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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 24

 

 

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Introduction

ORDER OF EVENTS. After the last public discourse (chap. 23) our Lord did not at once leave the temple, but (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4) sat quietly in the court of the women, looking at those casting in their gifts, to find an opportunity for praising one act of real religion amidst all the hypocrisy He had just denounced. (Reformers may find a lesson here.) In perfect quietude of spirit, not in haste nor anger, He finally forsook ‘His own’ who received Him not. As He was finally ‘departing’ (Matthew 24:1), His disciples pointed out the magnificence of the various structures composing the temple. This brought out a prediction of its entire destruction. Passing out toward Bethany, He paused upon the Mount of Olives, looking towards the temple, as if still moved with compassion. His disciples (or more exactly four of them) inquired of Him, as to the time and signs of His coming. Chap. 24 is the answer, not yet fully understood. Chap. 25 was spoken on the same occasion.

This chapter refers both to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the second coming of Christ, one prophecy respecting two analogous events. This we may call the panoramic view of the prophecy, and it may be applied to other passages (in Revelation and elsewhere). Reasons: 1. An exclusive reference to either the destruction of Jerusalem or the second coming of Christ involves insuperable difficulties. 2. The disciples asked about both, joining them in time (Matthew 24:3). The answer therefore refers to both, joining them in character, not necessarily in time. The disciples needed instruction on both points, for immediate and more remote guidance. 3. The preceding discourse plainly points to the destruction of Jerusalem, but chap. 25 and Matthew 24:42-51 of this chapter, apply exclusively to the Christian dispensation. Great care is necessary in deciding what refers to each of the two sets of events (or, how far the analogy holds good). Alford and others seem correct in holding, that the two interpretations run parallel as far as Matthew 24:28, the judgment upon the Jewish Church being the predominant thought; after that the Lord’s second coming is prominent, until in the close of the chapter it is exclusively treated of. Concerning this nothing definite as to time is made known (see Matthew 24:36), and the part that Jerusalem will sustain is and must be unknown, since prophecy is rarely designed to enable us to foretell future events. Lange regards both chapters as exhibiting ‘the judgments of His coming in a series of cycles, each of which depicts the whole futurity, but in such a manner that with every new cycle the scene seems to approximate to, and more closely resemble, the final catastrophe.’


Verse 1

Matthew 24:1. From the temple, i.e.., the exclusively Jewish part, inclosed from the court of the Gentiles. He never returned, and henceforth the temple was virtually desolate. The Apostles returned, holding out mercy still; the last rejection recorded is that of Paul (Acts 21:27 ff.), who was even accused of polluting it

Was departing. He lingered for a time.

His disciples. Mark (Mark 13:1): ‘one of his disciples.’

To shew him the buildings of the temple, i.e.., all the structures in the inclosure (see note on p. 171), especially the stones (comp. Mark and Luke), as His answer (Matthew 24:2) indicates. The immense stones (some of them forty-five cubits long, five high, and six broad) could be best seen from the court of the Gentiles; so also the great number of outer structures, some of them still in process of erection. The latter fact gives additional point to the prediction.


Verse 2

Matthew 24:2. All these things?, Mark 13:2 : ‘these great buildings.’

Verily I say unto you, etc. This prophecy was uttered in a time of profound peace, when the possibility of the destruction of such a magnificent work of art and sanctuary of religion seemed very unlikely; but was literally fulfilled forty years afterwards; and that, too, in express violation of the orders of Titus, who wished to save it.


Verse 3

Matthew 24:3. The mount of Olives. Opposite the temple. The siege of Jerusalem began from this place, and at the same season of the year. It was from the side of this mount, that our Lord two days before had prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:43-44).

The disciples. Mark (Mark 13:3): ‘Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew,’ the four fishermen first called and first named in all the lists, the confidential disciples.

When shall these things be? The desolation and destruction just prophesied.

The sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? They identified these, and joined them with the destruction of Jerusalem. As these disciples had been told most fully of His death (comp. chap. Matthew 17:9 ff.), they probably mean a coming (parousia, appearance) after death, to usher in the end of the world, i.e.., the end of the former dispensation of things, not the destruction of the world. Being Jews, they would not think of the destruction of the holy city without a personal presence of the Messiah in its stead. As the two events were blended in their minds, they are not sharply distinguished in the answer.


