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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
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Nave's Topical Bible - Israel, Prophecies Concerning; Jesus Continued; Predestination; Scofield Reference Index - Day (of Jehovah); Thompson Chain Reference - Association-Separation; Separation; The Topic Concordance - Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; End of the World; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Second Coming of Christ, the;
Verse Matthew 24:40-41. Then shall two men - two women - one shall be taken, and the other left. — The meaning seems to be, that so general should these calamities be, that no two persons, wheresoever found, or about whatsoever employed, should be both able to effect their escape; and that captivity and the sword should have a complete triumph over this unhappy people.
Two women shall be grinding — Women alone are still employed in grinding the corn in the east; and it is only when despatch is required, or the uppermost millstone is heavy, that a second woman is added. See Wakefield, and Harmer, Obs. vol. i. 253. That they were formerly thus employed, see Exodus 11:5, and the note there. See also Isaiah 47:2.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 24:40". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-24.html. 1832.
132. A warning to be alert always (Matthew 24:32-51; Mark 13:28-37; Luke 21:29-38)
Just as the first leaves on a fig tree indicate that summer is coming, so when the disciples see the false messiahs, the persecution and the approach of the Roman armies, they will know that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation is upon them. People of Jesus’ day would see the fulfilment of these things in their own lifetime (Matthew 24:32-35; Luke 21:29-33).
As for the day when the Son of man will return in the glory of his kingdom, no one knows when that will be except the Father (Matthew 24:36; cf. Daniel 7:13-14). People will be carrying on their daily business, ignoring God’s warnings just as people did in the days of Noah. But just as the flood was God’s means of judgment on those people, so Jesus’ return will bring judgment on sinners and salvation to his people (Matthew 24:37-41; see notes on Luke 17:22-37).
Jesus’ coming will be as unexpected as that of a thief who breaks into a house while the owner is asleep (Matthew 24:42-44; see notes on Luke 12:39-40). The disciples of Jesus must therefore be prepared for his return at all times. They must not settle down to a life of self-pleasing but live faithfully for him (Matthew 24:45-51; see notes on Luke 12:42-46).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 24:40". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-24.html. 2005.
Then shall two be in the field ... - The calamity will come suddenly. There will be no escape for those whom it overtakes.
One shall be taken - The word “taken” may mean either to be taken away from the danger - that is, rescued, as Lot was Luke 17:28-29, or to be taken away “by death.” Probably the latter is the meaning.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 24:40". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-24.html. 1870.
40.Two men shall then be in the field. Before mentioning this, Luke inserts some sentences; the first of which is presented by Matthew as belonging to the destruction of Jerusalem, Let not him who shall be on the house-top go down into his house to carry away his furniture. But it is possible that Christ applied the same words to various subjects. Luke states also a warning, that the disciples should remember Lot’s wife; that is, that they should forget those things which are behind, (Philippians 3:13) and advance towards the end of the heavenly calling. For Lot’s wife was changed into a pillar of salt, (Genesis 19:26,) because, hesitating whether there were good reasons for departing from the city, she looked behind her, by which she gave the lie to the heavenly oracle. Perhaps, too, regret at leaving her nest, in which she had dwelt with comfort, induced her to turn her head. Since, therefore, God intended that she should remain as an everlasting demonstration, our minds ought to be strengthened by the constancy of faith, that they may not hesitate and give way in the middle of the course; and they ought also to be trained to perseverance, in order that, bidding adieu to the fascinations of a transitory life, they may rise cheerfully and willingly towards heaven.
Luke adds a third sentence, whosoever shall seek to save his soul will lose it, that the desire of an earthly life may not prevent believers from passing rapidly through the midst of death, to the salvation laid up for them in heaven. And Christ employs a strong expression to denote the frailty of the present life, when he says that souls (
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 24:40". "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 24:40". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-24.html. 2014.
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.
Jesus here gives two examples of activities of daily living. As life continues normally before the flood, so it will up to the final judgment. Folks will be about their daily routines as if nothing is about to happen. In verse 40, the picture is of two farm workers tending crops in the field. In verse 41, the picture is of two women, one on each side of a grinding wheel, preparing flour from grain.
The application of these verses is found in their connection to the final judgment. Several points should be considered:
1. That one will be taken and the other left shows the individuality of the judgment. While people may be intimately connected by their jobs and daily activities in this life (that is, in the field, at the mill), judgment will find each on his own. Each shall give an account of his own deeds whether good or evil. One will not be judged on the merits of others. We shall stand alone, naked and bare before the Lord. Each must "watch" and prepare.
2. Many assume the ones who are "taken" are the righteous who, according to Pre-Millennialists, are to be raptured in conjunction with the "Great Tribulation." Others see this situation as parallel with Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 where the "righteous" shall meet the Lord in the air at His second coming. In both instances, the ones "taken" are assumed to be the "righteous." The difficulty of this conclusion is that the previous illustration of Noah shows it is the wicked who are "taken away" (verse 39). The wicked are destroyed (taken away) while the righteous remain. This is the backdrop for Jesus’ statement here. The point is that at the final judgment the wicked will be taken away. Just as in the parable of the tares, so it is here (13:30). The wicked will be separated from the righteous. The thrust of Jesus’ teaching is, "after the dust settles, the only ones left standing victorious…will be Christians" (Fowler 527). The second coming will come so suddenly that no last minute preparation will be possible. The wicked will be taken away to meet their doom just as the flood took the wicked of the antediluvian world.
