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Song of Solomon
Matthew 24 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to
for to shew him the buildings of the temple.
- PROPHECY OF THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM, AND OF THE TIMES OF THE END. (
.) There is no reason to think, with Olshauson, that St. Matthew or his editor has considerably amplified the original discourse of our Lord by introducing details and expressions from other quarters. The discourse, as we now have it (ch. 24. and 25.), forms a distinct whole, divided into certain portions closely related to each other and it would have been unnatural in St. Matthew, and opposed to his simple and veracious style, to have put words into our Lord's mouth at this moment, which were not actually uttered by him on this solemn occasion.
Occasion of the discourse.
From the temple;
went out from the temple, and was going on his way
). So the best manuscripts and versions. It was while he was proceeding on the route to Bethany that the disciples interrupted him with their remarks about the temple. He had now taken his final leave of the hallowed courts; the prophecy of the desolation of the house was beginning to be fulfilled (see on Matthew 23:38).
His disciples came to him.
They were disquieted by Christ's words recorded at the end of the last chapter, which spoke of a terrible retribution about to fall, of the desolation of the temple, of Christ's own departure for a time. St. Mark (
) tells us that Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately when these things should be, and what signs should forewarn of their approach, as in ver. 3. St. Matthew records here that his disciples came to him
for to show
him the buildings of the temple
, the whole sacred enclosure). They had gathered from his words that destruction awaited this edifice, but as they gazed upon it they could scarcely bring themselves to believe in its coming overthrow. So as they gained some commanding point of view, they drew Christ's attention to its beauty, magnificence, and unequalled solidity, desiring him to explain further the mode and time of the catastrophe. It was popularly said, "He who never saw the temple of Herod has never seen a fine building."
And Jesus said unto them, 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.
And Jesus said
. The best manuscripts and the Revised Version give,
but he answered and said.
See ye not all these things?
Videtis haec omnia?
Our Lord, in turn, calls attention to the glorious structure in order to give added emphasis to his weighty denunciation.
Not be left here one stone upon another.
This prophecy was most literally fulfilled. Recent explorations have shown that not a stone of Herod's temple remains
The orders of Titus, given with regret, for the total demolition of the walls of temple and city, were carried out with cruel exactness, so that, as Josephus testifies ('Bell. Jud.,' 7:01. 1), passers by would not have supposed that the place had ever been inhabited. When the apostate Julian, in the fourth Christian century, endeavoured to cast a slur upon prophecy by rebuilding the city and temple, his design proved to be an ignominious failure, and the sacred shrine has continued to this day a monument of Divine vengeance.
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
the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
- As he eat upon the Mount of Olives. On his way to Bethany towards the close of this day, he rested for a while and communed with the disciples, uttering the wonderful eschatological discourse which follows in this and the next chapter. It is noted that the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans began on the very spot where this prophecy of its destruction was delivered, strategical reasons compelling them to make their attack from this quarter. "A sudden turn in the road," writes Dr. Edersheim (2:431), "and the sacred building was once more in full view. Just then the western sun was pouring his golden beams on tops of marble cloisters and on the terraced courts, and glittering on the golden spikes on the roof of the holy place. In the setting, even more than in the rising sun, must the vast proportions, the symmetry, and the sparkling sheen of this mass of snowy marble and gold have stood out gloriously. And across the black valley, and up the slopes of Olivet, lay the dark shadows of those gigantic walls built of massive stones, some of them nearly twenty-four feet long. Even the rabbis, despite their hatred of Herod, grow enthusiastic, and dream that the very temple walls would have been covered with gold had not the variegated marble, resembling the waves of the sea, seemed more beauteous. It was probably, as they [the disciples] now gazed on all this grandeur and strength, that they broke the silence imposed on them by gloomy thoughts of the near desolateness of that house which the Lord predicted."
. Such questions were not to be asked openly in the hearing of any who might have followed him from the city. There was nothing more resented by the average Jew than any intimation of the destruction of the temple. It was one of the charges against Stephen that he had said that Jesus would destroy the temple (
). When, therefore, some of the apostles wished for more definite information on this subject, they took care to make their inquiry in private. Their questions were twofold - they desired to know the time of the events, and the signs which should precede Christ's coming and the end of the world.
When shall these things be?
"These things" refer to the destruction of the temple, and the course of events which, as they conceive, are dependent thereupon (comp.
). To their minds, this catastrophe could only occur contemporaneously with the coming of Christ in glory and the end of the world. They saw in it a great revolution which should usher in the final consummation. But when should this come to pass? - in their own day, or after many ages? in the lifetime of this generation, or at some far-distant period? It was not mere wanton curiosity to know the future which prompted the question, but rather a reverent desire to prepare for these great events, of the certainty of which they were now fully assured. So the next question shows no doubt concerning the facts, and asks, not the mode of the accomplishment, but only what anticipatory warning and indication were to be given.
Sign of thy coming
and of the end of the world
συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος
). They look upon these two events as synchronous, or very closely connected. The word
, which in classical Greek means "presence," or "arrival," is used in the New Testament specially for the second advent of Christ to set up his eternal kingdom in full power and glory (see in this chapter vers. 27, 37, 39; and comp.
1 Corinthians 15:23
1 Thessalonians 2:19
1 Thessalonians 3:13
, etc.). Referring to the same event, we find in some places the term "epiphany" used (see
1 Timothy 6:14
2 Timothy 4:1
), and in others "revelation" (
1 Corinthians 1:7
2 Thessalonians 1:7
); but the three expressions denote simply the open establishment of Messiah's kingdom, indefnitely as to time and manner. The phrase translated "the end of the world "means literally
the consummation of the age
the close of this present seen, in contradistinction from the future aeon, or the world to come. This is "the last time," "the last days," spoken of elsewhere (see
1 Peter 1:5
1 John 2:18
; and comp.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
The first portion of the great prophecy.
Jesus answered and said.
The succeeding prophecy has much exercised the minds of commentators from the earliest times unto the present. It is, indeed, full of mysteries, dark sayings, profundities, which our minds cannot fathom. Many of these are and must be inherent in the subject; but some difficulties have been created by the imperfect views taken by those who have applied themselves to explain the Lord's utterances. It is seen by all that we have here predictions concerning the fate of Jerusalem, concerning the parousia of Christ, and concerning the last times; it is the attempt to assign to these events separately certain definite portions of the address that has led to confusion and perplexity. Over-refinement and over-wisdom have marred the exposition of many critics. They have limited to one event that which was spoken of more than that one; confining their view to one point, they have excluded other points which were equally in the mind of the Revealer. It has been usual to divide the prophecy in this chapter into two sections, of which the first, extending to the twenty-ninth verse, is supposed to relate to the fate of Jerusalem itself; the second, comprising the rest of the chapter, to the parousia and the coming to judgment. But such definite partition will not stand investigation, and can be maintained only by doing violence to language or ignoring more natural explanations. The prophecy announces analogous events, the description of which has more than one application, and often passes from one to another with nothing to closely mark the transition. The combination of facts thus woven together cannot be coarsely unravelled. The same words, the same expressions, are used to denote the arrival or fulfilment of distinct occurrences. To limit these to one event only is to set bounds to the Omniscient. So it seems to be not only most expedient, but most reverent, to look on our Lord's eschatological address as one whole, of which the several parts are in full harmony and sequence (if we were only able to understand them), and to acknowledge that insuperable difficulties in the interpretation do exist and are meant to exist. The Lord had to prepare his followers for the overthrow of their city, and the dangers to life and faith which would accompany that judgment. He desired also to raise in them a constant expectation of his advent, so that Christians then and thenceforward might ever live in hope and watch for a great future. Herein will be found the key to the perplexities of the address; not that even this unlocks all the mysteries, but, it opens the drift of these wonderful utterances, and enables us to see light amid the gloom. This will appear more fully as we examine the details.
Take heed that no man deceive you;
lead you astray
(so ver. 5). Jesus does not answer the disciples' question as to the time when "these things" shall occur; that is purposely left uncertain. He proceeds to warn them against the dangers which would beset them in the coming crisis. He withdraws them from the speculative to the practical (see vers. 23-25).
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
- Here begins what has been called the first strophe of the oracle (vers. 5-14), which indicates certain prognostics common to the close of the Jewish theocracy and to the end of the world.
