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in the belief that Jesus was the Christ, to be wholly led away by others. Christians may be some times led far astray-they may be in doubt about some great doctrines of religion-they may be perplexed by the cavils and cunning craftiness of those who do not love the truth-but they cannot be wholly deceived, and seduced from the Saviour. Our Saviour says that if this were possible, it would be done then. But it was not possible.
Wars and great commotions among the nations are foretold, vers. 6, 7. When Christ was born there was a universal peace in the empire-the temple of Janus was shut; but think not that Christ came to send, or continue, such a peace (Luke xii. 51); no, his city and his wall are to be built even in troublesome times, and even wars shall forward his work. From the time that the Jews rejected Christ, and he left their house desolate, the sword did never depart from their house. It is recorded in the history of Rome, that the most violent agitations prevailed in the Roman empire previous to the destruction of Jerusalem. Four emperors, Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, suffered violent deaths in the short space of eighteen months. In consequence of these changes in the government, there were commotions throughout the empire. Parties were formed; and bloody and violent wars were the consequence of attachment to the particular emperors. This is the more remarkable, as at the time that the prophecy was made, the empire was in a state of peace. Rumours of wars. Wars declared, or threatened, but not carried into execution. Josephus says, that Bardanes, and after him Volageses, declared war against the Jews; but it was not carried into execution. He also says, that Vitellius, governor of Syria, declared war against Aretas, king of Arabia, and wished to lead his army through Palestine; but the death of Tiberius prevented the war. The end is not yet. The end of the Jewish economy. The destruction of Jerusalem will not immediately follow; be not, therefore, alarmed when you hear of those commotions. Other signs will warn you when to be alarmed, and seek security.
Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, ver. 7. At Cæsarea, the Jews and Syrians contended about the right to the city, and 20,000 of the Jews were slain. At this blow the whole nation of the Jews was exasperated, and carried war and desolation through the Syrian cities and villages. Sedition and civil war spread throughout Judea; Italy was also thrown into civil war, by the contests between Otho and Vitellius for the crown. And there shall be famines. There was a famine foretold by Agabus (Acts xi. 28), which is mentioned, as having occurred, by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eusebius; and which was so severe in Jerusalem, as Josephus reports that many people perished for want of food. Four times in the reign of Claudius (A. D. 41-54) famine prevailed in Rome, Palestine, and Greece. ¶ Pestilences. Raging, epidemic diseases. The plague sweeping off multitudes of people at once. It is commonly the attendant of famine, and often produced by it. A pestilence is recorded as raging in Babylonia, A. D. 40 (Joseph. Ant., xviii. 9, §8); another in Italy, A. D. 66 (Tacitus, Ann. xvi. 13). Both of these took place before the destruction of Jerusalem.Earthquakes. In prophetic language earthquakes sometimes mean political commotions. Literally, they are tremours or shakings of the earth, and often destroy cities, and lay waste whole districts of country. Many of these are mentioned as preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. Tacitus mentions one in the reign of Claudius, at Rome; and says, that in the reign of Nero. the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse, were overthrown; and the celebrated Pompeii was overwhelmed, and almost destroyed by an earthquake. Others are mentioned as occurring at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, and Samos.
Christ foretells the persecution of his own people and ministers, and a general apostasy and decay in religion, vers. 9, 10, 12. The cross itself is foretold, ver. 9. Of all future events we are as much concerned, though commonly as little desirous, to know of our own sufferings as of any thing else. Christ had told his disciples, when he first sent them out, what hard things they should suffer; but they had hitherto experienced little of it, and therefore he reminds them again, that the less they had suffered, the more there was behind to be filled up. Col. i. 24. The offence of the cross is mentioned, ver. 10-12. Three ill effects of persecution are foretold:-1. The apostasy of some. When the profession of Christianity begins to cost men dear, then shall many be offended -shall first fall out with, and then fall off from, their profession; they will begin to pick quarrels with their religion, sit loose to it, grow weary of it, and at length revolt from it. Suffering times are shaking times; and those fall in the storm that stood in fair weather, like the stony-ground hearers. Chap. xiii. 21. 2. The malignity of others. When persecution is in fashion, envy, enmity, and malice, are strangely diffused into the minds of men by contagion; and charity, tenderness, and moderation, are looked upon as singularities. Then they shall betray one another; that is, those that have treacherously deserted their religion shall hate and betray those who adhere to it, for whom they have pretended friendship. Apostates have commonly been the most bitter and violent persecutors. 3. The general declining and cooling of most, ver. 12. In seducing times, when false prophets arise, in persecuting times when the saints are hated, the abounding of iniquity
may be expected. Though the world always lies in wickedness, yet there are some times in which it may be said, that iniquity doth in a special manner abound; as when it is more extensive than ordinary—as in the old world, when all flesh had corrupted their way; and when it is more excessive than ordinary-when violence is risen up to a rod of wickedness (Ezek. vii. 11), so that hell seems to be broken loose in blasphemies against God, and enmities to the saints. Along with this abounding of iniquity, we may expect the abating of love-Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Understand it in general of true, serious godliness, which is all summed up in love. It is too common for professors of religion to grow cold in their profession, when the wicked are hot in their wickedness. Or, it may be understood more particularly of brotherly love. When iniquity abounds, seducing iniquity, persecuting iniquity, this grace commonly waxes cold. Christians begin to be shy and suspicious one of another; affections are alienated, distances created, parties made and so love comes to nothing.
