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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

Luke 21

Verses 1-4

(In the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A. D. 30.)
bMARK XII. 41-44; cLUKE XXI. 1-4.

b41 And he sat down over against the treasury [It is said that in the court of the women there were cloisters or porticos, and under the shelter of these were placed thirteen chests with trumpet-shaped mouths into which offerings might be dropped. The money cast in was for the benefit of the Temple. An inscription on each chest showed to which one of the thirteen special items of cost or expenditure the contents would be devoted; as, for the purchase of wood, or gold, or frankincense, etc.], and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury [We should remember this calm inspection of our Lord when we are about [611] to make an offering to his work. He is by no means indifferent as to our actions]: and many that were rich cast in much. c1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men that were casting their gifts into the treasury. b42 And there came c2 And he saw a certain poor widow casting in thither band she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. [The lepton or mite was worth one-fifth of a cent. It was a Greek coin, and the kodrantes or farthing was a Roman coin. It is suggested that she might have retained one of the coins, since she had two.] 43 And he called unto him his disciples [he had found an object-lesson which he wished them to see], and said unto them, Verily cOf a truth I say unto you, bThis poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: 44 for they {cthese} ball did cast in of their superfluity; cunto the gifts; bbut she of her want did cast in all that she had, even call the living that she had. {ball her living.} [We are disposed to measure the value of actions quantitatively rather than qualitatively. Moreover, we are better judges of actions than of motives, and can see the outward conduct much clearer than the inward character. God, therefore, in his word, constantly teaches us that he looks rather upon the inward than the outward. In this case, the value of the woman’s gift was measured, not by quantity, but its quality; in quantity it was two mites, in quality it was the gift of all she had. From considering the corrupt character of the Pharisees, Jesus must have turned with pleasure to look upon the beautiful heart of this devout widow.] [612]

[FFG 611-612]

Verses 5-24

aMATT. XXIV. 1-28; bMARK XIII. 1-23; cLUKE XXI. 5-24.