Many shall come in my Name
ἐπί τῷ ὀνόματί μου
), resting on my Name, grounding their pretensions thereon.
Saying, I am Christ
). They who really desired to follow Christ should be tried by the temptation to see in other persons the Messiah. The warning could scarcely have been needed by the apostles themselves; it must have been meant primarily for their converts and the early Christians. And though we have no account in apostolic Church history of any such pretenders, yet in the age succeeding our Lord's death we read of many impostors who asserted themselves to be inspired prophets, if not the Messiah, and led astray many credulous persons (see Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:05. 1; 8. 6, etc.). There were doubtless many false Messiahs whose names are little known, and critics have enumerated twenty-nine such. The pretensions of these persons were not generally admitted, and their adherents were commonly few and uninfluential. Our Lord probably did not allude to these in his monition. But we may observe that the warning may include such deceivers as Simon Magus and those many false teachers who vexed the early Church, and, without assuming the name of Christ, did Satan's work by undermining the faith. St. John speaks of there being "many antichrists" in his day (
1 John 2:18
), and St. Paul had occasion to warn his converts against "heretical seducers" (see
2 Corinthians 11:13
2 Thessalonians 2
1 Timothy 6:3
, etc.). Since then the prophecy has been fulfilled in the heretics who, professing to come in the Name of Christ and to enunciate his doctrine, or, like Mohammed, to assume his place, have taught lies. These shall abound in the latter days, and shall be a sign of the approaching end.
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all
must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Ye shall hear
). Ye are about, ye are destined, to hear. "Futurum complicatum,
(Bengel). He addresses the apostles as representatives of the whole body of believers. Wars and rumours of wars;
wars near at hand, and distant wars of which the rumour only reaches you, but which threaten to approach and menace your peace (cf.
). The peace which reigned at Christ's birth was rudely shattered after his death, though the wars before the destruction of Jerusalem were of no great importance. We hear of an in. tended expedition against Aretas (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 18:05. 3), of one of Caligula against the Jews (ibid., 18:8. 2), both of which, however, came to nothing. Then there were certain insurrections in the reigns of Claudius (ibid., 20:5, 3) and Nero (ibid., 20:8. 6-10). The Roman empire was disturbed; four emperors - Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius - died by violence within a short space of time; the restless Parthians were a continual source of trouble. But these and such-like occurrences do little to exhaust the meaning of Christ's prediction. He is looking forward to a distant future, and sees with prophetic eye the state of warfare which has prevailed from the disruption of the Roman empire, and which shall continue unto the end.
See that ye be not troubled;
see, be ye
, Look on it all, and yet be not affrighted.
these things (
must come to pass.
All that I announce is sure to occur, not from any absolute necessity, but because of men's passions and perverseness, which will bring it to pass (see on Matthew 18:7; and
The end is not yet.
These signs might lead men to think that the final consummation was close at hand. Our Lord warns against such a conclusion. St. Paul speaks of "the end" as occurring in Christ's second advent (
1 Corinthians 15:24
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
Nation shall rise against nation,
etc. This part of the prediction is inapplicable to the era preceding the ruin of Jerusalem, the disturbances that occurred then (
at Alexandria, Seleucia, Jamnia, and other localities mentioned by Josephus, 'Ant.,' 18:09. 8, 9; 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:17. 10; 18:1-8; 4:3. 2; and by Philo, 'Legat. ad Caium,' § 30) could hardly have been indicated in such grand terms. More to the purpose is the sketch of the period given by Tacitus, at the opening of his history, though it embraces also details belonging to a somewhat later age: "I enter upon a work fertile in vicissitudes, stained with the blood of battles, embroiled with dissensions, horrible even in the intervals of peace. Four princes slain by the sword; three civil wars, more with foreign enemies, and sometimes both at once; prosperity in the East, disasters in the West; Illyricum disturbed; the Gauls ready to revolt; Britain conquered, and again lost; Sarmatians end Suevians conspiring against us; the Dacians renowned for defeats given and sustained; the Parthians almost aroused to arms by a counterfeit Nero. Italy afflicted with calamities unheard of, or recurring only after a long interval; cities overwhelmed or swallowed up in the fertile region of Campania; Rome itself laid waste by fire, the most ancient temples destroyed, the very capitol burned by its own citizens," etc. ('Hist.,' I. 2). But the Lord's words seem to refer to times when Rome's dominion had ceased, and nation warred against nation, as in later and modern days in Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa So again the prediction must be extended far beyond events in the Jewish cycle.
. Besides the famine mentioned in
, there were others in Jerusalem and Judaea (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 3:15. 3; 20:2.6; 4. 2; 'Bell. Jud.,' yd. 3. 3). Suetonius ('Claud.,' 18) speaks of "assiduas sterilitates;" and Tacitus ('Ann.,' 12:43) records as happening at the same period, "frugum egestas, et orta ex eo fames."
as consequent on famine. Hence the Greek paronomasia,
λιμοὶ καὶ λαμοί
, in our text. But many editors expunge
, considering it, with some reason, to have been introduced from the parallel passage in St. Luke, where it is certainly genuine. Of pestilences we have notice in Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 4:06, 1), in Tacitus ('Ann.,' 14:16), and Suetonius ('Nero,' 39), where we read that at Rome in a single autumn thirty thousand persons perished. Wordsworth refers to Tertullian ('Apol.,' 20.), Who sees in these predictions infallible proof of the inspiration of Scripture. "Hence it is that we come to be so certain of many things not yet come to pass, from the experience we have of those that are; because those were presignified by the same Spirit with these which we see fulfilling every day" (Reeve).
. Commentators relate the occurrence of such commotions at Rome, in Crete, Laodicea, Campania, etc., and at Jerusalem (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 4:04. 5; Tacitus, 'Ann.,' 12:43, 58; 14:27; 15:22; Seneca, 'Ep.,' 91. 9; Philostraius, 'Vit. Apollon.,' 4:34; Zonaras, 'Ann.,' 11:10). Nosgen takes the term "earthquakes" in a metaphorical sense as equivalent to
, and implying mental perturbations; but it seems incongruous to admit a metaphysical prognostication in the midst of a notice of a series of material phenomena.
In divers places;
(Vulgate). Some render the words, "in all places,"
, as in
, "every year." But it is better to take the preposition distributively, "place by place," like
: so equivalent to "here and there."
the beginning of sorrows.
Beginning of sorrows;
labour pangs, travailings.
The metaphor often occurs (see
, etc). These great events are called "labour pangs" because they usher in the new creation, "the regeneration" spoken of in
(see note there). St. Paul writes (
), "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." The tribulations and calamities which preceded and accompanied the overthrow of the Jewish polity are a sign and warning of the great and universal woes Which shall herald the day of judgment. Jewish writings speak of "the sorrows of Messiah," distresses, wars, famine, dissension, etc., which should herald his advent, and Christ may have used the popular opinion, true as far as it went, as a vehicle for conveying the further truth, that the coming age would be produced amid terrible agonies of men, peoples, and nature.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
- The Lord passes to the fate of his followers, or the corporate Church.
. St Mark does not note the time; St. Luke writes, "before all these things." Hence we gather that the calamities now announced will precede, accompany, and follow those before mentioned. That which befell the apostles and early believers is an emblem of what Christianity will undergo at the hands of an antagonistic world. St. John, in the Revelation, has shadowed forth these things as doomed to fall upon the Church in the latter days.
Shall they deliver you up to be afflicted
Matthew 10:17, 18
). Christ is speaking, not only of the apostles, but of disciples generally. They shall deliver you over to the authorities, civil and religious, to be punished. The Book of the Acts contains numerous examples of such afflictions (see
: 14:19, etc.).
As Stephen (
), James the brother of John (
), Peter and Paul (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 2:25), and many others.
Hated of all
, "As concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against"). Tacitus speaks of those "quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos appellabat" ('Ann.,' 15:44). The Romans seem to have placed Jews and Christians in the same category, and to have bestowed on the latter the hatred felt for the former. But the Lord's words point to some feeling more universal and permanent than this temporary animosity, even to the hatred which occasioned the death of martyrs in all ages, the warfare between good end evil, faith and unbelief, which shall continue and increase in virulence unto the end (
And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
Shall many be offended.
