The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

F. W. Grant.

Division 6. (Matt. 24, 25.)

The Putting down of Evil at the Consummation of the Age.

We now enter upon the consideration of a most interesting and important group of prophecies, the importance of which is seen by the place it occupies in all three of the synoptic Gospels. Matthew, as we might expect from its character, gives it most fully; the others in an abridged form, and with certain differences which will claim special consideration when (if the Lord will) we take up those gospels. They treat as a whole of the "end of the age," of the coming of the Lord, therefore, which closes it, and this in its relation to the three classes of which Scripture speaks, "the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God." Mark and Luke omit what relates to the last two. Matthew does not give them in this order, but what relates to the Church comes parenthetically, and in parabolic form, between the others.

This mode of presentation; and still more some of the detail, show us, all through, Israel as the central figure upon earth, and giving character to the presentation. The Israelitish part comes first (Matt. 24:1-42); that referring to the Church is in veiled speech, and as an appendix to it, and here, if Christians are seen as virgins going forth to meet the Bridegroom, the Bridegroom Himself is Israel's, ― the virgins and the bride are not the same, (though the Church stands in this relationship in a higher, a heavenly sphere) ― and in the final judgment-scene again; the "brethren" of the King are Jewish. These things must be more fully considered when we come to them, but it is of primary importance to interpretation to make such distinctions. Through lack of it confusion has been introduced where every thing is simple, and along with this, the so called "spiritualizing" process has combined to deprive the Lord's people of much that would, by its extensive connection with other prophecies both in the Old Testament and New, have opened up the mind of God as to the future in a way that otherwise, perhaps, could hardly be attained. Much else, also, besides prophecy, is certain to be obscure where this is. Scripture is so united with scripture, and truth with truth, that no part can be disarranged without disordering the rest. On the other hand, thank God, no truth can be made clear without helping to clear other truth, if followed to its results; and the clue thus put into our hands by God is of priceless value for those that desire to walk amid divinely given certainties rather than by any light of merely human kindling.

For this reason it cannot be strange if we seek to look closely into the meaning of that which is before us here, and examine also some at least of the various interpretations put upon it, with such care as may be needful to form a positive judgment of what the truth is that is taught us in it. We need not merely probable but positive truth. Probable truth may be positive error. We need in Scripture to be able to say, "we know," although to many this may be what they stamp as dogmatism merely. Scripture can mean nothing less than this when it proclaims to us a full assurance of understanding" also, as well as "of faith," and "hope."

Subdivision 1. (Matt. 24:1-44.)

Christ's coming in relation to the elect people (Israel).

It is of first importance then to realize that, in all this first part of the prophecy, it is Israel, or a company of Israelitish disciples, with which we have to do. The twelve were as yet fully that, although the Church or assembly had been spoken of to them. But the foremost among them, and to whom the Lord had especially addressed Himself, needed, as we know, long afterward, to have a special vision to make him go to a Gentile, and the question in which they all unite when with the Saviour after His resurrection; and in the fulness of hope induced by it, is yet, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" Certainly then, of the Church, as Paul spoke of it, they could have as yet no conception; of what we call commonly the Christian dispensation they could have had no expectation; if we are reminded of the parables of the thirteenth chapter, what they had gathered from them we know not; but we know that they had not realized as yet the truth of the Lord's death and resurrection which He had in the plainest way and at various times declared, and yet these were fundamental to all the rest.

It is not meant by this to limit what He might now declare, for to suppose this would be in contradiction to what has been already said. He spoke of much that would only open up as they went on, and which even the gift of the Spirit did not at once make plain. This the book of Acts fully shows, with much else. It does not therefore limit the Lord's communications, although we know that there were things of which He could not as yet even speak; but we shall shortly find that it does affect important points in what is now before us, as for instance in regard to that coming of the Lord and that "consummation of the age," of which they question Him.

