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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Israel, Prophecies Concerning; Jesus Continued; The Topic Concordance - Abomination; Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; End of the World; Redemption; Tribulation; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Christ, the Prophet; Mountains; Prophets; Second Coming of Christ, the;
Verse Matthew 24:16. Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains — This counsel was remembered and wisely followed by the Christians afterwards. Eusebius and Epiphanius say, that at this juncture, after Cestius Gallus had raised the siege, and Vespasian was approaching with his army, all who believed in Christ left Jerusalem and fled to Pella, and other places beyond the river Jordan; and so they all marvellously escaped the general shipwreck of their country: not one of them perished. See on Matthew 24:13.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-24.html. 1832.
131. The coming crisis (Matthew 24:1-31; Mark 13:1-27; Luke 21:5-28)
Through his parables and other teachings, Jesus had spoken a number of times of his going away and his return in glory, which would bring in the climax of the age, the triumph of his kingdom and final judgment. His disciples apparently connected these events with the predicted destruction of Jerusalem. Therefore, when Jesus spoke of the destruction of the temple, his disciples immediately connected this with the return of the Messiah and the end of the age. They asked him what significant events would occur before these final great events (Matthew 24:1-3; Luke 21:5-7).
In reply Jesus told them that the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple was not necessarily connected with the return of the Messiah or the end of the age. They were not to believe rumours they might hear from time to time that the Messiah had returned, for there would always be false prophets who tried to attract a following for themselves. Nor were they to think that all wars, famines, earthquakes or plagues were sure signs that the end was near (Matthew 24:4-8; Luke 21:8-11).
The end would not come till the gospel had spread throughout the world, and this goal would be reached only after much opposition. God’s servants would be persecuted by enemies and betrayed by friends; many would be killed. Only by love and unfailing faith in God would the survivors be able to endure their trials. Even if their sufferings resulted in death, God would preserve them for his heavenly kingdom (Matthew 24:9-14; Luke 21:12-19).
Although the people of Jesus’ day would not see the final events of the world’s history, many of them would certainly see a foreshadowing of those events; for they would live to witness the horror of the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem.
On seeing the awful sight of Rome’s armies approaching the city, people would flee to the hills, without even waiting to collect their belongings. They would find escape particularly difficult if the attack came in winter (when weather conditions would slow them down), or on the Sabbath (when religious regulations would restrict them). Women and children especially would suffer. The enemy’s savage attack would be more terrible and destructive than anything they had known. In fact, if God did not stop the butchery, no one would be left alive. The people would be massacred, the temple burnt and the city destroyed. The event would be a repeat of the atrocities of Antiochus Epiphanes, only many times worse - an ‘awful horror’ (GNB), a ‘desolating sacrilege’ (RSV), an ‘abomination that causes desolation’ (NIV) (Matthew 24:15-22; Luke 21:20-24; cf. Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; see ‘The New Testament World’).
During the time these troubles were building up, false prophets would try to draw Jesus’ disciples into their group. With clever tricks and comforting words they would assure them that the Messiah had returned and was hiding in some safe place, waiting to lead his people to victory. The disciples of Jesus were not to believe such rumours. Jesus’ return would be as sudden, as open, and as startling as a flash of lightning. When God’s great intervention eventually occurred, it would be plain for all to see (Matthew 24:23-28).
Jesus did not return at the fall of Jerusalem, nor immediately after. It seems, then, that his prophecy still awaits its greater fulfilment. If that is so, there could be a repeat of conditions such as those during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but on a wider scale and with greater intensity. The powers of nature on earth and in space will be thrown into confusion, nations will be in turmoil, and people everywhere will be filled with fear. The present age will come to an end as Jesus returns in power and glory to save his own and judge his enemies (Matthew 24:29-31; Luke 21:25-28).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-24.html. 2005.
Then let them ... - Then Christians may know that the end is come, and should seek a place of safety. Destruction would not only visit the “city,” but would extend to the surrounding part of Judea.
The mountains - The mountains of Palestine abound in caves, a safe retreat for those who are pursued. In all ages these caves have been the favorite places of robbers, and they were also resorted to by those in danger, 1 Samuel 13:6; 1 Samuel 22:1; 2 Samuel 23:13; Joshua 10:16. In those mountains they would be safe.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-24.html. 1870.
16.Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Having shown by the testimony of the prophet that, when the temple had been profaned, the services of the Law would soon afterwards be abolished, he adds, that fearful and appalling calamities will soon overtake the whole of Judea, so that there will be nothing more desirable than to withdraw a distance from it; and, at the same time, he states that they will be so sudden, that time will scarcely be time allowed for the most rapid flight. For such is the import of the expressions, Let not him who is on the house-top enter into the house; let not him who is in the field turn back; that is, lest, by attempting to save their property, they themselves perish. Again, Woe to the women with child, and to them that give suck; for they will not be in a fit condition for flight. Again, Pray that your fight may not be in the winter; that is, that neither a regard to the sacredness of the day, nor the roughness of the roads, nor the shortness of the clays, may prevent or retard your flight. The design of Christ therefore was, first, to arouse his followers, that they might no longer indulge the hope of ease and repose, and the enjoyments of an earthly kingdom; and, secondly, to fortify their minds, that they might not give way under ordinary calamities. Such an admonition, no doubt, was fir from being agreeable, but, in consequence of their stupidity, and the great weight of the calamities, it was highly necessary.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-24.html. 1840-57.
Now Jesus went out ( Matthew 24:1 ),
Left the house desolate. He is rejected now. They've rejected Him, now He has rejected them. Leave the house desolate; you're not going to see me again until you are saying, "blessed is he who comes in the name of Lord."
And so they are not going to see Him, until He comes, until He comes again.
So as Jesus was going out,
and departing from the temple: his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple ( Matthew 24:1 ).
They were remarking really on the stones, one of the gospels tells us. And according to Josephus they were huge stones. Many of them weighing up to one hundred ten to one hundred and twenty tons, all carved out so perfectly that they fit together so smoothly, that you cannot even to the present day, insert a knife blade between them. How in the world they ever carved these so perfectly, and lifted them into position, is still a mystery today. The engineering, by which Herod built the Western Retaining Wall using many of these same huge stones, is still an engineering marvel today; however, they did it. It was really a marvel of engineering.
So they were showing Jesus the buildings, this fabulous building that was built up there on the temple mount by Herod.
And Jesus said unto them, You see all of these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down ( Matthew 24:2 ).
This prophecy of Jesus was literally fulfilled some forty years later, when Titus came into Jerusalem with the Roman troops set fire to the temple, which was the last stronghold in Citadel, in which the inhabitants of Jerusalem were holding out. And so they set fire to the temple, actually against Titus' order. He wanted to preserve the temple, but some drunken soldier shot a flaming arrow, the temple caught fire, the people inside were cremated. The gold in the dome melted and came down in these crevasses. And so they threw down the temple stone by stone, to get the gold, until finally not one stone was left standing upon the other.
Today in Jerusalem near the Western Wall just east of the entrance into the temple mount by which you go up to Al-Aqsa mosque, as you look down on the right hand side to the old Roman road, which is down at the bottom of the valley there that has now been excavated, you can see some stones lying just as they fell, just as they were pushed by the Roman soldiers in 70 A.D. when they sacked Jerusalem. And they believe that some of these stones were actually from that temple of which Jesus spake. And you can see the rubble down there in the bottom of the valley, as these stones were just pushed over, and cracked, and broken, and are still lying in disarray in the bottom there on the street, broke these great pavement stones of the street as they fell. But the prophecy of Jesus was literally fulfilled, so that not one stone of Solomon's temple was left standing upon another. They have all been thrown down.
Now He left then the temple area and He went over to the Mount of Olives, and
He sat down there on the Mount of Olives ( Matthew 24:3 ),
And the disciples passing through the Kidron, and of course, you who have been there can picture this in your mind now, going out from the temple area, probably passing through the East gate and over on the Mount of Olives, and sitting there probably under some of those olive trees.
the disciples came unto him privately, and they said, Tell us, when are these things going to be? [that is, the destruction of the temple] and what will be the sign of your coming, in the end of the age? ( Matthew 24:3 )
Not the end of the world, as the material world is going to dissolve and be gone, but the end of this age, the age of man's rebellion against God, the end of the age of man's iniquity and sinfulness; before you usher in the new age of God's glorious kingdom. What are going to be the signs?
And so Jesus answered and said, Take heed that no men deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Messiah; and they shall deceive many ( Matthew 24:4-5 ).
It is true that through the ages many men have come, claiming to be the Savior of the world. And it is true that these men have deceived many. There are even those today who have large followings, who claim to be the Messiah. This claim has been made by many leaders of cultic groups.
David Berg leading "the children of God", Sunyut Moon leading the Monies, and so many laying claim to being the Messiah. Jesus said, "Don't let any men deceive you."
Now He said,
You're going to hear of wars and rumors of wars: don't be troubled: for all of these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet ( Matthew 24:6 ).
Wars and rumors of wars. Since the time of Christ there have been thirteen years of war to every one year of peace. So the fact that there is going to be a war, the fact that there is a war going on in Iran and Iraq is no sign.
But Jesus said,
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom [in the Greek, this speaks of world wars and this is a sign]: there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places ( Matthew 24:7 ).
These all constitute signs of His return, world wars. We've had two of them, beginning in 1914. Famines; the earth today is plagued with famines. It is estimated fifteen million people annually die of causes related to malnutrition. Pestilences, viruses, and earthquakes in divers places.
All of these are just the beginning of the sorrows ( Matthew 24:8 ).
This is starting it.
Now they are going to deliver you up to be afflicted, they will kill you: you will be hated of all nations for my name's sake ( Matthew 24:9 ).
And surely the disciples, all of them were martyred, with the exception of John the beloved. In Foxes Book of Martyrs, he lists the death, and the manner of deaths of all of the disciples, and it's a book that will really give you an appreciation of the heritage that we have and the price that was paid to bring it to us.
Then many shall be offended, they'll betray one another, they'll hate one another. Many false prophets shall arise, and deceive many ( Matthew 24:10-11 ).
There will be the false messiahs and there will also be false prophets, arising and deceiving many people. And my wife told me not to get on that tonight, so I won't.
And because the iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold ( Matthew 24:12 ).
Today we are living in a time when iniquity abounds. And the result of the abounding iniquity is the love of many people has really grown cold for the things of the Lord.
But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved ( Matthew 24:13 ).
"Hang in there," He is saying.
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 ( Matthew 24:14 ).
Now there are those who see a problem with the coming of Jesus Christ in the near future, because they say there are many tribes that have not yet heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul the apostle when he wrote to the Colossians, some thirty years after the birth of the church said, "and the gospel as it is come to you, as it is in all the world"( Colossians 1:23 ). And as far as Paul was concerned, the gospel in his day had gone into all the world. It is true that there are still areas of the world that are yet basically unreached, but not any major national group. The gospel has gone to every major national group. The gospel has been rejected. It's been outlawed in some areas; but nonetheless, it has gone. However, Jesus is just declaring; "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness, and then shall the end come." He does not say that the church will be the instrument necessarily that is preaching this gospel.
Now I do know that many missions' groups take this as their real challenge and impetus for foreign missionary work, but I do not feel that it is a necessary requirement that the Lord cannot come for the church, until we have taken the gospel into all the world; and thus, our primary emphasis should be missionary outreach getting the gospel into all the world so Jesus can come again.
In the fourteenth chapter in the book of Revelation, there John saw an angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel. "I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them to dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred and tongue and people"( Revelation 14:6 ). Notice, the gospel is being preached to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. "Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgement is come: worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters"( Revelation 14:7 ). So the gospel will be preached. And of course this is right at the end of the great tribulation period, but the proclaimers of the gospel at that time, really are not the church, but the angels flying through the midst of heaven.
Now whether or not this is satellite telecommunications, I don't know, but surely they fly through the midst of heaven, and they have the capacity of beaming the gospel on to all the nations. And whether or not the Lord will use that for the fulfillment of this, I don't know, but I do know that God has intended, and God plans to give every man a chance. And every man will be warned. Another angel in chapter fourteen flies through the midst of heaven, warning people not to worship the antichrist, not to take his mark, and warning them of the impending doom, of anybody who dares to worship him, or to receive his mark ( Revelation 14:9 , Revelation 14:11 ). So that is not really a requirement that the church spread the gospel unto all the world so that Jesus can return.
Jesus then said,
When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, (whoso reads, let him understand:) Then let him which be in Judaea flee to the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. But woe unto them that are with child, and to those that are nursing in those days! ( Matthew 24:15-19 )
Now Jesus makes reference to the abomination of desolation that Daniel spoke about. And then He said, "whoso reads, let him understand." Now do you understand the abomination of desolation that Daniel spoke about? If you do not then you should study it so that you can understand what the abomination of desolation is, that was spoke by Daniel the prophet.
We find that this first appears in the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel, where the angel declares unto Daniel, that there are "seventy sevens determined upon the nation of Israel, to finish the transgressions, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in the everlasting kingdom, to finish the prophecies, and to anoint the most holy place. Now therefore no one understand, that from the time the commandment goes forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, to the coming of the Messiah the Prince, will be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens. And the walls will be built again in troublous times"( Daniel 9:24-25 ).
So the prophecy to Daniel concerning the nation of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem, is that there are seventy sevens that have been determined upon the nation of Israel. And sixty-nine sevens would transpire between the time that the commandment would go forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, which did go forth in 445 BC by Artaxerxes. And from that time it be four hundred and eighty-three years; seven sevens, forty-nine years and threescore and two sevens, or four hundred and sixty-two years, four hundred and eight-three years altogether, and that from this time to the Messiah. So Christ came four hundred and eighty-three years after the commandment went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
But then the angel said to Daniel, "but the Messiah will be cut off, with nothing for Himself or the Messiah actually will be cut off, and not receive the kingdom. And the people will be dispersed. There would be a flood, or dispersion ( Daniel 9:26 ). And so the prediction of the Jewish nation being dispersed after the sixty-ninth sevens.
Now in the beginning he said, "seventy sevens are determined upon the nation Israel". So there is a one missing seven-year cycle that God is determined upon the nation of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem. The Messiah came after the four hundred and eighty-three years. The Messiah was cut off. He did not receive the kingdom. The Roman troops came, the Jews were dispersed. So you still have a seven-year period that is not yet fulfilled. Now the Lord does not leave us in total darkness concerning these seven years.
He then went on to say, now the prince of the people that shall come, that would be the leader of this final world empire the ten nation federation in Europe, who is called the son of perdition, the man of sin, the beast, or several different names in the scriptures, commonly called the antichrist; he will make a covenant with the nation of Israel. Through his covenant he will be hailed as the Messiah; and thus the covenant no doubt will entail somewhat the rebuilding of the temple, because they say today, that they will recognize the Messiah because he will help them to build their temple and restore the worship. And that's how they plan to recognize the Messiah.
So he makes a covenant with the nation of Israel, but in the midst of that seven-year period, or after three and a half years, he will break the covenant, as he establishes, or sets up the abomination, which causes desolation. Now the abomination which causes desolation is when he, after three and a half years returns to Jerusalem, and comes into the holy temple, that has been rebuilt and stands in the holy place, defiling it, by declaring or showing that he himself is God.
Paul tells us in second Thessalonians, chapter two, that he will stand in the temple of God, showing that he himself is God, and demand to be worshiped as God. And Jesus said when you see this, the abomination of desolation, that was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, then flee to the wilderness and pray that your flight will not be in the winter nor on the Sabbath day. He is talking definitely Jewish language, to Jewish people.
Now according to the book of Revelation the antichrist, which is the beast, the man of sin, is going to make war against Israel. And God, he said, is going to give them wings of an angel to bear them to a wilderness place, where they will be nourished for three and a half years. And when the dragon sees that they have been escaped from him, he will send out an army after them, and the earth will open up and swallow the army. But they will be preserved of God in this wilderness place for three and a half years ( Revelation 12:14 ).
In Isaiah sixteen, God said to Jordan, actually to Petra; open up your gates and receive my people, bear them safely to Petra, that they might be there until the indignation, which is the Old Testament word for the great tribulation, until the indignation be overpassed.
So Jesus is saying, "Look, when you see this abomination of desolation, for three and a half years into this final seven year period, when you see this abomination of desolation that Daniel spoke about standing in the holy place, that's the sign for you to get out of there, and get out of there fast. Don't bother going to your house to get anything, just get out. The Lord will preserve you when you get down to Petra, but get out of there as fast as you can.
And so that is what the abomination of desolation is. It is when the antichrist stands in the temple, showing that he is God, and demands to be worshiped as God. This is the final straw of man's rebellion, and this is what precipitates the Great Tribulation period. It is at this point that God's fury, the cup of the indignation of His wrath will overflow, and God's judgement will come down upon this Christ-rejecting world, and you will have the period known in the Bible as the Great Tribulation period, which will last one thousand two hundred and ninety days.
And it is given in great detail in the book of Revelation, beginning with chapter six and going through chapter eighteen. So if you want to know the things that will be transpiring during that three and a half-year period of time, God has spelled it out in great detail for you. All I can say is you don't want to be here. And thank God you don't have to be here, because God has not appointed us unto wrath. That's His Word to us.
Now, Jesus said,
Pray that your flight will not be in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be ( Matthew 24:20-21 ).
