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The Coming of the Son of Man

25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Exhortation to Watch

34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”


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Judgments Predicted.

20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.   21 Then let them which are in Judæa flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.   22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.   23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.   24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.   25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;   26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.   27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.   28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

Having given them an idea of the times for about thirty-eight years next ensuing, he here comes to show them what all those things would issue in at last, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the utter dispersion of the Jewish nation, which would be a little day of judgment, a type and figure of Christ's second coming, which was not so fully spoken of here as in the parallel place (Matt. xxiv.), yet glanced at; for the destruction of Jerusalem would be as it were the destruction of the world to those whose hearts were bound up in it.

I. He tells them that they should see Jerusalem besieged, compassed with armies (v. 20), the Roman armies; and, when they saw this, they might conclude that its desolation was nigh, for in this the siege would infallibly end, though it might be a long siege. Note, As in mercy, so in judgment, when God begins, he will make an end.

II. He warns them, upon this signal given, to shift for their own safety (v. 21): "Then let them that are in Judea quit the country and flee to the mountains; let them that are in the midst of it" (Of Jerusalem) "depart out, before the city be closely shut up, and" (as we say now) "before the trenches be opened; and let not them that are in the countries and villages about enter into the city, thinking to be safe there. Do you abandon a city and country which you see God has abandoned and given up to ruin. Come out of her, my people."

III. He foretels the terrible havoc that should be made of the Jewish nation (v. 22): Those are the days of vengeance so often spoken of by the Old-Testament prophets, which would complete the ruin of that provoking people. All their predictions must now be fulfilled, and the blood of all the Old-Testament martyrs must now be required. All things that are written must be fulfilled at length. After days of patience long abused, there will come days of vengeance; for reprieves are not pardons. The greatness of that destruction is set forth, 1. By the inflicting cause of it. It is wrath upon this people, the wrath of God, that will kindle this devouring consuming fire. 2. By the particular terror it would be to women with child, and poor mothers that are nurses. Woe to them, not only because they are most subject to frights, and least able to shift for their own safety, but because it will be a very great torment to them to think of having borne and nursed children for the murderers. 3. By the general confusion that should be all the nation over. There shall be great distress in the land, for men will not know what course to take, nor how to help themselves.

IV. He describes the issue of the struggles between the Jews and the Romans, and what they will come to at last; in short, 1. Multitudes of them shall fall by the edge of the sword. It is computed that in those wars of the Jews there fell by the sword above eleven hundred thousand. And the siege of Jerusalem was, in effect, a military execution. 2. The rest shall be led away captive; not into one nations, as when they were conquered by the Chaldeans, which gave them an opportunity of keeping together, but into all nations, which made it impossible for them to correspond with each other, much less to incorporate. 3. Jerusalem itself was trodden down of the Gentiles. The Romans, when they had made themselves masters of it, laid it quite waste, as a rebellious and bad city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and therefore hateful to them.

V. He describes the great frights that people should generally be in. Many frightful sights shall be in the sun, moon, and stars, prodigies in the heavens, and here in this lower world, the sea and the waves roaring, with terrible storms and tempests, such as had not been known, and above the ordinary working of natural causes. The effect of this shall be universal confusion and consternation upon the earth, distress of nations with perplexity, v. 25. Dr. Hammond understands by the nations the several governments or tetrarchies of the Jewish nation, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee; these shall be brought to the last extremity. Men's hearts shall fail them for fear (v. 26), apopsychonton anthroponmen being quite exanimated, dispirited, unsouled, dying away for fear. Thus those are killed all the day long by whom Christ's apostles were so (Rom. viii. 36), that is, they are all the day long in fear of being killed; sinking under that which lies upon them, and yet still trembling for fear of worse, and looking after those things which are coming upon the world. When judgment begins at the house of God, it will not end there; it shall be as if all the world were falling in pieces; and where can any be secure then? The powers of heaven shall be shaken, and then the pillars of the earth cannot but tremble. Thus shall the present Jewish policy, religion, laws, and government, be all entirely dissolved by a series of unparalleled calamities, attended with the utmost confusion. So Dr. Clarke. But our Saviour makes use of these figurative expressions because at the end of time they shall be literally accomplished, when the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their powers not only shaken, but broken, and the earth and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up, 2 Pet. iii. 10, 12. As that day was all terror and destruction to the unbelieving Jews, so the great day will be to all unbelievers.