It is plain, then, that they were Jews not only in fact but in spirit, these disciples of the Lord. The questions they ask must be apprehended from this point of view, and no other; and this will help us to understand the parabolic way in which (even to them) the Christian portion of His answer is introduced. I do not forget that its being Christian even has on the other side been denied by some for whom the Jewish character of much has overshadowed the rest. All this shows how little we can afford to take anything for granted here, and the care with which we must examine things which for the mass of readers even may be undoubted.

1.(1) Let us now take up the question of the disciples which the Lord answers in the chapter before us. He has left finally the temple, as no longer the Father's house. Israel had made it but a robbers, den; and that not merely the traffickers whom He had so easily driven out, but much more the people as a whole, who had refused not only the messengers from time to time sent to them by God, but now the Son of His love, the Witness not of His righteousness alone but of His grace. The vineyard should be their own; and for that they were ready to kill the Heir of it. He could only therefore leave them to their choice, though with His heart wrung at the thought of all that this meant of necessity for them.

But His disciples are held by other and very different thoughts. Herod's magnificent temple, not even yet complete, though now nearly fifty years building, and growing thus continually under their eyes, the glory of Israel, spite of the murderous hands that built it ― the temple drew them yet. "What manner of stones and what buildings are here!" they urge, as if in intercession for that house which He was leaving desolate. But He answers at once, "See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." For Herod's temple as such there can be no regret, with one who looks on more than the outside.

But it seems to linger yet in their hearts; and on the Mount of Olives, as He sits with the city over against Him, they come to Him to ask when these things shall be; and they add two other questions which in their minds were no doubt practically one, ― "what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the consummation of the age?*"

{*It is not kosmos here, the physical world, but aion, "age," a marked off period of time.}

The "age," in their thoughts, as already said, could not be any Christian age of which they had no idea; it was the age in which they lived, and which was for the Jew the age of law. There would follow it the "days of Messiah," and the coming of Messiah would bring them in. There was no interval thought of as taking place between the two, and certainly for the disciples here, no considerable time to elapse before He would return to Jerusalem, and take the Kingdom now denied Him. That time the Lord shows them to be longer than they imagined, though still leaving it largely indefinite, and certainly not interposing a Christian or Gentile age between that present one and His coming to set up the Kingdom, rather making it a protraction of the Jewish "age" itself. Th gospel of the Kingdom is indeed to be preached in all the earth for a witness, and "then shall the end come" ― the end of that age about which they had inquired. There is no hint as yet of any Christian one.

It was this, doubtless, which helped to confuse the old interpreters. They could see that there was no sign of Christian times before it, and that the end of which the Lord speaks, with the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place had to do with Israel ― "them that were in Judea." They naturally connected this with the question; "when shall these things" ― the destruction of the temple and what was connected with it ― "be?" There seemed indeed no other answer to it than this. Consequently the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus was intended to be pictured ― Daniel certainly had spoken of this (Dan. 9:26); but as a consequence also the coming of the Son of man immediately following must be providential merely. Thus the interpretation was complete.

A reference to the same prophecy as given by Luke (Luke 21) would seem to confirm this: for here certainly Jerusalem is spoken of as compassed with armies, the Jews led captive and dispersed among the nations, and Jerusalem trodden down of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled. No one questions, or could question, that here is its sack by Titus; and here is the same warning to flee to the mountains, as given in Matthew. The interpretation seems thus fully confirmed.

For the disciples indeed such a coming of the Son of man could in no wise be what they expected or desired. It was no restoration of the Kingdom to Israel; nothing, indeed, but vengeance upon her; no fulfilment of hopes, such as the Old Testament prophets had inspired, of that blessing for the earth even; which was in them always connected with the restoration and exaltation of Israel. Rather would it be the complete setting aside of this. The coming of the Son of man also in Daniel is always to receive a Kingdom, displacing all the kingdoms of the world; and that, not by a slow, leavening process, which would be transformation instead of displacement, but by a sudden blow as of a stone falling from heaven upon the feet of the world-colossus, overthrowing and shattering it as in a moment. How great the contrast between the Son of man shattering the Gentile powers and bringing Israel into blessing and supremacy, and the appearing of the Son of man here to put Jerusalem under the iron heel of the Gentiles!

