Chapter 5 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 7
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
THE EVENING OF THE THIRD DAY IN PASSION-WEEK
ON THE MONT OF OLIVES: DISCOURSE TO THE DISCIPLES CONCERNING THE LAST
(St. Matthew 24.; St. Mark 13.; St. Luke
THE last and most solemn denunciation of Jerusalem had been
uttered, the last and most terrible prediction of judgment upon the Temple
spoken, and Jesus was suiting the action to the word. It was as if He had cast
the dust of His Shoes against 'the House' that was to be 'left desolate.' And
so He quitted for ever the Temple and them that held office in it.
They had left the Sanctuary and the City, had crossed black
Kidron, and were slowly climbing the Mount of Olives. A sudden turn in the
road, and the Sacred Building was once more in full view. Just then the western
sun was pouring his golden beams on tops of marble cloister and on the terraced courts, and glittering on the golden spikes on the roof of the Holy Place. In
the setting, even more than in the rising sun, must the vast proportions, the
symmetry, and the sparkling sheen of this mass of snowy marble and gold have
stood out gloriously. And across the black valley, and up the slopes of Olivet,
lay the dark shadows of these gigantic walls built of massive stones, some of
them nearly twenty-four feet long. Even the Rabbis, despite their hatred of
Herod, grow enthusiastic, and dream that the very Temple-walls would have been
covered with gold, had not the variegated marble, resembling the waves of the
sea, seemed more beauteous.1
It was probably as they now gazed on all this grandeur and strength, that they
broke the silence imposed on them by gloomy thoughts of the near desolateness of that House, which the Lord had predicted.2
One and another pointed out to Him those massive stones and splendid buildings,
or speak of the rich offerings with which the Temple was adorned.3
It was but natural that the contrast between this and the predicted desolation
should have impressed them; natural, also, that they should refer to it - not
as matter of doubt, but rather as of question.4
Then Jesus, probably turning to one - perhaps to the first, or else the
principal - of His questioners,5
spoke fully of that terrible contrast between the present and the near future,
when, as fulfilled with almost incredible literality,6
not one stone would be left upon another that was not upturned.
B 4 a; Sukk 51 b.
Matt. xxiii. 37-39.
Matt. xxiv. 1.
Matt. xxiv. 3.
Mark xiii. 1.
to Josephus (War vii. 1. 1) the city was so upheaved and dug up, that it
was difficult to believe it had ever been inhabited. At a later period Turnus
Rufus had the ploughshare drawn over it. And in regard to the Temple walls, notwithstanding
the massiveness of the stones, with the exception of some corner or portion of
wall - left almost to show how great had been the ruin and desolation - 'there
is, certainly, nothing now in situ.' (Capt. Wilson in the
In silence they pursued their way. Upon the Mount of Olives they
sat down, right over against the Temple. Whether or not the others had gone
farther, or Christ had sat apart with these four, Peter and James and John and
Andrew are named7
as those who now asked Him further of what must have weighed so heavily on
their hearts. It was not idle curiosity, although inquiry on such as subject,
even merely for the sake of information, could scarcely have been blamed in a
Jew. But it did concern them personally, for had not the Lord conjoined the
desolateness of that 'House' with His own absence? He had explained the former
as meaning the ruin of the City and the utter destruction of the Temple. But to
His prediction of it had been added these words: 'Ye shall not see Me
henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the
Lord.' In their view, this could only refer to His Second Coming, and to the
End of the world as connected with it. This explains the twofold question which
the four now addressed to Christ: 'Tell us, when shall these things be? and what
shall be the sign of thy Coming, and of the consummation of the age?'8
8. thV sunteleiaV tou aiwnoV. Godet
argues that the account in the Gospel of St. Matthew contains, as in other
parts of that gospel, the combined reports of addresses, delivered at different
times. That may be so, but inference of Godet is certainly incorrect -
that neither the question of the disciples, nor the discourse of our Lord on
that occasion primarily referred to the Second Advent (the parousia). When that writer remarks,
that only St. Matthew, but neither St. Mark nor St. Luke refer to such a
question by the disciples, he must have overlooked that it is not only implied
in the 'all these things' of St. Mark, and the 'these things' of St. Luke -
which, surely, refer to more than one thing - but that the question of the
disciples about the Advent takes up a distinctive part of what Christ had said
on quitting the Temple, as reported in St. Matt. xxiii. 39.
Irrespective of other sayings, in which a distinction between
these two events is made, we can scarcely believe that the disciple could have
conjoined the desolation of the Temple with the immediate Advent of Christ and
the end of the world. For, in the saying which gave rise to their question,
Christ had placed an indefinite period between the two. Between the desolation
of the House and their new welcome to Him, would intervene a period of indefinite
length, during which they would not see Him again. The disciples
could not have overlooked this; and hence neither their question, nor yet the
Discourse of our Lord, have been intended to conjoin the two. It is necessary
to keep this in view when studying the words of Christ; and any different
impression must be due to the exceeding compression in the language of St.
Matthew, and to this, that Christ would purposely leave indefinite the interval
between 'the desolation of the house' and His own Return.
Another point of considerable importance remains to be noticed.
When the Lord, on quitting the Temple, Said: 'Ye shall not see Me henceforth,'
He must have referred to Israel in their national capacity - to the
Jewish polity in Church and State. If so, the promise in the text of visible reappearance
must also apply to the Jewish Commonwealth, to Israel in their
national capacity. Accordingly, it is suggested that in the present passage
Christ refers to His Advent, not from the general cosmic viewpoint of
universal, but from the Jewish standpoint of Jewish, history, in which the
destruction of Jerusalem and the appearance of false Christs are the last
events of national history, to be followed by the dreary blank and silence of
the many centuries of the 'Gentile dispensation,' broken and silence of the
events that usher in His Coming.9
Luke xxi. 24 &c.
Keeping in mind, then, that the disciples could not have
conjoined the desolation of the Temple with the immediate Advent of Christ into
His Kingdom and the end of the world, their question to Christ was twofold: When
would these things be? and, What would be the signs of His Royal Advent
and the consummation of the 'Age?' On the former the Lord gave no information;
to the latter His Discourse on the Mount of Olives was directed. On one point
the statement of the Lord had been so novel as almost to account for their
question. Jewish writings speak very frequently of the so-called 'sorrows of
the Messiah' (Chebhley shel Mashiach.1011)
These were partly those of the Messiah, and partly - perhaps chiefly - those
coming of the Messiah. There can be no purpose in describing them in detail,
since the particulars mentioned vary so much, and the descriptions are so
fanciful. But they may generally be characterised as marking a period of
and of outward distress, especially of famine and war, of which land of
Palestine was to be the scene, and in which Israel were to be the chief
sufferers.13 As the
Rabbinic notices which we posses all date from after the destruction of
Jerusalem, it is, of course, impossible to make any absolute assertion on the
point; but, as a matter of fact, none of them refers to desolation of the City
and Temple as one of the 'signs' or 'sorrows' of the Messiah. It is true that
isolated voices proclaimed that fate of the Sanctuary, but not in any
connection with the triumphant Advent of Messiah;14
and, if we are to judge from the hope entertained by the fanatics during the
last siege of Jerusalem, they rather expected a Divine, not doubt Messianic,
interposition to save the City and Temple, even at the last moment.15
When Christ, therefore, proclaimed the desolation of 'the house,' and even
placed it in indirect connection with His Advent, He taught that which must
have been alike new and unexpected.
these are computed to last nine months, it must have been from a kind of
fanciful analogy with the 'sorrows' of a woman.
of the Mishnic Tractate Sotah.