The time of the greatest tribulation that the world has ever seen. Now there are some who say that this took place, the abomination of desolation took place when Titus came in and destroyed the temple. No, because the Great Tribulation had not taken place; it did not follow Titus' destruction of the temple. And John writing the book of Revelation wrote long after the temple was destroyed by Titus, and details the Great Tribulation as a yet future event, that will take place after the church things.
In chapter four of verse one in the book of Revelation, "Now after these things," After what things? The things of the church. In chapters two and three; "I saw a door open in heaven, the first voice as of a trumpet saying to me, come up hither and I am going to show you things are going to be after these church things. And immediately I was caught up by the Spirit, I saw the throne of God." And he describes it, chapter five, he describes the scroll in the right hand of Him, who is sitting upon the throne, and the worship and glory that is given to Christ, when He takes the scroll, and assumes the authority and power that is His. Chapter six He begins to break the seals of this scroll, and as He does, first of all the white horse with his rider, the antichrist coming over, taking over the earth, followed by the wars, and the famines, and the death. And then we proceed on into the Great Tribulation period, yet future.
Now Jesus said, concerning these days,
Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be save: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened ( Matthew 24:22 ).
The elect's, God's people the Jews. So the tribulation will be so horrible, the war and all that will break out. The great battle of Armageddon, so fierce, so great, that unless God would shorten those days, no flesh would remain. And so for the elect's sake, God will shorten those days.
"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; don't believe it. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets ( Matthew 24:23-24 ),
Now there will be the false Christ, the Antichrist, and he will have the false Prophet, who will come to cause the world to worship him. In Revelation chapter thirteen, it tells you about the false Messiah, and the false Prophet, who will lead the world to worship the false Messiah. And we are told in Revelation that they will come with great signs, and wonders, and miracles. And of course in second Thessalonians chapter two, as Paul was talking about this man of sin, he talks how he deceives the world with the signs and the miracles and the wonders that he is able to perform.
Now a person, who has premised his faith and belief upon signs and miracles and wonders, is really in sort of a dangerous position. If you don't premise your faith in the Word of God, but you are looking for signs, miracles, and wonders, hey, you haven't seen anything yet. When the Antichrist comes he is going to be able to do all kinds of supernatural things. And because of that power he will deceive many.
Jesus is warning over and over, don't be deceived. If possible,
the signs and wonders are so great; if possible, even the very elect would be deceived. Behold, [He said] I've told you now before it happens. Wherefore, if they say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: or if they say, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not ( Matthew 24:24-26 ).
Jehovah witnesses say that Christ came in 1917 into a secret chamber, where He now rules the world. We've entered into the millennial age. Isn't this glorious, friends? The Bible says that Satan will be bound during this period of time. If Satan is bound, with his great chain, all I can say is the leash is too long.
Now Jesus is talking of His coming and He says,
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even to the west; so shall the coming of the Son of man be ( Matthew 24:27 ).
Now does that sound to you like a secret coming in a private chamber someplace? I tell you there is nothing secret about lightening that lights up the whole sky.
For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together ( Matthew 24:28 ).
Now there is a lot of problem on the interpretation of what Jesus meant, by "wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together", and the interpretations fight each other and are indirect opposition to each other. The one interpretation is that the carcass refers to all of the dead bodies that will be in the Valley of Megiddo after that great slaughter in the war there. And where God invites, in Revelation chapter seventeen, the birds of the air to come feast upon the kings, and the chief captains, and men and so forth. And that it will be the vultures that will come into the Valley of Megiddo to devour all of these slain bodies that are there.
And someone even had a rumor that vultures were multiplying very rapidly in Israel, and that all the vultures were laying four and five eggs, instead of the usual two and all, which is all a bunch of poppycock. But people get those stories going, and then they have a way of embellishing them and enlarging them. Now that's one interpretation.
The other interpretation --and let me say the word is "eagle", not vulture. And the other interpretation is so different from the first, and they say the carcass is really the body of Christ, and the eagles are the saints. So you see how diverse the interpretations of this particular verse actually are.
Now I for one am not willing to get into the dispute of which interpretation is right. There are many things that I have filed in my file up here in my brain that says wait for further information before you make a solid decision or commitment. This is one of those areas. I really don't know which interpretation is right, and I am really open. I don't know, and I confess, I don't know. I can see the problems with either interpretation. I can see the validity for both interpretations, and I personally do not know which interpretation is correct, and thus you're free. I've given you both interpretations to choose whichever one fits your schema best, and you can go with it.
Now immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened ( Matthew 24:29 );
This will be the final aspect of the tribulation, the great cataclysmic signs in the heavens. The son darkened,
the moon will not give her light, the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall appear ( Matthew 24:29-30 )
When? Immediately after the tribulations of those days, 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 ( Matthew 24:30 ).
Now the Jehovah Witnesses really have a time when they get to this verse of scripture, double-talking. And they'll throw you off with this one immediately. They don't like this scripture at all, because Jesus already came, but He is in a secret chamber. Nobody saw Him, except their leaders who are now getting their instructions from Him, see, setting up His theocracy through them upon the earth.
But here it says, "and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory." All of the tribes of the earth.
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 ( Matthew 24:31 ).
Now those who take the post-tribulation theory, that Jesus is not going to take the church out until after the Great Tribulation, use this as one of their chief verses to defend their position. For He shall then, after He returns, after the Great Tribulation, He will then send His angels with the sound of a trumpet. The trumpet of God shall sound, "and they shall gather together, His elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other."
Now one thing that they always disregard is that the Bible speaks of that trump by which the church will be caught up to glory, as the trump of God always shall sound; whereas, they confuse that with the seventh trumpet of the book of Revelation, because the trump of God is called the last trump. And so they say, the seventh trump is the last trumpet in the book of Revelation. But again in the book of Revelation there, the trumpets of the seven angels, and the seven angels prepared to sound their seven trumpets. And there is a vast difference between the seventh trumpet, which is declared to be a woe, and that trump of God whereby the church should be called to her reward.
Now this particular verse is one of those compilations where Jesus put together three verses out of the Old Testament; whereby, God has promised that when the return of Christ takes place, and the kingdom is established, that God is again going to take back the Jews as His people, as a nation, and He is going to bring them back in the land, and honor them once more.
And in Deuteronomy chapter thirty, three and four, in that particular promise as the Lord is talking about returning them from their captivity, He said, "and if any of you are driven out to the uttermost parts of heaven, from there will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from there He will fetch you. Notice He will gather together from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other, but that heaven if you be scattered, He will gather you from there. Deuteronomy thirty-four.
In Isaiah 27 , twelve and thirteen, there the Lord said, again as He is predicting the regathering of the people "oh ye children of Israel", the end of verse twelve, "it shall come to pass in that day that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish, in the land of Assyria, the outcast from the land of Egypt, and they shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem." And so the trumpet, the great trumpet sounding, Jesus makes reference to that.
And then once more in Isaiah chapter eleven, verse twelve. Here they are told to be gathered from the four corners of the earth, or from the four winds, as Jesus makes reference here. "An ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."
So it is not at all damaging to the scripture, but only in harmony with the other prophecies, that this be understood to be the elect Jews, not the church.
Now Jesus said another parable of the fig tree.
When its branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh: So likewise, when you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the door ( Matthew 24:32-33 ).
So when you see these things that He has been speaking about; the world wars, the pestilences, the earthquakes, the false Christ, the tribulation, you'll know that His coming is at the door.
The fig tree is used symbolically in the scripture to represent the nation Israel. "And when you see the branches yet tender, it puts forth it leaves, you know that summer is nigh". To say that Jesus is really predicting the rebirth of the nation Israel as the final sign is stretching a little bit the actual text itself. Basically, Jesus is just saying that when you see the trees budding forth, you know that summer is getting close. Therefore when you see these signs that He has been predicting, you'll know that His coming is close.
In fact He said,
This generation shall not pass, until all these things be fulfilled ( Matthew 24:34 ).
And that would be the generation that sees these signs that He has been referring to.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour ( Matthew 24:35-36 ),
And this is the emphasis now, through the remaining part of this chapter: that day and the hour
no man knows, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only ( Matthew 24:36 ).
So Jesus is saying that no man knows the day, or the hour, only the Father. So that anyone who presumes to know the day or the hour is making an unbiblical presumption. But there are many people who try to explain away this, "no man knows the day or the hour," and try to proclaim that they do know the day or the hour, but they fall in that category of false prophets.
But as it was in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days of Noah that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of man be ( Matthew 24:37-39 ).
And so again Noah. He is just saying, it's going to be like it was in the days of Noah, that is, they were going on with business as usual, right up until the time of God's judgment. They didn't know until the flood came, and took them away, so it will be, people will be oblivious. The world will be oblivious of the return of Christ, right until that moment when He comes. And so that is what He is saying. Actually there are those, and you can say, well in the days of Noah there was the population explosion, in the days of Noah there was the wickedness and so forth. But in reality the illustration to be just strictly within its context and holding strictly to the context, it was just liking it to the surprise that the people had when God's judgment finally came. They did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of man be.
Then two shall be in the field; one shall be taken, the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, the other left ( Matthew 24:40-41 ).
Now, again two divergent interpretations. One says: they are taken away to judgment, and those who are taken away are the unfortunate ones because they are taken away for judgment. And those that are left are the fortunate ones. The other is that this is a reference to the rapture of the church. Those that are taken away are blessed, and those that remain stay for the judgment. And there are arguments on both sides. Whichever fits your scheme.
Watch therefore: [and this is what applies to all of us, watch] for you know not what hour your Lord does come ( Matthew 24:42 ).
Now He said, no man knows the day or the hour. Because you don't, watch. You don't know the hour is coming. He is going to catch a lot of people by surprise. They are not going to know, until the Lord actually comes and all.
Now if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have allowed his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man cometh ( Matthew 24:43-44 ).
So the twofold, watch, and therefore, be ye ready.
Who is a faithful and wise servant, whom when his lord made him ruler over his household, to give meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing ( Matthew 24:45-46 ).
Doing what? Giving to the household their meat in due season. Ministering unto the needs of others. Blessed is that servant, who is doing this when the Lord comes.
Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him the ruler over all of his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delays his coming; and he shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he is not looking for him, and in an hour in which he is not aware, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth ( Matthew 24:47-51 ).
The danger of saying "the Lord is delaying His coming." Now, I feel that any time that a person declares the necessity of some event before the Lord comes for His church, is in essence saying the Lord is going to delay His coming until the Antichrist is revealed, or the Lord is going to delay His coming until after we have gone through the tribulation. And it is in essence saying the Lord is delaying His coming.
Jesus said, "look you don't know the day or the hour; therefore watch, therefore be ready." And the idea that the Lord is going to delay His coming, until after some particular event, does not really create a real impetus towards diligence in serving the Lord, but usually has as its effect, a slothfulness, according to the words of Christ. And that is a dangerous position to be in when the Lord returns, to be in a slothful state.
May the Lord be with you and watch over you, as you go forth in the name of Jesus to bear witness of God's love and God's truth to an indifferent world. May the love of Christ so flow forth from your life that people in your neighborhood, around your work, would just be touched by God's love as you become His instrument bearing His truth and His love to them. May your week be filled with God's blessings as the Lord guides you step by step in the fulfilling of His purpose and His plan that He has for you this week, that which He wants you to accomplish for His glory. So God be with you and keep you in the love of Jesus Christ. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-24.html. 2014.
Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Then let them which be in Judaea: "Judea" includes not only Jerusalem but also the surrounding province that will be most eminently affected by the cataclysmic events of Rome’s onslaught. The warning is significant because it is the natural tendency in times of distress for those outside a city to flee into the city and rely on the protection of its walls. Furthermore, within a city such as Jerusalem, there are stores of grain, fuel, and other commodities necessary to withstand a long siege. Jesus controverts conventional wisdom and warns His disciples to "flee to the mountains" (compare Luke 21:21). Who but the Master knows in advance the severity and length of an attack that will exhaust supplies, cause mothers to eat their own children, and trap citizens within the walls like birds in a snare? Jesus knows that in spite of the obstinate Jewish pride in their own resources, Jerusalem’s walls will crumble. The hallowed grounds of God’s abiding presence will become a "temple of doom." Furthermore, because the destruction of Jerusalem occurs during Passover season, the destruction of life is increased (Eusebius, History of the Church, III, 5). For the "godly," however, "salvation" does not come from faith in "walls" but faith in "words," the words of Christ. Those who heed Jesus’ warning, forsake their usual Passover pilgrimage, and flee to the mountains will be saved.
flee into the mountains: The term "mountains" is a general phrase and probably refers to any of the nearby hills or mountains within reasonable traveling distance. Jerusalem lies on a ridge that makes up part of the "hill country" of Judah that extends both to the north and south. Although not high by some standards, these elevations stand in stark contrast to the Jordan valley and the Dead Sea far below them. It is in these hills during the Maccabean era that Mathias and his sons flee in order to carry on guerilla warfare against the officers of Epiphanes. Because these hills abound in caves and ravines, they provide perfect hiding places. No doubt some Christians utilize these natural fortresses in their flight. The third century historian Eusebius also suggests many Christians flee to Pella, a city beyond the Jordan in the region of Perea, about seventeen miles from the Sea of Galilee.
The instructions here and through verse 34 pertain to "local" geography. Jesus refers to such things as the Judean style of homes (flat roofed Oriental houses) and the Sabbath, indicating the events will be local and not global. There is no hint that Jesus is speaking of the "end of time" or some great global catastrophe as so many Pre-Millennialists assert. Jesus reminds His listeners in verse 34 that "this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." The instruction that begins here and continues through verse 34, while perhaps bearing similarities to the final judgment, contextually speaks to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/matthew-24.html. 1993-2022.
4. The abomination of desolation 24:15-22 (cf. Mark 13:14-20)
Having given a general description of conditions preceding His return and the end of the present age, Jesus next described one particular event that would be the greatest sign of all.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-24.html. 2012.
When the abomination of desolation appears, the Jews living in Jerusalem and Judea should flee immediately (cf. Luke 17:31; Revelation 12:14). His influence would extend far beyond Jerusalem. They must seek refuge in places where they can escape his persecution. They must not even take time to retrieve possessions from their houses as they flee. Pregnant women and nursing mothers will have a hard time because their physical conditions will limit their mobility. Weather would make flight harder in the winter, and observant Jews would seek to discourage travel on the Sabbath.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-24.html. 2012.
THE VISION OF THINGS TO COME ( Matthew 24:1-31 )
We have already seen that it is one of the great characteristics of Matthew that he gathers together in large blocks the teaching of Jesus about different subjects. In Matthew 24:1-51 he gathers together things that Jesus said about the future and gives us the vision of things to come. In so doing Matthew weaves together sayings of Jesus about different aspects of the future; and it will make this difficult chapter very much easier to understand if we can disentangle the various strands and look at them one by one.
Matthew's interweaving of the sayings of Jesus lasts throughout Matthew 23:31. It will be best if, first of all, we set down these verses as a whole; if, next, we set down the various aspects of the future with which they deal; and if, last, we try to assign each section to its place in the pattern. We cannot claim certainty or finality for the pattern which we obtain; but, the general picture will become clear.
First then, we set down the verses, and we shall number them to make easier their assignment to their place in the pattern.
The Vision Of The Future ( Matthew 24:1-31)
24:1-31 1. When Jesus had left the precincts of the Temple, he was going away; and his disciples came to him to point out to him the 2. buildings of the Temple area. He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? This is the truth I tell you--one stone will not be left here upon another that will not be thrown down." 3. His disciples came to him privately when he was sitting on the Mount of Olives. "Tell us," they said, "when these things shall be. And tell us what will be the sign of your coming, and of the 4. consummation of the age." Jesus answered, "Be on the look-out 5. lest anyone lead you astray, for many will come in my name saying, 'I am God's Anointed One,' and they will lead many 6. astray. You will hear of wars and reports of wars. See that you are not disturbed; for these things must happen; but the end is not 7. yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various 8. places. All these things are the beginning of the agonies. Then 9. they will deliver you to affliction, and they will kill you, and you 10. will be hated by all nations because of my name. And then many will stumble, and will betray each other, and will hate each other. 11. And many false prophets will arise, and they will lead many 12. astray. And the love of many will grow cold, because lawlessness 13. will be multiplied. But it is he who endures to the end who will be 14. saved. And the gospel will be proclaimed to the whole inhabited world, for a testimony to all nations--and then the end will come. 15. When you see the desolating abomination, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the Holy Place (let him who 16. reads understand), then let him who is in Judaea flee to the 17. mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to 18. remove his goods from his house; and let him who is in the field 19. not come back to remove his cloak. Alas for those who in those days are carrying children in the womb, and who are suckling 20. children. Pray that your flight may not be in the winter time, nor 21. on a Sabbath. For at that time there will be great affliction, such as has never happened from the beginning of the world until now, 22. and such as never will happen. And, if the days had not been shortened, no human being would have survived. But the days 23. will be shortened for the sake of the elect. At that time, if anyone says to you, 'Look you, here, or here, is the Anointed One of 24. God,' do not believe him. For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will produce great signs and wonders, the consequences of which will be, if possible, to lead astray the elect. 25. Look you, I have told you about these things before they happen. 26. If anyone says to you, 'Look you, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. 'Look you, he is in the inner chambers,' do not believe him. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as 28. the west, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man. Where the 29. body is, there the vultures will be gathered. Immediately after the affliction of these days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the 30. powers of heaven will be shaken. Then there will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the tribes of the earth will lament, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the 31. clouds of heaven with power and much glory. And he will send his angels with a great trumpet call, and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one boundary of heaven to the other."
