« Prev Matt. XXIV. 1-28; Mark XIII. 1-23; Luke XXI. 5-24. Next »


Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold.

A Matt. XXIV. 1–28; B Mark XIII. 1–23; C Luke XXI. 5–24.

a 1 And Jesus went out from the temple [leaving it to return no more], and was going on his way; and his disciples came to him b as he went forth a to show him the buildings of the temple. b one of his disciples saith unto him, Teacher, behold, what manner of stones and what manner of buildings! c 5 And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and offerings, he said [The strength and wealth of the temple roused the admiration of the Galilæans. The great stones in its fortifications promised safety from its enemies, and the goodly offerings bespoke the zeal of its friends. According to Josephus, some of the stones were nearly seventy feet in length, twelve feet in height, and eighteen feet in breadth. The same historian tells us of the gifts or offerings which adorned it: crowns, shields, goblets, chain of gold present by Agrippa, and a golden vine with its vast clusters which was the gift of Herod. The temple was built of 620white limestone, and its beauty and strength made it admired of all nations. It took forty-six years to finish, and ten thousand skilled workmen are said to have been employed in its construction.] { a 2 But b Jesus a answered and said unto them, b him,} Seest thou these great buildings? a See ye not all these things? c 6 As for these things which ye behold, a verily I say unto you, c the days will come, in which there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that { b which} shall not be thrown down. [In the very hour when the disciples exulted in the apparent permanency of their glorious temple, Jesus startled them by foretelling its utter destruction, which, within forty years, was fulfilled to the letter. The emperor Vespasian, and his son Titus, after a three years' siege, took Jerusalem and destroyed its temple, a.d. 70. Of the temple proper not a vestige was left standing, but the vast platform upon which it stood, composed partly of natural rock and partly of immense masonry, was for the most part left standing. The destruction of the city and temple, however, was so complete that those who visited it could hardly believe that it had ever been inhabited—Jos. Wars vii. 1.] 3 And as he sat on the mount of Olives, over against the temple [he was in the middle portion of the mountain, for that is the part which is opposite the temple], a the disciples b Peter and James and John and Andrew [on this occasion Andrew was in company with the chosen three when they were honored by a special revelation, but is put last as being the least conspicuous of the four] a came unto him privately, b asked him privately, a saying, c Teacher, b 4 Tell us, when c therefore shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when these things are about to come to pass? { b to be accomplished?} a and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? [Dismayed by the brief words which Jesus had spoken as he was leaving the temple, these four disciples asked for fuller details. Their question is fourfold. 1. When shall the temple be destroyed? 2. What shall be the signs which precede its destruction? 3. 621What shall be the sign of Christ's coming? 4. What shall be the sign of the end of the world? Jesus had said nothing of his coming nor of the end of the world; but to these four disciples the destruction of the temple seemed an event of such magnitude that they could not but associate it with the end of all things. Jesus deals with the first two questions in this section, and with the two remaining questions in Section CXIV.] 4 And Jesus answered and said { b began to say} unto them, Take heed that no man lead you { c that ye be not led} astray: for many shall come in my name [claiming my name], saying, I am he; a I am the Christ; c and, The time is at hand: b and shall lead many astray. c go ye not after them. [The first sign of approaching destruction would be the appearance of false Christs. These would boldly claim the title, and assert that the time for the setting up of the eternal kingdom had arrived. We have no direct history of the appearance of such persons, the nearest approach to it being the parties mentioned by Josephus (Ant. xx. 5. 1; 8. 6, 10; Wars ii. 13. 4, 5.) But as these men left no institutions or followers, it is quite natural that they should be overlooked or dropped by historians. Nothing is more natural, however, than that the excitement attendant upon the ministry of Jesus should encourage many to attempt to become such a Christ as the people wanted. The Gospels show so widespread a desire for a political Christ that the law of demand and supply would be sure to make many such.] a 6 And b when a ye shall hear of wars c and tumults, a and rumors of wars; see that ye b be not troubled: c be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; a but the end [the destruction of the temple] is not yet. { c immediately.