Matthew Poole’s Commentary On The Olivet Discourse

This Olivet Discourse Deception study features Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Olivet Discourse as outlines in Matthew 24.

Matthew Poole (1624 – 1679) was an English Nonconformist theologian.

He was born at York, the son of Francis Pole, but he spelled his name Poole, and in Latin Polus; his mother was a daughter of Alderman Toppins there. He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, from 1645, under John Worthington. Having graduated B.A. at the beginning of 1649, he succeeded Anthony Tuckney, in the sequestered rectory of St Michael le Querne, then in the fifth classis of the London province, under the parliamentary system of presbyterianism. This was his only preferment. He proceeded M.A. in 1652. On 14 July 1657 he was one of eleven Cambridge graduates incorporated M.A. at Oxford on occasion of the visit of Richard Cromwell as chancellor.

Poole was a jure divino presbyterian, and an authorised defender of the views on ordination of the London provincial assembly, as formulated by William Blackmore. After the Restoration, in a sermon of 26 August 1660 before the lord mayor Sir Thomas Aleyn at St Paul’s Cathedral, he made a case for simplicity of public worship. On the passing of the Uniformity Act 1662 he resigned his living, and was succeeded by R. Booker on 29 August 1662.

Perhaps the only true rival to Matthew Henry! A standard for more than 400 years, Poole’s insightful commentary continues to be a trusted resource for pastors and laypeople. Offering verse-by-verse exposition, he also includes summaries for each chapter and book, questions and answers, information on cultural context, historical impact, and cross-references. Practical, readable, and applicable.

Outline of Matthew 24:

Matthew 24:1,2 Christ foretells the destruction of the temple.

Matthew 24:3-31 He showeth what signs and calamities shall go before it; and what shall happen at the time of his coming.

Matthew 24:32-35 By a parable of the fig tree he marketh the certainty of the prediction.

Matthew 24:36-41 No man knoweth the day and hour, which shall come suddenly.

Matthew 24:42-51 We ought therefore to watch, like good servants who expect their master’s coming.

Matthew 24:1,2.

Mark saith, Mark 13:1,2, one of his disciples. Luke saith, Luke 21:5, some. Mark saith, the disciple said, Master, what manner of stones and what buildings are here! Luke saith, they spake how the temple was adorned with goodly stones and gifts. All three evangelists agree in the substance of our Saviour’s reply. Christ had now done his work in the temple, where he never came more, and was going toward the Mount of Olives, where we shall find him in the next verse.

His disciples, either one of them or more, probably one in the presence of the rest, either doubting (considering the structure of the temple) whether it could be destroyed, or at least thinking it pity that so famous a structure should come to ruin, come to him, admiring the stones and buildings. Most think this was the temple builded by Zerubbabel, almost six hundred years before, though it received great additions by Herod (for we have no record that that temple was ever destroyed). Incredible stories are related about the dimensions of the stones, and the ornaments of it. Our Saviour saith unto them,

Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another; that is, this brave, goodly temple shall be utterly ruined. Nor (if we may believe other histories) did this prophecy fail as to the letter of it. Titus, the Roman emperor, taking Jerusalem, about forty years after this, commanded his soldiers to spare the temple when they entered the city, but they in their rage burnt of it what was of a combustible nature; and Turnus Rufus, left general of his army when he went away, drew a plough over it, as God had said. Jeremiah 26:18 Micah 3:12, Zion shall be ploughed like a field. And when after this Alippius, by the command of Julian the apostate, attempted the rebuilding of it, with the help of the Jews, it is reported by divers, that balls or globes of fire rose up from the foundations, destroyed many of the workmen, and made the place inaccessible for any further such attempts.

So justly are the Divine threatenings to be feared, whatever improbability of the contrary appeareth to us. We are very apt to be taken with the glistering prosperity of sinners, but we ought to measure the duration of it from the revelations of the Divine will, not from our own reason or fancy; to remember the temple of Jerusalem. There are no places so strong but an almighty God is able to destroy, and sin is enough to blow up. We may also observe how little God values splendid houses of prayer when they are made dens of thieves.

Matthew 24:3,4.

