SUMMARY.--The Temple to Be Utterly Destroyed. The Questions Asked on the Mount of Olives. Wars and Rumors of Wars Predicted. False Prophets and Christs. The Sign for Flight from Jerusalem. The Great Tribulation. How the Son of Man Shall Come. The Sun Darkened. The Coming of the Son of Man. This Generation. The Time of Christ's Coming Unknown. Injunction to Be Always in Readiness.
1. And Jesus went out the temple. Immediately after the discourse in which he pronounced the woes upon the scribes and Pharisees, upon the temple and Jerusalem. This remarkable chapter is not one upon which commentators are agreed, and the conclusions that I have reached on the points of difference will not be found identical with those of any other writer. I believe, however, that they will be found harmonious with the Scripture. Compare Mark and Luke. His disciples . . . shew him the buildings of the temple. He had just foreshadowed its destruction. With this in mind they point out its splendor, especially the amazing stones used in its construction. Compare Mark and Luke. The temple had been rebuilt in great splendor by Herod, and was not fully completed until about thirty years after the Savior's crucifixion.
2. Not one stone upon another, etc. Other great temples are in ruins, but their ruins indicate their former splendor. The Parthenon, the Acropolis, the temples of Karnak, Luxor, and Baalbec are examples; but to find even the foundations of the Jewish temple it is necessary to dig beneath the modern city. It has entirely disappeared from the face of the earth, and a Mahometan mosque stands on the spot where it stood.
3. As he sat on the mount of Olives. Passing out of the city, over the valley of Jehoshaphat, he and his disciples climbed the mount and sat down on its crest overlooking the city and temple bathed in the sunset. Tell us. The disciples, still thinking of what the Lord had said, ask three questions: (1) When shall these things be? That is, the overthrow of the temple. (2) What shall be the sign of the coming? And (3) of the end of the world? They supposed these events would be simultaneous--a mistake. To understand what follows we must keep in mind that he has three questions to answer, nor are the answers blended.
4, 5. Take heed that no man deceive you. By pretending to be Christ. As they yet believed that Christ would surely return to reign at Jerusalem, this admonition was needed. Come in my name. As the Messiah. We learn from Josephus that enthusiasts did come about the time of the end of Jerusalem, claiming to be sent of God. Bar-cocheba, "the son of the star," appeared in A. D. 120. From time to time other deceivers have appeared.
6, 7. Ye shall hear of wars. The Jewish war began in A. D. 66, and ended five years after. During this period all the Roman empire was filled with commotion. Nero, the emperor, was overthrown by Galba; six months after, Galba was overthrown by Otho; a few months after, Otho was overthrown by Vitelius; a little later, he was overthrown by Vespasian. All of these but the last, who ascended the throne shortly before Jerusalem was destroyed, died violent deaths. Famines. The natural result of civil wars. Tacitus, the Roman historian, says of this period: "It was full of calamities, horrible with battles, rent with seditions, savage in peace itself."
8, 9. Shall deliver you up to tribulation. To persecution. Soon literally fulfilled in the Jewish persecutions. The awful persecution of Nero also soon followed. Ye shall be hated. Tacitus, describing Nero's persecution begun in A. D. 64, says "the Christians were haters of mankind."
10. Then shall many be offended. Shall stumble and fall, rather than suffer for Christ. The half-hearted always do.
11. Many false prophets. False teachers. Compare Gal. 1:7; 1 John 2:12, 18; 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 Tim. 4:1. See also Josephus, Book VI. 5, sec. 3.
12. Because iniquity shall abound, etc. Immorality eats out the heart of religion.
13. He that endures to the end, etc. The Christian Jews who endured to the end were saved by flight to Pella, beyond the Jordan, at the signal pointed out by the Lord. The principle is generally applicable.
14. This gospel of the kingdom, etc. The gospel was preached throughout the Roman empire, "the world" of the New Testament, before A. D. 70. Then the end shall come. Of the Jewish state.
15-20. When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation. This is the sign when Christians should flee from Jerusalem. See Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11. Luke says, "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies" (21:20). This was, therefore, Christ's explanation of the abomination of desolation. The Roman army, heathen, with heathen images and standards, ready to sacrifice to idols on the temple altar, working the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple, is what is meant. In the holy place. Mark says, "Where it ought not;" around "the holy city." Let them in Judea flee. For refuge. Let him on the housetop. The flat roofs were sleeping places. All must be done without a moment's delay. Woe to them with child. Because not fit for flight and the hardships that must be endured. Not in the winter. Because the streams were then impassable torrents from the heavy rains and the weather cold and wet, hard on homeless people. Nor on the sabbath. Because then the gates of the city were closed, preventing departure. History tells us that the army of Cestius Gallus enclosed Jerusalem in A. D. 67, then deterred by its strength, retired to Cæsarea. This was the signal for which the church waited, and it then fled beyond the Jordan.
21. Great tribulation. The account given by Josephus, the Jewish historian who witnessed and recorded the war, is almost an echo of the predictions of Christ. Women ate their own children from starvation; the Jews within the city fought each other as well as the Roman army; on August 10, A. D. 70, the city was stormed and there was a universal massacre; 1,100,00 persons perished, and 100,000 survivors were sold into slavery.
22. No flesh would be saved. If such awful work should continue, it would exterminate the human race. For the elect's sake. On their account, because there is salt to save the earth, and end shall be put to the awful work of death. The elect are the believers in Christ (Rom. 11:5-7).
