Matthew 24:5
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ.—Better, the Christ. No direct fulfilments of this prediction are recorded, either in the New Testament, or by Josephus, or other historians. Bar-Cochba (the “son of the star”), who claimed to be the “Star” of the prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24:17), is often named as a fulfilment; but he did not appear till A.D. 120—nearly 50 years after the destruction of Jerusalem. In the excited fanaticism of the time, however, it was likely enough that such pretenders should arise and disappear, after each had lived out his little day, and fill no place in history. The “many antichrists, i.e., rival Christs, of 1John 2:18, may point to such phenomena; possibly, also, the prophecy of 2Thessalonians 2:4. Theudas (the last rebel of that name—not the one named in Acts 5:36, but by Josephus, Ant. xx. 5), or “the Egyptian” of Acts 21:38, may possibly have mingled Messianic claims with their pretensions, but there is no evidence of it.

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.

Mark hath the same, Mark 13:6 Luke saith, Luke 21:8, Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not after them. Our Saviour seemeth to have given this as a sign common both to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, though possibly before the destruction of Jerusalem, while the Jews were in expectation of a Messiah as a temporal prince or deliverer, there were more of them than afterward, for every one who could get a party together to colour his sedition and rebellion, gave out himself to be the Christ. Of this number are said to have been Theudas, and Judas of Galilee, mentioned by Gamaliel, Acts 5:36,37. Amongst these some also reckon the Egyptian mentioned Acts 21:38, and Simon Magus, who gave out himself to be some great one, and the people accounted him the great power of God. Such there have been, and probably may be more toward the end of the world. Many were deceived by the impostors: Christ warns his disciples concerning them. For many shall come in my name,.... by his orders, or with delegated powers and authority from him; but should assume the name of the Messiah, which was peculiarly his, to themselves; and take upon them his office, and challenge the honour and dignity which belonged unto him:

saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many. This is the first sign, preceding the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem; as there was a general expectation among the Jews of a Messiah; that is, of one that should arise and deliver them from the Roman yoke, which was the common idea tacked to that word; in this period of time, many set up themselves to be deliverers and redeemers of the people of Israel: who had each of them their followers in great numbers, whom they imposed upon, and brought to destruction. Of this sort was Theudas, not he that Gamaliel speaks of, Acts 5:36 for he was before this time; but one that was in the time of Claudius Caesar, when Cuspius Fadus was governor of Judea; who persuaded a great number to follow him to the river Jordan, which he promised to divide, by a word of command, and give them a passage over; and thereby, as the historian observes (c), , "he deceived many"; which is the very thing that is here predicted: but he and his company were routed Fadus, and his head cut off. There was another called the Egyptian, mentioned in Acts 21:38 who made an uproar, and led four thousand cut-throats into the wilderness; and this same man persuaded thirty thousand men to follow him to Mount Olivet, promising a free passage into the city; but he being vanquished by Felix, then governor of Judea; fled, and many of his followers were killed and taken (d): and besides, there were many more magicians and impostors, that pretended to signs and wonders, and promised the people deliverance from their evils, by whom they were imposed upon to their ruin. There were others also besides these, that set up for deliverers, who called themselves by the name of the Messiah. Among these, we may reckon Simon Magus, who gave out that he was some great one; yea, expressly, that he was the word of God, and the Son of God (e), which were known names of the Messiah; and Dositheus the Samaritan, asserted himself to be Christ (f); and also Menander affirmed, that no man could be saved, unless he was baptized in his name (g); these are instances before the destruction of Jerusalem, and confirm the prophecy here delivered.

(c) Joseph. Antiq. l. 20. c. 2.((d) Joseph. Antiq. l. 20. c. 6. (e) Jerom in loc. Iren. adv. Haeres. l. 1. c. 20. (f) Origen contr. Cels. l. 1. p. 44. (g) Tertull. de prescript. Haeret. c. 46.

