Matthew 24:24
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) Shall shew great signs and wonders.—Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-11) and Elymas (Acts 13:6) may be taken as representative instances of these false claimants to supernatural powers. So “signs and lying wonders” are the notes of the coming of the Wicked One, in whom the mystery of iniquity shall receive its full development (2Thessalonians 2:9). But for the warning thus given, even the “elect”—i.e., the Christians of Judæa and Jerusalem—might have been carried away by the current of popular delusions.

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.False Christs - Persons claiming to be the Messiah.

False prophets - Persons claiming to be "the prophet" spoken of by Moses Deuteronomy 18:15; or persons pretending to declare the way of deliverance from the Romans, and calling the people to follow them. See Matthew 24:5.

Shall show great signs and wonders - That is, shall pretend to work miracles. They will so nearly resemble prophets in their miraculous power as to render it difficult to detect the imposture. Josephus represents the false Christs and prophets that appeared as "magicians and sorcerers." He says they led the people out into the deserts, and promised to work miracles to deliver them, Antiq. b. 20 chapter 8, section 6.

If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect - So nearly would their pretended miracles resemble true miracles as to render it difficult to detect the imposture; so much so, that if it were possible they would persuade even true Christians that they were the Messiah. But that was not possible. His real friends would be too firmly established in the belief that he was the Christ to be wholly led away by others. Christians may be sometimes led far astray; they may be in doubt about some great doctrines of religion; they may be perplexed by the cavils and cunning craftiness of those who do not love the truth, but they cannot be entirely deceived and seduced from the Saviour. Our Saviour says that if this "were possible," it would be done then; but it was not possible. Compare the notes at John 10:28-29.

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". For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets,.... Such as the above mentioned: these false Christs had their false prophets, who endeavoured to persuade the people to believe them to be the Messiah, as Barcochab had Akiba, who applied many prophecies to him. This man was called Barcochab, which signifies the son of a star, in allusion to Numbers 24:17 he was crowned by the Jews, and proclaimed the Messiah by Akiba; upon which a Roman army was sent against him, and a place called Bitter was besieged, and taken, and he, and a prodigious number of Jews were destroyed. This deceiver was afterwards, by them, called Barcoziba, the son of a lie:

and shall show great signs and wonders; make an appearance of doing them, though they really did them not: so that Jonathan, before mentioned, pretended to show signs and sights; and Barcochab made as if flame came out of his mouth; and many of the Jewish doctors in these times, and following, gave themselves up to sorcery, and the magic art; and are, many of them, often said (s) to be , "expert in wonders", or miracles:

if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. By whom we are to understand, not the choicest believers, or the persevering Christians: not but that such who are truly converted, are choice believers in Christ, and persevering Christians are undoubtedly the elect of God; but then the reason why they are elect, and why they are so called, is not because they are converted, are choice believers, and persevering Christians; but, on the contrary, the reason why they are converted, become true believers, and persevere to the end, is, because they are elected; conversion, faith, and perseverance being not the causes or conditions, but the fruits and effects of election: besides to talk of the final seduction of a persevering Christian, is a contradiction in terms. Such an interpretation of the phrase must be absurd and impertinent; for who knows not that a persevering Christian cannot be finally and totally deceived? But by the elect are meant, a select number of particular persons of Adam's posterity, whom God, of his sovereign goodwill and pleasure, without respect to their faith, holiness, and good works, has chosen, in Christ, before the foundation of the world, both to grace and glory: and to deceive these finally and totally, is impossible, as is here suggested; not impossible, considering their own weakness, and the craftiness of deceivers, who, if left to themselves, and the power of such deception, and the working of Satan with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, might easily be seduced; but considering the purposes and promises of God concerning them, the provisions of his grace for them, the security of them in the hands of Christ, and their preservation by the mighty power of God, their final and total deception is not only difficult, but impossible. They may be, and are deceived before conversion; this is one part of their character whilst unregenerate, "foolish, disobedient, deceived", Titus 3:3 yea, they may be, and oftentimes are, deceived after conversion; but then this is in part only, and not totally; in some lesser, and not in the greater matters of faith; not so as to let go their hold of Christ their head, and quit the doctrine of salvation by him, or fall into damnable heresies: they may be seduced from the simplicity of the Gospel, but not finally; for they shall be recovered out of the snare of the devil, and not to be left to perish in such deceivings. This clause, as it expresses the power of deceivers, and the efficacy of Satan, so the influence and certainty of electing grace and the sure and firm perseverance of the saints, to the end, notwithstanding the cunning and craft of men and devils; for if these, with all their signs and wonders, could not deceive them, it may be pronounced impossible that they ever should be finally and totally deceived.

