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The Destruction of the Temple Foretold


As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Signs of the End of the Age

3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

Persecutions Foretold

9 “Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. 13But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.

The Desolating Sacrilege

15 “So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), 16then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 17the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; 18the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 19Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. 21For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’—do not believe it. 24For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25Take note, I have told you beforehand. 26So, if they say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

The Coming of the Son of Man

29 “Immediately after the suffering of those days

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light;

the stars will fall from heaven,

and the powers of heaven will be shaken.

30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

The Necessity for Watchfulness

36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

The Faithful or the Unfaithful Slave

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? 46Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 47Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 48But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. 51He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 24:15. When you shall see the abomination of desolation. Because the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem, together with the overthrow of the whole Jewish government, was (as we have already said) a thing incredible, and because it might be thought strange, that the disciples could not be saved without being torn from that nation, to which had been committed the adoption and the covenant (Romans 9:4) of eternal salvation, Christ confirms both by the testimony of Daniel As if he had said, That you may not be too strongly attached to the temple and to the ceremonies of the Law, God has limited them to a fixed time, 136136     “Dieu a limité certain temps auquel ces choses prendrent fin;” — “God has limited a certain time when those things shall be terminated.” and has long ago declared, that when the Redeemer should come, sacrifices would cease; and that it may not give you uneasiness to be cut off from your own nation, God has also forewarned his people, that in due time it would be rejected. Such a prediction was not only well adapted for removing ground of offense, but likewise for animating the minds of the godly, that amidst the sorest calamities—knowing that God was looking upon them, and was taking care of their salvation—they might betake themselves to the sacred anchor, where, amidst the most dreadful heavings of the billows, their condition would be firm and secure.

But before I proceed farther, I must examine the passage which is quoted by Christ. Those commentators are, I think, mistaken, who think that this quotation is made from the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel 137137     The passage here referred to, and from which CALVIN thinks that the quotation is not made, is Daniel 9:27, And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifices and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading or abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. The other passage, from which he supposes the quotation to have been actually made, is Daniel 12:11, And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. We have given both passages, as they stand in the authorized version. — Ed. For there we do not literally find the words, abomination, of desolation; and it is certain that the angel does not there speak of the final destruction which Christ now mentions, but of the temporary dispersion which was brought about by the tyranny of Antiochus. 138138     Antiochus, known in history by the surname Epiphanes, or, Illustrious, but more frequently denominated by the Jews who had beheld his cruelties, and by others who were shocked at the indecency of his public life, Antiochus Epimanes, or, Furious.Ed. But in the twelfth chapter the angel predicts what is called the final abrogation of the services of the Law, 139139     “Du service et des ceremonies de la Loy;” — “of the service and of the ceremonies of the Law.” which was to take place at the coming of Christ. For, after having exhorted believers to unshaken constancy, he fixes absolutely the time both of the ruin and of the restoration. 140140     “Car apres qu’il avoit exhorté les fideles à une constance ferme et bien assuree, et avoit predit que l’advenement de Christ mettroit fin aux ceremonies, et doan, pour signe la profanation externe du temple, finale-ment au chapitre treizieme (douzieme?) il determine un temps certain tant de la ruine que du restablissement.” — “For after having exhorted believers to a firm and assured constancy, and having predicted that the coming of Christ would put an end to ceremonies, and having given the outward profanation of the temple as a sign, finally, in the thirteenth (twelfth?) chapter he determines a fixed time both for the ruin and for the restoration.”

From the time, says he, that the daily sacrifices shall be taken away, and the abomination of desolation set up, there will be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who shall wait till he come to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days, (Daniel 12:11, 12.)

