Matthew 24:3
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
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(3) The disciples came unto him privately.—From St. Mark we learn their names—“Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew;” i.e., the four in the first of the three groups that made up the Twelve. The position of Andrew as the last is noticeable, as connected with the general pre-eminence of the first three.

The sign of thy coming.—Literally, of Thy presence. The passage is memorable as the first occurrence of the word (παρονσία, parousia), which was so prominent in the teaching of the Epistles (1Thessalonians 2:19; 1Thessalonians 3:13; James 5:7; 1John 2:28, et al.). They had brought themselves to accept the thought of His departure and return, though time and manner were as yet hidden from them.

The end of the world.—Literally, the end of the age. In the common language of the day, which had passed from the schools of the Rabbis into popular use, “this age,” or “this world,” meant the time up to the coming of the Messiah; the “age or world to come” (Matthew 13:40; Matthew 19:28; Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 6:5), the glorious time which He was to inaugurate. The disciples had heard their Lord speak in parables of such a coming, and they naturally connected it in their thoughts with the close of the age or period in which they lived.

Matthew 24:3-5. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him — The disciples were desirous to know more of these events, when they should be, and how they should be; but thought it not proper to ask him at present, the multitude probably still crowding about him, and therefore they take an opportunity of coming unto him privately, as he was sitting upon the mount of Olives, from whence they had a full view of the city and temple, and there they prefer their request to him. Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? — These seem to be only different expressions to denote the same period with the destruction of Jerusalem, the disciples supposing, that when the destruction of Jerusalem should take place, then would be the coming of Christ and the end of the world, or, the conclusion of the age, as συντελεια του αιωνος should rather be translated here, and often signifies. See especially Hebrews 9:36; and 1 Corinthians 10:11. Accordingly, in the parallel place of Mark 13:4, their question is expressed thus, When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? And in that of Luke 21:7, thus, When shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? The disciples therefore inquire concerning two things; 1st, the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; and, 2d, the signs of it. The latter part of the question our Lord answers first, and treats of the signs of his coming from the 4th to the 31st verse, inclusive; and then passes on to the other part of the question, concerning the time of his coming. Jesus answered, Take heed that no man deceive you — The caution was more particularly designed for the succeeding Christians, whom the apostles then represented. For many shall come in my name — That is, as Doctor Campbell renders it, many will assume my character; a reading which expresses our Lord’s meaning more precisely than ours. For to come in any one’s name signifies more properly with us, to come by one’s authority or order, real or pretended; in which sense the Messiah came in the name of God, the apostles came in the name of Christ. But this is far from being the sense of the phrase in this passage; where it plainly signifies that many would usurp his title, make pretensions to his office and character, and thereby lead their followers into the most fatal delusion, saying, I am Christ — Our Lord begins with this, according to all the evangelists, and they all represent him as using almost the same words: only in Luke 21:8, he adds, the time draweth near; and indeed within a very little time this part of the prophecy began to be fulfilled. Very soon after our Saviour’s decease appeared Simon Magus, who boasted himself among the Jews as the Song of Solomon of God, and gave out among the Samaritans, that he was some great one, Acts 8:9-10. Of the same stamp and character was Dositheus, the Samaritan, who pretended that he was the Christ foretold by Moses. In the reign of Claudius, about twelve years after the death of our Saviour, when Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, an impostor, named Theudas, persuaded a great multitude to follow him, with their best effects, to the river Jordan, for he said that he was a prophet, and promised to divide the river for their passage; and saying these things, he deceived many, says Josephus. But Fadus sent a troop of horse against them, who, falling unexpectedly upon them, killed many, and made many prisoners; and having taken Theudas himself alive, they cut off his head and brought it to Jerusalem. A few years afterward, in the reign of Nero, when Felix was procurator of Judea, such a number of these impostors made their appearance, that many of them were apprehended and killed every day. They seduced great numbers of the people still expecting the Messiah. Our Saviour might well, therefore, caution his disciples against them.

24:1-3 Christ foretells the utter ruin and destruction coming upon the temple. A believing foresight of the defacing of all worldly glory, will help to keep us from admiring it, and overvaluing it. The most beautiful body soon will be food for worms, and the most magnificent building a ruinous heap. See ye not all these things? It will do us good so to see them as to see through them, and see to the end of them. Our Lord having gone with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, he set before them the order of the times concerning the Jews, till the destruction of Jerusalem; and as to men in general till the end of the world.He sat upon the Mount of Olives - See the notes at Matthew 21:1. From that mount there was a magnificent view of the whole city.