Verse 4

Matthew 24:4. See that no man deceive you. The admonition is prophetic, intimating the perplexity of the whole subject. A caution to Christians regarding specific teaching about these unfulfilled predictions.


Verse 5

Matthew 24:5. Come in my name, as the Messiah. The Messianic hopes of the Jews were at fever heat, as the destruction of their holy city drew near; many enthusiasts appeared as seducers of the people, and awakened false expectations. It is not known that they claimed the authority of the Christian Messiah. The prophecy goes beyond this, and intimates that Christians would be in danger of supposing some other person to be the Lord Himself. In later times fanaticism among Christians has taken this direction, e. g., the Anabaptists in the sixteenth century.

Deceive many. An overweening desire to understand this prophecy in its final application, combined with too material conceptions of the Second Advent, fosters such deception.


Verse 6

Matthew 24:6. Of wars and rumours of wars. The primary reference is to the threats of war against the Jews before the campaign which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem. During this period there were unusual commotions among the Jews in all countries, and in Rome too. It is also a prediction of unexampled convulsions before the second coming of Christ. As wars have been well-nigh continuous, something greater than ordinary war is probably meant.

Be not troubled. Be watchful (Matthew 24:5), but be not disturbed. There will be nothing even in the last days to terrify the Lord’s people.

The end is not yet, i.e., this state of commotion is to continue.


Verse 7

Matthew 24:7. Nation shall rise against nation, etc. Primarily, national uprisings of the Jews; then, wars of races, political revolutions, migrations, etc. Even the times preceding the dissolution of the Roman Empire have not exhausted this prediction.

Famines, and earthquakes in divers places. A famine is prophesied in Acts 11:28; others are mentioned by Latin historians. Five great earthquakes occurred in thirteen years. The best authorities omit: ‘and pestilences.’ See Luke 21:11, from which it is taken. As regards the wider fulfilment: ‘The passage combines in one view the whole of the various social, physical, and climatic crises of development in the whole New Testament dispensation’ (Lange).


Verse 8

Matthew 24:8. The beginning of travail, i.e., birth pangs. The physical woes are the basis of the greater succeeding moral woes. ‘The death-throes of the Jewish state precede the” regeneration” of the universal Christian Church, as the death-throes of this world the new heavens and new earth’ (Alford).


Verse 9

Matthew 24:9. Then, i.e., ‘during this time,’ not ‘after this.’ See Luke 21:12.

They shall deliver you up, etc. Soon literally fulfilled. But it may now be referred to the spirit of persecution, always latent in the world and to break out in the last times.

Hated of all the nations. (Mark and Luke: ‘of all men;’ comp. chap. Matthew 10:22). The Roman historian Tacitus speaks of the early Christians as a hated race of men. But to be universally abhorred is not a proof of being a Christian. It must be for my name’s sake. This hatred has not ceased; it will probably manifest itself anew in startling form.


Verse 10

Matthew 24:10. Then shall many be offended, or ‘fall away.’ The Apostles understood this of the first century; see the repeated warnings against apostasy in the Epistles. The fulfilment will culminate in the last days.

Deliver up one another, i.e., to tribunals, to heathen magistrates, as was the case in Apostolic times. A natural development of apostasy, then, and to be repeated before ‘the end’ comes.

Hate one another. Whenever apostasy occurs, this recurs, since this is the opposite of Christian love. The Great Apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3) will thus manifest itself.


Verse 11

Matthew 24:11. Many false prophets. In the Apostolic times such teachers appeared; Judaizing first proclaiming strict adherence to the law, and afterwards a kind of antinomianism, or ‘lawlessness.’ Comp. the later Epistles. The same moral phenomena will mark an analogous period.


Verse 12

Matthew 24:12. Because iniquity (or ‘lawlessness’) shall be multiplied. A horrible state of immorality prevailed in the first century, and the false teachers endeavored to join it with Christian profession; the inevitable result was a coldness, a dying out of Christian love.

The love of the many (the mass) shall wax cold. So far as we know, this was not literally fulfilled in the first century. We infer that the entire fulfilment will come in with the great Apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). The principle is: wickedness destroys love; immorality eats out the heart of Christianity.


