So also, when you see all these things, you will know that He is near, right at the door.
I. THE EVENT OF THE JUDGMENT IS CERTAIN.
1. This is asserted under a simile. (Vers. 32-35.)
(1) The fig tree was a symbol of the Jewish nation (cf. Joel 1:7; Matthew 22:19). To the literal Israel these things were primarily spoken. They have relevance also to the spiritual Israel, viz. in a future fulfilment. The outside world give no heed to sacred signs. "None of the wicked shall understand" (see Daniel 12:10).
(2) The teaching is that as the budding of the fig tree, then probably visible before them (cf. Matthew 21:19; Luke 21:29), was a sure presage of summer, so must the signs indicated in the preceding discourse be taken to pledge the near approach of the sequel, glorious to the righteous, disastrous to the wicked (cf. Matthew 16:3; Luke 21:31; Revelation 1:1).
(3) "The summer is nigh." When the trees of righteousness put forth the leaf of faithful promise, it is a happy presage of good times. But that which to the good is an enlivening light is to the wicked a scorching and consuming fire.
2. The assertion is repeated in the comment.
(1) The generation that witnesses the signs will also witness the sequel. This was literally so in regard to the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 16:28; Matthew 23:36). There is a distinction between "these things," which refer to the events of the destruction of Jerusalem, and "that day" (ver. 36), which indicates the season of the final judgment. Yet was the judgment upon Jerusalem a type of the judgment of the last day.
(2) The "generation" destined to see the end of "all things" in the wider sense, is the Jewish race (see A. Clarke, Steir, and Alford). Therefore the preservation of that race amidst untoward circumstances pledges the certainty of the sequel.
(3) It is easier for the heavens and the earth to pass away than for the word of Christ to fail (see Luke 16:17). The creation had a beginning, so may have an end; but Christ's truth is from eternity, and cannot but abide. The failure of the truth of God would be, in other words, the failure of his existence, which is a supposition superlatively absurd.
II. THE TIME OF THAT EVENT IS NOT WHOLLY UNCERTAIN.
1. It is particularly known to God alone.
(1) To him it is known. It is therefore distinguished as "the day of the Lord." Christ, as God, therefore, knew it. "It is necessary to distinguish between the knowledge of Christ as a Divine Person and that which he possesses as the Prophet of his Church. As Divine he knows all things; but as a Prophet he receives his messages from the Father, and makes them known to us. In this sense he knew not the day of judgment; that is, it was no part of the revelation which God gave to him to make known to men" (A. Fuller). "To know" has the idiomatic sense of "make known" (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2; Acts 1:6, 7; 1 Timothy 6:15).
(2) As it was not given to the Son to make it known, so neither was it given to the angels. They have great capacities for knowledge, and, dwelling at the fountain of light, have also great opportunities; but their prescience is limited, or at least it is not given to them to make it known.
(3) The day on which Titus was to invest Jerusalem was not known to the disciples when our Lord advised them to pray that their flight might not be on the sabbath. The hour or season was not known to them when he advised them to pray that it might not be in winter (ver. 20). So are we without knowledge of the day and season of the great event of which the judgment upon the Jews was but a figure. Wisdom withholds particular revelations of the future to encourage prayer.
2. Yet is it generally made known to the wise.
(1) Many ancient prophecies contain approximate anticipations of the time. Light upon this subject was progressively increasing. Daniel gave intimation of the destruction of Jerusalem to the year in his period of four hundred and ninety years, though not the day or season.
(2) Our Lord himself speaks of great political revolutions that should happen before his return; and his language plainly implies that the event was then remote (see ver. 48; Matthew 25:5, 19).
(3) Paul declares that before that great event there should occur a gradual development and subsequent gradual wasting of a great apostasy, the germs of which were already working in his day (see 2 Thessalonians 2.).
(4) Proceeding further, we find Peter using language evidently designed to prepare the Church for a long delay (see 2 Peter 3.).
(5) The series of intervening events is wonderfully disclosed in the course of the revelations given to John. The wise who study this series cannot be ignorant as to the approaching time.
3. But to the wicked it will come as a surprise.
(1) So the Flood came upon the men of that generation. "They knew not." They were warned, but did not heed. "Death never comes without a warrant, but often without a warning (Anon.). Not knowing, i.e. acknowledging, is joined with eating and drinking and marrying. They were sensual because secure; but the ignorance of wickedness is an imaginary security. The flood came." Those who will not know by faith shall be made to know by feeling. The evil day is never further off for men's putting it off. Judgments are most terrible to those who make a jest of them.
