The Fourfold Gospel
13:1 And as he went forth out of the temple1, one of his disciples saith unto him, Teacher, behold, what manner of stones and what manner of buildings2!
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM FORETOLD.
Matthew 24:1-28; Mark 13:1-23; Luke 21:5-24
- And as he went forth out of the temple. Leaving it to return no more.
- Teacher, behold, what manner of stones and what manner of buildings! The strength and wealth of the Temple roused the admiration of the
Galileans. 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
white 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.
13:2 And Jesus said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down1.
- There shall not be left here one stone upon another, 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
(Josephus, Wars 7:1).
13:3 And as he sat on the mount of Olives over against the temple1, Peter and James and John and Andrew2 asked him privately,
- 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.
- 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.
13:4 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign when these things are all about to be accomplished?
- Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign when these things are all about to be accomplished? See also
Matthew 24:3; Luke 21:7. 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) What 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 remaining two in Section 114.
See Mark 13:24.
13:6 Many shall come in my name1, saying, I am [he]2; and shall lead many astray.
- Many shall come in my name. Claiming his name.
- Saying, I am [he]. The first sign of 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. 20:5.1; 8:6.10; Wars 2:13.4,5). 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.
13:7 And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be not troubled: [these things] must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet2.
- 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 subject 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.
- The end is not yet. The destruction of the temple.
13:8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be earthquakes in divers places1; there shall be famines2: these things are the beginning of travail.
- There shall be earthquakes in divers places, etc. 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.
(3) One at Apamaea 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
- There shall be famines. 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.
13:9 But take ye heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils1; and in synagogues2 shall ye be beaten; and before governors and kings shall ye stand for my sake, for a testimony unto them.
- For they shall deliver you up to councils, etc. 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 (synagogues and
kings) united to oppress the church. See Acts 4:3; Acts 5:18,40; Acts 7:59; Acts 8:3
Acts 12:1,2; Acts 14:19; Acts 16:19-24; Acts 22:30; Acts 24:1; Acts 25:2,3). 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 15:44). See also Suetonius on Nero 16, and Pliny (Ep. 10:97).
For comments on a similar passage, see Matthew 10:17 and
- And in synagogues. See Mark 1:39.
13:10 And the gospel must first be preached unto all the nations1.
- And the gospel must first be preached unto all the nations. Paul says that this was done (Colossians 1:23). 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.
13:11 And when they lead you [to judgment], and deliver you up, be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit1.
- For it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit. See Matthew 10:19
13:12 And brother shall deliver up brother to death1, and the father his child; and children shall rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death.
- And brother shall deliver up brother to death, etc. Hatred against Christianity would prove stronger than all family ties.
See Matthew 10:21.
13:13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake1: but he that endureth to the end2, the same shall be saved.
- And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. See Matthew 10:22.
- But he that endureth to the end. That is, to his death. See Matthew 10:22.
13:14 But when ye see the abomination of desolation1 standing where he ought not (let him that readeth understand)2, then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains3:
- The abomination of desolation. See Daniel 11:31. See Mark 13:19.
- (Let him that readeth understand). Matthew also gives a similar parenthesis (Matthew 24:15). 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, bidding their readers
take heed to this part of the prophecy (which constituted the last
sign, and, therefore, the final warning).
- Then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains. That they might not share in the bitter fate impending over Jerusalem and Judea
if they chanced to be in either in the hour of judgment.
13:15 and let him that is on the housetop not go down1, nor enter in, to take anything out his house:
- Let him that is on the housetop not go down, etc. See Luke 17:31.
13:17 But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days1!
- But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! Because their condition would impede their flight.
13:18 And pray ye that it be not in the winter1.
- And pray ye that it 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.
13:19 For those days shall be tribulation, such as there hath not been the like from the beginning of the creation which God created until now1, and never shall be2.
- For those days shall be tribulation, such as there hath not been the like from the beginning of the creation which God created until now,
- and never shall be. These words spoken before the event are strikingly verified by the statements of Josephus written after it:
"No other city ever suffered miseries, nor did any age, from
the beginning of the world, ever breed a generation more
fruitful in wickedness that this was."
"If the miseries of all mankind from the creation were
compared with those which the Jews then suffered, they would
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 Mark 13:14; Matthew 24:15.
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 immediate flight, even if the day of its
appearing should change on 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 "Judea" at the time when
the temple fell. But the language used by Luke (Luke 21:20,21) forbids
us to make the flight from Judea 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 holy place"). Moreover, after a careful perusal of the
Septuagint, 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. As none but
priests could enter "the" holy place, it is evident that another is
meant at Psalms 24:3, 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 expressions 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.
13:20 And except the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved1; but for the elect's sake, whom he chose, he shortened the days2.
- 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. Since the term "elect" in Mark 13:22,27 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
(Romans 11:28,29). Moreover, it should be noted that there were few,
if any, Christians remaining in the city, and that those who were
spared were as Jews without discrimination.