The persecutions directed against the disciples in general shall in many cases result in overcoming their steadfastness and sapping their faith.
Shall betray one another.
To curry favour with enemies and to secure their own safety in troublous times, Christians were found to inform against friends, and to deliver them up to the civil authorities. Tacitus notes instances of this degrading cowardice. "First those were seized who confessed that they were Christians; and then on their information a vast multitude was convicted" ('Ann.,' 15:44).
Shall hate one another.
Dissensions in religion cause the most bitter hatred, the very opposite of that love which is the essence of Christianity (
). Where one of a pagan family embraced Christianity, the convert was regarded as an outcast, and cut adrift from the nearest domestic ties. The same treatment obtains even now in India. The reference in the text chiefly concerns contentions among professing Christians; we see such effects every day; they appear in every page of ecclesiastical history; they have stained the annals of our own and every nation.
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
(ver. 24). These were not necessarily predictors or soothsayers, but teachers having, as they said, a message from God. Such pretenders have arisen in every great crisis; but the Jews a few years later were deceived continually by fanatics or impostors, who professed to be inspired, and premised the infatuated people deliverance, urging them to resist the Romans, in expectation of the coming of Messiah to lead them to immediate victory (comp. Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 6:05. 2). The designation "false prophets" applies also to those heretical teachers who vexed the peace of the early Church, and of whom St. John expressly speaks, "Many false prophets are gone out into the world" (
1 John 4:1
). These were Judaizing and Gnostic teachers, who tried to mar the good work of the apostles (see
Romans 16:17, 18
2 Corinthians 11:13
, etc.). Throughout the Christian ages heresiarchs have always raised their evil voices, and the history of the Church is very much composed of accounts of such teachers, and of the efforts made to suppress them and to correct their pernicious doctrines.
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
Because iniquity shall abound
). The word rendered "iniquity" is
, "lawlessness," general immorality and licence. Impatience of rule and discipline, connivance at and imitation of heathen practices, reacted upon the faith of believers, undermined steadfast adherence to principle. Then was the power of "that wicked one" (
2 Thessalonians 2:8
) exercised and seen in the lapse of the unstable.
The love of many
, the many, the majority)
shall wax cold.
) here is used in its general and comprehensive sense, as having God as its chief object and man in subordination thereto. The troubles and persecutions that shall beset believers, the spirit of worldliness and self-seeking that a timid faith encourages, will issue in loosening dependence upon God and trust in his providential care; and internal dissensions will destroy that brotherly love which ought to be characteristic of Christians. Of this lack of energetic love the Lord speaks in his warnings to the Church of Laodicea (
), "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved
). Here is a note of consolation amid the refrain of woe. Patience and perseverance shall be crowned at the last. "The end" means primarily the destruction of Jerusalem, and the salvation promised is safety in that day of peril. It is believed that no Christians perished in the siege or after it (see ver. 16). But
, being here used without the article (differently from vers. 6 and, 14), must not be restricted to one allusion, but must be taken more generally, as indeed a universal axiom, equivalent to "finally," as long as endurance is needed. And the salvation must refer to the soul's sentence at the last day, not to any mere safety of body and life. What the maxim says is this: patient continuance in well doing, resignation under persecutions and afflictions, holding fast the one faith even though it lead to the martyr's death, - this shall win the crown of eternal blessedness. The Christian must not be led astray by false teachers nor offended by the prevalence of scandals, nor let his love be chilled, if he would gain the reward, share in Messiah's glory, and save his soul.
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.
This gospel of the kingdom.
The good news of the coming of Messiah's kingdom - what we call in short, "the gospel" - "that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself" (
2 Corinthians 5:19
). He calls it "this" (
), because it is that which he preached, which it was the object of his incarnation to set forth.
In all the world
e)n o%lh"" th = "" oi)koume/nh""
in all the inhabited earth
). Before the taking of Jerusalem, the gospel had been carried into all parts of the then known world. We have very uncertain information about the labours of most of the apostles, but if we may judge of their extent from what we know of St. Paul's, we should say that very few quarters of the Roman world were left unvisited. "Their sound went out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the inhabited world" (
). St. Paul testifies that the gospel was preached to every kingdom under heaven (
Colossians 1:6, 23
). He himself carried it to Arabia, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Illyricum, Rome, Spain (see
Romans 15:19, 24, 28
A witness unto all
. That both Jews and Gentiles might have the opportunity of receiving or rejecting Christ. The witness should be for or against them according to the use made of this opportunity. If the gospel thus delivered contained this utterance of our Lord's, the fulfilment of the predictions would lead to belief in him, and could fail to win acceptance only by reason of invincible prejudice or wilful perversity. Shortly, the truth is that the gospel will be everywhere offered, but not everywhere received.
when all these signs, especially the one last named, shall have appeared,
shall the end come,
primarily of Jerusalem, secondarily of this world or this age. Nothing is said of the effect of missionary efforts in early days or in time to come. We know that there was no national conversion in the primitive era, however common individual conversion may have been. So in the present age we are not to expect more than that Christian missions shall reach the uttermost parts of the earth, and that all nations shall have the offer of salvation, before the final appearance of Christ. The success of these efforts at universal evangelization is a mournful problem. "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find the faith upon the earth?" (
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
- In this second strain of the prophecy contained in vers. 15-22, our Lord confines himself almost entirely to the fate of Jerusalem.
. The illative particle carries us back to the signs given in the previous section (vers. 5-14).
By saying when ye shall see,
he implies that some of his hearers shall behold this mysterious sign, and have the opportunity of profiting by the knowledge thereof.
The abomination of desolation
τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως
). The term is from the Septuagint Version (with which Theodotion's agrees) of
βδέλυγμα τῶν ἐρημώσεων
, where the Hebrew gives, Upon the wing [or, 'pinnacle'] of abominations shall come the desolater." Also in
we have the simple
. What is meant by the term in our text is a matter of unsettled dispute. The prophecy in
has been generally referred to the doings of Antiochus Epiphanes (see 1 Macc. 1:54), and the present is considered to relate to something analogous. "Abomination" in the Old Testament is generally connected with idolatry or sacrilege; "of desolation" is equivalent to "that causes desolation." Among the many explanation; of this passage which have been offered, two only seem worthy of consideration.
The desolating abomination is referred to the Roman armies encamped around Jerusalem (
), of which the symbol was the legionaries' eagles, regarded with reverence by the soldiers. But in opposition to this view it may be said, if the holy place, without the article, signifies the Holy Land, then the presence of the Latin forces would be no new sign to the Jewish people, as they had been familiar with such a sight for many years. If the temple itself is meant, it is plain that it would be too late to fly from that doomed city when the Roman eagles were already in the hallowed courts.
The alternative interpretation, which has seemed to many more probable, explains it of the sanguinary deeds of the Zealots, who, after the war had been carried on for some years, seized the temple, put a stop to the daily sacrifice, deluged the sacred courts with blood, and were guilty of most hideous crimes and excesses, which, as Josephus testifies, were the immediate cause of the city's, ruin (see Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 4:03, 7, etc.; 5:1, 2; 6:3; 5:9, 4; 6:2; and Wordsworth's note on this ver. 15). The presence and acts of these ruffians were to be the signal for the escape of the Christians. I must confess that neither of these explanations satisfies me. The primal fulfilment of Daniel's prophecy is found in the erection of the statue of Jupiter in the temple by the order of Antiochus Epiphanes, and the pollution of the altar by the sacrifice of swine thereon. Our Lord would seem to refer to something analogous which should give the Christians a signal for escape before the complete investiture of the city. The deeds of Zealots and assassins, however atrocious, could not with any propriety be described as "abomination that maketh desolate standing in the holy place." The term, according to scriptural analogy, must refer to some sacrilege and pollution connected with idolatry, of which certainly the Zealots were not guilty. The Fathers, recognizing this, have seen the fulfilment in the erection of images of the Roman emperors in the temple or its precincts. But we have no account of any such act preceding the final siege. Pilate's attempted introduction of the Roman ensigns was defeated by the threatening attitude of the people (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 18:03. 1), and the actual setting up of these ensigns in the sanctuary, and the erection of the statue of Titus, were subsequent to the capture of the city and temple ('Bell. Jud.,' 6:06. 1). Our Lord is plainly referring to something that transpired before the conclusion of the siege, otherwise we might recognize an allusion to the insurrection of Bar-cochebas, which ended in the destruction of the partially rebuilt city, the abolition of its old name, the erection of a temple to Jupiter on the site of the holy place, and the placing of a statue of the emperor upon the altar, A.D. 135. What the "abomination" was cannot now be accurately determined, though its character may be divined from what has been said, and it was probably some anticipation of the antichrist who is to appear before the final consummation, who "exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (
2 Thessalonians 2:4, 8
Spoken of by Daniel the prophet,
in three passages (
), all obscure and difficult, and not necessarily referring to the same events. Christ takes it for granted that his auditors understand the allusion.
in the holy place.