The Interweaving Of The Strands
There then is the composite vision of the future which Matthew collects for us; we must now try to disentangle the various strands in it. At this stage we only indicate the strands and leave fuller explanation for the detailed commentary.
(i) Some verses which foretell the terrible days of the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, the Roman general, a siege which was one of the most terrible in all history. These are Matthew 24:15-22.
(ii) Some verses tell of the ultimate complete destruction of Jerusalem and its reduction to a heap of ruins. These are Matthew 24:1-2.
(iii) Some verses paint pictures taken from the Jewish conception of the Day of the Lord. We have spoken about that conception before but we must briefly outline it again. The Jews divided all time into two ages--this present age, and the age to come. The present age is wholly bad and beyond all hope of human reformation. It can be mended only by the direct intervention of God. When God does intervene the golden age, the age to come, will arrive. But in between the two ages there will come the Day of the Lord, which will be a time of terrible and fearful upheaval, like the birth-pangs of a new age.
In the Old Testament itself there is many a picture of the Day of the Lord; and in the Jewish books written between the Old and the New Testaments these pictures are further developed and made still more vivid and still more terrible.
It will be a time of terror. "A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness" ( Zephaniah 1:14-18). The pictures of that terror became ever more lurid.
It will come suddenly. "The Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night" ( 1 Thessalonians 5:2). "Three things," said the Rabbis, "are sudden--the coming of the Messiah, a discovery, and a scorpion."
The universe will be shattered to pieces. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood ( Joel 2:30-31; Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 13:13).
It will be a time of moral chaos, when moral standards will be turned upside down, and when even nature will act contrary to herself, and when wars and violence and hatred will be the common atmosphere of life.
Schurer (The Jewish People in the Time of Christ ii, 154) sums up the Jewish ideas of the day of the Lord, ideas with which Jewish literature was full and which everyone knew in the time of Jesus. "The sun and moon will be darkened, swords appear in heaven, trains of horses and foot march through the clouds. Everything in nature falls into commotion and confusion. The sun appears by night, the moon by day. Blood trickles from wood, the stone gives forth a voice, and salt is found in fresh water. Places that have been sown will appear as unsown, full barns be found empty, and the springs of wells be stopped. Among men all restraints of order will be dissolved, sin and ungodliness rule upon earth. And men will fight against each other as if stricken with madness, the friend against the friend, the son against the father, the daughter against the mother. Nation will rise against nation, and to war shall be added earthquake, fire and famine, whereby men shall be carried off."
Such were the terrible pictures of the day of the Lord.. The verses are Matthew 24:6-8 and Matthew 24:29-31.
(iv) Some verses deal with the persecution which the followers of Christ will have to endure. These are Matthew 24:9-10.
(v) Some verses deal with the threats which will develop against the life and purity of the Church. These are Matthew 24:4-5, Matthew 24:11-13 and Matthew 24:23-26.
(vi) Some verses speak directly of the Second Coming of Christ. These are Matthew 24:3, Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 24:27-28.
So, in this amazing and difficult chapter of Matthew, we have in Matthew 24:1-31 a kind of sixfold vision of the future. We now go on to look at this vision, not taking the verses of the chapter consecutively, but taking together in turn those which deal with each strand.
The Doom Of The Holy City ( Matthew 24:1-2 )
24:1-2 When Jesus had left the precincts of the Temple, he was going away; and his disciples came to him to point out to him the buildings of the Temple area. He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? This is the truth I tell you--one stone will not be left here upon another that will not be thrown down."
It may well be that at least some of the disciples had not been very often to Jerusalem. They were Galilaeans, men of the highlands and of the country, fishermen who knew the lakeside far better than they knew the city. Some of them at least would be like country folk come up to London for a visit, staggered by what they saw; and well they might be, for there was nothing quite like the Temple in the ancient world.
The summit of Mount Sion had been dug away to leave a plateau of 1,000 feet square. At the far end of it was the Temple itself (the naos, G3485) . It was built of white marble plated with gold, and it shone in the sun so that a man could scarcely bear to look at it. Between the lower city and the Temple mount lay the valley of the Tyropoeon, and across this valley stretched a colossal bridge. Its arches had a span of 41 1/2 feet, and its spring stones were 24 feet long by 6 inches thick. The Temple area was surrounded by great porches, Solomon's Porch and the Royal Porch. These porches were upheld by pillars, cut out of solid blocks of marble in one piece. They were 37 1/2 feet high, and of such a thickness that three men linked together could scarcely put their arms round them. At the corners of the Temple angle stones have been found which measure from 20 to 40 feet in length, and which weigh more than 100 tons. How they were ever cut and placed in position is one of the mysteries of ancient engineering. Little wonder that the Galilaean fishermen looked and called Jesus' attention to them.
Jesus answered that the day would come when not one of these stones would be left standing upon the other--and Jesus was right. In A.D. 70 the Romans, finally exasperated by the rebellious intransigence of the Jews, gave up all attempt at pacification and turned to destruction, and Jerusalem and the Temple were laid waste so that Jesus' prophecy literally came true.
Here speaks Jesus the prophet. Jesus knew that the way of power politics can end only in doom. The man and the nation which will not take the way of God are heading for disaster--even in material things. The man and the nation which refuse the dream of God will find their own dreams shattered also.
The Grim Terror Of The Siege ( Matthew 24:15-22 )
24:15-22 "When you see the desolating abomination, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the Holy Place (let him who reads understand), then let him who is in Judaea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to remove his goods from his house; and let him who is in the field not come back to remove his cloak. Alas for those who in those days are carrying children in the womb, and who are suckling children. Pray that your flight may not be in the winter time, nor on a Sabbath. For at that time there will be great affliction, such as has never happened from the beginning of the world until now, and such as never will happen. And, if the days had not been shortened, no human being would have survived. But the days will be shortened for the sake of the elect."
The siege of Jerusalem was one of the most terrible sieges in all history. Jerusalem was obviously a difficult city to take, being a city set upon a hill and defended by religious fanatics; so Titus determined to starve it out.
No one quite knows what the desolating abomination is. The phrase itself comes from Daniel 12:11. There it is said that the abomination that makes desolate is set up in the Temple. The Daniel reference is quite clear. About 170 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of Syria, determined to stamp out Judaism and to introduce into Judaea Greek religion and Greek practices. He captured Jerusalem, and desecrated the Temple by erecting an altar to Olympian Zeus in the Temple Court and by sacrificing swines' flesh upon it, and by turning the priests' rooms and the Temple chambers into public brothels. It was a deliberate attempt to stamp out Jewish religion.
It was the prophecy of Jesus that the same thing would happen again, and that once again the Holy Place would be desecrated, as indeed it was. Jesus saw coming upon Jerusalem a repetition of the terrible things which had happened 200 years ago; only this time there would arise no Judas Maccabaeus; this time there would be no deliverance and no purification; there would be nothing but ultimate destruction.
Jesus foretold of that siege that unless its days had been shortened, no human being could have survived it. It is strange to see how Jesus gave practical advice which was not taken, the disregarding of which multiplied the disaster. Jesus' advice was that when that day came men ought to flee to the mountains. They did not; they crammed themselves into the city and into the walls of Jerusalem from all over the country, and that very folly multiplied the grim horror of the famine of the siege a hundredfold.
When we go to the history of Josephus we see how right Jesus was about that terrible future. Josephus writes of these fearful days of siege and famine: "Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying of famine; and the lanes of the city were fun of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with famine, and fell down dead wheresoever their misery seized them. As for burying them, those that were sick themselves were not able to do it; and those that were hearty and well were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies, and by the uncertainty there was how soon they should die themselves, for many died as they were burying others, and many went to their coffins before the fatal hour was come. Nor was there any lamentation made under these calamities, nor were heard any mournful complaints; but the famine confounded all natural passions; for those who were just. going to die looked upon those who were gone to their rest before them with dry eyes and open mouths. A deep silence, also, and a kind of deadly night had seized upon the city. . . . And every one of them died with their eyes fixed upon the Temple" (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 5. 12. 3).
Josephus tells a dreadful story of a woman who in those days actually killed and roasted and ate her suckling child (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6. 3. 4). He tells us that even the Romans, when they had taken the city and were going through it to plunder, were so stricken with horror at the sights they saw that they could not but stay their hands. "When the Romans were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses. .. . They then stood on a horror of this sight, and went out without touching anything" (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6. 8. 5). Josephus himself shared in the horrors of this siege, and he tells us that 97,000 were taken captive and enslaved, and 1,100,000 died.
That is what Jesus foresaw; these are the things he forewarned. We must never forget that not only men but nations need the wisdom of Christ. Unless the leaders of the nations are themselves led by Christ, they cannot do other than lead men not only to spiritual but also to physical disaster. Jesus was no impractical dreamer; he laid down the laws by which alone a nation can prosper, and by disregard of which it can do no other than miserably perish.
The Day Of The Lord ( Matthew 24:6-8 ; Matthew 24:29-31 )
24:6-8,29-31 "You will hear of wars and reports of wars. See that you are not disturbed; for these things must happen; for the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
"Immediately after the affliction of these days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then there will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the tribes of the earth will lament, and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and much glory. And he will send his angels with a great trumpet call, and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one boundary of heaven to the other."
We have already seen that an essential part of the Jewish thought of the future was the Day of the Lord that day when God was going to intervene directly in history, and when the present age, with all its incurable evil, would begin to be transformed into the age to come.
Very naturally the New Testament writers to a very great extent identified the Second Coming of Jesus and the Day of the Lord; and they took over all the imagery which had to do with the Day of the Lord and applied them to the Second Coming. None of these pictures is to be taken literally; they are pictures, and they are visions; they are attempts to put the indescribable into human words and to find some kind of picture for happenings for which human language has no picture.
But from all these pictures there emerge certain great truths.
(i) They tell us that God has not abandoned the world; for all its wickedness, the world is still the scene in which God's purpose is being worked out. It is not abandonment that God contemplates; it is intervention.
(ii) They tell us that even a very crescendo of evil must not discourage us. An essential part of the Jewish picture of the Day of the Lord is that a complete breakdown of all moral standards and an apparent complete disintegration of the world must precede it. But, for all that, this is not the prelude to destruction; it is the prelude to recreation.
(iii) They tell us that both judgment and a new creation are certain. They tell us that God contemplates the world both in justice and in mercy; and that God's plan is not the obliteration of the world, but the creation of a world which is nearer to his heart's desire.
The value of these pictures is not in their details, which at best are only symbolic and which use the only pictures which the minds of men could conceive, but in the eternal truth which they conserve; and the basic truth in them is that, whatever the world is like, God has not abandoned it.
The Persecution To Come ( Matthew 24:9-10 )
24:9-10 "Then they will deliver you to affliction, and they will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. And then many will stumble and will betray each other, and will hate each other."
This passage shows the uncompromising honesty of Jesus. He never promised his disciples an easy way; he promised them death and suffering and persecution. There is a sense in which a real Church will always be a persecuted Church, so long as it exists in a world which is not a Christian world. Whence comes that persecution?
(i) Christ offers a new loyalty; and again and again he declared that this new loyalty must surpass all earthly ties. The greatest ground of hatred in the days of the early Church was the fact that Christianity split homes and families, when one member decided for Christ and the others did not. The Christian is one who is pledged to give Jesus Christ the first place in his life--and many a human clash is liable to result from that.
(ii) Christ offers a new standard. There are customs and practices and ways of life which may be all right for the world, but which are far from being all right for the Christian. For many people the difficulty about Christianity is that it is a judgment upon themselves and upon their way of life in their business or in their personal relationships. The awkward thing about Christianity is that anyone who does not wish to be changed is bound to hate it and resent it.
(iii) The Christian, if he is a true Christian, introduces into the world a new example. There is a daily beauty in his life which makes the life of others ugly. The Christian is the light of the world, not in the sense that he criticizes and condemns others, but in the sense that he demonstrates in himself the beauty of the Christ-filled life and therefore the ugliness of the Christless life.
(iv) This is all to say that Christianity brings a new conscience into life. Neither the individual Christian nor the Christian Church can ever know anything of a cowardly concealment or a cowardly silence. The Church and the individual Christian must at all times constitute the conscience of Christianity--and it is characteristic of men that there are many times when they would wish to silence conscience.
Threats To The Faith ( Matthew 24:4-5 ; Matthew 24:11-13 ; Matthew 24:23-26 )
24:4-5,11-13,23-26 Jesus answered, "Be on the look-out lest anyone lead you astray, for many will come in my name saying, 'I am God's Anointed One,' and they will lead many astray.
"And many false prophets will arise, and they will lead many astray. And the love of many will grow cold, because lawlessness will be multiplied. But it is he who endures to the end who will be saved.
"At that time, if anyone says to you, 'Look you, here, or here, is the Anointed One of God,' do not believe him. For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will produce great signs and wonders, the consequence of which will be, if possible, to lead astray the elect. Look you, I have told you about these things before they happen. If anyone says to you, 'Look you, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. 'Look you, he is in the inner chambers,' do not believe him."
In the days to come Jesus saw that two dangers would threaten the Church.
(i) There would be the danger of false, leaders. A false leader is a man who seeks to propagate his own version of the truth rather than the truth as it is in Jesus Christ; and a man who tries to attach other men to himself rather than to Jesus Christ. The inevitable result is that a false leader spreads division instead of building up unity. The test of any leader is likeness to Christ.
(ii) The second danger is that of discouragement. There are those whose love will grow cold because of the increasing lawlessness of the world. The true Christian is the man who holds to his belief, when belief is at its most difficult; and who, in the most discouraging circumstances, refuses to believe that God's arm is shortened or his power grown less.
The Coming Of The King ( Matthew 24:3 ; Matthew 24:14 ; Matthew 24:27-28 )
24:3,14,27,28 His disciples came to him privately, when he was sitting on the Mount of Olives. "Tell us," they said, "when these things shall be. And tell us what will be the sign of your coming, and of the consummation of the age."
"The gospel will be proclaimed to the whole inhabited world, for a testimony to all nations--and then the end will come.
"For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man. Where the body is, there the vultures will be gathered together."
Here Jesus speaks of his Second Coming directly. The New Testament does not ever use the phrase the Second Coming. The word which it uses to describe the return of Christ in glory is interesting. It is Parousia; this word has come into English as a description of the Second Coming; it is quite common in the rest of the New Testament, but in the gospels this is the only chapter in which it occurs ( Matthew 24:3, Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39). The interesting thing is that it is the regular word for the arrival of a governor into his province or for the coming of a king to his subjects. It regularly describes a coming in authority and in power.
The remainder of this chapter will have much to tell us about it, but at the moment we note that, whatever else is true about the doctrine of the Second Coming, it certainly conserves two great facts.
(i) It conserves the fact of the ultimate triumph of Christ. He whom men crucified on a cross will one day be the Lord of all men. For Jesus Christ the end is sure--and that end is his universal kingship.
(ii) It conserves the fact that history is going somewhere. Sometimes men have felt that history was plunging to an ever wilder and wilder chaos, that it is nothing more than "the record of the sins and follies of men." Sometimes men have felt that history was cyclic and that the same weary round of things would happen over and over again. The Stoics believed that there are certain fixed periods, that at the end of each the world is destroyed in a great conflagration; and that then the same story in every littlest detail takes place all over again.
As Chrysippus had it: "Then again the world is restored anew in a precisely similar arrangement as before. The stars again move in their orbits, each performing its revolution in the former period, without any variation. Socrates and Plato and each individual man will live again, with the same friends and fellow-citizens. They will go through the same experiences and the same activities. Every city and village and field will be restored, just as it was. And this restoration of the universe takes place, not once, but over and over again--indeed to all eternity, without end." This is a grim thought that men are bound to an eternal tread-mill in which there is no progress and from which there is no escape.
But the Second Coming has in it this essential truth--that there is "one divine far-off event, to which the whole creation moves," and that event is not dissolution but the universal and eternal rule of God.
The Coming Of The King ( Matthew 24:32-41)
24:32-41 "Learn the lesson which comes from the fig tree. Whenever the branch has become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you too see these things, know that he is near at the doors. This is the truth I tell you-- this generation shall not pass away, until these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"No one knows about that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, not even the Son, but only the Father. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For, as in those days before the flood they spent their time eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and were quite unaware of what was to happen until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. At that time there will be two men in the field; one is taken, and the other is left. There will be two women grinding with the mill; one is taken, and the other is left."
Few passages confront us with greater difficulties than this. It is in two sections and they seem to contradict each other. The first ( Matthew 24:32-35) seems to indicate that, as a man can tell by the signs of nature when summer is on the way, so he can tell by the signs of the world when the Second Coming is on the way. Then it seems to go on to say that the Second Coming will happen within the lifetime of the generation listening to Jesus at that moment.
The second section ( Matthew 24:36-41) says quite definitely that no one knows the time of the Second Coming, not the angels, not even Jesus himself, but only God; and that it will come upon men with the suddenness of a rainstorm out of a blue sky.
There is a very real difficulty here which, even if we cannot completely solve it, we must nevertheless boldly face.
Let us take as our starting-point Matthew 24:34: "This is the truth I tell you--this generation shall not pass away, until these things have happened." When we consider that saying, three possibilities emerge.
(a) If Jesus said it in reference to the Second Coming, he was mistaken for he did not return within the lifetime of the generation listening to his words. Many accept that point of view, believing that Jesus in his humanity had limitations of knowledge and did believe that within that generation he would return. We can readily accept that in his humanity Jesus had limitations of knowledge; but it is difficult to believe that he was in error regarding so great a spiritual truth as this.