} 10 Then said he unto them, b 8 For c Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom [Wars and rumours of wars would be the second sign, but Christians in Jerusalem could rest there in safety until a more definite token bid them depart. Of course the wars here mentioned were only such as threatened particularly to affect the Jews, for the trouble coming upon the Jews was the 622subject of discourse. Alford, in commenting on this paragraph, takes the pains to enumerate three threats of war made against the Jews by as many Roman emperors and three uprisings of Gentiles against Jews in which many thousands of the latter perished]; 11 and there shall be great earthquakes, b in divers places; c and in divers places b there shall be c famines and pestilences; and there shall be terrors and great signs from heaven. [Great natural disturbances would constitute the third sign. That these preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, there is abundant historic evidence. Alford enumerates the earthquakes as follows: 1. A great earthquake in Crete, a.d. 46 or 47. 2. One at Rome when Nero assumed the manly toga, a.d. 51. 3. One at Apamæa in Phrygia, mentioned by Tacitus, a.d. 53. 4. One at Laodicea in Phrygia, a.d. 60. 5. One in Campania, a.d. 62 or 63. There were an indefinite number of famines referred to by Roman writers, and at least one pestilence during which thirty thousand perished in Rome alone. All these signs are mentioned by unbelieving writers such as Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Philostratus, and Seneca, who speak of them because of their importance and not with any reference to the prophecy of Christ.] a 8 But all these things are the beginning of travail. c 12 But before all these things, they shall lay their hands on you, and shall persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name's sake. b 9 But take ye heed to yourselves: for a 9 Then shall they deliver you up b to councils; a unto tribulation, and shall kill you: b and in synagogues shall ye be beaten; a and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. b and before governors and kings shall ye stand for my sake, for a testimony unto them. c 13 It shall turn out unto you for a testimony. [A fourth sign which they needed to heed particularly would be an outbreak of persecution. The Book of Acts furnishes an abundant evidence of the fulfillment of these details. The civil and ecclesiastical authorities 623(synagogues and kings) united to oppress the church. See Acts iv. 3; v. 18, 40; vii. 59; viii. 3; xii. 1, 2; xiv. 19; xvi. 19–24; xxii. 30; xxiv. 1; xxv. 2, 3. Peter, James the elder and James the younger, and Paul, and doubtless many more of the apostles suffered martyrdom before the destruction of the temple. Tacitus bears testimony to the hatred and blind bigotry of the age when he speaks of Christians as “a class of men hated on account of their crimes” (Annals, xv. 44). See also Suetonius on Nero 16, and Pliny (Ep. x. 97). For comments on a similar passage see pp. 365, 366.] b 10 And the gospel must first be preached unto all the nations. [Paul says that this was done (Col. i. 23). Of course the language of both Jesus and Paul must be understood with reference to the geography of the earth as then known. Paul's declaration was written about the year a.d. 63, or seven years before the destruction of Jerusalem. His meaning is not that every creature had actually heard the gospel, but that each had been given an opportunity to hear because the gospel had been so universally preached.] 11 And when they lead you to judgment, and deliver you up, be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: c 14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate beforehand how to answer: 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay. b but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit. [See p. 318. This is the third time Jesus has given this promise. See p. 366.] a 10 And then shall many stumble [persecution always causes a deflection of the faint-hearted, see p. 333, 334], and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. [Apostates have ever been among the most bitter enemies of the church.] 11 And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. [This refers to the false teachers which arose in the church. The apostles bear abundant testimony to their appearance—II. Cor. xi. 13–15; Gal. ii. 1–4; I. Tim. i. 3–7, 19, 20; II. Tim. iii. 8, 9; Tit. i. 10, 11; II. Pet. ii.; Jude.] 62412 And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. [The prevalence of sin tempts and encourages the feeble to commit it.] c 16 But ye shall be delivered up even by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends; b 12 And brother shall deliver up brother to death, and the father his child; and children shall rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. c and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. [Hatred against Christianity would prove stronger than all family ties.] 17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. [See p. 366.] 