Sanh. 98 a and b.
using the expression 'Advent' in this connection, we refer to the Advent of Messiah
to reign. His Messianic manifestation - not His birth.
Jos. War ii. 13, 4; and especially vi. 5. 2.
This may be the most suitable place for explaining the Jewish
expectation connected with the Advent of the Messiah. Here we have first to
dismiss, as belonging to a later period, the Rabbinic fiction of two Messiahs:
the one, the primary and reigning, the Son of David; the other, the secondary
and warfaring Messiah, the Son of Ephraim or of Manasseh. The earliest Talmudic
reference to this second Messiah16
dates from the third century of our era, and contains the strange and almost
blasphemous notices that the prophecy of Zechariah,17
concerning the mourning for Him Whom they had pierced, referred to Messiah the
Son of Joseph, Who would be killed in the war of Gog and Magog;18
and that, when Messiah the Son of David saw it, He 'asked life' of God, who
gave it to Him, as it is written in Ps. ii.: 'Ask of Me, and I will give Thee,'
upon which God informed the Messiah that His father David had already asked and
obtained this for Him, according to Ps. xxi. 4. Generally the Messiah, Son of
Joseph, is connected with the gathering and restoration of the ten tribes.
Later Rabbinic writings connect all the sufferings of the Messiah for sin with
this Son of Joseph.19
The war in which 'the Son of Joseph' succumbed would finally be brought to a
victorious termination by 'the Son of David,' when the supremacy of Israel
would be restored, and all nations walk in His Light.
52 a and b.
Rabbinic authority, however, refers it to the 'evil impulse,' which was, in the
future, to be annihilated.
especially Yalkut on Is. ix. vol. ii. par 359, quoted at length in Appendix IX.
It is scarcely matter for surprise, that the various notices
about the Messiah, Son of Joseph, are confused and sometimes inconsistent,
considering the circumstances in which this dogma originated. Its primary
reason was, no doubt, controversial. When hardly pressed by Christian argument
about the Old Testament prophecies of the sufferings of the Messiah, the
fiction about the Son of Joseph as distinct from the Son of David would offer a
welcome means of escape.20
Besides, when in the Jewish rebellion21
under the false Messiah 'Bar Kokhba' ('the Son of a Star'22)
the latter succumbed to the Romans and was killed, the Synagogue deemed it
necessary to rekindle Israel's hope, that had been quenched in blood, by the
picture to two Messiahs, of whom the first should fall in warfare, while the
second, the Son of David, would carry the contest to a triumphant issue.23
J. M. Glsener, De Gemino Jud. Mess. pp. 145 &c.; Schöttgen, Horæ
Heb. ii. pp. 360-366.
also both Levy (Neuhebr. Wörterb. vol. iii. p. 271 a) and Hamburger
(Real. Encykl. f. Bib. u. Talm., Abtheil.ii.p.768). I must here express
surprise that a writer so learned and independent as Castelli (II
Messia, pp. 224-236) should have argued that the theory of a Messiah, son of
Joseph, belonged to the oldest Jewish traditions, and did not arise as
explained in the text. The only reason which Castelli urges against a
view, which he admits to be otherwise probable, is that certain Rabbinic
statements speak also of the Son of David as suffering. Even if this ere so,
such inconsistencies would prove nothing, since there are so many instances of
them in Rabbinic writings. But, really, the only passage which from its age
here deserves serious attention in Sanh. 98 a and b. In Yalkut the suffering
Messiah is expressly designated as the Son of Ephraim.
In general, we must here remember that there is a difference
between three terms used in Jewish writings to designate that which is to
succeed the 'present dispensation' or 'world' (Olam hazzeh), although
the distinction is not always consistently carried out. This happy period would
begin with 'the days of the Messiah' (xy#mh twmy). These would stretch into the
'coming age' (Athid labho), and end with 'the world to come' (Olam
habba) - although the latter is sometimes made to include the whole of that
period.24 The most
divergent opinions are expressed of the duration of the Messianic period. It
seems like a round number when we are told that it would last for three
In the fullness discussion on the subject,26
the opinions of different Rabbis are mentioned, who variously fix the period at
form forty to one, two, and even seven thousands years, according to fanciful
Bemidb. R. 15 (ed. Warsh. p. 63 a, lines 9 and 8 from bottom), the 'days
of the Messiah' are specially distinguished from the 'Athid labho,' sculum
futurum. In Tanchuma (Eqebh, ed. Warsh. ii. p. 105 a about the
middle) it is said, 'And after the days of the Messiah comes the "Olam habba"'
- so that the Messianic time is there made to include the sculum futurum.
Again, in Pes. 68 a and Sanh. 91 b, 'the days of the Messiah' are
distinguished from the 'Olam habba,' and, lastly (not to multiply instances),
in Shabb. 113 b from the Athid labho.
ed Friedmann, p. 134 a, about the middle.
as in Note 3.
years = "the" wilderness wanderings: 1000 years = one day, Ps. xc. 4; 2000 years
of salvation = 'the day of vengeance and the year of salvation' (Is. lxiii. 4);
7000 years = the marriage-week (Is. lxii. 5), a day being = 1000 years.
Where statements rest on such fanciful considerations, we can scarcely attach serious value to them, nor expect agreement. This remark holds
equally true in regard to most of the other points involved. Suffice it to say,
that, according to general opinion, the Birth of the Messiah would be unknown
to His contemporaries;28
that He would appear, carry on His work, then disappear - probably for
forty-five days; then reappear again, and destroy the hostile powers of the
world, notably 'Edom,' 'Armilos,' the Roman Power - the fourth and last
world-empire (sometimes it is said: through Ishmael). Ransomed Israel would now
be miraculously gathered from the ends of the earth, and brought back to their
own land, the ten tribes sharing in their restoration, but this only on
condition of their having repented of their former sins.29
According to the Midrash,30
all circumcised Israel would then be released from Gehenna, and the dead be raised
- according to some authorities, by the Messiah, to Whom God would give 'the
Key of the Resurrection of the Dead.'31
This Resurrection would take place in the land of Israel, and those of Israel
who had been buried elsewhere would have to roll under ground - not without
- till they reach the sacred soil. Probably the reason of this strange idea,
which was supported by an appeal to the direction of Jacob and Joseph as to
their last resting-place, was to induce the Jews, after the final desolation of
their land, not to quit Palestine. This Resurrection, which is variously
supposed to take place at the beginning or during the course of the Messianic
manifestation, would be announced by the blowing of the great trumpet.3334
It would be difficult to say how many of these strange and confused views
prevailed at the time of Christ;35
which of them were universally entertained as real dogmas; or from what source
they had been originally derived. Probably many of them were popularly
entertained, and afterwards further developed - as we believe, with elements
distorted from Christian teaching.
confirms St. John vii. 26, and affords another evidence that it cannot have
been of Ephesian authorship, but that its writer must have been a Jew,
intimately conversant with Jewish belief.
here opinions are divided, some holding that they will never be restored. See
both opinions in Sanh. 110 b.
on Is. vol. ii. p. 42 c; Siphra, ed. Weiss. 112 b.