Comfort is administered in reference to this offence of the cross, for the support of the Lord's people under it (ver. 13)-He that endures to the end shall be saved. It is comfortable to those who wish well to the cause of Christ in general, that, though many are offended, yet some shall endure to the end. When we see so many drawing back, we are ready to fear that the cause of Christ will sink for want of supporters, and his name be left and forgotten for want of some to make profession of it; but even at this time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. Rom. xi. 5. It is comfortable to those who do thus endure to the end, and suffer for their constancy that they shall be saved. Perseverance wins the crown, through free grace, and shall wear it.
The preaching of the gospel in all the world is foretold, ver. 14. It is intimated that the gospel should be, if not heard, yet at least heard of, throughout the then known world, before the destruction of Jerusalem; that the Old Testament Church should not be quite dissolved till the New Testament was pretty well settled, had got considerable footing, and began to make some figure. The evidence that this was accomplished is to be chiefly derived from the New Testament-and there it is clear. Thus Paul declares, that it was preached to every creature under heaven (Col. i. 6, 23); that the faith of the Romans was spoken of throughout the whole world (Rom. i. 8); that he preached in Arabia (Gal. i. 17); and at Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum (Rom. xv. 19). We know also that he travelled through Asia Minor, Greece, and Crete; that he was in Italy, and probably in Spain and Gaul. Rom. xv. 24-28. At the same time, the other apostles were not idle; and there is full proof that within thirty years after this prophecy was spoken, Churches were established in all these regions. For a witness unto all nations. This preaching the gospel indiscriminately to all the Gentiles, shall be a proof to them, or a witness, that the division between the Jews and the Gentiles was about to be broken down. Hitherto the blessings of revelation had been confined to the Jews. They were the peculiar people of God; his messages had been sent to them only. When, therefore, God sent the gospel to all other people, it was proof, or a witness unto them, that the peculiar Jewish economy was at an end. Then shall the end come. The end of the Jewish economy; the destruction of the temple and city.
Yet that which seems chiefly intended here, is, that the end of the world shall be then, and not till then, when the gospel has done its work in the world. The gospel shall be preached, and that work carried on, when you are dead; so that all nations, first or last, shall have either the enjoyment or the refusal of the gospel; and then cometh the end, when the kingdom shall be delivered up to God, even the Father; when the mystery of God shall be finished, the mystical body completed, and the nations either converted and saved, or convicted and silenced, by the gospel; then shall the end come, of which he had said before (vers. 6, 7), not yet-not till those intermediate counsels be fulfilled.
He foretells more particularly the ruin that was coming upon the people of the Jews—their city, temple, and nation, ver. 15, &c. Here he comes more closely to answer their questions concerning the desolation of the temple; and what he said here would be of use to his disciples, both for their conduct and for their comfort, in reference to that great event. He describes the several steps of that calamity, such as are usual in war.
The Romans setting up the abomination of desolation in the holy place, ver. 15. This is a Hebrew expression, meaning an abominable or hateful destroyer. The Gentiles were all held in abomination by the Jews. Acts x. 28. The abomination of desolation, means the Roman army; and is so explained by Luke (xxi. 20). The Roman army is farther called the abomination, on account of the images of the emperor and the eagles, carried in front of the legions, and regarded by the Romans with divine honours. Spoken of by the prophet Daniel. Dan. ix. 26, 27, xi. 31, xii. 11. Standing in the holy place. Mark says, Standing where it ought not-meaning the same thing. All Jerusalem was esteemed holy. Matt. iv. 5. The meaning of this is, When you see the Roman armies standing in the holy city, or encamped around the temple, or the Roman
ensigns or standards in the temple. Josephus farther relates, that when the city was taken, the Romans brought their idols into the temple, and placed them over the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there.