3. This verse provides further proof that from verse 36 onward Jesus changes subject matter. Whereas those (the righteous) of section one (verses 1–35) are commanded to "flee" from the wrath to come, those in this section (the wicked) will be "taken" and will be unable to flee.
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 24:40". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/matthew-24.html. 1993-2022.
The importance of vigilance 24:32-44
Jesus told His disciples four parables advocating vigilance in view of the time of His return. These stories were illustrations of His main points in the Olivet Discourse.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 24:40". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-24.html. 2012.
The parables of one taken and one left behind 24:40-41 (cf. Luke 17:34-35)
Having explained the importance of the signs leading up to His return and the responses to those signs, Jesus next explained the respective consequences of the two responses.
Many Christians who have read these verses have assumed that they describe believers taken to heaven at the Rapture and unbelievers left behind to enter the Tribulation. However the context is dealing with the second coming of Christ, not the Rapture. The sequence of events will be Jesus’ ascension, the church age beginning on Pentecost and ending with the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Second Coming, and the beginning of the messianic kingdom.
"It will be a taking away judicially and in judgment. The ones left will enjoy the blessings of Christ’s reign on earth, just as Noah and his family were left to continue life on earth. This is the opposite of the rapture, where those who are left go into the judgment of the Great Tribulation." [Note: Feinberg, Israel in . . ., p. 27.]
"Jesus was not referring to the Rapture of the church in Matthew 24. When that event takes place, all the saved will be removed from the earth to meet Christ in the air, and all the unsaved will be left on the earth. Thus, the Rapture will occur in reverse of the order of things in the days of Noah and, therefore, the reverse of the order at Jesus’ coming immediately after the Great Tribulation." [Note: Showers, p. 180. See also Gerald B. Stanton, Kept from the Hour, pp. 51-65.]
Some interpreters have made a case for this being a reference to the Rapture because Jesus used two different words for "take" in the context. In Matthew 24:39 the Greek verb is airo whereas in Matthew 24:40-41 He used paralambano. The argument is that paralambano is a word that describes Jesus taking His own to Himself. However it also occurs in a bad sense (Matthew 4:5; Matthew 4:8; John 19:16). Probably Jesus used paralambano because it more graphically pictures sweeping away as in a flood. [Note: Morison, p. 489.]
Perhaps Jesus used two illustrations to show that neither gender nor occupation nor proximate relationship will prevent the separation for judgment (cf. Matthew 10:35-36). Typically two women-often sisters, a mother and a daughter, or two servants-sat opposite each other turning the small hand mill between them. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 509.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 24:40". "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)
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Matthew 24:40". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/matthew-24.html. 1956-1959.
Then shall two be in the field,.... About their proper business, of husbandry, ploughing, or sowing, or any other rural employment:
the one shall be taken; not by the preaching of the Gospel, into the kingdom of God, or Gospel dispensation; though such a distinction God makes, by the ministry of the word, accompanied by his Spirit and power; nor by angels, to meet Christ in the air, and to be introduced into his kingdom and glory; but by the eagles, the Roman army, and either killed or carried captive by them:
and the other left; not in a state of nature and unregeneracy, as many are, to whom the Gospel is preached; nor with devils at the last day, to be thrust down by them into the infernal regions; but by the Romans, being by some remarkable providence, or another, delivered out of their hands; which was the case of some few, and these of the meaner sort; and therefore persons of a rural life and occupation are instanced in.
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 24:40". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-24.html. 1999.
|Parable of the Fig-Tree; Awful Predictions; The Duty of Watchfulness; The Good and Evil Steward.|
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. 48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 49 And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
We have here the practical application of the foregoing prediction; in general, we must expect and prepare for the events here foretold.
I. We must expect them; "Now learn a parable of the fig-tree,Matthew 24:32; Matthew 24:33. Now learn what use to make of the things you have heard; so observe and understand the signs of the times, and compare them with the predictions of the word, as from thence to foresee what is at the door, that you may provide accordingly." The parable of the fig-tree is no more than this, that its budding and blossoming are a presage of summer; for as the stork in the heaven, so the trees of the field, know their appointed time. The beginning of the working of second causes assures us of the progress and perfection of it. Thus when God begins to fulfil prophecies, he will make an end. There is a certain series in the works of providence, as there is in the works of nature. The signs of the times are compared with the prognostics of the face of the sky (Matthew 16:3; Matthew 16:3), so here with those of the face of the earth; when that is renewed, we foresee that summer is coming, not immediately, but at some distance; after the branch grows tender, we expect the March winds, and the April showers, before the summer comes; however, we are sure it is coming; "so likewise ye, when the gospel day shall dawn, count upon it, that through this variety of events which I have told you of, the perfect day will come. The things revealed must shortly come to pass (Revelation 1:1); they must come in their own order, in the order appointed for them. Know that it is near." He does not here say what, but it is that which the hearts of his disciples are upon, and which they are inquisitive after, and long for; the kingdom of God is near, so it is expressed in the parallel place, Luke 21:31. Note, When the trees of righteousness begin to bud and blossom, when God's people promise faithfulness, it is a happy presage of good times. In them God begins his work, first prepares their heart, and then he will go on with it; for, as for God, his work is perfect; and he will revive it in the midst of their years.