Esd. vi. 23 &c.
the Resurrection-body, the bone Luz, the dress worn, and the
reappearance of the former bodily defects, see previous remarks, pp. 398, 399.
this extremely condensed abstract, I have thought it better not to cumber the
page with Rabbinic references. They would have been too numerous, and the
learned reader can easily find sufficient to bear on each clause in books
treating on the subject..
We have now reached the period of the 'coming age' (the Athid
labho, or sæculum futurum). All the resistance to God would be concentrated
in the great war of Gog and Magog, and with it the prevalence of all the
wickedness be conjoined. And terrible would be the straits of Israel. Three
times would the enemy seek to storm the Holy City. But each time would the
assault be repelled - at the last with complete destruction of the enemy. The
sacred City would now be wholly rebuilt and inhabited. But oh, how different
from of old! Its Sabbath-boundaries would be strewed with pearls and precious
gems. The City itself would be lifted to a height of some nine miles - nay, with
realistic application of Is. xlix. 20, it would reach up to the throne of God,
while it would extend from Joppa as far as the gates of Damascus! For,
Jerusalem was to be the dwelling-place of Israel, and the resort of all
nations. But more glorious in Jerusalem would be the new Temple which the
Messiah was to rear, and to which those five things were to be restored which
had been wanting in the former Sanctuary; the Golden Candlestick, the Ark, and
Heaven-lit fire on the Altar, the Holy Ghost, and the Cherubim. And the land of
Israel would then be as wide as it had been sketched in the promise which God
had given to Abraham, and which had never before been fulfilled - since the
largest extent of Israel's rule had only been over seven nations, whereas the
Divine promise extended it over ten, if not over the whole earth.
Strangely realistic and exaggerated by Eastern imagination as
these hopes sound, there is connected with them, a point of deepest interest on
which, as explained in another place,36
remarkable divergence of opinion prevailed. It concerns the Services of the
rebuilt Temple, and the observance of The Law in Messianic days. One party here
insisted on the restoration of all the ancient Services, and the strict
observance of the Mosaic and Rabbinic Law - nay, on its full imposition on the
But this view must have been at least modified by the expectation, that the
Messiah would give a new Law.38
But was this new Law to apply only to the Gentiles, or also to Israel? Here
again there is divergence of opinions. According to some, this Law would be
binding on Israel, but not on the Gentiles, or else the latter would have a
modified or condensed series of ordinances (at most thirty commandments). But
the most liberal view, and, as we may suppose, that most acceptable to the
enlightened, was, that in the future only these two festive seasons would be
observed: The Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Esther (or else that of
Tabernacles), and that of all the sacrifices only thank-offerings would be
opinion went even further, and many held that in Messianic days the distinctions
of pure and impure, lawful and unlawful, as regarded food, would be abolished.40
There can be little doubt that these different views were entertained even in
the days of our Lord and in Apostolic times, and they account for the exceeding
bitterness with which the extreme Pharisaic party in the Church at Jerusalem
contended, that the Gentile converts must be circumcised, and the full weight
of the yoke of the Law laid on their necks. And with a view to this new Law,
which God would give to his world through the Messiah, the Rabbis divided all
time into three periods: the primitive, that under the Law, and that of the
Book III. ch. iii. and Appendix XIV.
as even the wearing of the phylacteries (comp. Ber. R. 98; Midr. on Ps. xxi.)
on Cant. ii. 13 (ex rec. R. Martini, Pugio Fidei, pp. 782, 793);
Yalkut ii. par. 296.
R. 9, 27; Midr on Ps. lvi.; c.
on Ps. cxlvi.; Vavy. R. 13; Tanch., Shemini 7 and 8.
on Is. xxvi.; Sanh. 97 a; Ab. Z. 9 a.
It only remains briefly to describe the beatitude of Israel,
both physical and moral, in those days, the state of the nations, and, lastly,
the end of that 'age' and its merging into 'the world to come' (Olam habba).
Morally, this would be a period of holiness, of forgiveness, and of peace.
Without, there would be no longer enemies nor oppressors. And within the City
and Land a more than Paradisiacal state would prevail, which is depicted in
even more than the usual realistic Eastern language. For that vast new
Jerusalem (not in heaven, but in the literal Palestine) Angels were to cut gems
45 feet long and broad (30 cubits), and place them in its gates;42
the windows and gates were to be of precious stones, the walls of silver, gold,
and gems, while all kinds of jewels would be strewed about, of which every
Israelite was at liberty to take. Jerusalem would be as large as, at present,
all Palestine, and Palestine as all the world.43
Corresponding to this miraculous extension would be a miraculous elevation of
Jerusalem into the air.44
And it is one of the strangest mixtures of self-righteousness and realism with
deeper and more spiritual thoughts, when the Rabbis prove by references to the
prophetic Scriptures, that every event and miracle in the history of Israel
would find its counterpart, or rather larger fulfilment, in Messianic days.
Thus, what was recorded of Abraham45
would, on account of his merit, find, clause by clause, its counterpart in the
future: 'Let a little water be fetched,' in what is predicted in Zech. xiv. 8;
'wash your feet,' in what is predicted in Is. iv. 5; 'rest yourselves under the
tree,' in what is said in Is. iv. 4; and 'I will fetch a morsel of bread,' in
the promise of Ps. lxxii. 16.46
B 75 a.
ii. p. 57 b, par. 363, line 3.
B. 75 b.
xviii. 4, 5.