VI. He makes this to be a kind of appearing of the Son of man: Then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory, v. 27. The destruction of Jerusalem was in a particular manner an act of Christ's judgment, the judgment committed to the Son of man; his religion could never be thoroughly established but by the destruction of the temple, and the abolishing of the Levitical priesthood and economy, after which even the converted Jews, and many of the Gentiles too, were still hankering, till they were destroyed; so that it might justly be looked upon as a coming of the Son of man, in power and great glory, yet not visibly, but in the clouds; for in executing such judgments as these clouds and darkness are round about him. Now this was, 1. An evidence of the first coming of the Messiah; so some understand it. Then the unbelieving Jews shall be confined, when it is too late, that Jesus was the Messiah; those that would not see him coming in the power of his grace to save them shall be made to see him coming in the power of his wrath to destroy them; those that would not have him to reign over them shall have him to triumph over them. 2. It was an earnest of his second coming. Then in the terrors of that day they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, and all the terrors of the last day. They shall see a specimen of it, a faint resemblance of it. If this be so terrible, what will that be?

VII. He encourages all the faithful disciples in reference to the terrors of that day (v. 28): "When these things begin to come to pass, when Jerusalem is besieged, and every thing is concurring to the destruction of the Jews, then do you look up, when others are looking down, look heavenward, in faith, hope, and prayer, and lift up your heads with cheerfulness and confidence, for your redemption draws night." 1. When Christ came to destroy the Jews, he came to redeem the Christians that were persecuted and oppressed by them; then had the churches rest. 2. When he comes to judge the world at the last day, he will redeem all that are his, from all their grievances. And the foresight of that day is as pleasant to all good Christians as it is terrible to the wicked and ungodly. Their death itself is so; when they see that day approaching, they can lift up their heads with joy, knowing that their redemption draws nigh, their removal to their Redeemer.

VIII. Here is one word of prediction that looks further than the destruction of the Jewish nation, which is not easily understood; we have it in v. 24: Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. 1. Some understand it of what is past; so Dr. Hammond. The Gentiles, who have conquered Jerusalem, shall keep possession of it, and it shall be purely Gentile, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, till a great part of the Gentile world shall have become Christian, and then after Jerusalem shall have been rebuilt by Adrian the emperor, with an exclusion of all the Jews from it, many of the Jews shall turn Christians, shall join with the Gentile Christians, to set up a church in Jerusalem, which shall flourish there for a long time. 2. Others understand it of what is yet to come; so Dr. Whitby. Jerusalem shall be possessed by the Gentiles, of one sort or other, for the most part, till the time come when the nations that yet remain infidels shall embrace the Christian faith, when the kingdoms of this world shall become Christ's kingdoms, and then all the Jews shall be converted. Jerusalem shall be inhabited by them, and neither they nor their city any longer trodden down by the Gentiles.

Judgments Predicted.

29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;   30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.   31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.   32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.   33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.   34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.   35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.   36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.   37 And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.   38 And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.

Here, in the close of this discourse,

I. Christ appoints his disciples to observe the signs of the times, which they might judge by, if they had an eye to the foregoing directions, with as much certainty and assurance as they could judge of the approach of summer by the budding forth of the trees, v. 29-31. As in the kingdom of nature there is a chain of causes, so in the kingdom of providence there is a consequence of one event upon another. When we see a nation filling up the measure of their iniquity, we may conclude that their ruin is nigh; when we see the ruin of persecuting powers hastening on, we may thence infer that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand, that when the opposition given to it is removed it shall gain ground. As we may lawfully prognosticate the change of the seasons when second causes have begun to work, so we may, in the disposal of events, expect something uncommon when God is already raised up out of his holy habitation (Zech. ii. 13); then stand still and see his salvation.

II. He charges them to look upon those things as neither doubtful nor distant (for then they would not make a due impression on them), but as sure and very near. The destruction of the Jewish nation, 1. Was near (v. 32): This generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled. There were some now alive that should see it; some that now heard the prediction of it. 2. It was sure; the sentence was irreversible; it was a consumption determined; the decree was gone forth (v. 33): "Heaven and earth shall pass away sooner than any word of mine: nay, they certainly shall pass away, but my words shall not; whether they take hold or no, they will take effect, and not one of them fall to the ground," 1 Sam. iii. 19.