Verse 13

Matthew 24:13. Unto the end. The Christians were saved from the horrors attending the destruction of Jerusalem. But the principle is a general one. For the individual, ‘the end’ is the day of his death; for the Church, it is the Advent of Christ, the end of all things. The last sense is the more important one, giving character to the others. Over against the apostasy of ‘the many’ (Matthew 24:12) we have the faithfulness of the few, in spite of false teaching (Matthew 24:11), in spite of prevailing wickedness (Matthew 24:12), an endurance in love.


Verse 14

Matthew 24:14. This gospel of the kingdom, etc. The preaching of the gospel throughout the Roman world preceded the end of the Jewish state; the promulgation of the gospel throughout the whole world will be the sign of the end of this world.

For a testimony unto all the nations. To them, if they accept; against them, if they reject it. It is not revealed here, which result will preponderate. If the former, this is a cheering note in a doleful prophecy; if the latter, this is the saddest part of the prophecy. In either, case, the duty of sending the gospel everywhere remains. The universal extension of missions, no less than the great apostasy, is a sign of the approach of our Redeemer. This prediction stimulated the Apostles and should stimulate us.


Verse 15

Matthew 24:15. When therefore ye see. This direct address points to a speedy fulfilment, whatever may be the ulterior reference. ‘Therefore’ takes Roman Standards up the thought of Matthew 24:9, where their personal persecution had been spoken of.

The abomination of desolation which was spoken of by (or ‘through’) Daniel the prophet (Daniel 9:27). The phrase refers to ‘abominations, which shall be the desolator,’ the coming of which to the sanctuary (where the sacrifice is offered) is prophesied. Most of the Jews applied the original prophecy to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes (comp. 1Ma_1:54), who set up there an idol statue of Jupiter. Our Lord points to a fulfilment, then future. The favorite interpretation refers it to the Roman eagles, so hateful to the Jews, and worshipped as idols by the soldiers, the standards of those who desolated the temple. This is favored by the addition in Luke’s account (Matthew 21:20): when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies.’

Others refer it to some desecration of the temple by the Jewish Zealots under the pretence of defending it, which occurred at the same time with the approach of the first Roman army (under Cestius, A. D. 66) against Jerusalem.

This makes Luke’s account refer to an external sign, and those of Matthew and Mark to the internal sign, an abomination committed by the Jews themselves, which should fill up the cup of their iniquity. But it is not certain that such a desecration by the Zealots took place just at that time, and the sign for their flight (Matthew 24:16) was to be a definite and marked one.

In the holy place. Mark: ‘where it ought not;’ Jerusalem was ‘the holy city’ (chap. Matthew 4:5). The near approach of the Roman army is probably meant. The Roman eagles, rising on the heights over against the temple, were the sign of the fall of the city. In fact they stood on the Mount of Olives, ‘the holy place,’ in a higher Christian sense, where our Lord was now teaching and whence He ascended. The other view of internal desecration refers the phrase to the temple.

Let him that readeth understand. A remark of the Evangelist, probably with a reference to the words of the angel to Daniel (Matthew 9:25): ‘know therefore and understand.’ Such an insertion is very unusual, but seems to have been occasioned by the near approach of the events at the date of the writing of this gospel. In the correct reading of Mark 13:14, there is no direct reference to Daniel, and hence the reader of the Gospel, not of the prophecy, is meant. Such an understanding was very important for the early Christians. An ulterior reference to ‘the man of sin’ (2 Thessalonians 2:4), is probable. It will be understood by Christians when necessary for their safety.


Verses 15-22

Matthew 24:15-22. These verses certainly refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. Another fulfilment is probable, in accordance with the parallel lines of prophecy we have traced in the preceding section (Matthew 24:5-14). But precisely because the details are so minute, we must be cautious in applying it to the final catastrophe.


Verse 16

Matthew 24:16. Flee unto the mountains. The Christians in Judea accordingly fled to Pella, over the mountains in Perea, and were safe in all those days of horror.


Verse 17

Matthew 24:17. On the house-top. The flat roofs of eastern dwellings were a favorite place of resort.

Not go down. Some suppose this is a command to flee along the house-tops or to go down by the outer stairs as a quicker way. What is distinctly forbidden is to go down to take the things out of his house. Extreme haste is enjoined; and being hindered by motives of selfishness or convenience is prohibited. There is probably an allusion to the flight of Lot from Sodom (comp. Luke 17:32).


Verse 19

Matthew 24:19. Woe unto them, etc. Natural affection is not forbidden, and this verse expresses compassion for mothers who were thus delayed.