But by the side of this we find much coarse realism. The land
would spontaneously produce the best dresses and the finest cakes;47
the wheat would grow as high as palm-trees, nay, as the mountains, while the
wind would miraculously convert the grain into flour, and cast it into the
valleys. Every tree would become fruit-bearing;48
nay, they were to break forth, and to bear fruit every day;49
daily was every woman to bear child, so that ultimately every Israelitish
family would number as many as all Israel at the time of the Exodus.50
All sickness and disease, and all that could hurt, would pass away. As regarded
death, the promise of its final abolition51
was, with characteristic ingenuity, applied to Israel, while the statement that
the child should die an hundred years old52
was understood as referring to the Gentiles, and as teaching that, although
they would die, yet their age would be greatly prolonged, so that a centenarian
would be regarded as only a child. Lastly, such physical and outward loss as
Rabbinism regarded as the consequence of the Fall,53
would be again restored to man.5455
30 a, b.
on Ps. xiv.
are the following six: His splendour, the continuance of life, his original
more than gigantic stature, the fruits of the ground, and of trees, and the
brightness of the heavenly lights.
It would be easy to multiply quotations even more realistic
than these, if such could serve any good purpose. The same literalism prevails
in regard to the reign of King Messiah over the nations of the world. Not only
is the figurative language of the prophets applied in the most external manner,
but illustrative details of the same character are added. Jerusalem would, as
the residence of the Messiah, become the capital of the world, and Israel take
the place of the (fourth) world-monarchy, the Roman Empire. After the Roman
Empire none other was to rise, for it was to be immediately followed by the
reign of Messiah.56
But that day, or rather that of the fall of the (ten) Gentile nations, which
would inaugurate the Empire of Messiah, was among the seven things unknown to
man.57 Nay, God
had conjured Israel not to communicate to the Gentiles the mystery of the
calculation of the times.58
But the very origin of the wicked world-Empire had been caused by Israel's sin.
It had been (ideally) founded59
when Solomon contracted alliance with the daughter of Pharaoh, while Romulus
and Remus rose when Jeroboam set up the worship of the two calves. Thus, what
would have become the universal Davidic Rule had, through Israel's sin, been
changed into subjection to the Gentiles. Whether or not these Gentiles would in
the Messianic future become proselytes, seems a moot question. Sometimes it is
affirmed;60 at others
it is stated that no proselytes would then be received,61
and for this good reason, that in the final war and rebellion those proselytes
would, from fear, cast off the yoke of Judaism and join the enemies.
R. 13, end.
that day Gabriel had descended, cut a reed from the ocean, and planted it in
mud from the sea, and on this the city of Rome was founded (Siphré 86 a).
A. 24 a.
Z. 3 b; Yeb. 24 b.
That war, which seems a continuation of that Gog and Magog,
would close the Messianic era. The nations, who had hitherto given tribute to
Messiah, would rebel against Him, when He would destroy them by the breath of
His mouth, so that Israel alone would be left on the face of the earth.62
The duration of that period of rebellion is stated to be seven years. It seems,
at least, a doubtful point, whether a second or general Resurrection was
expected, the more probable view being, that there was only one Resurrection,
and that of Israel alone,63
or, at any rate, only of the studious and the pious,64
and that this was to take place at the beginning of the Messianic reign. If the
Gentiles rose at all, it would only be immediately again to die.6566
ed. Warsh ii. p. 115 a, top.
d. R. Eliez. 34.
is, of course, not denied, that individual voices would have assigned part in
the world to come to the pious from among the Gentiles. But even so, what is
the precise import of this admission?
Then the final Judgment would commence. We must here once more
make distinction between Israel and the Gentiles, with whom, nay, as more
punishable than they, certain notorious sinners, heretics, and all apostates,
were to be ranked. Whereas to Israel the Gehenna, to which all but the
perfectly righteous had been consigned at death, had proved a kind of
purgatory, from which they were all ultimately delivered by Abraham,67
or, according to some of the later Midrashim, by the Messiah, no such
deliverance was in prospect for the heathen nor for sinners of Israel.68
The question whether the fiery torments suffered (which are very realistically
described) would at last end in annihilation, is one which at different times
received different answers, as fully explained in another place.69
At the time of Christ the punishment of the wicked was certainly regarded as of
eternal duration. Rabbi José, a teacher of the second century, and a
representative of the more rationalistic school, says expressly, 'The fire of
Gehinnom is never quenched.'70
And even the passage, so often (although only partially) quoted, to the effect,
that the final torments of Gehenna would last for twelve months, after which
body and soul would be annihilated, excepts from this a number of Jewish
sinners, specially mentioned, such as heretics, Epicureans, apostates, and
persecutors, who are designated as 'children of Gehenna' (ledorey doroth,
to 'ages of ages').71
And with this other statements agree,72
so that at most it would follow that, while annihilation would await the less
guilty, the most guilty were to be reserved for eternal punishment.
to the latter, a solitary opinion in Moed K. 27 a.
haSh. 17 a.
x. 3; 106 b.
Such, then, was the final Judgment, to be held in the valley of
Jehoshaphat by God, at the head of the Heavenly Sanhedrin, composed of the
elders of Israel.73
Realistic as its description is, even this is terribly surpassed by a passage74
in which the supposed pleas for mercy by the various nations are adduced and
refuted, when, after an unseemly contention between God and the Gentiles -
equally shocking to good taste and blasphemous - about the partiality that had
been shown to Israel, the Gentiles would be consigned to punishment. All this
in a manner revolting to all reverent feeling. And the contrast between the
Jewish picture of the last Judgment and that outlined in the Gospel is so
striking, as alone to vindicate (were such necessary) the eschatological parts
of the New Testament, and to prove what infinite distance there is between the
Teaching of Christ and the Theology of the Synagogue.
u. s. i. p. 71 a, b.
Z. 2 a to 3.
After the final judgment we must look for the renewal of heaven
and earth. In the latter neither physical75
nor moral darkness would any longer prevail, since the Yetser haRa, or
'Evil impulse,' would be destroyed.7677
And renewed earth would bring forth all without blemish and in Paradisiacal
perfection, while alike physical and moral evil had ceased. Then began the 'Olam
habba,' or 'world to come.' The question, whether any functions or
enjoyments of the body would continue, is variously answered. The reply of the
Lord to the question of the Sadducees about marriage in the other world seems
to imply, that materialistic views on the subject were entertained at the time.
Many Rabbinic passages, such as about the great feast upon Leviathan and
Behemoth prepared for the righteous in the latter days,78
confirm only too painfully the impression of grossly materialistic
On the other hand, passages may be quoted in which the utterly unmaterial
character of the 'world to come' is insisted upon in most emphatic language.80
In truth, the same fundamental divergences here exist as on other points, such
as the abode of the beatified, the visible or else invisible glory which they
would enjoy, and even the new Jerusalem. And in regard to the latter,81
as indeed to all those references to the beatitudes of the world to come, it
seems at least doubtful, whether the Rabbis may not have intended to describe
rather the Messianic days than the final winding up of all things.
i. p. 45 c.
it does not seem clear to me, whether this conjunction of the cessation of
darkness, together with that of the Yetser haRa, is not intended to be
taken figuratively and spiritually.
