from Vitringa de Synag. vet. lib. 3: cap. 2: All that is mentioned in this verse was exactly accomplished; for Peter and John were called before the Sanhedrim, Acts 4:6-7. James and Peter before Herod, Act 12:2-3 and Paul before Nero, as well as before the Roman governors, Gallio, Felix, and Festus; and some were beaten, as Paul and Silas, &c. See the note on Matthew 10:17-18.
Mark 13:29. Know that it is nigh,— Know that He is nigh;—the Son of man. See Mark 13:26.
Mark 13:32. Hour— Though we have given an explanation of this verse, as well as the whole chapter, in the notes on the parallel passage of St. Matthew; yet an ingenious commentator having offered a different solution from that which we have given, we here subjoin it: The word οιδεν, says he, here seems to have the force of the Hebrew conjugation hiphil, which, in verbs denoting action, makes that action, whatever it is, pass to another; wherefore ειδεω, which properly signifies, I know, used in the sense of the conjugation hiphil, signifies, I make another to know. The word has this meaning without dispute, 1 Corinthians 2:2. I determined to know [ειδεναι ] nothing among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified; that is, "I determined to make known, to preach nothing, &c." So likewise in the text, "But of that day and that hour none maketh you to know:—No, not the angels, neither the Son, but the Father; neither man nor angel, neither the Son himself, can reveal the day and hour of the destruction of Jerusalem, because the Father has determined that it shall not be revealed." The divine wisdom saw fit to conceal from the apostles the precise period of the destruction of Jerusalem, that they might be laid under a necessity of watchingcontinually;andthisvigilancewasespeciallyproperatthattime,becausethe success of the gospel depended in a great measure upon the activity and exemplary lives of those who first published it. It is an excellent observation of Mr. West, relating to the authors who have recorded this prophesy, which is expressed in terms so very plain and circumstantial,—that Matthew and Mark were incontestably dead before the event, as Luke also might probably be; and as for John, the only evangelist who survived it, it is remarkable that he says nothing of it, lest any should assert that the prophesy was forged after the event happened. See West on the Resurrection, p. 393.
Mark 13:35. At even,— 'Οψε, evening, answers to the first watch of the night, which began at sunset: at nine Μεσονυκτιον, or midnight, answers to the second watch, which ended at twelve; αλεκτοροφωνια, or the cock-crowing, answers to the third watch, which ended at three in the morning: πρωι, or the morning, answers to the fourth watch, which ended at six. See Chap. Mar 15:1 and on Matthew 28:1.
Inferences.—We are taught, from the whole of this remarkable prophesy, how vain and dangerous it is to trust in external privileges, and to cry out, as these foolish wretched Jews did, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these buildings!—when of this stately and magnificent structure, within less than half a century after it was finished, not one stone was left on another undemolished.
Let us bless God that our own eyes have not seen such desolation and ruins, such commotions in the natural and moral world, such dissentions in civil life, such persecutions and hatreds among the nearest relations, (Mark 13:12-13.) under the pretence of propagating religion; for however propagated, it is nothing, without that love which is to often made the first victim to it; yet too often do we see, in one of them or another, iniquity abounding, and the love of many waxing cold. To avoid this, we should endeavour to revive in our own hearts a deep and lasting impression of divine things; and remember, whenever we are tempted to let go our integrity, that he alone who endures to the end shall be saved.
If our Lord urges his disciples to flee with such speedy and solicitous haste from the sword of God's temporal judgments, how much greater diligence should we give to flee from the wrath to come! Mark 13:15-16. What are any of the little interests of life, that out of regard to them we should be willing to continue one moment longer exposed to a danger, which may sink us into everlasting ruin and despair!
The unhappy Jews eagerly listened to the very name of Messiah, by whomsoever it was assumed, Mar 13:21-22 while they rejected him whom God had sent them, and who had so long, and with so much importunity been renewing to them the offers of life and salvation. May none of us ever know the sad impatience with which condemned sinners will wish, and wish in vain, for those overtures and messages of grace which they now despise! In that sense wheresoever the carcase is, thither will the eagles be gathered together: wherever there is the like unbelief and impenitence, there will be in its degree the like ruin. Christ has graciously told us these things before; may we humbly attend to the warning, that none of this terror and destruction may come upon us!