Yet the Son of man appearing in the clouds of heaven seems in manifest connection with Daniel (Dan. 7:13-14), as the abomination of desolation is in our Lord's reference. Moreover, this coming itself, in the clouds of heaven; and with the angels, reads little like a mere providential judgment. Instead of its being to destroy Jerusalem, it is spoken of as coming after it, and separate therefore, from it. Nay, in Luke, where alone the treading down is spoken of, this goes on until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, and then come the signs in the heavens, and soon the Son of man.

In Matthew, when He comes, He sends His angels to "gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other," and this might be thought to refer to the day of judgment, by one holding the common views, but could not in any sense apply to the long past judgment upon Jerusalem. Rather is it, if in connection with Daniel, the exact opposite of Israel's dispersion completed under Titus; it is the regathering of the elect nation under the "wings" that would so willingly have long since been spread over them. And this connects with the judgment of the Gentile nations, "when the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, and then shall sit upon the throne of His glory." Then shall "all the nations be gathered before Him, and He shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats" (Matt. 25:31-32). By no fair inference can this be disconnected from the coming of the Son of man in the earlier part of the same prophecy, to which it self-evidently indeed refers. Nothing but the necessity of an unscriptural theory could have disjoined them from one another.

Thus the coming of the Son of man is most clearly future, a personal coming to set up that kingdom over the earth, for which the disciples rightly looked. But this being established, another result follows, ― that the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, as given in Luke, must be distinguished widely from what we find in Matthew. The abomination of desolation standing in the holy place is not even connected with the worship of the Roman standards at the taking of the city over eighteen centuries ago: it is a yet future thing, and in close connection with that coming of the Son of man, of which it is the great and conclusive sign.

To see this clearly we have but to keep together in our minds what the Lord so plainly links together here. The abomination of desolation marks the beginning of a tribulation so severe, that, "except those days should be shortened, no flesh should be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." It is plain; therefore, that a time so characterized could not stretch over centuries. Scripture has indeed, over and over again; marked the exact length of it; but this we need not now take up: it is evident that it can be but a short time; but then "immediately after the tribulation of those days" come the signs of the Son of man at hand. Thus it must as plainly be yet future, as the destruction of the city in Luke is long past. In Matthew there is no destruction of the city; in Luke no abomination in the holy place: the prophecies are different, although given by the Lord at the same time.

But this gives rise to another question: if that of which Matthew speaks is still in the future, how can it be the end of the Jewish age? Christianity has in fact replaced Judaism for God upon the earth; and, even though Israel has still promises to be fulfilled to her naturally, when the Lord appears, how can there he any recurrence between now and then of any remnant of the Jewish age?

This question can only be answered by turning once more to the Old Testament to which we are referred here ― to Daniel: in his prophecy of the seventy weeks, the whole connection of what we have before us is made plain to us.

In the ninth chapter we find Daniel pleading with God for his people Israel, and for the city called by God's name. God in answer sends the angel Gabriel to acquaint him with His purposes. "Seventy weeks" (of years,) he is told, "are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city to finish transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the holy of holies." This last expression points definitely to national restoration and blessing, and all that is spoken of here has reference to the same thing. At the end of this 490 years their sins are to be brought to an end, everlasting righteousness brought in for them. As with the prophecy in Matthew, the end of this is plainly not reached yet, however long ago the time began; and the end cannot be before the coming of the Son of man; as the Lord in agreement with Daniel, declares here. Up to that time their deliverance is not reached; and Zechariah shows how it will be effected (Zech. 14:1-5).

There is again, however, a great difficulty. Four hundred and ninety years from the decree to restore and to build Jerusalem have long run out, ― had nearly done so when Christ appeared publicly in Israel, and yet the blessing for them did not come. Nay, that time was some years past, when the Romans, in sharpest contrast with the promise here, destroyed the sanctuary. But all this, let us notice is in the prophecy itself: sixty-nine weeks (483 years) carry us already as far as "Messiah the Prince" (ver. 25), and then He is "cut off and has nothing," as the margin better renders (ver. 26); and after that, "the people of the prince that shall come destroy the city and the sanctuary." So that the prophecy shows us that there would be this seeming contradiction, ― Messiah come, but not accomplishing the blessing; cut off, and so having nothing (to us with regard to Israel a thing perfectly plain); and still the prophecy goes on to the "end of the war," as far as which "desolations are determined." Until this therefore the prophecy cannot end.

Accordingly now, just at the close, we hear of the final, seventieth week: "And he shall confirm a [not "the"] covenant with many [properly "the many"] for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and because of the wing of abominations there shall be a desolator" ― that is the literal rendering ― "even until the consummation, and that determined is poured upon the desolate."

Here plainly is the consummation; and the determined time ends. To the very end the trouble lasts; and that we understand. The "wing of abominations" brings a desolator; so that here is an "abomination or desolation." Sacrifice and oblation being made to cease imply that it has to do with the holy place. Nay, there is a touching link just here with what we have had in Matthew; for the wing of abominations brings the desolation: how impossible to forget here the "wing" of which the Lord has spoken, under which Israel had been so often called to find shelter, and which would have so effectually sheltered them!

Put Daniel's prophecy in this way side by side with what we have in Matthew, and their exact agreement will demonstrate that they are made for one another. We see that the "end of the age" is nothing but this broken-off end of Daniel's seventy weeks. We can trace also its connection with the destruction of the city in Luke, though this latter does not itself come into the period. There is unity, in fact, throughout.

The answer to the first question of the disciples is more fully given in Luke than in Matthew, as is plain. We have only here in the first and introductory portion of the prophecy the general character of the times, which in some sense would suit the whole period of the Lord's absence. We find nothing however, in this part, necessarily Christian. This comes in afterwards in the appended parables.

(2) The first words of Christ's reply are a warning against the coming of false Christs. It has been said that it cannot be shown that there were any false Christs before the destruction of Jerusalem. But if that cannot be shown; neither can the opposite. There were many antichrists, the apostle John assures us. Among the Jews also leaders of various kinds with various pretensions were continually rising up. Nor are the disciples addressed here individually, but as representatives of others also who should succeed them, and that right down to the time of the end, when the greatest false Christ will appear that the world has ever seen; and when death will be the penalty threatened for resisting his pretensions; but of this it does not need to speak here.

(3) Next the Lord warns of wars and rumors of war, things which have been common enough certainly; as have "famines and pestilences and earthquakes in divers places." He gives them, however, a very significant character, as the beginning of travail-pains: as if nature were pressing on to the birth of a new and better time, and could not rest content or quiet with the present evil. Nor is there anything strained in this, however unintelligent may be the thing which manifests thus its sympathy with the purpose of God: "for we know," says the apostle, "that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Rom. 8:22). The mind of God cannot but manifest itself through nature, as well as in the movements and convulsions among the nations of the world; and though the specific lessons may have their difficulty, the general one is not hard to read. It is an unrest everywhere which cries for Him who alone has said ― who alone could venture to say ― "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest." And the cry sounds in His ears, and will find answer.

(4) With all this His people are warned of special trials. The world that crucified their Master will be the same world still. They must look for suffering even to death, the signs of the world's hatred for His name sake, and which will test the reality and measure of loyalty to Him on their part. Many will be stumbled and betray one another. False prophets will find their own in it and be listened to. And the abounding of lawlessness will have its effects even upon the mass in the decline of love. Let them have courage, however, as forewarned. They have but to have patience, and he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

It is manifest that, looking back over the Christian centuries, such things have characterized them throughout. They will end in an apostasy, out of which there will arise the giant forms of evil which will dominate the earth when the Lord shall have gathered His own out of it to Himself in heaven; and a new work of the Spirit shall begin in Israel, in order that the promises to her may be fulfilled. Those who have discerned the structure of the Apocalypse can be at no loss to discern, after the close of the Church's history as depicted in the epistles to the Asiatic churches (Rev. 2, 3), the united company of the redeemed in heaven (Rev. 4), the Lamb now taking the book of the future into His hands, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah; so that Israel nationally comes now upon the scene, as in the sealed ones of the seventh chapter out of  all her tribes. And now as soon as the book begins to be opened, the figures that come forth in answer to the cherubic call are again strikingly similar to what we have in the beginning of the great prophecy before us. Under the first seal the symbol is of foreign conquest; then we have civil war; then famine; then pestilence; then there are under the altar the souls of slaughtered saints; then a great earthquake, whether literal or political or both. And then with the seventh seal, the book is fully opened; and those who have skill to read will find the very prophecies of Daniel to which the Lord presently refers us beginning to be fulfilled, and the half-week of unequaled tribulation again and again brought forward in the following chapters (Rev. 7:14; Rev. 11:2-3; Rev. 12:6, 14; Rev. 13:5).

The closing word of encouragement here also, without denying its applicability to the Lord's people at any time, cannot but be felt to have special reference to this time of trouble, so severe and yet so brief, and with every day of it numbered. They have but to endure for this brief measured time, and deliverance will come for them. How tender a provision for them this numbering of the very days!

(5) And all through it also the testimony of God will go out to the nations. "This gospel of the Kingdom" will be preached, spite of the distress and opposition, "in all the habitable earth for a witness unto all nations." It would not be like God to allow the end to come without warning, and this is especially the character of the gospel then. It is not just what we have as that now, although the gospel of the Kingdom does go out surely now; but if we look at Rev. 14:6-7, which speaks of the same time and thing, we shall find that a special element enters into it then, which with us would be impossible to preach. The angel flying in the midst of heaven; there, has the "everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell upon the earth, and to every nation and kindred and tongue and people." It is expressly called the "everlasting gospel," that which has always been the gospel. The gospel of the Kingdom, the announcement of the putting down of evil by the power of God, has been sounding out ever since the promise was given of the victory of the woman's Seed; so that it is truly the everlasting gospel, and yet at the time we are speaking of, one thing is said which never could have been said at any other: it marks the exact time of going forth with the most perfect precision: "Fear God and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come." Then this will have come. The eagles will be gathering to the carcase. Judgment will have returned to righteousness. Instead of the shepherd's rod being transformed into a serpent, the shepherd's rod will smite down the serpent.

Thus, though with all our hearts we may thank God for the revival of the missionary spirit and work for the last century, we cannot properly apply to this the preaching of the everlasting gospel as we find it in Revelation. And the passage here also, while it may be better applicable to the present time, has yet, we may be sure, its full and final reference to the same period as that in Revelation. The "end" that then comes is that which will complete entirely the period of the seventy weeks, and so bring in the coming of the Son of man.

2. (1) It results from all that has been said, that that which now follows brings us completely to the end of the age, the determined time of God's disciplinary dealings with Israel, in order to bring them into their promised blessing under Christ, when He appears. This, if really the subject, at once sets aside the ordinary interpretations, which apply it to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. The reference to Daniel (Dan. 9:27; Dan. 11:31; Dan. 12:11) renders this impossible. The ninth chapter does indeed foretell the destruction by the Romans, but as distinctly separates it from the abomination of desolation; which comes in the middle of the last week of the seventy. It is in the midst of the week that sacrifice and oblation are made to cease, and this is commonly referred to the Cross as putting an end before God to the legal sacrifices. It is true that it did so, but how does this agree with the coming in of blessing at the end of the week, which must be and is allowed to be the end of the seventy? For, take away (as is commonly done) the application to Israel which is so plain in the angel's words, then the making an end of sins and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness must be itself by the Cross, and the Cross must be at the end of the week, and not in the middle. Count one half week of years, three-and-a-half years, after the Cross, and what can be shown as bringing in everlasting righteousness at such a time? But the passage itself most distinctly states the making sacrifice and oblation to cease to be in the midst of the week and not at the end of it. This is an argument which would seem to pass the ingenuity of man to meet.

The setting aside of sacrifice, then, is not by atonement; and the other passages clearly show this. Take Dan. 11:31: "They shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate"; or take the last passage of the three: "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up." In both cases it is clear that the taking away of sacrifice is for or with the setting up of the abomination. In the ninth chapter it should be clear, therefore, why as soon as the former is spoken of, we hear of the latter: "on account of the wing of abominations [there shall be] a desolator," as it reads literally: idolatrous abominations bring the desolation.

Certain it is that the application of the taking away of sacrifice to the Cross cannot be maintained, and that if it could, that of the abomination to the Roman invader of the first century still would be impossible. The abomination of desolation in Daniel is in the last week of Daniel's seventy; and this can only end with Israel's blessing fully come; and that means with the coming of the Son of man. In Matthew it is exactly the same: only a brief period of unequaled tribulation, which Daniel also unmistakably declares (Dan. 12:11), intervenes between the abomination and the coming of the Son of man; and this interval we can now exactly measure as three-and-a-half years. It is the "time, times and a half" of Dan. 7:25, and Dan. 12:7, and again of Rev. 12:14. It is the "forty and two months" of Rev. 11:2, and Rev. 13:5. It is the "thousand, two hundred and threescore days" of Rev. 11:3 and Rev. 12:6. So many are the witnesses to what the prophecy in Matthew now before us speaks of.

There is no need of saying much as to other applications. The profanation of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, and which ended in the revolt of the Jews under the Maccabees, while it was doubtless a partial fulfilment of Dan. 11:31, could not possibly fulfil either of the other passages, and was already a good while past when the Lord uttered this. The "abominations of the papacy," to which others would apply one of the passages in Daniel, are wholly out of question here in Matthew. Thus the application we are making of the Lord's words seems the only one really possible.

In Old Testament times, when truth of heart to the one God of Israel was the foundation of all, the false gods of the heathen were in a special sense the "abominations." Thus Milcom is called the "abomination of the Ammonites" and Chemosh of Moab (1 Kings 11:5, 7), Ashtoreth of the Zidonians (2 Kings 23:13); and there is no doubt that here (as is generally accepted) the desolating abomination is an idol or a false god. Israel has long been; and was then when the Lord spoke, and according to his own comparison; like a man out of whom this unclean spirit had gone (Matt. 12:43-45); but it is to return in the last days in a still more evil fashion; and a false god or idol in the sanctuary of God itself would be the very trumpet-note of defiance to Israel's Jehovah. In Dan. 7:25, we find of the last horn of the last beast or kingdom pictured there, and whose "great," that is, haughty "words" shall bring destruction upon the beast (ver. 11), that he shall "speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and the law (R.V.) and they shall be given into his hand, until a time and times and the dividing of a time." Thus again we find in Rev. 13, of what is undoubtedly the same evil one, that "there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and power was given him to continue" ― or "do," "practise," ― "forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle and them that dwell in heaven; and it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them." It is plain by just putting these texts together, that they speak of the same time and power; and we see how it is that the great tribulation of Daniel and of Matthew is brought about.

But in the same chapter of Revelation we are told of a second beast that shall arise along with the former with two horns like a lamb, but speaking like a dragon. He is like Christ, but a devilish imitation ― an Antichrist; and as Christ leads men to worship the Father, so "he causeth the earth and .them that dwell therein to worship the first beast;" and "he doeth great wonders so that he maketh fire to come down from heaven in the sight of men; and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast, saying to them that dwell on the earth that they should make an image to the beast… and he has power to give breath" ― not "life" "to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed."

As already said, it needs but to put these scriptures side by side to see how well they fit together. Taken apart, we may apply them to the pope or the Mohammedan power, as many do. Putting them together, the connection with the last half-week of the seventy, and the shortened tribulation of the last days, forbids this as an interpretation, which in Matthew is quite impossible. On the other hand, we see how this breathing and speaking image (if we are to take it literally) or whatever it may signify, connects with this closing tribulation; which is indeed the "time of Jacob's trouble," the travail-time of the nation, when they are "born" as "in a day" to God. And here we find the "elect," for whose sake the days are shortened, and who, when the Lord appears are to be gathered together from their long dispersion (Ezek. 37).

(2) The notice of the tribulation follows that of the abomination; but we have already sufficiently considered it.

(3) That of the signs and wonders in connection with false Christs and false prophets is also plain. In 2 Thess. 2. we have the same power as the "man of sin," sitting in the temple of God and showing himself that he is God. The connection with Christianity (or rather with apostasy from it) and the thought of the Church as the "temple of God," have combined to lead the mass of interpreters towards Romanism and the pope as the explanation of this also. But how could this be a sign of the day of the Lord being just at hand, when Romanism counts its centuries of despotic sway over men, and that day is not yet come? And again Rome is Babylon the great, the harlot, the woman of sin and not the man of sin. The dark and evil power to rise up at the end will not even profess obedience to Christ, as Rome does. The man of sin is "he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God." … "Even he whose coming is according to the work of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that are perishing; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved" (R.V.)

All this answers clearly to what we have in Matthew, and goes far beyond Romanism, evil as Romanism surely is. It links with all that we have had before, to certify the meaning of what we have here, a meaning which rather Scripture itself has given us than any interpretation of our own.

(4) They are warned now of any attempt to mislead by drawing away disciples after a Christ come secretly ― in the desert, or in the secret chambers. Not so would He come. The power of evil at work would have its snares laid on the right hand and on the left; but there would be no need for any nice discrimination to discern the truth.

(5) He would come openly, not secretly. The need appealing would be such as to call not for secret help but open interposition. His coming would be like the lightning lighting up all the heavens, the announcement of swift and unsparing judgment. Wherever the carcase, the corruption; existed the eagles would find it out: judgment would thoroughly do its work. In long-suffering patience there was no longer hope. Judgment itself was now the only mercy. The shepherd's rod must smite, and destroy the destroyers of the flock and the earth.

3. (1) We come therefore now to the appearing of the Lord, ushered in by signs throughout all nature. The sun and moon would fail; the stars fall from heaven. Nature itself would call for a stronger than creature hand to save it from ruin. Then would appear the sign for which men had asked. As Jonah to the Ninevites, so would He be again to them, the Son of man once crucified at their hands, now seen in the clouds of heaven. The sign would be Himself, and what a sign! They "look on Him whom they have pierced," ― not in their minds, not in vision, but really: "every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him," "and then shall all the tribes of the land lament" ― the reference to Zechariah (Zech. 12:10-14), both here and in Revelation (Rev. 1:7) is, or ought to be, unmistakable ― "and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." Joseph and His brethren are face to face.

Israel must be now re-gathered: this is the mission of the angels, to gather together His elect from the four winds. It might seem indeed as if the winds had scattered them: how little they think that angel hands shall bring them back! Brief are the words used, but how divine love breathes in them! what will be the joy in these from the far off country gathered home!

