[The kingdom of God coming in power.] In Matthew, it is the Son of man coming in his kingdom. The coming of Christ in his vengeance and power to destroy the unbelieving and most wicked nation of the Jews is expressed under these forms of speech. Hence the day of judgment and vengeance:
I. It is called "the great and terrible day of the Lord," Acts 2:20; 2 Thess 2:2,3.
II. It is described as "the end of the world," Jeremiah 4:27; Matthew 24:29, &c.
III. In that phrase, "in the last times," Isaiah 2:2; Acts 2:17; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Peter 3:3; that is, in the last times of that city and dispensation.
IV. Thence, the beginning of the "new world," Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13.
V. The vengeance of Christ upon that nation is described as his "coming," John 21:22; Hebrews 10:37: his "coming in the clouds," Revelation 1:7: "in glory with the angels," Matthew 24:30, &c.
VI. It is described as the 'enthroning of Christ, and his twelve apostles judging the twelve tribes of Israel,' Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30.
Hence this is the sense of the present place: Our Saviour had said in the last verse of the former chapter, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels," to take punishment of that adulterous and sinful generation. And he suggests, with good reason, that that his coming in glory should be in the lifetime of some that stood there.
2. And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.
[Into a high mountain.] Now your pardon, reader; I know it will be laughed at if I should doubt whether Christ were transfigured upon mount Tabor; for who ever doubted of this thing? But let me, before I give faith to the thing, reveal my doubts concerning it: and the reader, laying before his eyes some geographical map of Galilee, perhaps, when he shall have heard me, will judge more favorably of my doubting.
I. Let him consider that Christ, in the story next going before, was in the coast of Caesarea Philippi, Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27; Luke 9:18; and, for any thing that can be gathered out of the evangelists, changed not his place before this story. Who will deny that those words, "There are some that stand here who shall not taste of death," &c., were uttered in those coasts of Caesarea Philippi? And presently the story of the transfiguration followed.
II. Six days indeed came between: in which, you will say, Christ might travel from Caesarea Philippi to Tabor. He might, indeed: but, 1. The evangelists intimate no change from place to place, saying only this, That he led up into the mountain three of his disciples. 2. It seems, indeed, a wonder that our Saviour would tire himself with so long a journey, to choose Tabor whereon to be transfigured, when, as far as we read, he had never before been in that mountain; and there were mountains elsewhere where he conversed frequently. 3. Follow the footsteps of the history, and of Christ in his travel, from his transfiguration onwards. When he came down from the mountain, he healed a child possessed with a devil: and when he betook himself into the house they said, "Why could not we cast out the devil? &c. And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee, and came to Capernaum," Mark 9:28,30,33.
III. And now, reader, look upon the chorographical map, and how incongruous will this travelling seem! 1. From Caesarea Philippi to mount Tabor through the whole length almost of Galilee. 2. Then from mount Tabor by a course back again to Capernaum, a great part of Galilee (especially as the maps place Capernaum) being again passed over. Whereas Capernaum was in the way from Caesarea Philippi to Tabor, and there was a mountain there well known to Christ, and very much frequented by him.
IV. So that it seems far more consonant to the history of the gospel, that Christ was transfigured in some mountain near Caesarea Philippi; perhaps that which, Josephus being witness, was the highest, and hung over the very fountains of Jordan, and at the foot whereof Caesarea was placed.
In that place, formerly called Dan, was the first idolatry set up, and now in the same place the eternal Son of God is shewn, both in the confession of Peter, and in the unspeakably clear and illustrious demonstration of the Messias.
38. And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
[We saw one casting out devils in thy name.] I. Without doubt he truly did this work, whosoever he were. He cast out devils truly and really, and that by the divine power; otherwise Christ had not said those things which he did, "Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me," &c.
II. Whence then could any one that followed not Christ cast out devils? Or whence could any one that cast out devils not follow Christ?
I answer: We suppose,
I. That this man cast not out devils in the name of Jesus, but in the name of Christ, or Messias: and that it was not out of contempt that he followed not Jesus, but out of ignorance; namely, because he knew not yet that Jesus was the Messias.
