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24. Signs of the End of the Age
1And Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way; and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. 2But he answered and said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. 5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray. 6And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. 7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and earthquakes in divers places. 8But all these things are the beginning of travail. 9Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all the nations for my name's sake. 10And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. 11And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. 12And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. 13But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come.
15When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), 16then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains: 17let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out things that are in his house: 18and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak. 19But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! 20And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on a sabbath: 21for then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be. 22And except those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Here; believe it not. 24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25Behold, I have told you beforehand. 26If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not. 27For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 28Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
29But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; 33even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors. 34Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished. 35Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only. 37And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 38For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, 39and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 40Then shall two man be in the field; one is taken, and one is left: 41two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left. 42Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. 43But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. 44Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.
45Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath set over his household, to give them their food in due season? 46Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47Verily I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. 48But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord tarrieth; 49and shall begin to beat his fellow-servants, and shall eat and drink with the drunken; 50the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, 51and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:9. Then will they deliver you up to be afflicted. Christ now foretells to the disciples another kind of temptation, by which, in addition to ordinary afflictions, their faith must be tried; and that is, that they will be hated and detested by the whole world. It is painful and distressing enough in itself that the children of God should be afflicted in such a manner as not to be distinguished from the reprobate and the despisers of God, and should be subjected to the same punishments which those men endure on account of their crimes; and it appears to be still more unjust that they should be severely oppressed by grievous calamities from which the ungodly are exempted. But as wheat, after having been beaten by the flail along with the chaff, is pressed down and bruised by the millstone, so God not only afflicts his children in common with the ungodly, but subdues them by the cross even beyond others, so that we might be apt to think them more unhappy than the rest of mankind.
But Christ treats here strictly of the afflictions which the disciples had to endure on account of the gospel. For, though what Paul stays is true, that those whom God hath elected are likewise appointed by him to bear the cross,
that they may be conformed to the image of his Son,
yet he does not distinguish all by this special Mark of enduring persecution from the enemies of the gospel. It is of this species of the cross that Christ now speaks, when it becomes necessary that believers should incur the hatred, meet the reproaches, and provoke the fury, of the ungodly for the testimony of the gospel. For he intended to warn his disciples that the doctrine of the gospel, of which they were to be witnesses and messengers, would never be pleasant or agreeable to the world, as he had formerly explained to them. He foretells not only that they will have to contend with a few enemies, but that, wherever they come, all nations will oppose them.
But it was monstrous and incredible, and was fitted to astonish and shake even the strongest minds, that the name of the Son of God should be so infamous and hateful, that all who professed it would be everywhere disliked. Accordingly, the words of Mark are, take heed to yourselves. By this expression he points out the end and use of the warning, which is, that they ought to be prepared for endurance, lest, through want of caution, they might be overwhelmed by temptation. The same Mark adds, that this will be for a testimony to kings and rulers, when the disciples of Christ shall be brought before their tribunal. Luke expresses it a little differently, this will happen to you for a testimony, but the sense is quite the same; for Christ means that his gospel will be so much the more fully attested, when they have defended it at the risk of their lives.
If the apostles had only given their attention to preaching the gospel, and had not stood so firmly in defending it against the furious attacks of enemies, the confirmation of it would not have been so complete. But when they did not hesitate to expose their lives, and were not driven from their purpose by any terrors of death, their unshaken constancy made it manifest, how firmly they were convinced of the goodness of their cause. It was therefore an authentic seal of the gospel, when the apostles advanced without terror to the tribunals of kings, and there made an open profession of the name of Christ. Accordingly, Peter calls himself
a witness of the sufferings of Christ, (1 Peter 5:1,)
whose badges he wore; and Paul boasts that he was
placed for the defense of the gospel, (Philippians 1:17.)
This is eminently worthy of attention, that those on whom God bestows so great an honor as to make them defenders of his truth, may not through base treachery fall from the faith.
Matthew 24:10. Then will many be offended. He now enumerates the temptations which will arise from bad examples. Now this is an exceedingly violent temptation, and difficult to overcome; for Christ is to many a stone of offense, (1 Peter 2:8,) on which some dash themselves, or by meeting which some are thrown back, and others fall away. In this expression Christ appears to me to include many kinds of troubles; for not only do they that had entered into the right course fall away, but many are exasperated against Christ; others, forgetful of moderation and justice, break out into rage; others grow profane, and lose every feeling of piety; and others, amidst the confusion which prevails, take upon themselves a liberty to commit crimes.