The means of preservation which thinking men should betake themselves to are mentioned (vers. 16, 20)-Then let them which are in Judea flee. There is no other way to help yourselves than by flying for the same. This is a prediction of the ruin itself that it should be irresistible; that it would be impossible for the stoutest hearts to make head against it, or contend with it, but they must have recourse to the last shift-getting out of the way. It is also a direction to the followers of Christ what to do,-not to say, A confederacy, with those who fought and warred against the Romans for the preservation of their city and nation; but let them acquiesce in the decree that was gone forth, and with all speed quit the city and country, as they would quit a falling house or a sinking ship, vers. 17, 18. The life will be in danger, in imminent danger-the scourge will slay suddenly; and therefore he that is on the house-top when the alarm comes, let him not come down into the house, to look after his effects there, but go the nearest way down to make his escape; and so he that shall be in the field will find it his wisest course to run immediately, and not return to fetch his clothes, or the wealth of his house.
Those to whom Christ spoke this immediately, did not live to see this dismal day-none of all the twelve but John only; but they left the direction to their successors in profession, who pursued it-and it was of use to them; for when the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea saw the ruin coming on, they all retired to a town called Pella, and other places beyond Jordan, where they were safe; so that of the many thousands that perished in the destruction of Jerusalem, there is no evidence that so much as one Christian perished. Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Thus the prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself. Prov. xxii. 3; Heb. xi. 7. This warning was not kept private— Matthew's Gospel was published long before that destruction, so that others might have taken the advantage of it; but their perishing through their unbelief of this, was a figure of their eternal perishing through their unbelief of the warnings Christ gave concerning the wrath to come. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, nor on the Sabbath-day, ver. 20. There is a remedy, but you must flee; the decree is gone forth. Let it suffice thee-speak no more of that matter, but labour to make the best of that which is; and when you cannot in faith pray that you may not be forced to flee, yet pray that the circumstances of it may be graciously ordered, that though the cup may not pass from you, yet the extremity of the judgment may be prevented. They must pray, first, That their flight, if it were the will of God, might not be in the winter, when the days are short, the weather cold and stormy. Neither on the Sabbath-day. This intimates Christ's design, that a weekly Sabbath should be observed in his Church after the preaching of the gospel to all the world. We read not of any of the ordinances of the Jewish Church, which were purely ceremonial, that Christ ever expressed any care about-because they were all to vanish; but for the Sabbath he often showed a concern.
The greatness of the troubles which should immediately ensue are pointed out (ver. 21),-Then shall be great tribulation. Then, when the measure of iniquity is full-then, when the servants of God are sealed and secured-then come the troubles. Nothing can be done against Sodom till Lot is entered into Zoar-and then look for fire and brimstone immediately. The word tribulation means calamity, or suffering. Luke (xxi. 24) has specified in what this tribulation should consist. "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 shall be fulfilled." That is, until the time allotted for the Gentiles to do it shall be fully accomplished; or as long as God is pleased to suffer them to do it.
"All the cala
The first thing mentioned by Luke is, that they should "fall by the edge of the sword;" that is, should be slain in war, as the sword was then principally used in war. This was most strikingly fulfilled. Josephus, in describing it, uses almost the very words of our Saviour. mities," says he, "which had befallen any nation from the beginning of the world, were but small in comparison with those of the Jews."
He has given the following account of one part of the massacre, when the city was taken:now, rushing into the city, they slew whomsoever they found, without distinction, and burnt the houses and all the people who had fled into them. And when they entered for the sake of plunder, they found whole families of dead persons, and houses full of carcasses destroyed by famine; then they came out with their hands empty. And though they thus pitied the dead, they had not the same emotion for the living, but killed all they met; whereby they filled the lanes with dead bodies. The whole city ran with blood; insomuch that many things which were burning were extinguished by the blood." Jewish War, b. vi. ch. 8, § 5; ch. 9, § 2, 3. He adds, that in the siege of Jerusalem not fewer than eleven hundred thousand perished. (Jewish Wars, b. vi. ch. 9, § 3.) In the adсе
jacent provinces no fewer than two hundred and fifty thousand are reckoned to have been slain ; making in all, whose deaths were ascertained, the almost incredible number of one million three hundred and fifty thousand, who were put to death. These were not, indeed, all slain with the sword-many were crucified. "Many hundreds," says he (Jewish Wars, b. v. ch. 11, § 1), were first whipped, then tormented with various kinds of tortures, and finally crucified; the Roman soldiers nailing them (out of the wrath and hatred they bore to the Jews) one after one way, and another after another, to crosses, by way of jest, until at length the multitude became so great that room was wanting for crosses, and crosses for the bodies." So terribly was their imprecation fulfilled-"His blood be on us and on our children." Matt. xxvii. 25. If it be asked how it was possible for so many people to be slain in a single city, it is answered, that the siege of Jerusalem commenced during the time of the passover, when all the males of the Jews were required to be there, and when it is estimated that more than three millions were usually assembled. See Josephus, Jewish Wars, b. vi. ch. 9, § 3, 4.