(b) It is possible that Jesus said something like this which was changed in the transmitting. In Mark 9:1 Jesus is reported as saying, "Truly I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power." That was gloriously and triumphantly true. Within that generation the Kingdom of God did spread mightily until there were Christians throughout the known world.
Now the early Christians did look for the Second Coming immediately. In their situation of suffering and persecution they looked and longed for the release that the coming of their Lord would bring, and sometimes they took sayings which were intended to speak of the Kingdom and attached them to the Second Coming which is a very different thing. Something like that may have happened here. What Jesus may have said was that his kingdom would come mightily before that generation had passed away.
(c) But there is a third possibility. What if the phrase until these things have happened has no reference to the Second Coming? What if their reference is, in fact, to the prophecy with which the chapter began, the siege and fall of Jerusalem? If we accept that, there is no difficulty. What Jesus is saying is that these grim warnings of his regarding the doom of Jerusalem will be fulfilled within that very generation--and they were, in fact, fulfilled forty years later. It seems by far the best course to take Matthew 24:32-35 as referring, not to the Second Coming, but to the doom of Jerusalem, for then all the difficulties in them are removed.
Matthew 24:36-41 do refer to the Second Coming; and they tell us certain most important truths.
(i) They tell us that the hour of that event is known to God and to God alone. It is, therefore, clear that speculation regarding the time of the Second Coming is nothing less than blasphemy, for the man who so speculates is seeking to wrest from God secrets which belong to God alone. It is not any man's duty to speculate; it is his duty to prepare himself, and to watch.
(ii) They tell us that that time will come with shattering suddenness on those who are immersed in material things. In the old story Noah prepared himself in the calm weather for the flood which was to come, and when it came he was ready. But the rest of mankind were lost in their eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage, and were caught completely unawares, and were therefore swept away. These verses are a warning never to become so immersed in time that we forgot eternity, never to let our concern with worldly affairs, however necessary, completely distract us from remembering that there is a God, that the issues of life and death are in his hands, and that whenever his call comes, at morning, at midday, or at evening, it must find us ready.
(iii) They tell us that the coming of Christ will be a time of separation and of judgment, when he will gather to himself those who are his own.
Beyond these things we cannot go--for God has kept the ultimate knowledge to himself and his wisdom.
Ready For The Coming Of The King ( Matthew 24:42-51)
24:42-51 Watch, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord comes. Understand this--that if the householder had known at what watch of the night the thief was coming, he would have been awake, and he would not have allowed him to break into his house. That is why you, too, must show yourselves ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Who, then, is the dependable and wise servant whom his master put in charge over his household staff, to give them their food at the right time? Happy is the servant whom his master, when he has come, will find acting thus. This is the truth I tell you--he will put him in charge of all his belongings. But if that bad servant says to himself, 'My master will not be back for a long time yet,' and if he begins to beat his fellow-servants, and if he eats and drinks with drunkards, then the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not expecting him, and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there."
Here is the practical outcome of all that has gone before. If the day and the hour of the coming of Christ are known to none save God, then all life must be a constant preparation for that coming. And, if that is so, there are certain basic sins.
(i) To live without watchfulness invites disaster. A thief does not send a letter saying when he is going to burgle a house; his principal weapon in his nefarious undertakings is surprise; therefore a householder who has valuables in his house must maintain a constant guard. But to get this picture right, we must remember that the watching of the Christian for the coming of Christ is not that of terror-stricken fear and shivering apprehension; it is the watching of eager expectation for the coming of glory and joy.
(ii) The spirit which leads to disaster is the spirit which says there is plenty of time. It is the comfortable delusion of the servant that he will have plenty of time to put things to rights before his master returns.
There is a fable which tells of three apprentice devils who were coming to this earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plans to tempt and ruin men. The first said, "I will tell them there is no God." Satan said, "That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God." The second said, "I will tell men there is no hell." Satan answered, "You will deceive no one that way; men know even now that there is q hell for sin." The third said, "I will tell men there is no hurry." "Go," said Satan, "and you will ruin them by the thousand." The most dangerous of all delusions is that there is plenty of time. The most dangerous day in a man's life is when he learns that there is such a word as tomorrow. There are things which must not be put off, for no man knows if for him tomorrow will ever come.
(iii) Rejection is based on failure in duty, and reward is based on fidelity. The servant who fulfilled his duty faithfully was given a still greater place; and the servant who failed was dealt with in severity. The inevitable conclusion is that, when he comes, Jesus Christ can find us employed in no better and greater task than in doing our duty.
A negro poet writes:
"There's a king and a captain high,
And he's coming by and by,
And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.
You can hear his legions charging in the regions of the sky,
And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.
There's a man they thrust aside,
Who was tortured till he died,
And he'll find me hosing cotton when he comes.
He was hated and rejected,
He was scorned and crucified,
And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.
When he comes! When he comes!
He'll be crowned by saints and angels when he comes.
They'll be shouting out Hosanna! to the man that men denied,
And I'll kneel among my cotton when he comes."
If a man is doing his duty, however simple that duty may be, on the day Christ comes there will be joy for him.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/matthew-24.html. 1956-1959.
flee ... Luke 21:20-21; Josephus says that many immient people left Jerusalem after the first withdrawal of the Roman troops, AD 67. Josephus II, 19 (page 497) Eusebius, Bk3 ch 5, p. 86.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/matthew-24.html. 2021.
Then let them which be in Judea,.... When this signal is given, let it be taken notice of and observed; let them that are in the city of Jerusalem, depart out of it; or who are in any other parts of Judea, in any of the towns, or cities thereof; let them not betake themselves to Jerusalem, imagining they may be safe there, in so strong and fortified a place, but let them flee elsewhere; see
Luke 21:21 and accordingly it is observed, that many did flee about this time; and it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus a takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden, without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made; and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over Jordan, as Eusebius says b, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few mouths after, there was not a Christian in the city, but they had fled as they are here bidden to
flee into the mountains; or any places of shelter and refuge: these are mentioned particularly, because they are usually such; and design either the mountains in Judea, or in the adjacent countries. The Syriac and Persic versions read in the singular number, "into the mountain"; and it is reported that many of them did fly, particularly to Mount Libanus c.
a De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 19. sect. 7. b Eccl. Hist. l. 3. c. 5. p. 75. c Joseph. ib.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-24.html. 1999.
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. 15 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 Judea flee into the mountains: 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing 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. 23 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. 25 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. 29 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.
The disciples had asked concerning the times, When shall these things be? Christ gives them no answer to that, after what number of days and years his prediction should be accomplished, for it is not for us to know the times (Acts 1:7); but they had asked, What shall be the sign? That question he answers fully, for we are concerned to understand the signs of the times,Matthew 16:3; Matthew 16:3. Now the prophecy primarily respects the events near at hand--the destruction of Jerusalem, the period of the Jewish church and state, the calling of the Gentiles, and the setting up of Christ's kingdom in the world; but as the prophecies of the Old Testament, which have an immediate reference to the affairs of the Jews and the revolutions of their state, under the figure of them do certainly look further, to the gospel church and the kingdom of the Messiah, and are so expounded in the New Testament, and such expressions are found in those predictions as are peculiar thereto and not applicable otherwise; so this prophecy, under the type of Jerusalem's destruction, looks as far forward as the general judgment; and, as is usual in prophecies, some passages are most applicable to the type, and others to the antitype; and toward the close, as usual, it points more particularly to the latter. It is observable, that what Christ here saith to his disciples tends more to engage their caution than to satisfy their curiosity; more to prepare them for the events that should happen than to give them a distinct idea of the events themselves. This is that good understanding of the time which we should all covet, thence to infer what Israel ought to do: and so this prophecy is of standing lasting use to the church, and will be so to the end of time; for the thing that hath been, is that which shall be (Ecclesiastes 1:5; Ecclesiastes 1:6; Ecclesiastes 1:7; Ecclesiastes 1:9), and the series, connection, and presages, of events, are much the same still that they were then; so that upon the prophecy of this chapter, pointing at that event, moral prognostications may be made, and such constructions of the signs of the times as the wise man's heart will know how to improve.
I. Christ here foretels the going forth of deceivers; he begins with a caution, Take heed that no man deceive you. They expected to be told when these things should be, to be let into that secret; but this caution is a check to their curiosity, "What is that to you? Mind you your duty, follow me, and be not seduced from following me." Those that are most inquisitive concerning the secret things which belong not to them are most easily imposed upon by seducers, 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The disciples, when they heard that the Jews, their most inveterate enemies, should be destroyed, might be in danger of falling into security; "Nay," saith Christ, "you are more exposed other ways." Seducers are more dangerous enemies to the church than persecutors.
Three times in this discourse he mentions the appearing of false prophets, which was, 1. A presage of Jerusalem's ruin. Justly were they who killed the true prophets, left to be ensnared by false prophets; and they who crucified the true Messiah, left to be deceived and broken by false Christs and pretended Messiahs. The appearing of these was the occasion of dividing that people into parties and factions, which made their ruin the more easy and speedy; and the sin of the many that were led aside by them, helped to fill the measure. 2. It was a trial to the disciples of Christ, and therefore agreeable to their state of probation, that they which are perfect, may be made manifest.
Now concerning these deceivers, observe here,
(1.) The pretences they should come under. Satan acts most mischievously, when he appears as an angel of light: the colour of the greatest good is often the cover of the greatest evil.
[1.] There should appear false prophets (Matthew 24:11-24; Matthew 24:11-24); the deceivers would pretend to divine inspiration, an immediate mission, and a spirit of prophecy, when it was all a lie. Such they had been formerly (Jeremiah 23:16; Ezekiel 13:6), as was foretold, Deuteronomy 13:3. Some think, the seducers here pointed to were such as had been settled teachers in the church, and had gained reputation as such, but afterward betrayed the truth they had taught, and revolted to error; and from such the danger is the greater, because least suspected. One false traitor in the garrison may do more mischief than a thousand avowed enemies without.
[2.] There should appear false Christs, coming in Christ's name (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:5), assuming to themselves the name peculiar to him, and saying, I am Christ, pseudo-christs,Matthew 24:24; Matthew 24:24. There was at that time a general expectation of the appearing of the Messiah; they spoke of him; as he that should come; but when he did come, the body of the nation rejected him; which those who were ambitious of making themselves a name, took advantage of, and set up for Christ. Josephus speaks of several such impostors between this and the destruction of Jerusalem; one Theudas, that was defeated by Cospius Fadus; another by Felix, another by Festus. Dosetheus said he was the Christ foretold by Moses. Origen adversus Celsum. See Acts 5:36; Acts 5:37. Simon Magus pretended to be the great power of God,Acts 8:10. In after-ages there have been such pretenders; one about a hundred years after Christ, that called himself Bar-cochobas--The son of a star, but proved Bar-cosba--The son of a lie. About fifty years ago Sabbati-Levi set up for a Messiah in the Turkish empire, and was greatly caressed by the Jews; but in a short time his folly was made manifest. See Sir Paul Rycaut's History. The popish religion doth, in effect, set up a false Christ; the Pope comes, in Christ's name, as his vicar, but invades and usurps all his offices, and so is a rival with him, and, as such, an enemy to him, a deceiver, and an antichrist.
[3.] These false Christs and false prophets would have their agents and emissaries busy in all places to draw people in to them, Matthew 24:23; Matthew 24:23. Then when public troubles are great and threatening, and people will be catching at any thing that looks like deliverance, then Satan will take the advantage of imposing on them; they will say, Lo, here is a Christ, or there is one; but do not mind them: the true Christ did not strive, nor cry; nor was it said of him, Lo, here! or Lo, there! (Luke 17:21), therefore if any man say so concerning him, look upon it as a temptation. The hermits, who place religion in a monastical life, say, He is in the desert; the priests, who made the consecrated wafer to be Christ, say, "He is en tois tameiois--in the cupboards, in the secret chambers: lo, he is in this shrine, in that image." Thus some appropriate Christ's spiritual presence to one party or persuasion, as if they had the monopoly of Christ and Christianity; and the kingdom of Christ must stand and fall, must live and die, with them; "Lo, he is in this church, in that council:" whereas Christ is All in all, not here or there, but meets his people with a blessing in every place where he records his name.
(2.) The proof they should offer for the making good of these pretences; They shall show great signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24; Matthew 24:24), not true miracles, those are a divine seal, and with those the doctrine of Christ stands confirmed; and therefore if any offer to draw us from that by signs and wonders, we must have recourse to that rule given of old (Deuteronomy 13:1-3), If the sign or wonder come to pass, yet follow not him that would draw you to serve other gods, or believe in other Christs, for the Lord your God proveth you. But these were lying wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9), wrought by Satan (God permitting him), who is the prince of the power of the air. It is not said, They shall work miracles, but, They shall show great signs; they are but a show; either they impose upon men's credulity by false narratives, or deceive their senses by tricks of legerdemain, or arts of divination, as the magicians of Egypt by their enchantments.
(3.) The success they should have in these attempts,
[1.] They shall deceive many (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:5), and again, Matthew 24:11; Matthew 24:11. Note, The devil and his instruments may prevail far in deceiving poor souls; few find the strait gate, but many are drawn into the broad way; many will be imposed upon by their signs and wonders, and many drawn in by the hopes of deliverance from their oppressions. Note, Neither miracles nor multitudes are certain signs of a true church; for all the world wonders after the beast,Revelation 13:3.
[2.] They shall deceive, if it were possible, the very elect,Matthew 24:24; Matthew 24:24. This bespeaks, First, The strength of the delusion; it is such as many shall be carried away by (so strong shall the stream be), even those that were thought to stand fast. Men's knowledge, gifts, learning, eminent station, and long profession, will not secure them; but, notwithstanding these, many will be deceived; nothing but the almighty grace of God, pursuant to his eternal purpose, will be a protection. Secondly, The safety of the elect in the midst of this danger, which is taken for granted in that parenthesis, If it were possible, plainly implying that it is not possible, for they are kept by the power of God, that the purpose of God, according to the election, may stand. It is possible for those that have been enlightened to fall away (Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 6:5; Hebrews 6:6), but not for those that were elected. If God's chosen ones should be deceived, God's choice would be defeated, which is not to be imagined, for whom he did predestinate, he called, justified, and glorified,Romans 8:30. They were given to Christ; and of all that were given to him, he will lose none, John 10:28. Grotius will have this to be meant of the great difficulty of drawing the primitive Christians from their religion, and quotes it as used proverbially by Galen; when he would express a thing very difficult and morally impossible, he saith, "You may sooner draw away a Christian from Christ."
(4.) The repeated cautions which our Saviour gives to his disciples to stand upon their guard against them; therefore he gave them warning, that they might watch ( Matthew 24:25; Matthew 24:25); Behold, I have told you before. He that is told before where he will be assaulted, may save himself, as the king of Israel did, 2 Kings 6:9; 2 Kings 6:10. Note, Christ's warnings are designed to engage our watchfulness; and though the elect shall be preserved from delusion, yet they shall be preserved by the use of appointed means, and a due regard to the cautions of the word; we are kept through faith, faith in Christ's word, which he has told us before.
[1.] We must not believe those who say, Lo, here is Christ; or, Lo, he is there,Matthew 24:23; Matthew 24:23. We believe that the true Christ is at the right hand of God, and that his spiritual presence is where two or three are gathered together in his name; believe not those therefore who would draw you off from a Christ in heaven, by telling you he is any where on earth; or draw you off from the catholic church on earth, by telling you he is here, or he is there; believe it not. Note, There is not a greater enemy to true faith than vain credulity. The simple believeth every word, and runs after every cry. Memneso apistein--Beware of believing.
[2.] We must not go forth after those that say, He is in the desert, or, He is in the secret chambers,Matthew 24:26; Matthew 24:26. We must not hearken to every empiric and pretender, nor follow every one that puts up the finger to point us to a new Christ, and a new gospel; "Go not forth, for if you do, you are in danger of being taken by them; therefore keep out of harm's way, be not carried about with every wind; many a man's vain curiosity to go forth hath led him into a fatal apostasy; your strength at such a time is to sit still, to have the heart established with grace."
II. He foretels wars and great commotions among the nations, Matthew 24:6; Matthew 24:7. When Christ was born, there was a universal peace in the empire, the temple of Janus was shut; but think not that Christ came to send, or continue such a peace (Luke 12:51); no, his city and his wall are to be built even in troublesome times, and even wars shall forward his work. From the time that the Jews rejected Christ, and he left their house desolate, the sword did never depart from their house, the sword of the Lord was never quiet, because he had given it a charge against a hypocritical nation and the people of his wrath, and by it brought ruin upon them.
Here is, 1. A prediction of the event of the day; You will now shortly hear of wars, and rumours of wars. When wars are, they will be heard; for every battle of the warrior is with confused noise,Isaiah 9:5. See how terrible it is (Jeremiah 4:19), Thou hast heard, O my soul, the alarm of war! Even the quiet in the land, and the least inquisitive after new things, cannot but hear the rumours of war. See what comes of refusing the gospel! Those that will not hear the messengers of peace, shall be made to hear the messengers of war. God has a sword ready to avenge the quarrel of his covenant, his new covenant. Nation shall rise up against nation, that is, one part or province of the Jewish nation against another, one city against another (2 Chronicles 15:5; 2 Chronicles 15:6); and in the same province and city one party or faction shall rise up against another, so that they shall be devoured by, and dashed in pieces against one another, Isaiah 9:19-21.