11. And many false prophets will arise. This warning differs from the former, in which Christ foretold that many would come in his name. For there he spoke only of impostors, who, shortly after the commencement of the Gospel, gave out that they were the Christ; but now he threatens that in all ages false teachers will arise, to corrupt sound doctrine, as Peter tells us (2 Peter 2:1) that the Church will be no less exposed to this evil under the Gospel than it anciently was under the Law. There is therefore no reason why error, and certain impostures of the devil and corruptions of piety, should strike pious minds with dismay; since no man is properly founded on Christ, who has not learned that we must stand firm against such attacks; for this is the undoubted trial of our faith, when it is in no degree shaken by the false doctrines which arise, or does he only say that false prophets will come, but likewise that they will be so crafty as to deceive and draw away sects after them. 133133 “En sorte qu’ils auront des disciples, et feront des sectes;” — “so that they will have disciples, and will form sects.” No ordinary caution is necessary here; for the multitude of those who are going astray is like a violent tempest, which compels us to leave the course, if we are not firmly fixed on God. On this subject something was said but lately.
12 Because iniquity will abound. How far and wide this evil extends every person ought to know, but there are very few who observe it. For in consequence of the superior clearness with which the light of the gospel discovers the malice of men, even good and properly regulated minds grow cool, and almost lose the desire to exercise benevolence. Each of them reasons thus with himself, that the duties which they perform to one person, or to another, are thrown away, because experience and daily practice show that almost all are ungrateful, or treacherous, or wicked. This is unquestionably a weighty and dangerous temptation; for what could be more unreasonable than to approve of a doctrine, by which the desire of doing good, and the rigor of charity, appear to be diminished? And yet when the gospel makes its appearance, charity, which ought to kindle the hearts of all men with its warmth, rather grows cool. But we must observe the source of this evil, which Christ points out, namely, that many lose courage, because through their weakness they are unable to stem the flood of iniquity which flows on every hand. Christ requires from his followers, on the other hand, such courage as to persist in striving against it; as Paul also enjoins us not to be weary of performing deeds of kindness and beneficence, (2 Thessalonians 3:13.) Although, then, the charity of many, overwhelmed by the mass of iniquities, should give way, Christ warns believers that they must surmount this obstacle, lest, overcome by bad examples, they apostatize. And therefore he repeats the statement, that no man can be saved, unless he strive lawfully, (2 Timothy 2:5,) so as to persevere to the end
14. And the gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world. Our Lord, having delivered a discourse which gave no small occasion for sorrow, seasonably adds this consolation, to raise up minds that were cast down, or to uphold those which were falling. Whatever may be the contrivances of Satan, and how numerous soever may be the multitudes which he carries away, yet the gospel will maintain its ground till it be spread through the whole world. This might indeed appear to be incredible; but it was the duty of the apostles, relying on this testimony of their Master, to cherish hope against hope, and, in the meantime, to strive vigorously to discharge their office. As to the objection brought by some, that to this day not even the slightest report concerning Christ has reached the Antipodes and other very distant nations, this difficulty may be speedily resolved; for Christ does not absolutely refer to every portion of the world, and does not fix a particular time, but only affirms that the gospel—which, all would have thought, was immediately to be banished from Judea, its native habitation would be spread to the farthest bounds of the world before the day of his last coming.
For a testimony to all nations. He describes this to be the end of preaching; for although
God has never left himself (ἀμάρτυρον) without witness,
and although in special manner he testified to the Jews concerning himself, yet it was a testimony remarkable beyond all others when he revealed himself in Christ; and therefore Paul says, that he was manifested in due time, (1 Timothy 2:6,) because this was the proper season for calling the whole world to God. Let us, therefore, learn that, wherever the gospel is preached, it is as if God himself came into the midst of us, and solemnly and expressly besought us, that we may not wander in darkness, as if we knew not where to go, and that those who refuse to obey may be rendered inexcusable.
And then will the end come. This is improperly restricted by some to the destruction of the temple, and the abolition of the service of the Law; for it ought to be understood as referring to the end and renovation of the world. Those two things having been blended by the disciples, as if the temple could not be overthrown without the destruction of the whole world, Christ, in replying to the whole question which had been put to him, reminded them that a long and melancholy succession of calamities was at hand, and that they must not hasten to seize the prize, before they had passed through many contests and dangers. In this manner, therefore, we ought to explain this latter clause: “The end of the world will not come before I have tried my Church, for a long period, by severe and painful temptations,” for it is contrasted with the false imagination which the apostles had formed in their minds. Hence, too, we ought to learn that no particular time is here fixed, as if the last day were to follow in immediate succession those events which were just now foretold; for the believers long ago experienced the fulfillment of those predictions which we have now examined, and yet Christ did not immediately appear. But Christ had no other design than to restrain the apostles, who were disposed to fly with excessive eagerness to the possession of the heavenly glory, and to show them the necessity of patience; as if he had said, that redemption was not so close at hand as they had imagined it to be, but that they must pass through long windings.