Matthew 24:28
Our Lord compares his coming to a great flash of lightning which blazes out in the east and illumines earth and sky as far as the west. This is in contrast to the notion of an obscure and doubtful appearance, or one that is local and limited, or one the coming of which is so gradual that it can scarcely be discerned. In opposition to these erroneous conceptions, the advent of Christ is to be lightning like. Let us consider its characteristics as they are suggested to us by this startling image.

I. VISIBILITY. Bursting out of the darkness of the storm, the lightning blinds us with the brilliancy of its illumination. There is no mistaking the fact that it has come. We may not observe the glow worm; we cannot ignore the lightning. The awful "day of God" at the destruction of Jerusalem has made its impress on all history. Other advents of Christ in judgment, as in the sack of Rome by the Goths, the wreck of the Spanish Armada, etc., have startled the world with their terror. The present more peaceful coming of Christ to heathen nations in the spread of his gospel produces most visible effects in the transformation of degraded fetich-worshipping cannibals into civilized, humane Christians. Our Lord's words lead us to anticipate that there will be no obscurity about his great final advent. Then every eye shall behold him.

II. BREADTH. The lightning flashes from east to west; or its flash is so splendid, that while for a moment it plays in the east, the far-off west is illumined by the radiance it spreads in all directions. There is a greatness in the appearance of Christ. Even when he came in humiliation, he was "a Light to lighten the Gentiles." Perhaps he had some thought of his first appearance in the East, and of the spread of his light to Europe, when he spoke of the lightning shining in this direction. But if it is a strain of fancy to assert that any such idea is to be found in this image, the notion of breadth is certainly there. Christ's life was lived in the open. As St. Paul boldly said, "This thing was not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). Christ is the Light of the world, and his radiance is spreading over the earth. The last advent will be for all the world to see, and it will concern all mankind.

III. SUDDENNESS. Nothing is so sudden or so startling as the lightning. In its very silence it gives us a greater shock than the roaring thunder. There is something peculiarly awful in its momentary blaze of splendour, especially as we know that there is death and destruction in its shaft. In a moment the steeple is shattered, the stout oak is blasted and riven to its core, the strong man is scathed and flung down dead. It is not clear that our Lord meant us to attach any idea of destruction to his image of the lightning. We know that there is a terror in the wrath of the Son (Psalm 2:12). In his advent to judgment Christ must smite down his foes. He is not the incarnation of unruffled amiability which modern hymns represent, although he is not the stern Judge of Byzantine art. Part of the terror of his judgment is its suddenness. We know not when he will come. Yet if we are his true people we need not fear. His sudden advent will be our sudden joy. - W.F.A.

For wherever the carcase is.
Our Lord says, wherever there is a rotting, dead society, a carcase hopelessly corrupt and evil, down upon it, as if drawn by some unerring attraction, will come the angel, the vulture of the Divine judgment. There are many "comings of the Lord" which on a smaller scale have embodied the same principles as shall be displayed in world-wide awfulness at the last judgment.

I. The first thing in these words is THAT THEY ARE TO US A REVELATION OF A LAW WHICH OPERATES WITH UNERRING CERTAINTY THROUGH ALL THE COURSE OF THE WORLD'S HISTORY. God can tell when evil has become incurable, when the man or country has become a "carcase." There may be flickerings of life unseen by our eyes. So long as there is possibility of amendment, "sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily."

II. We have here A LAW WHICH SHALL HAVE A FAR MORE TREMENDOUS ACCOMPLISHMENT IN THE FUTURE. These days proclaim "the day of the Lord." In the prophecies both of the Old and New Testament the universal judgment is seen gleaming through the nearer partial judgments. That judgment is to be the destruction of opposing forces, the sweeping away of the carrion and moral evil. There are many temptations to put the "day of the Lord" in the background; such suppression is unfaithfulness.

III. That this is a law which need never touch you, nor need you know about it except by the hearing of the ear. It is told us that we may escape it. Take Christ for your Saviour and you shall have a refuge from the vultures.

(A. Maclaren,D. D.)

