James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.Matthew 24:1-25:46
THINGS TO COME
The present lesson connects itself with the last without a break. The disciples, mystified by what our Lord said about the “house,” i.e., the temple, being left “desolate” (23:38), called His attention to its grandeur and strength (Matthew 24:1). His further observation (Matthew 24:2) deepened their wonder, hence their improvement of the opportunity on the Mount of Olives for the questions of verse three.
The first was answered by the destruction of the temple under Titus, A.D. 70. But although Christ replies to this question as He does the other two, yet that reply is recorded only in Luke 21:20-24. The replies to the others follow.
Matthew 24:4-14 are capable of a two-fold application. In the first place, they give in outline panoramic form the features of the present age during the absence of the King, and then in a more particular way describe the end of the age; for, as the Scofield Bible says, “all that has characterized the age throughout all these centuries gathers into awful intensity at the end.”
What are these features? False Christs, wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecutions, apostasy, false teaching, abounding iniquity, and spiritual declension just what Christendom in these twenty centuries records as fulfilling the words. Compare Daniel 9:24-27 and 1 Timothy 3.
To be specific as to Matthew 24:14, it refers to the proclamation of the good news that the Kingdom promised to Israel, and which both John the Baptist and Christ preached at the beginning, is again “at hand.” This will be proclaimed at the end of the age, not by the church, as we understand it, which shall have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), but by the Jewish remnant, the believing Israelites on the earth at that day (Isaiah 1:9; Romans 11:5; Revelation 14:6-7).
Matthew 24:15 points to the crisis at the end. “The abomination of desolation” (Daniel 9:27), which is the image of “the man of sin” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-8), and the “Beast” (Revelation 13:4-7) will then be set up in the temple of restored Jerusalem, and the hour of the Great Tribulation will have come. From this on (Matthew 24:15-28), our Lord gives the
details of this period. The believing Jews in Jerusalem at that time are warned to flee (Matthew 24:16-20). A renewed warning is given as to false Christians (Matthew 24:21-26). The sudden smiting of the Gentile world-powers is announced (Matthew 24:27-28 compared with Daniel 2:34). The glorious appearing of the Lord visible to the nations, together with the regathering of Israel as a nation are set before us next (Matthew 24:29-31). The sign of the fig tree is given (Matthew 24:32-33), and then “warnings applicable to this age over which these events are ever impending” (Matthew 24:34-51); and yet, as stated above, especially applicable to the end period itself. The first verse of this last-named section (Matthew 24:34) requires special notice. The primary definition of the Greek word for “generation” is race, family, or stock, in which sense the word is evidently used by our Lord. The race of Jews (Israel) “shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled” a promise to the truth of which the centuries bear witness.
Chapter 25 continues the discourse. The phrase “the Kingdom of heaven” or “the Kingdom of the heavens” recalls the parables of chapter 13, and applies to the same thing, viz., the sphere of professing Christianity, i.e., Christendom during the absence of the King. At the first, that is, after our Lord’s ascension, the attitude of the disciples was that of going “forth to meet the bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1). In other words they were “waiting for the coming of our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:7). But “the bridegroom tarried,” and “they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5). The “midnight” is coming however, when the cry is made “Behold the bridegroom!” The wise virgins are the true believers, “the oil in their vessels” (Matthew 25:4) symbolizing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). The foolish virgins are the mere professors, as is evident from “I know you not” (Matthew 25:12). As this parable sets before us that testing of the Christian profession which the coming of the Lord will reveal, so the parable that follows sets before us the testing of service. The talents are the gifts God has bestowed on His servants to use for His glory (1 Corinthians 12). Exercise of any gift will increase it through the Holy Spirit; and faithful service, though it be in the use of any one gift, will bring approval. The difficulty in the parable is the faithless servant, who must not be regarded as a true believer, but a mere professor as in the preceding case. A true believer would never call Christ a hard master.
The closing verses (Matthew 25:31-46) do not contain a parable as far as the record goes, but for all we know a description of fact. It is a judgment scene, but not the last judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). The object of the judgment is the Gentile nations of the earth. The time is after the church has been caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and when He has come for the gathering of the remnant of Israel at the end of this age. The place doubtless is Palestine. There is no resurrection here, no books opened, and nothing said about the dead, all of which is in contrast to the last judgment. Moreover, three classes are present here, sheep, goats, and “My brethren,” the test being not the possession of eternal life, but the treatment accorded by the nations to these “brethren.” The latter are the “Jewish remnant who will have preached the gospel of the Kingdom to all nations during the tribulation.” Examine Zechariah 14:1-5 and Joel 3 for light upon this judgment scene.
1. How many, and what, where the questions asked by the disciples on the Mount of Olives?
2. What was the answer to the first question, and where is it recorded?
3. What two-fold application may be given to Matthew 24:1-14?
4. What features will mark this age increasing in intensity at the end?
5. How would you interpret Matthew 24:14 particularly?
6. What Old and New Testament passages are paralleled by Matthew 24:15?
7. What does generation mean, Matthew 24:34?
8. Who are meant by the wise and foolish virgins of chapter 25?
9. What is the distinction between the “testings” of the two parables in this chapter?
10. What is the difficulty in the second parable? How would you explain it?
11. How would you distinguish between the judgment at the close of this chapter, and the last judgment in Revelation?
12. Who are meant by “my brethren”? This solemn chapter divides itself thus:
1. The Counsel to Kill Jesus (Matthew 26:1-5) 2. The Anointing of Jesus (Matthew 26:6-13) 3. The Bargain of Betrayal (Matthew 26:14-16) 4. The Last Passover (Matthew 26:17-25) 5. The Institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29) 6. The Prediction of Peter’s Denial (Matthew 26:30-35) 7. The Agony in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-46) 8. The Betrayal and Arrest (Matthew 26:45-56) 9. The Hearing before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-68) 10. The Denial of Peter (Matthew 26:69-75)