|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
24:4-28 The disciples had asked concerning the times, When these things should be? Christ gave them no answer to that; but they had also asked, What shall be the sign? This question he answers fully. The prophecy first respects events near at hand, the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish church and state, the calling of the Gentiles, and the setting up of Christ's kingdom in the world; but it also looks to the general judgment; and toward the close, points more particularly to the latter. What Christ here said to his disciples, tended more to promote caution than to satisfy their curiosity; more to prepare them for the events that should happen, than to give a distinct idea of the events. This is that good understanding of the times which all should covet, thence to infer what Israel ought to do. Our Saviour cautions his disciples to stand on their guard against false teachers. And he foretells wars and great commotions among nations. From the time that the Jews rejected Christ, and he left their house desolate, the sword never departed from them. See what comes of refusing the gospel. Those who will not hear the messengers of peace, shall be made to hear the messengers of war. But where the heart is fixed, trusting in God, it is kept in peace, and is not afraid. It is against the mind of Christ, that his people should have troubled hearts, even in troublous times. When we looked forward to the eternity of misery that is before the obstinate refusers of Christ and his gospel, we may truly say, The greatest earthly judgments are but the beginning of sorrows. It is comforting that some shall endure even to the end. Our Lord foretells the preaching of the gospel in all the world. The end of the world shall not be till the gospel has done its work. Christ foretells the ruin coming upon the people of the Jews; and what he said here, would be of use to his disciples, for their conduct and for their comfort. If God opens a door of escape, we ought to make our escape, otherwise we do not trust God, but tempt him. It becomes Christ's disciples, in times of public trouble, to be much in prayer: that is never out of season, but in a special manner seasonable when we are distressed on every side. Though we must take what God sends, yet we may pray against sufferings; and it is very trying to a good man, to be taken by any work of necessity from the solemn service and worship of God on the sabbath day. But here is one word of comfort, that for the elect's sake these days shall be made shorter than their enemies designed, who would have cut all off, if God, who used these foes to serve his own purpose, had not set bounds to their wrath. Christ foretells the rapid spreading of the gospel in the world. It is plainly seen as the lightning. Christ preached his gospel openly. The Romans were like an eagle, and the ensign of their armies was an eagle. When a people, by their sin, make themselves as loathsome carcasses, nothing can be expected but that God should send enemies to destroy them. It is very applicable to the day of judgment, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in that day, 2Th 2:1. Let us give diligence to make our calling and election sure; then may we know that no enemy or deceiver shall ever prevail against us.
Verse 16. - Then; i.e. when they shall see "the abomination of desolation," etc. Them which be in Judaea. Not only in Jerusalem, but in its vicinity, as most exposed to danger from the invading army. Flee into (ἐπὶ, over) the mountains. The Christians seem to have taken this advice when the city was attacked by Costius Gallus, about A.D. , some three or more years before the siege under Vespasian. Gallus had appeared before the walls, and apparently had every hope of taking the city, when, for some reason not certainly known (either owing to a supposed defeat, or ignorance of his own success, or the advice of his generals), he suddenly withdrew his forces (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:19, 6, 7). The Christians, bearing Christ's warning in mind, and having, as we may conjecture, seen the predicted sign, took the opportunity of flight from the doomed city, and made their escape to Pella, a town of Decapotis, southeast of Bethshean, and the ruins of which are known now by the name of Fahil. Euschius probably refers to this migration ('Hist. Eccl.,' 3:5), narrating that, owing to a certain revelation given to holy men among them, the whole body of the Church, before the war, removed across the Jordan to Pella, and dwelt there in safety during those troublous times. We probably, however, do not know the exact time of the flight, as we are ignorant of what was the warning of imminent danger which rendered this hurried proceeding necessary.
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Then let them which be in Judea,.... When this signal is given, let it be taken notice of and observed; let them that are in the city of Jerusalem, depart out of it; or who are in any other parts of Judea, in any of the towns, or cities thereof; let them not betake themselves to Jerusalem, imagining they may be safe there, in so strong and fortified a place, but let them flee elsewhere; see Luke 21:21 and accordingly it is observed, that many did flee about this time; and it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus (a) takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden, without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made; and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over Jordan, as Eusebius says (b), to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few mouths after, there was not a Christian in the city, but they had fled as they are here bidden to
flee into the mountains; or any places of shelter and refuge: these are mentioned particularly, because they are usually such; and design either the mountains in Judea, or in the adjacent countries. The Syriac and Persic versions read in the singular number, "into the mountain"; and it is reported that many of them did fly, particularly to Mount Libanus (c).
(a) De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 19. sect. 7. (b) Eccl. Hist. l. 3. c. 5. p. 75. (c) Joseph. ib.
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