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.

Matthew 24:5

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.

Matthew 24:6-8. Mark hath the same, Mark 13:7,8. Luke hath also much the same, Luke 21:9-11, only he addeth, fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. Interpreters think this prophecy did chiefly respect the destruction of Jerusalem, for the time from our Saviour’s death to that time was full of seditions and insurrections, both in Judea and elsewhere. The truth of our Saviour’s words as to this is attested by Josephus largely, from the eleventh chapter of his second book of the Wars of the Jews to the end of the fourth book.

Besides that there were great wars between Otho, and Vitellius, and Vespasian, the Roman emperor who succeeded Nero, we read of one famine, Acts 11:28, which Agabus there prophesied should be in the time of Claudius Caesar. Of earthquakes in several places mention is made in divers histories. Our Saviour tells them that these things should be, but the end should not be presently, which any one that will read Josephus’s history of the Wars of the Jews, will see abundantly verified upon the taking of Jerusalem by the Roman armies.

Matthew 24:9

Mark hath this thus, Mark 13:9, But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. Luke saith, Luke 21:12,13, But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

Our Saviour, knowing that his disciples’ minds still ran upon a secular kingdom, here calls off their thoughts by giving them a sign of his coming, an account of those persecutions and trials which they should undergo before his coming, either in his power to the destruction of the Jews, or in his glory at the last day: the afflictions specified are, a being hated of all nations, delivered up to councils, beating in the synagogues, casting into prisons, and being killed; all which happened to the disciples of Christ before the destruction of Jerusalem.

The Christians were counted a sect every where spoken against, Acts 28:22. Stephen was stoned, Acts 7:59. James was killed with the sword, Acts 12:2. Paul and Silas were imprisoned, Acts 16:23. Paul five times received of the Jews forty stripes save one; he was thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, 2 Corinthians 11:24,25. He was brought before king Agrippa and Festus. Peter and John were called before the council, Acts 4:7 Acts 5:21. So as all these things happened before the destruction of Jerusalem, and this may be interpreted as a sign of that great destruction; but not of that only, for the text saith,

ye shall be hated of all nations, which came to pass afterward, when Christianity was persecuted by heathens for three hundred years together. Mark saith, this should be done for a testimony against them, that is, the persecutors. Luke saith, it shall turn to you for a testimony. The persecutions of Christians are,

  1. A testimony against the persecutors, of their ingratitude, and cruelty, and hatred to the name of Christ.
  2. They are a testimony to the persecuted, of their faith, and patience, and courage, &c.

Matthew 24:10

Mark saith, Mark 13:12,13, The brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. Luke saith, Luke 21:16,17, And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. Many shall be offended; the meaning is, shall turn apostates, stumbling at these great afflictions and persecutions for the gospel.

And shall betray one another. We read of several apostates in holy writ, such as Phigellus, Hermogenes, Demas, Hymeneus, Philetus, and others; but all things not being written that were done, we have no particular record of such treachery as is here mentioned. But it is no other than we may reasonably presume was done, though we had not been assured of it, to justify our Saviour’s prediction. There is no time of great persecution but proves a time of great apostasy and some treachery. It hath been a constant observation, that no hatred flames to that degree with hatred upon the account of religion. Nor is what our Saviour here predicted more than the history of all ages of the church have justified.

Matthew 24:11,12.

Here are two signs more given:

  1. The abounding of false teachers.
  2. The abatements of Christians’ zeal, and love to God.

For the matter of Matthew 24:11, See Poole on “Matthew 24:23” and See Poole on “Matthew 24:24“, where we shall meet with it more fully.

By the aboundings of iniquity here, we may either understand the rage, and malice, and cruelty of the enemies of the gospel; or the apostasy of such as are professors. Both these are great temptations, and though they will not extinguish that holy fire which God hath kindled in good souls, yet they have oft times a very ill influence upon them, to abate of their former warmth in the ways of God. Or if we understand it of love to brethren, the apostasy of professors much cools the Christian, not knowing who they may trust and confide in as sincere. If by the abounding of iniquity we understand the abounding of profaneness in the general, (which always also aboundeth most in times of persecution), that also hath no small influence upon Christians’ warmth in their profession, to cool and abate it: see Hebrews 10:25 2 Timothy 1:15 4:16.