(s) T. Bab. Meila, fol. 17. 2. Juchasin, fol. 20. 1, 2. & 42. 2. & 56. 2. & 77. 1. & 96. 2.

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and {l} shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

(l) Will openly set forth great signs for men to behold.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 24:24. ψευδόχριστοι, in the same sense as in Matthew 24:5; there referred to as the cause of all the trouble, here as promising deliverance from the trouble they, or their like, have created. What would one not give for a Deliverer, a Messiah at such a dire crisis! The demand would create the supply, men offering themselves as Saviours from Rome’s power, with prophets (ψευδοπροφῆται) preaching smooth things, and assuring a despairing people of deliverance at the last hour.—μὴ πιστεύσητε, says Jesus (Matthew 24:23), do not believe them: no salvation possible; listen not, but flee.—καὶ δώσουσιν, etc., and will give great signs and wonders. The words recall Deuteronomy 13:1. Desperate situations require a full use of all possible powers of persuasion: signs and wonders, or the pretence of them: easily accepted as such by a fanaticised multitude, and sometimes so clever and plausible as to tempt the wise to credence.—ὥστε, with infinitive to express tendency; often inclusive of result, but not here.—εἰ δυνατὸν, if possible, the implication being that it is not. If it were the consequence would be fatal. The “elect” (τοὺς ἐκλεκτούς)—selected by Providence for safety in the evil day—would be involved in the general calamity. Christians, at Israel’s great crisis, were to be saved by unbelief in pseudo-messiahs and pseudo-prophets.Matthew 24:24. Σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα, signs and prodigies) Signs affect the intellect; prodigies, one class of which is fearful sights (see Luke 21:11, and cf. Acts 2:19), trouble the mind.—εἰ δυνατὸν, if [it were] possible) This clause denotes the utmost endeavour, yet made in vain; cf. Acts 27:39.[1049]

[1049] προείοηκα) Exercising peculiar faithfulness and divine affection towards you.—V. g.Verse 24. - False Christs. He shows the nature of the dangers to which believers will be subject. He does not confine his view to Jewish history; he foretells the appearance of pretenders who shall assume the part of Christ, and blasphemously assert that they are Messiah. False prophets. Without assuming the name of Christ, many impostors shall be found who, professing to be inspired or lawful teachers, shall lead hearers into false doctrine, or claim to possess a new revelation, or something additional and supplemental to the eternal gospel. Such was Mohammed; such were the founders of Buddhism, Mormonism, and other so called religions, who based their views on special revelation given from heaven for the purpose of improving the existing faith or introducing a new one. Shall show (δώσουσι, shall give, as Acts 2:19) great signs and wonders. Two usual terms for miracles, the former regarding rather the evidence afforded by them, the latter the element of the marvellous inherent in them (comp John 4:48; Acts 2:22; Acts 7:36 etc.). That such men did work actual miracles, or what were regarded as such, cannot be reasonably doubted. Satan was on their side, and, as far as he was permitted, confirmed their teaching by supernatural assistance. St. Paul testifies that such should be the action of the antichrist, "whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9; comp. Revelation 13:13, 14). Many of these wonders may have been effectuated by natural forces unknown to the majority of men, and therefore considered as superhuman; others may have been derived from the spiritual world, but necessarily from that realm thereof which is under the control of evil demons. Whatever may have been their source, they were displayed in support of lies and errors, and had a certain success. Insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive (ὤστε πλανῆσαι εἰ δυνατὸν) the very (καὶ, even) elect. The Authorized Version seems to make our Lord imply that such seduction was absolutely impossible. The translation ought to run, as in the Revised Version, so as to lead astray, if possible even the elect, signifying the difficulty, not the impossibility, of drawing them away from the truth. "The elect" are Christians, true followers of Jesus, and members of his Church. These may fall from the faith, for they are not yet finally safe, and on that chance Satan builds; but as long as they rest on Christ, looking to him for guidance and protection, trying the spirits by the Word of God and by the truths which they have learned in creed and worship, they stand firm against the strongest temptations. Signs and wonders (σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα)

See on Matthew 11:20. The two words often joined in the New Testament. See John 4:48; Acts 2:22; Acts 4:30; 2 Corinthians 12:12. The words do not denote different classes of supernatural manifestations, but these manifestations regarded from different points of view. The same miracle may be a mighty work, or a glorious work, regarded with reference to its power and grandeur; or a sign of the doer's supernatural power; or a wonder, as it appeals to the spectator. Τέρας, (derivation uncertain) is a miracle regarded as a portent or prodigy, awakening amazement. It most nearly corresponds, therefore, to the etymological sense of the word miracle (Lat., miraculum, a wonderful thing, from mirari, to wonder).

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