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 24:5. πολλοὶ γὰρ ἐλεύσονται, etc., the first omen the advent of pseudo-Messiahs. This first mentioned, quite naturally. Ruin of Jerusalem and the nation will come through revolt against Rome, and the deepest cause of revolt will be the Messianic hope as popularly understood. Volcanic outbursts of Messianic fanaticism inevitable, all the more that they have rejected the true spiritual Christ. Josephus testifies that this was the chief incentive to war against Rome (B. J., vi. 54). The aim of the popular Messianic hope was independence, and all leaders of movements having that goal in view came in the name of “Christs,” whether they formally assumed that name or not. It is doubtful if any did before the destruction of Jerusalem, but that does not falsify Christ’s prediction, which is expressed in terms of an idea rather than in technical terms suggested by fact. It is not a vaticinium ex eventu; yet strictly true, if we understand by one coming in the name of Christ a leader of the fight for liberty (vindicem libertatis, Grotius).—πολλοὺς πλανήσουσιν. The political Christs, leaders of the war against Rome, deceived the bulk of the people. Jesus wished His followers to hold entirely aloof from the movement. To warn them against sympathising with it was by no means superfluous (vide Luke 24:21, Acts 1:6).5. saying, I am Christ] Rather, the Christ, the Messiah. The appearance of false Messiahs shall be the first sign. St John bears witness to the fulfilment of this sign: “Even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time,” 1 John 2:18.Matthew 24:5. Πολλοὶ γὰρ, κ.τ.λ., for many, etc.) In the beginning will come false Christs; in the middle, false prophets, Matthew 24:11; in the end, both (22, 24). A twofold climax.[1031]—ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί Μου, in My name) They will not only say that they have been sent by Me, but that they are He who I am.—λέγοντες, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ Χριστός, saying, I am Christ) Joachim Camerarius says, “Theophylact has recorded that a certain Samaritan, Dositheus by name, gave out that he was the prophet foretold by Moses; that Simon the Samaritan also (mentioned in the apostolic history of St Luke) called himself the Great Power of God, i.e. ἡ Δύναμις Μεγαλή: the prediction seems also applicable to Theudas,[1032] and “the certain Egyptian,”[1033] and another pretender mentioned by Josephus (who records those matters in the eighteenth book of his Antiquities, and the second of his Conquest of Judea), all claiming the character of prophet, though being in reality seditious impostors. And, in later times, Manes even dared to call himself Christ, and, in imitation of Him, appoint twelve apostles.

[1031] i.e. The presence of the two classes together will be a greater evil than that of either of them alone.—(I. B.)

[1032] See Acts 5:36.—(I. B.)

[1033] Acts 21:38.—(I. B.)Verse 5. - Here begins what has been called the first strophe of the oracle (vers. 5-14), which indicates certain prognostics common to the close of the Jewish theocracy and to the end of the world. Many shall come in my Name (ἐπί τῷ ὀνόματί μου), resting on my Name, grounding their pretensions thereon. Saying, I am Christ (the Christ). They who really desired to follow Christ should be tried by the temptation to see in other persons the Messiah. The warning could scarcely have been needed by the apostles themselves; it must have been meant primarily for their converts and the early Christians. And though we have no account in apostolic Church history of any such pretenders, yet in the age succeeding our Lord's death we read of many impostors who asserted themselves to be inspired prophets, if not the Messiah, and led astray many credulous persons (see Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:05. 1; 8. 6, etc.). There were doubtless many false Messiahs whose names are little known, and critics have enumerated twenty-nine such. The pretensions of these persons were not generally admitted, and their adherents were commonly few and uninfluential. Our Lord probably did not allude to these in his monition. But we may observe that the warning may include such deceivers as Simon Magus and those many false teachers who vexed the early Church, and, without assuming the name of Christ, did Satan's work by undermining the faith. St. John speaks of there being "many antichrists" in his day (1 John 2:18), and St. Paul had occasion to warn his converts against "heretical seducers" (see 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 Timothy 6:3, etc.). Since then the prophecy has been fulfilled in the heretics who, professing to come in the Name of Christ and to enunciate his doctrine, or, like Mohammed, to assume his place, have taught lies. These shall abound in the latter days, and shall be a sign of the approaching end. In my name (ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου)

Lit., on my name, i.e., on the strength of; resting their claims on the name Messiah.

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