18 And not a hair of your head shall perish. [The previous verses show that this promise is spiritual. The destruction of a saint's body would work no real injury to him.] b but he that endureth to the end [i. e., to his death], the same shall be saved. [See p. 366.] c 19 In your patience ye shall win your souls. [The Christian's battle is won by endurance and not by violence, and he that can patiently hold out unto the end can, by the grace of God, save his soul.] a 14 And 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. [See the 1 given above. Jerusalem, the seat of the old dispensation, was not removed until the new dispensation was sown throughout the then known world.] c 20 But when ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that her desolation is at hand. b 14 But a 15 When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet [Dan. iv. 11], standing in the holy place b where he ought not [for comment, see end of the paragraph, page 626 below] (let him that readeth understand) [Matthew also gives a similar parenthesis. If the words in parentheses were spoken by our Lord, they would constitute an exhortation to understand the prophecy of Daniel, and would be unnecessary, since our Lord's application of the prophecy explains it. The words are, therefore, exhortations by the Evangelists Matthew and Mark, 625bidding their readers take heed to this part of the prophecy (which constituted the last sign, and, therefore, the final warning) that they might not share in the bitter fate impending over Jerusalem and Judæa if they chanced to be in either in the hour of judgment], then let them that are in Judæa flee unto the mountains. c and let them that are in the midst of her [Jerusalem] depart out; and let not them that are in the country enter therein. b 15 and let him that is on the housetop not go down, nor enter in, a to take out the things that are in { b to take anything out of} his house [see pp. 532, 533]: 16 and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak. c 22 For [this word introduces the reason for such hot haste] these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. [Deut. xxviii. 49–57; Dan. ix. 26, 27; xii. 1, 11; Joel ii. 2.] b 17 But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! [because their condition would impede their flight] c for there shall be great distress upon the land, and wrath unto this people. [The city of Jerusalem was divinely sentenced to punishment for her sins.] 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all the nations [According to Josephus, one million one hundred thousand perished during the siege, and ninety-seven thousand were taken captive. Of these latter, many were tortured and slain, being crucified, as he tell us, till “room was wanted for the crosses, and crosses wanted for the bodies”]: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. [By comparing this passage with Romans xi., we find that the times of the Gentiles signify that period wherein the church is made up of Gentiles to the almost exclusion of the Jews. The same chapter shows that this period is to be followed by one wherein the Jew and the Gentile unite together in proclaiming the gospel. This prophecy, therefore, declares that until this union of the Jew and the Gentile takes place, the city of Jerusalem shall not only be controlled by the Gentiles, 626but shall be trodden under foot—i. e., oppressed—by them. The history of Jerusalem, to this day, is a striking fulfillment of this prophecy.] b 18 And pray ye that it a your flight b be not in the winter. [Because the flight will be so precipitate that it would necessitate much exposure to the weather, sleeping under the open heaven, etc.] a neither on a sabbath [Jewish tradition limited travel on the Sabbath day to a distance of seven furlongs. The early training of many Christians led them to have scruples about breaking the Sabbath. It is possible that Jesus had these scruples in view, but by no means conclusive, for in fleeing they would need the support and friendship of their Jewish brethren, who would be apt, not only to hinder, but even in those troublous and turbulent days, to show violence to any who openly disregarded the Sabbath. For it must be remembered that the Jews, not being guided by the admonitions of Christ, would regard the sudden flight of the Christians as unnecessarily hasty]: 21 for then { b those days} a shall be great tribulation, b such as there hath not been the like from the beginning of the creation { a the world} b which God created until now, and never, { a no, nor ever} shall be. [These words spoken before the event are strikingly verified by the statements of Josephus written after it. “No other city,” says he, “ever suffered miseries, nor did any age, from the beginning of the world, ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness that this was.” And again: “If the miseries of all mankind from the creation were compared with those which the Jews then suffered, they would appear inferior.” The promise that there shall be no days like it of course excludes the terrors and miseries of the judgment day, since it belongs to celestial rather than terrestrial history. Having now the whole paragraph before