Matthew 24:13

We have the same Mark 13:13. We also met with it before, Matthew 10:22. It is a promise to perseverance, especially to such perseverance as is joined with fortitude. He that shall not be tempted to apostasy through the afflictions of the gospel, but shall patiently and courageously endure all the sufferings which shall follow the profession of the gospel, shall be saved; if not preserved, and so saved with a temporal salvation, yet he shall be eternally saved.

Matthew 24:14

So saith Mark, Mark 13:10. Some think that the end mentioned in the close of this verse refers to the destruction of Jerusalem; others, that it refers to the day of judgment. If we take world (as it is often taken) for the Gentiles in opposition to the Jews, synecdochically, the whole being put for a great part, it is most certain, that before Jerusalem was destroyed, the gospel, which is here called the gospel of the kingdom, either because it shows the way to the kingdom of God, or because it is that sacred instrument by which Christ subdueth men’s hearts to himself, was preached to the world, that is, to the Gentiles, and that to a great part of them. Paul alone had carried it from Jerusalem to Illyricum. The Romans’ faith was spoken of throughout the world, Romans 1:8. Paul saith it was preached to every creature, Colossians 1:23 Romans 10:18 15:16 Colossians 1:6 1 Timothy 3:16. But others choose by the end here to understand the end of the world.

Matthew 24:15

Mark saith, Mark 13:14, standing where it ought not. Here are two questions:

  1. What is here meant by

the abomination of desolation.

  1. What text in Daniel our Lord refers to.

As to the latter, there are three places in Daniel which mention it: Daniel 9:27, for the overspreading of abominations, or, as it is in the margin, with the abominable armies he shall make it desolate. Daniel 11:31, They shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. Daniel 12:11, From the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up. Mr. Calvin thinks that the text in Daniel here referred to is that of Daniel 12:11. Others say that it is that of Daniel 9:27, contending that those two other texts speak of Antiochus, which is the very reason given by others to the contrary. It is of no great consequence to us to know which verse our Saviour refers to.

Be it which it would, it was spoken of by Daniel the prophet; by which quotation our Saviour doth both give his testimony to that book, as a part of holy writ, and also lets his disciples know, that what he told them was but what was prophesied of, and so must have its accomplishment, and that the Jewish worship was to cease. As to the second question, amidst the great variety of notions about it, I take theirs to be the best who understand the abomination of desolation to be meant of the Roman armies, which being made up of idolatrous soldiers, and having with them many abominable images are therefore called the abomination; those words, of desolation are added, because they were to make Jerusalem desolate; and so St. Luke, who hath not these words, possibly gives us in other words the best interpretation of them, Luke 21:20: And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.

When, saith our Lord, you shall see the abominable armies stand in the holy place, that is, upon the holy ground, (as all Judea was), whoso readeth those prophecies of the prophet Daniel, let him understand, that as through the righteous judgment of God he once suffered the holy place to be polluted by the abominable armies of Antiochus, which he foretold, so he will again suffer the holy place to be polluted by the abominable armies of the Romans, who shall make the holy place desolate, which was prophesied by the prophet Daniel as well as the former. Therefore, saith our Saviour, when you see the Roman armies pitch their tents before Jerusalem, be you then assured God will give Jerusalem into their hands, and then all that I have foretold shall come to pass.

Matthew 24:18

Mark hath this, Mark 13:14-16. Luke saith, Luke 21:21, Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countriest enter thereinto. The import of all this is no more than, Let every man with as much speed as he can shift for himself, for, as Luke saith, then the desolation of Jerusalem is nigh; for, as he addeth, these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. Let none of you think the storm will over, for when you see this be assured the time is come when all I have spoken of this city shall be accomplished.

Matthew 24:19,20.

Mark saith nothing of the sabbath day, Mark 13:1-37. Luke hath not what Matthew hath, Matthew 24:20.

