Barton W. Johnson’s Commentary On The Olivet Discourse

This Olivet Discourse Deception study features Barton W. Johnson’s The People’s New Testament Commentary on the Olivet Discourse as outlines in Matthew 24.

BARTON W. JOHNSON was born in 1833, in a log cabin on a clearing in Tazewell County, Illinois. His ancestry, on both sides, is of stock which had settled in this country before the Revolution; his father’s parents were South Carolinians; his mother was born in Tennessee. His early education was such as could be obtained in a backwoods school, on a farm, and from the few books he could buy or borrow.

In his eighteenth year he commenced to study at Walnut Grove Academy, now Eureka College, where he attended for two years. Then, after teaching for one year, he went to Bethany College in 1854. At that time the college was presided over by Alexander Campbell, aided by such professors as R. Milligan, W. K. Pendleton, R. Richardson, and others of less note. In 1856 he graduated in a class of twenty-seven, the honors of which were divided between him and W. A. Hall, of Tennessee.

In the fall of 1856, be engaged in a school in Bloomington, Ill., preaching on Sundays in the vicinity. The next year he took a position in Eureka College, where he remained in all seven years, two years as its president. In 1863, he acted as corresponding and financial secretary of the American Missionary Society, and was re-elected to that position at the convention of 1864, but he declined to continue, having accepted the chair of mathematics in Bethany College. Here he remained two years, until after the death of Alexander Campbell, when he returned to the west. After a pastoral charge at Lincoln, Ill., he accepted the presidency of Oskaloosa College, in connection with the care of the Church at Oskaloosa. A failure of health compelled him to cease teaching two years later, but he continued to preach for the congregation for four more years.

Matthew 24:1

And Jesus went out the temple. Immediately after the discourse in which he pronounced the woes upon the scribes and Pharisees, upon the temple and Jerusalem. This remarkable chapter is not one upon which commentators are agreed, and the conclusions that I have reached on the points of difference will not be found identical with those of any other writer. I believe, however, that they will be found harmonious with the Scripture. Compare Mark and Luke.

His disciples… shew him the buildings of the temple. He had just foreshadowed its destruction. With this in mind they point out its splendor, especially the amazing stones used in its construction. Compare Mark and Luke. The temple had been rebuilt in great splendor by Herod, and was not fully completed until about thirty years after the Savior’s crucifixion.

Matthew 24:2

Not one stone upon another, etc. Other great temples are in ruins, but their ruins indicate their former splendor. The Parthenon, the Acropolis, the temples of Karnak, Luxor, and Baalbec are examples; but to find even the foundations of the Jewish temple it is necessary to dig beneath the modern city. It has entirely disappeared from the face of the earth, and a Mahometan mosque stands on the spot where it stood.

Matthew 24:3

As he sat on the mount of Olives. Passing out of the city, over the valley of Jehoshaphat, he and his disciples climbed the mount and sat down on its crest overlooking the city and temple bathed in the sunset.

Tell us. The disciples, still thinking of what the Lord had said, ask three questions: (1) When shall these things be? That is, the overthrow of the temple. (2) What shall be the sign of the coming? And (3) of the end of the world? They supposed these events would be simultaneous–a mistake. To understand what follows we must keep in mind that he has three questions to answer, nor are the answers blended.

Matthew 24:4-5

Take heed that no man deceive you. By pretending to be Christ. As they yet believed that Christ would surely return to reign at Jerusalem, this admonition was needed.

Come in my name. As the Messiah. We learn from Josephus that enthusiasts did come about the time of the end of Jerusalem, claiming to be sent of God. Bar-cocheba, “the son of the star,” appeared in A. D. 120. From time to time other deceivers have appeared.

Matthew 24:6-7

Ye shall hear of wars. The Jewish war began in A. D. 66, and ended five years after. During this period all the Roman empire was filled with commotion. Nero, the emperor, was overthrown by Galba; six months after, Galba was overthrown by Otho; a few months after, Otho was overthrown by Vitelius; a little later, he was overthrown by Vespasian. All of these but the last, who ascended the throne shortly before Jerusalem was destroyed, died violent deaths.

Famines. The natural result of civil wars. Tacitus, the Roman historian, says of this period: “It was full of calamities, horrible with battles, rent with seditions, savage in peace itself.”