13:21 And then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ; or1, Lo, there; believe [it] not:
- And then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ; or,
- Lo, there; believe [it] not. 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. See Matthew 24:26-28.
13:22 for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets1, and shall show signs and wonders, that they may lead astray, if possible, the elect.
- For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, etc. For accounts of these lying prophets who appeared before and during the
siege, see Josephus, Wars 4; 5; 6. See Matthew 24:11.
13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light1,
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST.
Matthew 24:29-51; Mark 13:24-37; Luke 21:25-37
- The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light. The language is that of the ancient prophets. See Amos 8:9; Joel 2:30,31
Ezekiel 32:7,8. Compare also Revelation 6:12-14. Some regard the language
as metaphorical, indicating the eclipse of nations and the downfall of
rulers, but there are many similar passages of Scripture which
constrain us to regard the language here as literal rather than
figurative. See Hebrews 1:12; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 20:11.
13:25 and the stars shall be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens shall be shaken1.
- And the stars shall be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens shall be shaken See Matthew 24:30.
13:27 And then shall he send forth the angels1, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven2.
- And then shall he send forth the angels. We are not told why angels are used on this occasion, but they appear to be employed in all the
great operations of Providence (Matthew 13:41).
- And shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. The
phrases indicate that the angelic search shall extend over the entire
globe. The language is that which was then used when one desired to
indicate the whole earth. It is based upon the idea which then
prevailed that the earth is flat, and that it extends outward in one
vast plain until it meets and is circumscribed by the overarching
13:28 Now 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 nigh1;
- Ye know that the summer is nigh. As the change of the season in the natural world has its preliminary signs, so the change of conditions in
the spiritual realm has its premonitory symptoms. When men see the
symptoms which Jesus had described, they will recognize that changes
are coming as to the nature of which they can only guess.
13:29 even so ye also, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that he is nigh, [even] at the doors1.
- Even so ye also, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that he is nigh, [even] at the doors. But the Christian is informed
that these changes indicate the coming of the Son of God--a change from
a worse to a better season.
13:30 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished1.
- This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished. Commentators differ widely as to the import of these
words. Godet is so perplexed by them that he thinks they refer to the
destruction of Jerusalem, and have been misplaced by the Evangelist.
Cook straddles the difficulty by giving a dual significance to all that
our Lord has said concerning his coming, so that our Lord in one
narrative speaks "figuratively" of a coming in the power of his kingdom
before, during, and right after the destruction of Jerusalem, and
"literally" of his final coming at the end of the world. But this
perplexing expression under this theory refers exclusively to the
figurative and not to the literal sense of the passage. The simplest
solution of the matter is to take the word "generation" to mean the
Jewish family or race--and the word does mean race or family
(Luke 16:8). Thus interpreted, the passage becomes a prophecy that the
Jewish people shall be preserved as such until the coming of Christ.
The marvelous and almost miraculous preservation of the racial
individuality of the Jews, though dispersed among all nations, might
well become the subject of prophecy, especially when Jesus had just
spoken of an event which threatened their very extermination.
13:31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away1.
- Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. The disciples had regarded the temple as so permanent that they found
it hard to conceive that Christ's words could be fulfilled with regard
to it; but he assures them that his predictions and prophecies are the
stable and imperishable things. That even the more permanent structure
of the heavens is not so abiding as his utterances.
13:32 But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father1.
- But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. These words indicate the
profound secrecy in which God has concealed the hour of judgment. It is
concealed from all people, that each generation may live in expectation
of its fulfillment, and we are to watch for the signs, though we may
not fully know the times. They also indicate that either by reason of
his assumption of our human nature, or by a voluntary act on his part,
the knowledge of Jesus became in some respects circumscribed. They also
suggest that it is not only idle, but also presumptuous, for men to
strive to find out by mathematical calculation and expositions of
prophecy that which the Son of God did not know.
13:34 [It is] as [when] a man, sojourning in another country, having left his house1, and given authority to his servants, to each one his work2, commanded also the porter to watch3.
- [It is] as [when] a man, sojourning in another country, having left his house. Under the figure of the householder and the thief, Jesus
appealed to the sense of danger.
- And given authority to his servants, to each one his work. Under the figure of the servant he appealed to the sense of duty.
- Commanded also the porter to watch. Under this figure of the porter he appealed to the sense of loyalty. The porter's desire to honor his
lord was to make him so vigilant that he would open the door at once
upon his lord's appearing.
13:35 Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning1;
- Whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning. The night was then divided into four watches.
See Luke 12:38. Jesus may here refer either to the duration of
the world or to the life of the individual. He divides either period
into four sections, in accordance with the night watches which were so
fully associated with watchfulness.
13:37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch1.
- And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. This warning message was not for the apostles alone, but for all disciples.