(2) "As in the days of Noah." The design here is to show that the desolation will be as general as it will be unexpected. The miserable Jews neglected the advice of Jesus to watch, and were destroyed, it is for us to learn wisdom by the things which they have suffered. The general neglect of religion is a more dangerous symptom to a people than particular instances of irreligion.
(3) The siege of Jerusalem surprised the Jews in the midst of their festivity at the Passover (cf. Judges 18:7, 27; 1 Thessalonians 5:3). Man's unbelief shall not make the truth of God's threatenings of none effect (cf. Isaiah 47:7-9; Revelation 18:7). "The uncertainty of the time of Christ's coming is to those who are watchful a savour of life unto life, and makes them more watchful; but to those who are careless it is a savour of death unto death, and makes them more careless" (Henry).
4. It will be a time of separation.
(1) "Then shall two men be in the field," etc. (ver. 40). Many who have been united in the closest earthly relations will then be found separated in their spiritual condition and eternal allotment.
(2) Those "taken" correspond to Noah and his family, who were taken into the ark, and to the disciples of Jesus, who removed to Pella. Those "left" correspond to the people shut out of the ark, and those shut into Jerusalem when it was devoted to destruction. In the last day the elect will be gathered out of the devoted world into the cloud of Christ's protecting presence.
(3) Here our Lord enjoins upon his disciples to watch, and that too in reference to his coming - an event so far remote that when it occurs they will be found among the dead. In like manner, we find the apostles exhorting their brethren to watchfulness, and urging the same reason, while they certainly knew that event to be remote. The lesson, then, is that it is manifestly the Divine purpose that the thoughts of the people of God should be carried forward to and fixed upon that momentous time when Christ shall come to judge the world. Observe, then:
1. That to live in a state of preparation for this event is also to live prepared for death.
2. That every exhortation of Scripture to watch for the former is alike applicable to the latter.
3. That in a most important respect the hour of death is to every man the hour of judgment. - J.A.M.
Immediately after the tribulation of these days shall the sun be darkened.I. There will be a manifestation of Christ in truth and UNMISTAKABLE REALITY. Till the moment of His coming, it will be possible to deceive. False prophets were the bane of the old dispensation; false Christs are the bane of the new. Then He will stand before men as the true Messiah. "I am the truth" will be condemnation for millions in that day.
II. Christ will be manifested in UNIVERSALITY. At present He is here and there as men carry the message. His coming then shall be like the lightning flash, which penetrates everywhere, awfully beautiful, irresistibly destructive, and fearfully silent.
III. The AWFUL, MAJESTY in which He will appear. This is set forth in the appalling changes that will come over the material heavens.
IV. Christ will be manifested as IN SEARCH OF HIS OWN. "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost," not secretly as before; but His angels shall conspicuously gather together the dead.
(E. T. Marshall.)
I. THE SIGN OF CHRIST'S HUMILIATION. "This shall be a sign unto you" etc. (Luke 2:12). A most disappointing sign this must have been to the shepherds, if they shared the current expectation of a regal and triumphant Messiah. A sign of exquisite tenderness and attractiveness to us.
II. The sign of Christ's GLORY. Our Lord, in answer to the question of the disciples, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming," etc., sketches a solemn prophetic picture of the events that are to precede it — the apostasies, and wars, and famines, and tribulations — and then finishes with this as the final omen, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens." Vast conjecture and speculation have been awakened as to the nature of this sign. The many descriptions of Christ's coming given in Scripture agree in one particular, that He comes in clouds. Examine this sign, and seek to interpret it .... As in the sign of Christ's first coming there were marks of glory accompanying the marks of humiliation, so in the sign of His second coming there will be marks of His humiliation accompanying the marks of His glory. Both signs are true, they shine on the pages of prophecy as we read, like the dazzling lenses of a revolving lighthouse, first one and then the other; now the glory and now the humiliation; now the suffering and now the conquest. The one has been fulfilled. Glory, then, in the accomplishment of the one. Watch for the appearing of the other. "What I say-unto you I say unto all — Watch."
(A. J. Gordon.)I. The persons of whom that assembly will be composed.
II. The process by which that assembly will be collected.
III. The manner in which that assembly will be arranged. Only two classes will be recognized. The last division of the assembly will be public and visible. How momentous the events which that division has created and displayed!
IV. The decision which on it will be pronounced. The principles by which the decision will be guided. The consequences which the decision will involve.
(J. Parsons.)I. Vicious habits.
