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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 24

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-51

CHAPTER 20

COMING OF THE LORD

Matthew 24; Matthew 25; Mark 13; Luke 21. It is now in the afternoon, on Wednesday, preceding the arrest of our Savior about midnight the ensuing day, and His crucifixion the Friday following. He had spent the morning preaching to the multitudes on the Temple Campus, bidding a final adieu to the temple and its holy environments, prophesying the desolation of the temple, city, and land, and assuring them that they will see Him no more until they shall say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord;” i.e., till He comes in His glory, and the elect remnant, gathered from the ends of the earth, will thus salute their Savior, Brother, King. Having preached to the Greeks at the gate as He came out, now He goes away to the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. We are gratified to have. this wonderful sermon, which, at this time and place, He preached to His disciples about His return to the earth, recorded by three of His faithful amanuenses. As we proceed we will endeavor, aided by the Spirit, to give you the full benefit of this triple record. Matthew 24:1 : “Jesus having gone out, departed from the temple; and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple.” From Mount Olivet we enjoy, not only a conspicuous view of Jerusalem, but especially of the entire Temple Campus, containing thirty-five acres, occupied by many great and valuable buildings now, and more at that time.

Luke 21:5. “Certain ones speaking concerning the temple that it was ornamented with beautiful stones and offerings, He said, The days shall come in which not a stone shall be left upon a stone, which shall not be thrown down.” In that day they had no banks, gold and silver and other valuables being frequently hidden away for safe-keeping. When the city was destroyed, the Roman soldiers tore up the very foundations of the temple, searching for hidden treasures, thus verifying this prophecy of Jesus.

Mark 13:3. “He, sitting on the Mount of Olives in front of the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately” ( Matthew 24:3), “Tell us when these things shall be, and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and the end of the age.” E. V. says “the end of the world.” Our Lord did not say kosmos, “world,” but aion, “age.” The same word means time. The E. V. translation, “end of the world,” has given currency to the popularidea that this world is going to have an end and be consumed — i.e., annihilated, blotted out of existence — which is contradictory of Scripture, which plainly teaches another age following this (Matthew 12:32, and Hebrews 6:4), the glorious Millennial Theocracy succeeding the present age, which will also be followed by the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21), when this lost planet (Luke 15) shall take its place with Other celestial worlds, the especial reward of the meek (Matthew 5:5), to possess, shine, and shout with the unfallen angels forever.

“And Jesus, responding, said to them, Beware lest any one may deceive you. For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and will deceive many.” I am a personal witness to the fulfillment of this prophecy, several persons in the last score of years having actually claimed to be Christ. Soon after His ascension, many made their appearance in Palestine, and other Oriental countries, claiming to be Christ e.g., Theudas; Simon Magus, Marchocab, and others. As the times of our Lord’s second coming draws nigh, doubtless many false Christs will arise.

“And you will be about to hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not shaken: for it behooveth all these things to take place, but the end is not, yet.” Pretty soon it was rumored that the Emperor Tiberius, and after him Caligula and Nero, were going to make war on the Jews, as they threatened them because of the commotions prevalent among them. Here you see that Jesus puts them on their guard against the idea that those terrible Jewish wars, commotions, and revolutions, which put an end to the Jewish state and Church at the expiration of forty years should be mistaken by them as ominous of the end of the age, which will not come till Jesus in person returns.

“For nation shall rise up against nation and kingdom; there shall be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. But all these are the beginning of birth-pangs.” Odinon (“sorrows,” E. V.) literally means “birth- pangs” — i.e., the pains and acute sufferings characteristic of parturition — and has a deep significance as here used by the Savior. The awful death- agonies of the drowning antediluvians proved the birth-pangs of the new- born postdiluvian world. The terrible death-shock when the destroying angel winged his flight into every Egyptian home, slaying the first-born, was the birth-pangs of a great nation, as Israel that very hour issued from the dark womb of. Egyptian slavery, and took her place among the nations of the earth. So the awful death-roll of a million Jews, when the Romans destroyed the city, was the birth-pangs of the glorious Gospel Dispensation, unfurling the banner of Redeeming Grace to the whole Gentile world. In a similar manner, the death-agonies of the human powers, when the Ancient of Days shall descend and execute righteous judgments against all the usurpers of His royal throne, shaking down the false claimants and clearing the way for the coronation of His Son, King of Kings and Lord of lords (Daniel 7:9), deluging the world with blood and heaping it with mountains of the dead (Revelation 16-19), will prove the birth-pangs of the glorious millennium, restoring Eden back to earth, and imprisoning Satan in the dungeons of the pandemonium.

Mark 13:9. “But you, take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up into the Sanhedrins, and you shall be beaten in the synagogues.” You see, those are Jewish punishments. “And you shall stand before governors and kings for My name’s sake, for a testimony unto them.” These are Gentile punishments. Paul, in Cyprus, testified before Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul, and was instrumental in his conversion. He also testified before Felix, at Caesarea, who rejected his testimony. The martyrdom of Stephen, soon after Pentecost, lifted the flood-gate, and poured in on them rivers of blood, the Jews making every possible effort to exterminate them. This world is no friend to grace. The apostles all suffered martyrdom among the Gentiles except the two Jameses.