Verse 20

Matthew 24:20. Pray ye. The trying events were distinctly predicted, yet prayer is just as distinctly enjoined.

Not in the winter, which would not only make it more disagreeable, but might prevent their fleeing far enough.

On a Sabbath. On the Jewish Sabbath. On that day the gates of the cities were usually closed (Nehemiah 13:19-22), besides travelling on that day would expose them still more to Jewish fanaticism. The Jewish Christians, up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, observed the Jewish Sabbath, and might scruple to travel more than the Sabbath day’s journey (about an English mile). Our Lord’s anxiety is not for the observance of the Jewish Sabbath, but for His people.


Verse 21

Matthew 24:21. Great tribulation, etc. Josephus, a Jew by birth and education, but a Roman in religion and sympathies, in describing the siege of Jerusalem, almost repeats the words of our Lord. From this ‘great tribulation’ the Jewish Christians escaped by fleeing to Pella. The siege began at the time of the Passover feast, when the city was crowded. Internal dissensions combined with scarcity of food to multiply the horrors. One woman of rank, named Mary, too, killed and roasted her own babe (comp. Deuteronomy 28:53; Deuteronomy 28:56-57), and was discovered only by those who sought to rob her of food; yet even they shrank back at the sight. The resistance to the Romans was fanatical, despite the bloody discord within the city. When at last it was successfully stormed by Titus, the rage of the Roman soldiers, raised to the utmost by the stubborn resistance, was permitted to wreak itself unchecked upon the inhabitants. The sword made the whole city run with blood; while crucifixions by way of jest were very frequent. Eleven hundred thousand persons perished, the remainder were sold into slavery, or distributed throughout the Roman provinces to be destroyed by wild beasts. Thus the prophecy of Luke 21:24 was literally fulfilled. Yet the Roman leader who conducted these operations was one of the most excellent among the heathen.

Nor ever shall be. This seems to indicate that nothing analogous will occur again. But Matthew 24:22 is so closely connected with this verse, that a double reference is probable even in Matthew 24:15-21, which were most strikingly fulfilled in the first century. The final application would be to a sudden catastrophe before the coming of our Lord, which His people will be enabled to avoid, by recognizing the appearance of the signs He has given. Still these verses, of themselves, shed little light as yet on the subject of the last days. The final catastrophe is more plainly indicated in the subsequent part of the chapter.


Verse 22

Matthew 24:22. Except those days had been shortened, etc. (A prophetic past tense.) Various causes did combine to shorten the siege of Jerusalem, so that the Christians in the neighboring place of refuge were not so much exposed. These causes were: (1) Herod Agrippa had begun to fortify the walls of Jerusalem against any attack, but was stopped by orders from Claudius about 42 or 43. (2.) The Jews being divided into factions, had totally neglected any preparations against the siege. (3.) The magazines of corn and provision were just burned before the arrival of Titus. (4.) Titus arrived suddenly, and the Jews voluntarily abandoned parts of the fortification. (5.) Titus himself confessed that he owed his victory to God, who took the fortifications of the Jews. (6.) It was not the original intention to storm the place, but events at Rome made it necessary that Titus should hasten back, and he therefore adopted this method of shortening the siege.—But the strong language of the verse and the prophecy of Daniel (chap. Matthew 12:1) which is here alluded to, point to a providentia interposition in the great days of tribulation which are to come ill the last times. The shortening of the days will be the hastening of the Lord’s coming.


Verse 23

Matthew 24:23. Then. Sufficiently indefinite to favor any or all of the interpretations of the passage. During the subsequent period, is exact enough.

If any man shall say to you, etc. This indicates that the disciples then expected that the second Advent would immediately follow; and was first of all a caution against impostors. But while such did arise in the first century, the details; of the following verses point to something further.

Believe it (or ‘him’) not. This phrase furnishes no argument against the visible personal coming of Christ, which seems to be taken for granted throughout.


Verse 24

Matthew 24:24. False Christs. While this may refer to the impostors of the first century, it now points to ‘Antichrist,’ or the many ‘antichrists’ (1 John 2:18), constantly arising.—False prophets. Such arose among the Jews, but have arisen ever since.

Show great signs and wonders, in appearance probably, but this cannot be insisted upon. See 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.

