And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Because iniquity shall abound . . .—Better, lawlessness. No word could more fitly represent the condition of Judæa in the time just referred to: brigandage, massacres, extortion, assassination, came to be common things.
The love of many . . .—Better, of the many; the greater part of the true Israel who would be found in the Church of Christ; perhaps, also, the greater part of the nation as such. This was the natural result of the condition of things implied in the “lawlessness.” The tendency of all such times, as seen in the histories of famines, and pestilences, and revolutions, is to intensify selfishness, both in the more excusable form of self-preservation, and in the darker form of self-aggrandisement. In the tendency to “forsake the assembling of themselves together” among the Hebrew Christians, we have, perhaps, one instance of the love waxing cold (Hebrews 10:25).
Mt 24:1-51. Christ's Prophecy of the Destruction of Jerusalem, and Warnings Suggested by It to Prepare for His Second Coming. ( = Mr 13:1-37; Lu 21:5-36).
For the exposition, see on Mr 13:1-37.
1. The abounding of false teachers.
2. The abatements of Christians’ zeal, and love to God.
For the matter of Matthew 24:11, See Poole on "Matthew 24:23" and See Poole on "Matthew 24:24", where we shall meet with it more fully.
By the aboundings of iniquity here, we may either understand the rage, and malice, and cruelty of the enemies of the gospel; or the apostasy of such as are professors. Both these are great temptations, and though they will not extinguish that holy fire which God hath kindled in good souls, yet they have oft times a very ill influence upon them, to abate of their former warmth in the ways of God. Or if we understand it of love to brethren, the apostasy of professors much cools the Christian, not knowing who they may trust and confide in as sincere. If by the abounding of iniquity we understand the abounding of profaneness in the general, (which always also aboundeth most in times of persecution), that also hath no small influence upon Christians’ warmth in their profession, to cool and abate it: see Hebrews 10:25 2 Timothy 1:15 4:16.
the love of many shall wax cold. This would be the case of many, but not of all; for in the midst of this abounding iniquity, there were some, the ardour of whose love to Christ, to his Gospel, and to the saints, did not abate: but then there were many, whose zeal for Christ, through the violence of persecution, was greatly damped; and through the treachery of false brethren, were shy of the saints themselves, not knowing who to trust; and through the principles of the false teachers, the power of godliness, and the vital heat of religion, were almost lost; and through a love of the world, and of carnal ease and pleasure, love to the saints was grown very chill, and greatly left; as the instances of Demas, and those that forsook the Apostle Paul, at his first answer before Nero, show. This might be true of such, who were real believers in Christ; who might fall under great decays, through the prevalence of iniquity; since it does not say their love shall be lost, but wax cold.And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 24:12. And in consequence of the growing prevalence of wickedness (as the result of what is mentioned in Matthew 24:10-11), the love of the greater number will become cold; that predominance of evil within the Christian community will have the effect of cooling the brotherly love of the majority of its members. The moral degeneracy within the pale of that community will bring about as its special result a prevailing want of charity, that specific contrast to the true characteristic of the Christian life (Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 13:1 ff.; 1 John 4:20). For ἀνομία, the opposite of moral compliance with the law of God (= ἁμαρτία, 1 John 3:4), comp. Matthew 7:23, Matthew 13:41, Matthew 23:28; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:7. For ψύγειν with γ, comp. Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 318.
τῶν πολλῶν] are not the πολλοί mentioned in Matthew 24:10 (Fritzsche), whose love, as that verse informs us, is already changed into hatred, but the multitude, the mass, the great body (Kühner, II. l, p. 548; Ast, Lex. Plat. III. p. 148) of Christians. In the case of those who were distinguished above the ordinary run of Christians, no such cooling was to take place; but yet, as compared with the latter, they were only to be regarded as ὀλίγοι. According to Dorner, Matthew 24:11-12 apply not to the apostolic age, but to a subsequent stage in the history of the church. But such a view is inconsistent with the numerous testimonies to be met with in the Epistles, with the apprehensions and expectations regarding impending events to which they give expression. Comp. on Galatians 1:4.Matthew 24:12. ἀνομίαν. Weiss and Holtzmann (H. C.) take this in the specific sense of antinomianism, a libertine type of Christianity preached by the false prophets or apostles, the word in that sense of course to be credited to the evangelist. The word as used by Christ would naturally bear the general sense of godlessness or iniquity. We may wonder at the use of such a word in connection with nascent Christianity. It would require a considerable time to make room for such degeneracy. But the very point Jesus wishes to impress is that there will be room for that before the final crisis of Israel comes.—ψυγήσεται, etc., will cool the love of many. ψ. is an hapax leg. 2nd future passive of ψύχω, to breathe. One of the sad features of a degenerate time is that even the good loose their fervour.—ἀγάπη, love of the brotherhood, here only in this sense in Synoptical Gospels, the distinctive virtue of the Christian, with a new name for a new thing.12. iniquity] Literally, lawlessness.