Woe to them in this text is only a phrase testifying our Saviour’s compassion on such, and indicative of the addition it would make to their misery, as it would retard their flight. Upon this account also, he bids them pray their flight might not be

in the winter, neither on the sabbath day. The winter would naturally retard their motion, through the cold and moisture of it. The sabbath would be a moral hinderance, in regard of the superstitious opinion they had of the sabbath, that they might not upon that day defend themselves, nor flee from their enemies beyond the length of a sabbath day’s journey, which was but two miles: our Saviour hints to them that their flight must be farther.

When our Saviour spake this the Jewish sabbath was the day of holy rest, and he knew that although by his resurrection he should sanctify a new sabbath, yet the Jews would not for a time understand that the old sabbath was abolished. Here is therefore no establishment of the old sabbath to be observed after his resurrection; the praying that their flight might not be upon the sabbath day respected only either their remora to their flight which the sabbath would give them, (in case they should keep it as a holy rest), or the addition of trouble it would make in their spirits, when they considered that was the day in which they were wont to go to the house of prayer, keeping it a day of holy rest unto God.

Mark hath the same in effect, Mark 13:19,20. Luke speaks more particularly, Luke 21:23,24. For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

These verses must be understood with reference to the Jewish nation, and whoso shall read in Josephus the history of the wars of the Jews, will easily agree there is nothing in all the foregoing Jewish story which we have recorded in Scripture like unto it; the final destruction of them by Titus was rather an abatement of miseries they suffered by the factions within themselves, than any thing else. And thus some think that God shortened those days of their misery by sending the Roman armies to quiet the seditions and factions amongst themselves, which were more cruel one to another.

God promises to shorten these days for the elect’s sake that were amongst this sinful people. So that as the city was taken in less than six months, so was their whole country in less than eighteen months more. And if the Lord had not, in compassion to those amongst this people who belonged to his election of grace, shortened these days of calamity, both by sending the Roman armies to quiet their intestine divisions, and then giving these armies so quick a victory, none of the Jews would have been left alive, which indeed any one will judge that shall but read those histories.

Matthew 24:23-26.

Mark hath much the same, Matthew 13:21-23. There is no doubt but that our Saviour here hath a special respect to those persons who, about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, taking advantage of the Jewish expectation of the Messiah as a secular prince, who should restore them to liberty, (an opinion which, as we have often heard, had infected the generality of the Jews, and not a little even the disciples of Christ), made themselves heads of parties, and pretended that they were the Messiah, the Christ, thereby to encourage people to follow them, and to stand up for their liberty; of which kind there were several mentioned both in the history of Josephus, and in the Roman history, respecting those times.

Our Lord therefore cautions his disciples against such, and thereby taketh them off their expectation of any such secular kingdom of the Messiah as they had dreamed of. He tells them that there would such persons arise, and some of them should do great signs and wonders, insomuch that if it were possible they would deceive the elect of God; but he had prayed for them; only they must also watch and take heed, that they might not be cheated and deceived by them, though they came with never so fair pretences, for his coming would be quite of another nature, and his kingdom would be a quite other kingdom.

Matthew 24:27,28.

Luke hath much the same, Luke 17:24,37. The disagreement of interpreters about the coming of the Son of man, here spoken of, makes a variety in their interpretation of these verses. Some think the coming of the Son of man here spoken of was his coming to destroy Jerusalem, which, he saith, will be sudden like the lightning, which though the thunder be taken notice of aforehand, as following the lightning, yet is not taken notice of. These interpreters make the carcass, mentioned Matthew 24:28, to be the body of the Jewish nation, designed to be destroyed; and the eagles to be the Roman armies. Job saith of the eagle, Job 39:30, where the slain are, there is she, Habakkuk 1:8, saith the same of the Chaldean armies; They shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat.

Some understand by the coming of Christ here, his coming in his spiritual kingdom. The preaching of the gospel shall be like the lightning; you need not listen after those that say, Lo, here is Christ, or, Lo, he is there, for my gospel shall be preached every where; and where the carcass is, where my death and resurrection shall be preached, all the elect, my sheep that hear my voice and follow me, shall be gathered together. Others understand it of Christ’s coming to judgment, which is compared to lightning for the suddenness and universality of it. There, saith Christ, I shall be, and all my saints shall be gathered together. Luke seemeth to speak of this, Luke 17:24,37.