Now touching the events foretold here, which we are to expect,
1. Christ here assures us of the certainty of them (Matthew 24:35; Matthew 24:35); Heaven and earth shall pass away; they continue this day indeed, according to God's ordinance, but they shall not continue for ever (Psalms 102:25; Psalms 102:26; 2 Peter 3:10); but my words shall not pass away. Note, The word of Christ is more sure and lasting than heaven and earth. Hath he spoken? And shall he not do it? We may build with more assurance upon the word of Christ than we can upon the pillars of heaven, or the strong foundations of the earth; for, when they shall be made to tremble and totter, and shall be no more, the word of Christ shall remain, and be in full force, power, and virtue. See 1 Peter 1:24; 1 Peter 1:25. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than the word of Christ; so it is expressed, Luke 16:17. Compare Isaiah 54:10. The accomplishment of these prophecies might seem to be delayed, and intervening events might seem to disagree with them, but do not think that therefore the word of Christ is fallen to the ground, for that shall never pass away: though it be not fulfilled, either in the time or in the way that we have prescribed; yet, in God's time, which is the best time, and in God's way, which is the best way, it shall certainly be fulfilled. Every word of Christ is very pure, and therefore very sure.
2. He here instructs us as to the time of them, Matthew 24:34; Matthew 24:36. As to this, it is well observed by the learned Grotius, that there is a manifest distinction made between the tauta (Matthew 24:34; Matthew 24:34), and the ekeine (Matthew 24:36; Matthew 24:36), these things, and that day and hour; which will help to clear this prophecy.
(1.) As to these things, the wars, seductions, and persecutions, here foretold, and especially the ruin of the Jewish nation; "This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled (Matthew 24:34; Matthew 24:34); there are those now alive, that shall see Jerusalem destroyed, and the Jewish church brought to an end." Because it might seem strange, he backs it with a solemn asseveration; "Verily, I say unto you. You may take my word for it, these things are at the door." Christ often speaks of the nearness of that desolation, the more to affect people, and quicken them to prepare for it. Note, There may be greater trials and troubles yet before us, in our own day, than we are aware of. They that are old, know not what sons of Anak may be reserved for their last encounters.
(2.) But as to that day and hour which will put a period to time, that knoweth no man,Matthew 24:36; Matthew 24:36. Therefore take heed of confounding these two, as they did, who, from the words of Christ and the apostles; letters, inferred that the day of Christ was at hand,2 Thessalonians 2:2. No, it was not; this generation, and many another, shall pass, before that day and hour come. Note, [1.] There is a certain day and hour fixed for the judgment to come; it is called the day of the Lord, because so unalterably fixed. None of God's judgments are adjourned sine die--without the appointment of a certain day. [2.] That day and hour are a great secret.
| Prudens futuri temporis exitum Caliginosa nocte premit Deus. |
But Heaven has wisely hid from human sight The dark decrees of future fate, And sown their seeds in depth of nights.--HORACE.
No man knows it; not the wisest by their sagacity, not the best by any divine discovery. We all know that there shall be such a day; but none knows when it shall be, no, not the angels; though their capacities for knowledge are great, and their opportunities of knowing this advantageous (they dwell at the fountain-head of light), and though they are to be employed in the solemnity of that day, yet they are not told when it shall be: none knows but my Father only. This is one of those secret things which belong to the Lord our God. The uncertainty of the time of Christ's coming, is, to those who are watchful, a savour of life unto life, and makes them more watchful; but to those who are careless, it is a savour of death unto death, and makes them more careless.
II. To this end we must expect these events, that we may prepare for them; and here we have a caution against security and sensuality, which will make it a dismal day indeed to us, Matthew 24:37-41; Matthew 24:37-41. In these verses we have such an idea given us of the judgment day, as may serve to startle and awaken us, that we may not sleep as others do.
It will be a surprising day, and a separating day.
1. It will be a surprising day, as the deluge was to the old world, Matthew 24:37-39; Matthew 24:37-39. That which he here intends to describe, is, the posture of the world at the coming of the Son of man; besides his first coming, to save, he has other comings to judge. He saith (John 9:39), For judgment I am come; and for judgment he will come; for all judgment is committed to him, both that of the word, and that of the sword.
Now this here is applicable,
(1.) To temporal judgments, particularly that which was now hastening upon the nation and people of the Jews; though they had fair warning given them of it, and there were many prodigies that were presages of it, yet it found them secure, crying, Peace and safety,1 Thessalonians 5:3. The siege was laid to Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian, when they were met at the passover in the midst of their mirth; like the men of Laish, they dwelt careless when the ruin arrested them, Judges 18:7; Judges 18:27. The destruction of Babylon, both that in the Old Testament and that in the New, comes when she saith, I shall be a lady for ever,Isaiah 47:7-9; Revelation 18:7. Therefore the plagues come in a moment, in one day. Note, Men's unbelief shall not make God's threatenings of no effect.
