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Verse 23. “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.”
Not thus would mortal man have spoken. When things great and terrible fill his mind, he takes but little thought for smaller things, unless they are forced upon him : but the mind of Jesus was the mind of God. He rules the planets in their spheres, He guides the fate of nations, and supports the mother and her infant in their hours of weakness. He stays the whirlwind and the storm, and forgets not that the little birds in their nests depend on Him for food.
Verse 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.”
This prophecy has been exactly and fearfully fulfilled. To this very day Jerusalem is trodden down of the Gentiles, but the day is coming when she shall be delivered,
MATTHEW xxiv. 20-22. “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath-day : for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved ; but for the elect's sake those days shall bę shortened.
Great would be the sufferings of God's people, for they must in part share in the distress brought by sin upon the land; but Jesus taught them how to seek for help. They were to pray that God would so order events that they might be spared all needless trial, and they were assured that for their sakes those
days should be shortened. The same counsel, the same promise is given in all trials to all God's people. They must suffer for the sin that is in them and around them, they cannot escape that, but they will be supported, and in the end they shall be saved. Meantime they must study the words of their Lord lest they should be deceived.
Verses 23-27. “ Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or lo there : believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, aud shall shew great signs and wonders : insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold I have told you before. 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.”
How great is the blessing that thus it shall surely be. None who make the word of God their guide can be deceived. In that day there can be no mistake. When from the dark cloud flasheth forth the lightning out of the one part under Heaven to the other part under Heaven, all who behold must see it;so sball also the coming of the Son of Man be in His day.”
No doubt can remain, no need of seeking for Him then. All shall see Him. As the lightning cometh, so will He come. Sudden, bright, and certain, that day shall flash upon the world, shining from the east even unto the west.
Verses 28. “For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles begathered together.” This was a proverb among the Jews which expressed the fact that, when destruction was determined upon, the destroyer would quickly appear. When all things were accomplished concerning Jerusalem, and she had filled up the measure of her guilt, then should life depart from her, and like a dead carcase, she would be consumed by the eagles who would gather around her. So shall it be in the end of the world; as when the Christians who were the life of the Jewish nation escaped from Jerusalem, it was given over to utter destruction; so the people of God shall be saved, but the world itself shall be consumed. Yea, like a dead carcase it shall utterly perish, but it shall rise again, for «
we look for a new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Before the end doth come there shall be a voice given to all creation to warn the children of men. There shall be a sense of danger within and without.
LUKE xxi, 25, 26. “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 roar
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.”
It is thus St. Luke has described the commotions in this world that will fill men's hearts with helpless fear, almost taking their senses from them, as not knowing what next may come upon them. But not on earth alone shall these things be. The great Creator in his kingly rule makes the upper and the lower worlds to tremble together, and while on earth there shall be distress of nations,* with the sea and the waves roaring, which seem to tell of the great earthquakes which are to come;t the commotions in the world above shall be in awful agreement with those. St. Matthew and St. Mark thus give the words of Christ :
* Olshausen, 267, 268.
+ Luke xxi. 11.
Matthew xxiv. 29; Mark xiii. 24. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”
We cannot pretend to explain the meaning of these sayings, but it is clear that by them is pictured very solemn changes in the spiritual world. Fitting signs for the awful scene that follows
MATTHEW xxiv. 30, 31; MARK xiii. 26, 27. "And then shall appear the sign of the coming 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 coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
When the disciples came to the Lord Jesus as He sat that evening on the Mount of Olives, they had asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?” the passage we have just read we find that after the darkening of the heavens, and the shaking of its powers (whatever that may mean) then sball appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. This must be something that clearly foretels His coming, for when they see it “all the tribes of the earth shall mourn;” that is, as is supposed, all in every land who have disbelieved or neglected the gospel of Christ. Very different shall be the feelings of His followers. To them He says,
LUKE xxi. 28. “ When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Their REDEMPTION. The word means the being taken out of
á state of danger, by one who has a right to do so, having paid their price. So shall it be with the followers of Christ. They must share in the miseries of the world's agony; but they know that it is unto life and not unto death. All creation is in travail, and the birth of the New Heavens and the New Earth is at hand.
How awful is the picture given by Jesus of the world's distress! Earth quaking—the very heavens shaking—the skies darkening—the sea and waves roaring—distress and perplexity -hearts failing for fear. Suddenly He changes the picture, from storms and darkness, to the sweet and gentle spring.
Verses 29–31. “And he spake to them a parable : Behold the fig tree, and all the trees ; When they shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand."
Thus doth night give birth to morning. Thus doth winter lead on the smiling spring. Thus from the throes of convulsed creation will arise " the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness ;” and the assurance is given that the same generation which sees the bursting of that longgathering storm, shall see the skies clear in glory over the radiant beauty of Christ's new kingdom, for Jesus said,
Verses 32, 33. “ Verily I say unto you, this generation (the generation which seeth these things) shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
MATTHEW xxiv. 36. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
LUKE xxi. 34, 35. “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