That phrase, Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together, is a proverbial speech, signifying that it will need no great labour to bring things together which are naturally joined by an innate desire either of them to the other; so that it is applicable in more cases than one. And whether that discourse in Luke were at the same time when this was I cannot say; our Saviour’s discourse on this argument, Luke 21:1-38; hath not these verses, and is a part of a discourse which is said to have been begun, at least to the Pharisees, Luke 17:20. But I shall further consider what Luke saith when I shall come to that chapter in him.

Matthew 24:29

Mark saith, Mark 13:24,25. In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

Luke saith, Luke 21:25,26 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are combing on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

Interpreters are much divided in the sense of these words, whether they should be interpreted,

  1. Of Christ’s coming to the last judgment, and the signs of that; or,
  2. Concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.

Those who interpret it of the destruction of Jerusalem have the context to guide them, as also the reports of historians, of strange prodigies seen in the air and earth, before the taking of it; likewise the word immediately after, & c. But I am more inclinable to interpret them of the last judgment, and to think that our Saviour is now passed to satisfy the disciples about their other question, concerning the end of the world; for although Christ’s coming may sometimes signify that remarkable act of his providence in the destruction of his enemies, yet the next verses speaking of his coming with great power and glory, and of his coming with his angels, and with the sound of a trumpet, and gathering his elect from the four winds, the phrases are so like the phrases by which the Scripture expresses Christ’s coming to the last judgment, 1 Corinthians 15:52 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and Christ speaking to his disciples asking of him as well about that as the destruction of Jerusalem, I should rather interpret this verse with reference to the last judgment, than the destruction of Jerusalem before spoken of, or at least that these signs should be understood common both to the one and the other, as divers of the other signs mentioned in this chapter are.

Some think that the darkening of the sun and the moon here, the falling of the stars, and the shaking of the powers of heaven, are to be taken metaphorically, as signifying the great change there should be in the ecclesiastical and civil state of the Jews; and it is true that such kind of expressions do often in Scripture so signify, Isaiah 13:10 24:23 Ezekiel 32:7 Joel 2:31. But without doubt the literal sense is not to be excluded, whether we understand the text of the destruction of Jerusalem, or of his coming to his last judgment; for as historians tell of great prodigies seen before the former, so the apostle confirms us that there will be such things seen before the day of judgment, 2 Peter 3:10,12.

Matthew 24:30,31.

Mark saith, Mark 13:26,27, And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

Luke saith, Luke 21:27,28, And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with great power and glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

Interpreters are also divided about these words, as about the former, some understanding them concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and judging that by the sign of the coming of the Son of man is probably meant some prodigy or some comet seen before that destruction, which should be of that nature as it should make the Jews (here called the tribes of the earth) to mourn; they by the angels and trumpet, mentioned Matthew 24:31, understanding the ministers of the gospel, who after the destruction of Jerusalem should go and preach the gospel over all the world, and so gather in the elect into the gospel church. But I cannot agree to this sense, and most interpreters expound these words of the last judgment. What is meant by

the sign of the Son of man all are not so well agreed. Two of the evangelists say only the Son of man. Matthew mentions first the appearance of the sign of the Son of man, then the Son of man himself; probably it signifieth some great prodigy that shall be seen before that great and terrible day. Those things which incline me to think that the day of judgment, not the destruction of Jerusalem, is that which is spoken of in these verses, is;

  1. That all the phrases are such as the Scripture useth to express Christ’s coming to the last judgment: his coming in the clouds of heaven, Matthew 26:64 Revelation 1:7; the tribes of the earth mourning, Revelation 1:7; his coming with the angels, and the sound of a trumpet, Matthew 25:31 Mark 8:38 1 Corinthians 15:52 1 Thessalonians 4:16; his sending his angels to gather the elect, Matthew 13:49.
  2. The tribes of the earth mourning, seems to signify more than the twelve tribes of Israel.
  3. That which Luke hath, Look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh; seemeth hardly applicable to the destruction of Jerusalem, rather to the redemption of the body, mentioned Romans 8:23.