The disciples came unto him privately - Not all of them, but Peter, James, John, and Andrew, Mark 13:3. The prediction that the temple would be destroyed Matthew 24:2 had been made in the presence of all the apostles. A "part" now came privately to know more particularly when this would be.

When shall these things be? - There are three questions here:

1. when those things should take place

2. what should be the signs of his own coming

3. what should be the signs that the end of the world was near

To these questions He replies in this and the following chapters. This He does, not by noticing them distinctly, but by intermingling the descriptions of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world, so that it is sometimes difficult to tell to what particular subject his remarks apply. The principle on which this combined description of two events was spoken appears to be, that "they could be described in the same words," and therefore the accounts are intermingled. A similar use of language is found in some parts of Isaiah, where the same language will describe the return from the Babylonian captivity, and deliverance by the Messiah. See Introduction to Isaiah, section 7.

Sign of thy coming - Evidence that thou art coming. By what token shall we know that thou art coming?


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 24:4".

And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives,.... Which was on the east of the city of Jerusalem (a), "over against the temple", as Mark says, and where he could sit and take a full view of it; for the wall on the east side was lower than any other, and that for this reason; that when the high priest burnt the red heifer on this mount, as he did, and sprinkled the blood, he might have a view of the gate of the temple. It is said (b),

"all the walls which were there, were very high, except the eastern wall; for the high priest, when he burned the heifer, stood on the top of the mount of Olives, and directed himself, and looked to the gate of the temple, at the time he sprinkled the blood.''

This place, very probably, our Lord chose to sit in, that he might give his disciples an occasion to discourse more largely with him on this subject; and that he might take the opportunity of acquainting them with what would be the signs and forerunners of this desolation, and so it proved:

the disciples came to him privately; these four at least, Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, as Mark relates; and that either separately from the rest of the disciples, or from the multitude: it might not be thought so proper, to ask the following questions before them, and they might suppose that Christ would not be so ready to give an answer to them plainly, before the common people; when they might hope to be indulged with one by him, in private:

saying, tell us, when shall these things be? That this house will be left desolate, these buildings will be destroyed, and not one stone left upon another? This first question relates purely to the destruction of the temple, and to this Christ first answers, from Matthew 24:4.

And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? Which two are put together, as what they supposed would be at the same time, and immediately follow the destruction of the temple. That he was come in the flesh, and was the true Messiah, they firmly believed: he was with them, and they expected he would continue with them, for they had no notion of his leaving them, and coming again. When he at any time spake of his dying and rising from the dead, they seemed not to understand it: wherefore this coming of his, the sign of which, they inquire, is not to be understood of his coming a second time to judge the world, at the last day; but of his coming in his kingdom and glory, which they had observed him some little time before to speak of; declaring that some present should not die, till they saw it: wherefore they wanted to be informed, by what sign they might know, when he would set up his temporal kingdom; for since the temple was to be destroyed, they might hope a new one would be built, much more magnificent than this, and which is a Jewish notion; and thai a new state of things would commence; the present world, or age, would be at a period; and the world to come, they had so often heard of from the Jewish doctors, would take place; and therefore they ask also, of the sign of the end of the world, or present state of things in the Jewish economy: to this Christ answers, in the latter part of this chapter, though not to the sense in which they put the questions; yet in the true sense of the coming of the son of man, and the end of the world; and in such a manner, as might be very instructive to them, and is to us.

(a) Bartenora in Misn. Middot, c. 1. sect. 3.((b) Misn. lb. c. 2. sect. 4.

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Matthew 24:3. Κατʼ ἰδίαν] unaccompanied by any but such as belonged to the number of the Twelve, because they were going to ask Him to favour them with a secret revelation. Differently Mark 13:3.

ταῦτα] those disastrous events of Matthew 24:2.

καὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον, κ.τ.λ.] The disciples assume, as matter of course, that immediately after the destruction in question the Lord will appear, in accordance with what is said Matthew 23:39, for the purpose of setting up His kingdom, and that with this the current (the pre-Messianic) era of the world’s history will come to an end. Consequently they wish to know, in the second place (for there are only two questions, not three, as Grotius, Ebrard suppose), what is to be the sign which, after the destruction of the temple, is to precede this second coming and the end of the world, that by it they may be able to recognise the approach of those events. The above assumption, on the part of the disciples, is founded on the doctrine respecting the הבלי המשיח, dolores Messiae, derived from Hosea 13:13. See Schoettgen, II. p. 550; Bertholdt, Christol. p. 43 ff.

τῆς σῆς παρουσίας] After his repeated intimations of future suffering and death, the disciples could not conceive of the advent of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; in the Gospels peculiar to Matthew) to set up His kingdom and make a permanent stay in any other way than as a solemn second coming. After His resurrection they expected the Risen One straightway to set up His kingdom (Acts 1:6),—a very natural expectation when we bear in mind that the resurrection was an unlooked-for event; but, after the ascension, their hopes were directed, in accordance with the express promises of Jesus, to the coming from heaven, which they believed was going to take place ere long, Acts 1:11; Acts 3:20 f., al., and the numerous passages in the New Testament Epistles. Comp. Wittichen in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. 1862, p. 354 ff. Observe, too, the emphatic σῆς coming after the general expression ταῦτα.

καὶ συντελ. τοῦ αἰῶνος] In the Gospels we find no trace of the millenarian ideas of the Apocalypse. The τοῦ αἰῶνος, with the article, but not further defined, is to be understood as referring to the existing, the then current age of the world, i.e. to the αἰὼν οὗτος, which is brought to a close (συντέλεια) with the second coming, inasmuch as, with this latter event, the αἰὼν μέλλων begins. See on Matthew 13:39. The second coming, the resurrection and the last judgment, fall upon the ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα (John 6:39; John 11:24), which, as it will be the last day of the αἰὼν οὗτος in general, so of the ἐσχάτων ἡμερῶν (Acts 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:1; Jam 5:3; Hebrews 1:2; 2 Peter 3:3) in particular, or of the καιρὸς ἔσχατος (1 Peter 1:5), or of the χρόνος ἔσχατος (Judges 1:18; 1 Peter 1:20), which John likewise calls the ἐσχάτη ὥρα (1 John 2:18). This concluding period, which terminates with the last day, is to be characterized by abounding distress and wickedness (see on Galatians 1:4). The article was unnecessary before συντελείας, seeing that it is followed by the genitive of specification; Winer, p. 118 f. [E. T. 155].

Matthew 24:3. n interval of silence would naturally follow so stern a speech. This verse accordingly shows us Jesus with His disciples now on the other side of the Kidron, and sitting on the slope of Olivet, with face turned towards Jerusalem; Master and disciples sitting apart, and thinking their own thoughts. Satisfied that the Master means what He has said, and not daring to dispute His prophetic insight, they accept the fate predicted for Jerusalem, and now desire to know the when and how.—κατʼ ἰδίαν looks as if borrowed from Mk., where it refers to four of the disciples coming apart from the rest. It goes without saying that none but the Twelve were there.—τί τὸ σημεῖον τ. σ. π., etc. The questioners took for granted that all three things went together: destruction of temple, advent of Son of Man, end of the current age. Perhaps the association of the three helped them to accept the first as a fact. Weizsäcker (Untersuchungen, p. 549, note 1) suggests that the second and third questions are filled in by the evangelist to correspond with the answer. So also Weiss in Meyer. The main subject of interrogation is the predicted ruin: when will it happen, and how shall it be known when it is at hand, so as to be prepared for it? Cf. Mk. and Lk., where this alone is the subject of question.—παρουσία (literally presence, second presence) and συντέλεια τοῦ αἰῶνος are the technical terms of the apostolic age, for the second advent of Christ and the close of the present order of things, and they occur in Mt. only, so far as the Gospels are concerned. Do not the ideas also belong to that age, and are not the questions here put into the mouth of the Twelve too advanced for disciples?

3. when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming] The twofold question points to the nearer and the more distant event. See note at beginning of chapter.

thy coming] Rather, thy presence (parousia). The precise word “coming,” or “advent,” which the Church has adopted in reference to the second “presence” of Christ, does not occur in this prophecy.

the end of the world] See ch. Matthew 13:39-40.

