Matthew 24:21
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) Such as was not since the beginning . . .—The words come from Daniel 12:1. One who reads the narrative of Josephus will hardly hesitate to adopt his language, “that all miseries that had been known from the beginning of the world fell short” of those of the siege of the Holy City (Wars, v. 13, §§ 4, 5). Other sieges may have witnessed, before and since, scenes of physical wretchedness equally appalling, but nothing that history records offers anything parallel to the alternations of fanatic hope and frenzied despair that attended the breaking up of the faith and polity of Israel.

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.There shall be great tribulation - The word "tribulation" means calamity or "suffering." Luke Luk 21:24 has specified in what this tribulation would consist: "They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled." That is, until the time allotted for the Gentiles "to do it" shall be fully accomplished, or as long as God is pleased to suffer them to do it.

The first thing mentioned by Luke is, that they should fall "by the edge of the sword" - that is, would be slain in war, as the sword was then principally used in war. This was most strikingly fulfilled. Josephus, in describing it, uses almost the very words of our Saviour. "All the calamities, says he, which had befallen any nation from the beginning of the world" were but small in comparison with those of the Jews. - Jewish Wars, b. i. preface, section 4.

He has given the following account of one part of the massacre when the city was taken: "And now, rushing into the city, they slew whomsoever they found, without distinction, and burned the houses and all the people who had fled into them; and when they entered for the sake of plunder, they found whole families of dead persons, and houses full of carcasses destroyed by famine, then they came out with their hands empty. And though they thus pitied the dead, they had not the same emotion for the living, but killed all they met, whereby they filled the lanes with dead bodies. "The whole city ran with blood," insomuch that many things which were burning were extinguished by the blood." - "Jewish Wars," b. 6 chapter 8, section 5; chapter 9, section 2, 3. He adds that in the siege of Jerusalem not fewer than "eleven hundred thousand" perished (Jewish Wars, b. 6 chapter 9, section 3) - a number almost half as great as are in the whole city of London. In the adjacent provinces no fewer than "two hundred and fifty thousand" are reckoned to have been slain; making in all whose deaths were ascertained the almost incredible number of "one million three hundred and fifty thousand" who were put to death.

These were not, indeed, all slain with the sword. Many were crucified. "Many hundreds," says Josephus ("Jewish Wars," b. v. chapter 11, section 1), "were first whipped, then tormented with various kinds of tortures, and finally crucified; the Roman soldiers nailing them (out of the wrath and hatred they bore to the Jews), one after one way and another after another, to crosses, "by way of jest," until at length the multitude became so great that room was lacking for crosses, and crosses for the bodies." So terribly was their imprecation fulfilled - "his blood be on us and on our children," Matthew 27:25. If it be asked how it was possible for so many people to be slain in a single city, it is to be remembered that the siege of Jerusalem commenced during the time of the Passover, when all the males of the Jews were required to be there, and when it is estimated that more than "three million" were usually assembled. See Josephus, Jewish Wars, b. 6 chapter 9, section 3, 4.

A horrible instance of the distress of Jerusalem is related by Josephus. The famine during the siege became so great that they ate what the most sordid animals refused to touch. A woman of distinguished rank, having been plundered by the soldiers, in hunger, rage, and despair, killed and roasted her own babe, and had eaten one half of it before the deed was discovered. - Jewish Wars, b. 6 chapter 3, section 3, 4. This cruel and dreadful act was also in fulfillment of prophecy, Deuteronomy 28:53, Deuteronomy 28:56-57.

Another thing added by Luke Luk 21:24, was, that "they should be led away captive into all nations." Josephus informs us that the captives taken during the whole war amounted to "ninety-seven thousand." The tall and handsome young men Titus reserved for triumph; of the rest, many were distributed through the Roman provinces to be destroyed by wild beasts in theaters; many were sent to the works in Egypt; many, especially those under seventeen years of age, were sold for slaves. - Jewish Wars, b. vi. chapter 9, section 2, 3.

CHAPTER 24

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 [1355]Mr 13:1-37.

See Poole on "Matthew 24:22". For then shall be great tribulation,.... This is urged as a reason for their speedy flight; since the calamity that would come upon those who should remain in the city, what through the sword, famine, pestilence, murders, robberies, &c. would

be such as was not since the beginning of the world, to this time, no, nor ever shall be. The burning of Sodom and Gomorrha, the bondage of the children of Israel in Egypt, their captivity in Babylon, and all their distresses and afflictions in the times of the Maccabees, are nothing to be compared with the calamities which befell the Jews in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. Great desolations have been made in the besieging and at the taking of many famous cities, as Troy, Babylon, Carthage, &c. but none of them are to be mentioned with the deplorable case of this city. Whoever reads Josephus's account will be fully convinced of this; and readily join with him, who was an eyewitness of it, when he says (m), that

"never did any city suffer such things, nor was there ever any generation that more abounded in malice or wickedness.''