And, to render us still more attentive, raise we our contemplation to that aweful day, when all that was figuratively spoken of the destruction of Jerusalem shall be literally accomplished: where will our hope and comfort, our light and safety then be, when the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light? Where indeed, unless the Almighty God, the everlasting Jehovah, by whose voice they were created, and by whose hand they shall be dashed in pieces again, shall condescend to be our light and our salvation. If indeed he be so, we shall hear the solemn summons to judgment with joy. What though the day and season be unknown, it is enough for us that we know that all these interposing days and years, be they ever so numerous, will at length be past; for the promise of the great Redeemer is our security, and he will hasten it in its time.
We are by profession the domestics of Christ, Mar 13:34 it is our duty therefore to attend to the offices that he has assigned us, though he seem at a distance; diligently to wait his coming, at whatever season: his ministers ought more especially to wait it, and be solicitous that they may be found so doing; conducting themselves like wise stewards of the mysteries of God, dispensing to every one their portion of food in due season; and always remembering that every exhortation which they give to others, returns with redoubled weight upon themselves: then will their account be honourable, and their reward glorious. See the Inferences on Matthew 24:0.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Our Lord departing now from the temple to return no more, one of his disciples, pleased with the beauty of that stupendous fabric, could not help observing to him, of what massy stones it was built, and how magnificently adorned. But Christ assures him, that, admirable as it appeared, and strong as it stood, the day was near when it should be so utterly razed from the foundations, that one stone should not be left upon another. Struck with so sad a prospect, four of the disciples came privately to him, as he sat in the mount of Olives, desiring to be informed when these aweful predictions would come to pass, and what would be the sign of their approaching fulfilment.
2nd, In answering the question which their curiosity raised, Christ gives them some cautions for the direction of their conscience, it being infinitely more their concern to be always ready to meet the approaching calamities, than to know the precise time of their arrival.
1. He cautions them against the false Christs who should arise, and seduce many of the Jews, who were ready to run after every impostor, though they had rejected the true Messiah.
2. He warns them not to be discouraged with the wars and commotions, the famines, earthquakes, and pestilences, which would ravage the earth; these being but the beginning of sorrows, the end is not yet; and what is here spoken with reference to the Jewish state and nation, seems also to have a view to the like calamities which will be the signs and presages of either the millennium or the final dissolution of all things. But amid the wreck of nature, and the flames of a dissolving world, the soul that is stayed upon Christ need not be troubled.
3. He bids them prepare for persecutions, and exhorts them to bear up courageously under them. Far from possessing that earthly greatness and respect with which they flattered themselves, they must expect the very reverse; they will be hated of all men for his sake: in enmity to Jesus and his gospel, the world in general would combine against them: yea, even their nearest relations would prove false and faithless, and become the bitterest enemies; and, breaking the strongest ties of nature, persecute them even to death. They would be dragged before the rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, and punished as heretical and seditious: yea, even before the heathen kings and magistrates they would be accused, and called to seal with their blood, the testimony which they bore. But distressing as these things might appear, they have abundant reason to trust and not be afraid: Jesus assures them that he will stand by them. When called to answer before the tribunals of the mightiest, they need not distress themselves about what they shall say; a divine revelation shall be given to them, and they shall be directed to reply to every charge in the properest manner; yea, their very trials before the kings and rulers shall prove a testimony against those great men; they will thereby have an opportunity of preaching the gospel to those who might never else have heard it. And whatever attempts are made to suppress and silence them, they shall prove abortive; Christ will cause his gospel to be preached, and spread, in defiance of opposition, into all lands; and either shelter them from the malice of their persecutors, or reward their fidelity unto death with a crown of everlasting life and glory—considerations sufficient to make them welcome the cross, while such a crown was in view. Note; (1.) Sufferings for Christ stumble many; we need to take care that we be not thereby offended. (2.) The image of Jesus, as it must reprove the world, will ever procure the hatred of worldly men against those who possess it. (3.) The spirit of bigotry and enmity, which is in the natural heart, against Christ and his people, sometimes breaks through the strongest ties of blood; makes children rebellious, and parents unnatural, even to wish the death of those they are most bound to love and cherish. (4.) Wherever the gospel is preached, if it be not received, it will at least rise up for a testimony against all who neglect or reject so great a salvation. (5.) When we are called to stand forth for Christ, we may still confidently expect to be supported by him, and to be taught by his Spirit how to speak and act for his glory. (6.) All sufferings, and even death itself, will be regarded as light afflictions that are but for a moment, by those whose faith realizes to their minds the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