23-26. Then. During this period of tribulation, give no heed to false prophets, false Christs, or to those who say Christ is here or there.
27. For as the lightning. There will be no doubt about Christ's coming when he does come, no discussion, no need that any one shall tell it. It will be manifest as the flash of lightning across the sky. There can be no mistake. Such language shows how much those err who claim that his coming was at the destruction of Jerusalem.
28. The carcase is, there will be the eagles. The term "carcase" well represents the utterly corrupted Jewish state; the "eagles" is a fit symbol of the Roman army, every legion of which bore the eagle as its standard.
29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days. The first question, When shall these things be? has now been answered. Here begins the answer to the second, concerning the coming of the Lord. For other passages on the second coming, see 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8, 9; 1 Cor. 15:23; Jas. 5:7; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:12; 1 John 2:28. "Immediately" after the destruction of Jerusalem (the tribulation) the series of events begins that leads to the coming of Christ. The sun shall be darkened. I take what follows to be symbolical, as is usual for prophecy, rather than literal. Christ is "the Sun of Righteousness." After the destruction of Jerusalem, the causes began to work that led to the great apostasy of the church and produced "the Dark Ages" of the church. The moon shall not give her light. The moon shines by reflected light of the sun and if it is darkened so will be the moon. So, too, the church shines by the light of Christ. When Christ's light was darkened by taking the Bible from the people the church give forth little light during the long night of the Middle Ages. The stars shall fall. Stars represent great teachers of the church, apostles and evangelists. See Rev. 1:20. When the apostles were dethroned by the Romish apostasy, "the stars fell from heaven," figuratively. Other stars, great church lights who apostatized, fell from heaven in another sense.
30. Then. After the long period of apostasy. Shall appear the sign of the Son of man. Some sign of his coming that every one will recognize when it is manifested. All the tribes of the earth mourn. Because of their sins. They shall see the Son of man coming. It will be visible to every eye and will be in splendor.
31. With a great sound of a trumpet. Compare 1 Thess. 4:16. Shall gather his elect. Before the judgment on the world. The believers will be in all countries, mingled with the population of earth, and then shall be separated. Four winds. The four quarters of the earth.
32, 33. Learn a parable from the fig tree. The putting forth of the leaves is the sign that summer is near. It puts forth leaves usually in April. So "all these things" show when the Lord is at hand.
34, 35. This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Some hold that "all these things," in verse 33 and 34, refer only to what was said of the fall of Jerusalem, ending with verse 28. Others have contended that the phrase includes the second coming, but refers directly to the end of Jerusalem, which was a type of the end of the world. I believe, rather, that "all these things" embraces all thus far predicted, and that "this generation" means the Jewish race, instead of only those then living. The Greek word so rendered is used in the sense of race in the Greek classics, and as examples of such use in the New Testament, Alford points to Matt. 12:45, and Luke 16:8, as examples of such use in the New Testament. Christ has described the awful end of the Jewish state; after such a destruction and scattering of the remnant to the ends of the earth, all the examples of history would declare that the Jewish race would become extinct. Christ, however, declares that, contrary to all probability, it shall not pass away until he comes. They still exist, 1850 years after the prediction, distinct, but without a country.
36. Of that day and hour knoweth no one. How foolish then to be figuring out the time of the Lord's coming.
37-41. As were the days of Noah. As the deluge surprised the world, so will the Lord's coming. Two women shall be grinding at the mill. The hand-mills still used in the East. The grinding is done by women, usually two, as the work is hard for one. It will be the time of separation of the evil from the good.
42. Watch therefore. Because the coming will be unexpected. Mark adds, "pray."
43. If the master of the house. The lesson of the illustration is a constant state of preparation. Elsewhere in the New Testament Christ's coming is compared to that of a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:1-10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15).
44. Be ye also ready. The duty enjoined is not to watch for Christ, but to watch ourselves to see that we are ready.
45. Who then is a faithful and wise servant? In Luke 12:42-46, is given a similar parable in answer to a question of Peter. There the Lord speaks of "the faithful and wise steward;" here he describes a steward, but speaks of him as a servant. Ruler. Preachers, elders, deacons, Sunday-school superintendents, teachers. Household. All under their religious charge.
46, 47. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord . . . shall find so doing. The blessedness applies equally to those who are faithful unto death and those who are so found at the Lord's coming. This blessedness is in the reward the Lord will give. `He shall make him ruler over all his goods. The parables of the talents and the pounds show that those who have been faithful to the trusts given them here shall receive additional trusts in the Savior's eternal kingdom.
48. My lord delayeth his coming. The worst enemy of Christ is the professed servant of the Lord who practices are evil, and who supposes he can evade punishment for his crimes.
49. And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants. There is no sin more common among those who are clothed with authority than oppression. There have been no worse oppressors than priests. And to eat and drink with the drunken. What first disgusted Luther with the faith in which he had been reared was the profligacy of the priests and monks. It has often been the case that the Vatican was the very hot-bed of scandal.
50. The lord of that servant shall come. He will certainly come, and come when the servant is unprepared for him. The majority of the wicked who die in their sins have expected to be better prepared for the end of life.
51. And shall cut him asunder. An ancient method of punishment which was practiced among the Israelites. See 1 Sam. 15:33, and 2 Sam. 12:31. The idea here is that very severe punishment shall be inflicted upon him, while weeping and gnashing of teeth would indicate a life of intense suffering. Indeed both these expressions must be regarded as metaphors, indicating nothing more clearly than a terrible and certain punishment.