Matthew 24:8-9

Shall deliver you up to tribulation. To persecution. Soon literally fulfilled in the Jewish persecutions. The awful persecution of Nero also soon followed.

Ye shall be hated. Tacitus, describing Nero’s persecution begun in A. D. 64, says “the Christians were haters of mankind.”

Matthew 24:10

Then shall many be offended. Shall stumble and fall, rather than suffer for Christ. The half-hearted always do.

Matthew 24:11

Many false prophets. False teachers. Compare Galatians 1:7; 1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 Timothy 4:1. See also Josephus, Book VI. 5, sec. 3.

Verse 12

Because iniquity shall abound, etc. Immorality eats out the heart of religion.

Matthew 24:13

He that endures to the end, etc. The Christian Jews who endured to the end were saved by flight to Pella, beyond the Jordan, at the signal pointed out by the Lord. The principle is generally applicable.

Matthew 24:14

This gospel of the kingdom, etc. The gospel was preached throughout the Roman empire, “the world” of the New Testament, before A. D. 70.

Then the end shall come. Of the Jewish state.

Matthew 24:15-20

When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation. This is the sign when Christians should flee from Jerusalem. See Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11. Luke says, “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies” (Luke 21:20). This was, therefore, Christ’s explanation of the abomination of desolation. The Roman army, heathen, with heathen images and standards, ready to sacrifice to idols on the temple altar, working the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple, is what is meant.

In the holy place. Mark says, “Where it ought not;” around “the holy city.”

Let them in Judea flee. For refuge.

Let him on the housetop. The flat roofs were sleeping places. All must be done without a moment’s delay.

Woe to them with child. Because not fit for flight and the hardships that must be endured.

Not in the winter. Because the streams were then impassable torrents from the heavy rains and the weather cold and wet, hard on homeless people.

Nor on the sabbath. Because then the gates of the city were closed, preventing departure. History tells us that the army of Cestius Gallus enclosed Jerusalem in A. D. 67, then deterred by its strength, retired to Cæsarea. This was the signal for which the church waited, and it then fled beyond the Jordan.

Verse 21

Great tribulation. The account given by Josephus, the Jewish historian who witnessed and recorded the war, is almost an echo of the predictions of Christ. Women ate their own children from starvation; the Jews within the city fought each other as well as the Roman army; on August 10, A. D. 70, the city was stormed and there was a universal massacre; 1,100,00 persons perished, and 100,000 survivors were sold into slavery.

Matthew 24:22

No flesh would be saved. If such awful work should continue, it would exterminate the human race.

For the elect’s sake. On their account, because there is salt to save the earth, and end shall be put to the awful work of death. The {elect} are the believers in Christ (Romans 11:5-7).

Matthew 24:23-26

Then. During this period of tribulation, give no heed to false prophets, false Christs, or to those who say Christ is here or there.

Matthew 24:27

For as the lightning. There will be no doubt about Christ’s coming when he does come, no discussion, no need that any one shall tell it. It will be manifest as the flash of lightning across the sky. There can be no mistake. Such language shows how much those err who claim that his coming was at the destruction of Jerusalem.

Matthew 24:28

The carcase is, there will be the eagles. The term “carcase” well represents the utterly corrupted Jewish state; the “eagles” is a fit symbol of the Roman army, every legion of which bore the eagle as its standard.

Matthew 24:29

Immediately after the tribulation of those days. The first question, When shall these things be? has now been answered. Here begins the answer to the second, concerning the coming of the Lord. For other passages on the second coming, see 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:23; James 5:7; 2 Peter 1:16; 2 Peter 3:12; 1 John 2:28. “Immediately” after the destruction of Jerusalem (the tribulation) the series of events begins that leads to the coming of Christ.

The sun shall be darkened. I take what follows to be symbolical, as is usual for prophecy, rather than literal. Christ is “the Sun of Righteousness.” After the destruction of Jerusalem, the causes began to work that led to the great apostasy of the church and produced “the Dark Ages” of the church.

The moon shall not give her light. The moon shines by reflected light of the sun and if it is darkened so will be the moon. So, too, the church shines by the light of Christ. When Christ’s light was darkened by taking the Bible from the people the church give forth little light during the long night of the Middle Ages.

