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be compassed with armies,* given in especial mercy to those,
Verses 4, 5. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you, for many shall come in my name, (LUKE xxi. 8.) saying, “ I am Christ,” and the time draweth near and shall deceive many. Go ye not therefore after them.”'
From the earliest time there have been deceitful pretenders, teachers of new ideas of religion, daring even to take to themselves the authority of the name of Christ, nay more than this; there have been false Messiahs who have deluded many. It may be that as the time of the end draws near, there will be again and again such trials of our faith. Even in our own times many have been led astray by such pretenders, and the prophecy of our Lord seems to say, that down to the time of His second coming there shall be false Christs who shall deceive many. His instructions are short and clear, “Go not ye after them.” It is a mercy they are so clear, and to each invitation
* Luke xx. † Accounts are given of fifteen false Messiahs among the Jews, since the time of Christ.
* It needs not to be very old to remember Joanna Southcote, who gave herşelf out to be the mother of the Messiah about to be born. It is wonderful to think how many believed her; and there are some who still expect her return. I am told that there is now, in this very day, a chamber kept as sacred; provided with all things necessary for the fulfillment of her promise, when the time shall come for her re-appearance. Within the last thirty years, thousands in
to a new faith, to each new call upon our belief, the words of Christ are a sufficient answer, “Go not ye after them.”
Verses 6–13. “And ye shall hear of wars, and rumours of wars : see that ye be not troubled : for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom ; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill
you ; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
It is clear that our Lord's purpose was to guard His disciples against being deceived, to rouse them up to watchfulness, and to impart to them a holy confidence that all earthly troubles, of whatever kind, are working out an appointed end—the establishment of His kingdom, and His second coming. There are still wars and rumours of wars, famines and pestilences and earthquakes. Deceivers and false prophets have always abounded, and now they seem to have increasing power to "deceive many"* and wherever the heathen dare they still persecute the Christians to death. All these things as they happen should not make us afraid, but on the contrary they should strengthen our faith, for Christ has foretold that thus it shall be. What we have to do is to keep anxious guard over our hearts, lest our “ love shall wax cold, because that iniquity doth abound.” The voice of our Lord shall ever sound in our ears,
the south of England were drawn away by the pretensions of a man, who declared that he was the Messiah himself. Many things seem, like gathering clouds, to foretel a coming storm. There is an unwholesome thirst for the marvellous, almost a desire to be deceived, that renders the anxious study of Scripture, especially of the words of Christ Himself, daily more and more needful.
* 1 Timothy iv. 1.
« But he that shall endure to the end shall be saved."
We know that before the Lord doth come again, the knowledge of His name and the gospel of His love shall be spread abroad throughout the whole world, that all may have had the offer of salvation. Nor need this now be long. We have even in this our day things done in a few months which in past times it took ages to bring about.* The desert places of the earth are fast filling with inhabitants. The Lord God needs but to give the word, and the thing is done, and this shall be the certain sign of the second coming of our Lord, for He declared it so to be:
MATTHEW xxiv. 14. " And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come."
From the trials that were to fall upon the whole world, and the signs that were to foretel the end of all things, our Lord returned to an event that was near at hand. He gives to His disciples, in the prophecy we are about to read, a warning so clear, and signs so distinct, that all who heeded His words might save their lives and even their property from the ruin which in that generation should fall
Jerusalem. Verse 15; 16. " When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand :) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountain :"+
2 Peter ïïi. 8. + Different Commentators give different explanations of the Abomination of Desolation, but surely St. Luke must be the safest guide.
What this means is explained by the account St. Luke gives of the same prophecy. He writes
LUKE xxi. 20, 21. When
shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea 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 therein.”
Thus we see that what according to St. Matthew and St. Mark our Saviour calls the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, St. Luke understands to mean the Roman armies, and indeed they could not be better described, for their standards were in themselves Idols, and were worshipped by the Romans. On each was placed the carved image of an eagle, and almost the entire religion of the Roman Camp consisted in worshipping these ensigns, swearing by them, and preferring them before all the other Gods.* Among the Hebrews, idols were always called “the abominations,” and in the Old Testament we shall constantly find this. Well might these Roman Eagles be called the abomination of desolation, or more correctly speaking “of the desolators,” for wherever they were carried the countries were laid waste without mercy, and as one of their own writers has expressed it “wherever they have made a desert they called it peace.”+ Jesus warned His disciples, when they saw that dreadful sign, to flee for their lives, and the two writers of the gospel who give His very words, call men's attention to them by adding “Whoso readeth, let him understand.” The warning was understood, and God in His great mercy gave His people the power of following the counsel of His Son ; for the Roman armies, after having first attacked
* Tertullian, quoted in Biblical Encyclopædia. + Tacitus. See Macbride in the Diatesseron, 369.
Jerusalem, and even burnt a part of the city, suddenly drew back to the great surprise of all, and thus gave time to the Christians to flee to the mountains, after they had seen the abomination of desolation in the Holy City. Heedful of the warning of their Lord, they escaped to Pella * and other places beyond Jordan ; and we are told in Church history that not one Christian perished in that dreadful siege, which it is said destroyed eleven hundred thousand persons.fi
No words could be better fitted to alarm and to warn, than these spoken by the Saviour.
MARK xiii. 15, 16. “Let him that is on the house-top not go down into the house, neither enter therein, for to take any thing out of his house; and let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up
his garment.” Can language be more clear than this ? When they saw the approach of the abomination of desolation, then, that very moment, wherever they were, whatsoever they were doing, they were to flee, and here is the reason,
LUKE xxi. 22. “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written way be fulfilled.”
How touching is the tenderness of Christ! Born of woman, He pities the sorrows of women. Sitting on the Mount of Olives, looking on Jerusalem, He foresaw the march of the destroying hosts of Rome, the dreadful scenes of the days of vengeance, and He thought of the wretched mothers of Israel, He said
* Pella, a small city among the mountains, in which the Christians took refuge.
† Josephus. Perhaps he overstated the numbers, but we must consider that the siege began at the time of the Passover ; when not only the whole nation, but all the Jews who dwelt in far off places, such as Alexandria, must have been assembled there.