Those who take "the abomination" to be the Roman army, explain this clause to mean "posted on the holy soil." But
, with or without the article, is never used but in reference to the temple and its adjuncts (comp.
; and in the Septuagint,
; 2 Macc. 8:17, etc.). Whatever the sign may be, it is to be seen within the temple. (
readeth, let him
.) There are three ways of regarding this parenthetical clause.
Alford takes it as "an eeclesiastical note, which, like the doxology in ch. 6:13, has found its way into the text" This is a mere conjecture which has nothing to support it.
Others consider it to be a remark of St. Matthew, intended to call special attention to the warning; but such an observation is entirely without precedent in the synoptic Gospels, and it is found also in the parallel passage of St. Mark. It is scarcely probable that both these evangelists would have given the identical caution, if it arose from their own motion in respect of those who should read their words before the siege.
It seems more natural to take the clause as uttered by Christ himself with a silent reference to the words of the angel to Daniel, "Know therefore and understand" (
; comp. 12:10). The Lord would point emphatically to the prophecy of Daniel, and his own interpretation thereof (
2 Timothy 2:7
). He seems also to imply that the application is not at once obvious, and needs spiritual insight to discern it. (How, in the face of this declaration of the Son of God, any believer can deny Daniel's claim to be a prophet and the utterer of authentic predictions, is a curious case of mental obfuscation or invincible prejudice.)
Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
when they shall see "the abomination of desolation," etc.
Them which be in Judaea.
Not only in Jerusalem, but in its vicinity, as most exposed to danger from the invading army.
The Christians seem to have taken this advice when the city was attacked by Costius Gallus, about A.D. , some three or more years before the siege under Vespasian. Gallus had appeared before the walls, and apparently had every hope of taking the city, when, for some reason not certainly known (either owing to a supposed defeat, or ignorance of his own success, or the advice of his generals), he suddenly withdrew his forces (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:19, 6, 7). The Christians, bearing Christ's warning in mind, and having, as we may conjecture, seen the predicted sign, took the opportunity of flight from the doomed city, and made their escape to Pella, a town of Decapotis, southeast of Bethshean, and the ruins of which are known now by the name of
Euschius probably refers to this migration ('Hist. Eccl.,' 3:5), narrating that, owing to a certain revelation given to holy men among them, the whole body of the Church, before the war, removed across the Jordan to Pella, and dwelt there in safety during those troublous times. We probably, however, do not know the exact time of the flight, as we are ignorant of what was the warning of imminent danger which rendered this hurried proceeding necessary.
Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
. This was fiat, and used as a place of rest, meditation, and familiar concourse (
The roof was accessible by two staircases, one external leading from the street or the country, the other mounting from the apartments. The householder was not to descend by this latter to carry off anything from his chambers within, but to escape at once by the outer staircase (setup.
). The flight was to be precipitate, like that of Lot from Sodom (cf.
). The warning was necessary, as, when the Zealots and assassins bad the upper hand, they allowed no one to leave the city. The warning, however, applied to dwellers in any part of Judaea.
Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
In the field.
People in the open country would be in as great danger as those in the city, the hostile troops doubtless being dispersed on all sides, plundering, burning, and slaying.
He who was working in the fields only partially clad was not to go to his house to fetch the rest of his garments, but to make good his flight just as he was. He would naturally lay aside his heavy burnous while engaged in work, but all considerations of propriety and comfort were to be put aside at the present emergency. The warning was to be regarded equally by those in doors or out of doors, at home or abroad.
And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
Woe unto them that are with child!
The Lord, while he counsels flight, has a word of compassion for those poor mothers who are forced to have recourse thereto. The circumstances mentioned would impede flight and greatly increase danger and distress. The sufferings of mothers and children in the siege are narrated by the historian, and even such horrors as are indicated in
were not unknown (see Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 5:10, 3; 6:3, 4; Eusobius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 3:6, 7).
But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
Pray ye that,
). He bids them pray to and worship God, in order that he may give them a favourable time for flight. The clause introduced with the final particle does not directly denote the subject of the petition, as our version gives the impression, but rather the aim of the petitioners (Morison).
Not in the winter.
He spake of personal hindrances in the last verse; here he speaks of external circumstances over which man has no control, except by prayer. The weather in winter, which means the rainy season, might render the roads impassable, and would, of course, prevent any hope of obtaining food by the wayside from cornfield or fruit tree.
The sabbath day,
which precluded any work or the use of beast of burden, and restricted a journey to something less than a mile. We must remember that until the final catastrophe the Christians observed such Mosaic restrictions (see
). A flight for such a short distance would have been of no avail under the imperious circumstances which rendered escape advisable.
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Jesus gives the reason why this precipitate flight (vers. 16-20) was rendered necessary at the moment spoken of in ver. 15.
The miseries suffered in the siege of Jerusalem were stupendous To the skilful and fierce attacks of the Romans from without were added from within dire famine and pestilence, dissensions, violence, and continual bloodshed and murder. Josephus estimates the number of those who fell in the siege and capture of Jerusalem at 1,000,000, the usual population being largely increased by the influx of pilgrims attending the Feast of the Passover, and by thousands of fugitives who had flocked in from the country (Josephus. 'Bell. Jud.,' 6:09, 3). He adds that 97,000 were carried away captive during and after the war.
Such as was
not...nor ever shall
). This is not mere hyperbole, but sober fact. Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' Pro�m. 4) himself bears similar testimony: "Of all the cities under the dominion of Rome, ours was once the most happy, and afterwards the most utterly miserable. For the misfortunes of all the nations upon earth that have ever happened, if they are compared with the calamities to which the Jews were exposed, will, in my opinion, fall far short." Chrysostom sums up the matter thus: "Whence came there thus upon them wrath from God intolerable, and more sore than all that had befallen aforetime, not in Judaea only, but in any part of the world? Is it not quite clear that it was for the deed of the cross and for this rejection? Mark, I pray thee, the exceeding greatness of the ills, when not only compared with the time before, they appear more grievous, but also with all the time to come. For not in all the world, neither in all time that is past, and that is to come, shall any one be able to say such ills have been. And very naturally; for neither had any man perpetrated, not of these that ever have been, nor those to come hereafter, a deed so wicked and horrible" ('Hom.,'
). The "affliction" spoken of refers not only to bodily sufferings, but to that anguish of mind occasioned by acute apprehension and. expectation of danger, such as was felt in the days before the Flood, and at the time of the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes.
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
Except these days should be shortened
). In the midst of wrath God thinks on mercy. He providentially ordained that the days of vengeance should not be indefinitely prolonged; the siege was practically of short duration, the country was not wholly overrun and desolated (comp.
2 Kings 13:23
). The natural causes that combined to produce this shortening of the siege have been recounted by commentators. These were - the divided counsels of the Jews themselves, the voluntary surrender of parts of the fortifications, the fierce factions in the city, the destruction of magazines of provisions by calamitous fire, the suddenness of the arrival of Titus, and the fact that the walls had never been strengthened, as Herod Agrippa had intended.
There should no flesh be saved;
the whole Jewish nation would have been annihilated.
For the elect's sake.
At the intercession of the escaped Christians, who offered up unceasing prayer for their brethren and countrymen, God lessened the duration of the calamities. "The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working" (
). Ten righteous would have saved Sodom; Lot's intercession did preserve Zoar (comp.
). Some, not so suitably, explain "the elect" to be those Jews who should hereafter turn to the Lord; or the elect seed, "beloved for the fathers' sake" (
). We may well believe that the local tribulations, such as are intimated by Daniel and Christ, and their limitation in time, are a picture of what shall happen in the last days, the intermediate fulfilment being the prelude of the final accomplishment.