2. A prescription of the duty of the day; See that ye be not troubled. Is it possible to hear such sad news, and not be troubled? Yet, where the heart is fixed, trusting in God, it is kept in peace, and is not afraid, no not of the evil tidings of wars, and rumours of wars; no not the noise of Arm, arm. Be not troubled; Me throeithe--Be not put into confusion or commotion; not put into throes, as a woman with child by a fright; see that ye be not orate. Note, There is need of constant care and watchfulness to keep trouble from the heart when there are wars abroad; and it is against the mind of Christ, that his people should have troubled hearts even in troublous times.
We must not be troubled, for two reasons.
(1.) Because we are bid to expect this: the Jews must be punished, ruin must be brought upon them; by this the justice of God and the honour of the Redeemer must be asserted; and therefore all those things must come to pass; the word is gone out of God's mouth, and it shall be accomplished in its season. Note, The consideration of the unchangeableness of the divine counsels, which govern all events, should compose and quiet our spirits, whatever happens. God is but performing the thing that is appointed for us, and our inordinate trouble is an interpretative quarrel with that appointment. Let us therefore acquiesce, because these things must come to pass; not only necessitate decreti--as the product of the divine counsel, but necessitate medii--as a means in order to a further end. The old house must be taken down (though it cannot be done without noise, and dust, and danger), ere the new fabric can be erected: the things that are shaken (and ill shaken they were) must be removed, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain,Hebrews 12:27.
(2.) Because we are still to expect worse; The end is not yet; the end of time is not, and, while time lasts, we must expect trouble, and that the end of one affliction will be but the beginning of another; or, "The end of these troubles is not yet; there must be more judgments that one made use of to bring down the Jewish power; more vials of wrath must yet be poured out; there is but one woe past, more woes are yet to come, more arrows are yet to be spent upon them out of God's quiver; therefore be not troubled, do not give way to fear and trouble, sink not under the present burthen, but rather gather in all the strength and spirit you have, to encounter what is yet before you. Be not troubled to hear of wars and rumours of wars; for then what will become of you when the famines and pestilences come?" If it be to us a vexation but to understand the report (Isaiah 28:19), what will it be to feel the stroke when it toucheth the bone and the flesh? If running with the footmen weary us, how shall we contend with horses? And if we be frightened at a little brook in our way, what shall we do in the swellings of Jordan?Jeremiah 12:5.
III. He foretels other judgments more immediately sent of God--famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. Famine is often the effect of war, and pestilence of famine. These were the three judgments which David was to choose one out of; and he was in a great strait, for he knew not which was the worst: but what dreadful desolations will they make, when they all pour in together upon a people! Beside war (and that is enough), there shall be,
1. Famine, signified by the black horse under the third seal, Revelation 6:5,Revelation 6:6. We read of a famine in Judea, not long after Christ's time, which was very impoverishing (Acts 11:28); but the sorest famine was in Jerusalem during the siege. See Lamentations 4:9,Lamentations 4:10.
[3.] That then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, Matthew 24:30. See Revelation 1:7. All the kindreds of the earth shall then wail because of him; some of all the tribes and kindreds of the earth shall mourn; for the greater part will tremble at his approach, while the chosen remnant, one of a family and two of a tribe, shall lift up their heads with joy, knowing that their redemption draws nigh, and their Redeemer. Note, Sooner or later, all sinners will be mourners; penitent sinners look to Christ, and mourn after a godly sort; and they who sow in those tears, shall shortly reap in joy; impenitent sinners shall look unto him whom they have pierced, and, though they laugh now, shall mourn and weep after a devilish sort, in endless horror and despair.
[4.] That then they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. Note, First, The judgment of the great day will be committed to the Son of man, both in pursuance and in recompence of his great undertaking for us as Mediator, John 5:22, John 5:27. Secondly, The Son of man will at that day come in the clouds of heaven. Much of the sensible intercourse between heaven and earth is by the clouds; they are betwixt them, as it were, the medium participationis - the medium of participation, drawn by heaven from the earth, distilled by heaven upon the earth. Christ went to heaven in a cloud, and will in like manner come again, Acts 1:9, Acts 1:11. Behold, he cometh in the clouds, Revelation 1:7. A cloud will be the Judge's chariot (Psalms 104:3), his robe (Revelation 10:1), his pavilion (Psalms 18:11), his throne, Revelation 14:14. When the world was destroyed by water, the judgment came in the clouds of heaven, for the windows of heaven were opened; so shall it be when it shall be destroyed by fire. Christ went before Israel in a cloud, which had a bright side and a dark side; so will the cloud have in which Christ will come at the great day, it will bring both comfort and terror. Thirdly, He will come with power and great glory: his first coming was in weakness and great meanness (2 Corinthians 13:4); but his second coming will be with power and glory, agreeable both to the dignity of his person and to the purposes of his coming. Fourthly, He will be seen with bodily eyes in his coming: therefore the Son of man will be the Judge, that he may be seen, that sinners thereby may be the more confounded, who shall see him as Balaam did, but not nigh (Numbers 24:17), see him, but not as theirs. It added to the torment of that damned sinner, that he saw Abraham afar off. “Is this he whom we have slighted, and rejected, and rebelled against; whom we have crucified to ourselves afresh; who might have been our Saviour, but is our Judge, and will be our enemy for ever?” The Desire of all nations will then be their dread.
[5.] That he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, Matthew 24:31. Note, First, The angels shall be attendants upon Christ at his second coming; they are called his angels, which proves him to be God, and Lord of the angels; they shall be obliged to wait upon him. Secondly, These attendants shall be employed by him as officers of the court in the judgment of that day; they are now ministering spirits sent forth by him (Hebrews 1:14), and will be so then. Thirdly, Their ministration will be ushered in with a great sound of a trumpet, to awaken and alarm a sleeping world. This trumpet is spoken of, 1 Corinthians 15:52, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16. At the giving of the law on mount Sinai, the sound of the trumpet was remarkably terrible (Exodus 19:13, Exodus 19:16); but much more will it be so in the great day. By the law, trumpets were to be sounded for the calling of assemblies (Numbers 10:2), in praising God (Psalms 81:3), in offering sacrifices (Numbers 10:10), and in proclaiming the year of jubilee, Leviticus 25:9. Very fitly therefore shall there be the sound of a trumpet at the last day, when the general assembly shall be called, when the praises of God shall be gloriously celebrated, when sinners shall fall as sacrifices to divine justice, and when the saints shall enter upon their eternal jubilee.
[6.] That they shall gather together his elect from the four winds. Note, At the second coming of Jesus Christ, there will be a general meeting of all the saints. First, The elect only will be gathered, the chosen remnant, who are but few in comparison with the many that are only called. This is the foundation of the saints' eternal happiness, that they are God's elect. The gifts of love to eternity follow the thought of love from eternity; and the Lord knows them that are his. Secondly, The angels shall be employed to bring them together, as Christ's servants, and as the saints' friends; we have the commission given them, Psalms 50:5 Gather my saints together unto me; nay, it will be said to them, Habetis fratres - These are your brethren; for the elect will then be equal to the angels, Luke 20:36. Thirdly, They shall be gathered from one end of heaven to the other; the elect of God are scattered abroad (John 11:52), there are some in all places, in all nations (Revelation 7:9); but when that great gathering day comes, there shall not one of them be missing; distance of place shall keep none out of heaven, if distance of affection do not. Undique ad coelos tantundem est viae - Heaven is equally accessible from every place. See Luke 8:11; Isaiah 43:6; Isaiah 49:12.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 24:16". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-24.html. 1706.
We now enter on the Lord's final presentation of Himself to Jerusalem, traced, however, from Jericho; that is, from the city which had once been the stronghold of the power of the Canaanite. The Lord Jesus presenting Himself in grace, instead of sealing up the curse which had been pronounced on it, makes it contrariwise the witness of His mercy towards those who believed in Israel. It was there that two blind men (for Matthew, we have seen, abounds in this double token of the Lord's grace), sitting by the wayside, cried out, and most appropriately, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David!" They were led and taught of God. It was no question of law, yet strictly in His capacity of Messiah. Their appeal was in thorough keeping with the scene; they felt that the nation had no sense of its own blindness, and so addressed themselves at once to the Lord thus presenting Himself where divine power wrought of old. It is remarkable that, although there had been signs and wonders given from time to time in Israel, miraculous cures wrought, dead even raised to life, and leprosy cleansed, yet never, previously to the Messiah, do we hear of restoring the blind to sight. The Rabbis held that this was reserved for the Messiah; and certainly I am not aware of any case which contradicts their notion. They appear to have founded it upon the remarkable prophecy of Isaiah. (Isaiah 35:1-10) I do not affirm that the prophecy proves their notion to be true in isolating that miracle from the rest; but it is evident that the Spirit of God does connect emphatically the opening of blind eyes with the Son of David, as part of the blessing that He will surely diffuse when He comes to reign over the earth.
What appears further here is, that Jesus does not put the blessing off till His reign. Undoubtedly, the Lord in those days was giving signs and tokens of the world to come; and it was continued by His servants afterwards, as we know from the end of Mark, the Acts, etc. The miraculous powers which He exercised were samples of the power which would fill the earth with Jehovah's glory, casting out the enemy, and effacing the traces of his power, and making it the theatre of the manifestation of His kingdom here below. Thus our Lord gives evidence that the power was in Himself already, so that they need not lack because the kingdom was not yet come, in the full, manifest sense of the word. The kingdom was then come in His own person, as is said by Matthew (Matthew 12:1-50) as well as Luke. Still less did the blessing tarry for the sons of men. Virtue went forth at His kingly touch: this, at least, did not depend on the recognition of His claims by His people. He takes up this sign of Messiah's grace the opening of the eyes of the blind, itself no mean sign of the true condition of the Jews, could they but feel and own the truth. Alas! they sought not mercy and healing at His hands; but if there were any to call on Him at Jericho, the Lord would hearken. Here, then, Messiah answers to the cry of faith of these two blind men. When the multitude rebuked them, that they should hold their peace, they cried the more. The difficulties presented to faith only increased the energy of its desire; and so they cried, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David!" Jesus stands, calls the blind men, and says, "What will ye that I should do?" "Lord, that our eyes should be opened." And so it was according to their faith. Moreover, it is noted that .they follow Him, the pledge of what will be done when the people, by-and-by owning their blindness, and turning to Him for eyes, receive sight from the true Son of David to see Himself in the day of His earthly glory.
Matthew 21:1-46. The Lord thereon enters Jerusalem according to prophecy. He enters it, however, not in the outward pomp and glory which the nations seek after, but according to what the prophet's words now made good literally: Jehovah's King sitting on an ass in the spirit of humiliation. But even in this very thing, the fullest proof was afforded that He was Jehovah Himself. From first to last, as we have seen, it was Jehovah-Messiah. The word to the owner of the ass and colt was, "The Lord hath need of them." Accordingly, on this plea of Jehovah of hosts, all difficulties disappear, though unbelief finds there its stumbling-block. It was indeed the power of the Spirit of God that controlled his heart; even as to Christ "the porter opened." God left nothing undone on any side, but so ordered that the heart of this Israelite should yield a testimony that grace was at work, spite of the lamentable chill that stupefied the people. How good it is thus to raise up a witness, never indeed to leave it absolutely lacking, not even on the road to Jerusalem alas! the road to the cross of Christ. This, as we are told by the evangelist, came to pass that the word of the prophet should be fulfilled: "Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek [for such meekness was the character of His presentation as yet], and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." All must be in character with the Nazarene. Accordingly, the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded. The multitudes, too, were acted on a very great multitude. It was, of course, but a transient action, yet was it of God for a testimony, this moving of hearts by the Spirit. Not that it penetrated beneath the surface, but was rather a wave that passed over men's hearts, and then was gone. For the moment they followed, crying, "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!" (applying to the Lord the congratulations of Psalms 118:1-29)
Jesus, according to our evangelist's account, comes to the temple and cleanses it. Remark the order as well as character of the events. In Mark this is not the first act which is recorded, but the curse on the barren fig tree, between His inspection of all things in the temple and His ejection of those who profaned it. The fact is, there were two days or occasions in which the fig tree comes before us, according to the gospel of Mark, who gives us the details more particularly than any one, notwithstanding his brevity. Matthew, on the contrary, while he is so careful in furnishing us frequently with a double witness of the Lord's gracious ways toward His land and people, gives only as one whole His dealing with both the fig tree and the temple. We should not know from the first evangelist of any interval in either case; nor could we learn from either the first or the third but that the cleansing of the temple occurred on His earlier visit. But we know from Mark, who sets forth an exact account of each of the two days, that in neither case was all done at once. This is the more remarkable because, in the instances of the two demoniacs, or the two blind men in Matthew, Mark, like Luke, speaks only of one. Nothing can account for such phenomena but design; and the more so as there is no ground to assume that each succeeding evangelist was kept in ignorance of his predecessor's account of our Lord. It is evident that Matthew compresses in one the two acts about the temple, as well as about the fig tree. His scope excluded such details, and, I am persuaded, rightly so, according to the mind of God's Spirit. It may render it all the more striking when one observes that Matthew was there, and Mark was not. He who actually saw these transactions, and who therefore, had he been a mere acting human witness, would peculiarly have dwelt on them; he, too, who had been a personal companion of the Lord, and therefore, had it been only a question of treasuring all up as one that loved the Lord, would, naturally speaking, have been the one of the three to have presented the amplest and minutest picture of the circumstance, is just the one who does nothing of the kind. Mark, as confessedly not being an eye-witness, might have been supposed to content himself with the general view. The reverse is the fact unquestionably. This is a notable feature, and not here alone, but elsewhere also. To me it proves that the gospels are the fruit of divine purpose in all, distinctively in each. It establishes the principle that, while God condescended to employ eye-witness, He never confined Himself to it, but, on the contrary, took full and particular care to shew that He is above all creature means of information. Thus it is in Mark and Luke we find some of the most important details; not in Matthew and John, though Matthew and John were eyewitnesses, Mark and Luke not. A double proof of this appears in what has been just advanced. To Matthew, acting according to what was given him of the Spirit, there was no sufficient reason to enter into points which did not bear dispensationally upon Israel. He therefore, as often elsewhere, presents the entrance into the temple in its completeness, as being the sole matter important to his aim. Any thoughtful mind must allow, if I do not greatly err, that entrance into detail would rather detract from the augustness of the act. The minute account has its just place, on the other hand, if it be a question of the Lord's method and bearing in His service and testimony. Here I want to know the particulars; there every trace and shade are full of instruction to me. If I have to serve Him, I do well to learn and ponder His every word and way; and in this the style and mode of Mark's gospel is invaluable. Who but feels that the movements, the pauses, the sighs, the groans, the very looks of the Lord, are fraught with blessing to the soul? But if, as with Matthew, the object be the great change of dispensation consequent on the rejection of the divine Messiah, (particularly if the point, as here, be not the opening out of coming mercy, but, on the contrary, a solemn and a stern judgment on Israel,) the Spirit of God contents Himself with a general notice of the painful scene, without indulging in any circumstantial account of it.
To this it is I attribute the palpable difference in this place of Matthew as compared with Mark, and with Luke also, who omits the cursed fig tree altogether, and gives the barest mention of the temple's cleansing (Matt. 19: 45). The notion of some men, especially a few men of learning, that the difference is due to ignorance on the part of one or other or all the evangelists, is of all explanations the worst, and even the least reasonable (to take the lowest ground); it is in plain truth the proof of their own ignorance, and the effect of positive unbelief. What I have ventured to suggest I believe to be a motive, and an adequate motive, for the difference; but we must remember that divine wisdom has depths of aim infinitely beyond our ability to sound. God may be pleased to vouchsafe us a perception of what is in His mind, if we be lowly, and diligent., and dependent on Him; or He may leave us ignorant of much, where we are careless or self-confident; but sure I am that the very points men ordinarily fix on as blots or imperfections in the inspired word are, when understood, among the strongest proofs of the admirable guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. Nor do I speak with such assurance because of the least satisfaction in any attainments, but because every lesson I have learnt and do learn from God's word brings with it the ever accumulating conviction that Scripture is perfect. For the question in hand, it is enough to produce sufficient evidence that it was not in ignorance, but with full knowledge, that Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote as they have done; I go farther, and say it was divine intention, rather than, as I conceive, any determinate plan of each evangelist, who may not himself have had before his mind the full scope of what the Holy Ghost gave him to write about it. There is no necessity to suppose that Matthew deliberately designed the result which we have in his gospel. How God brought it all to pass is another question, which, of course, it is not for us to answer. But the fact is, that the evangelist, who was present, he who consequently was an eyewitness of the details, does not give them; while one who was not there states them with the greatest particularity thoroughly harmonious with the account of him who was there, but, nevertheless, with differences as marked as their mutual corroborations. If we might rightly use, in this case, the word "originality," then originality is stamped upon the account of the second. I affirm, then, in the strictest sense, that divine design is stamped upon each, and that consistency of purpose is found everywhere in all the gospels.