Mark 13:11. “And when they may lead you forth, delivering you up, do not be solicitous what you shall say, nor premeditate; but whatsoever may be given unto you in that hour, speak this: for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Ghost.”

Luke 21:15. “For I will give unto you a. mouth and wisdom, which all those who are opposed shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” This has been literally verified by the martyrs in all ages, pagan Roman historians certifying that the executioners, in the bloody work; of martyrdom, were frequently so convicted by the testimony of the dying saints that they confessed Christ on the spot, becoming willing and heroic subjects of the martyr’s fate.

Luke 21:16-17 . “And you shall be delivered up by your parents, brothers, kindred, and. friends; and they will put some of you to death.

And you shall be hated by all for my name’s sake.” During the martyr ages; most shocking scenes, as above described, were common, the nearest relatives of consanguinity testifying against one another as the only way of escape from bloody death, since the persecutors would take the whole family if they did not thus deliver up the confessors of Christianity.

Matthew 24:10. “And then many will be offended;” i.e., backslide, and repudiate Christ, in order to save their lives. This was always the case during the martyr ages, many thus recanting to save their lives, and resuming their places in the Church after the persecutionary wave rolled by. “And they will deliver one another and hate one another. Many false prophets shall rise and deceive many.” A false prophet is a counterfeit preacher, who preaches a religion that lets Adam the First not only live, but have a very good time; while the true Christianity always slays Agag. Carnal, anti-holiness religion is never persecuted, from the simple fact that Satan has no objection to it. “Because iniquity doth abound, the Divine love of many doth wax cold.” While this has had its fulfillment in all ages, its verification has been overwhelming in the last quarter of a century. I can remember well when no man could preach Holy Ghost religion too straight, strong, and hot to suit Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. O what a change! You will now generally find them, not only in a North Pole atmosphere, but in many instances actually so opposed to fire:: that they can not stand a red-hot testimony. You all see this confirmation of the near approach of the end, Jesus being the Witness. “But he that continueth to the end, the same shall be saved.” Lord, help us to be true, as the promise is only to the finally faithful! “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world for a testimony to all nations; and then the end shall come.” This is very plain and explicit. He has fortified His disciples against the idea that the end of all things will take place with the destruction of Jerusalem. N. B. — Jesus had in His mind, and at that time saw in panorama, not only the wonderful events coming on so quickly — not only destroying Jerusalem, but annihilating the Jewish polity — but also the end of the age; i.e., the winding up of the gospel dispensation, though the time of the latter, being then a long way off, had not been revealed to Him. Again, you must remember that a few centuries in the Divine mind are but fleeting moments. Consequently the events connected with the destruction of the Jewish State and Church insensibly blend with those transpiring at the end of the Gentile times. Here you see the clear and unequivocal affirmation that the end of the age will come so soon as the gospel of the kingdom shall have been preached to all nations. Two years ago there were regions in Africa and Asia — i.. e., Thibet and Rangoon in the latter, and the Soudan in the former — where no missionary had ever been, so far as we know. Since that time the missionaries have reached all of these countries. So we do not know that there is any nation on the earth now which has never received the gospel, as so many great countries in Asia and Africa, where once the gospel flourished, are now missionary grounds, wrapped in the darkness of idolatry and the False Prophet. You see, as God is the Judge of the witness, we can not ascertain to what extent the gospel must be preached in any nation in order to develop the required testimony. When Jesus returns, in glory to reign over the whole earth, He must have the charter members for His kingdom in every nation, as the different nations of the earth will be perpetuated in their integrity, in the diversified countries which they now occupy, through the millennium. Of course, the saints of bygone ages, who represent these nations that once had the gospel, but have it not now, are not dead, but living in heaven, and ready to return with Jesus, and receive their glorified bodies in the first resurrection, at the beginning of the millennium. (Revelation 20:6) For ought we know, they are sufficient : for the Divine testimony in behalf of the nations which they represent. The exceedingly rapid spread of the gospel among the heathen at the present time is certainly a most cheering omen of the Lord’s near coming. While it may seem strange, yet it is true, that the phenomenal apostasy of the Protestant Churches in the last few years is an equally striking fulfillment of the latter-day prophecies (2 Thessalonians 2), and convincing manifestation that the Lord is nigh.

Luke 21:18-19 . “Not a hair of your head can perish. In your patience gain your souls.” What thrilling inspirations to the perseverance of the saints! We actually gain our souls by patiently suffering and toiling to the end, with the blessed assurance that if we will be true, no spiritual detriment whatever shall overtake us.