Such suppression is unfaithfulness. Surely if we preachers believe that tremendous truth, we are bound to speak. It is cruel kindness to be silent. If a traveller is about plunging into some gloomy jungle infested by wild beasts, he is a friend who sits by the wayside to warn him of his danger. Surely you would not call a signalman unfeeling because he held out a red lamp when he knew that just round the curve beyond his cabin, the rails were up, and that any train that reached the place would go over in horrid ruin; and surely that preaching is not justly charged with harshness which rings out the wholesome proclamation of a day of judgment when we shall give each account of ourselves to the Divine-human Judge.

(A. Maclaren,D. D.)

Now that is the law that has been working from the beginning, working as well in regard of the long delays as in regard of the swift execution. There is another metaphor, in the Old Testament, that puts the same idea in a very striking form. It speaks about God's "awakening," as if His judgment slumbered. All round that dial there the hand goes creeping, creeping, creeping slowly, but when it comes to the appointed line, then the bell strikes. And so years and centuries go by, all chance of recovery departs, and then the crash! The ice palace, built upon the frozen blocks, stands for a while, but when the spring thaws come it breaks up.

You know how in Eastern lands, if any beast of burden falls and dies, though the moment before the whole horizon may have been clear, with not a bird in sight, a stream of vultures suddenly appears to wrangle .over the unexpected feast. You know how on any tropical ocean, if a carcase be thrown overboard, though at the moment there may not be a speck in the sky, the albatross and other birds of mighty wing appear as if by magic, and scold and fight over the welcome repast. Our Lord, then applies this familiar image of the carcase and the birds of prey to the judicial and retributive forces of human history, and intends to illustrate some law or principle by which they are governed.

I. A certain order underlies the events of human history. Catastrophes do not come by chance, or spring from caprice. The effect always has a cause. Judgment only follows on the heels of offence.

II. This order is a sanitary and beneficent order. Unconsumed, the carcase would but rot and fester and infect the air. All the birds that prey on carrion are scavenger birds, and we owe them nothing short of health and life, for a world without scavengers would soon become a stinking sepulchre.

III. All the strifes and discords of time are parts of that great convict between good and evil in which the ultimate defeat of evil is assured. The calamities and miseries to which men lie open, are intended to remove only that which must be removed if we are to live in health and peace. Wherever there is evil, there also is good, to replace the evil as well as to overcome and destroy it. What greater consolation than to know that the very miseries of men are messengers of the Divine mercy, come to give health and life rather than to destroy, since they come only to destroy that which is fatal to life and health.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

If only we have eyes to read it aright, to see the Divine will and the Divine laws at work in it, the history of the Kings of England is just as instructive to us as the history of the Kings of Israel, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire as the siege and capture of Jerusalem, the reformation wrought by Luther as the revival of religion under Hezekiah, the French Revolution as the rupture between the ten Hebrew tribes and the two. No historical event is without its religious lesson for us, if only we can trace it to its moral cause; no human life, if only we can read its illustrations of that law-abiding Providence which watches over us as carefully as it did over the Jews, and shapes our rough-hewed ends for us as it shaped theirs.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

That the vultures gather wheresoever the carcase is, and gather to consume it, is clearly for the health of the world; for, unconsumed, the carcase would but rot and fester, and infect the air; by its infection turning the very breath of life into a minister of death. All the birds that prey on carrion are scavenger birds. Most of the scavengers, from the vulture of the East down to the flies which cleanse our shops and rooms from every morsel of corruption are a little loathsome to us: yet how much we owe them! We owe them nothing short of health and life. A world without scavengers would soon become a stinkingcsepulchre.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

On the highway, the ass, mule, or camel, which has fallen under its burden, and is no longer able to rise, is unloaded by its master, its saddle, halter, and even its shoes are taken off, and it is scarcely dead when its skin, too, is hastily removed to be sold to a tanner; the carcase is left where it fell; and as the traveller passes by upon the narrow road his horse is frightened, not more by the repulsive scent and sight, than by the eagles, vultures, ravens, crows, and magpies, that take wing on his approach, or continue, to dispute the prey with hungry dogs. When night comes on, however, the winged devourers withdraw, and give place to sneaking jackals and foxes, and to the hyenas and wolves, which now warily quit their lairs, and hasten to secure a share of the feast.

(Van Lennep.)

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