shall abound] Translate, hath abounded.
the love of many] Rather, of the many, i. e. of “the majority.” Love or agapé became the leading virtue and grace of the Christian life, yet this is the only instance of the word in the Synoptic Gospels, except Luke 11:42, “the love of God.” The noun itself is not classical, and therefore lent itself the more readily to Christian use. But the thought connected with the word, “family affection,” was beautiful before it was spiritualised by Christianity. The E. V. has two renderings, “love” and “charity,” (see especially 1 Corinthians 13). The first seems to be too wide, the second too restricted, denoting a principal tendency or function of agapé rather than agapé itself. The use of the word by our Lord to express Christian unity is itself prophetic. St Paul experienced this “coldness of love:” “at my first answer no man stood with me,” 2 Timothy 4:16.Matthew 24:12. Τήν ἀνομίαν, unrighteousness) Unrighteousness and love are opposites; for love is the fulfilling of the law. Unrighteousness involves compulsion, love, as it were, something natural.—ψυγήσεται, shall wax cold) It is the character of love to burn.—ἡ ἀγάπη, love) sc. towards God, mankind, our neighbour, and ourself; of a spiritual and also natural kind; love, which is the sum of the law.—στοργὴ (natural affection) makes parents rejoice in the birth of their offspring: when iniquity has made times hard, they rejoice in losing their offspring or having none. Love is the ornament and very life of Christians, and of their whole condition and conduct, Php 1:9; 2 Peter 1:7; Revelation 2:4. It is also the foundation of that ὑπομονὴ, patience or endurance, mentioned in the next verse.—τῶν πολλῶν, of the many) i.e. of the majority, sc. of those who do not excel in love. Unrighteousness is especially practised by those who are exceedingly powerful or excessively poor: whence also the love of the rest waxes cold. That justice which is called particular, being violated, that which is called universal, languishes.
 Since their power and means of doing good are taken violently from them by unrighteousness or injustice.—V. g.
 Universal justice comprehends the whole of our duty to our neighbour; particular justice is that strictly so called. See Aristotle’s Nicomachæan Ethics, Book V. passim.—(I. B.)Verse 12. - Because iniquity shall abound (πληθυνθῆναι, is multiplied). The word rendered "iniquity" is ἀνομία, "lawlessness," general immorality and licence. Impatience of rule and discipline, connivance at and imitation of heathen practices, reacted upon the faith of believers, undermined steadfast adherence to principle. Then was the power of "that wicked one" (ὁ ἄνομος, 2 Thessalonians 2:8) exercised and seen in the lapse of the unstable. The love of many (τῶν πολλῶν, the many, the majority) shall wax cold. "Love" (ἀγάπη) here is used in its general and comprehensive sense, as having God as its chief object and man in subordination thereto. The troubles and persecutions that shall beset believers, the spirit of worldliness and self-seeking that a timid faith encourages, will issue in loosening dependence upon God and trust in his providential care; and internal dissensions will destroy that brotherly love which ought to be characteristic of Christians. Of this lack of energetic love the Lord speaks in his warnings to the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:16), "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
Of many (τῶν πολλῶν)
The A. V. in omitting the definite article, misses the force of Christ's saying. It is not the love of many people only that shall be chilled, but of the many, the majority, the great body.
Wax cold (ψυγήσεται)
The verb means originally to breathe or blow; and the picture is that of spiritual energy blighted or chilled by a malign or poisonous wind.
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