B. 74 a.
the same time, many quotations by Christian writers intended to show the
materialism of Jewish views are grossly unfair. Thus, for example, Ber. 57 b,
quoted by Weber (Altsynag. Theol. p. 384), certainly does not
express the grossly carnal expectancy imputed to it. On the other hand, it is
certainly grossly materialistic, when we read how the skin of slaughtered
Leviathan is to be made into tents, girdles, necklets, or armlets for the
blessed, according to their varying merits (Babha B. 75 a). Altogether
the account of the nature and hunt of this Leviathan, of the feast held, the
various dishes served (Babha B. 74 b to 75 b), and the wine drunk
on the occasion (Targ. Pseudo-Jon. on Gen. xxvii. 25; Targ. on Cant. viii. 2;
on Eccles. ix. 7), are too coarsely materialistic for quotation. But what a
contrast to the description of the 'Last Things' by our Lord and His Apostles!
This alone would furnish sufficient presumptive evidence in favour of the New
Testament. I have tried to touch this very painful matter as delicately as I
could, rather by allusions than by descriptions, which could only raise
vol. i. p. 32 d. and especially Ber. 17 a.
is the Jerusalem built of sapphire, which is to descend from heaven, and in the
central sanctuary of which (unlike the worship of the Book of Revelation) Aaron
is to officiate and to receive the priestly gifts (Taan. 5 a; Baba B. 75
To complete this sketch of Jewish opinions, it is necessary,
however briefly, to refer to the Pseudepigraphic Writings,82
which, as will be remembered, expressed the Apocalyptic expectancies of the
Jews before the time of Christ. But here we have always to keep in mind this
twofold difficulty: that the language used in works of this kind is of a highly
figurative character, and must therefore not be literally pressed; and that
more than one of them, notably IV. Esdras, dates from post-Christian times, and
was, in important respects, admittedly influenced by Christian teaching. But in
the main the picture of Messianic times in these writings is the same as the
presented by the Rabbis. Briefly, the Pseudepigraphic view may be thus
sketched.83 Of the
so-called 'Wars of the Messiah' there had been already a kind of
prefigurement in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, when armed soldiery had been
seen to carry on warfare in the air.84
This sign is mentioned in the Sibylline Books85
as marking the coming end, together with the sight of swords in the starlit sky
at night, the falling of dust from heaven, the extinction of the sunlight and
appearance of the moon by day, and the dropping of blood from the rocks. A
somewhat similar, though even more realistic, picture is presented in
connection with the blast of the third trumpet in IV. (II.) Esdras.86
Only that there the element of moral judgment is more clearly introduced. This
appears still more fully in another passage of the same book,87
in which, apparently in connection with the Judgment, the influence of
Christian teaching, although in an externalised form, may be clearly traced. A
perhaps even more detailed description of the wickedness, distress, and
physical desolation upon earth at that time, is given in the Book of Jubilees.88
82. See Appendix I.
generally Schürer, Neutest. Zeitgesch. pp. 579, &c.
Macc. v. 2, 3.
Sibyll. iii. 795-806.
Esdr. v. 1-12.
of Jubilees xxiii.
At last, when these distresses have reached their final height,
when signs are in the sky, ruin upon earth, and the unburied bodies that cover
the ground are devoured by birds and wild beasts, or else swallowed up by the
earth,89 would God
send 'the King,' Who would put an end to unrighteousness. Then would follow the
last war against Jerusalem, in which God would fight from heaven with the
nations, when they would submit to, and own Him.90
But while in the Book of Enoch and in another work of the same class91
the judgment is ascribed to God, and the Messiah represented as appearing only
in the majority of these works the judgment or its execution is assigned to the
Sibyll. iii. 633-652.
s. 653-697; comp. the figurative acc't in the Book of Enoch xc. 16, and
Mos. x. 2-10.
of Enoch xc. 37.
the Assumptio Mosis there is no reference at all to the Messiah.
Sibyll. iii. 652-656; Book of Enoch, u. s.: comp. ch. xlv. 3-6; xlvi.; lv. 4;
lxi. 8, 9, 11, 12; lxii.; lxix. 27-29; Apoc. of Bar. xxxix. 7, 8; xl.; lxx. 9;
lxxii. 2, end; IV. (II.) Esdras xii. 32-34; xiii. 25-30, 34-38.
In the land thus restored to Israel, and under the rule of King
Messiah, the new Jerusalem would be the capital, purified from the heathen,95
enlarged, nay, quite transformed. This Jerusalem had been shown to Adam before
his Fall,96 but after
that both it and Paradise had been withdrawn from him. It had again been shown
to Moses, and to Ezra.98
The splendour of this new Jerusalem is described in most glowing language.99100
Of the glorious Kingdom thus instituted, the Messiah would be King,101102
although under the supremacy of God. His reign would extend over the heathen
nations. The character of their submission was differently viewed, according to
the more or less Judaic standpoint of the writers. Thus, in the Book of
Jubilees103 the seed
of Jacob are promised possession of the whole earth; they would 'rule over all
nations according to their pleasure; and after that draw the whole earth unto
themselves, and inherit it for ever.' In the 'Assumption of Moses'104
this ascendency of Israel seems to be conjoined with the idea of vengeance upon
the language employed is highly figurative.106
On the other hand, in the Sibylline Books107
the nations are represented as, in view of the blessings enjoyed by Israel,
themselves turning to acknowledge God, when perfect mental enlightenment and
absolute righteousness, as well as physical well-being, would prevail under the
rule and judgeship (whether literal or figurative) of the Prophets.108
The most 'Grecian' view of the Kingdom, is, of course, that expressed by Philo.
He anticipates, that the happy moral condition of man would ultimately affect
the wild beasts, which, relinquishing their solitary habits, would first become
gregarious; then, imitating the domestic animals, gradually come to respect man
as their master, nay, become as affectionate and cheerful as 'Maltese dogs.'
Among men, the pious and virtuous would bear rule, their dignity inspiring
respect, their terror fear, and their beneficence good will.109
Probably intermediate between this extreme Grecian and the Judaic conception of
the Millennium, are such utterances as ascribe the universal acknowledgment of
the Messiah to the recognition, that God had invested Him with glory and power,
and that His Reign was that of blessing.110
of Sol. xvii. 25, 33.
words do not convey to me, as apparently to Dr. Schürer, that the New
Jerusalem actually stood in Eden, and, indeed, existed otherwise than ideally.
of Baruch iv. 3-6.
Esdr. x. 44 &c.
xiii. 16-18; xiv. 5; Book of Enoch liii. 6, 7; xc. 28; Apoc. of Baruch xxxii.
I do not see, with Schürer, a reference to its coming down from heaven,
not even in the passage in Baruch to which he refers, which is as follows: 'Et
postea oportet renovari in gloria, et coronabitur in perpetuum.'
Sibyll. iii. 47-50; and especially Psalter of Solomon xvii., particularly vv.
23 &c., 32, 35, 38, 47.
cannot understand how Schürer can throw doubt upon this, in view of such
plain statements as in Ps. of Sol. xvii., such as (in regard to the Messiah): kai autoV basileuV dikaioV didaktoV upo Qeou
of Jub. xxxii.