DOOM OF JERUSALEM AND ESCAPE OF THE DISCIPLES

Matthew 24:15-18. “Therefore when you may see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet [Daniel 9:27], standing in the holy place, let the one reading take notice then; let those who are in Judea go. to the mountains; and let him who is on the housetop not come down to take things out of his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his garments.” A. D. 66, Gallus, the Roman general, laid siege to Jerusalem, succeeded, A. D. 68, by Vespasian, the emperor, who was succeeded by his son Titus, A. D. 71, who prosecuted the war to its awful end, as the Jews were divided into bloody factions, and were killing one another, and would not surrender to the Romans. Read Josephus, and you will find the horrors of the siege beggared all description — famine raging, people dying in piles; pestilence, arising from the putrefying corpses, sweeping the city with the besom of destruction far more terrific than the sword, which was also devouring them on all sides, till a solid million perished, and a million more were sold into slavery, the city utterly destroyed and left without an inhabitant. After fifty years a Roman colony was founded on the memorable site where Jerusalem once stood, even the name being dropped, and the new Roman city was called Elia Capitolina the ensuing two centuries, till the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, who came thither, revived the city, and restored the sacred name, Jerusalem. When the Roman armies effected all entrance through the walls, they at once set up their battle-flags on the Holy Campus, on the summit of. Moriah, taking possession of the temple and all the holy places. This was the “abomination of desolation” “abomination,” because the Roman gods were pictured on it, and the soldiers worshipped them as they looked on the flags; and “desolation,” because those battle-flags meant the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus notified His disciples that the moment they saw these Roman battle-flags floating from the pinnacles of the temple, they should all recognize it as the signal for, them to make their escape. Their flight was to be so sudden that, if on the housetop, they were not. to come down. N. B. — You can now run all over Jerusalem on the flat roofs of the houses, as the narrow streets are overarched, the buildings being continuous, jam up to the wall, which is a part of the contiguous edifice. Consequently they could run to the wall on the roofs of the houses and pass down, thus making their escape, which must be sudden and expeditious, or they would be intercepted and detained. This is a vivid symbolism of the rapture of. the saints at the end of the age.

Luke 21:22. “Because these are the days of vengeance, to fulfill all things which have been written.” Josephus says that a sword, suspended from the pinnacle of the firmament, was visible in the blue sky, hanging over the city a whole year before this awful siege. He also says that a strange man walked upon the walls of the city some time before the siege, crying aloud, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” continuing. there to walk and utter this awful sentence of coming doom till a stone struck him and he fell dead.

Matthew 24:19-22. “Woe to those who are in gestation and nursing in those days!” The pure, tender heart of His unfallen humanity thus gives expression to the deepest sympathy in behalf of all thus encumbered in those terrible perils. “Pray that your flight may not be in a storm, nor on the Sabbath.” Jerusalem is only forty miles from the great sea, two thousand miles long and continuous from: the ocean of five thousand miles, thus giving the western storms a tremendous sweep, and the city is five thousand feet above the sea-level. Consequently storms at Jerusalem are terrible. I was in one which, as they all do, had come from the sea. Though they have but little effect on the stone houses, I found it difficult to stand and move about. Besides, these storms are not only wind, but rain, carried from the sea which is so nigh. Again, they were not protected with clothing as we are, there being no factories in that day. As to the Sabbath, so punctiliously was it kept in Jerusalem that the gates of the city were closed. Hence the probability of their being shut in. “For then there shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world until now, neither may be.” We do not understand this statement to antagonize the probability of the great Gentile tribulation, as the Jewish was preliminary to it, and really will culminate in it. “Unless those days were shortened, no flesh were saved.”

Mark 13:20. “But on account of the elect, whom He hath elected, He shortened those days.” You must remember, not only some of the elect of grace were there, who doubtless afterward got saved, but a special reference is here made to the elect of Israel, the recipients of the infallible promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, who in due time will be restored, and eventually saved and sanctified, and become the honored recipients of their Brother King, coming in His glory in the last day. They were there in that awful siege and must be saved.

Luke 21:24. “They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captives into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles may be fulfilled.” Much of this wonderful prophetical verse has been fulfilled, while things of profoundest moment are yet in the future. Jerusalem is still trodden down by the Gentiles, but, as you see here, destined to be relieved when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. When our Lord returns on the throne of His glory, the elect of Israel will have possession of Jerusalem, and come again to the front of the world, there to remain. Now, what about these Gentile times?

When did they begin, and when will they end? God’s plan was to rule the world. Man was dissatisfied with Divine rule, rejected the government of God, preferring human administration. When Nebuchadnezzar conquered the world, he captured Jerusalem, and carried away the Jews, B. C. 587. So at that date the last vestige of the Theocracy disappeared, the whole world falling into the hands of a heathen monarch. I doubt not but Nebuchadnezzar was the most competent man in the world to rule it, and consequently God gave it to him when He saw that the people would have human government and reject the Divine. You remember (Daniel 4) how Nebuchadnezzar became so utterly crazy that he vacated his throne, followed the predilections of his boyhood, dwelt among the herds and flocks seven years, so utterly insane that he all this time played king among them, thus illustrating the utter incompetency of any man to rule a nation, a responsibility to which none but God is equal. (Simultaneously symbolizing the Divine interregnum in the world’s government on the part of the Eden Theocracy.) This insanity lasted seven years, which, according to the year-day system of prophetical interpretation thoroughly established in the Bible, — this period, according to lunar time, which is measured by the revolutions of the moon and 354 days in the year, the seven years equal 2748; the planetary chronology, 360 days in the year = 2520;, and the solar time, 365 days in the. year, equal 2555. Now, lot us see how much time has elapsed since the beginning of the Gentile times: B. C. 587+1900=2487. Now, you see, 2487-2478=9. Hence you see, according to lunar time, the times of the Gentiles are just about to run out, only lacking nine years.