II. A resort to infidelity or universalism to relieve the mind from presentiments of a judgment to come.
III. A false hope and a false profession.
IV. The approach of age without religion.
V. Carnal security.
VI. Satisfaction with worldly good.
VII. A loose and presumptuous confidence in God's mercy.
VIII. Increasing hardness of heart.
IX. Neglect of prayer and the means of grace.
X. The rejection of many calls. How many of these marks of death do you find upon yourself?
(E. Griffin, D. D.)within you, but the crises of judgment are periodical and outward. The kingdom is within the individual the kingdom of habit, which eludes observation; silently formed day by day, growing as seed grows in the earth, full of slow, secret developments; the kingdom of impressions received — no change on the face showing the inner working; the kingdom of life discipline — lessons quietly, privately learned — experiences which only you know of laid to heart — memories hoarded; the kingdom of prayer, aspiration, spiritual communion, into which you can enter alone, none knowing how or when you pray — the Divine Host coming in silently, "without observation." It comes also, this spiritual kingdom, to nations, "without observation;" slowly beneath its invisible sway slavery disappears; the place of woman is secured; human law brought into nearer affinity with Divine law; the brotherhood of man gradually acknowledged, in theory, at least; even the horror of war alleviated. Thus slowly, without observation, do the kingdoms of the world tend to become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. But, oh, how much remains to be done! Philosophers talk of the military barbarous phase giving place to the industrial phase in civilization, and we enter the Inventions Exhibition, 1885 — that late product of the nineteenth century — and the first things which meet our gaze are certain awful cannons and war implements for the destruction of human life, and the unfaternal torture of human beings. Cold steel, gunpowder, and the big battalions have it all their own way in a world which laughs at arbitration, sneers at right, and still swears by Christ. And now see how the judgment crises of this kingdom within work themselves out, and are as startling and as terrible as any appearance of the Son of Man in the clouds, surrounded by His angelic heralds of judgment. Every time the measure of a nation's iniquity is full, there comes such a judgment crisis. It came to Jerusalem when the armies of Vespasian, in the year 70, trampled out the heartless and effete ecclesiastical system of the old Judaism. It came to Rome when the unparalleled corruption of the Caesars had spread to the provinces, and in due time the empire went to pieces, under the weakness of its head, and was broken up to be re-constituted in the Christian nations of modern Europe. It came to England when the Reformation stamped the authority of the Pope out of the kingdom. It came again when huge popular oppression and political wrong nerved the people to strike for justice in the execution of an English king. It came to France after centuries of organized selfishness and robbery of the poor by the rich, in the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, 1793. It came again with the overthrow of an adventurer, who in our time rose to power by treachery and massacre, and wielded the sceptre of France for more than twenty years until the judgment fell upon him at Sedan and hurled him from the throne. People were taken in by Napoleon III. and the glitter of his empire. They thought that he at all events had outdone Providence. But neither he nor any one else can do that. One Frenchman at least saw clear — stood firm for the permanence of spiritual principle, and waited for the kingdom of God which cometh not with observation. That was Victor Hugo. Nothing could induce him to enter France whilst Antichrist was on the throne. The day after Sedan he presented himself at the ticket-office in Brussels, and left that night for Paris.
(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)
PeopleDaniel, Jesus, Noah, Noe
PlacesJerusalem, Judea, Mount of Olives
TopicsDoor, Doors, Gates, Likewise, Nigh, Recognize, Signs, Sure, Thus
Outline1. Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple;
3. what and how great calamities shall be before it;
29. the signs of his coming to judgment.
36. And because that day and hour are unknown,
42. we ought to watch like good servants, expecting our Master's coming.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesMatthew 24:33
LibraryThe Carrion and the Vultures
'Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.'--MATT. xxiv. 28. This grim parable has, of course, a strong Eastern colouring. It is best appreciated by dwellers in those lands. They tell us that no sooner is some sickly animal dead, or some piece of carrion thrown out by the way, than the vultures--for the eagle does not prey upon carrion--appear. There may not have been one visible a moment before in the hot blue sky, but, taught by scent or by sight that their banquet …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Two Forms of one Saying
Watching for the King
March the Twentieth the Lord is at Hand!
What Lasts, and what Passes Away.
"And Watch unto Prayer. "
Of Meditation Upon Death
Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold.
The Second Coming of Christ.
The Christian Conception of Life Has Already Arisen in Our Society, and Will Infallibly Put an End to the Present Organization of Our Life Based On
The Evening of the Third Day in Passion-Week - on the Mount of Olives: Discoures to the Disciples Concerning the Last Things.
A Key to the Knowledge of Church History
Our Lord's Olivet Discourse Shows that There is no Universal Triumph of the Gospel Before his Second Advent.
Third Sunday Before Lent
The vineyard and Its Keepers
Watching the Horizon
Another Shorter Evening Prayer.
There is a Blessedness in Reversion
An Analysis of Augustin's Writings against the Donatists.
The Completion of Our Saviour's Prophecies Confirmed Pagans in their Belief of the Gospel.
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