(2.) To the eternal judgment; so the judgment of the great day is called, Hebrews 6:2. Though notice has been given of it from Enoch, yet, when it comes, it will be unlooked for by the most of men; the latter days, which are nearest to that day, will produce scoffers, that say, Where is the promise of his coming?2 Peter 3:3; 2 Peter 3:4; Luke 18:8. Thus it will be when the world that now is shall be destroyed by fire; for thus it was when the old world, being overflowed by water, perished, 2 Peter 3:6; 2 Peter 3:7. Now Christ here shows what were the temper and posture of the old world when the deluge came.
[1.] They were sensual and worldly; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. It is not said, They were killing and stealing, and whoring and swearing (these were indeed the horrid crimes of some of the worst of them; the earth was full of violence); but they were all of them, except Noah, over head and ears in the world, and regardless of the word of God, and this ruined them. Note, Universal neglect of religion is a more dangerous symptom to any people than particular instances here and there of daring irreligion. Eating and drinking are necessary to the preservation of man's life; marrying and giving in marriage are necessary to the preservation of mankind; but, Licitus perimus omnes--These lawful things undo us, unlawfully managed. First, They were unreasonable in it, inordinate and entire in the pursuit of the delights of sense, and the gains of the world; they were wholly taken up with these things, esan trogontes--they were eating; they were in these things as in their element, as if they had their being for no other end than to eat and drink,Isaiah 56:12. Secondly, They were unreasonable in it; they were entire and intent upon the world and the flesh, when the destruction was at the door, which they had had such fair warning of. They were eating and drinking, when they should have been repenting and praying; when God, by the ministry of Noah, called to weeping and mourning, then joy and gladness. This was to them, as it was to Israel afterwards, the unpardonable sin (Isaiah 22:12; Isaiah 22:14), especially, because it was in defiance of those warnings by which they should have been awakened. "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die; if it must be a short life, let it be a merry one." The apostle James speaks of this as the general practice of the wealthy Jews before the destruction of Jerusalem; when they should have been weeping for the miseries that were coming upon them, they were living in pleasure, and nourishing their hearts as in a day of slaughter,James 5:1; James 5:5.
[2.] They were secure and careless; they knew not, until the flood came,Matthew 24:39; Matthew 24:39. Knew not! Surely they could not but know. Did not God, by Noah, give them fair warning of it? Did he not call them to repentance, while his long-suffering waited? 1 Peter 3:19; 1 Peter 3:20. But they knew not, that is, they believed not; they might have known, but would not know. Note, What we know of the things that belong to our everlasting peace, if we do not mix faith with it, and improve it, is all one as if we did not know it at all. Their not knowing is joined with their eating, and drinking, and marrying; for, First, Therefore they were sensual, because they were secure. Note, the reason why people are so eager in the pursuit, and so entangled in the pleasures of this world, is, because they do not know, and believe, and consider, the eternity which they are upon the brink of. Did we know aright that all these things must shortly be dissolved, and we must certainly survive them, we should not set our eyes and hearts so much upon them as we do. Secondly, Therefore they were secure, because they were sensual; therefore they knew not that the flood was coming, because they were eating and drinking; were so taken up with things seen and present, that they had neither time nor heart to mind the things not seen as yet, which they were warned of. Note, As security bolsters men up in their brutal sensuality; so sensuality rocks them asleep in their carnal security. The knew not, until the flood came. 1. The flood did come, though they would not foresee it. Note, Those that will not know by faith, shall be made to know by feeling, the wrath of God revealed from heaven against their ungodliness and unrighteousness. The evil day is never the further off for men's putting it far off from them. 2. They did not know it till it was too late to prevent it, as they might have done if they had known it in time, which made it so much the more grievous. Judgments are most terrible and amazing to the secure, and those that have made a jest of them.
The application of this, concerning the old world, we have in these words; So shall the coming of the Son of man be; that is, (1.) In such a posture shall he find people, eating and drinking, and not expecting him. Note, Security and sensuality are likely to be the epidemical diseases of the latter days. All slumber and sleep, and at midnight the bridegroom comes. All are off their watch, and at their ease. (2.) With such a power, and for such a purpose, will he come upon them. As the flood took away the sinners of the old world, irresistibly and irrecoverably; so shall secure sinners, that mocked at Christ and his coming, be taken away by the wrath of the Lamb, when the great day of his wrath comes, which will be like the coming of the deluge, a destruction which there is no fleeing from.
2. It will be a separating day (Matthew 24:40; Matthew 24:41); Then shall two be in the field. Two ways this may be applied.