Now, if you count the tribulation as Daniel gives it (Daniel 12:11-12), 1335-1290=45, the years of the tribulation (which, as you see from the above, are very likely to be shortened, for the sake of the elect of grace as well as that of Israel), 45-9=36. Hence you see, according to lunar time, the tribulation is even now overdue thirty-six years. Planetary time, 2520- 2487=33. Now, 45-33=12. Hence you see, the calendar time makes the tribulation overdue twelve years. Now, the solar time, 2555-2487=68- 45=23. Hence you see that the solar chronology makes the rapture due in 23 years, the calendar chronology makes it overdue 12 years, and the lunar makes the rapture of the saints overdue 36 years. Of course, no man knows the exact chronology, and consequently no human being can ascertain the day of His coming.

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end; many shall run to and from, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12:4)

When Daniel saw these wonderful visions of the latter days and the end of all things, he was so wrought upon and thrilled with solicitude to understand his own vision that he fainted. You see in this verse that he is commanded to shut up the words and seal the book till the time of the end, when the mystery will be revealed, and “many shall run to and fro,” publishing it to all nations. I gather from the above chronologies, and other Scriptural sources, that we are living now in the “time of the end,” when the Holy Spirit is opening these latter-day prophecies to His saints, who are running to the ends of the earth proclaiming the good news. I have traveled twenty thousand miles within the last year, through Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, and of course much of the time on the seas, and with many different nations. I find the saints in all my travels on the outlook for the Lord’s appearing, and publishing the glad news in every land. I am abundantly satisfied, for a thousand good reasons, that we are nearing the close of the “Gentile times” and the wonderful fulfillment of these thrillingly interesting latter-day prophecies. Of course, we appoint no time for our Lord to appear. But it is right and proper, and His positive mandate, for us to be incessantly on the lookout. As our Lord here quotes largely from Daniel, it is impossible to restrict these prophecies to the destruction of Jerusalem, as Daniel’s grand theme is the “end of all things.” While the former is preliminary, the latter is the grand moment of our Lord’s discourse.

Matthew 24:23-29. “Then if any one may say, Behold, here is Christ, or there; believe them not. For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and give forth great signs and wonders, so if possible to deceive even the elect. Behold, I have told you.” Christ did not come in His glorified person at the destruction of Jerusalem. Here He warns His disciples not to be deceived by the bold claimants who arose in those times, or may arise in any other age. Here you see plainly the possibility of deceiving even the elect. Consequently Jesus gives the elect this timely warning to watch and pray, and diligently heed His plain words, which will prove an ample fortification against delusion. “Therefore if they may say to you, Behold, He is in the desert; go not out. Behold, He is in the secret chambers; believe them not.” As many false Christs arose in the Jewish times, so they will in the Gentile times.

“For as the lightning comes from the east, and shines even unto the west, so shall be the coming of the Son of man.” This is a perfect fortification against all the delusions of impostors, which would prove our ruin. Now, you see plainly that you need not heed anybody who says, “He has come; He is in New York, or London, or in the wilderness of Judea.” I have met persons who actually told me thus, certifying that He has come in His glory. You see from His own unmistakable statement, that when He comes, we will all know it, because a great light, like sheet lightning, will suddenly sweep athwart the firmament, lighting up every sky with the splendor of His glory, and flashing into every human eye. “Every eye shall behold Him.” (Revelation 1:7)

“For where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” The vulture belongs to the eagle species, and is evidently here referred to as always voraciously feeding upon carrion. At that time the Jewish State- Church had reached such a culmination of political and ecclesiastical corruption that she was already odorizing the elements, and attracting the vultures from afar. Within forty years those revolutionary fires, then rankling in the deep interior of her putrefying vitals, burst forth into a terrific volcano, disgorging the fiery venom of internal corruption, and transforming into an awful whirlpool, swallowing up her time-honored institutions into the oblivion of an eternal night, and actually annihilating the Jewish polity forever. This awful catastrophe, which overtook and obliterated the Jewish politico-ecclesiasticism, is but the brilliant scintillation of the oncoming conflagration destined to over take the Gentile world.

These eagles emblematize the destroying angels, who shall accompany the Ancient of Days when He shall descend from heaven on the throne of righteous, retributive judgment, sweeping from the earth every rival of His Son. (Daniel 7:9-14.)

“Thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.” (Daniel 7:10)

It does not take a philosopher to see the patent and indisputable fact that Church and State are rapidly deteriorating. This means something tremendously significant. The accumulation of diseases in a physical body can only end in dissolution. Why should men cry, “Peace, peace,”, when there is no peace? You see political and ecclesiastical corruption increasing on all sides. This is one of the most indubitable omens of the rapidly- approaching end of the Gentile age. We see it in America, to our unutterable sorrow; while in the Old World it is actually inconceivably worse. Every tendency has a culmination, when Divine intervention will produce a reaction. The antediluvians became more and more corruption the flood overtook them. This deterioration continued to develop more and more among the Jews, till the old carcass became so stenchy as to attract the Roman eagles to the carrion banquet. All Scripture points to a similar culmination of the present age. Christian men are everywhere becoming heart-sick of the political and ecclesiastical corruption we see everywhere rampant. Olfactories must be very obtuse not to detect the putrefaction already so alarmingly developed in the body, both political and ecclesiastical. Methinks the vultures of the great tribulation are already flapping their pinions, eager to light down upon the carcass and voraciously devour the prey. Even here, in America, the best country in the world, candid men are everywhere bewailing the political corruption, and recognizing the distressing fact that office and emolument are sought, pre- eminently and recklessly, at the sacrifice of truth, honor, and right.

