Matthew 24:4
And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Jesus answered and said unto them . . .—The great discourse which follows is given with substantial agreement by St. Mark and St. Luke, the variations being such as were naturally incident to reports made from memory, and probably after an interval of many years. In all probability, the written record came, in the first instance, from the lips of St. Peter, and it will accordingly be instructive to compare its eschatology, or “teaching as to the last things,” with that which we find in his discourses and epistles. St. Paul’s reference to “the day of the Lord “coming” as a thief in the night” (1Thessalonians 5:2) suggests the inference that its substance had become known at a comparatively early date; but it was probably not published, i.e., not thrown as a document into circulation, among Christian Jews, till the time was near when its warnings would be needed; and this may, in part, account for the variations with which it then appeared.

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.Take heed ... - Jesus, in reply to their question, first gives them a caution to beware of deception. They were to be constantly on their guard, because many would arise to deceive the people.

Many shall come in my name - Not in the name or by the authority of Jesus, or claiming to be His followers, and to be sent by him, but in the name of the Messiah, or claiming to be the Messiah.

I am Christ - I am the Messiah. See the notes at Matthew 1:1. The Messiah was expected at that time, Matthew 2:1-2. Many would lay, claims to being the Messiah, and, as He was universally expected, multitudes would easily be led to believe in them. There is abundant evidence that this was fully accomplished. Josephus informs us that there were many who pretended to divine inspiration; who deceived the people, leading out numbers of them into the desert. "The land," says He "was overrun with magicians, seducers, and impostors, who drew the people after them in multitudes into solitudes and deserts, to see I the signs and miracles which they promised to show by the power of God." Among these are mentioned particularly Dositheus, the Samaritan, who affirmed that He was Christ; Simon Magus, who said He appeared among the Jews as the Son of God; and Theudas, who persuaded many to go with him to the river Jordan, to see the waters divided. The names of 24 false Messiahs are recorded as having appeared between the time of the Emperor Adrian and the year 1682.

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.

Ver. 3,4. Mark saith, Mark 13:3-5, And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you. Luke saith, Luke 21:7,8, And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived. Mark names the disciples which came to our Saviour privately, Peter, James, John, and Andrew. They seem to propound three questions to him:

1. What should be the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem?

2. Of his coming?

3. Of the end of the world?

It is probable they might send these four to propound these questions to our Savour. Three of them being such to whom Christ had showed signal and special favour before. Some doubt whether the questions propounded were three or two; if but two, the coming of Christ must either be the same with the first, or with the last. Those who understand Christ’s coming as a distinct period from the other two, think that the disciples refer to that secular kingdom which they fancied that the Messiah should exercise in the world. They desire to know the signs of these times, that is, prognostic signs, which might beforehand instruct them that the time was nigh, even at hand. They name two things there which time hath told us were to be at more than sixteen hundred years’ distance one from the other, for historians tell us that Jerusalem was destroyed within seventy or seventy-one years after our Saviour’s birth, within less than forty years after this discourse; but it is probable that they put them together, as believing that Jerusalem should not be destroyed till the day when Christ should come to judge the world, and that the end of the world and of the Jewish state should come together. And as we all are naturally curious to know things that are to come, so these disciples were in this thing particularly curious, having some particular apprehensions of the coming and kingdom of Christ, according to the mistaken notion which the Jews had of that kingdom which their expected Messiah should exercise in the world. Our blessed Lord at another time, Acts 1:7, told them it was not for them to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. He therefore giveth them no such certain signs of these things, as they could from them certainly conclude the particular time; but yet gives them some signs from whence they might conclude, when they saw them, that the time was hastening; which signs, though some have distinguished, appropriating those in the former part of the chapter to the destruction of Jerusalem, and those in the latter part to the day of judgment, yet they rather seem in our Saviour’s discourse mixed together; and time, which is the best interpreter of prophecies, must expound them to us. The destruction of Jerusalem is a thing past many hundreds of years since; so as by those histories which we have partly in holy writ, partly in other authors, it will not be hard to pick out what our Saviour intended for signs of that destruction, though there are some signs which were common signs both of that destruction and of the end of the world, and it is agreed by divines that the destruction of Jerusalem was a type of the destruction of the world, and therefore most of the signs are common to both. Paul was brought to Rome in the beginning of the reign of Nero, Acts 27:1-44. Other historians tell us he and Peter were put to death about the end of his reign; within a year or two after Jerusalem was destroyed. Our Saviour prefaces his discourse of these signs with a usual caution to his disciples,

Take heed that no man deceive you. And Jesus answered and said unto them,.... Not to indulge their curiosity, but to instruct them in things useful to be known, and which might be cautions to them and others, against deceivers; confirm them in the faith of himself, when they should see his predictions accomplished; and be directions to them, of what might shortly be expected.

