At that time, if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There He is,' do not believe it.
I. IN RESPECT TO SECULAR EVILS.
1. We do well to take heed to the sure Word of prophecy.
(1) "The abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet," equivalent to the Roman army with its ensigns. The כנפ in Daniel 9:27 may denote the Roman wing or army (cf. Isaiah 8:8). Josephus shows that the ancient Jews understood this prophecy of Daniel to relate to the Romans. The ensign was an eagle, an unclean or abominable creature, and especially abominable as it was an idol. (cf. 1 Kings 11:5, 7). Images of the Caesars were inscribed in the shields on the ensigns. Our Lord fixes the interpretation in this sense (cf. Luke 21:20).
(2) "Standing in the holy place." This cannot be the temple, for the Romans did not stand there until after the opportunity for the flight had passed. The circuit of the holy city was in the holy place (cf. Acts 7:7). Before this time the Roman soldiers stationed in Jerusalem, in deference to the scruples of the Jews, had ensigns without the effigies of Caesar. Pilate attempted to introduce the images, but yielded to the remonstrances of the Jews, and commanded them to be carried back to Caesarea.
(3) "Whoso readeth let him understand." Those who read the Scriptures should endeavour to understand them. We should have understanding of the times (cf. 1 Chronicles 12:32; Matthew 16:3). "The wise shall understand." Daniel is intelligible in the interpretations of Christ. When untoward things occur, the people of God should confer with the prophets.
2. Christ is a mountain of safety to those who fly to him for refuge.
(1) "Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains." Cestius Gallus, Prefect of Syria, besieged Jerusalem for some years, and then raised the siege. This was the sign to the Christians to flee. They accordingly removed to Pella and other towns in the mountainous region of Gilead, east of the Jordan. In the territories of Agrippa, who remained faithful to the Romans, they were safe. When Titus came some months later, there was not one Christian remaining in the city. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly."
(2) "Let him which is on the house top not," etc. In the promptitude of obedience there is safety. Had the Christians delayed their flight when Cestius Gallus raised the siege, they must have suffered for their unbelief with the unbelieving Jews. Josephus relates that Titus completed his lines of circumvallation with incredible celerity. "None of the wicked shall understand." The Jews perished because they would not understand the salutary warning of Jesus.
(3) Life is more than property. If we sacrifice property to secure the life of the body, much more should we sacrifice it to secure the more precious life of the spirit. Flight must not be hindered by burdens. The Christian carries all his property in Christ. It is not to trust, but to tempt God, when we refuse to pass through the door which he opens for our escape.
3. Calamities are mitigated for the sake of the deer.
(1) "Woe unto them!" etc. (ver. 19). Frightful accounts are found in Josephus of the sufferings of helpless women and children in those "days of vengeance."
(2) "But pray ye," etc. (vers. 20-22). We must labour to make the best of the inevitable. The followers of Christ in times of calamity should be much in prayer. The prayer that anticipates may mitigate evil. "That your flight be not in the winter," when the ways would be scarcely passable. "Neither on the sabbath day," lest they should be exposed to the indignation of the Jews, or hindered by their own superstitions.
(3) "But for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." The prayers of the good are effective, and the wicked profit by their successes. As there is a community of suffering between the wicked anti the good, so is there a community of mitigations between the good and the bad. God rules in human affairs.
II. IN RESPECT TO SPIRITUAL DECEPTIONS.
1. He warns them against false Christs.
(1) There were many such about the time of the siege. Some before it (see Acts 5:36, 37). Others soon after, as Jonathas, who formed an army in Cyrene; and Barchochebas, in the reign of Adrian.
(2) Those who observe the signs of our times cannot fail to see false Christs. Not only is there the Roman impostor (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10) and his Eastern rivals, but many minor deceivers are springing up.
(3) As the counterfeit presupposes the genuine coin, so do false Christs indicate the true. As the appearance of false Christs nearly two thousand years ago showed that the true Christ had then come (cf. Daniel 9:25), so do the appearance of false Christs now presage the approaching second advent of the true.
2. He warns them against false prophets.
(1) False Christs have also their false prophets. Every Mahomet has his Abubeker.
(2) Our Lord not only foretold the appearance of these deceivers, but the manner of their proceeding (cf. Acts 21:38; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:7; 'War,' 6:5; 7:11).
(3) "If it be possible," etc., imports simply that it is difficult to deceive the elect of God (cf. Acts 20:16; Romans 12:18). "To fear the worst oft cures the worst" (Shakespeare). To be forewarned is to be forearmed. "A prudent man foreseeth the evil" (see Proverbs 22:3; Hebrews 11:7).
(4) Times of great trouble are times of great temptation.
3. He warns them against their deceptions.
(1) "Great signs and wonders." The Jews had magical arts, interpreted dreams, and pretended to work miracles and predict the future.
(2) The Roman antichrist comes "with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness" (see 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11; Revelation 13:13, 14). If not the elect, the infidels are deceived. They fly from the extreme of superstition into the opposite extreme of scepticism, and so miss the truth.
(3) The coming of the true Christ is a grand thing, like the sheet lightning. So the Roman armies came in public, as the executioners of the Judge, in contradistinction to the stealthy manner in which the false Christs came. They came suddenly, without any premonitory whispering as to the "secret chamber." They came universally, for they filled the land. Like the lightning shining from the east, they entered Judaea from that quarter, and carried their conquests westward.
(4) The coming of Christ here also refers to his second personal advent (cf. Luke 17:22-37). When a people do by their sins make themselves carcases, God will send his vultures among them (cf. Deuteronomy 28:49; Hebrews 8:1). - J.A.M.
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ.
I. Preceded by frequent delusive turnouts.
II. A self-evident manifestation.
III. A time of judgment.
IV. A time of great distress of nations.
V. "With power and great glory."
VI. For the salvation of the elect.
I. The Christian dispensation is disturbed by attempts of impostors to delude the unwary.
II. These attempts at imposture are accompanied by credentials likely to deceive many.
III. There is in our possession a test sufficient to unmask all pretenders.
I. His own people of the danger of being led astray.
II. Of the manner of His coming — sudden, unmistakable.
III. Sinners of the certainty of judgment. Do we heed the warnings? Do we live as if we gave attention to them?
(E. E. Johnson, M. A.).
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