Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
PROPHECY OF THE
Jesus had uttered all His mind against the Jewish ecclesiastics,
exposing their character with withering plainness, and denouncing, in
language of awful severity, the judgments of God against them for that
unfaithfulness to their trust which was bringing ruin upon the nation.
He had closed this His last public discourse
by a passionate lamentation over Jerusalem, and a solemn farewell to
the temple. "And," says Matthew
"Jesus went out and departed from the temple"--never more to re-enter
its precincts, or open His mouth in public teaching. With this act
ended His public ministry. As He withdrew, says OLSHAUSEN, the gracious presence of God left the
sanctuary; and the temple, with all its service, and the whole
theocratic constitution, was given over to destruction. What
immediately followed is, as usual, most minutely and graphically
described by our Evangelist.
1. And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto
him--The other Evangelists are less definite. "As some spake," says
"His disciples came to Him," says Matthew
Doubtless it was the speech of one, the mouthpiece, likely, of others.
see what manner of stones and what buildings are here--wondering
probably, how so massive a pile could be overthrown, as seemed implied
in our Lord's last words regarding it. JOSEPHUS, who gives a minute
account of the wonderful structure, speaks of stones forty cubits long
[Wars of the Jews, 5.5.1.] and says the pillars supporting the
porches were twenty-five cubits high, all of one stone, and that of the
whitest marble [Wars of the Jews, 5.5.2]. Six days' battering at the
walls, during the siege, made no impression upon them
[Wars of the Jews, 6.4.1]. Some of the under-building, yet
remaining, and other works, are probably as old as the first temple.
2. And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great
buildings?--"Ye call My attention to these things? I have seen
them. Ye point to their massive and durable appearance: now listen to
there shall not be left--"left here"
one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down--Titus ordered
the whole city and temple to be demolished
[JOSEPHUS, Wars of the Jews, 7.1.1]; Eleazar wished they had all
died before seeing that holy city destroyed by enemies' hands, and
before the temple was so profanely dug up [Wars of the Jews, 7.8.7].
3. And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, over against the temple--On
their way from Jerusalem to Bethany they would cross Mount Olivet; on
its summit He seats Himself, over against the temple, having the city
all spread out under His eye. How graphically is this set before us by
Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately--The other
Evangelists tell us merely that "the disciples" did so. But Mark not
only says that it was four of them, but names them; and they were the
first quarternion of the Twelve.
4. Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when
all these things shall be fulfilled?--"and what shall be the sign of
Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" They no doubt looked upon the
date of all these things as one and the same, and their notions of the
things themselves were as confused as of the times of them. Our Lord
takes His own way of meeting their questions.
Prophecies of the Destruction of Jerusalem
5. And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man
6. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ--(see
--"and the time draweth nigh"
that is, the time of the kingdom in its full splendor.
and shall deceive many--"Go ye not therefore after them"
The reference here seems not to be to pretended Messiahs, deceiving
those who rejected the claims of Jesus, of whom indeed there were
plenty--for our Lord is addressing His own genuine disciples--but to
persons pretending to be Jesus Himself, returned in glory to take
possession of His kingdom. This gives peculiar force to the words, "Go
ye not therefore after them."
7. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not
for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet--In Luke
"the end is not by and by," or "immediately." Worse must come before
all is over.
8. These are the beginnings of sorrows--"of travail-pangs," to which
heavy calamities are compared. (See
&c.). The annals of TACITUS tell us how the Roman
world was convulsed, before the destruction of Jerusalem, by rival
claimants of the imperial purple.
9. But take heed to yourselves: for--"before all these things"
that is, before these public calamities come.
they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall
be beaten--These refer to ecclesiastical proceedings against them.
and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings--before civil tribunals next.
for my sake, for a testimony against them--rather "unto them"--to
give you an opportunity of bearing testimony to Me before them. In the
Acts of the Apostles we have the best commentary on this announcement.
Mt 10:17, 18).