A horrible instance of the distress of Jerusalem is related by Josephus. The famine during the siege became so great, that they ate what the most sordid animals refused to touch. A woman of distinguished rank having been plundered by the soldiers, in hunger, rage, and despair, killed and roasted her babe, and had eaten one half of him before the deed was discovered. Jewish Wars, b. vi. ch. 3, §3, 4. This cruel and dreadful act was also in fulfilment of prophecy. Deut. xxviii. 53, 56, 57. Another thing added by Luke (xxi. 24) is, that they should be "led captive into all nations." Josephus informs us, that the captives taken during the whole war amounted to ninety-seven thousand. The tall and handsome young men Titus reserved for triumph. Of the rest, many were distributed through the Roman provinces, to be destroyed by wild beasts in the theatres; many were sent to the works in Egypt; many, especially those under seventeen years of age, were sold for slaves. Jewish Wars, b. vi. ch. 9, § 2, 3. Except those days should be shortened. If the calamities of the siege should be lengthened out; if famine and war should be suffered to rage. No flesh be saved. None of the nation would be preserved alive; all the inhabitants of Judea would perish; the war, famine, and pestilence would entirely destroy them. But for the elect's sake. Those days should not be lengthened out, and suffered to produce their destruction. It is related by Josephus (Jewish Wars, b. i. ch. 12, § 1), that Titus at first resolved to reduce the city by famine. He therefore built a wall around it, to keep any provisions from being carried in, and any of the people from going out. The Jews, however, drew up their army near the walls, engaged in battle, and the Romans pursued them, provoked by their attempts, and broke into the city. The affairs of Rome also at that time demanded the presence of Titus there; and, contrary to his original intention, he pressed the siege, and took the city by storm; thus shortening the time that would have been occupied in reducing it by famine. This was for the benefit of the elect. So the designs of wicked men, intended by them for the destruction of the people of God, are intended by God for the good of his chosen people.
He foretells the sudden spreading of the gospel in the world, about the time of these great events (vers. 27, 28)-As the lightning cometh out of the east, so shall the coming of the Son of man be. It seems primarily to be meant of his coming to set up his spiritual kingdom in the world. Where the gospel came in its light and power, there the Son of man came. Its swift spreading is compared to the lightning. It is visible and conspicuous as the lightning. It was sudden and surprising to the world as the lightning. The Jews, indeed, had predictions of it; but to the Gentiles it was altogether unlooked for, and came upon them with unaccountable energy, or ever they were aware. It spread far and wide, and that quickly and irresistibly, like the lightning. The propagation of Christianity to so many distant countries, of divers languages, by such unlikely instruments, destitute of all secular advantages, and in the face of so much opposition, and this in so short a time, was one of the greatest miracles that was ever wrought for the confirmation of it. Here was Christ upon his white horse, denoting speed as well as strength, and going on conquering and to conquer.
Rev. vi. 2.
Another thing remarkable concerning the gospel was, its strange success in those places to which it was spread. It gathered in multitudes, not by external compulsion, but as it were by such a natural instinct and inclination, as brings the birds of prey to their prey; for wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together, ver. 28. Where Christ is preached, souls will be gathered in to him.
Some understand these verses of the destruction of Jerusalem. Vultures and eagles easily ascertain where dead bodies are, and come to devour them. So with the Roman army. Jerusalem is like a dead and putrid corpse. Its life is gone, and it is ready to be devoured. The Roman armies will find it out, as the vultures do a dead carcass, and will come around it, to devour it. This also teaches an universal truth. Wherever wicked men are, there will be assembled the instruments of
their chastisement. The providence of God will direct them there, as the eagles are directed to a dead carcass.