Matthew 24:3. Ἐπὶ τοῦ ὄρους, on the mountain) Whence the temple could be seen, and where the siege operations were destined to commence.—τὸ σημεῖον, the sign) Signs have frequently been added to predictions of important events; hence arose the question of the disciples regarding the sign of that time.—τῆς σῆς παρουσίας, of thy coming) The disciples appear to refer to ch. Matthew 23:39.

Verse 3. - As he eat upon the Mount of Olives. On his way to Bethany towards the close of this day, he rested for a while and communed with the disciples, uttering the wonderful eschatological discourse which follows in this and the next chapter. It is noted that the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans began on the very spot where this prophecy of its destruction was delivered, strategical reasons compelling them to make their attack from this quarter. "A sudden turn in the road," writes Dr. Edersheim (2:431), "and the sacred building was once more in full view. Just then the western sun was pouring his golden beams on tops of marble cloisters and on the terraced courts, and glittering on the golden spikes on the roof of the holy place. In the setting, even more than in the rising sun, must the vast proportions, the symmetry, and the sparkling sheen of this mass of snowy marble and gold have stood out gloriously. And across the black valley, and up the slopes of Olivet, lay the dark shadows of those gigantic walls built of massive stones, some of them nearly twenty-four feet long. Even the rabbis, despite their hatred of Herod, grow enthusiastic, and dream that the very temple walls would have been covered with gold had not the variegated marble, resembling the waves of the sea, seemed more beauteous. It was probably, as they [the disciples] now gazed on all this grandeur and strength, that they broke the silence imposed on them by gloomy thoughts of the near desolateness of that house which the Lord predicted." Privately. Such questions were not to be asked openly in the hearing of any who might have followed him from the city. There was nothing more resented by the average Jew than any intimation of the destruction of the temple. It was one of the charges against Stephen that he had said that Jesus would destroy the temple (Acts 6:14). When, therefore, some of the apostles wished for more definite information on this subject, they took care to make their inquiry in private. Their questions were twofold - they desired to know the time of the events, and the signs which should precede Christ's coming and the end of the world. When shall these things be? "These things" refer to the destruction of the temple, and the course of events which, as they conceive, are dependent thereupon (comp. Matthew 23:36). To their minds, this catastrophe could only occur contemporaneously with the coming of Christ in glory and the end of the world. They saw in it a great revolution which should usher in the final consummation. But when should this come to pass? - in their own day, or after many ages? in the lifetime of this generation, or at some far-distant period? It was not mere wanton curiosity to know the future which prompted the question, but rather a reverent desire to prepare for these great events, of the certainty of which they were now fully assured. So the next question shows no doubt concerning the facts, and asks, not the mode of the accomplishment, but only what anticipatory warning and indication were to be given. Sign of thy coming (τῆς σῆς παρουσίας), and of the end of the world (συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος). They look upon these two events as synchronous, or very closely connected. The word parousia, which in classical Greek means "presence," or "arrival," is used in the New Testament specially for the second advent of Christ to set up his eternal kingdom in full power and glory (see in this chapter vers. 27, 37, 39; and comp. 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13, etc.). Referring to the same event, we find in some places the term "epiphany" used (see 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1), and in others "revelation" (ἀποκάλυψις, 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7); but the three expressions denote simply the open establishment of Messiah's kingdom, indefnitely as to time and manner. The phrase translated "the end of the world "means literally the consummation of the age (cf. Matthew 13:39; Hebrews 9:26); consummationis saeculi (Vulgate); i.e. the close of this present seen, in contradistinction from the future aeon, or the world to come. This is "the last time," "the last days," spoken of elsewhere (see 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 2:18; and comp. Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1). Matthew 24:3Coming (παρουσίας)

Originally, presence, from παρεῖναι, to be present. In this sense in Philippians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 10:10. Also arrival, as in 1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Corinthians 7:6, 2 Corinthians 7:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Peter 3:12. Of the second coming of Christ: James 5:8; 1 John 2:28; 2 Peter 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

Of the world (αἰῶνος)

Rather the existing, current age. They do not ask the signs of the Messiah's coming at the end of all time, to judge the world.

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