November 15, 2014
Scripture and Commentary, November 18-23
Morning – Psalm 18:21-36, 2 Kings 17:1-18, Titus 1
Evening – Psalm 20, 24, Dt. 4:1-9, Mt. 24:15-28
Commentary, Matthew 24:15-28
Our Lord addresses the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He uses the sack of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes, written about in Daniel 9, as a warning. Antiochus conquered Jerusalem and offered a pig on the altar of the Holy of Holies. Christ is saying that when the disciples see the Romans preparing to attack and desolate Jerusalem as the Greeks did under Antiochus, they are to leave the city (see Mt. 23:38, “your house is left unto you desolate). The danger is so great they should not even stop to gather belongings (vss. 17-18). The flight will be especially hard on women and children (24:19), and they are to pray that it will not happen in winter or on a Sabbath (24:20). The tribulation of verse 21 is not a period of intense trouble after the “rapture.” It is the trouble experienced in Jerusalem during the time of the siege and conquest of Jerusalem. This occurred in 70 A.D.
Our Lord again warns against false Christs and prophets claiming to be the deliverer sent to fight the Romans. The disciples are not to believe their reports. When He does come, it will not be a man to fight the Romans. It will be as God. He will come as the lightning flashing across the sky.
Our reading closes with another reference to the devastation of Jerusalem, “wheresoever the carrion is, there will the eagles [vultures] be gathered together. One of the Roman symbols was an eagle. Our Lord is saying that Jerusalem is spiritual carrion and the Roman eagles will gather around it.
Morning – Psalm 25, 2 Kings 21:1-18, Titus 2
Evening – Psalm 29, Dt. 4:15-24, Mt. 24:29-41
Commentary, Matthew 24:29-41
Before we attempt to discern the meaning of these verses let us remind ourselves of two landmark verses within it. First is verse 29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days.” Second is verse 34, “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” From these verses we learn two things. First, whatever our Lord is speaking about in these verses will happen immediately after the tribulation He has just described in 24:1-28. If verses 1-28 describe the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the events of tonight’s reading follow immediately after. Second, the generation of the Apostles will not pass, will not die, until all these things be fulfilled. This means the darkening of the sun and moon, stars falling from heaven, and the Lord’s coming in the clouds happens before the Apostles’ generation dies.
Obviously, then, these events are not about the Second Coming. Remember, the Apostles didn’t even know there will be a Second Coming. What, then is described in these verses, especially in verses 29-30? Fortunately, the Bible sheds some light on its own symbolism here. Isaiah 19:1 describes the Lord coming to Egypt riding “upon a swift cloud.” Revelation 1:7, refers to Christ, saying, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.” Isaiah refers God coming in judgment upon Egypt. Revelation 1:7 refers to Christ coming in judgment to Israel and Rome. So, the events of Mt. 24:29-30 must refer to the same events.
Verse 31 refers to the advance of the Gospel in the world. Christ coming in the clouds may also have some application to this, since the Gospel judges people by marking them as those who belong to Christ through faith, and those who do not. Certainly the angels gathering God’s elect from the earth is accomplished through the preaching of the Gospel.
The time of the Roman’s advance on Jerusalem is not known (vs. 36), and it will catch most people unaware as the Flood did in the days of Noah (Noe). Two in the field (24:40) refers to one taken in the battle and one escaping, as does the two women of verse 41. The ones who escape are the ones who heed the Lord’s warning to leave Jerusalem as the Roman army approaches.
Morning – Psalm 28, 2 Kings 22:3-13, Titus 3
Evening – Ps. 34, Dt. 4:25-31, Mt. 24:42-51
Commentary, Matthew 24:42-51
We are still looking at Christ’s words to His disciples on the Mount of Olives. This “Olivet Discourse” probably occurs on the Tuesday before Good Friday. So time is short for Christ, and He wants His disciples to be as prepared as possible for the coming events. We recall that this discourse began as the answer to the disciples’ question regarding the denunciation of the Pharisees in chapter 23, and His prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, found in 24:37-39. Even the Temple will be destroyed, according to the Lord’s words (24:2). The disciples want to know when this will happen and what will be the sign that it is about to begin (24:3).
