Matthew 24

Matthew 24  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
ALL THAT WE have been reading, from chapter 21:23, had taken place in the temple precincts. Now, chapter 24:1, Jesus departed, and the disciples desired to call His attention to some of its splendid buildings, only to draw from Him the prediction that it was to be razed to its foundations. This started their inquiries as to the time of the fulfillment of His saying, which they connected with the end of the age. The first words of His reply show that His predictions are to forewarn and forearm us, and not merely to minister to our curiosity, or even our thirst for accurate knowledge. We are to take heed to ourselves.
False Christs are foretold together with wars and rumors, but these things do not indicate the end. There are to be famines, pestilences, earthquakes, as well as wars, but these are only the beginning of sorrows. Coupled with these things there shall be the persecution and martyrdom of disciples, the apostasy of some who have professed discipleship, the rising up of false prophets, the abounding of iniquity, and backsliding in heart of many professors. In an hour like that the real ones will be marked by endurance to the end when salvation will reach them. Moreover, all the time God will maintain His own witness among all the nations, and when this is completed the end shall come.
Three times in these verses does the Lord speak of “the end,” and if each case He refers to the end of the age, as to which the disciples had inquired. To His true disciples, marked by endurance, the end will bring salvation. He emphasizes this first, before saying that it will bring judgment for His foes. Let it be noted that it is “this Gospel of the kingdom” (ch. 24:14) which must be fully preached before the end comes; that is, the Gospel which the Lord Himself had preached—see 4:23; 9:35—announcing the kingdom as at their doors. The Gospel which we preach today-see, 1 Cor. 15:1-141Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1‑14)—could not in the nature of things be declared before Christ had died.
At the time of the end the abomination of desolation, spoken of in Dan. 11, is to be found in the holy place, and Jerusalem is in question, as verse 16 shows. Evidently there again will be a temple with its holy place at the time of the end, to be desecrated by this supremely abominable idolatry. At this time will be fulfilled the prophecy of chapter 12:43—45: the evil spirit of idolatry will enter into the people with seven-fold force, and the mass of them will accept this abomination standing in the holy place—most probably “the image of the beast,” (Rev. 13:1515And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. (Revelation 13:15)) spoken of in Rev. 14;15. Because of this crowning iniquity desolation will fall upon them in the government of God. Now the setting up of this abomination is to be the signal to the godly that the predicted great tribulation is begun, and that their safety lies in flight from Jerusalem and Judaea, where the furnace of affliction will be at its hottest. The Lord was speaking to His disciples, who at that moment were just godly Israelites surrounding their Messiah on earth, though presently they were to be built into the foundation of the church that was to be. Hence at that moment they represented, not the church, but the godly remnant of Israel, still carefully observing the law of the Sabbath (verse 20), and many of them located in Judaea. Instant flight was to be their course. This agrees with what is set forth symbolically in Rev. 12:66And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. (Revelation 12:6).
The great tribulation is wholly unprecedented and never to be equaled, let alone surpassed. This the Lord states in verse 21; and the reason of it is, that as the book of Revelation shows, it will be a time of infliction of wrath from heaven-the outpouring of the vials of judgment. It will not be merely a case of men afflicting men, or a nation scourging other nations, as we see so strikingly today, but of God scourging the nations as He settles His accounts with them. Wrath from God is “revealed from heaven” (Rom. 1:1818For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (Romans 1:18)), though not yet executed, and as far as the nations are concerned it will fall at this time. Nations as such are only found in this world; they do not exist beyond the grave, though the men composing them do.
There will be elect souls on earth during the tribulation and for their sake it will be cut short, as verse 22 tells us: as it says in Rom. 9:2828For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. (Romans 9:28), the Lord will make “a short work... upon the earth,” (Rom. 9:2828For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. (Romans 9:28)) and this in order that a remnant may be saved. Today God is dispensing mercy through the Gospel, and He has made a very lengthy work of it, extending to nineteen centuries: when He dispenses wrath He will make swift work, cutting it short in righteousness. A brief three and a half years will cover it, as other scriptures show. Thus the goodness of God will be manifested both in mercy and in wrath.