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here
Christ, or there; believe
The third section of the prophecy, contained in vers. 23-35, passes from the fortunes of Jerusalem to the end of the world. To the Lord's hearers was conveyed the truth that the signs and events now indicated were to be subsequent to the destruction of the city. No further note of chronology was given. The uncertainty of the future caused a state of constant expectation and hope. And this is the feeling which we Christians are intended to embrace and cultivate. "The word 'then' relates not to the connection in the order of time with the things just mentioned,... not meaning what should follow straightway after these things, but what should be in the time when these things were to be done of which he was about to speak" (St. Chrysostom, 'Horn.,'
Lo, here is Christ!
This refers to something different from the announcement in ver. 5. Some analogous deceptions doubtless occurred at the siege of Jerusalem, but the Lord is predicting the remote events of the latter days, of which previous occurrences were types and anticipations.
Believe it not.
When Christ does come the second time, there shall be no doubt or ignorance of his appearance (see ver. 27, and compare the warning in
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if
possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
He shows the nature of the dangers to which believers will be subject. He does not confine his view to Jewish history; he foretells the appearance of pretenders who shall assume the part of Christ, and blasphemously assert that they are Messiah.
Without assuming the name of Christ, many impostors shall be found who, professing to be inspired or lawful teachers, shall lead hearers into false doctrine, or claim to possess a new revelation, or something additional and supplemental to the eternal gospel. Such was Mohammed; such were the founders of Buddhism, Mormonism, and other so called religions, who based their views on special revelation given from heaven for the purpose of improving the existing faith or introducing a new one.
great signs and wonders.
Two usual terms for miracles, the former regarding rather the evidence afforded by them, the latter the element of the marvellous inherent in them (comp
etc.). That such men did work actual miracles, or what were regarded as such, cannot be reasonably doubted. Satan was on their side, and, as far as he was permitted, confirmed their teaching by supernatural assistance. St. Paul testifies that such should be the action of the antichrist, "whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders" (
2 Thessalonians 2:9
Revelation 13:13, 14
). Many of these wonders may have been effectuated by natural forces unknown to the majority of men, and therefore considered as superhuman; others may have been derived from the spiritual world, but necessarily from that realm thereof which is under the control of evil demons. Whatever may have been their source, they were displayed in support of lies and errors, and had a certain success.
Insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive
ὤστε πλανῆσαι εἰ δυνατὸν
. The Authorized Version seems to make our Lord imply that such seduction was absolutely impossible. The translation ought to run, as in the Revised Version,
so as to lead
astray, if possible even the elect
, signifying the difficulty, not the impossibility, of drawing them away from the truth. "The elect" are Christians, true followers of Jesus, and members of his Church. These may fall from the faith, for they are not yet finally safe, and on that chance Satan builds; but as long as they rest on Christ, looking to him for guidance and protection, trying the spirits by the Word of God and by the truths which they have learned in creed and worship, they stand firm against the strongest temptations.
Behold, I have told you before.
I have told you before
). The warning was needed in the first age; it will be needed in the last. The prediction was known before the ruin of Jerusalem, and doubtless preserved many from falling victims to the seducers at that period; it must be used now and till the end to preserve Christians from the errors of infidelity, false philosophy, agnosticism. That such attacks on their faith shall be made is a proof of Christ's omniscience; that he gives here and in the next verses premonitions of danger, with counsel how to avoid it, is evidence of his love and care for his elect.
Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold,
in the secret chambers; believe
- Wherefore if
). The Lord proceeds to make the matter more plain by entering into details which the "here" and "there" of ver. 23 had not sufficiently denoted. He (Christ) is in the desert. If there was a partial fulfilment of this warning at the siege of Jerusalem, when some impostors tried to persuade the people that Messiah was in the wilderness, preparing to march to their relief, it is to have its chief accomplishment just before the final consummation.
Go not forth
. Be not deluded into following any local deceiver. The definite place of appearance proves its falsity (see ver. 27).
The secret chambers;
(Vulgate). When Christ comes the second time, he will not come as at Bethlehem, in secret, in a corner. If any pretender should be announced under such conditions, they were to put no belief in him. These were simple tests which all could apply. To limit the Lord's appearance to particular persons or to a particular place, was to incur fatal error.
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
As the lightning...east...west.
That is, shines from one end of heaven to the other. St. Chrysostom's comment explains the similitude: "How, then, shineth the lightning? It needs not one to talk of it, it needs not a herald, but even to them in chambers it shows itself in an instant of time throughout the whole world. So shall that coming be, showing itself at once everywhere by reason of the shining forth of his glory." We are told, "every eye shall see him." His advent shall be sudden, universal, unmistakable; in a moment he shall be present, visible in all his power and glory. From the language of this verse probably has been derived the orientation of churches, and the mode adopted of depositing the bodies of deceased Christians, so that they may at the resurrection face the Lord when he comes from the east.
For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
. The particle seems to be spurious, and is omitted by late editors. Christ applies a proverbial saying in confirmation of the certainty and universality of is appearance. He had used the same under other circumstances (Luke 17:87); and analogous expressions are found in
Wheresoever the carcase
ptw = ma
is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
) do not live on carrion, so that here probably vultures are meant. The Hebrew word
, translated "eagle" in our version, often signifies "the vulture," as in
. This bird's keenness of sight is almost incredible; it will discern a prey at an enormous distance, and its movements being watched by others, all eager to secure food, a carcase is very quickly surrounded by a multitude of these rapacious birds, flocking from all quarters. What our Lord meant by this proverb has occasioned great disputation. If Christ were referring primarily and chiefly to Jerusalem, it would be easy to explain "the carcase" to be the corrupt city, "the eagles" the ministers of God's vengeance, especially the Roman armies, whose standards bore the image of this bird of prey. Or if it were a mere general truth, and to be taken entirely in a spiritual sense, the gnome would imply that moral corruption calls for heavenly chastisement. But neither of these interpretations would satisfy the context, which speaks of Christ's second advent. Hence many regard the sentence as altogether parallel to the preceding verse, expressing in metaphor that which was there set forth in more direct terms, viz. that all men shall assemble to the place where Christ shall summon them to be judged, as vultures congregate round a carcase. In this case the carcase is Christ, the eagles or vultures are the men to be judged. This exposition has satisfied commentators of reputation, but it has its weak points. One fails to see the propriety of describing men coming to the great assize as vultures gathering to devour a dead body, or how in this case the body can be Christ or the place of his appearance. More probable is the interpretation which regards the carcase as antichrist or the world power, and the eagles as the saints and angels who shall attend Christ when he comes in judgment (
Revelation 19:17, 18
). Others expound the clause entirely in a mystical sense. The carcase is Christ, or the body of Christ; the eagles are the saints, or true Christians; these, whatever happens, will, with keen spiritual sight, always be able to discern Christ and his body, and to flock thereto. He calls himself
, because he saves us by his death, and feeds us by his body, in his Church, Word, and sacraments (see Wordsworth,
). Such is the interpretation of many of the Fathers, and it has many analogies in other places of Scripture. Far be it from us to restrict the sphere of Divine prediction, or to assert that any legitimate reference which we may discover was not in the Lord's mind when he spake the words. But it is more simple to regard the proverbial saying in itself, without looking for abstruse or mystical meanings. As a carcase, fall where it may, is immediately observed by the vultures and attracts them, so Christ's coming shall at once be discerned by all men and draw them into it.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
after the tribulation of those days.