Our Lord has patiently answered their question as well as their limited understanding would allow. But they still don’t understand, and will not until after His resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Tonight’s reading shows Christ’s warning to be ready. The goodman of the house in verse 43 is the one in charge of a house that belongs to another. There is a great hint here that the Apostles, and other clergy after them, will have charge of the Saviour’s house, which is the Church. The Apostles will basically reside in Jerusalem until its destruction. They will be responsible for telling the Church when to leave that city to avoid the massive death and destruction the Romans will visit upon it. Since they don’t know when this will happen, they are to “Watch therefore” (24:42).
Many have noticed that this same counsel applies to the ministers of God’s Church through history. As the Lord’s judgment came upon Jerusalem, it will also come upon all the earth. As the disciples did not know the day or hour when the Lord would “return” to judge Jerusalem, the Church also does not know when He will return to judge the earth. It is the clergy’s task, therefore, to continually watch and warn His people to be constantly ready. Thus, our Lord’s words to the disciples are as relevant to us today as they were to them; “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man [Christ] cometh” (24:44).
Verses 45-51 are addressed first to the disciples regarding their new role as Apostles in the New Testament Church. They are to be faithful servants, preaching the Gospel and establishing the Church in the doctrine and practice He gives unto them. He promises to make them rulers over all His goods (vs. 47). That includes overseeing the Church, while they live on earth, and having thrones of glory in Heaven. It applies, secondly, to the bishops and clergy that come after the Apostles, continuing to keep the Church in the Apostolic/Biblical faith and practice. It applies, thirdly, to all Christians in all times and in all places. It is the task and duty of each of us to keep the Church faithful, keep ourselves faithful, and proclaim the faith given to us by Christ through the Apostles and preserved in the Bible. Evil servants, those who do not keep the Apostolic faith and practice, who lead others into sin, who no longer exhort people to believe the Gospel and watch for the coming of our Lord, shall be cut asunder (cut out of the Church) and have their portion with the hypocrites (Pharisees) where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (24:51).
Morning – Psalm 30, 2 Kings 22:14, Philemon
Evening – Psalm 37:1-25, Dt. 4:32-40, Matthew 25:1-13
Commentary, Matthew 25:1-13
Tonight’s reading continues to warn the Apostles to watch. But there is a broadening in the focus here. The parable includes the destruction of Jerusalem, but looks beyond it, or maybe uses it, to talk about the Kingdom of heaven. The disciples are to watch for it in the same way they are to watch for the attack on Jerusalem.
The parable is very straightforward. Some of the virgins were prepared for the groom’s arrival, some were not. Those who were not were shut out of the wedding, meaning, shut out of the Kingdom of Heaven. The conclusion is the same as the one previously, given, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”
Morning – Psalm 40, 2 Kings 23:1-23, 2 John
Evening – Psalm 37, 26, Dt. 5:1-21, Mt. 25:14-30
Commentary, Matthew 25:14-30
This passage has been called the parable of the talents, and the parable of the unprofitable servant. The story is very easy to follow. A man intends to travel to “a far country,” leaving his goods in the care of his faithful servants during his absence. Quite obviously Christ is beginning to talk about things beyond the disciples’ question about the destruction of Jerusalem. Yes, the destruction of Jerusalem is in this parable. Christ, the owner of the house is going away, leaving the care of His “goods” in the hands of the Apostles. It will be their task to teach and guide the Church, and get it out of Jerusalem before the Romans attack. Yet the parable seems to look beyond this, as though Christ is using the judgment of Jerusalem to illustrate a far greater time and event.
Christ is not just going into the desert for a while to pray, as the disciples probably think. He is returning to the right hand of the Father in Heaven. While He is gone, He will leave His “goods” in the care of the Apostles, and the clergy who follow them until the His return. His “goods” are the Church. His goods are the people who trust in Christ as Saviour and love Him as Lord and God. It is the task of the Apostles to teach the Bible to these people, organize them into congregations and diocese, and to teach and ordain clergy to carry on the work of the ministry.