The Lord then goes straight to the sanctuary. The kingly Son of David, destined to sit as the Priest upon His throne, the head of all things sacred as well as pertaining to the polity of Israel, we can understand why Matthew should describe such an One visiting the temple of Jerusalem; and why, instead of stopping, like Mark, to narrate that which attests His patient service, the whole scene should be given here without a break. We have seen that a similar principle accounts for the massing of the facts of His ministry in the end of the fourth chapter, and also for giving as a continuous whole the Sermon on the Mount, although, if we enquired into details, we might find many and considerable intervals; for, as undoubtedly those facts were grouped, so I believe also it was between the parts of that sermon. It fell in, however, with the object of Matthew's gospel to pass by all notice of these interstices, and so the Spirit of God has been pleased to interweave the whole into the beautiful web of the first gospel. In this way, as I believe, we may and should account for the difference between Matthew and Mark in this particular, without in the smallest degree casting the shadow of an imperfection upon one any more than on the other; while the fact, already pressed, that eye-witnessing, while employed as a servant, is never allowed to govern in the composition of the gospels, bespeaks loudly that men forget their true Author in searching into the writers He employed, and that the only key to all difficulties is the simple but weighty truth that it was God communicating His mind about Jesus, as by Matthew so by Mark.
Next, the Lord acts upon the word. He finds men selling and buying in the temple (that is, in its buildings) overthrows their tables, and turns out themselves, pronouncing the words of the prophets, both Isaiah and Jeremiah. But at the same time there is another trait noted here only: the blind and the lame (the "hated of David's soul,"2 Samuel 5:8; 2 Samuel 5:8) the pitied of David's greater Son and Lord) find a friend instead of an enemy in Him who loved them, the true beloved of God. Thus, at the very time He showed His hatred and righteous indignation at the covetous profaning of the temple, His love was flowing out to the desolate in Israel. Then we see the chief priests and scribes offended at the cries of the multitude and children, and turning reproachfully to the Lord, who allowed such a right royal welcome to be addressed to Him; but the Lord calmly takes His place according to the sure word of God. It is not now Deuteronomy that is before Him ( that He had quoted when tempted of Satan at the beginning of His career). But now, as they had borrowed the words of Psalms 118:1-29 (and who will say they were wrong?), so the Lord Jesus (and I say He was infinitely right) applies to them, as well as to Himself, the language ofPsalms 8:1-9; Psalms 8:1-9. Its central truth is the entrance of the rejected Messiah, the Son of man by humiliation and suffering unto death, into heavenly glory and dominion over all things. And this was just the point before the Lord: the little ones were thus in the truth and spirit of that oracle. They were sucklings, out of whose mouth praise was ordained for the despised Messiah soon to be in heaven, exalted there and preached here as the once crucified and now glorified Son of man. What could be more appropriate to that time, what more profoundly true for all time, yea, for eternity?
Matthew, as we have seen, crowds into one scene all mention of the barren fig tree (ver. 18-22), without distinguishing the curse of the one day from the manifestation of its accomplishment on the day following. Was it without moral import? Impossible. Did it convey the notion of a hearty and true reception of the Messiah, with fruits meet for His hand who had so long tended it, and failed in no care or culture? Was there anything answering to the welcome of the little ones who cried Hosanna, the type of what grace will effect in the day of His return, when the nation itself will contentedly, thankfully take the place of babes and sucklings, and find their best wisdom in so owning the One whom their fathers rejected, the man thereon exalted to heaven during the night of His people's unbelief? Meanwhile, another picture better suits them, the state and the doom of the fruitless fig tree. Why so scornful of the jubilant multitude, of the joyous babes? What was their condition before the eyes of Him who saw all that passed within their minds? They were no better than that fig tree, that solitary fig tree which met the Lord's eyes as He comes from Bethany, entering once more into Jerusalem. Like it, they, too, were full of promise; like its abundant foliage, they lacked not fair profession, but there was no fruit. That which made its barrenness evident was the fact that it was not yet the time of figs. Therefore, the unripe figs, the harbinger of harvest, ought to have been there. Had the season of figs been come, the fruit might have been already gathered; but that season having not yet arrived, beyond controversy the promise of the coming harvest should, and indeed must, have been still there, had any fruit been really borne. This, therefore, represented too truly what the Jew, what the nation, was in the eye of the Lord. He had come seeking fruit; but there was none; and the Lord pronounced this curse, "Henceforth let no fruit grow on thee for ever." And so it is. No fruit ever sprang from that generation. Another generation there must be; a total change must be wrought if there is to be fruit-bearing. Fruit of righteousness can only be through Jesus to God's glory; and Jesus they yet despised. Not that the Lord will give up Israel, but He will create a generation to come wholly different from the present Christ-rejecting one. Such an issue will be seen to be implied, if we compare our Lord's curse with the rest of the word of God, which points to better things yet in store for Israel.
But He adds more than this. It was not only that the Israel of that day should thus pass away, giving place to another generation, who, honouring the Messiah, will bear fruit to God; He tells the wondering disciples that, had they faith, the mountain would be cast into the sea. This appears to go farther than the disappearance of Israel as responsible to be a fruit-bearing people; it implies their whole polity dissolved; for the mountain is just as much the symbol of a power in the earth, an established world-power, as the fig tree is the special sign of Israel as responsible to produce' fruit for God; and it is clear that both figures have been abundantly verified. For the time Israel is passed away. After no long interval, the disciples saw Jerusalem not only taken, but completely torn as it were from the roots. The Romans came, as the executioners of the sentence of God (according to the just forebodings of the unjust high priest Caiaphas, who prophesied not without the Holy Ghost), and took away their place and nation, not because they did not, but because they did, kill Jesus their Messiah. Notoriously this total ruin of the Jewish state came to pass when the disciples had grown up to be 'a public witness to the world, before the apostles were all taken away from the earth; then their whole national polity sunk and disappeared when Titus sacked Jerusalem, and sold and scattered the people to the ends of the earth. I have no doubt that the Lord intended us to know the uprooting of the mountain just as much as the withering of the fig tree. The latter may be the simpler application of the two, and evidently more familiar to ordinary thought; but there seems no real reason to question, that if the one be meant symbolically, so too is the other. However this may be, these words of the Lord close that part of the subject.
We enter upon a new series in the rest of this chapter and the next. The religious rulers come before the Lord to put the first question that ever enters the minds of such men, "By what authority doest thou these things?" Nothing is more easily asked by those who assume that their own title is unimpeachable. Our Lord answers them by another question, which soon disclosed how thoroughly they themselves, in what was incomparably more serious, failed in moral competence. Who were they, to raise the question of His authority? As guides of religion, surely they ought to be able to decide that which was of the deepest consequence for their own souls, and for those of whom they assumed the spiritual charge. The question He puts involved indeed the answer to theirs; for had they answered Him in truth, this would have decided at once by what, and by whose, authority He acted as He did. "The baptism of John, whence was it (asks the Lord), from heaven, or of men?" There was no singleness of purpose, there was no fear of God, in these men so full of swelling words and fancied authority. Accordingly, instead of its being an answer from conscience declaring the truth as it was, they reason solely how to escape from the dilemma. The only question before their minds was, what answer would be politic? how best to get rid of the difficulty? Vain hope with Jesus! The base conclusion to which they were reduced is, "We cannot tell." It was a falsehood: but what of that, where the interests of religion and their own order were concerned? Without a blush, then, they answer the Saviour, "We cannot tell;" and the Lord with calm dignity strikes home His answer not, "I cannot tell," but, "Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." Jesus knew and laid bare the secret springs of the heart; and the Spirit of God records it here for our instruction. It is the genuine universal type of worldly leaders of religion in conflict with the power of God. "If we shall say, From heaven, he will say unto us, Why did ye not, then, believe him? But if we shall say, Of men, we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet." If they owned John, they must bow to the authority of Jesus; if they rejected John, they feared the people. They were thus put to silence; for they would not risk loss of influence with the people, and they were determined at all cost to deny the authority of Jesus. All they cared about was themselves.
The Lord goes on and meets parabolically a wider question than that of the rulers, gradually enlarging the scope, till He terminates these instructions inMatthew 22:14; Matthew 22:14. First, He takes up sinful men where natural conscience works, and where conscience is gone. This is peculiar to Matthew: "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went." He comes to the second, who was all complacency, and answers to the call, "I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto Him, The first. Jesus saith unto them [such is the application], Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him." (Matthew 21:28-32.) But He was not content with merely thus touching conscience in a way that was painful enough to the flesh; for they found that, spite of authority or anything else, those who professed most, if disobedient, were counted worse than the most depraved, who repented and did the will of God.
Next, our Lord looks at the entire people, and this from the commencement of their relations with God. In other words, He gives us in this parable the history of God's dealings with them. It was in no, way, so to speak, the accidental circumstance of how they behaved in one particular generation. The Lord sets out clearly what they had been all along, and what they were then. In the parable of the vineyard, they are tested as responsible in view of the claims of God, who had blessed them from the first with exceeding rich privileges. Then, in the parable of the marriage of the king's son, we see what they were, as tested by the grace or gospel of God. These are the two subjects of the parables following.
The householder, who lets out his vineyard to husbandmen, sets forth God trying the Jew, on the ground of blessings abundantly conferred upon him. Accordingly we have, first, servants sent, and then more, not only in vain, but with insult and increase of wrong. Then, at length, He sends His Son, saying, They will reverence my Son. This gives occasion for their crowning sin the utter rejection of all divine claims, in the death of the Son and Heir; for "they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him." "When the lord therefore of the vineyard comes," He asks, "what will he do unto these husbandmen?" They say unto Him, "He will miserably destroy these wicked men, and let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons."
The Lord accordingly pronounces according to the Scriptures, not leaving it merely to the answer of the conscience, "Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?" Then He applies further this prediction about the stone, connecting, it would appear, the allusion inPsalms 118:1-29; Psalms 118:1-29 with the prophecy ofDaniel 2:1-49; Daniel 2:1-49. The principle at least is applied to the case in hand, and, I need hardly say, with perfect truth and beauty; for in that day apostate Jews will be judged and destroyed, as well as Gentile powers. In two positions the stone was to be found. The one is here on the earth the humiliation, to wit, of the Messiah. Upon that Stone, thus humbled, unbelief trips and falls. But, again, when the Stone is exalted, another issue follows; for" the Stone of Israel," the glorified Son of man, shall descend in unsparing judgment, and crush His enemies together. When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spake of them.
The Lord, however, turns in the next parable to the call of grace. It is a likeness of the kingdom of heaven. Here we are on new ground. It is striking to see this parable introduced here. In the gospel of Luke there is a similar one, though it might be too much to affirm that it is the same. Certainly an analogous parable is found, but in a totally different connection. Besides, Matthew adds various particulars peculiar to himself, and quite falling in with the Spirit's desire by him; as we find also in Luke his own characteristics. Thus, in Luke, there is a remarkable display of grace and love to the despised poor in Israel; then, further, that love enlarging its sphere, and going out to the highways and hedges to bring in the poor that were there the poor in the city the poor everywhere. I need not say how thoroughly in character all this is. Here, in Matthew, we have not only God's grace, but a kind of history, very strikingly embracing the destruction of Jerusalem, on which Luke is here silent. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son." It is not merely a man making a feast for those that have nothing that we have fully in Luke; but here rather the king bent upon the glorification of his son. "He sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again he sent forth other servants, saving, Tell them which were bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage." There are two missions of the servants of the Lord here: one during His lifetime; the other after His death. On the second mission, not the first, it is said, "All things are ready." The message is, as ever, despised. "They made light of it, and went their ways." It was the second time when there was this most ample invitation which left no excuse for man, that they not only would not come, going one to his farm, and another to his merchandize, but "the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully and slew them," This was not the character of the reception given to the apostles during our Lord's lifetime, but exactly what transpired after His death. Thereupon, though in marvellous patience the blow was suspended for years, nevertheless judgment came at last. "When the king heard thereof, he was wroth, and sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city." This, of course, closes this part of the parable as predicting a providential dealing of God; but, besides being thus judicial after a sort to which we find nothing parallel in the gospel of Luke ( i.e., in what answers to it), as usual, the great change of dispensation is shown in Matthew much more distinctly than in Luke.
There it is rather the idea of grace that began with one sending out to those invited, and a very full exposure of their excuses in a moral point of view, followed by the second mission to the streets and lanes of the city, for the poor, maimed, halt, and blind; and finally, to the highways and hedges, compelling them to come in that the house might be filled. In Matthew it is very much more in a dispensational aspect; and hence the dealings with the Jews, both in mercy and judgment, are first given as a whole, according to that manner of his which furnishes a complete sketch at one stroke, so to speak. It is the more manifest here, because none can deny that the mission to the Gentiles was long before the destruction of Jerusalem. Next is appended the Gentile part to itself. "Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests." But there is a further thing brought out here, in a very distinctive manner. In Luke, we have no judgment pronounced and executed at the end upon him that came to the wedding without the due garment. In Matthew, as we saw the providential dealing with the Jews, so we find the closing scene very particularly described, when the king judges individually in the day that is coming. It is not an external or national stroke, though that too we have here a providential event in connection with Israel. Quite different, but consistent with that, we have a personal appraisal by God of the Gentile profession, of those now bearing Christ's name, but who have not really put on Christ. Such is the conclusion of the parable: nothing more appropriate at the same time than this picture, peculiar to Matthew, who depicts the vast chance at hand for the Gentiles, and God's dealing with them individually for their abuse of His grace. The parable illustrates the coming change of dispensation. Now this falls in with Matthew's design, rather than Luke's, with whom we shall find habitually it is a question of moral features, which the Lord may give opportunity of exhibiting at another time.
After this come the various classes of Jews the Pharisees first of all, and, strange consorts! the Herodians. Ordinarily they were, as men say, natural enemies. The Pharisees were the high ecclesiastical party; the Herodians, on the contrary, were the low worldly courtier party: those, the strong sticklers for tradition and righteousness according to the law; these, the panderers to the powers that then were for whatever could be got in the earth. Such allies now joined hypocritically against the Lord. The Lord meets them with that wisdom which always shines in His words and ways. They demand whether it be lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not. "Show me," says He, "the tribute money . . . . . And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Thus the Lord deals with the facts as they then came before Him. The piece of money they produced proved their subjection to the Gentiles. It was their sin which had put them there. They writhed under their masters; but still under alien masters they were; and it was because of their sin. The Lord confronts them not only with the undeniable witness of their subjection to the Romans, but also with a graver charge still, which they had entirely overlooked the claims of God, as well as of Caesar. "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." The money you love proclaims that you are slaves to Caesar. Pay, then, to Caesar his dues. But forget not to "render to God the things that are God's." The fact was, they hated Caesar only less than they hated the true God. The Lord left them therefore under the reflections and confusion of their own guilty consciences.
Next, the Lord is assailed by another great party. "The same day came to him the Sadducees" those most opposed to the Pharisees in doctrine, as the Herodians were in politics. The Sadducees denied resurrection, and put a case which to their mind involved insuperable difficulties. To whom would belong in that state a woman who here had been married to seven brethren successively? The Lord does not cite the clearest Scripture about the resurrection; He does what in the circumstances is much better; He appeals to what they themselves professed most of all to revere. To the Sadducee there was no part of Scripture possessed of such authority as the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses. From Moses, then, He proved the resurrection; and this in the simplest possible way. Every one their own conscience must allow that God is the God, not of the dead, but of the living. Therefore, if God calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is not an unmeaning thing. Referring long afterwards to their fathers who were passed away, He speaks of Himself as in relationship with them. Were they not, then, dead? But was all gone? Not so. But far more than that, He speaks as one who not merely had relations with them, but had made promises to them, which never yet were accomplished. Either, then, God must raise them from the dead, in order to make good His promises to the fathers; or He could not be careful to keep His promises. Was this last what their faith in God, or rather their want of faith, came to? To deny resurrection is, therefore, to deny the promises, and God's faithfulness, and in truth God Himself. The Lord, therefore, rebukes them on this acknowledged principle, that God was the God of the living, not of the dead. To make Him God of the dead would have been really to deny Him to be God at all: equally so to make His promises of no value or stability. God, therefore, must raise again the fathers in order to fulfil His promise to them; for they certainly never got the promises in this life. The folly of their thoughts too was manifest in this, that the difficulty presented was wholly unreal it only existed in their imagination. Marriage has nothing to do with the risen state: there they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. Thus, on their own negative ground of objection, they were altogether in error. Positively, as we have seen, they were just as wrong; for God must raise the dead to make good His own promises. There is nothing now in this world that worthily witnesses God, save only that which is known to faith; but if you speak of the display of God, and the manifestation of His power, you must wait until the resurrection. The Sadducees had not faith, and hence were in total error and blindness: "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God." Therefore it was that, refusing to believe, they were unable to understand. When the resurrection comes, it will be manifest to every eye. Accordingly this was the point of our Lord's answer; and the multitudes were astonished at His doctrine.
Though the Pharisees were not sorry to find the then ruling party, the Sadducees, put to silence, one of them, a lawyer, tempted the Lord in a question of near interest to them. "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" But He who came full of grace and truth never lowered the law, and at once gives its sum and substance in both its parts Godward and manward.
The time, however, was come for Jesus to put His question, drawn fromPsalms 110:1-7; Psalms 110:1-7. If Christ be confessedly David's Son, how does David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, "Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?" The whole truth of His position lies here. It was about to be realized; and the Lord can speak of the things that were not as though they were. Such was the language of David the king in words inspired of the Holy Ghost. What was the language, the thought of the people now, and by whom inspired? Alas! Pharisees, lawyers, Sadducees it was only a question of infidelity in varying forms; and the glory of David's Lord was even more momentous than the dead rising according to promise. Believe it or not, the Messiah was about to take His seat at the right hand of Jehovah. They were indeed, they are critical questions: If the Christ be David's Son, how is He David's Lord? If He be David's Lord, how is He David's Son? It is the turning point of unbelief at all times, now as then, the continual theme of the testimony of the Holy Ghost, the habitual stumbling-block of man, never so vain as when he would be wisest, and either essay to sound by his own wit the unfathomable mystery of Christ's person, or deny that there is in it any mystery whatever. It was the very point of Jewish unbelief It was the grand capital truth of all this gospel of Matthew, that He who was the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, was really Emmanuel, and Jehovah. It had been proved at His birth, proved throughout His ministry in Galilee, proved now at His last presentation in Jerusalem. "And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions." Such was their position in presence of Him who was so soon about to take His seat at the right hand of God; and there each remains to this day. Awful, unbelieving silence of Israel despising their own law, despising their own Messiah, David's Son and David's Lord, His glory their shame!