So as (the tendency and purpose) to deceive, if possible, implying that it is not, even the elect. Others will be deceived, led astray from our Lord, the real Messiah and true Prophet. It indicates that a period will come, when the deceivableness of unrighteousness’ shall be augmented.


Verse 25

Matthew 24:25. Told you before hand. (Mark 13:23, ‘But take ye heed.’) A warning which can scarcely have been exhausted in the first century.


Verse 26

Matthew 24:26. Behold, he is in the wilderness, whither the impostors led their followers (Acts 21:38).

Behold, he is in the inner chambers, teaching in private, proposing some scheme of deliverance. But Matthew 24:27 points so unmistakably to the last days also, that we understand this caution as referring to all teachers who assert that the kingdom of heaven is in a given locality, or in some narrow form, and who therefore set forth some contracted conception of the second Advent. The caution then is against enthusiasm, superstition, and fanaticism, in the days of the waiting Church.


Verse 27

Matthew 24:27. For as the lightning, etc. At this point we must accept a direct reference to the end of the world. The destruction of Jerusalem was sudden, but here the ulterior sense, which was never absent, becomes the prominent one.

From the east. A literal explanation of this phrase is forbidden by the nature of the case. The sense is Christ’s coming will be sudden and all-pervading, unmistakable and fearful; visible too, we infer; glorious and purifying also, like the lightning. Only a Personal coming will fulfil this prediction.


Verse 28

Matthew 24:28. Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. In Luke 17:37, this figure is the answer to the question of the disciples: ‘Where Lord?’ referring to the times of judgment. We therefore apply the metaphor to the necessity, inevitableness, and universality (‘wheresoever’) of judgment. The ‘carcass’ represents moral corruption; the ‘eagles,’ God’s means of certain punishment when the time is ripe. The context points to two special occasions: 1. The destruction of Jerusalem when the Roman ‘eagles’ appeared as ministers of vengeance; 2. the last days when the cup of the world’s iniquity shall be full and God’s swift messengers of judgment (‘the angels’) shall come. Yet the principle is of universal application, and has been again and again exemplified in God’s dealings. This verse answers the cry of the waiting Church: ‘How long, O Lord’ (Revelation 6:10).

Matthew 24:29 ff. Referring to the ‘last times’ exclusively. Up to this point our Lord, in answering a twofold question, has given a two-fold answer, i.e., spoken of two distinct events as analogous. The instruction in regard to the minor and near event (the destruction of Jerusalem) was necessary, but now the greater and more remote event becomes the sole subject. (Matthew 24:34 presents a possible exception.)


Verse 29

Matthew 24:29. But immediately, suddenly after a slow development, rather than immediately following, or unexpectedly. Matthew 24:36 shows that our Lord did not intend to define the length of the interval, or to encourage us to define it.

After the tribulation of those days, not the tribulation attending the destruction of Jerusalem, but the period of trial which belongs to the ‘last times,’ for the following reasons: 1. In Luke 21:24, the period of Jewish dispersion and the fulfilling of ‘the times of the Gentiles’ is put before this prediction, while the expression in Mark 13:24, also permits the supposition of a long interval. 2. The reference to the destruction of Jerusalem is attended with the greatest difficulties. It takes all the expressions of Matthew 24:29-31 in a figurative sense, but the figure exceeds any reality that occurred in those days. The interval between the horrors of the siege and the actual destruction itself was too short to allow of any events worthy of such a figurative representation as we find here. 3. To refer it to a merely providential coming of Christ in judging and purifying nominal Christendom, is not at all in keeping with the specific character of the representation.

The sun shall be darkened. A reference to the events attending the destruction of Jerusalem seems impossible. So long as the prophecy is not yet fulfilled, its exact meaning cannot be insisted upon. Two views: (1.) Visible phenomena in the heavens at the visible appearance of Christ; in which sense the rest of the verse needs little explanation except to determine the difference between ‘the stars’ and ‘the powers of the heavens.’ The former may mean meteors and the latter the host of stars, or better, the former the stars in general, the latter the greater heavenly bodies that affect the earth (the solar system). This view suggests also the possibility of actual changes in the physical universe to prepare for ‘the new heavens and the new earth.’—(2.) Spiritual events to occur at the same time. We add the most plausible interpretations of this character: ‘The sun shall be darkened,’ i.e., the knowledge of Christ, the Sun of the Church and the world shall be obscured; the moon shall not give her light; the reflected light of science, which derives its excellence only from Christ, the true Sun, shall cease to guide (or it may refer to heresy and unbelief in the Church, for that leaves her merely a scientific or temporal organization); the stars shall fall from heaven; the leaders and teachers of the Church shall become apostates: the powers of the heavens (the greater heavenly bodies) shall be shaken: the influences which rule human society shall be disturbed. Others refer the whole to the fall of heathenism with its worship of Nature (sun, moon, and stars), but this is less probable, since terrifying occurrences seem to be meant (see Luke 21:25-26).


