11. Lange, Comm. on Matt. p. 418
12. Stier. Red. Jes. vol. iii. 251.
13. See Note A, Part I., on the Double-sense Theory of Interpretation
14. The termination of the Jewish aion in the first century, and of the Roman in the fifth and sixth, were each marked by the same concurrence of calamities, wars, tumults, pestilences, earthquakes, &c., all marking the time of one of God's peculiar seasons of visitation.' 'For the same belief in the connexion of physical with moral convulsion-, see Niebuhr, Leben's Nachrichten, ii. p. 672 Dr. Arnold : See ' Life by Stanley,' vol. i. p. 311.
The Prophecy on the Mount examined:-
I. - The Interrogatory of the Disciples.
Matt. xxiv. 1-3.
'And Jesus went and departed from the temple: with his disciples came to join for to shew him all the buildings of the temple.
' 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 as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these thins be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world' [age] ?
Mark xiii. 1-4.
'And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, what manner of stones and what buildings are here!
' And Jesus answering said unto them, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
'And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 'Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?
Luke xxi. 5-7.
'And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones, and gifts, he said,
'As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
' 'And they asked Him, saying, , Master, but when shall these things be, ? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?'
We may conceive the surprise and consternation felt by the disciples when Jesus announced to them the utter destruction which Was coming upon the temple of God, the beauty and splendour of which had excited their admiration. it is no marvel that four of their number, who seem to have been admitted to more intimate familiarity than the rest, sought for fuller information On a subject so intensely interesting. The only point that requires elucidation here refers to the extent of their interrogatory. St. Mark and St. Luke represent it as having reference to the time of the predicted catastrophe and the sign of As fulfilment coming to pass. St. Matthew varies the form of the question, but evidently gives the same sense, -- ' Tell us, when shall these things be ? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?' Here again it is the time and the sign which form the subject of inquiry. There is no reason whatever to suppose that they regarded in their own minds the destruction of the temple, the coming of the Lord, and the end of the age, as three distinct or widely separated events ; but, on the contrary, it is most natural to suppose that they regarded them as coincident and contemporaneous. What precise idea-, they entertained respecting the end of the age and the events therewith connected, we do not know; but we do know that they had been accustomed to hear their Master speak of His coming again ill His kingdom, coming in His glory, and that within the lifetime of some among themselves. They hall also heard Him speak of the 'end of the age ; ' and they evidently connected His ' coming ' with the end of the three points embraced in file form of their question, is given by St. Matthew, were therefore in their view contemporaneous; and thus we find no practical difference in the terms of the question of the disciples as recorded by the three Synoptists.
II. -- Our Lord's Answer to the Disciples.
(a) Events which more remotely were to precede the consummation.
Matt. xxiv. 4-14.
'And Jesus answered and said unto the, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars : see that ye be not troubled : for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom : and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. 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. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray on another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 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.'
Mark xiii. 5- 13.
'And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you : for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ ; and shall deceive many.
And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows. But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.
Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Luke xxi. 8-19.
And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls.
It is impossible to read this section and fail to perceive its distinct reference to the period between our Lord's crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem. Every word is spoken to the disciples, and to them alone. To imagine that the 'ye' and 'you ' in this address apply, not to the disciples to whom Christ wits speaking, but to some unknown and yet non-existent persons in it far distant age, is so preposterous a supposition is not to deserve serious notice.
That our Lord's words were fully verified during- the interval, between His crucifixion and the end of the age, we have the most ample testimony. False Christs and false prophets began to make their appearance at it very early period of the, Christian era, and continued to infest the land down to the very close, of Jewish history. In the procuratorship of Pilate (A.D. 36), one such appeared in Samaria, and deluded great multitudes. There was another in the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus (A.D. 45). During the government of Felix (53-60), Josephus tells us 'the country was full of robbers, magicians, false prophets, false Messiahs, and impostors' who deluded the People with promises of great events." (1) The same authority informs its that civil commotions and international feuds, were rife in those days, especially between the Jews and their neighbours. In Alexandria, in Selucia, in Syria, in Babylonia, there were violent tumults between the Jews and the Greeks, the Jews and the Syrians, inhabiting, the same cities. 'Every city was divided,' says Josephus, 'into two camps.' In the reign of Caligula great apprehensions were entertained in Judea of war with the Romans, in consequence of that tyrant's proposal to place his statue in the temple. In the reign of the Emperor Claudis (A.D. (41-54), there were four seasons of great scarcity. In the fourth year of his reign the famine in Judea was so severe, that the price of food became enormous and great numbers perished. Earthquakes occurred in each of the reigns of Caligula and Claudius. (2)
Such calamities, the Lord gave His disciples to understand, would precede the 'end.' But they were not its immediate antecedents. They were the 'beginning of the end ; ' but 'the end is not yet.'
At this point (ver. 9-13), our Lord passes from the general to the particular ; from the public to tile personal ; from the fortunes of nations and kingdoms to the fortunes of the disciples themselves. While these events were proceeding, the apostles were to become objects of suspicion to tile ruling powers. They were to be brought before councils, rulers, and kings, imprisoned, beaten in the synagogues, and hated of all men for Jesus' sake,
How exactly all this was verified in the personal experience of the disciples we may read in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles of St. Paul. Yet the divine promise of protection ill the hour of peril was remarkably fulfilled. With the single exception of 'James the brother of John,' no apostle seems to have fallen a victim to the malignant persecution of their enemies tip to the close of the apostolic history, as recorded in the Acts (A.D. 63).