Take heed that no man deceive you: by pretending to come from God with a new revelation, setting himself up for the Messiah, after my departure; suggesting himself to be the person designed by God to be the deliverer of Israel, and to be sent by him, to set up a temporal kingdom, in great worldly splendour and glory; promising great names, and high places of honour and trust in it; things which Christ knew his disciples were fond of, and were in danger of being ensnared by; and therefore gives them this suitable and seasonable advice, and caution.

{2} And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

(2) The Church will have a continual conflict with infinite miseries and offences, and furthermore, with false prophets, until the day of victory and triumph comes.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 24:4. The reply of Jesus is directed, in the first instance, to the second question (τί τὸ σημεῖον, κ.τ.λ.), inasmuch as He indicates, as the discourse advances, the things that are to precede His second coming, till, in Matthew 24:28, He reaches the point which borders immediately upon the latter event (see Matthew 24:29). But this answer to the second question involves, at the same time, an indirect answer to the first, in so far as it was possible to give this latter at all (for see Matthew 24:36), and in so far as it was advisable to do so, if the watchfulness of the disciples was to be maintained. The discourse proceeds in the following order down to Matthew 24:28 : first there is a warning with regard to the appearing of false Messiahs (extending to Matthew 24:5), then the announcement of the beginning and development of the dolores Messiae on to their termination (Matthew 24:6-14), and finally the hint that these latter are to end with the destruction of the temple and the accompanying disasters (Matthew 24:15-22), with a repetition of the warning against false Messiahs (Matthew 24:23-28). Ebrard (adv. erroneam nonnull. opinion., qua Christus Christique apost. existumasse perhibentur, fore ut univ. iudicium ipsor. aetate superveniret, 1842) finds in Matthew 24:4-14 the reply of Jesus to the disciples’ second question. He thinks that in Matthew 24:15 Jesus passes to the first, and that in Matthew 24:29 He comes back “ad σημεῖον τῆς ἑαυτοῦ παρουσίας κατʼ ἐξοχήν, i.e. ad secundae quaestionis partem priorem.” This supposition is simply the result of an imperious dogmatic preconception, and cannot be justified on any fair exegetical principle. See below. Dorner, who spiritualizes the discourse, understands Matthew 24:4-14 as setting forth the nature of the gospel and its necessary development, while he regards what follows, from Matthew 24:15 onward, as describing the historical “decursum Christianae religionis;” he thinks that Jesus desired by this means to dispel the premature Messianic hopes of the disciples, and make them reflect on what they must bear and suffer “ut evangelium munere suo historico perfungi possit.”

Matthew 24:4-5. In the first place—and how appropriate and necessary, considering the eagerness of the disciples for the second coming!—a warning against false Messiahs, and then Matthew 24:6 f. the first, far off, indirect prognostics of the second advent, like the roll of the distant thunder.

ἐπὶ τ. ὀνόμ. μου] on the strength of my name, so that they rest their claim a upon the name of Messiah, which they arrogate to themselves. Comp. Matthew 18:5. The following λέγοντες, κ.τ.λ. is epexegetical. We possess no historical record of any false Messiahs having appeared previous to the destruction of Jerusalem (Barcochba did not make his appearance till the time of Hadrian); for Simon Magus (Acts 8:9), Theudas (Acts 5:36), the Egyptian (Acts 21:38), Menander, Dositheus, who have been referred to as cases in point (Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Grotius, Calovius, Bengel), did not pretend to be the Messiah. Comp. Joseph. Antt. xx. 5. 1; 8. 6; Bell. ii. 13. 5. Then as for the period subsequent to the destruction of the capital, it is not here in question (in answer to Luthardt, Cremer, Lange); for see on Matthew 24:29 And consequently it cannot have been intended, as yet, to point to such personages as Manes, Montanus, and least of all Mohammed.Matthew 24:4-14. Signs prelusive of the end. (Mark 13:5-13, Luke 21:8-19).