Verse 30

Matthew 24:30. The sign of the Son of Man in heaven. This points to some unmistakable appearance preceding the personal manifestation of Christ. Something like the Star of the wise men, some suppose; the Fathers thought, a sign of the cross in the heavens; a luminous appearance visible to all, itself a glory like the Shekinah of old, is the view of many. The important matter is to recognize it when it comes, not to know in advance what it will be.

All the tribes of the earth mourn. All races and peoples shall join in one chorus, first of great and solemn lamentation; not necessarily of real penitence, though that is not excluded, but rather of terror, occasioned by the events which have occurred and the foreboding of what is to follow. Comp. Revelation 1:7; also Zechariah 12:10-14, where the families of Israel are represented as mourning.

And they shall see the Son of man coming. This coming is evidently that referred to in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, at the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5-6); a comparison with Revelation 19:11 ff. suggests that this Advent precedes the millennium, but upon that point there has been much dispute. Certainly nothing is said here of the general judgment, but only of the gathering of Christ’s people (Matthew 24:31).—On the clouds of heaven. ‘In like manner’ as He ascended (Acts 1:9; Acts 1:11).

With power and great glory, manifested in the establishment of His kingdom on the earth. Some prefer to regard this coming as the beginning of a series of judgments afterwards set forth in Matthew 24:45-51; chap., covering the period symbolically set forth in the term ‘thousand years’ in Revelation 20:5-6; but with the exception of the final judgment, all these are represented as occurring before this coming of the Lord. The safest opinion is, that a Personal coming of Christ is here meant, to take place after the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24), and to be preceded by great catastrophes.


Verse 31

Matthew 24:31. Send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, the angels and trumpets are distinguished, the latter coming first. The trumpet, used to call assemblies together, refers to some means employed in connection with the actual ‘angels’ to gather Christ’s people together. This sound of the trumpet is to be distinguished from the great Trumpet of the Judgment day (1 Corinthians 15:52 : ‘the last trump’), since both this verse and Matthew 24:40-41, point to a gathering out from the world, while at the great Judgment all are collected.—And they shall gather together his elect, the individual believers, over against the organizations which contain or conceal them. A gathering, either of living and raised believers into one place, or of the saints hitherto scattered among the nations into one organization. It is implied that before that time no one organization will include all true believers. A lesson against sectarian bigotry wherever found.


Verse 32

Matthew 24:32. Now from the fig tree learn the parable, namely, what follows.

Putteth forth leaves, or ‘its leaves.’ The blossoms precede the leaves, and when the leaves come, the fruit season is near. Comp. chap. Matthew 21:19. The cursing of the barren fig tree may be in mind even here. Alford: ‘As that, in its judicial unfruitfulness, emblematized the Jewish people, so here the putting forth of the fig tree from its state of winter dryness, symbolizes the future reviviscence of that race.’


Verse 33

Matthew 24:33. So ye also. Addressed to the disciples, as representing all Christians. It does not mean that they should live to see what He had predicted; two of the four certainly died even before the destruction of Jerusalem.

All these things, i.e., the signs mentioned, culminating in these predicted in Matthew 24:30.

Know that he is nigh.—Christ Himself, since they had asked of His coming (Matthew 24:3).


Verse 34

Matthew 24:34. This generation. Explanations. (1.) ‘Generation’ in the literal sense, the reference being to the destruction of Jerusalem. This is opposed by Matthew 24:36, nor is it allowable to accept a double sense in general, and confine this phrase to a single sense. (2.) ‘Generation’ in the sense of ‘race,’ as often. (a) Applied to the Jewish nation, meaning that the Jewish people shall-remain until the fulfilment of all these things, and that one of the signs of the final fulfilment, will be a sudden greening of that withered race. This is the most striking and natural view, (b) Applied to the spiritual Israel, the generation of true believers. The single advantage of this is that it extends ‘ye,’ in Matthew 24:33, to the whole body of believers; but that would be easily so understood without this.