The talents are great measures of wealth, far beyond what even wealthy people could accumulate in a life-time. Here they represent the Gospel and all the blessings of God on His people. The Apostles are stewards of this wealth (see 1 Cor. 4:1). A major part of the Apostles’ task is to “invest” this wealth in such a way that it brings a return to the Owner. The return is the growth in faith and Godliness in the Church. It is also the addition of souls to the Church as the Apostles spread the Gospel and receive believers into the Church.
The faithful Apostles are those who bring a return to Christ. The faithful ministers are those who continue the faith they learn from the Apostles, and teach it to the succeeding generations. But this is not the domain of clergy alone. It is the task of the entire body, and every member of the Church. Just as a ship has many people doing different jobs, but all are united in the primary task of getting the ship to its next port, so the Church has people in different callings and jobs, but all united in the task of being the Church and proclaiming the Gospel.
The unfaithful servant probably refers first to Judas the betrayer of Christ. He will renounce his calling to be an Apostle, and show that he has no real faith in Christ. His fate is the same as that of the unbelieving Pharisees; to be cast into the outer darkness where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt. 25:20. See also Mt. 24:51, Mt. 21:45, Mt. 22:13). It refers also to the clergy who renounce Christ by preaching another gospel and another Christ, who leave the faith given by Christ to the Apostles. No matter how noble their intentions, there is one faith once for all delivered unto the saints. No man is authorized to change that faith. Finally, it refers to every person who believes himself to be a member of Christ’s Church, yet has buried the Gospel by changing or ignoring the Faith. Such people show themselves to be unprofitable servants, and theirs is the fate of 25:30.
Morning – Psalm 31, 2 Kings 23:24-30, 3 John
Evening – Psalm 27, Dt. 5:22, Mt. 25:31
Commentary, Matthew 25:31-46
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory” (vs. 31). Usually interpreted as referring to the Second Coming, even these words could refer first to Christ’s “coming” to Jerusalem in judgment (see 24:27, 30). Separating the sheep from the goats could refer to distinguishing between believers and unbelievers to save the Christians from the coming devastation of the city. Inheriting the kingdom (vs. 34) could refer as much to being in Christ and having eternal life now as to being in Heaven or in the Kingdom in its full revelation in the new heaven and earth.
Yet our Lord does seem to at least hint about something beyond Jerusalem, and even beyond this world. It is as though the destruction of Jerusalem is a precursor to and symbol of His Second Coming, and the language of these verses may apply to both. Certainly the Kingdom prepared for God’s people from the foundation of the world includes God’s people in this world and in Heaven. Israel was the visible manifestation of that Kingdom in the Old Testament; the Church is its manifestation in the era between the crucifixion and return of Christ. Yet neither Israel nor the Church is the Kingdom in its fullest sense. It will not appear in its fullest sense until Christ returns and brings in the new Heaven and new earth. Only then will all things be gathered together in Christ, and the purpose of God for His creation be accomplished (Eph. 1:9 and 10).
Meanwhile, we are to care for one another, and ministering to those in the Church/Body of Christ is spoken of as ministering to Christ Himself; “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (25:40). Those who refuse to care for God’s people show themselves to be goats and cursed rather than sheep; “Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me” (25:45).
Caring for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned also has a direct reference to the Church’s ministry in the world. There is a spiritual sense to the word, “hungry,” which refers to a deep hunger in the soul that can only be fed with the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35). There is a thirst in the soul that can only be quenched by Living Water (Jn. 4:10). There is a nakedness that can only be covered by putting on Christ (Gal. 3:27). There is a prison that can only be opened by Christ Himself (Lk. 4:18). The Gospel of Christ is the means by which the Church gives this spiritual food, drink and clothing to the hungry, thirsty and naked. The Church must proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Those who do not proclaim it are goats, not sheep.