Matthew 24:4. βλέπετε: again (vide Matthew 24:2), but here = see to it, take heed. Cf. Hebrews 3:12.—πλανήσῃ, lest any one deceive you; striking the practical ethical keynote of the whole discourse: its aim not to gratify curiosity, but to guard against deception and terror (μὴ θροεῖσθε, Matthew 24:6)—heads cool, hearts brave, in a tragic epoch.Matthew 24:4. Καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, κ.τ.λ., and Jesus answered and said, unto them, etc.) The disciples had asked without distinguishing their questions—(1) Concerning the time of the destruction of the temple; (2) Concerning the sign of the coming of the Lord and the end of the world, as if both events would occur simultaneously, and consequently have a common time and a common sign. Our Lord answers them distinctly [and separately]—(1) Concerning the destruction of the temple and the city, and the signs of this event, in Matthew 24:4-5; Matthew 24:15-16; (2) Concerning His coming and the end of the world, and the signs of that event, in Matthew 24:29-31; (3) Concerning the time when the temple was to be destroyed, in Matthew 24:32-33; (4) Concerning the time of the end of the world, in Matthew 24:36. Thus is it also in St Mark, and St Luke, who in ch. Matthew 21:11; Matthew 21:25, distinguishes the signs of each event.—βλέπετε, see) i.e. take heed. We ought to inquire concerning future events, especially those of the last days, not for the sake of gratifying our curiosity, but from a desire to fortify ourselves. All things in this discourse must be referred to firmness in acknowledging and confessing Jesus Christ; for the drift and object of the prophecy is to enforce this duty: other matters, which we might make use of for mere knowledge, are mentioned abruptly and obscurely. A thesis on the perspicuity and perfection of Scripture might be suitably illustrated from this discourse of our Lord.—ὑμᾶς, you) This is said not so much to the apostles, who were shortly to receive the Holy Ghost, as to the whole flock of believers whom they then represented, lest they should be seduced by the greater perils to which they would be exposed. The beginning is Prudence; the end, Patience.Verses 4-41. - The first portion of the great prophecy. Verse 4. - Jesus answered and said. The succeeding prophecy has much exercised the minds of commentators from the earliest times unto the present. It is, indeed, full of mysteries, dark sayings, profundities, which our minds cannot fathom. Many of these are and must be inherent in the subject; but some difficulties have been created by the imperfect views taken by those who have applied themselves to explain the Lord's utterances. It is seen by all that we have here predictions concerning the fate of Jerusalem, concerning the parousia of Christ, and concerning the last times; it is the attempt to assign to these events separately certain definite portions of the address that has led to confusion and perplexity. Over-refinement and over-wisdom have marred the exposition of many critics. They have limited to one event that which was spoken of more than that one; confining their view to one point, they have excluded other points which were equally in the mind of the Revealer. It has been usual to divide the prophecy in this chapter into two sections, of which the first, extending to the twenty-ninth verse, is supposed to relate to the fate of Jerusalem itself; the second, comprising the rest of the chapter, to the parousia and the coming to judgment. But such definite partition will not stand investigation, and can be maintained only by doing violence to language or ignoring more natural explanations. The prophecy announces analogous events, the description of which has more than one application, and often passes from one to another with nothing to closely mark the transition. The combination of facts thus woven together cannot be coarsely unravelled. The same words, the same expressions, are used to denote the arrival or fulfilment of distinct occurrences. To limit these to one event only is to set bounds to the Omniscient. So it seems to be not only most expedient, but most reverent, to look on our Lord's eschatological address as one whole, of which the several parts are in full harmony and sequence (if we were only able to understand them), and to acknowledge that insuperable difficulties in the interpretation do exist and are meant to exist. The Lord had to prepare his followers for the overthrow of their city, and the dangers to life and faith which would accompany that judgment. He desired also to raise in them a constant expectation of his advent, so that Christians then and thenceforward might ever live in hope and watch for a great future. Herein will be found the key to the perplexities of the address; not that even this unlocks all the mysteries, but, it opens the drift of these wonderful utterances, and enables us to see light amid the gloom. This will appear more fully as we examine the details. Take heed that no man deceive you; πλανήσῃ: lead you astray (so ver. 5). Jesus does not answer the disciples' question as to the time when "these things" shall occur; that is purposely left uncertain. He proceeds to warn them against the dangers which would beset them in the coming crisis. He withdraws them from the speculative to the practical (see vers. 23-25). Deceive (πλανήσῃ)

Lit., lead astray, as Rev.

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