Sibyll. x. 8.
ascendes supra cervices et alas aquilæ.'
Mos. iii. 715-726.
Præm. et Pn. ed. Mang. ii. 422-424; ed. Fref. 923-925.
of Enoch xlviii. 4, 5; xc. 37; Ps. of Sol. xvii. 34, 35, 38-40.
It must have been remarked, that the differences between the
Apocalyptic teaching of the Pseudepigrapha and that of the New Testament are as
marked as those between the latter and that of the Rabbis. Another point of
divergence is, that the Pseudepigrapha uniformly represent the Messianic reign
as eternal, not broken up by any further apostasy or rebellion.111
Then would the earth be renewed,112113
and this would be followed, lastly, by the Resurrection. In the Apocalypse of
Baruch,114 as by the
Rabbis, it is set forth that men would rise in exactly the same condition which
they had borne in life, so that, by being recognised, the reality of the
Resurrection would be attested, while in the re-union of body and soul each
would receive its due meed for the sins committed in their state of combination
while upon earth.115
But after that a transformation would take place: of the just into the Angelic
splendour of their glory, while, on view of this, the wicked would
correspondingly fade away.116
Josephus states that the Pharisees taught only a Resurrection of the Just.117
As we know that such was not the case, we must regard this as one of the
many assertions made by that writer for purposes of his own - probably to
present to outsiders the Pharisaic doctrine in the most attractive and rational
light of which it was capable. Similarly, the modern contention, that some of
the Pseudepigraphic Writings propound the same view of only a Resurrection of
the Just,118 is
contrary to evidence.119
There can be no question that, according to the Pseudepigrapha, in the general
Judgment, which was to follow the universal Resurrection, the reward and
punishment assigned are represented as of eternal duration, although it may be
open to question, as in regard to Rabbinic teaching, which of those who had
been sinners would suffer final and endless torment.
is expressed in the clearest language in every one of these books. In view of
this, to maintain the opposite on the ground of these isolated words in Baruch
(xl. 3): 'Et erit principatus ejus stans in saeculum, donec finiatur mundus
corruptionis,' seems, to say the least, a strange contention, especially when
we read in lxxiii. 1.: 'Sederit in pace in aeternum super throno regni sui.' We
can quite understand that Gfrörer should propound this view in order to
prove that the teaching of the New Testament is only a reflection of that of
later Judaism; but should an argument so untenable be repeated? IV. Esdras must
not here be quoted, as admittedly containing New Testament elements.
of Enoch xlv. 4, 5.
Schürer, following in this also Gfrörer, holds that one party
placed the renewal of the earth after the close of the Messianic reign. He quotes
in support only Bar. lxxiv. 2, 3; but the words do not convey to me that
inference. For the reason stated in the preceding Note, IV. Esdras cannot here
serve as authority.
Bar. 1, 2, 3.
91 a and b.
s. li. 1-6.
xviii. 1, 3; War ii. 8, 14.
support of it Schürer quotes Ps. of Sol. iii. 16, xiv. 2, &c. But
these passages convey to me, and will, I think, to others, the very opposite.
Ps. iii. 16 says nothing of the wicked, only of the righteous. But in ver. 13 b
we have it: h apwleia tou amartwlou eiV
ton aiwna, and in ver. 15, auth
meriV twn amartwlwn eiV ton aiwna. Ps. xiv. 2 has again only reference
to the righteous, but in ver. 6 we have this plain statement, which renders any
doubt impossible, dia touto h
klhronomia autwn adhV kai skotoV kai apwleia.
Book of Enoch and Apoc. of Bar.
The many and persistent attempts, despite the gross
inconsistencies involved, to represent the teaching of Christ concerning 'the
Last Things' as only the reflection of contemporary Jewish opinion, have
rendered detailed evidence necessary. When, with the information just summarised,
we again turn to the questions addressed to Him by the disciples, we recall
that (as previously shown) they could not have conjoined, or rather confounded,
the 'when' of 'these things' - that is, of the destruction of Jerusalem and the
Temple - with the 'when' of His Second Coming and the end of the 'Age.' We also
recall the suggestion, that Christ referred to His Advent, as to His
disappearance, from the Jewish standpoint of Jewish, rather than from the
general cosmic view-point of universal, history.
As regards the answer of the Lord to the two questions of His
disciples, it may be said that the first part of His Discourse120
is intended to supply information on the two facts of the future: the
destruction of the Temple, and His Second Advent and the end of the 'Age,' by
setting before them the signs indicating the approach or beginning of these
events. But even here the exact period of each is not defined, and the teaching
given intended for purely practical purposes. In the second part of His
Discourse121 the Lord
distinctly tells them, what they are not to know, and why; and how all
that was communicated to them was only to prepare them for that constant
watchfulness, which has been to the Church at all times the proper outcome of
Christ's teaching on the subject. This, then we may take as a guide in our
study: that the words of Christ contain nothing beyond what was necessary for
the warning and teaching of the disciples and of the Church.
Matt. xxiv. 4-35, and parallels.
Matt. xxiv. 36 to end, and parallels.
The first Part of Christ's Discourse122
consists of four Sections,123
of which the first describes 'the beginning of the birth-woes'124125
of the new 'Age' about to appear. The expression: 'The End is not yet'126
clearly indicates, that it marks only the earliest period of the beginning -
the farthest terminus a quo of the 'birth-woes.'127
Another general consideration, which seems of importance, is, that the Synoptic
Gospels report this part of the Lord's Discourse in almost identical language.
If the inference from this seems that their accounts were derived from a common
source - say, the report of St. Peter - yet this close and unvarying repetition
also conveys an impression, that the Evangelists themselves may not have fully
understood the meaning of what they recorded. This may account for the rapid
and unconnected transitions from subject to subject. At the same time it
imposes on us the duty of studying the language anew, and without regard to any
scheme of interpretation. This only may be said, that the obvious difficulties
of negative criticism are here equally great, whether we suppose the narratives
to have been written before or after the destruction of Jerusalem.
4-8; 9-14; 15-28; 29-35.
Matt. xxiv. 8; St. Mark xiii. 8.
125. arch wdinwn, St. Matt. xxiv. 8, and so
according to the better reading also in St. Mark.
Matt. xxiv. 6.
indeed, these are regarded as 'the birth-woes' of 'the end.' But this not only
implies a logical impossibility (the birth-woes of the end), but it must be
remembered that these 'travail-pains' are the judgments on Jerusalem, or else
on the world, which are to usher in the new - to precede its birth.