a1 And Jesus went out from the temple [leaving it to return no more], and was going on his way; and his disciples came to him bas he went forth ato show him the buildings of the temple. bone of his disciples saith unto him, Teacher, behold, what manner of stones and what manner of buildings! c5 And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and offerings, he said [The strength and wealth of the temple roused the admiration of the Galilæans. The great stones in its fortifications promised safety from its enemies, and the goodly offerings bespoke the zeal of its friends. According to Josephus, some of the stones were nearly seventy feet in length, twelve feet in height, and eighteen feet in breadth. The same historian tells us of the gifts or offerings which adorned it: crowns, shields, goblets, chain of gold present by Agrippa, and a golden vine with its vast clusters which was the gift of Herod. The temple was built of [619] white limestone, and its beauty and strength made it admired of all nations. It took forty-six years to finish, and ten thousand skilled workmen are said to have been employed in its construction.] {a2 But bJesus aanswered and said unto them, bhim,} Seest thou these great buildings? aSee ye not all these things? c6 As for these things which ye behold, averily I say unto you, cthe days will come, in which there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that {bwhich} shall not be thrown down. [In the very hour when the disciples exulted in the apparent permanency of their glorious temple, Jesus startled them by foretelling its utter destruction, which, within forty years, was fulfilled to the letter. The emperor Vespasian, and his son Titus, after a three years’ siege, took Jerusalem and destroyed its temple, A. D. 70. Of the temple proper not a vestige was left standing, but the vast platform upon which it stood, composed partly of natural rock and partly of immense masonry, was for the most part left standing. The destruction of the city and temple, however, was so complete that those who visited it could hardly believe that it had ever been inhabited--Jos. Wars vii. 1.] 3 And as he sat on the mount of Olives, over against the temple [he was in the middle portion of the mountain, for that is the part which is opposite the temple], athe disciples bPeter and James and John and Andrew [on this occasion Andrew was in company with the chosen three when they were honored by a special revelation, but is put last as being the least conspicuous of the four] acame unto him privately, basked him privately, asaying, cTeacher, b4 Tell us, when ctherefore shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when these things are about to come to pass? {bto be accomplished?} aand what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? [Dismayed by the brief words which Jesus had spoken as he was leaving the temple, these four disciples asked for fuller details. Their question is fourfold. 1. When shall the temple be destroyed? 2. What shall be the signs which precede its destruction? 3. [620] What shall be the sign of Christ’s coming? 4. What shall be the sign of the end of the world? Jesus had said nothing of his coming nor of the end of the world; but to these four disciples the destruction of the temple seemed an event of such magnitude that they could not but associate it with the end of all things. Jesus deals with the first two questions in this section, and with the two remaining questions in Acts 4:3, Acts 5:18, Acts 5:40, Acts 7:59, Acts 8:3, Acts 12:1, Acts 12:2, Acts 14:19, Acts 16:19-24, Acts 22:30, Acts 24:1, Acts 25:2, Acts 25:3. Peter, James the elder and James the younger, and Paul, and doubtless many more of the apostles suffered martyrdom before the destruction of the temple. Tacitus bears testimony to the hatred and blind bigotry of the age when he speaks of Christians as "a class of men hated on account of their crimes" (Annals, xv. 44). See also Suetonius on Nero 16, and Pliny (Ep. x. 97). For comments on a similar passage see Colossians 1:23). Of course the language of both Jesus and Paul must be understood with reference to the geography of the earth as then known. Paul’s declaration was written about the year A. D. 63, or seven years before the destruction of Jerusalem. His meaning is not that every creature had actually heard the gospel, but that each had been given an opportunity to hear because the gospel had been so universally preached.] 11 And when they lead you to judgment, and deliver you up, be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: c14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate beforehand how to answer: 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay. bbut whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit. [See 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Galatians 2:1-4, 1 Timothy 1:3-7, 1 Timothy 1:19, 1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 3:8, 2 Timothy 3:9; Titus 1:10, Titus 1:11, 2 Peter 2:1-3, Judges 1:4, Judges 1:8, Judges 1:10, Judges 1:12, Judges 1:16, Judges 1:19.] 12 And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. [The prevalence of sin tempts and encourages the feeble to commit it.] c16 But ye shall be delivered up even by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends; b12 And brother shall deliver up brother to death, and the father his child; and children shall rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. cand some of you shall they cause to be put to death. [Hatred against Christianity would prove stronger than all family ties.] 17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. [See Daniel 4:11], standing in the holy place bwhere he ought not [for comment, see end of the paragraph, Deuteronomy 28:49-57, Daniel 9:26, Daniel 9:27, Daniel 12:1, Daniel 12:11, Joel 2:2.] b17 But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! [because their condition would impede their flight] cfor there shall be great distress upon the land, and wrath unto this people. [The city of Jerusalem was divinely sentenced to punishment for her sins.] 