10. And the gospel must first be published among all nations--"for a
witness, and then shall the end come"
God never sends judgment without previous warning; and there can be no
doubt that the Jews, already dispersed over most known countries, had
nearly all heard the Gospel "as a witness," before the end of the
Jewish state. The same principle was repeated and will repeat itself to
11. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought
beforehand--"Be not anxious beforehand."
what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate--"Be not filled with
apprehension, in the prospect of such public appearances for Me, lest ye
should bring discredit upon My name, nor think it necessary to prepare
beforehand what ye are to say."
but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for
it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost--(See on
Mt 10:19, 20.)
13. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake--Matthew
adds this important intimation: "And because iniquity shall abound, the
love of many"--"of the many," or "of the most," that is, of the
generality of professed disciples--"shall wax cold." Sad illustrations
of the effect of abounding iniquity in cooling the love even of
faithful disciples we have in the Epistle of James, written
about the period here referred to, and too frequently ever since.
but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be
Mt 10:21, 22;
Heb 10:38, 39,
which is a manifest allusion to these words of Christ; also
adds these reassuring words: "But there shall not an hair of your heads
perish." Our Lord had just said
that they should be put to death; showing that this precious
promise is far above immunity from mere bodily harm, and furnishing a
key to the right interpretation of
and such like.
14. But when ye shall see--"Jerusalem compassed by armies"--by
encamped armies; in other words, when ye shall see it besieged, and
the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet,
standing where it ought not--that is, as explained in Matthew
"standing in the holy place."
(let him that readeth understand)--readeth that prophecy. That "the
abomination of desolation" here alluded to was intended to point to the
Roman ensigns, as the symbols of an idolatrous, and so unclean pagan
power, may be gathered by comparing what Luke says in the corresponding
and commentators are agreed on it. It is worthy of notice, as
confirming this interpretation, that in 1 Maccabees 1:54--which,
though aprocryphal Scripture, is authentic history--the
expression of Daniel
(Da 11:31; 12:11)
is applied to the idolatrous profanation of the Jewish altar by
then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains--The
ecclesiastical historian, EUSEBIUS, early in the fourth century, tells
us that the Christians fled to Pella, at the northern extremity of
Perea, being "prophetically directed"--perhaps by some prophetic
intimation more explicit than this, which would be their chart--and that
thus they escaped the predicted calamities by which the nation was
15. And let him that is on the housetop not get down into the house,
neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house--that is,
let him take the outside flight of steps from the roof to the ground; a
graphic way of denoting the extreme urgency of the case, and the danger
of being tempted, by the desire to save his property, to delay till
escape should become impossible.
16. And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take
up his garment.
17. But woe to them--or, "alas for them."
that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days--in
consequence of the aggravated suffering which those conditions would
18. And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter--making escape
perilous, or tempting you to delay your flight. Matthew
adds, "neither on the sabbath day," when, from fear of a breach of its
sacred rest, they might be induced to remain.
19. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the
beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither
shall be--Such language is not unusual in the Old Testament with
reference to tremendous calamities. But it is matter of literal fact
that there was crowded into the period of the Jewish war an amount and
complication of suffering perhaps unparalleled; as the narrative of
JOSEPHUS, examined closely and arranged under different heads, would
20. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh--that
is, no human life.
should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath
shortened the days--But for this merciful "shortening," brought about
by a remarkable concurrence of causes, the whole nation would have
perished, in which there yet remained a remnant to be afterwards
gathered out. This portion of the prophecy closes, in Luke, with the
following vivid and important glance at the subsequent fortunes of the
chosen people: "And they shall fall by 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"
The language as well as the idea of this remarkable statement is taken
Da 8:10, 13.
What, then, is its import here? It implies, first, that a time is
coming when Jerusalem shall cease to be "trodden down of the Gentiles";
which it was then by pagan, and since and till now is by Mohammedan
unbelievers: and next, it implies that the period when this treading
down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles is to cease will be when "the times
of the Gentiles are fulfilled" or "completed." But what does this mean?