1. The purely practical character of the Discourse appears from
its opening words.128
They contain a warning, addressed to the disciples in their individual, not in
their corporate, capacity, against being 'led astray.' This, more particularly
in regard to Judaic seductions leading them after false Christs. Though in the
multitude of impostors, who, in the troubled times between the rule of Pilate
and the destruction of Jerusalem, promised Messianic deliverance to Israel, few
names and claims of this kind have been specially recorded, yet the hints in
the New Testament,129
and the references, however guarded, by the Jewish historian,130
imply the appearance of many such seducers. And their influence, not only upon
Jews, but on Jewish Christians, might be the more dangerous, that the latter
would naturally regard 'the woes,' which were the occasion of their
pretensions, as the judgements which would usher in the Advent of their Lord.
Against such seduction they must be peculiarly on their guard. So far for the
'things' connected with the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of the
Jewish commonwealth. But, taking a wider and cosmic view, they might also be misled
by either rumours of war at a distance, or by actual warfare,131
so as to believe that the dissolution of the Roman Empire, and with it the
Advent of Christ, was at hand.132133
This also would be a Misapprehension, grievously misleading, and to be carefully
v. 36; viii. 9; xxi. 38.
ii. 13, 4, 5; Ant. xx. 5, 1; 8,10.
such wars and rumours of wars not only Josephus, but the Roman
historians,. have much to say about that time. See the Commentaries.
Matt. xxiv. 6-8.
know how persistently Nero has been identified with Anti-Christ, and how the
Church then expected the immediate return of Christ; nay, in all ages, 'the
End' has been associated with troubles in 'the Roman Empire.'
Although primarily applying to them, yet alike the peculiarly
Judaic, or, it might be even Christian, and the general cosmic sources of
misapprehension as to the near Advent of Christ, must not be limited to the
times of the Apostles. They rather indicate these twofold grounds of
misapprehension which in all ages have misled Christians into an erroneous
expectancy of the immediate Advent of Christ: the seductions of false Messiahs,
or, it may be, teachers, and violent disturbances in the political world. So
far as Israel was concerned, these attained their climax in the great rebellion
against Rome under the false Messiah, Bar Kokhba, in the time of Hadrian,134
although echoes of similar false claims, or hope of them, have again and again roused
Israel during the night of these any centuries into brief, startled waking.
And, as regards the more general cosmic signs, have not Christians, in the
early ages watched, not only the wars on the boundaries of the Empire, but the
condition of the state in the age of Nero the risings, turmoils, and
threatenings; and so onwards, those of later generations, even down to the
commotions of our own period, as if they betokened the immediate Advent of
Christ, instead of marking in them only the beginning of the birth-woes of the
2. From the warning to Christians as individuals, the
Lord next turns to give admonition to the Church in her corporate
capacity. Here we mark, that the events now described135
must not be regarded as following, with strict chronological precision, those
referred to in the previous verses. Rather is it intended to indicate a general
nexus and partly after, those formerly predicted. They form, in fact, the
continuation of the 'birth-woes.' This appears even from the language used.
Thus, while St. Matthew writes: 'Then' (tote
at that time) 'shall they deliver you up,' St. Luke places the persecutions
'before all these things;'136
while St. Mark, who reports this part of the Discourse most fully, omits every
note of time, and only emphasises the admonition which the fact conveys.137
As regards the admonition itself, expressed in this part of the Lord's
Discourse,138 we notice
that, as formerly to individuals, so now to the Church, two sources of danger
are pointed out: internal from heresies ('false prophets') and the decay
of faith,139 and external,
from persecutions, whether Judaic and from their own kindred, or from the
secular powers throughout the world. But, along with these two dangers, two
consoling facts are also pointed out. As regards the persecutions in prospect,
full Divine aid is promised to Christians - alike to individuals and to the
Church. Thus all care and fear may be dismissed: their testimony shall neither
be silenced, nor shall the Church be suppressed or extinguished; but inward
joyousness, outward perseverance, and final triumph, are secured by the
Presence of the Risen Saviour with, and the felt indwelling of the Holy Ghost
in His Church. And, as for the other and equally consoling fact: despite the
persecution of Jews and Gentiles, before the End cometh 'this the Gospel of the
Kingdom shall be preached in all the inhabited earth for a testimony to all the
then, is really the only sign of 'the End' of the present 'Age.'
Matt. xxiv. 9-14, and parallels.
Luke xxi. 12.
Mark xii. 9.
Matt. xxiv. 9-14, and parallels.
Matt. xxiv. 10-13.
Matt. xxiv. 14.
3. From these general predictions, the Lord proceeds, in the
third part of this Discourse,141
to advertise the Disciples of the great historic fact immediately before them,
and of the dangers which might spring from it. In truth, we have here His
answer to their question, 'When shall these things be?'142
not, indeed, as regards the when, but the what of them. And with
this He conjoins the present application of His general warning regarding false
Christs, given in the first part of this Discourse.143
The fact of which He now, in this third part of His Discourse, advertises them,
is the destruction of Jerusalem. Its twofold dangers would be - outwardly, the
difficulties and perils which at that time would necessarily beset men, and
especially the members of the infant-Church; and, religiously, the pretensions
and claims of false Christs or prophets at a period when all Jewish thinking
and expectancy would lead men to anticipate the near Advent of the Messiah.
There can be no question, that from both these dangers the warning of the Lord
delivered the Church. As directed by him, the members of the Christian Church
fled at an early period of the siege.144
of Jerusalem to Pella, while the words in which He had told that His Coming
would not be in secret, but with the brightness of that lightning which shot
across the sky, prevented not only their being deceived, but perhaps even the
record, if not the rise of many who otherwise would have deceived them. As for
Jerusalem, the prophetic vision initially fulfilled in the days of Antiochus145
would once more, and now fully, become reality, and the abomination of
desolation146 stand in
the Holy Place. This, together with tribulation to Israel, unparalleled in the
terrible past of its history, and unequalled even in its bloody future. Nay, so
dreadful would be the persecution, that, if Divine mercy had not interposed for
the sake of the followers of Christ, the whole Jewish race that inhabited the
land would have been swept away.147
But on the morrow of that day no new Maccabee would arise, no Christ come, as
Israel fondly hoped; but over that carcase would the vultures gather;148
and so through all the Age of the Gentiles, till converted Israel should raise
the welcoming shout: 'Blessed be He that cometh in the Name of the Lord!'
Matt. xxiv. 15-28, and parallels; note especially the language of St. Luke.
Matt. xxiv. 3.
Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. iii. 5) relates that the Christians of Judæa fled
to Pella, on the northern boundary of Peræa in 68 A.D. Comp. also Jos.
War iv. 9. 1, v. 10. 1.
Macc. vi. 1-9.
quotation from Dan. ix, 27 is neither a literal translation of the original,
nor a reproduction of the LXX. The former would be: 'And upon the wing [or
corner] of the abominations the destroyer.' Our Lord takes the well known
Biblical expression in the general sense in which the Jews took it, that the
heathen power (Rome, the abominable) would bring desolation - lay the city and
Matt. xxiv. 22.