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all the nations [According to Josephus, one million one hundred thousand perished during the siege, and ninety-seven thousand were taken captive. Of these latter, many were tortured and slain, being crucified, as he tell us, till "room was wanted for the crosses, and crosses wanted for the bodies"]: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. [By comparing this passage with Romans 11:1-36., we find that the times of the Gentiles signify that period wherein the church is made up of Gentiles to the almost exclusion of the Jews. The same chapter shows that this period is to be followed by one wherein the Jew and the Gentile unite together in proclaiming the gospel. This prophecy, therefore, declares that until this union of the Jew and the Gentile takes place, the city of Jerusalem shall not only be controlled by the Gentiles, [625] but shall be trodden under foot--i. e., oppressed--by them. The history of Jerusalem, to this day, is a striking fulfillment of this prophecy.] b18 And pray ye that it ayour flight bbe not in the winter. [Because the flight will be so precipitate that it would necessitate much exposure to the weather, sleeping under the open heaven, etc.] aneither on a sabbath [Jewish tradition limited travel on the Sabbath day to a distance of seven furlongs. The early training of many Christians led them to have scruples about breaking the Sabbath. It is possible that Jesus had these scruples in view, but by no means conclusive, for in fleeing they would need the support and friendship of their Jewish brethren, who would be apt, not only to hinder, but even in those troublous and turbulent days, to show violence to any who openly disregarded the Sabbath. For it must be remembered that the Jews, not being guided by the admonitions of Christ, would regard the sudden flight of the Christians as unnecessarily hasty]: 21 for then {bthose days} ashall be great tribulation, bsuch as there hath not been the like from the beginning of the creation {athe world} bwhich God created until now, and never, {ano, nor ever} shall be. [These words spoken before the event are strikingly verified by the statements of Josephus written after it. "No other city," says he, "ever suffered miseries, nor did any age, from the beginning of the world, ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness that this was." And again: "If the miseries of all mankind from the creation were compared with those which the Jews then suffered, they would appear inferior." The promise that there shall be no days like it of course excludes the terrors and miseries of the judgment day, since it belongs to celestial rather than terrestrial history. Having now the whole paragraph before us, we are ready to discuss the phrase "abomination of desolation" mentioned in Matt. xxiv. 15 ( Luke 21:20, Luke 21:21) forbids us to make the flight from Judæa subsequent to the flight from Jerusalem, for both flights were to begin when the Romans appeared. Again it should be noted that the phrase "the holy place" is apt to mislead, especially when coupled with Mark’s "where it ought not." The words when seen in English cause us to think of some person or thing polluting the sanctuary of the temple by standing in its holy place. But it is evident that the words do not refer to the temple at all. When the New Testament speaks of the holy place in the temple it styles it en too hagioo (in the holy), while the words here are en topoo hagioo (in a place holy). Moreover, after a careful perusal of the LXX. we are persuaded that they used the two terms to distinguish between the holy place in the sanctuary and other holy places, a distinction which the Revised Version recognizes ( Leviticus 6:16, Leviticus 6:26, Leviticus 6:27, etc.). As none but priests could enter [627] the holy place, it is evident that another is meant at Psalms 24:3; but in this place the Septuagint gives us en topoo hagioo. We, therefore, conclude that in this place Matthew uses the term "holy place" to designate the holy territory round about the Holy City, and that the combined expression of Matthew and Mark signifies the investiture of the city by the Roman armies and is equivalent to the plainer statement made by Luke. The Roman armies were fittingly called the abomination of desolation, because, being heathen armies, they were an abomination to the Jews, and because they brought desolation upon the country. The sight of them, therefore, became the appointed sign for Christians to quit the city.] 22 And except those days had been shortened, b20 And except the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved [since the Lord is speaking to the Jews, this means that if God had not shortened the siege and restrained the Romans, they would have exterminated the Jewish race]; but for the elect’s sake, whom he chose, he shortened the days. athose days shall be shortened. [since the term "elect" in Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:31 evidently means Christians, it doubtless means that here, though it may mean that God spared a remnant of the Jewish people because he had covenanted with the patriarchs that they should be his chosen people, for the Jews are also God’s elect ( Romans 11:28, Romans 11:29). Moreover, it should be noted that there were few, if any, Christians remaining in the city, and that those who were spared were spared as Jews without discrimination.] b21 And then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ; aor, Here; bor, Lo, there; believe it not: 22 for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show agreat signs and wonders; so as to {bthat they may} lead astray, if possible, aeven the elect. [For accounts of these lying prophets who appeared before and during the siege, see Josephus, Wars iv., v., vi. Christ warns his followers: 1. Not to be deceived by spurious Christs. 2. Not to believe that he himself has again appeared. This latter warning is further enforced by what follows.] b23 But take [628] ye heed: behold, I have told you all things beforehand. a26 If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not. 27 For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. [The coming of Christ would be an event needing no herald; every man would see it for himself. See p. 531.] 28 Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. [See pp. 533, 534.]