3rdly, Two things the disciples are taught by our Lord,
1. To secure their lives by flight, when the Roman army, the abomination of desolation, appears before Jerusalem. No moment must be lost, no attempt made to save any thing; they must seek their safety in instant flight. Those who are heavy with child, or have babes at their breasts, will be in that day most peculiarly miserable, as least able to fly, or to bear the hardships which they must undergo; and if this flight were in winter, the inclemency of the season would make the situation of the fugitives more deplorable; therefore they need pray that it may not be so. But whenever the time comes, such a scene of affliction, misery, and desolation, will appear, as never was from the creation before, and never will be again to the end of time. They who read the history of Josephus, may see this prophesy awfully fulfilled. Indeed it is marvellous that any inhabitant of Judea survived this dire catastrophe; nothing but the most gracious interposition of divine Providence could have prevented their utter extirpation. But God having gracious designs towards his once favoured people, in the latter days, will shorten the days of affliction, and pluck some as brands from the burning.
2. To take care of their souls. Seducers will abound in those evil days, and with large promises of procuring them relief from the impending calamities, will persuade many to join them; giving themselves out for the Messiah, or pretending to have found him; and, with lying wonders and false miracles, will impose upon many. Christ therefore warns them against impostures, which he so plainly foretels.
4thly, The things here predicted, primarily refer to the destruction of the Jewish people; but they seem also to have respect to the final appearing to judgment of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. As his hand visibly appeared in the ruin of Jerusalem, the temple, and the Jewish nation, and also in his separating his disciples, who fled to Pella when the calamity drew near, and escaped the Roman sword; so will he fulfil this prophesy in the approaching dissolution of all things, when he shall personally appear, coming in the clouds with power and great glory, to execute judgment on all impenitent sinners, and to gather his saints into his eternal kingdom. Concerning these great events he warns them;
1. That the time of their fulfilment is near, and they might judge of its approach by the preceding signs, just as surely as they would of the summer's drawing nigh by the budding of the fig-tree. Some of that generation would live to see the utter ruin of Jerusalem and Judea: his prophetic word must infallibly take place, and heaven and earth sooner pass away, than one tittle of his predictions fail. Near also, even at the door, is the great day of judgment. The period of time, which yet remains, we know is short; how short, who can tell?
2. The time when, is uncertain. None in heaven or on earth precisely knows the hour, not even the Son as man, or in virtue of his designation to the mediatorial office; it is a secret locked up in the bosom of God, and neither revealed to men nor angels. We are left in this awful uncertainty, that we may be always ready.
3. He admonishes them, in the view of what he had spoken, to watch and pray; which he enforces in the following parable: his appearing would be like that of a master who took a long journey, committed to his stewards the management of his affairs, and directed the work in which he would have his servants employed during his absence; charging the porter to take especial care that no thief broke in, and that all should be ready to receive him at his return, which he left uncertain, that they might be in constant expectation of him, and prepared to welcome him. Thus when Jesus ascended on high, he left a charge with all his servants, whether ministers or private Christians, to employ themselves diligently in the work that he has appointed them, and to be prepared to give an account of their fidelity. He is coming again to make a solemn inquiry; the time when, is uncertain; every hour we stand in jeopardy, not knowing whether by day or by night the calls of death or judgment may place us before him. Our care therefore must be, above all things, that we are not surprized by him, slothful, negligent, and unprepared to meet him, though he come never so suddenly. What, therefore, our Lord inculcates upon his disciples, we are alike bound to hear; for unto us it is alike addressed, I say unto all, Watch. Note; Our great concern upon earth is to be ready for death and judgment: each breath we draw may be our last: let us seize then the moment as it flies; and, while the hour lasts, give all diligence that we may be found of him in peace.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 13". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany