(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1978.
1 Christ foretelleth the destruction of the temple: 3 what and how
great calamities shall be before it: 29 the signs of his coming to judgment.
36 And because that day and hour is unknown, 42 we ought to watch
like good servants, expecting every moment our master’s coming.
1. Jesus went out. [Signs of Christ’s Return, Matt. 24:1-51; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-38. Major comment: Matthew. See Closing Ministry at Jerusalem; Passion Week.] Probably late Tuesday afternoon. Jesus had spent the day teaching in the Temple courts, and had been assailed repeatedly by group after group of the Jewish leaders. Finally, in His last public discourse (ch. 23), He delineated in unmistakable terms the hypocritical character of these “blind guides” (v. 16), and then departed from the Temple courts forever. Matthew’s report of the events of this day are recorded in chs. 21:23ch.2223:39. The discourse given privately to some of the disciples on the slope of the Mount of Olives occupies all of chs. 24; 25. Mark and Luke parallel the account in Matthew as far as ch. 24:42.
Leaving the Temple, Jesus and at least four of His disciples made a steep descent to the Kidron Valley, and ascended the slope of the Mount of Olives, which rises some 400 ft. (c. 122 m.) above the Kidron Valley. Being about 300 ft. (c. 91 m.) higher than the Temple, the mountain provides a view of the Temple and the city. See on ch. 21:1; see illustration facing p. 513.
His disciples. Mark (ch. 13:3) identifies these disciples as Peter and Andrew, James and Johnthe four who had been called from their nets by the shores of Galilee less than two years before (see on Luke 5:1-11).
To shew him. Mark alone gives the words of the disciples, “Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” (ch. 13:1). The Temple was the pride and joy of every Jewish heart. Josephus compares the white stone walls of the Temple to the beauty of a snow-covered mountain (War v. 5. 6 ), and gives the fabulous size of some of its stones45 by 5 by 6 cubits (about 66 by 7 by 9 ft., or 20 by 2.1 by 2.7 m.). The Temple had now been in process of construction for nearly 50 years (see John 2:20), and work on the entire complex of courts and buildings was not completed until about the year A.D. 63only seven years before it was totally destroyed by the army of Titus.
2. Verily. See on ch. 5:18.
One stone upon another. For the fabulous size of some of the stones used in the Temple, see on v. 1. This prediction was literally fulfilled at the time Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70 (see on v. 1).
Thrown down. Josephus (War vi. 4. 5-8 [249-270]) vividly describes the destruction of the Temple and efforts made by Titus to save it. The excellent construction of the building gave assurance that it would withstand the elements indefinitely. The city of Jerusalem itself was held to be, for all practical purposes, impregnable, but Jesus predicted that it would be destroyed by force.
3. As he sat. Jesus had probably come here to spend the night, rather than return to Bethany as He had the two days preceding (see on ch. 21:17).
The disciples. See on v. 1.
Privately. It was hard for them to grasp the import of Jesus’ declaration concerning the destruction of the Temple, particularly in relation to recent events such as the Triumphal Entry and the Second Cleansing of the Temple, which seemed to them to presage the imminent establishment of the Messianic kingdom. Doubtless they came to Him privately because it would be considered treason to talk about such things publicly.
Tell us, when. They fondly anticipated that Jesus would proclaim Himself King almost any day now, and be acclaimed by the nation as Messiah. When, then, would the desolation of the Temple occur?
These things. That is, the desolation referred to in ch. 23:38 and more clearly stated in ch. 24:2.
The sign. See on v. 30.
Coming. Gr. parousia, “presence,” or “arrival.” Parousia appears commonly in the papyri for the visit of an emperor or a king. The word also occurs in vs. 27, 37, 39, but nowhere else in the Gospels, though often in the Epistles. It is sometimes used to denote presence as opposed to absence, as in Phil. 2:12, but more commonly of the coming of Christ, as in 2 Thess. 2:1, or of men, as in 1 Cor. 16:17. In the NT it is used as a technical term for the second advent of Christ. There is nothing in the term parousia to denote a secret coming.
The disciples apparently understood that Jesus was to go away for a time, after which He would return in power and glory to take His kingdom. Jesus, evidently, must already have given more explicit instructions on this subject than the Gospels record (see GC 25). Popular belief held that when Messiah came He would disappear for a time, and that when He reappeared no one would know whence He came. However, this is the first extended discussion of the second “coming” so far as the Gospel record is concerned, although it had been implied in the parables of the Pounds (Luke 19:12-15) and the Wicked Husbandmen (Matt. 21:33-41; cf. ch. 16:27). For a synopsis of the manner in which the OT prophecies of the Messiah and the Messianic kingdom would have been fulfilled had Israel been faithful see Vol. IV, pp. 26-30. For a comment on the fundamental errors of Jewish theologians in interpreting these OT prophecies see DA 30.
In the minds of the disciples “these things” the destruction of the Temple, and the coming of Jesus a second time at “the end of the world” were closely united. They conceived of these events as taking place either simultaneously or in rapid succession. When, on the day of the ascension, the disciples inquired, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?” Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:6, 7). They did not yet understand that the Jewish nation would reject Jesus, and in turn be rejected as God’s chosen people (see Vol. IV, pp. 32, 33). The knowledge of future events would, at the time, have been too much for them. The disciples had, in fact, proved incapable of grasping the repeated instruction Christ had been giving them for nearly a year, relative to His imminent sufferings and death (see on Matt. 16:21; Matt. 20:17-19). The events foretold proved to be almost more than they could endure (see Luke 24:11, 17-25; DA 631, 772).
End of the world. Or, “consummation of the age.” For the meaning of the Gr. aioµn, “world,” see on ch. 13:39. Similar expressions appear commonly in Jewish apocalyptic literature to describe the end of the present order of things and the beginning of the Messianic age. For an outline of how this transition was to have been accomplished in accordance with God’s original plan for Israel, see Vol. IV, pp. 26-30. The disciples posed their question with the Messianic messages of the OT prophets in their minds. But they, in common with other Jews, did not fully understand that God’s promises could be fulfilled to Israel only upon the fulfillment of the necessary conditions (see Vol. IV, pp. 30-34; see on Jer. 18:6-10).
Jesus blended in His answer to the disciples’ question events leading up to “the end” of the Jewish nation as God’s chosen people, and “the end” of the world. The lines cannot always be sharply drawn between the two. No small part of what Jesus delineated of the future applied particularly to events soon to take place with respect to the Jewish nation, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple. However, the discourse was also given for the benefit of those who should live amid the last scenes of earth’s history. It is worthy of note that DA 628-633 applies the signs enumerated in vs. 4-14 primarily to the fall of Jerusalem and some of them secondarily to our time, and those of vs. 21-30 quite exclusively to events leading up to the Saviour’s second coming. See on ch. 10:1.
4. Deceive. The primary reason for “taking heed” is to avoid being deceived, or led astray. In one form or another, Jesus repeated this warning again and again (see vs. 4-6, 11, 23-26, 36, 42-46).
5. In my name. That is, pretending to be the Messiah. The warning of v. 5 applies specifically to the fall of Jerusalem and to the Jewish nation, which was particularly susceptible to this form of deception. In the days of the apostles there were many false messiahs. See Josephus, War vi. 5. 4 [312-315]. Later (v. 27), “in unmistakable language, our Lord speaks of His second coming” (DA 631).
6. Rumours. Gr. akoai, “reports.” The disciples were not to be surprised or alarmed when, prior to A.D. 70 wars broke out. There would be wars before the fall of Jerusalem, but these would not portend the soon return of Jesus (see DA 628, 629).
The end. In this discourse our Lord foresees both the end of the Jewish nation as a nation and the end of the world. The rabbis would declare the signs of vs. 6-8 to be “the token of the advent of the Messiah” and “of their release [as a nation] from bondage,” but Jesus pointed to these as “signs of their destruction [as a nation]” (DA 628, 629; cf. MB 120). And as the wars and rumors of wars of apostolic times foreshadowed the end of the Jewish nation, so the international turmoil and strife of our day presage the end of the world (see PK 536; 5T 753).
7. Nation shall rise. Jewish and Roman writers describe the period from A.D. 31-70 as a time of great calamities. These words of Christ were literally fulfilled in events prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (see DA 628, 629). The predictions concerning the “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes” of v. 7 also doubtless refer primarily to the same period. Jesus specifically warned the early Christians not to consider the political strife, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes of that day as signs of the immediate “end” of the world (see on v. 3).
Famines. A particularly severe famine in Judea about A.D. 44 is alluded to in Acts 11:28. There were altogether four major famines during the reign of Claudius, A.D. 41-54.
Pestilences. Textual evidence favors the omission (cf. p. 146) of this word.
Earthquakes. There was a series of major earthquakes between A.D. 31 and A.D. 70. The worst of these were in Crete (46 or 47), Rome (51), Phrygia (60), and Campania (63). Tacitus (Annals xvi. 10-13) also speaks of particularly severe hurricanes and storms in the year 65.
Divers places. That is, “various places.”
8. The beginning. See on vs. 6, 7.
Sorrows. Gr. oµdines, “birth pangs,” “birth pains,” “labor pains,” “travail.” The same word is translated “travail” in 1 Thess. 5:3; the verb form appears in Gal. 4:19, 27; Rev. 12:2. Metaphorically the word denotes pains in a more general sense (see Acts 2:24).
The Jews used a term (Heb. cheblo shel mashiach; Aramaic chebleh dimeshiach, literally, “the pang of the Messiah” ); once in a disputed passage in the plural, “the pangs of the Messiah” ) by which they designated, not the sufferings of the Messiah Himself, but the calamities out of which the Messianic age would be born. The expression is found as early as about A.D. 90 in a saying of Rabbi Eliezer (Midrash Mekhiltha 59a, on Ex. 16:29, cited in Strack and Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, vol. 1, p. 950), and was possibly already current in the time of Jesus. If so, Jesus’ use of the term would call to mind these predicted calamities. For a description of conditions that the non-canonical, apocalyptic writers expected would precede the end of the age see 2 Esdras 5:1-12; 6:18-25; 15:16; Apocalypse of Baruch 27; 48:31-37; 70:2-10; Book of Jubilees 23:16-25; Book of Enoch 99:4-7; 100:1-6.
9. Deliver you up. See on chs. 5:10-12; 10:17-24. Stephen (Acts 7:59, 60), Peter and John (Acts 4:3-7, 21), and Peter and James (Acts 12:1-4) were among the first Christians to suffer at the hands of the authorities. Paul appeared before Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and Caesar (Acts 24 to 28). Compare Mark 13:9-12. In Matt. 24:21, 22 Christ speaks specifically of persecution to come after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
For my name’s sake. That is, “on account of me,” equivalent to saying, “because you are Christians” (see on ch. 5:11).
10. Be offended. Literally, “be tripped up” (see on ch. 5:29). They would fall away or apostatize. Believers would lose their “first love” (Rev. 2:4). On the apostasy of the early Christian centuries see on 2 Thess 2:3, 4.
Hate one another. See on ch. 10:21, 22.
11. Many false prophets. Compare v. 4. History records that numerous false prophets appeared in the years immediately preceding the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans. For false prophets of the last days see on vs. 24-27; cf. DA 628, 631. For an earlier warning against false prophets see on ch. 7:15-20. In ch. 24:24-26 Christ speaks specifically of the work of false prophets prior to His second coming.
12. Iniquity shall abound. Christ’s forecast met its first fulfillment in the decades prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (DA 633; cf. 36, 37). The prophecy will again be fulfilled in the last days (2 Tim. 3:1-5; cf. 5T 136, 741).
Love. For a description of this Christian grace see 1 Cor. 13; see on Matt. 5:43, 44. For the fulfillment of this prediction in so far as it applies to the Christian church see on Rev. 2:4. Many would find it easier to go along with the world than to remain loyal and steadfast.
13. He that shall endure. That is, endure the various temptations to apostasy such as the deceptions of the false prophets (v. 11) and the lure of iniquity (v. 12).
End. Gr. telos. In vs. 6, 14 “end” is again from telos but in v. 3, from sunteleia, It is not clear whether Christ means “to the limit of endurance” (see 1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 12:4), or “to the end of the world” (see on Matt. 24:3, 6).
14. Gospel. Gr. euaggelion (see on Mark 1:1).
The kingdom. See on chs. 3:2; 4:17; 5:3.
World. Gr. oikoumeneµ, “the inhabited world” (see on Luke 2:1), in contrast with aioµn, “world,” considered from the viewpoint of time (see on Matt. 24:3). Thirty years after Christ spoke these words Paul affirmed that the gospel had gone to all the world (Col. 1:23; cf. Rom. 1:8; 10:18; Col. 1:5, 6; 8T 26), confirming the literal fulfillment of this prediction in his day (see DA 633). However, Paul’s declaration was true in a limited sense only (see The Church at the Close of Paul’s Ministry). The complete fulfillment of this prediction of our Lord is yet to be realized (see AA 111).
The glorious progress of the gospel throughout the world during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th cheers the heart of every earnest and conscientious Christian to believe that the complete fulfillment of the promise of ch. 24:14 is soon to be realized. The era of modern Christian missions is generally thought of as beginning with the work of William Carey in 1793. The century and a half since his historic mission to India has witnessed the greatest conquests of the Christian faith since the days of the apostles.
Hand in hand with foreign missions have gone the translation and circulation of the Scriptures. Whereas the first 18 centuries of the Christian Era saw the Bible translated into only 71 languages, the next centurythe 19thsaw the total climb to 567. By the middle of the 20th century the number had grown to over 1,000. There are but few peoples in the world today who do not have access to at least some part of Scriptures in their own tongue.
The end. See on vs. 3, 6, 13.
15. The abomination of desolation. See on Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11. In the LXX these verses in Daniel contain similar or identical Greek words (cf. 1 Macc. 1:54). Among the Jews an idol or other heathen symbol was often termed an “abomination” (1 Kings 11:5, 7; 2 Kings 23:13; etc.) or something offensive from a religious point of view (Ex. 8:26; cf. Gen. 43:32; 46:34; etc.). The parallel passage in Luke reads, “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” (ch. 21:20). The event foretold is obviously the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, at which time the symbols of pagan Rome were set up within the Temple area. When the Jewish rebellion under Bar Cocheba was suppressed in A.D. 135, the Romans erected a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus on the site of the former Jewish Temple, and Jews were banned from the city of Jerusalem upon pain of death.
Daniel the prophet. This reference to Daniel is evidence that Jesus believed that Daniel was a historical person, that he was a prophet, and that he wrote the book of Daniel. Because the prophecy of Daniel pointed so clearly to the time the Messiah was to appear, the rabbis, in later centuries, placed a curse on those who should attempt a computation of the time (GC 378; Talmud Sanhedrin 97b, Soncino ed., p. 659).
Holy place. That is, the sacred precincts of the Temple, including the inner courts, from which Gentiles were excluded on pain of death (see Acts 6:13; 21:28).
Let him understand. Those who assert that Daniel is a “sealed book,” and not capable of being understood, would do well to ponder Christ’s clear statement to the contrary. As the events predicted drew near, it was essential that God’s people know whereof the prophet spoke. These events were less than 40 years away, within the lifetime of many then living. Similarly, as events connected with the end of the world (see on v. 3) draw near, Christians should be diligent in their endeavor to understand that which has been written for their admonition (see Amos 3:7; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11).
16. Flee into the mountains. As the Hebrew people through the centuries had done at times of foreign invasion (see Judges 6:2; 1 Sam. 13:6; Heb. 11:38). Josephus says (War vi. 9. 3 ), more than one million people perished during and after the siege of the city and 97,000 more were taken captive. However, during a temporary respite, when the Romans unexpectedly raised their siege of Jerusalem, all the Christians fled, and it is said that not one of them lost his life. Their place of retreat was Pella, a city in the foothills east of the Jordan River, about 17 mi. (c. 27 km.) south of the Lake of Galilee.
According to Josephus, Titus, commander of the Roman armies, confessed that neither his armies nor his siege engines could have been successful in breaching the walls of Jerusalem unless God Himself had so willed it. The stubborn defense of the city so infuriated the Roman soldiers, that when they finally entered, their desire for revenge knew no bounds.
17. On the housetop. Houses were generally constructed with flat roofs, which were commonly used for the drying of fruits. These roofs also afforded a place for rest, meditation, and prayer (see Acts 10:9). For scriptural references to the various uses to which the roofs of houses were put, see Joshua 2:6; 1 Sam. 9:25, 26; 2 Kings 23:12. Some think that the expression “him which is on the housetop” refers primarily to city dwellers.
Not come down. Time was of the essence. To postpone flight would entail great danger. As events proved, this counsel was appropriate, for the Roman armies soon returned. The temporary respite (see on v. 16) was the last opportunity the Christians would have to escape. See pp. 74, 75.
18. In the field. Probably a reference to those who lived in villages in the country. “The field” is a common Biblical term meaning the “country” as distinguished from cities and towns (Deut. 28:16; cf. Gen. 37:15; Ex. 9:25; etc.).
19. Woe. The rigors and privations of flight would be all but unbearable for women with small children.
20. Pray ye. The Christians in Jerusalem and Judea could not determine the time for the withdrawal of the Roman armies, but they could pray God to mitigate the suffering and dangers that attended flight to the mountains.
Not in the winter. In the wet and cold of the winter rains travel would be extremely difficult, lodging and provisions would be uncertain, and health would be difficult to preserve. Furthermore, during the rainy season the Jordan River would prove difficult to ford.
Sabbath day. Forty years after the resurrection the Sabbath would be as sacred as it was when Jesus spoke these words on the slopes of Olivet. He intimates no change in the sacredness of the day such as many Christians now suppose took place when He came forth from the tomb. The commotion, excitement, fear, and travel incident to flight from Jerusalem would be inappropriate on the Sabbath day. Christians were to pray that they might be able to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest, as God intended it should be kept. Christ did not abolish the Sabbath when He was nailed to the cross. It has lost none of the sacredness God originally imparted to it (see on Gen. 2:1-3).
21. Then. That is, following the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the Jewish nation. Between the end of the Jewish nation and the end of the world were to be “long centuries of darkness, centuries for His church marked with blood and tears and agony” (DA 630, 631). Beginning with v. 21 the signs foretold point forward exclusively to the end of the world (see DA 630, 631).
Great tribulation. The first persecution of the church came from the Jewish leaders (Acts 4:1-3; 7:59, 60; 8:1-4; etc.). A little later the Gentiles also persecuted Christians (Acts 16:19-24; 19:29; 1 Cor. 15:32), and for nearly three centuries the church suffered intermittently at the hands of pagan Rome. In 538 began the 1260 years of papal supremacy and persecution (see Additional Note on Daniel 7).
22. Except. Unless God should intervene, persecution would finally destroy all the “elect.”
Flesh. A common Hebrew idiom for “human beings.”
Saved. That is, from death.
23. Then. After the “great tribulation” of vs. 21, 22. The warning of vs. 23-28 applies specifically to the last days of earth’s history, and was “given as a sign of the second advent” (DA 631). A similar warning had already been given in vs. 4, 5, but there it was set forth primarily “as one of the signs of Jerusalem’s destruction” (DA 631) and was fulfilled before the fall of that city in A.D. 70. But the same warning, repeated in vs. 23-28, was given for “those who live in this age of the world,” for “now, in unmistakable language, our Lord speaks of His second coming, and He gives warning of dangers to precede His advent to the world” (DA 628, 631).
You. Jesus addresses the disciples concerning events at the close of time as representatives of believers alive at the end of time.
Christ. The Greek equivalent of the Heb. Mashiach, “Messiah” (see on ch. 1:1).
Believe it not. See on vs. 4, 5.
24. False Christs. See on v. 5.
False prophets. See on v. 11, where false prophets prior to the fall of Jerusalem are mentioned. In this context a false prophet is a representative of a false messiah. For more detailed counsel with respect to such prophets see on ch. 7:15-23.
Great signs. See p. 208; see on Luke 2:12. False prophets perform “signs” as proof of their authority, and these are seen by the people as “wonders” (see p. 208; see on Matt. 12:38, 39). For a more specific reference to some of the important “signs” performed by these latter-day prophets, see Rev. 13:13, 14; 16:13, 14; 19:20. However, these false miracles lack the power of God. The two words “signs” and “wonders” appear frequently together in the NT (John 4:48; Acts 2:22; 4:30; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4; etc.).
If it were possible. The implication is that these “signs” could be almost, but not entirely, convincing to “the very elect.” These faithful ones have obeyed the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans to “anoint” their “eyes with eyesalve” (see on Rev. 3:18), and are therefore able to distinguish between the true and the false. The form of the sentence in the Greek implies that it is actually impossible for Satan to deceive those who love and serve God with sincerity. For a discussion of Satan’s “masterpiece of deception” see GC 561, 623, 624. A genuine love for the truth and diligence in obeying all the instructions God has given for these last days will prove to be the only protection against the delusions of the enemy, the seducing spirits, and the doctrines of devils (see 6T 401; 8T 298; TM 475; see on 2 Thess. 2:9-12).
Elect. Gr. eklektos, “picked out,” or “chosen.”
25. Told you before. The warning against the delusions of the last days was given so that Christians might have an intelligent understanding of the dangers that would confront them, that they might be alert to these dangers, that they might recognize the false christs and the false prophets for what they are, and thus not be deceived (see John 13:19; 14:29; 16:4). The fact that all these things have been clearly set forth by Inspiration constitutes the best possible reason why “the elect” should be diligent in their study of all that God has revealed concerning the delusions of the last days.
26. The desert. Perhaps a reference to sparsely settled regions, in contrast with the “secret chambers” of the city (see DA 631; see on v. 18).
Go not forth. That is, do not even be curious to hear what they have to say; do not appear to be in sympathy with them by being present to hear them speak. To “go forth” is to place oneself on enchanted ground and thus to be in danger of falling into deception.
Secret chambers. Or, “inner rooms.” Compare John 7:27. Christians would not need to make long pilgrimages to find Christinto the deserts, or elsewherenor would there be anything mysterious concerning the event that would make it necessary for them to enter into “secret chambers” to investigate rumors that Christ was there. By virtue of the clear instructions Jesus gave, they would know that all such rumors were false.
27. As the lightning. There would be nothing secret or mysterious about the return of Jesus. No one would have to be told that He had come back to earth, for all would see Him (Rev. 1:7). Christ’s words leave no room for a secret rapture, for a mystical coming, or for any of the other false theories contrived by pious but overzealous would-be “prophets.” Men would “see” Jesus “coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 24:30; cf. chs. 16:27; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 14:62; Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7). There would be no mistaking the event. When Jesus returns, all men will know of it without having to be told.
Out of the east. As Christ approaches this earth He will appear to come from “the east” (GC 640).
Son of man. See on Matt. 1:1; Mark 2:10.
28. The carcase. The enigmatic statement of v. 28 was probably a popular proverb. Upon seeing a flock of vultures (probably not “eagles” ; see on Luke 17:37 circling in the air or assembled on the ground a person would rightly conclude that there must be carrion near. Otherwise the vultures would be soaring about singly in search of food. In other words, these birds gather together only when there is real reason for doing so. The application of the proverb, according to various commentators, is that the multiplication of signs is evidence that something decisive is at hand. Others have suggested that in the setting of Matt. 24, the saying may be a warning to Christians against flocking out to see the false christs or to hear the false prophets (vs. 25, 26). They are to believe that Christ is actually coming only when they see Him coming in the clouds of heaven (see on v. 27). Compare Job 39:30; Prov. 30:17.
29. Immediately after. Or, “in those days, after that tribulation” (Mark 13:24). Matthew and Mark here refer to the 1260 days (years) of papal persecution terminating in 1798 (see on Matt. 24:21). It was toward the close of this period of time that the sun was darkened. The signs of v. 29 are thus closely related, in point of time, to “the tribulation of those days.” See GC 306; see on Dan. 7:25.
The tribulation. See on v. 21.
The sun. The darkening of the sun here foretold took place on May 19, 1780, known as the great dark day. This was the first of the signs in the sun, moon, and stars ordained to herald our Lord’s return.
The moon. On the night of May 19, 1780, the moon’s light was veiled, even as the sun’s had been during the daytime hours.
The stars. Fulfilled Nov. 13, 1833, in what was undoubtedly the greatest meteor shower in history. These two phenomena, of 1780 and 1833, exactly fulfilled Jesus’ predictions, for they came at the specified time (see above). They were not the only such events but best met the specifications. See “Dark Day” and “Falling of Stars” in the Source Book (vol. 9 of this commentary series).
The powers of the heavens. That is, the sun, moon, and stars. The shaking of the “powers of the heavens” does not refer to the phenomena described in the earlier part of the verse, but to a time yet future when the heavenly bodies “will be moved out of their places shaken by the voice of God.” This will take place when His voice shakes “this earth also” (EW 41), at the opening of the seventh plague (see Rev. 16:17-20; GC 636, 637; EW 34, 285; cf. Isa. 34:4; Rev. 6:14).
30. The sign. Gr. seµmeion, “sign,” “mark,” “token” (see p. 208; see on Luke 2:12). The “token” that will distinguish Christ’s return from the deceptions of the false christs is the cloud of glory with which He returns to this earth (see EW 15, 35; GC 640).
Son of man. See on Matt. 1:1; Mark 2:10; see Additional Note on John 1.
Tribes. The various nations and peoples of earth (cf. Rev. 14:6; 17:15; etc.). The reason for this mourning is stated in Rev. 6:15-17 (cf. Isa. 2:19-21; Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30).
Son of man. See on Dan. 7:13. The expression is found also in Jewish apocalyptic literature. The Book of Enoch (ch. 62:5), for instance, speaks of the time “when they see that Son of Man sitting on the throne of his glory” (cf. Matt. 16:27; 25:31).
The clouds of heaven. Compare Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17; Rev. 1:7.
Power and great glory. Compare chs. 16:27; 25:31; see on ch. 24:27.
31. Send his angels. It is appropriate that the angels, who have ministered to the needs of those who have become “heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14), should participate in the events of that glorious morning. Now, for the first time, God’s people will have the privilege of seeing face to face these holy beings who have guarded them throughout this earthly pilgrimage.
Trumpet. When Jesus comes the “trump of God” calls from their graves all who have fallen asleep in Christ (1 Thess. 4:16; cf. 1 Cor. 15:52).
His elect. See on v. 24. These are the ones whom God has chosen to constitute His kingdom because they have chosen Him. “They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels” (Mal. 3:17). Those who have been asleep in Jesus rise to join the living saints, and together they meet their Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16, 17; cf. John 11:24-26).
The four winds. That is, from all directions (cf. Dan. 7:2; 8:8; 11:4; Rev. 7). In one of the Eighteen Benedictions of the synagogue service (see on Matt. 6:9) is found the petition, “Sound the great horn for our freedom; lift up the banner to gather our exiles, and gather us from the four corners of the earth.”
End of heaven. The “heaven” here referred to is not the abode of God and the angels, but rather the atmospheric envelope that surrounds the earth (see on Gen. 1:8). This expression thus designates the entire earth, in the sense that the earth is “under” the atmospheric heavens. For similar expressions see Deut. 4:19, 32; 30:4; Neh. 1:9; Jer. 49:36; Col. 1:23; etc.
32. A parable. See pp. 203, 204. This brief “parable” is based on an illustration from nature. It had particular meaning to the people of Palestine, where fig trees were common.
The fig tree. Its budding was a sure sign of the approach of warmer weather. Compare the parable of the Barren Fig Tree (see on Luke 13:6-9) and the cursing of the fruitless fig tree (Mark 11:12-14, 20-26).
33. When ye shall see. Emphasis is on personal recognition of the signs and an understanding of their import. Christians are to distinguish between the “great signs and wonders” of the false prophets (see on v. 24), and the true signs mentioned by Jesus. They are to differentiate between those things which Jesus foretold would mark “the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8) at a time when “the end is not yet” (v. 6), and the signs that would indicate that His return “is near, even at the doors” (v. 33).
All these things. This does not include the “sign” of the Son of man in v. 30, because when this is visible Jesus is already coming in the cloudsnot simply “at the doors.” The expression “these things” goes back to the signs of v. 29, in particular, but also includes other events and signs Jesus mentions as taking place prior to the end. For a complete list of these see Mark 13 and Luke 21.
It is near. The Greek may also be translated, “He is near.” “It” would refer to the advent of Jesus. In either case the meaning is the same. The reading “He” is preferred in DA 632.
Even at the doors. That is, His next step will be through the door.
34. Verily. See on ch. 5:18.
This generation. Commentators, generally, have observed that the expression “this generation” of ch. 23:36 refers to the generation of the apostles (see on ch. 23:36). Jesus repeatedly used the expression “this generation” in this sense (see ch. 11:16; cf. chs. 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; etc.; see on ch. 11:16). Obviously, Christ’s predictions concerning the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred in A.D. 70, did, literally, come to pass within the lifetime of many then living.
However, the words “this generation” in v. 34 are in the context of vs. 27-51, which deal exclusively with the coming of the Son of man at the end of the world (see DA 633). The signs mentioned in these verses and in Luke“signs” in the heavens and “upon the earth” (Luke 21:25)would take place so near the day of His coming that Christ declared that the “generation” that sees the last of the signs, shall not pass before “all these things [Christ’s coming and the end of the world] be fulfilled.”
Christ did not intend that His followers should know with exactitude when He would return. The signs foretold would testify to the nearness of His coming, but, He declared emphatically, the “day and hour” of that event “knoweth no man” (Matt. 24:36). To make the expression, “this generation,” the basis for reckoning a period of time supposedly terminating with His return violates both the letter and the spirit of His instructions (see on vs. 36, 42).
35. Heaven and earth. A common Biblical expression denoting the atmospheric heavens and the earth (see on Gen. 1:8; cf. 2 Peter 3:5, 7, 10, 12, 13; etc.).
Pass away. This does not mean that the earth as a planet will cease to exist, but rather that the atmospheric heavens and the surface of the earth will undergo fundamental changes. For a description of the process by which this change is to be brought about, see Isa. 34:4; 2 Peter 3:7-13.
My words. See on ch. 5:18. The policies of even the greatest men of earth change, but the principles of God are steadfast forever, for God changes not (Mal. 3:6). Here, Jesus places emphasis on the certainty of what He has revealed concerning the future, particularly with respect to His coming and the end of the world (see on Matt. 24:3).
36. That day and hour. That is, of His coming and of the end of the world (see on v. 3). Those who are tempted to calculate precisely how many years remain before the appearance of Christ would do well to ponder the counsel here given, and also that of Acts 1:7. It is the privilege and duty of Christians to remain alert, to watch for the signs of His return, and to know when His coming is near (see on v. 33).
Not the angels. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 146) adding the words, “nor the Son.” In Mark 13:32 textual evidence unanimously supports this reading. Commentators have generally understood this to mean that as a man on earth Christ voluntarily limited His knowledge and power to the capacities of human beings in order that His own perfect life might be an example of how we should live, and that His ministry might be a pattern we could follow, aided by the same divine guidance and help that were His (see on Luke 2:52).
My father only. See on Acts 1:7.
37. The days of Noe. In spite of the warning sounded by Noah and testified to by his construction of the ark, men went about their usual round of work and pleasure, utterly heedless of events soon to take place. The same unconcern, Jesus said, would characterize men living in the days prior to His second coming. Their activities too, like those of the antediluvians, would, for the most part, be evil (see DA 633). For a description of conditions in the world before the Flood see Gen. 6:5-13; cf. 2 Peter 2:5, 6.
38. Marrying. See on v. 37. The Scriptures are explicit concerning the prevailing iniquity of the days of Noah (see Gen. 6:5, 11-13). The same conditions are foretold of the last days (2 Tim 3:1-5). However, here in Matt. 24 our Lord stresses the additional fact that the Flood overtook the antediluvians while they were occupied in their usual round of activities, and came to them as a surprise (see vs. 36-43). The same will be true of the second advent (see GC 338, 339, 491).
39. Knew not. That is, literally, “did not come to know,” or “did not come to a recognition.” For 120 years Noah had warned the antediluvians of the coming of the Flood. They had ample opportunity to know, but chose not to believe. They locked themselves in the darkness of unbelief (see on Hosea 4:6).
Took them. See Gen. 7:11, 12, 17-22.
(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1978.