But if man was silent, it was the Lord's place not merely to question but to pronounce; and in Matthew 23:1-39 most solemnly does the Lord utter His sentence upon Israel. It was an address both to the multitude and to the disciples, with woes for Scribes and Pharisees. The Lord fully sanctioned that kind of mingled address for the time, providing, it would appear, not merely for the disciples, but for the remnant in a future day who will have this ambiguous place; believers in Him, on the one hand, yet withal filled, on the. other, with Jewish hopes and Jewish associations. This seems to me the reason why our Lord speaks in a manner so remarkably different from that which obtains ordinarily in Scripture. "The scribes," He says, "and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen of men." The principle fully applied then, as it will in the latter day; the Church scene coming in meanwhile as a parenthesis. The suitability of such instruction to this gospel of Matthew is also obvious, as indeed here only it is found. Then, again, our souls would shrink from the notion, that what our Lord taught could have merely a passing application. Not so; it has a permanent value for His followers; save only that the special privileges conferred on the Church, which is His body, modify the case, and, concurrently with this, the setting aside meanwhile of the Jewish people and state of things. But as these words applied literally then, so I conceive will it be at a future day. If this be so, it preserves the dignity of the Lord, as the great Prophet and Teacher, in its true place. In the last book of the New Testament we have a similar combination of features, when the Church will have disappeared from the earth; that is, the keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus. So here, the disciples of Jesus are exhorted to heed what was enjoined by those who sat in Moses' seat to follow what they taught, not what they did. So far as they brought out God's commandments, it was obligatory. But their practice was to be a beacon, not a guide. Their objects were to be seen of men, pride of place, honour in public and private, high-sounding titles, in open contradiction of Christ and that oft-repeated word of His "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall bumble himself shall be exalted." Yet, of course, the disciples had the faith of Jesus.
Next the Lord* launches out woe after woe against the Scribes and Pharisees. They were hypocrites. They shut out the new light of God, while zealous beyond measure for their own thoughts; they undermined conscience by their casuistry, while insisting on the minutest alliteration in ceremonializing; they laboured after external cleanness, while full of rapine and intemperance; and if they could only seem righteously fair without, feared not within to be full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Finally, their monuments in honour of slain prophets and past worthies were rather a testimony to their own relationship, not to the righteous, but to those who murdered them. Their fathers killed the witnesses of God who, while living, condemned them; they, the sons, only built to their memory when there was no longer a present testimony to their conscience, and their sepulchral honours would cast a halo around themselves.
*The most ancient text, represented by the Vatican, Sinai, Beza's Cambridge, L. of Paris (C. being defective, as well as the Alexandrian), and the Rescript of Dublin, omits verse 14, which may have been foisted in from Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. This leaves the complete series of seven woes.
Such is worldly religion and its heads: the great obstructions to divine knowledge, instead of living only to be its channels of communication; narrow, where they should have been large; cold and lukewarm for God, earnest only for self; daring sophists, where divine obligations lay deep, and punctilious pettifoggers in the smallest details, straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel; anxious only for the outside, reckless as to all that lay concealed underneath. The honour they paid those who had suffered in times past was the proof that they succeeded not them but their enemies, the true legitimate successors of those that slew the friends of God. The successors of those that of old suffered for God are those who suffer now; the heirs of their persecutors may build them sepulchres, erect statues, cast monumental brasses, pay them any conceivable honour. When there is no longer the testimony of God that pierces the obdurate heart, when they who render it are no longer there, the names of these departed saints or prophets become a means of gaining religious reputation for themselves. Present application of the truth is lacking, the sword of the Spirit is no longer in the hands of those who wielded it so well To honour those who have passed away is the cheapest means, on the contrary, for acquiring credit for the men of this generation. It is to swell the great capital of tradition out of those that once served God, but are now gone, whose testimony, is no longer a sting to the guilty. Thus it is evident, that as their honour begins in death, so it bears the sure stamp of death upon it. Did they plume themselves on the progress of the age? Did they think and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets? How little they knew their own hearts! Their trial was at hand. Their real character would soon appear, hypocrites though they were, and a serpent brood: how could they escape the judgment of hell?
"Wherefore, behold," says He, after thus exposing and denouncing them, "I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city." It is most eminently a Jewish character and circumstance of persecution; as the aim was the retributive one, "that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily, I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation." Yet, just as the blessed Lord, after pronouncing woes on Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, that had rejected His words and works, turned at once to the infinite resources of grace, and from the depth of His own glory brought in the secret of better things to the poor and needy; so it was that even at this time, just before He gave utterance to these woes (so solemn and fatal to the proud religious guides of Israel), He had, as we know from Luke 19:1-48, wept over the guilty city, out of which, as His servants, so their Lord could not perish. Here, again, how truly was His heart towards them! "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." It is not "I have," but your house is left unto you desolate; "for I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth [what bitterness of destitution theirs Messiah, Jehovah Himself, rejecting those who rejected Him!] till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Thus we have had our Lord presenting Himself as Jehovah the King; we have had the various classes putting themselves forward to judge Him, but, in fact, judged themselves by Him, There remains another scene of great interest, linking itself on to His farewell to the nation just noticed. It is His last communication to the disciples in view of the future; and this Matthew gives in a very full and rich manner. It would be vain to attempt an exposition of this prophetic discourse within my assigned limits. I will, therefore, but skim its surface now, just enough to indicate its outlines, and specially its distinctive features. It is evident that the greater completeness here exhibited beyond what appears in any other gospel is according to special design. In the gospel given by the other apostle, John, there is not a word of it. Mark gives his report very particularly in connection with the testimony of God, as I hope to show when we come to that point. In Luke there is peculiar distinctness in noticing the Gentiles, and their times of supremacy during the long period of Israel's degradation. Again, it is only in Matthew that we find direct allusion to the question of the end of the age. The reason is evident. That consummation is the grand crisis for the Jew. Matthew, writing under the Holy Ghost's direction for Israel, in view both of the consequences of their past unfaithfulness and of that future crisis, furnishes alike the momentous question and the Lord's special answer to it. This, too, is the reason why Matthew opens out what we do not find in either Mark or Luke, at least in this connection. We have here very comprehensively the Christian part, as it appears to me ( i.e., what belongs to the disciples, viewed as professing Christ's name when Israel rejected Him). This suits Matthew's view of the prophecy; and the reason is plain. Matthew shows us not only the consequences of the rejection of the Messiah to Israel, but the change of dispensation, or what would follow on their fatal opposition to One who was their King, yea, not only Messiah, but Jehovah. The consequences were to be, could not but be, all-important; and the Spirit here records this portion of the Lord's prophecy most appropriately to His purpose by Matthew. Would not God turn the Jewish rejection of that glorious Person to some wondrous and suitable account? Accordingly this is what we find here. The order, though different from that which obtains elsewhere, is regulated by perfect wisdom. First of all, the Jews are taken up, or the disciples as representing them, where they then were. They had not got beyond their old thoughts of the temple, those buildings that had excited their admiration and awe. The Lord announces the judgment that was at hand. Indeed, it was involved in the words said before "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." It was their house. The Spirit was fled. It was no better than a dead body now. Why should it not be carried out speedily to burial? "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." All would soon be over for 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?" In answer the Lord sets before them a general history so general, indeed, that one might hardly gather at first whether He did not contemplate even here Christians as well as Jews. (vv. 4-14.) They are viewed really as a believing but Jewish remnant, which accounts for the breadth of the language. Then, from verse 15, come the details of Daniel's special last half week, whose prophecy is emphatically appealed to. The establishment of the abomination of desolation in the holy place would be the sign for the instant flight of godly ones, like the disciples, who will then be found in Jerusalem. For this is to be followed by great tribulation, exceeding any time of trouble since the beginning of the world up to that day. Nor will there be outward affliction only, but unparalleled deceits, false Christs and false prophets showing great signs and wonders. But the elect are here warned graciously of the Saviour, and far, far beyond any guards afforded in the prophecies of the Old Testament.
"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 heaven shall be shaken: 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."Matthew 24:29; Matthew 24:29. The appearing of the Son of man is a grand point in Matthew, and indeed in all the gospels. The once rejected Christ will come in glory as the glorious Heir of all things. His advent in the clouds of heaven will be to take the throne, not of Israel only, but of all people, nations, and languages. Returning thus, to the horror and shame of His adversaries, in or out of the land, the first thing spoken of here is His mission of His angels to gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. There is no hint of resurrection or of rapture to heaven here. The elect of Israel are in question, and His own glory as Son of man, without a word of His being Head; nor of the Church His body. What we find here is a process of gathering the chosen, not merely of the Jews, but of all Isaiah, as I suppose, from the four winds of heaven. This interpretation derives support, then, if that be needed, from the parable that immediately follows (verses 32, 33). It is the fig tree once more, but used for a far different purpose. Be it curse in one connection, be it blessing in another, the fig tree typifies Israel.
Then comes, not what may be called the natural, but the scriptural, parable. As that alluded to the outside realm of nature, so this was taken from the Old Testament. The reference here is to the days of Noah, applied to illustrate the coming of the Son of man. So should the blow fall suddenly on all its objects. "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left, Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." They must not imagine that it would be like an ordinary judgment in providence, which sweeps here, not there, and sweeps here indiscriminately. In such the guiltless suffer with the guilty, without any approach to an adequate personal distinction. But it will not be so in the days of the Son of man, when He returns to deal with mankind at the end of the age. To be without or within will be no protection. Of two men in the field; of two women grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left. The discrimination is precise and perfect to the last degree. "Watch therefore," says the Lord, in conclusion of it all; "for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 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. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."
This transition, in my judgment, leads from the part particularly devoted to the destinies of the Jewish people, and opens into that which concerns the Christian profession. The first of these general pictures of Christendom, which drop all reference to Jerusalem, the temple, the people, or their hope, is found in verses 45-51. Next follows the parable of the ten virgins; then, last of these, is that of the talents. Let me observe, however, that there is a clause in Matthew 25:13 which has a little falsified the application. But the truth is, as is well known, that men, in copying the Greek New Testament, added the words, "Wherein the Son of man cometh," to this verse, which is complete without them. The Spirit really wrote, "Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour." To those versed in the text as it stands in the best copies, this is a fact too familiar to demand many words said about it. No critic of weight considers that these words have any just claim to be in the text that is founded on ancient authority. Others may defend the clause who accept what is commonly received, and what can only be defended by modern or uncertain manuscripts. Surely those I now address are the last men who ought to contend for a mere traditional or vulgar basis in anything which pertains to God. If we accept the traditional text of the printers, we are on this ground; if, on the contrary, we reject human meddling as a principle, assuredly we ought not to accredit such clauses as this, which we have the strongest grounds to pronounce a mere interpolation, and not truly the word of God. But this being so, we may proceed to notice how strikingly beautiful is the effect of omitting these words.
First, then, in the Christian part, came the parable of the household servant. He who, faithful and wise, met the wishes of his Lord that set him over His household to give them meat in due season, being found so doing, when He comes, is made ruler over all His goods. The evil servant, on the contrary, who settled in his heart that his Lord was not coming, and so yielded to overbearing violence and evil commerce with the profane world, shall be surprised by judgment, and have his portion with the hypocrites in hopeless shame and sorrow.
It is an instructive sketch of Christendom; but there is more. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." Thus Christendom entirely breaks down. It is not only the foolish who go to sleep, but the wise. All fail to give a right expression to their waiting for the Bridegroom. "They all slumbered and slept." But God takes care, without telling us how, that there shall be an interruption of their slumber. Instead of remaining out to wait, they must have gone in somewhere to sleep. In short, the original position is deserted. Not only have they not discharged their duty of awaiting the return of the Bridegroom, but they are no longer in their true posture. When the hope revives, the position is recovered, not before. At midnight, when all were asleep, there was a cry, "The bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet him." This acts on the virgins, wise and foolish. So it is now. Who can deny that foolish people enough speak and write about the Lord's coming? An universal agitation of spirit goes on in all countries and all towns. Spite of opposition, the expectation spreads far and wide. It is in no way confined to the children of God. Those who are in quest of oil, going hither and thither, are disturbed by it as certainly as those who have oil in their vessels are cheered to go out once more while waiting for the, Bridegroom's return. But what a difference! The wise were prepared with oil beforehand; the rest proved their folly in doing without it. Let me particularly call your attention to this, The difference consisted not in expecting the Lord's coining or not, but in the possession or the lack of oil (i.e., the unction from the Holy One). All profess Christ; they are all virgins with their lamps. But the want of oil is fatal. He who has not the Spirit of Christ is none of His. Such are the foolish. They know not what has made the others wise unto salvation, whatever they may profess; and their restless search, after that which they have not, finally severs them even here from the company of those they started with as looking for the Lord.
The notion that they are Christians who lack intelligence in prophecy seems to me not false only, but utterly unworthy of a spiritual mind. Is the possession of Christ less precious than a correct chart of the future? I cannot conceive a Christian without oil in his vessel. It is clearly to have the Holy Ghost, whom every saint that submits to the righteousness of God in Christ has dwelling within him. As John teaches us, the least members of God's family are said to have that unction not the fathers and young men but expressly the babes. Of course, if the youngest in Christ are so privileged, the young men and fathers do not want. Therefore I do assert, with the fullest conviction of its truth, that, as the oil in the parable sets forth, not prophetic intelligence, but the gift of God's Spirit, so every Christian, and no other, has the Holy Ghost dwelling in him. These, then, are the wise virgins who make ready for the Bridegroom, and go in with Him to the marriage at His coming. As that hour draws near, the others, on the contrary, are more and more agitated. Not resting on Christ for their souls by faith, they have not the Spirit, and seek the inestimable gift among those who sell it, asking who will show them any good of whom they may buy this priceless oil. The Lord meanwhile comes, they that were ready go in with Him to the wedding, and the door was shut; the rest of the virgins are excluded. The Lord knew them not.
Let me say in passing, that these virgins are distinguished from those who will be called in the end of the age by broad and deep differences. There is no ground to believe that the sufferers in that crisis will ever become heavy with sleep, as saints have done during the long delay of Christendom. That brief season of unprecedented trial and danger does not admit of it. Next, as little ground is there in Scripture to predicate of these latter-day sufferers the possession of the Holy Ghost, which is the peculiar privilege of the believer since the rejected Christ took His place as Head in heaven. The Holy Ghost is to be poured out on all flesh for the millennial day, no doubt; but no prophecy declares that the remnant will be so characterized till they see Jesus. And, again, there is the third point of distinction, that these sufferers are nowhere set forth as going out to meet the Bridegroom. They may flee away because of the abomination that makes desolate, but this is a contrast rather than a similar feature.
The third of these parables presents another phase again. During the absence of the Lord, before He appears to take the kingdom of the world, He gives gifts to men different gifts, and in different measures. This pre-eminently belongs to Christianity and its active testimony in peculiar variety. I am not aware of anything exactly answering to it in its full character in the latter day (which will be distinguished by a brief energetic witness of the kingdom). These gifts ofMatthew 25:1-46; Matthew 25:1-46 seem to me the thorough expression of the activity of grace, that goes out and labours for a rejected and absent Lord on high. However, I may not dwell upon minuter points, which would, of course, frustrate the desire to give a comprehensive sketch in a short compass.
The latter scene of the chapter is, to a simple mind, evident enough. "All the nations" or Gentiles are in question: there can be no mistake as to this. The Jew has already come before us, and at the beginning of the Lord's discourse, because the disciples were then Jews. Next, as disciples emerged from Judaism into Christianity, we have in this very distinctly the reason why the Christian parenthesis comes second in order. Then, in the third place, we find "all the nations" who are formally designated as such, and distinguished in the clearest manner from the two others, both in terms and in the things said of them. They come up and are visibly dealt with as Gentiles at the close, when the Son of man reigns as king over the earth. The question which comes before His throne, and decides their eternal lot, does not consist of the secrets of the heart then laid bare, nor their general life, but of their behaviour to His messengers. How had they treated certain persons that the King calls His brethren? It is an appraisal then, founded on their relation to a brief testimony rendered at the close of the present dispensation (I doubt not, by Jewish brethren of the King, when all the world wonders after the beast, and in general men go back to idols, and fall into Antichrist's hands); a testimony suited to the crisis, after the Christian body has been taken to heaven, and the question of the earth is raised once more. Thus these nations or Gentiles are dealt with according to their behaviour to the messengers of the King, just before and up to the time that the King summons them before the throne of His glory. To own His despised heralds when the time of strong delusion comes, will demand the quickening work of the Spirit; which, indeed, is needful for receiving any and every testimony of God. It is not a question of any general issue that would apply to a course of ages, as to the present preaching of God's grace, or to the ordinary current of men's lives. Nothing of the sort appears to be the ground of the Lord's action with either the sheep or the goats.