“Immediately after the desolation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the firmament, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” (Isaiah 13:9-10, and Joel 3:15)

These allusions to the heavenly bodies are very common among the prophets, the sun symbolizing the kings, the moon the queens, and the stars the subordinate rulers. Heaven frequently means the firmament enveloping the globe. The powers of the heavens — i.e., firmaments — indicate the secular powers, ruling the nations of. the earth. Our Savior here prominently quotes Daniel, who says, “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit.” (Daniel 7:9)

Luke 21:25-26 . “There shall be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; commotion of the nations upon the earth in their bewilderment; the sea and the wave roaring; the souls of men failing them, on account of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the world.” In connection with the universal commotions and disturbances of the nations, kings tottering upon their thrones, princes falling from the dizzy heights to which political ambition has climbed, and ecclesiastical rulers appalled with revolution and dismay, Luke here also speaks of strange and extraordinary phenomena of the sea, operating to the augmentation of the universal discomfiture and dissolution, evidently involving the conclusion that oceanic inundations, rolling waves of tremendous and unprecedented altitude over the maritime cities, will doubtless destroy millions. You must remember that these prophecies are parallel with John’s Armageddon. (Revelation 16-19)

Matthew 24:30-31. “Then shall the sign of the Son of man appear in the sky.” We must not confound this sign with the Lord Himself, as it is entirely different and distinct. What it is, is not revealed. When He came the first time, He was preceded by the star in the East, seen by the wise men. Analogy certainly favors the conclusion that this sign will be something after the order of that star. As His second coming will be infinitely more demonstrative than the first, doubtless this sign, though of the stellar type, will be like a great comet, sweeping through the sky and leaving its train girdling the globe; lighting up the world, and attracting the gaze of earth’s panic-stricken millions. This sign is evidently identical with the “lightning coming from the east, and shining even unto the west.” (Matthew 24:27.) While the sign will precede the personal appearance of our Lord, we know there will be no interval between them, the premonitory sign lingering in the firmament till the glorious King, descending on a white cloud, shall actually again enter the realm of vision, where “every eye shall behold Him.” (Revelation 1:7) “Then shall all the tribes of the earth wail, and see the Son of man coming in the clouds of the firmament, with power and great glory.” Having waited through all the long, rolling ages for the “tribes of the earth” to get ready to meet Him with a joyous shout, riding; down on a snowy-white cloud as He went up (Acts 1:11), now the centuries have flown, and the appointment of the Father has arrived. The Son in His glory returns, and all the tribes of the earth weep and wail when they see Him. Does this look like the millennium is coming before our Lord comes and brings it? If the millennium were girdling the globe with the glory of God, all the tribes of the earth would run to meet Him with a shout. This is positive proof that the world will get worse to the end, as you see here there will not be so much as a righteous tribe in all the earth, because they shall all see Him, and “wail at Him.”

“And He will send forth His angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from the extremities of the firmaments unto the extremities of the same.” Here you all see the rapture of the saints. Rapture means taking up. The word is here clear and specific — the angels will gather up the elect from every land and clime, from Abel down to the living generation. You. see here all the tribes of the earth will be awfully disappointed, affrighted, and panic-stricken when the Lord appears. But not so with the elect. O what an exultant hour that will be, when the resurrection angels meet the elect, and embrace them in their pinions of light and arms of love! Reader, be sure that you settle this matter without further delay. If a light should flash round the world, and our glorified Savior descend into view, what would you do? Would you join the wailing of all the tribes of the earth, or join the shout of God’s elect? How can I know that I am one of the elect? There is only one way; of election, and that is through “sanctification of the Spirit.” (1 Peter 1:2) The Holy Spirit always witnesses to His work in the heart. If sin is dead in you, rest assured, you have already found it out. A dead man never kicks nor strikes back. Plug him full of bullets; and he does not feel them. Entire sanctification is the most knowable of all experiences. It always tells its own story. I tremble for the preacher who opposes our preaching on the coming of the Lord. I am afraid he is not ready, and consequently disquieted by such preaching. To melt is the most inspiring theme. I am looking for Him constantly. “Then are you not disappointed while He tarrieth?” That could not be, since my will is lost in His will. Consequently there is no disappointment.

Luke 21:28. “These things beginning to take placer straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draweth nigh.” Here our Savior represents the widowed Church bowed clown with sorrow during her bereavement, and terribly persecuted by the devil, and all of this time longing, waiting, and watching for the return of her Heavenly Consort. Now: that He actually comes, He rings the shout round the world, “Straighten up your curved back, and lift high your head, for I am here!” Now lie assures us that our redemption is nigh. Do you not know that redemption means the transfiguration of soul and body, even our translation to heaven? O what a glory! What an inconceivable sunburst upon the saints of all ages will the return of our glorified Savior bring to earth l This redemption includes, not only the transfiguration and translation of the living saints, but the glorious resurrection of the dead. Thus the whole body of the Lord’s elect who have trodden the globe from the days of Eden — soul and body — are glorified, the dead raised, and the living translated, and all gloriously transfigured into the similitude of His own glorious body. (Philippians 3:20) Be sure you take the safe side, and get to where, instead of weeping and wailing, you will meet the Lord with a shout.