We may gather the meaning of it from
in which the divine purposes and procedure towards the chosen people
from first to last are treated in detail. In
these words of our Lord are thus reproduced: "For I would not,
brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be
wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to
Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." See the
exposition of that verse,
from which it will appear that "till the
fulness of the Gentiles be come in"--or, in our Lord's phraseology,
"till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled"--does not mean "till the
general conversion of the world to Christ," but "till the Gentiles have
had their full time of that place in the Church which the Jews
had before them." After that period of Gentilism, as before of
Judaism, "Jerusalem" and Israel, no longer "trodden down by the
Gentiles," but "grafted into their own olive tree," shall constitute,
with the believing Gentiles, one Church of God, and fill the whole
earth. What a bright vista does this open up!
21. And then, if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo
he is there; believe him not--So
22. For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show
signs and wonders. No one can read JOSEPHUS'
account of what took place before the destruction of Jerusalem without
seeing how strikingly this was fulfilled.
to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect--implying that this,
though all but done, will prove impossible. What a precious
23. But take ye heed; behold, I have foretold you all things--He had
just told them that the seduction of the elect would prove impossible;
but since this would be all but accomplished, He bids them be on their
guard, as the proper means of averting that catastrophe. In Matthew
we have some additional particulars: "Wherefore, if they shall say unto
you, Behold, He is in the desert; go not forth: behold, He is in the
secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the
east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the
Son of man be." See on
Lu 17:23, 24.
"For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered
together." See on
24. But in those days, after that tribulation--"Immediately after the
tribulation of those days"
the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.
25. And the stars of heaven shall fall--"and upon the earth distress
of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts
failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are
coming on the earth"
(Lu 21:25, 26).
and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken--Though the grandeur
of this language carries the mind over the head of all periods but that
of Christ's Second Coming, nearly every expression will be found used of
the Lord's coming in terrible national judgments: as of Babylon
(Isa 34:1, 2, 4, 8-10);
(Eze 32:7, 8);
Isa 24:1, 17-19;
Joe 2:10, 11,
&c. We cannot therefore consider the mere strength of this language a
proof that it refers exclusively or primarily to the precursors of the
final day, though of course in "that day" it will have its most
26. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with
great power and glory--In
this is given most fully: "And 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," &c. That this language finds its
highest interpretation in the Second Personal Coming of Christ, is most
certain. But the question is, whether that be the primary sense of it
as it stands here? Now if the reader will turn to
Da 7:13, 14,
and connect with it the
he will find, we think, the true key to our Lord's meaning here. There
the powers that oppressed the Church--symbolized by rapacious wild
beasts--are summoned to the bar of the Great God, who as the Ancient of
days seats Himself, with His assessors, on a burning Throne: thousand
thousands ministering to Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand
standing before Him. "The judgment is set, and the books are opened."
Who that is guided by the mere words would doubt that this is a
description of the Final Judgment? And yet nothing is clearer than that
it is not, but a description of a vast temporal judgment,
upon organized bodies of men, for their incurable hostility to the
kingdom of God upon earth. Well, after the doom of these has been
pronounced and executed, and room thus prepared for the unobstructed
development of the kingdom of God over the earth, what follows? "I saw
in the night visions, and behold, one like THE
SON OF MAN came with the
clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they [the
angelic attendants] brought Him near before Him." For what purpose? To
receive investiture in the kingdom, which, as Messiah, of right
belonged to Him. Accordingly, it is added, "And there was given Him
dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and
languages should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be
destroyed." Comparing this with our Lord's words, He seems to us, by
"the Son of man [on which phrase, see on
coming in the clouds with great power and glory," to mean, that when
judicial vengeance shall once have been executed upon Jerusalem, and
the ground thus cleared for the unobstructed establishment of His own
kingdom, His true regal claims and rights would be visibly and
gloriously asserted and manifested. See on
(with its parallels in
in which nearly the same language is employed, and where it can hardly
be understood of anything else than the full and free establishment
of the kingdom of Christ on the destruction of Jerusalem. But what
is that "sign of the Son of man in heaven?" Interpreters are not
agreed. But as before Christ came to destroy Jerusalem some appalling
portents were seen in the air, so before His Personal appearing it is
likely that something analogous will be witnessed, though of
what nature it would be vain to conjecture.