The Age of the Gentiles,149 'the end of the Age,' and with it the new allegiance
of His now penitent people Israel; 'the sign of the Son of Man in heaven,'
perceived by them; the conversion of all the world, the Coming of Christ, the
last Trumpet, the Resurrection of the dead - such, in most rapid sketch, is the
outline which the Lord draws of His Coming and the End of the world.
It will be remembered that this had been the second question of
We again recall, that the disciples did not, indeed, could not have connected,
as immediately subsequent events, the destruction of Jerusalem and His Second
Coming, since he had expressly placed between them the period - apparently
protracted - of His Absence,151
with the many events that were to happen in it - notably, the preaching of the
Gospel over the whole inhabited earth.152
Hitherto the Lord had, in His Discourse, dwelt in detail only on those events
which would be fulfilled before this generation should pass.153
It had been for admonition and warning that He had spoken, not for the gratification
of curiosity. It had been prediction of the immediate future for practical
purposes, with such dim and general indication of the more distant future of
the Church as was absolutely necessary to mark her position in the world as one
of persecution, with promise, however, of His Presence and Help; with
indication also of her work in the world, to its terminus ad quem - the
preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations on earth.
Matt. xxiv. 3.
More than this concerning the future of the Church could not
have been told without defeating the very object of the admonition and warning
which Christ had exclusively in view, when answering the question of the
disciples. Accordingly, what follows in ver. 29, describes the history, not of
the Church - far less any visible physical signs in the literal heavens - but,
in prophetic imagery, the history of the hostile powers of the world, with its
lessons. A constant succession of empires and dynasties would characterise
politically - and it is only the political aspect with which we are here
concerned - the whole period after the extinction of the Jewish State.154
Immediately after that would follow the appearance to Israel of the 'Sign' of
the Son of Man in heaven, and with it the conversion of all nations (as
the Coming of Christ,156
and, finally, the blast of the last Trumpet and the Resurrection.157
Matt. xxiv. 30.
5. From this rapid outline of the future the Lord once more
turned to make present application to the disciples; nay, application, also,
to all times. From the fig-tree, under which, on that spring afternoon, they
may have rested on the Mount of Olives, they were to learn a 'parable.'158
We can picture Christ taking one of its twigs, just as its softening tips were
bursting into young leaf. Surely, this meant that summer was nigh - not that it
had actually come. The distinction is important. For, it seems to prove that
'all these things,' which were to indicate to them that it159
was near, even at the doors, and which were to be fulfilled ere this generation
had passed away, could not have referred, to the last signs connected with the
immediate Advent of Christ,160
but must apply to the previous prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and
of the Jewish Commonwealth. At the same time we again admit, that the language
of the Synoptists seems to indicate, that they had not clearly understood the
words of the Lord which they reported, and that in their own minds they had
associated the 'last signs' and the Advent of Christ with the fall of the City.
Thus may they have come to expect that Blessed Advent even in their own days.
as in the R. V. 'He.' It can scarcely be supposed that Christ would. speak of
Himself in the third person. The subject is evidently 'the summer' (not as Meyer
would render qeroV='harvest').
In St. Luke xxi. 31 it is paraphrased 'the Kingdom of God.'
II. It is at least a question, whether the Lord, while
distinctly indicating these facts, and intended to remove the doubt and
uncertainty of their succession from the minds of His disciples. To have done so
would have necessitated that which, in the opening sentence of the Second
Division of this Discourse,161
He had expressly declared to lie beyond their ken. The 'when' - the day
and the hour of His Coming - was to remain hidden from men and Angels.162
Nay, even the Son Himself - as they viewed Him and as He spake to them - knew
it not.163 It formed
no part of His present Messianic Mission, nor subject for His Messianic
Teaching. Had it done so, all the teaching that follows concerning the need of
constant watchfulness, and the pressing duty of working for Christ in faith,
hope, and love - with purity, self-denial, and endurance - would have been
lost. The peculiar attitude of the Church: with loins grit for work, since the
time was short, and the Lord might come at any moment; with her hands busy; her
mind faithful; her face upturned towards the Sun that was so soon to rise; and
her ear straining to catch the first notes of heaven's song of triumph - all
this would have been lost! What has sustained the Church during the night of
sorrow these many centuries; what has nerved her courage for the battle, with
steadfastness to bear, with love to work, with patience and joy in
disappointments - would all have been lost! The Church would not have been that
of the New Testament, had she known the mystery of that day and hour, and not
ever waited as for the immediate Coming of her Lord and Bridegroom.
Matt xxiv. 36 to end.
expression does not, of course, refer to Christ in His Divinity, but to the
Christ, such as they saw Him, in His Messianic capacity and office.
And what the Church of the New Testament has been, and is, that
her Lord and Master made her, and by no agency more effectually than by leaving
undetermined the precise time of His return. To the world this would indeed
become the occasion for utter carelessness and practical disbelief of the
As in the days of Noah the long delay of threatened judgment had led to
absorption in the ordinary engagements of life, to the entire disbelief of what
Noah had preached, so would it be in the future. But that day would come
certainly and unexpectedly, to the sudden separation of those who were engaged in
the same daily business of life, of whom one might be taken up (paralambanetai, 'received'), the other
left to the destruction of the coming Judgment.165
But this very mixture of the Church with the world in the
ordinary avocations of life indicated a greater danger. As in all such, the
remedy which the Lord would set before us is not negative in the avoidance of
certain things, but positive.166
We shall best succeed, not by going out of the world, but by being watchful in
it, and keeping fresh on our hearts, as well as our minds, the fact that he is
our Lord, and that we are, and always most lovingly, to look and long for His
Return. Otherwise twofold damage might come to us. Not expecting the arrival of
the Lord in the night-time (which is the most unlikely for His Coming), we
might go to sleep, and the Enemy, taking advantage or it, rob us of our
Thus the Church, not expecting her lord, might become as poor as the world.
This would be loss. But there might be even worse. According to the Master's
appointment, each one had, during Christ's absence, his work for Him, and the
reward of grace, or else the punishment of neglect, were in assured prospect.
The faithful steward, to whom the Master had entrusted the care of His
household, to supply His found faithful, be rewarded by advancement to far
larger and more responsible work. On the other hand, belief on the delay of the
Lord's Return would lead to neglect to the Master's work, to unfaithfulness,
tyranny, self-indulgence and sin.168
And when the Lord suddenly came, as certainly he would come, there would be not
only loss, but damage, hurt, and the punishment awarded to the hypocrites.
Hence, let the Church be ever on her watch,169
let her ever be in readiness!170
And how terribly the moral consequences of unreadiness, and the punishment
threatened, have ensued, the history of the Church during these eighteen
centuries has only too often and too sadly shown.171
Matt xxiv. 43, 44.
Parable in St. Luke xii. 35-48 is so closely parallel to this, that it seems
unnecessary to enter in detail upon its consideration.
Chapter 5 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 7