Shall the sun be darkened, &c., ver. 29. The images here used are not to be taken literally. They are often used by the sacred writers to denote any great calamities. As the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars, would be an inexpressible calamity, so any great catastrophe, any overturning of kingdoms or cities, or dethroning of kings and princes, is represented by the darkening of the sun and moon, and by some terrible convulsion in the elements. Thus the destruction of Babylon is foretold in similar terms, Isa. xiii. 10; and of Tyre, Isa. xxiv. 23. The slaughter in Bozrah and Idumea is predicted in the same language, Isa. xxxiv. 4. See also Isa. 1. 3, lx. 19, 20; Ezek. xxxii. 7; Joel iii. 15. To the description in Matthew, Luke has added (xxi. 25), "There should be distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming upon the earth." All these are figures of great and terrible calamity. The roaring of the waves of the sea, denotes great tumult and affliction among the people. Perplexity means doubt, anxiety; not knowing what to do to escape. Men's hearts should fail them for fear, or by reason of fear. Their fears would be so great as to take away their courage and strength.
The sign of the Son of man, ver. 30. The evidence that Christ is coming to destroy the city of Jerusalem. It is not to be denied, however, that this description is applicable also to his coming at the day of judgment. The disciples had asked him (ver. 3) what should be the sign of his coming, and of the end of the world. In his answer he has reference to both events, and his language may be regarded as descriptive of both. At the destruction of Jerusalem, the sign, or evidence of his coming, was found in the fulfilment of these predictions. At the end of the world, the sign of his coming will be his personal approach with the glory of his Father and the holy angels. 1 Thess. iv. 16; Luke xxi. 27; Matt. xxvi. 64.
Then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, ver. 30. See Rev. i. 7. All the kindreds of the earth shall then wail because of him. Some of all the tribes and kindreds of the earth shall mourn; for the greater part will tremble at his approach, while the chosen remnant, one of a family and two of a tribe, shall lift up their heads with joy, knowing that their redemption draws nigh, and their Redeemer.
Then they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, ver. 30. The judgment of the great day will be committed to the Son of man, both in pursuance and in recompense of his great undertaking for us as Mediator. John v. 22, 27. The Son of man will at that day come in the clouds of heaven. Christ went to heaven in a cloud, and will in like manner come again. Acts i. 9, 11. Behold, he cometh in the clouds. Rev. i. 7. He will come with power and great glory. His first coming was in weakness and great meanness (2 Cor. xiii. 4), but his second coming will be with power and glory, agreeable both to the dignity of his person and to the purposes of his coming. He shall send his angels with the great sound of a trumpet, ver. 31. The angels shall be attendants upon Christ at his second coming. They are called his angels, which proves him to be God, and Lord of the angels. These attendants shall be employed by him as officers of the court in the judgment of that day. They are now ministering spirits, sent forth by him (Heb. i. 14), and will be so then. Their ministration will be ushered in with a great sound of a trumpet, to awaken and alarm a sleeping world. This trumpet is spoken of, 1 Cor. xv. 52, and 1 Thess. iv. 16. At the giving of the law on mount Sinai, the sound of the trumpet was remarkably terrible (Exod. xix. 13, 16); but much more will it be so in the great day. By the law, trumpets were to be sounded for the calling of the assemblies (Num. x. 2), in praising God (Psal. lxxxi. 3), in offering sacrifices (Num. x. 10), and in proclaiming the year of jubilee (Lev. xxv. 9). Very fitly, therefore, shall there be the sound of a trumpet at the last day, when the general assembly shall be called, when the praises of God shall be gloriously celebrated, when sinners shall fall as sacrifices to divine justice, and when the saints shall enter upon their eternal jubilee. They shall gather together his elect from the four winds. At the second coming of Jesus Christ, there will be a general meeting of all the saints. This is the foundation of the saints' eternal happiness, that they are God's elect. The gifts of love to eternity follow the thoughts of love from eternity; and the Lord knows them that are his. The angels shall be employed to bring them together-Gather my saints together unto me. They shall be gathered together from one end of heaven to the other. The elect of God are scattered abroad (John xi. 52)-there are some in all places, and in all nations (Rev. vii. 9); but when that great gathering day comes, there shall not one of them be missing. Distance of place shall keep none out of heaven, if distance of affection do not. Heaven is equally accessible from every place.
32 Now learn a parable of the fig-tree; When his branch is yet tender, and