II. We therefore conjecture that he had been heretofore some disciple of John, who had received his baptism in the name of the Messias now speedily to come, (which all the disciples of John had) but he knew not as yet that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messias: which John himself knew not until it was revealed to him from heaven.
III. It is probable, therefore, that God granted the gifts of miracles to some lately baptized by John, to do them in the name of the Messias; and that, to lay a plainer way for the receiving of the Messias, when he should manifest himself under the name of 'Jesus of Nazareth.'
See verse 41: In my name, because ye belong to Christ; and chapter 13:6, "Many shall come in my name"; not in the name of Jesus, but in the name of the Messias: for those false prophets assumed to themselves the name of the Messias, to bring to nought the name of Jesus. That, John 16:24, "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name," differs not much from this sense: 'The apostles poured out their prayers, and all the holy men theirs, in the name of the Messias; but ye have as yet asked nothing in my name Jesus,' &c.
43. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
[Cut it off.] "Rabh Mona, in the name of R. Judah, saith, A drop of cold water in the morning [applied to the eye], and the washing of the hands and feet in the evening, is good beyond all the collyrium [eyesalve] in the whole world. For he said, The hand applied to the eye [in the morning, before washing], let it be cut off. The hand applied to the nostril, let it be cut off: the hand put to the ear, let it be cut off," &c.
49. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
[For every one shall be salted with fire.] The great Scaliger is well chastised, and not without cause, by John Cloppenberg, because he changed the reading here into every sacrifice shall be salted. See what he saith.
All, is not to be understood of every man, but of every one of them "whose worm dieth not," &c.
The sense of the place is to be fetched from those words, and the sense of those words from Isaiah 66:24: "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." Upon which place thus the Jews write; "'They shall go forth and look,' &c. Is not the finger of a man, if it be put into the fire, immediately burnt? But God gives power (or being) to wicked men to receive torments." Kimchi upon the place thus: "They shall see the carcases of them full of worms, and fire burning in them": and yet the worms die not.
The words therefore of our Saviour respect this: "Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched; for every one of them shall be seasoned with fire itself, so as to become unconsumable, and shall endure for ever to be tormented, as salt preserves from corruption."
That very learned man mentioned before called the common reading very improper. For what is it, saith he, to season with fire? Let me retort, And what is it to fire with salt? And yet that sense occurs very frequently in the Talmudists. For in them is to burn, (which it signifies properly indeed) and very frequently it is, to corrupt any thing with too much salting, so that it cannot be eaten: to be fired with salt. So in this place, to be salted with fire, that it cannot be corrupted or consumed.
[And every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.] Here the discourse is of salting, which was done at the altar, see Leviticus 2:13: "In the ascent of the altar, they salted the parts of the sacrifice: and on the top of the altar they salt the handful of meal, of frankincense, of incense, and the mincha of the priests, and the mincha of the anointed priest, and the mincha of the drink-offerings, and the sacrifice of birds." Yea, the very wood is a corban of the mincha, and is to be salted.
But in the former clause, the allusion was not to the fire of the altar, but to the fire in the valley of Hinnom, where dead carcases, bones, and other filthy things were consumed. Carcases crawl with worms; and instead of salt which secures against worms, they shall be cast into the fire, and shall be seasoned with flames, and yet the worms shall not die. But he that is a true sacrifice to God shall be seasoned with the salt of grace to the incorruption of glory.
Our Saviour speaks in this place with Isaiah 66:20: They shall bring your brethren out of all the nations for a gift to the Lord,--as the children of Israel offer their sacrifices to me with psalms in the house of the Lord. And verse 24: And they shall go forth, and look upon the limbs of men that transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, &c.
Every sacrifice, saith our Saviour, concerning holy men seasoned with grace: so the prophet, "They shall bring your brethren for a gift to the Lord, as the children of Israel do the sacrifices."
Shall be seasoned with fire, saith our Saviour of wicked men: in the same sense Isaiah, "They shall be in unquenchable fire, and yet their worm shall not die."
Their fire and their worm: whose? Concerning the former, it is somewhat obscure in our Saviour's words, and so, indeed, that it is without all obscurity that he refers his words only to the words of Isaiah: but who they are in Isaiah is plain enough.