And indeed, all this came upon them for their impenitence and infidelity, and for their rejection and murdering of the Son of God; for as never any before, or since, committed the sin they did, or ever will, so there never did, or will, the same calamity befall a nation, as did them.

(m) De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 11.

For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 24:21. Those hindrances to flight are all the more to be deprecated that the troubles are to be unparalleled, and therefore a rapid flight will be a matter of the most urgent necessity.

ἕως τοῦ νῦν] usque ad hoc tempus, Romans 8:22. Κόσμου is not to be supplied here (Fritzsche). See, on the other hand, Mark 13:19; 1Ma 2:33; Plat. Parm. p. 152 C, Ep. xiii. p. 361 E. On the threefold negative οὐδὲ οὐ μή, see Bornemann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 109 f. For the expression generally, Plat. Tim. p. 38 A: οὐδὲ γενέσθαι ποτὲ οὐδὲ γεγονέναι νῦν οὐδʼ εἰσαῦθις ἔσεσθαι; Stallbaum, ad Rep. p. 492 E.Matthew 24:21-22. he extremity of the distress.21. great tribulation] “Jerusalem, a city that had been liable to so many miseries during the siege, that had it enjoyed as much happiness from its first foundation, it would certainly have been the envy of the world.” Josephus, B. J. vii. 6. 5.

No words can describe the unequalled horrors of this siege. It was the Passover season, and Jews from all parts were crowded within the walls. Three factions, at desperate feud with each other, were posted on the heights of Sion and on the Temple Mount. These only united to fling themselves at intervals upon the Roman entrenchments, and then resumed their hate. The Temple-courts swam with the blood of civil discord, which was literally mingled with the blood of the sacrifices. Jewish prisoners were crucified by hundreds in view of their friends, while within the city the wretched inhabitants were reduced by famine to the most loathsome of food and to deeds of unspeakable cruelty. Jerusalem was taken on the 10th August, a. d. 70. 1,100,000 Jews perished in the siege, 100,000 were sold into slavery. With the fall of Jerusalem Israel ceased to exist as a nation. It was truly the end of an æon.Matthew 24:21. Ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κόσμου, from the beginning of the world) in the time of the Deluge, etc.Verse 21. - Nor then. Jesus gives the reason why this precipitate flight (vers. 16-20) was rendered necessary at the moment spoken of in ver. 15. Great tribulation. The miseries suffered in the siege of Jerusalem were stupendous To the skilful and fierce attacks of the Romans from without were added from within dire famine and pestilence, dissensions, violence, and continual bloodshed and murder. Josephus estimates the number of those who fell in the siege and capture of Jerusalem at 1,000,000, the usual population being largely increased by the influx of pilgrims attending the Feast of the Passover, and by thousands of fugitives who had flocked in from the country (Josephus. 'Bell. Jud.,' 6:09, 3). He adds that 97,000 were carried away captive during and after the war. Such as was not...nor ever shall be (Daniel 12:1). This is not mere hyperbole, but sober fact. Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' Pro·m. 4) himself bears similar testimony: "Of all the cities under the dominion of Rome, ours was once the most happy, and afterwards the most utterly miserable. For the misfortunes of all the nations upon earth that have ever happened, if they are compared with the calamities to which the Jews were exposed, will, in my opinion, fall far short." Chrysostom sums up the matter thus: "Whence came there thus upon them wrath from God intolerable, and more sore than all that had befallen aforetime, not in Judaea only, but in any part of the world? Is it not quite clear that it was for the deed of the cross and for this rejection? Mark, I pray thee, the exceeding greatness of the ills, when not only compared with the time before, they appear more grievous, but also with all the time to come. For not in all the world, neither in all time that is past, and that is to come, shall any one be able to say such ills have been. And very naturally; for neither had any man perpetrated, not of these that ever have been, nor those to come hereafter, a deed so wicked and horrible" ('Hom.,' in loc.). The "affliction" spoken of refers not only to bodily sufferings, but to that anguish of mind occasioned by acute apprehension and. expectation of danger, such as was felt in the days before the Flood, and at the time of the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes.
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