III. He cautions them against security and sensuality, by which they would unfit themselves for the trying times that were coming on, and make them to be a great surprise and terror to them (v. 34, 35): Take heed to yourselves. This is the word of command given to all Christ's disciples: "Take heed to yourselves, that you be not overpowered by temptations, nor betrayed by your own corruptions." Note, We cannot be safe if we be secure. It concerns us at all times, but especially at some times, to be very cautious. See here, 1. What our danger is: that the day of death and judgment should come upon us unawares, when we do not expect it, and are not prepared for it,—lest, when we are called to meet our Lord, that be found the furthest thing from our thoughts which ought always to be laid nearest our hearts, lest it come upon us as a snare; for so it will come upon the most of men, who dwell upon the earth, and mind earthly things only, and have no converse with heaven; to them it will be as a snare. See Eccl. ix. 12. It will be a terror and a destruction to them; it will put them into an inexpressible fright, and hold them fast for a doom yet more frightful. 2. What our duty is, in consideration of this danger: we must take heed lest our hearts be overcharged, lest they be burdened and overloaded, and so unfitted and disabled to do what must be done in preparation for death and judgment. Two things we must watch against, lest our hearts be overcharged with them:—(1.) The indulging of the appetites of the body, and allowing of ourselves in the gratifications of sense to an excess: Take heed lest you be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, the immoderate use of meat and drink, which burden the heart, not only with the guilt thereby contracted, but by the ill influence which such disorders of the body have upon the mind; they make men dull and lifeless to their duty, dead and listless in their duty; they stupify the conscience, and cause the mind to be unaffected with those things that are most affecting. (2.) The inordinate pursuit of the good things of this world. The heart is overcharged with the cares of this life. The former is the snare of those that are given to their pleasures: this is the snare of the men of business, that will be rich. We have need to guard on both hands, not only lest at the time when death comes, but lest at any time our hearts should be thus overcharged. Our caution against sin, and our care of our own souls, must be constant.

IV. He counsels them to prepare and get ready for this great day, v. 36. Here see, 1. What should be our aim: that we may be accounted worthy to escape all these things; that, when the judgments of God are abroad, we may be preserved from the malignity of them; that either we may not be involved in the common calamity or it may not be that to us which it is to others; that in the day of death we may escape the sting of it, which is the wrath of God, and the damnation of hell. Yet we must aim not only to escape that, but to stand before the Son of man; not only to stand acquitted before him as our Judge (Ps. i. 5), to have boldness in the day of Christ (that is supposed in our escaping all those things), but to stand before him, to attend on him as our Master, to stand continually before his throne, and serve him day and night in his temple (Rev. vii. 15), always to behold his face, as the angels, Matt. xviii. 10. The saints are here said to be accounted worthy, as before, ch. xx. 35. God, by the good work of his grace in them, makes them meet for this happiness, and, by the good will of his grace towards them, accounts them worthy of it: but, as Grotius here says, a great part of our worthiness lies in an acknowledgment of our own unworthiness. 2. What should be our actings in these aims: Watch therefore, and pray always. Watching and praying must go together, Neh. iv. 9. Those that would escape the wrath to come, and make sure of the joys to come, must watch and pray, and must do so always, must make it the constant business of their lives, (1.) To keep a guard upon themselves. "Watch against sin, watch to every duty, and to the improvement of every opportunity of doing good. Be awake, and keep awake, in expectation of your Lord's coming, that you may be in a right frame to receive him, and bid him welcome." (2.) To keep up their communion with God: "Pray always; be always in an habitual disposition to that duty; keep up stated times for it; abound in it; pray upon all occasions." Those shall be accounted worthy to live a life of praise in the other world that live a life of prayer in this world.

V. In the last two verses we have an account how Christ disposed of himself during those three or four days between his riding in triumph into Jerusalem and the night in which he was betrayed. 1. He was all day teaching in the temple. Christ preached on week-days as well as sabbath days. He was an indefatigable preacher; he preached in the face of opposition, and in the midst of those that he knew sought occasion against him. 2. At night he went out to lodge at a friend's house, in the mount of Olives, about a mile out of town. It is probable that he had some friends in the city that would gladly have lodged him, but he was willing to retire in the evening out of the noise of the town, that he might have more time for secret devotion, now that his hour was at hand. 3. Early in the morning he was in the temple again, where he had a morning lecture for those that were willing to attend it; and the people were forward to hear one that they saw forward to preach (v. 38): They all came early in the morning, flocking to the temple, like doves to their windows, to hear him, though the chief priests and scribes did all they could to prejudice them against him. Sometimes the taste and relish which serious, honest, plain people have of good preaching are more to be valued and judged by than the opinion of the witty and learned, and those in authority.




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