The particle must not be disregarded, as it implies a caution with respect to the parousia. The Lord proceeds to announce some details of the final advent. Taking the tribulation to be the single fact of the ruin of Jerusalem, with its accompanying horrors, some have explained the Lord's word "immediately after" by the foreshortening process of prophecy, which makes the distant future seem close to the obtruding present, or by the consideration that in God's view time does not exist: "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (
2 Peter 3:8
). But the truth is, the tribulation (ver. 21) only began with the fall of Jerusalem; that was its first and partial fulfilment; and, am St. Luke implies (
Luke 21:23, 24
), it has been going on ever since, and is not yet finished. The punishment of the Jews is still proceeding, Jerusalem is still trodden down by the Gentiles, wrath still lies upon the people, they are still dispersed over the world, and have been and are more or leas persecuted in many countries. This state of things is to continue "till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled;" it is, then, "immediately after" this that the signs announced by the Lord shall be seen. He is, as we said above (see on ver. 4), purposely indefinite, that the Church may learn to wait and watch for the return of the Saviour and Judge. This state of expectatation is to be its normal condition. It had its effect on the primitive Church before she Jewish catastrophe. St. Peter (
) tells of the times of refreshing, when Jesus shall come, as possibly close at hand; St. Paul more than once speaks in the same strain (
1 Corinthians 1:7
, etc.), though he warns his converts not to omit ordinary duties in immediate expectation of the end (
2 Thessalonians 2:2
); St. James (James 5:9) tells of the Judge standing before the door. And since then often has this belief cropped up at various stages of the world's history, showing that Christ's warning has sunk deep into Christian hearts, and produced the temper of mind which he purposed to raise.
Shall the sun be darkened,
etc. There is no valid reason why the physical phenomena mentioned in this verso are not to be taken literally, even if we see also in them a spiritual significance. It is only reasonable to expect that the end of this world should be accompanied by stupendous changes in the realm of nature. The sun was miraculously darkened when Jesus hung on the cross. What wonder if similar catastrophes signal his coming to judgment? The apostle's words point to a literal fulfilment (
2 Peter 3:10, 12
). Our Lord's prediction echoes announcements often found in the Old Testament, which are not always to be considered metaphorical (see
Joel 2:30, 31
Joel 3:15, 16
). Anticipations of some of these terrible latter day signs occurred at Jerusalem, according to Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 6:05.3,4).
Darkened... not give light.
This is in accordance with Hebrew parallelism. The next clause is constructed in the same way.
Fall from heaven.
The Lord may be speaking of the apparent effect of these convulsions of nature, in accordance with popular ideas, as we talk of the sun rising and setting; or he may thus term the obscuration or extinction of the light of the stars.
The powers of the heavens
mean probably the heavenly bodies independent of the solar system, called elsewhere "the host of heaven" (
. etc.); or the phrase may signify (though the parallelism would not be so perfect) the forces and laws which control these bodies. An interruption in the action of these powers would occasion the most awful catastrophes (see Haggai 3:6, which makes a similar announcement). We must notice the spiritual application of this prediction, as it has obtained a wide acceptance. The words are sometimes taken in a bad sense. The sun is Satan, or Lucifer, who fell as lightning from heaven (
); "the powers of the heavens" are the hosts of the prince of the power of the air, "the spiritual wickednesses in high places;" the stars are all that exalt themselves, who shall be consumed and vanish at the brightness of the cross. But more generally the luminaries are explained in a good sense. The sun is Christ or his truth, which shall be obscured in the last days; the moon is the Church, darkened by heresy and unbelief, and borrowing no light from its sun; the stars are they who once were foremost in the faith, but now shall fall from their steadfastness, or be unable to diffuse light, owing to the gross darkness and mistiness of those evil days.
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.
after the great physical changes mentioned in the last verse.
The sign of the Son of man.
This has been differently interpreted
as the appearance of Christ himself in the clouds of heaven (
Daniel 7:13, 14
), when the glory and majesty of his advent will prove that he is Saviour and Judge. But this explanation seems to confuse the sign and that which it represents, the token of Messiah and Messiah himself who cometh afterward. And the definite article, "
sign," seems to imply something already well known to denote him, whereas his appearance could not be known beforehand.
A star, which shall herald his second coming, as a star announced his birth. This, which is Olshausen's suggestion, is entirely arbitrary, and has nothing to support it, especially as the meaning of the star would not be directly intelligible to all men.
Meyer and De Wette suppose a bright light, or a kind of Shechinah. This, which doubtless will be manifested, was indeed a token of the presence of God, but could not be recognized at once as the sign of the Son of man.
We come to what has been the almost universal interpretation of the Fathers and early commentators, who saw in the sign the cross of Christ, which is indeed the ensign and standard of the gospel. Nothing, equally with this, can characterize the Son of man, the emblem of his humiliation and his triumph.
. When they behold this sign in the sky, and know unmistakably that Christ in person is about to appear.
Shall all the tribes of the earth mourn
shall beat the breast
). Not alone the Jews, looking on him whom they pierced, shall bewail their blindness and impenitence (
), but all the nations, the races and peoples who have rejected him whom they ought to have received. The cross shows that he died for them, though they profited not by his sacrifice (comp.
They shall see
,, an echo of the preceding
). The sign is followed by the advent of Christ in person.
Coming in the clouds of heaven.
Some have taken "clouds" to mean angels, comparing
; but them is no need for considering the term here to be metaphorical. The accompaniments of the theophanies are always thus announced (see
). He thus claims to be the God of whom these words are continually used, and he leaves his hearers to gather that he will come visibly, not spiritually to individual souls or Churches, but manifestly to the whole of mankind, whether quick or risen.
In his full omnipotence.
Cum virtute multa
(Vulgate). The expression must not be taken as denoting the attendant angels; they are named in the next verse. It denotes that he who on earth met with naught but pain and humiliation should be displayed to the same earth with that splendour and majesty which essentially belonged to him.
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.
As the executors of his will, to bring before his throne all who have to be judged. They have the same office in the parable of the tares and the wheat (
With a great sound of a trumpet
μετὰ σάλπιγγος φωνῆς μεγάλης
, which may also mean,
with a trumpet of great sound
). Some manuscripts, with the Vulgate, read, "with a trumpet and a great voice;" others, "with a great trumpet," omitting "voice." All, however, agree in asserting the employment of the trumpet on this momentous occasion (comp.
1 Corinthians 15:52
1 Thessalonians 4:16
). The term may be metaphorical for a voice exceeding loud (comp.
); but it is more probably to be taken in the obvious sense, with a reference to its use among the Jews in calling the assembly and giving the alarm. Of course, the occurrence is supernatural. It is, indeed, as great a miracle for a sound to be heard simultaneously in both hemispheres as it is for Christ to be seen at the same moment by all dwellers on the globe. This is a matter to be believed, not explained.
Shall gather together his elect.
The angels will infallibly select these from the mass of men, either by spiritual insight or Divine direction. The elect are not Israelites alone, but true believers of all nations (see ver. 14 and
John 17:20, 21
). These are first collected, and then the reprobate are summoned, according to
From the four winds.
The four cardinal points,
from every quarter of the earth. Four is the number of the world or the universe.
From one end...the other;
, from the ends of the heavens unto their end
- a parallel to the preceding clause. From horizon to horizon, though this expression, taken literally, is not extensive enough.
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer
Learn a parable
the fig tree;
from the fig tree learns its parable.
Learn ye the lesson which this tree can teach you; though, indeed, it might teach other lessons than the one which Christ would enforce.
branch is yet tender
is now become tender
). This refers to the new shoots of unripened wood.
Putteth forth leaves
). Copyists and editors vary between
, subj. aor. passive, and
, active. The Vulgate has the passive,
et folia nata.
Summer is nigh.
The fruit of the fig tree appears before the leaves, as we learned in the story of the withered fig tree (
), which the Lord may have had in mind when he gave this illustration. Did he intend to symbolize the revival of the life of the withered Jewish race in the time of the end?
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near,
at the doors.
So likewise ye
οὕτω καὶ ὑμεῖς
so also ye
, emphatic). As surely as buds and leaves prove the coming of summer, so ye, who have been taught, may gather from the fulfilment of the signs mentioned (vers. 15-22, etc.) the approach of the end.
Know that it is near
ὅτι ἐγγύς ἐστιν
). The subject is not expressed, but it must be the Son of man (ver. 30), so that the rendering ought to be,
he is near.
Many, however, take the understood nominative to be the judgment, or the kingdom of God, or the occurrences last spoken cf.
At the doors;
, on the very threshold, and therefore about to enter.