(1.) We may apply it to the success of the gospel, especially at the first preaching of it; it divided the world; some believed the things which were spoken, and were taken to Christ; others believed not, and were left to perish in their unbelief. Those of the same age, place, capacity, employment, and condition, in the world, grinding in the same mill, those of the same family, nay, those that were joined in the same bond of marriage, were, one effectually called, the other passed by, and left in the gall of bitterness. This is that division, that separating fire, which Christ came to send,Luke 12:49; Luke 12:51. This renders free grace the more obliging, that it is distinguishing; to us, and not to the world (John 14:22), nay to us, and not to those in the same field, the same mill, the same house.
When ruin came upon Jerusalem, a distinction was made by Divine Providence, according to that which had been before made by divine grace; for all the Christians among them were saved from perishing in that calamity, by the special care of Heaven. If two were at work in the field together, and one of them was a Christian, he was taken into a place of shelter, and had his life given him for a prey, while the other was left to the sword of the enemy. Nay, if but two women were grinding at the mill, if one of them belonged to Christ, though but a woman, a poor woman, a servant, she was taken to a place of safety, and the other abandoned. Thus the meek of the earth are hid in the day of the Lord's anger (Zephaniah 2:3), either in heaven, or under heaven. Note, Distinguishing preservations, in times of general destruction, are special tokens of God's favour, and ought so to be acknowledged. If we are safe when thousands fall on our right hand and our left, are not consumed when others are consumed round about us, so that we are as brands plucked out of the fire, we have reason to say, It is of the Lord's mercies, and it is a great mercy.
(2.) We may apply it to the second coming of Jesus Christ, and the separation which will be made in that day. He had said before (Matthew 24:31; Matthew 24:31), that the elect will be gathered together. Here he tells us, that, in order to that, they will be distinguished from those who were nearest to them in this world; the choice and chosen ones taken to glory, the other left to perish eternally. Those who sleep in the dust of the earth, two in the same grave, their ashed mixed, shall yet arise, one to be taken to everlasting life, the other left to shame and everlasting contempt,Daniel 12:2. Here it is applied to them who shall be found alive. Christ will come unlooked for, will find people busy at their usual occupations, in the field, at the mill; and then, according as they are vessels of mercy prepared for glory, or vessels of wrath prepared for ruin, accordingly it will be with them; the one taken to meet the Lord and his angels in the air, to be for ever with him and them; the other left to the devil and his angels, who, when Christ has gathered out his own, will sweep up the residue. This will aggravate the condemnation of sinners that others shall be taken from the midst of them to glory, and they left behind. And it speaks abundance of comfort to the Lord's people. [1.] Are they mean and despised in the world, as the man-servant in the field, or the maid at the mill (Exodus 11:5)? Yet they shall not be forgotten or overlooked in that day. The poor in the world, if rich in faith, are heirs of the kingdom. [2.] Are they dispersed in distant and unlikely places, where one would not expect to find the heirs of glory, in the field, at the mill? Yet the angels will find them there (hidden as Saul among the stuff, when they are to be enthroned), and fetch them thence; and well may they be said to be changed, for a very great change it will be to go to heaven from ploughing and grinding. [3.] Are they weak, and unable of themselves to move heavenward? They shall be taken, or laid hold of, as Lot was taken out of Sodom by a gracious violence, Genesis 19:16. Those whom Christ has once apprehended and laid hold on, he will never lose his hold of. [4.] Are they intermixed with others, linked with them in the same habitations, societies, employments? Let not that discourage any true Christian; God knows how to separate between the precious and the vile, the gold and dross in the same lump, the wheat and chaff in the same floor.
III. Here is a general exhortation to us, to watch, and be ready against that day comes, enforced by divers weighty considerations, Matthew 24:42; Matthew 24:42, c. Observe,
1. The duty required Watch, and be ready,Matthew 24:42; Matthew 24:44.
(1.) Watch therefore,Matthew 24:42; Matthew 24:42. Note, It is the great duty and interest of all the disciples of Christ to watch, to be awake and keep awake, that they may mind their business. As a sinful state or way is compared to sleep, senseless and inactive (1 Thessalonians 5:6), so a gracious state or way is compared to watching and waking. We must watch for our Lord's coming, to us in particular at our death, after which is the judgment, that is the great day with us, the end of our time; and his coming at the end of all time to judge the world, the great day with all mankind. To watch implies not only to believe that our Lord will come, but to desire that he would come, to be often thinking of his coming, and always looking for it as sure and near, and the time of it uncertain. To watch for Christ's coming, is to maintain that gracious temper and disposition of mind which we should be willing that our Lord, when he comes, should find us in. To watch is to be aware of the first notices of his approach, that we may immediately attend his motions, and address ourselves to the duty of meeting him. Watching is supposed to be in the night, which is sleeping time; while we are in this world, it is night with us, and we must take pains to keep ourselves awake.
(2.) Be ye also ready. We wake in vain, if we do not get ready. It is not enough to look for such things; but we must therefore give diligence,2 Peter 3:11; 2 Peter 3:14. We have then our Lord to attend upon, and we must have our lamps ready trimmed; a cause to be tried, and we must have our plea ready drawn and signed by our Advocate; a reckoning to make up, and we must have our accounts ready stated and balanced; there is an inheritance which we then hope to enter upon, and we must have ourselves ready, made meet to partake of it, Colossians 1:12.