For the gospel before this time was carried to the Gentiles; nor do I know that that is any where called redemption. Those things which have led some learned interpreters to expound Matthew 24:29-31 of the destruction of Jerusalem, are, I conceive, those particles, immediately after the tribulation of those days, Matthew 24:29 and the particle then, Matthew 24:30; together with Matthew 24:34 where our Saviour saith, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

But the term, immediately after the tribulation of those days, may signify not only the destruction of Jerusalem, but that, and all the calamities of those days that should follow that, to the end of the world: and it is very usual for prophetical scriptures to speak of things to come long after as if they were presently to come to pass, Deuteronomy 32:35; and the day of judgment is ordinarily spoken of as if it were at hand, 1 Thessalonians 4:15 James 5:8 1 John 2:18, both to denote the certainty of it, and to keep us from security, and to let us know that a thousand years in God’s sight are but as one day, 2 Peter 3:8. For in Matthew 24:34, we shall give the sense of it, in its order.

Matthew 24:32-35.

Mark hath the very same, Mark 13:28-31. So hath Luke, Luke 21:29-33, only he saith, the fig tree, and all the trees, when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily, &c.

By this similitude of the fig tree (called therefore by Luke a parable) our Saviour doth not only design to inform them that these things which he had told them should be as certain signs of the approaching of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the coming of his kingdom, as the fig trees and other trees putting forth of leaves is a sign of the approaching summer, as Song of Solomon 2:13; but that as the frosts, and snow, and cold of the winter, doth not hinder the trees from bringing forth fruit in the summer, so these tribulations and troubles should be so far from hindering and destroying Christ’s kingdom, that they should prepare the world for it, and promote it: so that as they might know from these tribulations in Judea that the kingdom of grace was at hand, and began; so from the following tribulations upon the world they might know that his kingdom of glory was also hastening.

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. There are several notions men have of that term, this generation, some by it understanding mankind; others, the generation of Christians; others, the whole generation of the Jews: but doubtless our Saviour mean’s the set of men that were at that time in the world: those who were at that time living should not all die until all these things shall be fulfilled, all that he had spoken with reference to the destruction of Jerusalem; and indeed the most of those signs which our Saviour gave, were signs common both to the destruction of Jerusalem and the last judgment, abating only Christ’s personal coming in the clouds with power and glory. So that, considering that the destruction of Jerusalem was within less than forty years after our Saviour’s speaking these words, so many as lived to the expiration of that number of years must see the far greater part of these things actually fulfilled, as signs of the destruction of Jerusalem; and fulfilling, as signs of the end of the world.

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. By this expression our Saviour confirmeth the truth of what he had said, assuring those to whom he spake, that although there should be a change of the heavens and the earth, 2 Peter 3:10,12,13, which then commonly look upon as the most stable and abiding things, yet the truth of what he had said should not fail.

Mark addeth, Mark 13:32, neither the Son, but the Father. Of that day and hour, that is, the particular time when the heavens and the earth shall pass away, as he had before said, or when the end of the world shall be, which was one of the questions propounded to him by his disciples, Matthew 24:3.

Knoweth no man, no mere man, nor have men any reason to be troubled at it; for it is a piece of knowledge which the Father hath reserved in his own power, and his own pleasure, from the angels, who continually behold his face. Nay, I myself, as man, know it not. Nor is it more absurd, or derogating from the perfection of Christ, than for to say, that Christ, as man, was not omnipotent, or omniscient, &c. By the way, this gives a great check to the curiosity of men’s inquiries after the particular time or year when the world shall have an end, or the day of judgment begin, or be.

Matthew 24:37-39.

Luke hath much the same, Luke 17:26,27, where he also saith, it shall be as in the days of Lot; but I shall consider what he saith, which seemeth spoken at another time, and upon another occasion, when I come to his seventeenth chapter. Two things our Saviour seemeth here to teach us:

  1. That Christ’s coming to the last judgment will be sudden, and not looked for; upon which account his coming is compared in Scripture to the coming of a thief, Matthew 24:43,44 2 Peter 3:10 Revelation 16:15.
  2. That it will be in a time of great security and debauchery: such was the time of Noah, Genesis 6:3-5.