Matthew 24:32-35. “Learn the parable from the fig-tree: When her branch may be tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh. Thus when you may see all these things, know that it is even at the door.” While no one knows the day of His coming, we must all be very stupid if we do not recognize the “time of the end.” Daniel Says that at the “time of the end,” the book of this latter-day prophecy shall be opened, and “many will run to and fro,” telling its wonderful contents and shouting to the people, “The Lord is nigh!” You see from the parable of the fig-tree that we can know, beyond the possibility of doubt, the time of the end, as every one call tell by the fig-tree that the summer is nigh. Satan’s reign of six thousand years has been a long, dreary night. Praise the Lord, the millennial day is breaking! The morning-star now hails the approaching Sun of righteousness. Uniformly in the Scriptures the Jewish people are represented by a fig-tree, as. in the parable here alluded to. The awful blight came on them when they rejected their Christ, and O how they withered from the face of the earth! Fifteen years ago there were not more than ten thousand Jews in all Palestine. When. I was there last November and December, I was informed by the most knowing people of that country that there are now two hundred thousand-fifty-five thousand in Jerusalem alone, more than all who returned under Nehemiah out of, Babylonian captivity. O how they are making that land to flourish, and the delicious fruits of Canaan to abound wherever they get, it into hand!

“Truly I say unto you, that. This race can not pass away until all things may be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words can not pass away.” The E. V. translation, “This generation shall not, pass,” has puzzled many. Genea, means “race” as well as “generation,” while the verb is in the subjective mode. So you see, with the above translation, the difficulties all get away. As to the firmament and the earth passings away, of course they will in their present form, this being no conflict with the prophetic revelation of the new, heaven (firmament) and new earth. (Revelation 21) The Roman armies did their best to exterminate the Jews. All nations have conspired in the persecution of Abraham’s children. They have endured all conceivable outlawry, disfranchisement, and oppression, scathed and peeled by all the nations of Europe. Yet they are a separate and distinct race of people, numbering seventy millions while all their contemporaries of bygone ages have faded from the face of the earth, and the mighty nations of olden times, who used to meet them on the battle-field, long ago sunk into oblivion. The Jews in every age have been the most industrious, enterprising, and aggressive people in all the world. Robbed of their country, no land beneath the skies on which to rest their weary feet, practical tramps in the earth, they have outstripped all nations in the accumulation of wealth, becoming the richest people in the world, holding the purse of the nations, and ruling their kings by their money power; standing at the front of the learned professions, climbing to the acme of the world’s learning, and leading all the greatest universities of the globe. The Hand of the Almighty is on them. The elect of Israel is among them, and O how wonderfully they are now getting ready for the metropolitanship of the globe during the glorious Millennial Theocracy, When they shall again, as in bygone ages, stand at the front Of the world l How wonderful are the signs of His coming among His own consanguinity! Surely the fig-tree has again begun to revive, and the summer is nigh. Not only among the Jews, but among Moslems, Romanists, and Protestants, the signs of His coming are exceedingly rife.

Mark 13:32. “But concerning that day or hour no one knows; neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, except the Father.” “The periods and epochs hath the Father retained in His own authority.” (Acts 1:7) While Jesus saw the entire panorama of the world moving before Him, the time of His coming had not then been revealed to Him by the Father, as it was not necessary, being then a long way off. There is no doubt but Jesus has long known the very time of His glorious coming, it having been revealed to Him since His ascension. You see from this Scripture that all appointments of the time are fanaticism, because neither man nor angel knows it. Yet we should not run into fanaticism on the other horn of the dilemma, and lose our appreciation of the wonderful and glorious latter-day prophecies, which are so helpful to our experiences and so conducive to a tiptoe anticipation of His coming, which is so eminently qualified to make us unworldly, spiritual, heavenly-minded, faithful, and obedient, looking well to our attitude before God, and every moment solving the problem, “Am I ready to meet King Jesus, coming in a cloud?”

Matthew 24:37-41. “But as the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the Son of man. For as they were in the days before the flood, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came and took them all; so shall be the coming of the Son of man.” Only one family was taken up from the earth, fortunate to escape the devouring deluge. Does this look like the world is getting better? You see from this that comparatively few of the world’s population at the time of the Lord’s coming will go up in the cloud, along with the glorious Antitype of Noah’s Ark. The Church (not the sects) is getting better; but the world is like a diseased man, who gets worse till he dies, thus becoming a carcass for the vultures to eat. We are called pessimists by the progressionists, who call themselves optimists. They misrepresent us. A pessimist is one who believes things are getting worse, while the optimist claims that they are getting better. I am both — an optimist on grace, believing that the true saints are getting better and multiplying in the earth; but that the world, like the devil, its god (2 Corinthians 4:4), is getting worse, as all finitudes are progressive. While the World is fast moving down to hell, the saints, with joyful expedition; are going up to heaven. Never in all the ages did the people of God enjoy so much light on the Bible, and study it so generally and exhaustively as now. While Noah, a hundred and twenty years, pleaded with the antediluvians to get ready for the coming flood, they treated him with contempt. O what a striking verification do we see in the heedless disregard of this wicked world, with its anti-holiness Churches, and the contempt east upon the Lord’s coming and upon that “holiness without which no man shall see Him,” except to weep and wail!

