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 ( Matthew 23:1-39 ) by a passionate lamentation over Jerusalem, and a solemn farewell to the temple. "And," says Matthew ( Matthew 24:1 ), "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 Luke ( Luke 21:5 ); "His disciples came to Him," says Matthew ( Matthew 24:2 ). 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 their fate."
there shall not be left--"left here" ( Matthew 24:2 ).
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 our Evangelist!
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 ( Mark 13:5-31 ).
5. And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:
6. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ--(see Matthew 24:5 )--"and the time draweth nigh" ( Luke 21:8 ); that is, the time of the kingdom in its full splendor.
and shall deceive many--"Go ye not therefore after them" ( Luke 21:8 ). 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 Isaiah 8:11-14 ).
for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet--In Luke ( Luke 21:9 ), "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 Jeremiah 4:31 , &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" ( Luke 21:12 ); 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. (Compare Matthew 10:17 Matthew 10:18 ).
10. And the gospel must first be published among all nations--"for a witness, and then shall the end come" ( Matthew 24:14 ). 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 "the end."
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
13. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake--Matthew ( Matthew 24:12 ) 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 and compare Hebrews 10:38 Hebrews 10:39 , which is a manifest allusion to these words of Christ; also Revelation 2:10 . Luke ( Luke 21:18 ) adds these reassuring words: "But there shall not an hair of your heads perish." Our Lord had just said ( Luke 21:16 ) 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 the ninety-first Psalm 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 ( Matthew 24:15 ), "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 verse ( Luke 21:20 ); and commentators are agreed on it. It is worthy of notice, as confirming this interpretation, that in I Maccabees 1:54--which, though aprocryphal Scripture, is authentic history--the expression of Daniel ( Daniel 11:31 , 12:11 ) is applied to the idolatrous profanation of the Jewish altar by Antiochus Epiphanes.
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 overwhelmed.
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 involve.
18. And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter--making escape perilous, or tempting you to delay your flight. Matthew ( Matthew 24:20 ) 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 show.
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" ( Luke 21:24 ). The language as well as the idea of this remarkable statement is taken from Daniel 8:10 Daniel 8:13 . 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 Romans 11:1-36 in which the divine purposes and procedure towards the chosen people from first to last are treated in detail. In Romans 11:25 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 Luke 17:23 . 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 assurance! (Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 ).
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 ( Matthew 24:26-28 ) 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." "For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together."
24. But in those days, after that tribulation--"Immediately after the tribulation of those days" ( Matthew 24:29 ).
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" ( Luke 21:25 Luke 21:26 ).
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 ( Isaiah 13:9-13 ); of Idumea ( Isaiah 34:1 Isaiah 34:2 Isaiah 34:4 Isaiah 34:8-10 ); of Egypt ( Ezekiel 32:7 Ezekiel 32:8 ); compare also Psalms 18:7-15 Isaiah 24:1 Isaiah 24:17-19 Joel 2:10 Joel 2:11 , &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 awful fulfilment.
26. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory--In Matthew 24:30 , 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 Daniel 7:13 Daniel 7:14 , and connect with it the preceding verses, 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, 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. Matthew 17:1 , 9:2 ), 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 trumpet" ( Matthew 24:31 ).
and shall gather together his elect, &c.--As the tribes of Israel were anciently gathered together by sound of trumpet ( Exodus 19:13 Exodus 19:16 Exodus 19:19 , Leviticus 23:24 , Psalms 81:3-5 ), so any mighty gathering of God's people, by divine command, is represented as collected by sound of trumpet ( Isaiah 27:13 ; compare Revelation 11:15 ); 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 Mark 13:28 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" ( Luke 21:31 ).
is nigh, even at the doors--that is, the full manifestation of it; for till then it admitted of no full development. In Luke ( Luke 21:28 ) 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 Jewish oppression ( 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 , Luke 11:52 ): 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" ( Matthew 24:34 , Luke 21:32 ). 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 mouth.
Warnings to Prepare for the Coming of Christ Suggested by the Foregoing Prophecy ( Mark 13:32-37 ).
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 inculcate.
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, MELANCTHON, and most of the older Lutherans; and it is so taken by BENGEL, LANGE, WEBSTER and WILKINSON, CHRYSOSTOM and others understood it to mean that as man our Lord was ignorant of this. It is taken literally by CALVIN, GROTIUS, DE WETTE, MEYER, FRITZSCHE, STIER, ALFORD, and ALEXANDER.
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 the talents ( Matthew 25:14 Matthew 25:15 ).
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.
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.