27. And then shall he send his angels--"with a great sound of a
and shall gather together his elect, &c.--As the tribes of Israel
were anciently gathered together by sound of trumpet
(Ex 19:13, 16, 19;
so any mighty gathering of God's people, by divine command, is
represented as collected by sound of trumpet
and the ministry of angels, employed in all the great operations of
Providence, is here held forth as the agency by which the present
assembling of the elect is to be accomplished. LIGHTFOOT thus explains it: "When Jerusalem shall be
reduced to ashes, and that wicked nation cut off and rejected, then
shall the Son of man send His ministers with the trumpet of the Gospel,
and they shall gather His elect of the several nations, from the four
corners of heaven: so that God shall not want a Church, although that
ancient people of His be rejected and cast off: but that ancient Jewish
Church being destroyed, a new Church shall be called out of the
Gentiles." But though something like this appears to be the primary
sense of the verse, in relation to the destruction of Jerusalem, no one
can fail to see that the language swells beyond any gathering of a
human family into a Church upon earth, and forces the thoughts onward
to that gathering of the Church "at the last trump," to meet the Lord
in the air, which is to wind up the present scene. Still, this is not,
in our judgment, the direct subject of the prediction; for
limits the whole prediction to the generation then existing.
28. Now learn a parable of the fig tree--"Now from the fig tree learn
the parable," or the high lesson which this teaches.
When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves--"its leaves."
29. So ye, in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to
pass--rather, "coming to pass."
know that it--"the kingdom of God"
is nigh, even at the doors--that is, the full manifestation of it;
for till then it admitted of no full development. In Luke
the following words precede these: "And when these things begin to come
to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption
draweth nigh"--their redemption, in the first instance certainly, from
but in the highest sense of these words, redemption from all the
oppressions and miseries of the present state at the second appearing
of the Lord Jesus.
30. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass fill
all these things be done--or "fulfilled"
Whether we take this to mean that the whole would be fulfilled within
the limits of the generation then current, or, according to a usual way
of speaking, that the generation then existing would not pass away
without seeing a begun fulfilment of this prediction, the facts
entirely correspond. For either the whole was fulfilled in the
destruction accomplished by Titus, as many think; or, if we stretch it
out, according to others, till the thorough dispersion of the Jews a
little later, under Adrian, every requirement of our Lord's words seems
to be met.
31. Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass
away--the strongest possible expression of the divine authority by
which He spake; not as Moses or Paul might have said of their own
inspiration, for such language would be unsuitable in any merely human
Warnings to Prepare for the Coming of Christ Suggested by the
It will be observed that, in the foregoing prophecy, as our Lord
approaches the crisis of the day of vengeance on Jerusalem and
redemption for the Church--at which stage the analogy between that and
the day of final vengeance and redemption waxes more striking--His
language rises and swells beyond all temporal and partial vengeance,
beyond all earthly deliverances and enlargements, and ushers us
resistlessly into the scenes of the final day. Accordingly, in these
six concluding verses it is manifest that preparation for
"THAT DAY" is what our Lord designs to
32. But of that day and that hour--that is, the precise time.
knoweth no man--literally, no one.
no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the
Father--This very remarkable statement regarding "the Son" is
peculiar to Mark. Whether it means that the Son was
not at that time in possession of the knowledge referred to, or
simply that it was not
among the things which He had received to communicate--has been
matter of much controversy even among the firmest believers in the
proper Divinity of Christ. In the latter sense it was taken by some of
the most eminent of the ancient Fathers, and by LUTHER,
most of the older Lutherans; and it is so taken by BENGEL,
CHRYSOSTOM and others understood it to mean that
as man our Lord was ignorant of this. It is taken literally by
33. Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is.
34. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, &c.--The
idea thus far is similar to that in the opening part of the parable of
(Mt 25:14, 15).
and commanded the porter--the gatekeeper.
to watch--pointing to the official duty of the ministers of religion
to give warning of approaching danger to the people.
35. Watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house
cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the
morning--an allusion to the four Roman watches of the night.
36. Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping--See on
37. And what I say unto you--this discourse, it will be remembered,
was delivered in private.
I say unto all, Watch--anticipating and requiring the diffusion of
His teaching by them among all His disciples, and its perpetuation
through all time.