Till all these things, including apparently both the signs and the coming.

Be done, literally, ‘become.’ The idea of actual occurrence is the prominent one, not that of fulfilment.


Verse 35

Matthew 24:35. Heaven and earth shall pass away. Not merely a strong asseveration (sooner shall heaven and earth pass away), but also a plain declaration that they shall pass away. Comp. Psalms 102:26; Isaiah 51:6. The time is not indicated.

But my words shall not pass away. Scoffers imply: Heaven and earth cannot pass away (comp. 2 Peter 3:8-10), but Christ’s words are losing their force. ‘Of this we wait the proof.’ ‘Not pass away’ means more than ‘not remain unfulfilled;’ the words of Christ will abide as true in the hearts of all His people who look for and haste unto His coming. It is implied that some time will elapse.


Verse 36

Matthew 24:36. But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven. The best authorities add: neither the Son, as in Mark 13:32. This is implied also in the phrase: but the Father only. Christ did not know the day and hour of His future coming since Matthew 24:37 shows that this is referred to. The explanations, that Christ did not know this ‘officially,’ or the sense: did not choose to tell the disciples, are make-shifts. This seems to be a voluntary self-humiliation in knowledge, a part of Christ’s emptying of Himself (Philippians 2:8). Christ could, of course, not lay aside, in the incarnation the metaphysical attributes of His Divine nature, such as eternity, but He could, by an act of His will, limit His attributes of power and His knowledge and refrain from their use as far as it was necessary for His humiliation. His voluntarily not knowing, or ‘sacred unwillingness to know,’ the day of judgment during the days of His flesh, is a warning against chronological curiosity and mathematical calculation in the exposition of Scripture prophecy. We cannot know more than Christ Himself chose to know in the state of His humiliation.


Verse 37

Matthew 24:37. But as the days of Noah were. The second coming of Christ will be sudden and unexpected. Our Lord assumes, that there was a flood sent in judgment in the days of Noah. He endorses the history contained in the book of Genesis.


Verse 38

Matthew 24:38. They were eating and drinking, seeking their enjoyment, not expecting the catastrophe. (As they were ‘drinking,’ it would seem that wine was made before the flood.) The verse does not at all imply that Christ’s people are to cease their ordinary employments, in expectation of the coming of Christ. Absorption in these things is censured.


Verse 39

Matthew 24:39. Knew not. Even after Noah was in the ark, their unbelief continued; so men will persist in unbelief, despite the fear mentioned in Luke 21:24-25; will at least go on as if unconcerned.


Verse 40

Matthew 24:40. Then shall two men be in the field. Until that time Christ’s people are to be in companionship with the world.

One is taken, i.e., gathered as one of the elect (Matthew 24:31). The one ‘taken’ is the blessed one. There is no direct allusion to death. This differs from the event referred to in Matthew 24:16-18, where voluntary flight is commanded, and from the judgment (chap. Matthew 25:31 ff.) where all are gathered.


Verse 41

Matthew 24:41. Two women shall be grinding at the mill. The employment of female slaves. Exodus 11:5; Isaiah 47:2, etc. Women in the East, one or two together, turn the handmills, having the upper millstone in their hands, and turning it round on the nether one, which is fixed.


Verse 42

Matthew 24:42. Watch therefore. In view of the suddenness and unexpectedness of this coming, ‘watch.’ Mark: ‘watch and pray.’ Not, be always expecting what will come unexpectedly, nor be seeking to know what cannot be known, but be always in the state of readiness, because of the uncertainty.


Verse 43

Matthew 24:43. If the master of the house had known, etc. Comp. Obadiah 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10;, 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15. The idea of surprise is the main one, as throughout these verses. Watchfulness under uncertainty is constant. The figure has a further application to the hour of death, when for the individual the Lord comes; and to great catastrophes of judgment upon nations.


Verse 44

Matthew 24:44. Therefore be ye also ready. Comp. Luke 21:34; Luke 21:36. To be ready at all is to be ready always. The caution of this passage is not a threatening for the Lord’s people. He does not rule them by terror; those ready find Him a Friend; only those not ready find His coming as uncomfortable as that of a thief.


Verse 45

Matthew 24:45. Who then is! A personal question for every believer, but not a discouraging one.