Matthew 24:40,41.

Some refer this to the coming of Christ in his kingdom of grace; some: to his coming in the day of judgment: it is true of both those comings. God shows the freeness of his grace much in the conversion of sinners, and makes discriminations of which we can give no account, as he tells us, Luke 4:25-27. But it seemeth here rather to be understood of that separation which Christ shall make at the day of judgment, of the sheep from the goats, the elect from the reprobates; for of that coming our Saviour seemeth to be speaking, both in the preceding and in the following words.

Matthew 24:42-44.

Mark saith, Mark 13:33, Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. What our Lord here meaneth by watching is easily gathered, as well by what went before, where our Saviour had been speaking of the security and luxury of the old world, as by what followeth, Matthew 24:44, where he biddeth them be always ready; and therefore Luke 21:34-36, expounds this thus: And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Our Saviour in these verses, from the uncertainty of the particular time when the day of judgment shall be, presseth upon his disciples a sober, heavenly, and holy life; intimating that by such a life only they can make themselves ready for the coming of Christ, and to stand before the Son of man, when he shall appear in his power and glory. He presseth this from that which common prudence would teach any householder, viz. if he knew in what watch of the night a thief would come, to watch, and not suffer his house to be broken open; that is, in what time of the night, for the Jews divided the night into the first, second, third, and fourth watch, as the Romans divided it for relief of their military guards. Now, saith our Saviour, you, knowing that there will come such a time, and not certainly knowing at what time, stand concerned to be always watching and praying.

Matthew 24:45,46.

We have much the same, Luke 12:42-44, whether spake at the same time, and upon the same occasion, or no, I know not. It is said there, Luke 12:41, that Peter gave occasion to this discourse, by saying, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? Our Saviour replies as here, only Luke saith, Who is that faithful and wise steward? The question intimates that there are but a few such. This discourse plainly refers to the ministers of the gospel, whom Christ leaveth in trust with his church,

to give them their meat in due season. He declareth the blessedness of those ministers that shall be found faithfully discharging their trust, and that the Lord in the day of judgment will exalt them to a much greater honour, according to that of Daniel 12:3, They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

Matthew 24:47-51.

Luke hath much of this, Luke 12:45,46: But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the men servants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. If that servant prove an evil servant, presumes upon my not making such haste to judgment as he thought I would, and shall prove a persecutor of my people, or a loose and debauched person, I will come to his particular judgment before I come to the general judgment, and at such a time as he shall not be aware of me, and destroy him, and give him his portion with such as believe not my second coming, and with such as are one thing in profession and another thing in practice, in hell, where the condition of poor creatures will be miserable as the condition of those that weep and gnash their teeth.

By this parable our Saviour doth quicken his apostles, to whom he intended to leave the care of his church when he should be ascended into heaven, to a faithful care of the flock committed to their trust, and also lets us know that in succeeding ages there would arise a generation of loose and debauched ministers, and such as would persecute the sincerer professors of his gospel, who could not comply with their doctrines and lives. Of which, as all ages of the church have given a proof, so the time since popery hath prevailed in the world hath given a more plentiful and abundant proof: all which extravagances are encouraged from their atheism, and the belief of Christ’s coming to judgment. He also showeth how severe he will be against such persons: he will come upon them before they be aware of it, and cut them in pieces.

The word signifies to cut them in two pieces, as the Jews were wont to divide their sacrifices; or, (as some think), as some pagan nations were wont to punish perfidious persons, and some more notorious malefactors. And give him his portion with unbelievers and hypocrites in hell, Matthew 13:42 25:30. The case of all persons that live secure and debauched lives because judgment is not speedily executed, will be sad; but the case of ministers that do so will be dreadful. They are a sort of sinners whom God seldom suffereth to live out half their days; and when he doth, yet they shall not escape the severest damnation of hell. They betray a greater trust, and lead multitudes to hell with them, and so are the greatest traitors against the Divine Majesty.

Click to return to the Olivet Discourse Home Page

Print Friendly