2. The reasons to induce us to this watchfulness and diligent preparation for that day; which are two.
(1.) Because the time of our Lord's coming is very uncertain. This is the reason immediately annexed to the double exhortation (Matthew 24:42; Matthew 24:44); and it is illustrated by a comparison, Matthew 24:43; Matthew 24:43. Let us consider then,
[1.] That we know not what hour he will come,Matthew 24:42; Matthew 24:42. We know not the day of our death,Genesis 27:2. We may know that we have but a little time to live (The time of my departure is at hand,2 Timothy 4:6); but we cannot know that we have a long time to live, for our souls are continually in our hands; nor can we know how little a time we have to live, for it may prove less than we expect; much less do we know the time fixed for the general judgment. Concerning both we are kept at uncertainty, that we may, every day, expect that which may come any day; may never boast of a year's continuance (James 4:13), no, nor of tomorrow's return, as if it were ours, Proverbs 27:1; Luke 12:20.
[2.] That he may come at such an hour as we think not,Matthew 24:44; Matthew 24:44. Though there be such uncertainty in the time, there is none in the thing itself: though we know not when he will come, we are sure he will come. His parting word was, Surely I come quickly; his saying, "I come surely," obliges us to expect him: his saying "I come quickly." obliges us to be always expecting him; for it keeps us in a state of expectancy. In such an hour as you think not, that is, such an hour as they who are unready and unprepared, think not (Matthew 24:50; Matthew 24:50); nay, such an hour as the most lively expectants perhaps thought least likely. The bridegroom came when the wise were slumbering. It is agreeable to our present state, that we should be under the influence of a constant and general expectation, rather than that of particular presages and prognostications, which we are sometimes tempted vainly to desire and wish for.
[3.] That the children of this world are thus wise in their generation, that, when they know of a danger approaching, they will keep awake, and stand on their guard against it. This he shows in a particular instance, Matthew 24:43; Matthew 24:43. If the master of a house had notice that a thief would come such a night, and such a watch of the night (for they divided the night into four watches, allowing three hours to each), and would make an attempt upon his house, though it were the midnight-watch, when he was most sleepy, yet he would be up, and listen to every noise in every corner, and be ready to give him a warm reception. Now, though we know not just when our Lord will come, yet, knowing that he will come, and come quickly, and without any other warning than what he hath given in his word, it concerns us to watch always. Note, First, We have every one of us a house to keep, which lies exposed, in which all we are worth is laid up: that house is our own souls, which we must keep with all diligence. Secondly, The day of the Lord comes by surprise, as a thief in the night. Christ chooses to come when he is least expected, that the triumphs of his enemies may be turned into the greater shame, and the fears of his friends into the greater joy. Thirdly, If Christ, when he comes, finds us asleep and unready, our house will be broken up, and we shall lose all we are worth, not as by a thief unjustly, but as by a just and legal process; death and judgment will seize upon all we have, to our irreparable damage and utter undoing. Therefore be ready, be ye also ready; as ready at all times as the good man of the house would be at the hour when he expected the thief: we must put on the armour of God, that we may not only stand in that evil day, but, as more than conquerors, may divide the spoil.
(2.) Because the issue of our Lord's coming will be very happy and comfortable to those that shall be found ready, but very dismal and dreadful to those that shall not, Matthew 24:45; Matthew 24:45, c. This is represented by the different state of good and bad servants, when their lord comes to reckon with them. It is likely to be well or ill with us to eternity, according as we are found ready or unready at that day for Christ comes to render to every man according to his works. Now this parable, with which the chapter closes, is applicable to all Christians, who are in profession and obligation God's servants; but it seems especially intended as a warning to ministers; for the servant spoken of is a steward. Now observe what Christ here saith,
[1.] Concerning the good servant; he shows here what he is--a ruler of the household; what, being so, he should be--faithful and wise; and what, if he be so, he shall be eternally-blessed. Here are good instructions and encouragements to the ministers of Christ.
First, We have here his place and office. He is one whom the Lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season. Note, 1. The church of Christ is his household, or family, standing in relation to him as the Father and Master of it. It is the household of God, a family named from Christ, Ephesians 3:15. 2. Gospel ministers are appointed rulers in this household; not at princes (Christ has entered a caveat against that), but as stewards, or other subordinate officers; not as lords, but as guides; not to prescribe new ways, but to show and lead in the ways that Christ has appointed: that is the signification of the hegoumenoi, which we translate, having rule over you (Hebrews 13:17); as overseers, not to cut out new work, but to direct in, and quicken to, the work which Christ has ordered; that is the signification of episkopoi--bishops. They are rulers by Christ; what power they have is derived from him, and none may take it from them, or abridge it to them; he is one whom the Lord has made ruler; Christ has the making of ministers. They are rulers under Christ, and act in subordination to him; and rulers for Christ, for the advancement of his kingdom. 3. The work of gospel ministers is to give to Christ's household their meat in due season, as stewards, and therefore they have the keys delivered to them. (1.) Their work is to give, not take to themselves (Ezekiel 34:8), but give to the family what the Master has bought, to dispense what Christ has purchased. And to ministers it is said, that it is more blessed to give than to receive,Acts 20:35. (2.) It is to give meat; not to give law (that is Christ's work), but to deliver those doctrines to the church which, if duly digested, will be nourishment to souls. They must give, not the poison of false doctrines, not the stones of hard and unprofitable doctrines, but the meat that is sound and wholesome. (3.) It must be given in due season, en kairo--while there is time for it; when eternity comes, it will be too late; we must work while it is day: or in time, that is, whenever any opportunity offers itself; or in the stated time, time after time, according as the duty of every day requires.