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Our Lord's assertion has given rise to sceptical observations, as if his prophecy had failed. Alford has endeavoured to remove objections by taking
as equivalent to
, a race or family of people, and referring it to the continued existence of the Jews. He cites
, etc., in confirmation of this signification. His examples, however, are not unassailable, though such use is certainly classical; but it the same time, it is unlikely that Christ should thus indefinitely postpone a period of infinite importance to his hearers. But there is no necessity for assuming any unusual meaning in the term "this generation." Its plain and obvious reference is to the contemporaries of the speaker, or those who shall live some thirty or forty years longer; this period would bring them to the siege of Jerusalem. And remembering that Christ has drawn no definite line between this crisis and the final consummation, we are justified in regarding all these things as meaning, primarily, the signs preceding or accompanying the downfall of the city. In a secondary sense, "this generation" may mean the spiritual Israel, the generation of them that seek the Lord (
). "All these things shall surely come to pass," says Chrysostom, "and the generation of the faithful shall remain, cut off by none of the things that have been mentioned. For both Jerusalem shall perish, and the more part of the Jews shall be destroyed, but over this generation shall nothing prevail - not famine, not pestilence, not earthquake, not the tumults of wars, not false Christs, not false prophets, not deceivers, not traitors, not those that cause to offend, nor the false brethren, nor any other such-like temptations whatever." Some critics have combined the three meanings of "generation" given above, and have seen in Christ's words a threefold reference, first, to the contemporary people; secondly, to the Jewish nation; thirdly, to the Christian believers or dispensation. According to Lange, "this generation" means the generation of those who know and discern these signs.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
- Christ adds a solemn assurance that his words have in them a vitality and endurance which the mightiest works of nature do not possess. The facts and truths embodied in his words are sure and steadfast, and what he has promised or predicted shall inevitably be fulfilled. This verse is omitted by
but it is most probably genuine, as it undoubtedly has its place in the other two synoptists (comp.
1 Peter 1:24, 25
But of that day and hour knoweth no
, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
- The apostles had asked (ver. 3), "When shall these things be?" Christ does not now expressly answer this question; he puts forth strongly the uncertainty in the knowledge of these great events, and how this ignorance is disciplinary.
Of that day
de die illa
viz. when Christ shall appear in judgment, The expression plainly, implies that a definite day and moment are fixed for this great appearing, but known only to God.
Knoweth no man
of heaven. A kind of climax.
Man is naturally excluded from the knowledge; but even to the angels it has not been revealed. A further climax is added in St. Mark, and from that Gospel has been introduced by some very good manuscripts into this place,
neither the Son
(the Revised Version admits the clause). The words have given occasion to some erroneous statements. It is said by Arians and semi-Arians, and modern disputants who have followed in their steps, that the Son cannot be equal to the Father, if he knows not what the Father knows. Alford says boldly, "This matter was hidden from him." But when we consider such passages as "I and my Father are one;" "I am in the Father, and the Father in me" (
, etc.), we cannot believe that the time of the great consummation was unknown to him. What is meant, then, by this assertion? How is it true? Doubtless it is to be explained (if capable of explanation) by the hypostatic union of two natures in the Person of Christ, whereby the properties of the two natures are interchangeably predicated. From danger of error on this mysterious subject we are preserved by the precise terms of the Athanasian Creed, according to which we affirm that Christ is "equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood ... one altogether; not by confusion of substance, but by unity of Person," etc. If, then, Christ asserts that he is ignorant of anything, it must be that in his human nature he hath, willed not to know that which in his Divine nature he was cognizant cf. This is a part of that voluntary self-surrender and self-limitation of which the apostle speaks when he says that Christ "emptied himself" (
). He condescended to assume all the conditions of humanity, even willing to share the imperfection of our knowledge in some particulars. How the two natures thus interworked we know not, and need not conjecture; nor can we always divine why prominence at one time is given to the Divine, at another to the human. It is enough for us to know that, for reasons which seemed good unto him, he imposed restriction on his omniscience in this matter, and, to enhance the mysteriousness and awfulness of the great day, announced to his disciples his ignorance of the precise moment of its occurrence. This is a safer exposition than to say, with some, that Christ knew not the day so as to reveal it to us, that it was no part of his mission from the Father to divulge it to men, and therefore that he could truly say he knew it not. This seems rather an evasion than an explanation of the difficulty.
But my Father only.
The best manuscripts have "the Father." "But" is
So Christ said to his inquiring apostles, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (
). These words do not exclude the Son's participation in the knowledge, though he willed that it should not extend to his human nature. With this and such-like texts in view, how futile, presumptuous, and indeed profane, it is to attempt to settle the exact date and hour when the present age shall end!"
But as the days of Noe
, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
As the days of Noe were.
In citing this example, the Lord has special reference to the fact that the warning then given was not heeded (
). If, as seems probable, the antediluvians had more than a century's warning of the coming flood, it can hardly be only the suddenness of the calamity to which Christ would point (
1 Peter 3:20
). He has used the illustration elsewhere (
Luke 17:26, 27
), where also the destruction of Sodom is adduced as a type of the last day. So shall also The parousia of Christ shall fall on a world incredulous and heedless.
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,
They were eating,
etc. The Lord describes the reckless way in which men went on their usual course, pursued their pleasures and avocations, with the doom. hanging over them, in spite of the warning given. The word for "eating" (
) implies the idea of gnawing food greedily like an animal, hence eating gluttonously. They had learned to drink to excess long before Lot's time (
Genesis 9:20, 21
). The periphrastic form of expression,
, denotes not a single act, but habitude.
Until the day.
Though they had watched Noah building the ark, and heard him preach righteousness for many a year, they took no heed. It must be observed that Christ here confirms the historical accuracy of this episode in Genesis.
And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
They would not comprehend the signs of the coming judgment, or, at any rate, refused to profit by them, preferring their own carnal pleasures to the care of their souls and the amendment of their lives. The Lord assures us that similar recklessness and unbelief will be found at his coming. Doubtless anguish and fear will fill many hearts, but the general feeling will be incredulity, and a false security which refuses to take warning. Sadler compares it to Belshazzar's feast at the very moment of danger, and the Athenians' insensibility at the time of the great plague, when the people seemed to be exemplifying the maxim, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (
). "For like as when the ark was making, they believed not; but while it was set in the midst of them, proclaiming beforehand the evils that are to come, they, when they saw it, lived in pleasure... so also now, antichrist, indeed, shall appear, after whom is the end, and the punishments at the end, and vengeance intolerable; but they that are held by the intoxication of wickedness [comp. Wisd. 4:12] shall not so much as perceive the dreadful nature of the things that are on the point of being done. Wherefore also Paul saith, 'as travail upon a woman with child' [
1 Thessalonians 5:8
], even so shall those fearful and incurable evils come upon them" (Chrysostom, 'Hom.,'
). Morisen considers that Christ is not blaming the antediluvians, but simply referring to the fact that up to the last moment they were ignorant of the impending catastrophe. But this seems inadequate.
Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
- The Lord gives two examples of the suddenness of his advent, and its effect in private life.
Shall two be in the field.
They shall be working together at their ordinary agricultural occupations, with nothing outwardly to distinguish one from the other, good and bad being mingled together.
The one shall be taken
, the present implying certainty),
and the other left
). Christ speaks as though he saw the scene before him. The "taking" implies separation from companions, as
, etc. This is the work of the angels (ver. 31). There is some doubt as to the destiny of the two classes named. Are the good "taken" and the evil "left"? or are the evil "taken" and the good "left"? Some suppose that the terms allude to the sudden approach of a hostile army by which some are taken prisioners and others allowed to escape; or, since in the parable the tares are first gathered for the burning, those taken must be the wicked, those left are for storing in the everlasting garner. On the other hand, many commentators understand the verbs in a sense opposite to that mentioned above. As (ver. 31) the angels are sent forth to gather the elect, the "taken" are of this class, who are caught away to meet the Lord and his saints (
1 Thessalonians 4:17
), while the others are left for judgment and reprobation (
2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
). Bengel, continuing the reference to the Flood, writes, "
in tutelam (ver. 31), ut Noachus cum domo sua;
in periculis, quicquid obveniat, ut homines in diluvio." The latter interpretation of the two seems to be the correct one. At any rate, it is plain that the nicest discrimination is exercised, and that among men and women, in all conditions of life, a final severance shall then be made, which shall apportion their lot in the other world.
women shall be
grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Two women shall be grinding at
In the absence of mills turned by wind or water, which were of much later invention, every household had its own little handmill, worked by women of the family or by slaves (
). "Two stones, about eighteen inches or two feet across, rest one on the other, the under one slightly higher towards the centre, and the upper one hollowed out to fit this convexity; a hole through it, in the middle, receiving the grain. Sometimes the under stone is bedded m cement, raised into a border round it, to catch and retain the flour, or meal, as it falls. A stick fastened into the upper one served as a handle. Occasionally two women sit at the same pair of stones, to lighten the task, one hand only being needed where two work together, whereas a single person has to use both hands" (Geikie, 'Holy Land and Bible,' p. 155). "Two women were busy in a cottage at the household mill, which attracted me by its sound To grind is very exhausting work, so that, where possible, one woman sits opposite the other, to divide the strain, though in a poor man's house the wife has to do this drudgery unaided" (ibid., p. 661). St. Luke (Luke 17:34) adds a third situation to the cases mentioned by our Lord, viz. "two men in one bed," or on one dining couch.