us, we are ready to discuss the phrase “abomination of desolation” mentioned in Matt. xxiv. 15 (p. 624). Taking it in connection with the entire paragraph, we can readily see, 1. That it was a sign practically simultaneous with the compassing of Jerusalem by the Roman army. 2. That it was a clearly marked sign which was to be followed by 627immediate flight, even if the day of its appearing should chance to be the Sabbath—a flight so sudden that a man must not stop to enter his house or get his coat. Now, some translate the phrase “abomination of desolation” (or abomination that causeth desolation, for it may be so translated) as referring to the crimes of the zealots, a faction in Jerusalem, who took possession of the temple and profaned its sanctuary by using it as a fort, thus making themselves an abomination in the eyes of the Jews by polluting God's house and entering where they had no right to enter. But a long interval intervened between this evil deed of theirs and the coming of the Romans, during any day of which a Christian might have taken his departure after the most leisurely manner. Others take the phrase as referring to the entrance of the triumphant Roman army upon the temple courts; but as this was one of the last scenes of the prolonged siege, it could not properly be coupled with the encompassing Roman army. Meyer, aware of this difficulty, takes the position that there were two flights prescribed by Jesus, one from Jerusalem at the time when the Romans appeared, and the other from Judæa at the time when the temple fell. But the language used by Luke (Luke xxi. 20, 21) forbids us to make the flight from Judæa subsequent to the flight from Jerusalem, for both flights were to begin when the Romans appeared. Again it should be noted that the phrase “the holy place” is apt to mislead, especially when coupled with Mark's “where it ought not.” The words when seen in English cause us to think of some person or thing polluting the sanctuary of the temple by standing in its holy place. But it is evident that the words do not refer to the temple at all. When the New Testament speaks of the holy place in the temple it styles it en too hagioo (in the holy), while the words here are en topoo hagioo (in a place holy). Moreover, after a careful perusal of the LXX. we are persuaded that they used the two terms to distinguish between the holy place in the sanctuary and other holy places, a distinction which the Revised Version recognizes (Lev. vi. 16, 26, 27, etc.). As none but priests could enter 628the holy place, it is evident that another is meant at Ps. xxiv. 3; but in this place the Septuagint gives us en topoo hagioo. We, therefore, conclude that in this place Matthew uses the term “holy place” to designate the holy territory round about the Holy City, and that the combined expression of Matthew and Mark signifies the investiture of the city by the Roman armies and is equivalent to the plainer statement made by Luke. The Roman armies were fittingly called the abomination of desolation, because, being heathen armies, they were an abomination to the Jews, and because they brought desolation upon the country. The sight of them, therefore, became the appointed sign for Christians to quit the city.] 22 And except those days had been shortened, b 20 And except the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved [since the Lord is speaking to the Jews, this means that if God had not shortened the siege and restrained the Romans, they would have exterminated the Jewish race]; but for the elect's sake, whom he chose, he shortened the days. a those days shall be shortened. [since the term “elect” in verses 24 and 31 evidently means Christians, it doubtless means that here, though it may mean that God spared a remnant of the Jewish people because he had covenanted with the patriarchs that they should be his chosen people, for the Jews are also God's elect (Rom. xi. 28, 29). Moreover, it should be noted that there were few, if any, Christians remaining in the city, and that those who were spared were spared as Jews without discrimination.] b 21 And then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ; a or, Here; b or, Lo, there; believe it not: 22 for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show a great signs and wonders; so as to { b that they may} lead astray, if possible, a even the elect. [For accounts of these lying prophets who appeared before and during the siege, see Josephus, Wars iv., v., vi. Christ warns his followers: 1. Not to be deceived by spurious Christs. 2. Not to believe that he himself has again appeared. This latter warning is further enforced by what follows.] b 23 But take 629ye heed: behold, I have told you all things beforehand. a 26 If 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. 27 For 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. [The coming of Christ would be an event needing no herald; every man would see it for himself. See p. 531.] 28 Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. [See pp. 533, 534.]

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