One other sign was to precede and usher in the consummation. 'The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world [oi.koume,ne] for a witness unto all nations and then shall the end come.' We have already adverted to the fulfilment of this prediction within the apostolic age. We have the authority of St. Paul for such a universal diffusion Of tile gospel in his days as to verify the saying of Our Lord. (See Col. 1. 6, 23.) But for this explicit testimony ' from all apostle if, would have been impossible to persuade some expositors that our Lord's words had been in any sense fulfilled previous to the destruction of Jerusalem, it would have been regarded as mere extravagance, and rhodomontade. -Now, however, the objection cannot reasonably be urged.
Here it may be proper to call to mind the note of time, given on a previous occasion to the disciples as indicative of our Lord's coming: 'Verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come' (Matt. x. 23). Comparing this declaration with the prediction before us (Matt. xxiv. 14), we may see the perfect consistency of the two statements, and also the 'terminus ad quem ' in both. In the one ease it is the evangelisation of the land of Israel, in the other, the evangelisation of the Roman empire that is referred to as the precursor of the Parousia. Both statements are true. It might well occupy the space of a generation to carry the glad tidings into every city in the land of Israel. The apostles had not too much time for their home mission, though they had upon their hands so vast a foreign mission. Obviously, we must take the language employed by Paul, as well as by our Lord in a popular sense and it would be unfair to press it to the extremity of the letter. The wide diffusion of the gospel both in the land of Israel and throughout the Roman empire, is sufficient to justify the prediction of our Lord.
Thus far Own we have one continuous discourse, relating to a particular event, and spoken of and to particular persons. We find four signs, or sets of signs, which were to portend the approach of the great catastrophe.
1 . The appearance of false Christs and false prophets.
2. Great social disturbances and natural calamities and convulsions.
3. Persecution of the disciples and apostasy of professed believers.
4. The general publication of the gospel throughout the Roman empire.
This last sign especially betokened the near approach of the 'end.'
(b) Further indications of the approaching doom of Jerusalem
Matt. xxiv. 15-22
'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:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
'And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. '
Mark xiii. 14-20.
'But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
'But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. '
Luke xxi. 20-20.
'And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
'Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
'But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. '
No argument is required to prove the strict and exclusive reference of this section to Jerusalem and Judea. Here we can detect no trace of it double meaning, of primary and ulterior fulfilments, of underlying and typical senses. Everything is national, local, and near :- 'the land ' is the land of Judea,-' this people ' is the people of Israel,-and the ' time the lifetime of the disciples,--' When YE therefore Shall See.'
Most expositors find an allusion to the standards of the Roman legions in the expression, "the abomination of desolation" and the explanation is highly probable. The eagles were the objects of religious worship to the soldiers ; and the parallel passage in St. Luke is all but conclusive evidence that this is the true meaning. We know from Josephus that the attempt of a Roman general (Vitellius), in the reign of Tiberius, to march his troops through Judea, was resisted by the Jewish authorities, on the ground that the idolatrous images on their ensigns would be a profanation of the law. (3) How much greater the profanation when those idolatrous emblems were displayed in full view of the temple and the Holy City ! This was the last token which portended that the hour of doom for Jerusalem had come. Its appearance was to he the. signal to all in Judea to escape beyond the mountains for then would ensue a period of misery and horror without a parallel in the annals of time.
That the 'great tribulation' (Matt. xxiv. 21) has express reference to the dreadful calamities attending the siege of Jerusalem, which bore With such peculiar severity on the female sex, is too evident to be questioned. That those calamities were literally unparalleled, can easily be believed by al1 who have read the ghastly narrative in the pages of Josephus. It is remarkable that the historian begins his account of the Jewish war with the affirmation, 'that the aggregate of human woes from the beginning of the world, would, in his opinion, be light in comparison with those of the Jews., (4)
The following graphic description introduces the tragic story of the wretched mother, whose horrible repast may have been in our Saviour's thoughts when he uttered the words recorded in Matt, xxiv. 19 :
'Incalculable was the multitude of those who perished in famine in the city -, and beyond description the sufferings they endured. In every house, if anywhere there appeared but the shadow of food, a conflict ensued ; those united by the tenderest ties fiercely contending, and snatching from one another the miserable supports of life. Nor were even the dying allowed the credit of being in want ; nay, even those. who were just expiring the brigands would search, lest, any, with food concealed under a fold of his garment, should feign death. Gaping with hunger, as maddened dogs, they went staggering to and fro and prowling about assailing the doors like drunken men, and in bewilderment rushing into the same house twice, or thrice in one hour. The cravings of nature led them to gnaw anything, and what would be rejected by the Very filthiest or the brute creation they were fain to collect and eat. Even from their belts and shoes they were at length unable to refrain, and they tore off find chewed the very leather of their shields. To some, wisps of old hay served for food ; for the fibres were gathered, and the smallest quantities sold for four Attic pieces.
' But why speak of the famine as despising restraint in the use of inanimate, When I am about to state an instance of it to which, in the history of Greeks or Barbarians, no parallel is to be found, and which is horrible to relate, and is incredible to hear? Gladly , indeed would I have omitted to mention the occurrence, lest I Should be thought by future generations to deal in the marvellous, had I not innumerable witnesses among my contemporaries. I should, besides, pay my country but a cold compliment, were I to suppress the narration of the woes which she actually suffered.' (5)
That our Lord had in view the horrors which were to befall the Jews in the siege, and not any subsequent events it the end of time, is perfectly clear from the closing words of ver. 21-' No, nor ever shall be.'
(c) The disciples warned against false prophets.
MATT. xxiv. 23-28.
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 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. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
Mark xiii. 21-23.
And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.