“Then shall two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left. Two women grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left.” Here we have specifications of the rapture again. In this wonderful sermon, which our Savior preached to His disciples on Mount Olivet in the afternoon of the day preceding His arrest by His enemies, we have three distinct judgments: That of the Jews, from which, pursuant to His instructions, the disciples were taken, flying away to the mountains, making their escape to Pella, beyond the Jordan, and surviving to preach the gospel to the world. Then we have the pre-millennial judgment, from which, as you here see, the Lord will take away the elect. (V. 31.) How natural and simple our Savior’s description of the rapture when He comes! Two men, working out on the farm, a saint and a sinner — the former is translated, like Enoch and Elijah; and the latter is left to take chances in the tribulation. Two women are grinding with the little hand-mill in the house, so common in that country

— one is suddenly invested with the transfiguration body and translated, flying up to join the mighty host of saints and angels descending with Him in that majestic cloud, broad as the firmament, and bright as the pure, white light. You will see before we wind up this sermon that the final judgment takes all, leaving none on the earth.

Mark 13:33. “Behold, watch and pray; for you know not when the time is. As a man going away, leaving his house, and giving authority to his servants, and to each one his work, commanded the porter that he must watch.” The porter is the doorkeeper of the Church; i.e., the pastor, evangelist, and Christian worker, who gathers the lost souls from Satan’s kingdom and leads them to Jesus, who is the Door, and thus escorts them into the kingdom of God. Jesus commands this porter to be on the constant outlook for His return.

“Watch therefore: for you know not when the lord of the house cometh, late [i.e., during the large hours; nine to twelve], or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning.” Here our Lord specifies all the time we are likely to sleep, putting us on our guard to be on the constant outlook. David says, “I sleep, but my heart waketh.” So, while the body is wrapped in ambrosial slumber, the soul should be on perpetual outlook for the Lord to come.

“Lest having come suddenly, He may find you: sleeping. But what I say to you, I say to all, Watch,” How dares any one speak or write a word calculated to make people unwatchful for the Lord’s sudden coming? The post-millennialist believes that a thousand years’ millennium has to come in before the appearing of the Lord. Consequently he can not be on the: lookout for Him to come now. Any doctrine or theory which is out of harmony with God’s plain Word is false., He believed: that the millennium had to come and abide a thousand years before the coming of the Lord, I could not look for Him now. I am glad I do not believe that, nor anything else which disqualifies me to obey the positive commandments of Jesus, as I know that everything antagonistical to His plain Word is untrue. I am glad I have no creed to sustain. If the creeds are true, they do not need my poor help; if untrue, they do not deserve it. I have no theory to sustain; and if I had any, I would throw it away, being more than satisfied with the simple Word of the Lord. If you can not get up and preach in such a way as to encourage the people, and exhort them to be on the constant outlook for Jesus to come in His glory with the mighty angels, and take away the elect, you are out of harmony with His plain and unmistakable. Word. Your poor little theories, notions, and creeds will not be mentioned at the judgment- bar, unless to condemn you; but you will be judged by this Word just as it is. It is bad enough for the worldly Churches to preach human creeds and antagonize the Word of God; but holiness people forfeit their shibboleth if they do not take the Bible, all of it, and believe and preach it, fearless of men and devils. If the holiness movement is not on this line, she has forfeited her birthright, and is ready for a decent interment. I am glad that God has a grand army, now girdling the globe, who believe and preach everything written in the blessed Book, and are not going to be intimidated by ecclesiastical autocrats and critics.

Luke 21:34-36. “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts may be burdened with gluttony, and drunkenness, and worldly cares, and that day may come upon you unexpected.” O what valuable and timely admonition! While we have about a hundred thousand drunkards. every year going down to the drunkard’s hell, do you know that we Americans are a nation of gluttons, bringing on a thousand diseases by sheer gormandizing, even holiness preachers paying fifty cents a meal instead of one dime, which would get them all a king could want, while the people of India are starving to death in piles? Will not the holiness people wake up, and give the world an example of temperance, appertaining to eating as well as drinking, teaching them that hygienic living, so indispensable to health and temporal prosperity, and at the same time so conducive to intellectual culture, is harmonious with spiritual illumination and well pleasing in the sight of God? Gluttony, like drunkenness, stupefies the mind, and degrades and brutalizes the body. Do you not know we would be much brighter intellectualists and more efficient preachers if we would live hygienically, and take fasting along with prayer? These brutalizing habits are awfully antagonistic to spirituality; and O, how incompatible with the translation for which we should all be living when the Lord comes I Can we not go along and do our work unencumbered. with. worldly cares, content with food and raiment and constantly looking for the Lord? To say that this is not our appropriate attitude is to reject the plain word of Jesus.