Secondly, His right discharge of this office. The good servant, if thus preferred, will be a good steward; for,
1. He is faithful; stewards must be so, 1 Corinthians 4:2. He that is trusted, must be trusty; and the greater the trust is, the more is expected from them. It is a great good thing that is committed to ministers (2 Timothy 1:14); and they must be faithful, as Moses was, Hebrews 3:2. Christ counts those ministers, and those only, that are faithful,1 Timothy 1:12. A faithful minister of Jesus Christ is one that sincerely designs his master's honour, not his own; delivers the whole counsel of God, not his own fancies and conceits; follows Christ's institutions and adheres to them; regards the meanest, reproves the greatest, and doth not respect persons.
2. He is wise to understand his duty and the proper season of it; and in guiding of the flock there is need, not only of the integrity of the heart, but the skilfulness of the hands. Honesty may suffice for a good servant, but wisdom is necessary to a good steward; for it is profitable to direct.
3. He is doing; so doing as his office requires. The ministry is a good work, and they whose office it is, have always something to do; they must not indulge themselves in ease, nor leave the work undone, or carelessly turn it off to others, but be doing, and doing to the purpose--so doing, giving meat to the household, minding their own business, and not meddling with that which is foreign; so doing as the Master has appointed, as the office imports, and as the case of the family requires; not talking, but doing. It was the motto Mr. Perkins used, Minister verbi es--You are a minister of the word. Not only Age--Be doing; but Hoc age--Be so doing.
4. He is found doing when his Master comes; which intimates, (1.) Constancy at his work. At what hour soever his Master comes, he is found busy at the work of the day. Ministers should not leave empty spaces in their time, lest their Lord should come in one of those empty spaces. As with a good God the end of one mercy is the beginning of another, so with a good man, a good minister, the end of one duty is the beginning of another. When Calvin was persuaded to remit his ministerial labours, he answered, with some resentment, "What, would you have my Master find me idle?" (2.) Perseverance in his work till the Lord come. Hold fast till then,Revelation 2:25. Continue in these things,1 Timothy 4:16; 1 Timothy 6:14. Endure to the end.
Thirdly, The recompence of reward intended him for this, in three things.
1. He shall be taken notice of. This is intimated in these words, Who then is that faithful and wise servant? Which supposes that there are but few who answer this character; such an interpreter is one of a thousand, such a faithful and wise steward. Those who thus distinguish themselves now by humility, diligence, and sincerity in their work, Christ will in the great day both dignify and distinguish by the glory conferred on them.
2. He shall be blessed? Blessed is that servant; and Christ's pronouncing him blessed makes him so. All the dead that die n the Lord are blessed, Revelation 14:13. But there is a peculiar blessedness secured to them that approve themselves faithful stewards, and are found so doing. Next to the honour of those who die in the field of battle, suffering for Christ as the martyrs, is the honour of those that die in the field of service, ploughing, and sowing, and reaping, for Christ.
3. He shall be preferred (Matthew 24:47; Matthew 24:47); He shall make him ruler over all his goods. The allusion is to the way of great men, who, if the stewards of their house conduct themselves well in that place, commonly prefer them to be the managers of their estates; thus Joseph was preferred in the house of Potiphar, Genesis 29:4; Genesis 29:6. But the greatest honour which the kindest master ever did to his most tried servants in this world, is nothing to that weight of glory which the Lord Jesus will confer upon his faithful watchful servants in the world to come. What is here said by a similitude, is the same that is said more plainly, John 11:26, Him will my Father honour. And God's servants, when thus preferred; shall be perfect in wisdom and holiness to bear that weight of glory, so that there is no danger from these servants when they reign.
[2.] Concerning the evil servant. Here we have,
First, His description given (Matthew 24:48; Matthew 24:49); where we have the wretch drawn in his own colours. The vilest of creatures is a wicked man, the vilest of men is a wicked Christian, and the vilest of them a wicked minister. Corruptio optimi est pessima--What is best, when corrupted, becomes the worst. Wickedness in the prophets of Jerusalem is a horrible thing indeed, Jeremiah 23:14. Here is,
1. The cause of his wickedness; and that is, a practical disbelief of Christ's second coming; He hath said in his heart, My Lord delays his coming; and therefore he begins to think he will never come, but has quite forsaken his church. Observe, (1.) Christ knows that they say in their hearts, who with their lips cry, Lord, Lord, as this servant here. (2.) The delay of Christ's coming, though it is a gracious instance of his patience, is greatly abused by wicked people, whose hearts are thereby hardened in their wicked ways. When Christ's coming is looked upon as doubtful, or a thing at an immense distance, the hearts of men are fully set to do evil,Ecclesiastes 8:11. See Ezekiel 12:27. They that walk by sense, are ready to say of the unseen Jesus, as the people did of Moses when he tarried in the mount upon their errand, We wot not what is become of him, and therefore up, make us gods, the world a god, the belly a god, any thing but him that should be.
