Matthew 24:23
Then if any man shall say to you, See, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Lo, here is Christ, or there.—Better, Lo, here is the Christ. The narrative of Josephus, while speaking of many deceivers” claiming divine authority (Wars, ii. 13, § 4), is silent as to any pretenders to the character of the Messiah. It is scarcely conceivable, however, that this should not have been one of the results of the fevered dreams of the people, and the reticence of the historian was probably a suppressio veri connected with his own recognition of Vespasian as a quasi Christ (Wars, vi. 5, § 4).

Matthew 24:23-26. If any man say, Lo, here is Christ, or there — During the terrible calamities here foretold, the expectations of the nation were all turned toward their Messiah; for they thought if ever he was to appear, it would be then, to deliver them from the impending destruction. Hence many arose, pretending to be the Messiah, and boasting that they would deliver the nation; the effect of which was, that the multitude, giving credit to these deceivers, became obstinate in their opposition to the Romans, whereby their destruction was rendered both the more severe and the more inevitable. Our Lord, it must be observed, had cautioned his disciples against false Christs and false prophets before, (see Matthew 24:5,) but what he here says is not to be considered as a repetition of that, but relates to those impostors who should appear during the time of the siege. And, in fact, many such impostors did arise about that time, as we learn from Josephus, (lib. 6. cap. 5, § 2,) and promised deliverance from God, being suborned by the tyrants or governors, to prevent the people and soldiers from deserting to the Romans; and the lower the Jews were reduced, the more disposed were they to listen to these deceptions, and the more ready to follow the deceivers. Hegesippus also, quoted by Eusebius, mentions the coming of false Christs and false prophets about the same time. And shall show great signs — As it was to little purpose for a man to take upon him the character of the Christ, or even of a prophet, without miracles to vouch his mission; so it was the common artifice and pretence of these impostors to show signs and wonders, σημεια και τερατα, the very words used by Christ in this prophecy, and by Josephus in his history. Behold, I have told you before — Behold, I have given you sufficient warning. If they shall say, He is in the desert — It is surprising that our Lord should not only foretel the appearance of these impostors, but also the manner and circumstances of their conduct. For some he mentions as appearing in the desert, and some in the secret chambers; and the event, in all points, answered to the prediction. Josephus says (Antiq., lib. 20. cap. 7, and Bell. Jud., lib. 2. cap. 13,) that “many impostors and cheats persuaded the people to follow them into the desert, where they promised to show manifest wonders and signs done by the providence of God; and many, being persuaded, suffered the punishment of their folly.” And he mentions an Egyptian false prophet, Antiq., Matthew 20:7, (spoken of also Acts 21:38,) who led out into the desert four thousand men who were murderers; and who were all taken or destroyed by Felix: another impostor is also mentioned by the same author, who promised deliverance to the people if they would follow him into the desert, but Festus sent horse and foot against him, and destroyed both him and his followers. These things happened before the destruction of Jerusalem; and a little after, one Jonathan, a weaver, persuaded many to follow him into the desert, most or all of whom were slain or made prisoners, and he himself taken and burned alive, by order of Vespasian. As several of these impostors thus conducted their followers into the desert, so did others into the secret chambers, or places of security. One of these (according to Josephus, Bell., Matthew 6:5) declared to the people in the city, that God commanded them to go up into the temple, and there they should receive the signs of deliverance. A multitude of men, women, and children went up accordingly; but, instead of deliverance, the place was set on fire by the Romans, and six thousand perished miserably in the flames, by throwing themselves down to escape them. Our Saviour therefore might well caution his disciples both against the former and the latter sort of these deceivers.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.Lo, here is Christ - The Messiah. The Jews expected the Messiah to deliver them from Roman oppression. In the time of these great calamities they would anxiously look for him. Many would claim "to be" the Messiah. Many would follow those who set up that claim. Many would rejoice to believe that he was come, and would call on others, Christians with the rest, to follow them.