“For as a lasso it will come upon all those sitting down on the face of the whole earth.” Just as the robber, from his hidden retreat, throws the lasso high in the air, dropping it round the body of the unsuspecting traveler, the other end attached to a fleet horse, dashing away and dragging him into the bushes, where, now dead and unconscious, he is robbed, so Jesus says the day of His coming will light on “all the people who are sitting down upon the face of the earth;” not as E. V., conveying the idea that there are no exceptions. Jesus says it will so come on all those who are “sitting down,” thus indicating the attitude of carelessness and unexpectancy; while the elect are watching, not “sitting down,” but Standing on tiptoe, stretching their eyes to catch the first glimpse of the coming glory.

“Watch therefore, praying all the time, in order that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things about to take place, and to stand before the Son of man.” He has already spoken of the terrible troubles, such as the world never saw, even more terrific than Noah’s flood. You see how the angels will gather up the elect. So the matter is lucid and clear. We are to be constantly watching and praying all the time, that we may be found worthy to be translated, like the man taken from the field and the woman from the mill, to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Matthew 24:42-51. “Watch therefore, because you know. not at what hour your Lord cometh.” This is the climacteric commandment, repeated over and over and more frequently than any other. Good reason! If you are watching every moment for your Lord to appear, you will obey all the other commandments, as this is the grandest of all restraints against sin in thought, word, or deed; and at the same time the most potent inspiration to an unworldly, spiritual, holy life. Beware how you tinker with anything calculated to render you unwatchful for the Lord’s immediate appearing! How sadly has this great and prominent doctrine dropped out of the pulpits long ages ago, thus fearfully expediting the alarming worldliness that has been in the Church since the Constantinean apostasy fifteen hundred years ago l It is the glory of the present holiness movement to revive this precious truth, so thrillingly emphasized by the Savior and every New Testament writer, and again bring it to the front, where it stood the first three hundred years of the Christian era. Let no one say that we depreciate entire sanctification. By preaching the coming of the Lord we magnify holiness, which is the only qualification to meet Him.

“Know this, that if the landlord had known at what watch the thief cometh, he would have watched, and not suffered his house to be broken into.”

Here you see our Savior pronounces an awful woe on the unwatchful man. He is the Thief, coming to this wicked world to steal away His bride. The thief comes at midnight, while all are asleep. The bride, who knows her, Lover is coming for her, does not sleep, but keeps awake, watching for Him. I want to be stolen away from this lost world when the Thief cometh.

“Therefore be ye ready, because ye know not the hour the Son of man cometh.” The qualification is entire sanctification, election “through the sanctification of the Spirit,” clearly and abundantly attested by the Holy Ghost. Grace is free, and there is no reason why we should not all be ready. O the awful peril of unreadiness!

“Who then is that faithful and wise servant, whom the Lord placed over His household, to give them their food in season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, having come, shall find so doing. Truly I say unto you, that He will appoint him over all his possessions.” This servant is the preacher, leader, worker, to whom the Lord has committed souls. Now, what is the food which this servant is to give the members of the Lord’s house? It is all the Word of God, faithfully preached, lived, and exemplified. The grand sum and substance are a holy experience, life, and character — constant readiness to meet the Lord; and auxiliary to this, constant outlook for His appearing. Terrible will be the responsibility of the delinquent leader. On the contrary, whom the Lord finds faithful at his post, his people well sanctified, robed, and ready, and looking for the Lord: to come, He is going to confer on him incalculable: honor and glory in the coming kingdom; but not to be viewed from a carnal standpoint, as in the Lord’s kingdom the more you have, the more is left for all the balance; e.g., the loaves and fishes.

“But if the wicked servant may say in his heart, My Lord delayeth coming, and may begin to smite his fellow-servants, and; eat and drink with the drunken.” Here is a pastor in charge who rigidly enforces ecclesiastical law, laying heavy burdens on his people — as Peter says, “Domineering over the heritages;” living luxuriantly; his family moving in the flirtations of worldly dress-parade; persecuting the holiness people; his doors closed against every man who preaches holiness and the Lord’s coming. “The Lord of that servant will come in a day in which he does not expect, and in an hour in which he does not know, and will cut him off, and will appoint his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This man holds his pastoral charge, recognized by his Church and the world as a godly minister of file gospel, till the Lord comes, lifts the mask, and reveals his true character. Then He cuts him off — i. e., takes him out of his position — and appoints him his destiny with. the hypocrites, where he belongs. “Hypocrite” is a Greek word, meaning the actor in a drama, performing his part on the theatrical stage. So this man has been playing preacher all his life, pursuing the ministerial calling as a worldly man would prosecute a laudable employment, for a living. If you do not think we have multitudes of preachers on this line, get on your knees and ask God about it.! tell you their name is legion, who would not preach if their salary was taken away, thus in this simple way revealing their real character. You see this man is cast into the bottomless pit, amid “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” Good Lord, help us all to wake up to these momentous realities! I trow, the preacher’s hell is most horrific of all. I have been preaching in my humble way forty and six years. I would certainly rather risk the hell of the gambler or the robber than that of the preacher. How awful for the people, deluded and eternally ruined by his ministry, to meet him in the regions of the damned, gnash on him with their teeth, and help the devils to lash him with firebrands forever! God have mercy on the preacher who fights holiness and the Lord’s coming! O how he needs a mourners-bench!

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 24:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-24.html.

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