2. The particulars of his wickedness; and they are sins of the first magnitude; he is a slave to his passions and his appetites.
(1.) Persecution is here charged upon him. He begins to smite his fellow servants. Note, [1.] Even the stewards of the house are to look upon all the servants of the house as their fellow servants, and therefore are forbidden to lord it over them. If the angel call himself fellow servant to John (Revelation 19:10), no marvel if John have learned to call himself brother to the Christians of the churches of Asia, Revelation 1:9. [2.] It is no new thing to see evil servants smiting their fellow servants; both private Christians and faithful ministers. He smites them, either because they reprove him, or because they will not bow, and do him reverence; will not say as he saith, and do as he doeth, against their consciences: he smites them with the tongue, as they smote the prophet, Jeremiah 18:18. And if he get power into his hand, or can press those into his service that have, as the ten horns upon the head of the beast, it goes further. Pashur the priest smote Jeremiah, and put him in the stocks, Jeremiah 20:2. The revolters have often been of all others most profound to make slaughter,Hosea 5:2. The steward, when he smites his fellow servants, does it under colour of his Master's authority, and in his name; he says, Let the Lord be glorified (Isaiah 66:5); but he shall know that he could not put a greater affront upon his Master.
(2.) Profaneness and immorality; He begins to eat and drink with the drunken. [1.] He associates with the worst of sinners, has fellowship with them, is intimate with them; he walks in their counsel, stands in their way, sits in their seat, and sings their songs. The drunken are the merry and jovial company, and those he is for, and thus he hardens them in their wickedness. [2.] He does like them; eats, and drinks, and is drunken; so it is in Luke. This is an inlet to all manner of sin. Drunkenness is a leading wickedness; they who are slaves to that, are never masters of themselves in any thing else. The persecutors of God's people have commonly been the most vicious and immoral men. Persecuting consciences, whatever the pretensions be, are commonly the most profligate and debauched consciences. What will not they be drunk with, that will be drunk with the blood of the saints? Well, this is the description of a wicked minister, who yet may have the common gifts of learning and utterance above others; and, as hath been said of some, may preach so well in the pulpit, that it is a pity he should ever come out, and yet live so ill out of the pulpit, that it is a pity he should ever come in.
Secondly, His doom read, Matthew 24:50; Matthew 24:51. The coat and character of wicked ministers will not only not secure them from condemnation, but will greatly aggravate it. They can plead no exemption from Christ's jurisdiction, whatever they pretend to, in the church of Rome, from that of the civil magistrate; there is no benefit of clergy at Christ's bar. Observe,
1. The surprise that will accompany his doom (Matthew 24:50; Matthew 24:50); The Lord of that servant will come. Note, (1.) Our putting off the thoughts of Christ's coming will not put off his coming. Whatever fancy he deludes himself with, his Lord will come. The unbelief of man shall not make that great promise, or threatening (call it which you will), of no effect. (2.) The coming of Christ will be a most dreadful surprise to secure and careless sinners, especially to wicked ministers; He shall come in a day when he looketh not for him. Note, Those that have slighted the warnings of the word, and silenced those of their own consciences concerning the judgment to come, cannot expect any other warnings; these will be adjudged sufficient legal notice given, whether taken or no; and no unfairness can be charged on Christ, if he come suddenly, without giving other notice. Behold, he has told us before.
2. The severity of his doom, Matthew 24:51; Matthew 24:51. It is not more severe than righteous, but it is a doom that carries in it utter ruin, wrapt up in two dreadful words, death and damnation.
(1.) Death. His Lord shall cut him asunder, dikotomesei auton, "he shall cut him off from the land of the living," from the congregation of the righteous, shall separate him unto evil; which is the definition of a curse (Deuteronomy 29:21), shall cut him down, as a tree that cumbers the ground; perhaps it alludes to the sentence often used in the law, That soul shall be cut off from his people; denoting an utter extirpation. Death cuts off a good man, as a choice imp is cut off to be grafted in a better stock; but it cuts off a wicked man, as a withered branch is cut off for the fire-cuts him off from this world, which he set his heart so much upon, and was, as it were, one with. Or, as we read it, shall cut him asunder, that is, part body and soul, send the body to the grave to be a prey for worms, and the soul to hell to be a prey for devils, and there is the sinner cut asunder. The soul and body of a godly man at death part fairly, the one cheerfully lifted up to God, the other left to the dust; but the soul and body of a wicked man at death are cut asunder, torn asunder, for to them death is the king of terrors,Job 18:14. The wicked servant divided himself between God and the world, Christ and Belial, his profession and his lusts, justly therefore will he thus be divided.
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 24:40". "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 24:40". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/matthew-24.html. 1860-1890.
the Second Week of Advent