The faithful and wise servant. ‘Wise’(or prudent), because ‘faithful’ in Christ’s service. Faithfulness alone is success.

Whom his Lord set over his household. Mark’s account (Matthew 13:34) represents a number of servants left by the master, each with his appointed work. Here one servant is placed over the whole, as a steward. Ministers of Christ are referred to, since these are elsewhere represented as ‘set’ by Him in the Church (1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, but for a specific purpose: to give them their meat (or ‘food’), namely, that provided by the Lord, and adapted and necessary for them, in due season. The food is God’s word, which is to be rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15). Ruling is included only as far as essential for the purposes of teaching. It is the ‘faithful servant’ whom the Lord has set over the household.


Verses 45-51

Matthew 24:45-51. A parable, though not distinctly marked as such in its form. Comp. the parallel account in Mark 13:34-36; and similar language on another occasion in Luke 12:35-46. Such repetitions are not unusual. This passage, closely connected with the second Advent, contains instruction for the Church, while waiting for that event. It applies primarily to the Apostles (on the former occasion mentioned by Luke, it was called forth by Peter), and thus to all officers in the Church; but has an important lesson for all Christians. The contrast is between the faithful and the unfaithful servant, with a more extended reference to the latter.


Verse 47

Matthew 24:47. He will set him over all his goods. The servant, faithful up to the unexpected arrival of his lord, is rewarded, and is called ‘blessed’ (Matthew 24:47). The reward is promotion to be possessor of the full inheritance. Comp. Romans 8:17; also chap. Matthew 25:21;, Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:21. Alford:Each faithful servant shall be over all his master’s goods. That promotion shall not be like earthly promotion, wherein the eminence of one excludes that of another, but rather like the diffusion of love, in which, the more each has, the more there is for all.’


Verse 48

Matthew 24:48. But if that evil servant. The form is changed from that in Matthew 24:45, as if to intimate that such cases would readily occur, without need of special inquiry. The verse is a caution to the faithful to persevere, and a warning to those who intrude into the ministry.

Shall say, not openly, for the official position forbids that; but in his heart, and in his conduct (Matthew 24:49).

My lord delayeth to come. This implies that a long delay would occur. The servant began well, and still recognizes Christ as His Lord (‘my lord’). The spring of all his evil conduct was unbelief; whether the Lord came sooner or later, his duty remained the same.


Verse 49

Matthew 24:49. Beat his fellow-servants. The faithful ones, since the others would join with him. He plays the lord over God’s heritage (1 Peter 5:3), abusing instead of nourishing the household (Matthew 24:45). Unfaithfulness to Christ, speedily manifests itself in such conduct: censure of others, pride toward others, despotism over others, who are ‘fellow-servants.’

Shall eat and drink with the drunken. To show laxity of conduct toward the evil members of the household, and to invite the world to help him revel. Beating the fellow-servants leads to worldliness and immorality.


Verse 50

Matthew 24:50. The lord of that servant. Christ is still ‘lord’ of the unfaithful and sinful servant.

Shall come. Doubt of His coming does not hinder it.

In a day, etc. The unexpected, sudden coming is again brought forward. To the unfaithful our Lord often comes suddenly in this world, to correct while hope of amendment remains, but Matthew 24:51 refers to something final. Before the Second Advent, when the whole Church shall be tried as to faithfulness, the coming to individuals is at death.


Verse 51

Matthew 24:51. And shall out him asunder. An ancient mode of punishment among the Israelites (1 Samuel 15:33; 2 Samuel 12:31). Extreme punishment is here meant, but the peculiar expression indicates something further, a fearful separating of the conscience and the conduct, so that the condemning power of the former is a constant scourge against the continued evil of the latter. This will be a terrible element of future retribution.

Appoint his portion with the hypocrites. Such a servant is not necessarily a mere hypocrite, but his conduct deserves and will receive the punishment allotted to hypocrites. Unfaithfulness, especially in the ministry, will suffer the worst punishment: the faithful servant was also ‘wise’ (Matthew 24:45), the evil servant is most unwise.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth. comp. chaps. Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50;, Matthew 25:30; Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46. The future punishment is of the same character for all, even though there be degrees of it. This picture of judgment on rulers of the Church comes first. The history of ecclesiastical despotism in every age, and on the smaller as well as the largest scale, abundantly shows how needful the warning has been.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 24:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-24.html. 1879-90.

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