I am aware that this passage is tortured in a variety of ways on account of its obscurity; but I consider the natural meaning of it to be, that the angel declares that, after the temple has been once purified from the pollutions and idols of Antiochus, another period will arrive when it will be exposed to a new profanation, and when all its sacredness and majesty will be for ever lost. 141141     “Sans esperance de plus la recouvrer;” — “without the expectation of ever again recovering it.” And as that message was sad and melancholy, he again recalls the prophet to one year, and two years, and six months. These words denote both the duration and the close of the calamities; for, in an interrupted succession of calamities, the course of one year appears to us very long, but when that space of time is doubled, the distress is greatly increased. The Spirit therefore exhorts believers to prepare themselves for the exercise of patience, not only for a single year, that is, for a long period, but to lay their account with enduring tribulations through an uninterrupted succession of many ages. There is no small consolation also in the phrase, half a time, (Daniel 12:7) for though the tribulations be of long continuance, yet the Spirit shows that they will not be perpetual. And, indeed, he had formerly used this form of expression: The calamity of the Church shall last through a time, times, and half a time, (Daniel 7:25.) But now he reckons the period of three years and six months by days, that believers may be more and more hardened by a very long continuance of calamities; for it is customary with men in adversity to compute time, not by years or months, but by days, a single day being, in their estimation, equal to a year 142142     In prophetic language one day stands for a year, a Jewish month (of thirty days) for thirty years, and a Jewish year (of three hundred and sixty days) for three hundred and sixty years. Thus a time, or Jewish year, stood for three hundred and sixty years; times, or two Jewish years, stood for seven hundred and twenty years; and half a time, or half of a Jewish year, stood for one hundred and eighty years; so that the time, times, and half a time, (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14,) or three years and a half, represented one thousand two hundred and sixty years. By a similar computation, forty-two months, (Revelation 11:2; 13:5,) of thirty days each, denoted the same period. — Ed. He says that those will be happy who bear up to the end of that period; that is, who with invincible patience persevere to the end.

Now Christ selects only what suited his purpose, namely, that the termination of sacrifices was at hand, and that the abomination, which was the sign of the final desolation, would be placed in the temple. But as the Jews were too strongly attached to their present condition, and therefore paid little attention to the prophecies which foretold the abolition of it, Christ, as if endeavoring to gain their ear, bids them read attentively that passage, where they would learn that what appeared to them difficult to be believed was plainly declared by the Prophets. 143143     “Sinon qu’on vueille prendre. ceci comme estant dit en la personne de l’Evangeliste; toutesfois il est plus vray-semblable que c’est Christ qui parle, et que suyvant son propos d’un fil continuel, il exhorte les siens estre attentifs a bon escient.” — “Unless we choose to take this as having been said in the person of the Evangelist; yet it is more probable that it is Christ who speaks, and that, following out his subject, he exhorts his followers to be earnestly attentive.” Abomination means profanation; for this word denotes uncleanness, 144144     “La pollution, immondicit, et souillure;” — “pollution, uncleanness, and defilement.” which corrupts or overturns the pure worship of God. It is called desolation, because it drew along with it the destruction of the temple and of the government; as he had formerly said, (Daniel 9:27,) that the pollution introduced by Antiochus was, as it were, the standard of temporary desolation; for such I conceive to be the meaning of the wing, or, “spreading out.” 145145     כנפ שקוצים משמם, the wing (or, spreading out) of abominations which maketh desolate. — Ed It is a mistake to suppose that this expression denotes the siege of Jerusalem, and the mistake receives no countenance from the words of Luke, who did not intend to say the same thing, but something quite different. For that city having been formerly delivered, when it appeared to be in the midst of destruction, lest believers should expect something of the same kind in future, Christ declares that, as soon as it would be surrounded by armies, it was utterly ruined, because it was wholly deprived of divine assistance. The meaning therefore is, that the issue of the war will not be doubtful, because that city is devoted to destruction, which it will not be able to escape any more than to rescind a decree of heaven. Accordingly, Luke shortly afterwards adds, that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, a mode of expression which denotes utter ruin. But as it might appear to be strange that the holy city should be thus given up to the Gentiles, to do with it as they pleased, he adds a consolation, 146146     “Il adjouste quant et quant une consolation speciale pour le regard des fideles, (laquelle Daniel omet, pource qu’il parle à tout le corps du peuple;)” — “he adds to it a special consolation with respect to believers, (which Daniel leaves out, because he speaks to the whole body of the people.”) that it was only for a time that so much liberty was allowed to the Gentiles, till their iniquity was ripe, and the vengeance which had been reserved for them was fully displayed.

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