[FFG 619-629]

Verses 25-36

aMATT. XXIV. 29-51; bMARK XIII. 24-37; cLUKE XXI. 25-36.

b24 But in those days, aimmediately after the {bthat} atribulation of those days. [Since the coming of Christ did not follow close upon the destruction of Jerusalem, the word "immediately" used by Matthew is somewhat puzzling. There are, however, three ways in which it may be explained: 1. That Jesus reckons the time after his own divine, and not after our human, fashion. Viewing the word in this light, the passage at 2 Peter 3:4-9 may almost be regarded as an inspired comment with reference to this passage. 2. The terrible judgment upon Jerusalem and the corresponding terror of the judgment day have between them no intervening season of judgment in any way worthy to be compared to either of them. The two periods, therefore, stand with regard to each other in immediate connection. 3. The tribulation which came upon the Jewish people merely began with the destruction of Jerusalem, other woes followed at once, and, coming down through all the centuries of wandering and dispersion, they were yet unfulfilled and incomplete. See Deuteronomy 28:58-68] the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall {bshall be falling} from heaven, aand the powers of [629] {bthat are in} the heavens shall be shaken. [The language is that of the ancient prophets. See Amos 8:9, Joel 2:30, Joel 2:31, Ezekiel 32:7, Ezekiel 32:8. Compare also Revelation 6:12-14. Some regard the language as metaphorical, indicating the eclipse of nations and the downfall of rulers, but there are many similar passages of Scripture which constrain us to regard the language here as literal rather than figurative. See 2 Peter 3:10, Hebrews 1:12, Revelation 20:11.] c25 And there shall be signs in sun and moon and stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and the billows [We can conceive of nothing which would produce greater mental distress or perplexity than changes in the position or condition of the heavenly bodies. Such changes will be followed by corresponding commotions on our planet, as, for instance, great tidal waves and vast agitation in the ocean]; 26 men fainting for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world: for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. a30 and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven [The coming and the sign are the same thing. The word "sign" is used in connection with the coming of Christ to indicate that the nature of the coming (that is, the manner of its manifestations) will be fully commensurate with the importance of the event. His first coming in the manger was not so]: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn [The coming will occasion universal mourning in the unprepared, and apparently the majority of people will be in that condition. The term "all" is not, however, to be construed as including all individuals-- 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17], b26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in {aon the} clouds {cin a cloud} aof heaven bwith great power aand great glory. b27 And then shall he send forth the {ahis} angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one of heaven to the other. bfrom the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. [To the Jews the trumpet would naturally be [630] associated with the assembling of the people, for silver trumpets were used to call Israel together ( Numbers 10:1-4, Exodus 19:13, Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:19, Psalms 81:3-5). We are not told why angels are used on this occasion, but they appear to be employed in all the great operations of Providence ( Matthew 13:41). The phrases "four winds," etc., indicate that the angelic search shall extend over the entire globe. The language is that which was then used when one desired to indicate the whole earth. It is based upon the idea which then prevailed that the earth is flat, and that it extends outward in one vast plain until it meets and is circumscribed by the overarching heavens.] c28 But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption draweth nigh. [The preliminary death-throes of this present physical universe, which will strike terror to the souls of those who have limited themselves to material hopes, will be to the Christian a reassuring sign, since he looks for a new heaven and a new earth.] 29 And he spake to them a parable: a32 Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; cBehold the fig tree, and all the trees: 30 when they now shoot forth, ye see it and know of your own selves that the summer is now nigh. 31 Even so ye also, when ye see aall cthese things coming to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh. aknow ye that he is nigh, even at the doors. [As the change of the season in the natural world has its preliminary signs, so the change of conditions in the spiritual realm has its premonitory symptoms. When men see the symptoms which Jesus has described, they will recognize that changes are coming as to the nature of which they can only guess. But the Christian is informed that these changes indicate the coming of the Son of God--a change from a worse to a better season.] 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, buntil all things be accomplished. [Commentators differ widely as to the import of these words. Godet is so perplexed by them that he thinks [631] they refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, and have been misplaced by the Evangelist. Cook straddles the difficulty by giving a dual significance to all that our Lord has said concerning his coming, so that our Lord in one narrative speaks figuratively of a coming in the power of his kingdom before, during, and right after the destruction of Jerusalem, and literally of his final coming at the end of the world. But this perplexing expression under this theory refers exclusively to the figurative and not to the literal sense of the passage. The simplest solution of the matter is to take the word "generation" to mean the Jewish family or race--and the word does mean race or family-- Luke 16:8. Thus interpreted, the passage becomes a prophecy that the Jewish people shall be preserved as such until the coming of Christ. The marvelous and almost miraculous preservation of the racial individuality of the Jews, though dispersed among all nations, might well become the subject of prophecy, especially when Jesus had just spoken of an event which threatened their very extermination.] 31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. [The disciples had regarded the temple as so permanent that they found it hard to conceive that Christ’s words could be fulfilled with regard to it; but he assures them that his predictions and prophecies are the stable and imperishable things. That even the more permanent structure of the heavens is not so abiding as his utterances.] a36 But of that day and {bor that} hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in {aof} heaven, neither the Son, bbut the Father. aonly. [These words indicate the profound secrecy in which God has concealed the hour of judgment. It is concealed from all people, that each generation may live in expectation of its fulfillment, and we are to watch for the signs, though we may not fully know the times. They also indicate that either by reason of his assumption of our human nature, or by a voluntary act on his part, the knowledge of Jesus became in some respects circumscribed. They also suggest that it is not only idle, but also presumptuous, for men to strive to find out by mathematical calculation and expositions of [632] prophecy that which the Son of God did not know.] 37 And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 38 For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, 39 and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. [See Psalms 1:5, Malachi 3:2.] b33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. 34 It is as when a man, sojourning in another country, having left his house, and given authority to his servants, to each one his work, commanded also the porter to watch. [Under the figure of the householder and the thief, Jesus appealed to the sense of danger. Under the figure of the servant he appealed to the sense of duty, and under this figure of the porter he appealed to the sense of loyalty. The porter’s desire to honor his lord was to make him so vigilant that he would open the door at once upon his lord’s appearing.] 35 Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning [The night was then divided into four watches. See p. 322. Jesus may here refer either to the duration of the world or to the life of the individual. He divides either period into four sections, in accordance with the night watches which were so fully associated with watchfulness]; 36; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. [This warning message was not for the apostles alone, but for all disciples.]

[FFG 629-634]

Verses 37-38

(Road from Bethany to Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 4, A. D. 30.)
aMATT. XXI. 20-22; bMARK XI. 19-25; cLUKE XXI. 37, 38.

c37 And every day he was teaching in the temple [he was there Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but he seems to have spent Wednesday and Thursday in Bethany]; and every night {bevening} he went forth out out of the city. cand lodged in the mount that is called Olivet. [As Bethany was on the Mount of Olives, this statement leaves us free to suppose that he spent his nights there, but it is not likely that he retired to any one house or place continuously, for had he done so the rulers could easily have ascertained his whereabouts and arrested him.] 38 And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, to hear him. [The enthusiasm of the triumphal entry did not die out in a day: Jesus was still the center of observation.] b20 And as they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away from the roots. [It was completely withered--dead root and branch. We have observed before, James 4:2, James 4:3), or which it is unwise for us to seek ( 2 Corinthians 12:7-9), nor must we selfishly run counter to the will of God ( Luke 22:42, 1 John 5:14, 1 John 5:15), nor must we expect that God shall perform a miracle for us, for miracles have ceased--in short, we [584] must pray to God in full remembrance of the relationship between us, we must consider that he is the Ruler and we his subjects, and are not to think for one moment that by faith we can alter this eternal, unchangeable relation. The disciples whom Jesus addressed were very soon to enter upon a task which would seem to them as difficult as the removal of mountains. The license and immorality of paganism, and the bigotry and prejudice of Judaism, would seem insurmountable obstacles in their pathway to success. They needed to be assured that the power of faith was superior to all these adverse forces, and that the judgments of God could accomplish in a moment changes which apparently could not be wrought out in the tedious course of years. As we to-day look back upon this promise of Christ we can see that the mountains then standing have, indeed, been removed; and that which seemed vigorous and flourishing has been blasted in a day.] b25 And whensoever ye stand [a customary attitude-- Luke 18:13] praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. [Forgiveness has already been enjoined (see pp. 253, 254). Here our Lord emphasizes the need of forgiveness because he had just performed a miracle of judgment, and he wished his disciples to understand that they must not exercise their miraculous gifts with a vengeful, unforgiving spirit. They must suffer evil and not retaliate with miracles of judgment.] [585]

[FFG 583-585]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 21". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.