At that time the devil will know very well that the coming of Christ is about to take place; hence he will aim at confusing the issue by raising up imposters and endowing them with supernatural powers, hoping to deceive the elect who are looking for Him. Verse 24 plainly indicates that not all miraculous signs are of God. There are two kinds-the Divine and the devilish. In the Divine kind there is a manifestation of the Divine character in grace and pourer; the devilish kind may often be more flashy and startling and attractive to unconverted men. People today, who have an itching desire for the miraculous should have great care lest they be deceived.
The coming of the true Christ of God will be marked by the greatest possible publicity, like the lightning. No one will need to penetrate to a remote desert or a secret chamber in order to see Him. Just as the vultures are found wherever the carcass is, so will He fall in judgment wherever men are found rotting in the putridity and pestilence of sin.
The tribulation will be followed by the breaking up and the overturning of existing powers both in heaven and on earth, and then the Son of Man will be manifested in His glory. Twice previously the Lord had spoken of “the sign of the prophet Jonas” (ch. 12:39) which was the Son of Man three days in the grave. Here, we have the sign of the Son of Man in heaven—The sign that at last God is about to assert His rights in this rebellious earth, and enforce them by the Man of His purpose and choice. Two great signs are these! Who shall say which of them is greater? Both are equally great in their season, and command our worshipful adoration.
Having appeared in His glory, He will gather together His elect, those for whose sake the tribulation days have been shortened. This gathering will be accomplished by angelic ministration and signalized by the great sound of a trumpet; it will be the fulfillment of the feast of trumpets (Lev. 23:24, 2524Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. 25Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Leviticus 23:24‑25)), just as the Passover has been fulfilled in the death of Christ, and Pentecost in the gift of the Spirit and formation of the church. This gathering of the elect is in view of millennial blessedness; there is no mention of any rapture to heaven, or even of resurrection, for it is the gathering together of living people on earth. In chapter 16 the Lord had revealed that He was going to build His church, but its heavenly calling and destiny had not been revealed, so the church must not be read into verse 31.
With verse 32 we commence a series of parables and parabolic sayings. The fig tree is a parable of the Jew; and when we see a reviving of national life with that people we are to know that summer time is at hand, but until all things are fulfilled and that moment comes “this generation” (ch. 11:16) shall not pass away. The Lord has spoken a number of times of this generation—see 11:16; 12:39, 45; 16:4. It is a very ancient and persistent generation, for Moses denounced it in Deut. 32:55They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. (Deuteronomy 32:5) and 20—“children in whom is no faith.” The unbelieving generation will meet its doom when Jesus comes, but not before. They will go, and the words of Christ will abide.
The exact time of His advent is a secret known only to the Father, who has reserved all times and seasons under His own authority (see Acts 1:77And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. (Acts 1:7)); and because this is so it will come as a complete surprise to the heedless world. It will be just as in the days of Noah; men engrossed in their pleasures till the judgment falls upon them. Then an eternal separation for both men and women will take place. Zeph. 3:11-1311In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. 12I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. 13The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. (Zephaniah 3:11‑13), will be fulfilled; the transgressors will be taken away in judgment; the afflicted and poor people who trust in the name of the Lord will be left for millennial blessings, and these are “the remnant of Israel” (Zeph. 3:1313The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. (Zephaniah 3:13)).
Arrived at verse 42, we again see how the Lord brought these prophetic realities to bear upon the conduct of His disciples. Since they did not know the hour, they were to be marked by watchfulness and faithful service. The servant to whom rule is entrusted must fulfill his responsibility. Doing so, he will be blessed and rewarded. On the other hand it is possible for men to take the place of servants and yet be evil. Such will ignore their responsibilities and maltreat their fellow-servants, saying in their hearts, “My Lord delayeth His coming” (ch. 24:48). That is always the thought of the world. They listen to the prophecy and then say, “The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off” (Ezek. 12:2727Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. (Ezekiel 12:27)). The true servant maintains himself in readiness for his Lord’s approach and diligently cares for His interests while he waits.
Verses 50-51 show that the “evil servant” contemplated is not a man grievously failing and yet true at bottom, but a man who is entirely false.
His Lord will judge him and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites because he is a hypocrite. He is banished under judgment to his own company. When the hypocrite is unmasked and judged there is weeping and gnashing of teeth indeed.
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