October 25, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Saturday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 21, 23, 2 Kings 11:1-16, 2 Tim. 4:9
Evening – Psalm 18, Ecc. 12, Mt. 24:1-14

Commentary, Matthew 24:1-14

Having completed His denunciation of the self-righteous religion of the Pharisees, our Lord leaves the Temple heading for Bethany and the Mount of Olives.  His disciples have just heard some of the most astonishing words they have ever heard Him speak.  Jerusalem, desolate?  It cannot be.  So passing through the Temple they venture to call the Lord’s attention to the beauty of the building.  Jesus is unimpressed.  The Temple and its sacrifices were a symbol of His one great sacrifice on the cross.  But the Temple organisation has become a self perpetuating sheep killing business with very little regard for the meaning of the sacrifices.  Jesus says to the disciples, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (vs. 2).

The disciples are even more shocked at these words.  Is Jesus actually saying the Temple will be destroyed?  This is the House of God.  If the Temple is destroyed, where will the sacrifices be made?  If the Temple falls, they surmise, the current age of history will end with it.  They keep silent until they reach the Mount of Olives.  There they ask, “when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (vs. 3).

It is important to understand the disciples’ question.  They are not asking about the Second Coming, nor are they asking about a “rapture” of the Church.  They do not even know there is going to be a Second Coming of Christ.  They still think Christ has come to drive the Romans out and give the world to Israel. Their question is about how they will know when He is coming to Jerusalem to begin the war with the Gentiles.  They seem to think the fall of the Temple has something to do with that war.  Nor are they asking about the end of planet earth.  The Greek word translated, “world” in verse 3 actually means “age.”  They are asking when the current age of Gentile domination will end, and the new age, or the new “world” of Jewish domination will begin.  These are the issues that trouble them, and they are the issues Christ addresses in the following verses.

He warns them against false Messiahs (vs.5).  Many will come claiming to be the Messiah and urging the people to take up arms against the Romans.  Don’t follow them.  Wars and rumours of wars (vs. 6) means the disciples will hear of uprisings and revolts against Rome, led by men claiming to be the Messiah. They are not to be troubled by such reports, nor are they to join the battle.  These things will happen, but the end of the age is not yet.  In other words, such wars are not signs of the end, they are just wars.

Nor are the wars limited to Israel.  “For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places” (vs. 8).  These are not signs of anything except the fallenness of man and the natural course of history in a world that is infected with sin.  They are the “beginning of sorrows,” not the end.

There will be persecution, and hate will be poured out on those who follow Christ (vs. 9-10).  Family members who are not Christians will turn against relatives who are. False prophets will arise and deceive many (vs. 11).  Some Christians will leave the faith, and only those who persevere in it will be saved (vs. 13).  But even these things are not signs of the end of the age of Gentile domination.  When the Gospel is preached in all the world and unto all nations, “then shall the end come” (vs. 14).  “All the world” and “all nations” were popular terms used to describe the Roman Empire, and that is probably the Lord’s meaning here.  The Gospel will be preached to the Jews first throughout the Empire.  But many of them will reject Christ and persecute the Christians unto torture and death  Only when the Jews have heard and rejected the Gospel will the Lord allow Jerusalem to be attacked and conquered and the Temple to be destroyed.