Believe it not - You have evidence that the Messiah has come, and you are not to be deceived by the plausible pretensions of others.

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 24:26". Then if any man shall say unto you,.... Either at the time when the siege shall be begun, and the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place; or during the days of tribulation, whilst the siege lasted; or after those days were shortened, and the city destroyed, and the Roman army was gone with their captives: when some, that were scattered up and down in the country, would insinuate to their countrymen, that the Messiah was in such a place: saying,

lo! here is Christ, or there, believe it not; for both during the time of the siege, there were such that sprung up, and pretended to be Messiahs, and deliverers of them from the Roman power, and had their several abettors; one saying he was in such place, and another that he was in such a place; and so spirited up the people not to fly, nor to deliver up the city; and also, after the city was taken and destroyed, one and another set up for the Messiah. Very quickly after, one Jonathan, a very wicked man, led many into the desert of Cyrene, promising to show them signs and wonders, and was overthrown by Catullius, the Roman governor (q); and after that, in the times of Adrian, the famous Barcochab set up for the Messiah, and was encouraged by R. Akiba, and a multitude of Jews (r).

(q) Joseph. Antiq. l. 7. c. 12. (r) Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 28. 2.

Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 24:23 ff. Τότε] then, when the desolation of the temple and the great θλίψις shall have arrived, false Messiahs, and such as falsely represent themselves to be prophets, will again come forward and urge their claims with greater energy than ever, nay, in the most seductive ways possible. Those here referred to are different from the pretenders of Matthew 24:4 f. The excitement and longing that will be awakened in the midst of such terrible distress will be taken advantage of by impostors with pretensions to miracle-working, and then how dangerous they will prove! By such early expositors as Chrysostom and those who come after him, Matthew 24:23 was supposed to mark the transition to the subject of the advent, so that τότε would pass over the whole period between the destruction of Jerusalem and the second advent; while, according to Ebrard (comp. Schott), the meaning intended by Jesus in Matthew 24:23-24 is, that after the destruction of the capital, the condition of the church and of the world, described in Matthew 24:4-14, “in posterum quoque mansurum esse.” Such views would have been discarded if due regard had been paid to the τότε by which the point of time is precisely defined, as well as to the circumstance that the allusion here is merely to the coming forward of false Christs and false prophets. Consequently we should also beware of saying, with Calovius, that at this point Christ passes to the subject of His adventus spiritualis per evangelium. He is still speaking of that period of distress, Matthew 24:21 f., which is to be immediately followed, Matthew 24:29, by the second advent.

ψευδόχριστοι] those who falsely claim to be Messiah; nothing is known regarding the historical fulfilment of this. Jonathan (Joseph. Bell. vii. 11. 3) and Barcochba (see on Matthew 24:5) appeared at a later period.

ψευδοπροφῆται] according to the context, not Christian teachers (Matthew 24:11), in the present instance, but such as pretended to be sent by God, and inspired to speak to the people in the season of their calamity,—deceivers similar to those who had tried to impose upon their fellow-countrymen during the national misfortunes of earlier times (Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 5:13; Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:10). Comp. Joseph. Bell. ii. 13. 4 : πλάνοι γὰρ ἄνθρωποι καὶ ἀπατῶντες προσχήματι θειασμοῦ νεωτερισμοὺς καὶ μεταβολὰς πραγματευόμενοι, δαιμονᾷν τὸ πλῆθος ἀνέπειθον, κ.τ.λ. Others suppose that the reference is to such as sought to pass for Elijah or some other prophet risen from the dead (Kuinoel), which would scarcely agree with the use of a term so general as the present; there are those also who think it is the emissaries of the false Messiahs who are intended (Grotius).

δώσουσι] not: promise (Kypke, Krebs), but: give, so as to suit the idea involved in σημεῖα. Comp. Matthew 12:39; Deuteronomy 13:1.

On σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα, between which there is no material difference, see on Romans 15:19. Miracles may also be performed by Satanic agency, 2 Thessalonians 2:9.

ὥστε πλανηθῆναι (see critical notes): so that the very elect may be led astray (Kühner, II. 2, p. 1005) if possible (εἰ δυνατόν: si fieri possit; “conatus summus, sed tamen irritus,” Bengel).

Matthew 24:25. Διαμαρτύρεται ἐξασφαλιζόμενος, Euthymius Zigabenus. Comp. John 14:29.Matthew 24:23-28. False Christs again (Mark 13:21-23, Luke 17:23-24; Luke 17:37).23. Then] The transition is marked by this word, it was possibly also marked by a pause in the Saviour’s discourse.

23–31. The Second Coming of Christ

Mark 13:21-27; Luke 21:24-28The following scheme, intended to shew a parallelism between the two Predictions, is borrowed from an interesting monograph by the Rev. W. Sherlock, who argues for the division of the prophecy at Matthew 24:22 :

the fall of jerusalem (Matthew 24:5-22).  the second advent (Matthew 24:23-31).

  

1.  False Christs and false prophets (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:11).  1.  False Christs and false prophets (Matthew 24:23-24).

  

2.  Persecution and apostasy (Matthew 24:9-10; Matthew 24:12).  2.  Dangers even to the elect (Matthew 24:24).

  

3.  Wars, famine, pestilence (Matthew 24:6-7).  3.  Distress of nations (Matthew 24:29).

  

4.  Great tribulation (Matthew 24:21).  4.  The sun and moon darkened (Matthew 24:29).

  

5.  The abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15).  5.  The sign of the Son of man (Matthew 24:30).

  

6.  The escape of the Christians (Matthew 24:16-18).  6.  The salvation of the elect (Matthew 24:31).

  

24. shall deceive the very elect] Compare this with the less dangerous influence of false prophets before the siege of Jerusalem, “shall deceive many.”Matthew 24:23. τοτέ, then) sc. at the time of the fall of Jerusalem.—μὴ πιστεύσητε, do not believe) For from that time forth the Son of Man will not be seen until His Advent. His coming to judgment, therefore, is mentioned incidentally in Matthew 24:27, and professedly in Matthew 24:29,[1048] 30.—ὧδε, here) sc. where any one is who calls himself the Messiah.

[1048] Bengel means, that until His final Advent, which all must recognise when it takes place, Christ shall not be visible; and that, therefore, any who says he is Christ before then, is ipso facto an impostor. The coming, accordingly, in Matthew 24:27, is not a personal one, but a virtual coming in the judgments inflicted on Jerusalem and Judea: therefore it is only incidentally dwelt on as His coming. But the coming, in Matthew 24:29, is the personal, visible, and final coming; and therefore it is described professedly as such: “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man—they shall see the Son of man.”—ED.Verse 23. - And then. The third section of the prophecy, contained in vers. 23-35, passes from the fortunes of Jerusalem to the end of the world. To the Lord's hearers was conveyed the truth that the signs and events now indicated were to be subsequent to the destruction of the city. No further note of chronology was given. The uncertainty of the future caused a state of constant expectation and hope. And this is the feeling which we Christians are intended to embrace and cultivate. "The word 'then' relates not to the connection in the order of time with the things just mentioned,... not meaning what should follow straightway after these things, but what should be in the time when these things were to be done of which he was about to speak" (St. Chrysostom, 'Horn.,' in loc.). Lo, here is Christ! This refers to something different from the announcement in ver. 5. Some analogous deceptions doubtless occurred at the siege of Jerusalem, but the Lord is predicting the remote events of the latter days, of which previous occurrences were types and anticipations. Believe it not. When Christ does come the second time, there shall be no doubt or ignorance of his appearance (see ver. 27, and compare the warning in Deuteronomy 13:1-3).
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