Mat_24:1. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.
Ah, me! the rejected king took but slight interest in the temple of which his disciples thought so much. To them the appearance was glorious; but to their Lord it was a sad sight. His Father’s house, which ought to have been a house of prayer for all nations, had become a den of thieves, and soon would be utterly destroyed.
Mat_24:2. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
And it was so. Josephus tells us that Titus at first tried to save the temple, even after it was set on fire, but his efforts were of no avail; and at last he gave orders that the whole city and temple should be leveled, except a small portion reserved for the garrison. Yet the stones of the temple were such as men very seldom see, so exceedingly great; they looked as if, once in their place, they would stand there throughout eternity, but all are gone, according to our Lord’s prophecy.
Mat_24:3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives,
The little procession continued ascending the Mount of Olives, until Jesus reached a resting-place from which he could see the temple.
Mat_24:3. The disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
There are here two distinct questions, perhaps three. The disciples enquired first about the time of the destruction of the temple, and then about the sign of Christ’s coming, and of “the consummation of the age”, as it is in the margin of the Revised Version. The answers of Jesus contained much that was mysterious, and that could only be fully understood as that which he foretold actually occurred. He told his disciples some things which related to the siege of Jerusalem, some which concerned his Second Advent, and some which would immediately precede “the end of the world.” When we have clearer light, we may possibly perceive that all our Saviour’s predictions on this memorable occasion had some connection with all three of these great events.
Mat_24:4. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
Jesus was always practical. The most important thing for his disciples was not that they might know when “these things” would be, but that they might be preserved from the peculiar evils of the time.
Mat_24:5. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
And they did. A large number of impostors came forward before the destruction of Jerusalem, giving out that they were Messiahs.
Mat_24:6. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars:
And they did. The armies of Rome were soon after this on their way to the doomed city.
Mat_24:6-8. See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquake, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
One would think that there was sorrow enough in famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places; but our Lord said that all these were only “the beginning of sorrows” — the first birth-pangs of the travail that must precede his coming, either to Jerusalem or to the whole world.
Mat_24:9-14. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
But as for this destruction of Jerusalem, the Saviour gave them clear warning.
Mat_24:15-16. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
As soon as Christ’s disciples saw “the abomination of desolation”, that is, the Roman ensigns, with their idolatrous emblems, stand in the holy place, they knew that the time for them to escape had arrived, and they did “flee into the mountains.” You will say to me, perhaps, “but there were Romans there before.” Yes, the Romans were in possession, but the eagles and other idolatrous symbols were never exhibited in Jerusalem. The Romans were often very lenient to the different people whom they subdued, and these symbols were kept out of sight until the last war came. Then wherever the Jews and Christians looked, they could see those various images of Caesar and of the Roman state which were worshipped by the soldiery, and then were the faithful to flee to the mountains. It is a remarkable fact that no Christians perished in the siege of Jerusalem; the followers of Christ fled away to the mountain city of Pella, in Perea, where they were preserved from the general destruction which overthrew the unbelieving Jews.
Mat_24:17-18. Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
They were to flee in all haste the moment they saw the Roman standards,
Mat_24:19-21. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such at was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
You and I would have believed that all this came true without any confirmation from outside history, but it was very remarkable that God should raise up the Jew Josephus, and put it into his mind to write a record of the siege of Jerusalem, which curdles the blood of everyone who reads it, and exactly bears out the statement of the Master that there was to be “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world, no, nor ever shall be.”
This exposition consisted of readings from Mat_23:29-39; and Mat_24:1-21.