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
Practical exhortation drawn from the uncertainty of the last day
The end will be sudden, the final separation will be then completed; be ye therefore always prepared. Few exhortations are more frequently and impressively given than this of the duty and necessity of watchfulness. Of course, the Christian has to watch against many things - his own evil heart, temptation, the world, but most of all he must watch and be always looking for the coming of his Lord; for whether he be regarded as Redeemer, Deliverer, or Judge, he will come as a thief in the night.
Very many good manuscripts and some late editors read "on what day." This is probably the genuine reading, "hour" being an alteration derived from ver. 44.
) means of what kind or quality - whether sudden, immediate, or remote.
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.
But know this;
illud autem scitote
this ye know.
The Lord draws particular attention to what he is going to say, which is a strange and startling truth in a parabolic form (see
The good man of the house;
the master of the house
If... had known... he would have watched.
The form of the sentence (
with indicative in the protasis, and
with indicative aorist in the apodosis) implies that the result did not happen. The master may have made all secure as far as bolts and bars were concerned, but he did not keep awake, though he had reason to know that a thief was in the neighbourhood, and so was not ready to frustrate any attack made in an unsuspected manner.
To be broken up;
to be digged through
(Vulgate). Houses constructed of sun-dried bricks, mud, or loose stones, could be easily pierced and entered without forcing shuttered window or barred door (comp.
). The significance of the parable is easy to see. The householder is the disciple of Christ, the thief is Christ himself, who comes on the unwatchful when and where they expect him not. It is, indeed, a strange comparison, but one calculated to alarm the unwary, and to show the necessity of the caution enjoined. Similar warnings are found elsewhere;
1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4
2 Peter 3:10
. The exposition which regards the thief as the devil is not so suitable to the context.
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
. Regarding the solemn example just given, taking it as applicable to spiritual things. The warning is of general obligation, and may be used by each individual Christian for his own benefit; for there is a sense in which the day of death is the coming of Christ, and as death leaves us so, as far as we know, judgment will find us.
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
, etc, Christ utters this parabolic discourse in reply to Peter's question, "Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?" He now turns his exhortation to those in authority over the house, specially to the ministers and stewards of his mysteries, proposing it in an interrogative form, not only because the man he wants is difficult to find, but in order that each may put the question to himself, and see if he reaches the high standard suggested.
faithful and wise
prudens, practically wise
. The idea is that some good and true slave is raised to the stewardship of his master's household, like Eliezer whom Abram advanced to this position (
Hath made ruler
over his household
, see on ver. 47). The word
is used classically for a body of attendants, the servants that form the family, the
Christ asks - Where is one to be found fit for this position in his Church? It is the Lord who selects and appoints the steward; he is neither self-constituted nor appointed by those over whom he rules.
in due season.
It was the duty of such an officer to dispense the regular allowance of daily food to the members of the household. So the stewards of the mysteries of Christ have to feed his flock with spiritual food, with the Word and sacraments, and. to do this wisely and discreetly, according to the capacity, advancement, and circumstances of each recipient. The exhortation holds good for others as well as the clergy, civil rulers, the rich, all men. All our endowments, mental, spiritual, physical, material, are the gift of God, and are to be used in his service and to the good of others.
that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Blessed is that servant.
The Lord had asked - Who is the faithful and wise servant? he virtually answers - It is the one
whom his lord when he cometh shall find
duly performing the duties of his office. Such a one he pronounces "blessed;" and what happier lot can befall a man in a responsible position, than to be taken while diligently and rightly performing his appointed work (see
Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
He shall make him ruler over
, with dative, denoting permanency of occupation; in ver. 45 it is with genitive, as of temporary superintendence)
all his goods;
all that he hath.
This is the reward. He who before was set over only a small part of his lord's possessions is now made superintendent of all his property; for "he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much" (
). How we are to take this promise as applied to the rewards of the kingdom of heaven, we know not yet. "Eve hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, what God hath prepared for them that love him" (
1 Corinthians 2:9
). There are similar mysterious statements elsewhere;
. This may be one of those passages in which we are not meant to press or understand all the details of the parable.
But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
But and if
). "And" is a remnant of an old use of the word, meaning "it'," so that it is here redundant, and the translation should he simply,
That evil servant
) is in a sense the same as he who, in ver. 45, was regarded as faithful and prudent. The opposite case is here put; he is supposed to be wicked and untrustworthy; he no longer is always watching for his lord's coming and endeavouring to be always ready, because he knows that he may at any moment be called to account.
My lord delayeth
, and other good manuscripts omit
as unnecessary. Revised Version,
my lord tarrieth, he
brings himself to believe that the day of reckoning is still distant, and that he will have plenty of time to prepare his accounts before the settlement is called for. So men put off the day of repentance, saying, "Tomorrow, tomorrow," when they ought to feel that the present alone is theirs in which to prepare for judgment.
And shall begin to smite
fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
As soon as he conceives the idea of the delay in his lord's arrival, he changes his conduct, plays the master, and uses his power for oppression and injustice. But he has only time to commence these unrighteous acts, when he is arrested by the very occurrence which he had willfully ignored.
To smite his fellow servants
those who are faithful to their master. Applied to Christian ministers, such conduct would appertain to those who use their authority for oppression or self-aggrandizement, "lording it over the charge allotted to them" (
1 Peter 5:3
And to eat
and shall eat
and drink with the drunken.
He indulges in luxury and intemperance, choosing as his companions men of dissolute habits. A self-indulgent minister, or one who is not discreet in choosing his friends and acquaintance, has little influence in checking the excesses of his flock, and is far from being, as he ought to be, "a pattern of good works" (
The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for
, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
either actually by his appearance, or virtually by calling the guilty soul to judgment.
When he looketh not for
). He has put away all thought of the sudden advent of the Lord.
That he is
not aware of
be knoweth not
). The awful hour was utterly unknown; but this has not made him watchful; hence be becomes unfaithful.
And shall cut him asunder, and appoint
his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Shall cut him asunder
). This mode of death was inflicted in some cases (see
1 Samuel 15:33
2 Samuel 12:31
; compare also the account of the execution of Mettius in Livy, 1:28; and Horace, 'Sat.,' I. 1:99). Thus in our own country "quartering," after hanging at least, was once a usual penalty for some offences, such as high treason. The term has been here interpreted to refer to the operation of the cruel scourge, which without metaphor might be said to cut a man to pieces; or "to dismiss from his employment," which seems to be hardly an adequate punishment. The difficulty is that the utter destruction of the malefactor implied in his literal cutting asunder is not consistent with his subsequent consignment to the lot of the hypocrites. Hence the Fathers have variously explained the term to signify separation from the company of saints, or from spiritual grace, or from all the blessings promised to the righteous. But we may take the Lord's words as applying first to temporal punishment - the unrighteous steward shall suffer death as horrible as dichotomy, a severance of body and soul, accompanied with unspeakable tortures; as in the History of Susanna, ver. 55, "The angel of God hath received the sentence of God to cut thee in two."
Appoint him his portion with the hypocrites.
The Lord drops the parable, and speaks of the terrible reality. The hypocrites are the faithless and deceitful, who, while pretending to do their lord's work, are mere eye servants, and really neglect and injure it. The remissful steward shares their punishment in the other world.
in the place where the hypocrites receive their punishment (
). The expression signifies measureless grief and despair.
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