The stars shall fall. Stars represent great teachers of the church, apostles and evangelists. See Revelation 1:20. When the apostles were dethroned by the Romish apostasy, “the stars fell from heaven,” figuratively. Other stars, great church lights who apostatized, fell from heaven in another sense.

Matthew 24:30

Then. After the long period of apostasy.

Shall appear the sign of the Son of man. Some sign of his coming that every one will recognize when it is manifested.

All the tribes of the earth mourn. Because of their sins.

They shall see the Son of man coming. It will be visible to every eye and will be in splendor.

Verse 31

With a great sound of a trumpet. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

Shall gather his elect. Before the judgment on the world. The believers will be in all countries, mingled with the population of earth, and then shall be separated.

Four winds. The four quarters of the earth.

Matthew 24:32-33

Learn a parable from the fig tree. The putting forth of the leaves is the sign that summer is near. It puts forth leaves usually in April. So “all these things” show when the Lord is at hand.

Matthew 24:34-35

This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Some hold that “all these things,” in Matthew 24:33-34, refer only to what was said of the fall of Jerusalem, ending with Matthew 24:28. Others have contended that the phrase includes the second coming, but refers directly to the end of Jerusalem, which was a type of the end of the world. I believe, rather, that “all these things” embraces all thus far predicted, and that “this generation” means the Jewish race, instead of only those then living. The Greek word so rendered is used in the sense of race in the Greek classics, and as examples of such use in the New Testament, Alford points to Matthew 12:45, and Luke 16:8, as examples of such use in the New Testament. Christ has described the awful end of the Jewish state; after such a destruction and scattering of the remnant to the ends of the earth, all the examples of history would declare that the Jewish race would become extinct. Christ, however, declares that, contrary to all probability, it shall not pass away until he comes. They still exist, 1850 years after the prediction, distinct, but without a country.

Matthew 24:36

Of that day and hour knoweth no one. How foolish then to be figuring out the time of the Lord’s coming.

Matthew 24:37-41

As were the days of Noah. As the deluge surprised the world, so will the Lord’s coming.

Two women shall be grinding at the mill. The hand-mills still used in the East. The grinding is done by women, usually two, as the work is hard for one. It will be the time of separation of the evil from the good.

Matthew 24:42

Watch therefore. Because the coming will be unexpected. Mark adds, “pray.”

Matthew 24:43

If the master of the house. The lesson of the illustration is a constant state of preparation. Elsewhere in the New Testament Christ’s coming is compared to that of a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:1-10; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15).

Matthew 24:44

Be ye also ready. The duty enjoined is not to watch for Christ, but to watch ourselves to see that we are ready.

Verse 45

Who then is a faithful and wise servant? In Luke 12:42-46, is given a similar parable in answer to a question of Peter. There the Lord speaks of “the faithful and wise steward;” here he describes a steward, but speaks of him as a servant.

Ruler. Preachers, elders, deacons, Sunday-school superintendents, teachers.

Household. All under their religious charge.

Matthew 24:46-47

Blessed is that servant, whom his lord… shall find so doing. The blessedness applies equally to those who are faithful unto death and those who are so found at the Lord’s coming. This blessedness is in the reward the Lord will give.

`He shall make him ruler over all his goods. The parables of the talents and the pounds show that those who have been faithful to the trusts given them here shall receive additional trusts in the Savior’s eternal kingdom.

Matthew 24:48

My lord delayeth his coming. The worst enemy of Christ is the professed servant of the Lord who practices are evil, and who supposes he can evade punishment for his crimes.

Matthew 24:49

And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants. There is no sin more common among those who are clothed with authority than oppression. There have been no worse oppressors than priests.

And to eat and drink with the drunken. What first disgusted Luther with the faith in which he had been reared was the profligacy of the priests and monks. It has often been the case that the Vatican was the very hot-bed of scandal.

Matthew 24:50

The lord of that servant shall come. He will certainly come, and come when the servant is unprepared for him. The majority of the wicked who die in their sins have expected to be better prepared for the end of life.

Matthew 24:51

And shall cut him asunder. An ancient method of punishment which was practiced among the Israelites. See 1 Samuel 15:33, and 2 Samuel 12:31. The idea here is that very severe punishment shall be inflicted upon him, while {weeping and gnashing of teeth} would indicate a life of intense suffering. Indeed both these expressions must be regarded as metaphors, indicating nothing more clearly than a terrible and certain punishment.

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