Matthew 26:1-75. Formal teaching is over now, whether practical or prophetic. The scene above all scenes draws near, on which, however blessed, I cannot say much at this time. The Lord Jesus has been presented to the people, has preached, has wrought miracles, has instructed disciples, has met all the various classes of His adversaries, has launched into the future up to the end of the age. Now He prepares to suffer, to suffer in absolute surrender of Himself to the Father. Accordingly, in this scene it is no longer man judging Him in words, but God judging Him in His person on the cross. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. So it is here. He maintains, too, every affection in its fulness. Here, aside from the crowd, the Lord for a season takes whatever of rest might be vouchsafed to His spirit. The active work was done. The cross remained a few brief hours, but of eternal value and unfathomable import, with which indeed nothing can compare.
At the house of Bethany Jesus is now found. It is one of the few scenes introduced by the Spirit of God into all the gospels save Luke, in contrast with, yet in preparation for, the cross. Was the Spirit of God then acting mightily in the heart of one who loved the Saviour? At this very time Satan was pushing on the heart of man to dare the worst against Jesus. Around these were the parties. What a moment for heaven, and earth, and hell! How much, how little was man seen! for if one feature be prominent in His foes more than another, it is this, that man is powerless, even when Jesus was the victim, exposed to every hostile breath as it might appear. Yet does He accomplish everything, when He was but a sufferer; they nothing, when free to do all (for it was their hour, and the power of darkness) nothing but their iniquity; but even in their iniquity doing the will of God, spite of themselves, and contrary to their own plans. They did their will in point of guilt, but it was never accomplished as they desired. First of all, as we are told, their great anxiety was, that the deed on which their heart was set, the death of Jesus, should not be at the passover. But their resolution was vain. From the beginning God had decided that then, and at no other time, it should be. They assembled, they consulted, "that they might take Jesus by subtilty and kill him." The upshot of their deliberations was only "Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people." Little did they foresee the treachery of a disciple, or the public sentence of a Roman governor. Again, there was no uproar among the people, contrary to their fears. Yet did Jesus die on that day according to God's word.
But let us turn aside to the company of our Lord for a little while at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. There was poured out the worship of a heart that loved Him, if ever there was one. She waited not for the promise of the Father; but He who was soon after given to overflowing, even then wrought in the instincts of her new nature. "There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head as he sat at meat." This, John lets us know, she had kept; it was no new thing got up for the occasion; it was her best, and spent on Jesus. How little it was in her eyes, how precious in His, spent on one whom she loved, for whom she felt the impending danger; for love is quick to feel, and feels more truly than man's most sharpened prudence. So it was, then, that this woman pours her ointment on His head. John mentions His feet. Certainly it was poured upon both. But as Matthew has the King before him, and it was usual to pour on, not the feet of a king, but his head, he naturally records that part of the action which was suitable to the Messiah. John, on the contrary, whose point is that Jesus was infinitely more than a king, while lowly enough in love for anything John most appropriately tells us that Mary poured it on His feet. It is interesting, too, to observe, that love, and a profound sense of the glory of Jesus, led her to do that which a sinner's heart, thoroughly broken down in the presence of His grace, prompted her to do. For Luke mentions another person. In this case it was "a woman in the city, who was a sinner," a totally different person, at another and earlier time, and in the house of another Simon, a Pharisee. She too anointed the feet of Jesus with an alabaster box of ointment; but she stood at His feet behind, weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet. There are thus many added circumstances in harmony with the case. All I would point out now is, the kindred feeling to which is led a poor sinner that tasted His grace in presence of her proved unworthiness, and a loving worshipper, filled with the glory of His person, and sensitive to the malice of His foes. However that may be, the Lord vindicates her in the face of murmuring disaffected disciples. It is a solemn lesson; for it shows how one corrupt mind may defile others, incomparably better than its own. The whole college of the apostles, the twelve, were tainted for the moment by the poison insinuated by one. What hearts are ours at such a season, in the face of such love! But so it was, alas! is. One evil eye may too soon communicate its foul impression, and thereby many be defiled. It was Judas at bottom; but there was also that in the rest which made them susceptible of similar selfishness at the expense of Jesus, although there was not in them the same allowance of diabolical influence which had suggested thoughts to Judas. The example is surely not without serious admonition to ourselves. How often care for doctrine cloaks Satan, as here care for the poor! Morally, too, this connects itself with Christ's sufferings that should follow. The devotedness of the woman is used of Satan to push Judas into his last wickedness, so much the more determined by the outflow of what his heart could not in the smallest degree appreciate. Thence he goes to sell Jesus. If he could not manage to get the box of precious ointment, or its worth, he would, while he could, secure his little profit on the sale of Jesus to His enemies. "What will ye give me," says he to the chief priests, "and I will deliver him unto you?" Accordingly the covenant takes place a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell. "They covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver" man's, Israel's, worthy price for Jesus!
But now, as the woman had her token for Jesus, and in it her own memorial, wherever, whenever the gospel of the kingdom is preached in the whole world, so Jesus next institutes the standing, undying token of His dying love. He founds the new feast, His own supper for His disciples. At the paschal feast He takes up the bread and the wine, and consecrates them to be on earth the continual remembrance of Himself in the midst of His own. In the language of its institution there are some distinctive features which may claim a notice when we have the opportunity of looking at the other gospels. From this table our Lord goes to Gethsemane, and His agony there. Whatever there was of sorrow, whatever there was of pain, whatever there was of suffering, our Lord never bowed to any suffering from men without, before He bore it on His heart alone with His Father. He went through it in spirit before He went through it in fact. And this, I believe, is the main point here. I say not all that we have; for here He met the terrors of death and what a death! pressed on Him by the prince of this world, who nevertheless found nothing in Him. Thus at the actual hour it was God glorified in Him, the Son of man, even as, when raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, He forthwith declares to His brethren the name of His Father and their Father, of His God and their God, both nature and relationship. Here His cry still is simply to His Father, as in the cross it was, My God, though not this only. However profoundly instructive all this maybe, our Lord in the garden calls upon the disciples to watch and pray; but this is precisely what they find hardest. They slept, and prayed not. What a contrast, too, with Jesus afterwards, when the trial came! And yet for them it was but the merest reflection of that which He passed through. For the world, death is either borne with the obduracy that dares all because it believes nothing, or it is a pang as the end of present enjoyment, the sombre portal of they know not what beyond. To the believer, to the Jewish disciple, before redemption, death was even worse in a sense; for there was a juster perception of God, and of man's state morally. Now all is changed through His death, which the disciples so little estimated, the bare shadow of which, however, was enough to overwhelm them all, and silence every confession of their faith. For him who most of all presumed on the strength of his love, it was enough to prove how little he yet knew of the reality of death, spite of his too ready boasts. And yet what would death have been in his case compared with that of Jesus! But even that was incomparably too much for the strength of Peter; all was proved powerless, save the One who showed, even when He was weakest, that He was alone the Giver of all strength, the Manifester of all grace, even when He was crushed under such judgment as man never knew before, nor can know again.
Matthew 27:1-66. We next see our Lord, not with the disciples, failing, false, or traitorous, but His hour come, in the power of the hostile world, priests, governors, soldiers, and people. What was attempted by man completely broke down. They had their witnesses, but the witnesses agreed not. Failure everywhere is found, even in wickedness failure not in men's will, but in its accomplishment. God alone governs. So now Jesus was condemned, not for their testimony, but for His own. How wondrous, that even to put Him to death they needed the witness of Jesus; they could not condemn Him to die but for His good confession. For His testimony to the truth they consummated their worst deed; and this doubly, before the high priest as well as before the governor. Warned of his wife (for the Lord took care that there should be providential testimony), as well as too keen-sighted to overlook the malice of the Jews and the innocence of the accused, Pontius Pilate acknowledges his prisoner to be guiltless, yet allowed himself to be forced to act contrary to his own conscience, and according to their wishes whom he wholly despised. Once more, ere Jesus is led out to be crucified, the Jews showed what they were morally; for when the coarse-minded heathen put before them the alternative of releasing Jesus or Barabbas, their instant preference (not without priestly instigation) was a wretch, a robber, a murderer. Such was the feeling of the Jews, God's people, toward their King, because He was the Son of God, Jehovah, and not a mere man. With bitter irony, but not without God, wrote Pilate the accusation, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." But this was not the only testimony which God gave. For from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And then when Jesus, crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost, that ensued which particularly would strike the heart of the Jew. The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. What could be conceived more solemn to Israel? His death was the death blow to the Jewish system, struck by one who was unmistakably the Maker of heaven and earth. But it was not the dissolution of that system only, but of the power of death itself; for the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, the witness of the value of His death, though not declared till after His resurrection. The death of Jesus, I hesitate not to say, is the sole groundwork of righteous deliverance from sin. In the resurrection is seen the mighty power of God; but what is power for a sinner, with God before his soul, compared with righteousness? What with grace? And this is precisely what we have here. Hence, it is the death of Jesus alone that is the true centre and pivot of all God's counsels and ways, whether in righteousness or in grace. The resurrection, no doubt, is the power that manifests and proclaims all; but what it proclaims is the power of His death, because that alone has vindicated God morally. The death of Jesus alone has proved that nothing could overcome His love rejection, death itself, so far from this, being only the occasion of displaying love to the uttermost. Therefore it is that, of all things even in Jesus, there is none that affords such a common and perfect resting-place for God and man as the death of Jesus. When it is a question of power, liberty, life, no doubt we must turn to the resurrection; and hence it is, that in the Acts of the apostles this necessarily comes out most prominently, because the matter in hand was to afford proof, on the one hand, of manifested but despised grace; on the other hand, of God's reversing man's attainder of Jesus by raising Him from the dead and exalting Him to His own right hand on high. The death of Jesus would be no demonstration of this sort. On the contrary, His death was what man appeared to triumph in. They had got rid of Jesus thus, but the resurrection proved how vain and short-lived it was, and that God was against them. The object was to make evident that man was wholly opposed to God, and that God even now manifested His sentence on it. The raising up Him whom man slew renders this unquestionable. I admit that in the resurrection of Christ God is for us, for the believer. But the sinner and the believer must not be confounded together, for there is an immense difference between the two things. Whatever the witness of perfect love in the gift and death of Jesus, for the sinner there is not, there cannot be, anything whatever in the resurrection of Jesus save condemnation. I press this the more strongly, because the recovery of the precious truth of Christ's resurrection exposes some, by a kind of reaction, to weaken the value which His death has in God's mind, and ought to have in our faith. Let those, then, who prize the resurrection, see to it that they be exceedingly jealous for the due place of the cross.
The two things we find remarkably guarded here. It was not the resurrection, but the death of Jesus, that rent the veil of the temple; it was not His resurrection that opened the graves, but His cross, though the saints rose not till after He rose. It is just so with us practically. In point of fact, we never do know the full worth of the death of Christ, until we look upon it from the power and results of the resurrection. But what we contemplate from the side of resurrection is not itself, but the death of Jesus. Hence it is that in the Church's assembling, and most properly, on the Lord's day, we do in the breaking of bread show forth, not the resurrection, but the death of the Lord. At the same time, we show forth His death not on the day of death, but upon that of resurrection. Do I forget that it is the day of resurrection? Then I little understand my liberty and joy. If, on the contrary, the resurrection day brings no more before me than the resurrection, it is too plain that the death of Christ has lost its infinite grace for my soul.
The Egyptians would have liked to cross the Red Sea, but they had no care for the doors sprinkled with the blood of the lamb. They essayed to pass through the watery walls, desiring thus to follow Israel to the other side. But we do not read that they ever sought the shelter of the Paschal Lamb's blood. No doubt, this is an extreme case, and the judgment of the world of nature; but we may learn even from an enemy not to value resurrection less, but to value the death and blood-shedding of our precious Saviour more. There is really nothing towards God and man like the death of Christ.
Then, in contrast with the poor but devoted women of Galilee that surrounded the cross, we behold the fears, the just fears, of those who had accomplished the death of Jesus. These guilty men go full of anxiety to Pilate. They feared "that deceiver," and so had their watch, and stone, and seal in vain! The Lord that sat in the heavens had them in derision. Jesus had prepared His own (and His enemies knew it) for His rising on the third day. Women came there the evening before to look at the place where the Lord lay buried. (Matthew 28:1-20) That morning, very early, when there were none there but the guards, the angel of the Lord. descends. We are not told that our Lord rose at that time; still less is it said that the angel of the Lord rolled away the stone for Him. He that passed through the doors, closed for fear of the Jews, could just as easily pass through the sealed stone, despite all the soldiers of the empire. We know that there the angel sat after rolling away the great stone which had closed the sepulchre, where our Lord, despised and rejected of men, nevertheless accomplished Isaiah's prophecy. In making His grave with the rich. The Lord then had this further witness, that the very keepers, hardened and bold as such usually are, trembled, and became as dead men, while the angel bids the women not to fear; for this Jesus which was crucified "is not here: He is risen. Come, and see the place where the Lord lay, and go and tell the disciples, Behold, He goeth before you into Galilee." This is a point of importance for completing the view of His rejection, or its consequences in resurrection, and so Matthew takes particular care of it, though the same fact may be recorded also by Mark for his purpose.
But Matthew does not speak of the various appearances of the Lord in Jerusalem after the resurrection. What he does dwell upon particularly, and of course with his special reasons for it, is, that the Lord, after His resurrection, adheres to the place where the state of the Jews led Him to be habitually, and shed His light around according to prophecy; for the Lord resumed relations once more in Galilee with the remnant represented by" the disciples after He rose from the dead. It was in the place of Jewish contempt; it was where the benighted poor of the flock were, the neglected of the proud scribes and rulers of Jerusalem. There the risen Lord was pleased to go before His servants and rejoin them.
But as the Galilean women went with this word from the angel, the Lord Himself met them. "And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him." It is remarkable that in our gospel this was permitted. To Mary Magdalene, who in her desire to pay her wonted obeisance probably was attempting something similar, He altogether declines it; but this is mentioned in the gospel of John. How is it, then, that the two apostolic accounts show us the homage of the women received, and of Mary Magdalene refused, on the same day, and perhaps at the same hour? Clearly the action is significant in both. The reason, I apprehend, was this, Matthew sets before us that while He was the rejected Messiah, though now risen, He not only reverted to His relations in the despised part of the land with His disciples, but gives, in this accepted worship of the daughters of Galilee, the pledge of His special association with the Jews in the latter day; for it is precisely thus that they will look for the Lord. That is, a Jew, as such, counts upon the bodily presence of the Lord. The point in John's record is the very reverse; for it is the taking one, who was a sample of believing Jews, out of Jewish relations into association with Himself just about to ascend to heaven. In Matthew He is touched. They held Him by the feet without remonstrance, and thus worshipped Him in bodily presence. In John He says, "Touch me not;" and the reason is, "for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." Worship henceforth was to be offered to Him above, invisible, but known there by faith. To the women in Matthew it was here that He was presented for their worship; to the woman in John it was there only He was to be known now. It was not a question of bodily presence, but of the Lord ascended to heaven and there announcing the new relationships for us with His Father and God. Thus, in the one case, it is the sanction of Jewish hopes of His presence here, below for the homage of Israel; in the other gospel, it is His personal absence and ascension, leading souls to a higher and suited association with Himself, as well as with God, taking even those who were Jews out of their old condition to know the Lord no more after the flesh.
Most consistently, therefore, in this gospel, we have no ascension scene at all. If we had only the gospel of Matthew, we should possess no record of this wonderful fact: so striking is the omission, that a well-known commentary, Mr. Alford's first edition, broached the rash and irreverent hypothesis founded upon it, that our Matthew is an incomplete Greek version of the Hebrew original, because there was no such record; for it was impossible, in the opinion of that writer, that an apostle could have omitted a description of that event. The fact is, if you add the ascension to Matthew, you would overload and mar his gospel. The beautiful end of Matthew is, that (while chief priests and elders essay to cover their wickedness by falsehood and bribery, and their lie "is commonly reported among the Jews until this day,") our Lord meets His disciples on a mountain in Galilee, according to His appointment, and sends them to disciple all the Gentiles. How great is the change of dispensation is manifest from His former commission to the same men in Matthew 10:1-42. Now they were to baptize them unto the name of the Father, etc. It was not a question of the Almighty God of the fathers, or the Jehovah God of Israel. The name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is characteristic of Christianity. Permit me to say, that this is the true formula of Christian baptism, and that the omission of this form of sound words appears to me quite as fatal to the validity of baptism as any change that can be pointed out in other respects. Instead of being a Jewish thing, this is what supplanted it. Instead of a relic of older dispensations to be modified or rather set aside now, on the contrary, it is the full revelation of the name of God as now made known, not before. This only came out after the death and resurrection of Christ. There is no longer the mere Jewish enclosure He had entered during the days of His flesh, but the change of dispensation was now dawning: so consistently does the Spirit of God hold to His design from the first to the very end.
Accordingly He closes with these words, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age]." How the form of the truth would have been weakened, if not destroyed, had we then heard of His going up to heaven! It is evident that the moral force of it is infinitely more preserved as it is. He is charging His disciples, sending them on their world-wide mission with these words, "Lo, I am with you always, all the days," etc. The force is immensely increased, and for this very reason that we hear and see no more. He promised His presence with them to the end of the age; and thereon the curtain drops. He is thus heard, if not seen, for ever with His own on earth, as they go forth upon that errand so precious, but perilous. May we gather real profit from all He has given us.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Matthew 24:16". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/matthew-24.html. 1860-1890.
the Second Week of Advent