(2) "The man will not be at rest," says Naomi to her daughter-in-law, "until he has finished the thing this day." And the Lord now impresses upon His disciples the suddenness with which all this will be accomplished. The fig tree is once more chosen as a figure of Israel: and "when her branch is new and tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near." The fruit is there as soon as the leaves: thus the development is sudden indeed; summer in this way seems at once to set in: Israel's hopes come thus to sudden fruitage. The very generation that sees the beginning of these things will see the end.*

{*So the connection inclines me now to understand ver. 34. That "generation" (genea) may be taken as "race," or a people marked by certain moral characteristics, there can be no question at all for any one who has examined the matter: and in this sense I used to take it here, that that unbelieving generation of our Lord's day would continue on to the coming of the Lord itself. And this is, no doubt, true. I think, however, it is not so suited to the connection here as that given above, which is accepted by many. The suddenness of the end is the point insisted on.}

3 The Lord adds to this, what makes its suddenness more impressive, that the time in which it would take place was known to none, save only to His Father.* Upon the world all this would come as a surprise, just as the flood did in the days of Noah, judgment suddenly sweeping them to destruction. But at the end it would be separative, selective of its objects: two in the field, one taken and one left, two women at the hand-mill together, one taken and the other left. Here, as in the illustration from the time before the flood, it is judgment that "takes away": the one left is left for blessing; for the earth is now being purified, as we have seen; and where the carcase is the eagles are gathered together.

{*A very few ancient MSS. insert "neither the Son"; but Jerome asserts that, while in his day some Latin copies had it, yet in the Greek and especially "in Adamantii et Pierii exemplaribus" it was not found. According to Athanasius also it was alleged at the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325, that these words were in Mark only. I take this from a note of Dr. Schaff, the American editor in Lange's Commentary on Matthew.}

4 The Lord enjoins upon all to watch, just because they know not the day upon which He may come. For the world, it will be but the unexpected visit of the thief, breaking in upon the house they count their own. But let all be ready.

Subdivision 2. (Matt. 24:45 — 25:30.)

Separative judgment between true and false in the fellowship of faith the Church.

Here He introduces the parables which show us, by way of appendix to the Jewish aspect, the relation of His coming to the Church, but in a veiled manner. It was, in fact, what as yet they would not be able to enter into. The three parables which follow all remind us that in the Kingdom as committed in His absence to the hands of men, the true and the false would be mingled together, and at His coming only would the evil be purged out. Here we have therefore that separative judgment seen in relationship to what is professedly a fellowship of faith. The three parables have to do with ― 1st. the use and abuse of authority; 2nd. the Christian expectation of the Lord, the going forth to meet Him; and 3rd. the special deposit committed to each, and the heart towards Him as shown by the way the trust is discharged. We may notice that in all this part we have no reference to Daniel or to Old Testament prophecy any more. All in it belongs to the mysteries of the Kingdom unknown to the prophets of old, and which the very form of the parable expresses (Matt. 13:34-35). In what is commonly called the "parable" of the sheep and goats which follows, we have what is no longer that, but plain speech enough, the sheep and goats being only used by way of figurative illustration.

1. The coming of the Lord is, throughout these parables, the governing object. He is leaving the world as rejected by it; and it is characterized for the Christian as the place of that rejection. But He leaves it to prepare for His people a place in heaven, and He comes again to introduce them there, where He is. Israel has still the earthly promises; but the Church is a stranger here; for her portion and her heart are with Christ in another scene. In the meanwhile she is the representative of her Lord however upon earth, put in charge of His interests on it, and responsible to serve and glorify Him.

(1) In the first parable here it is of ministry that the Lord speaks, pressing the responsibility of him whom his Lord has set over His household, to give them food in due season. The value He puts upon such service is emphatically declared. Blessed shall he be whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find doing this in faithfulness and wisdom. He will even set him over all that He has.

It is service, as the same blessed Speaker has taught us not long since, that not only leads on to rule, but qualifies for it: just because all rule with God is service. "Love seeketh not her own." To seek one's own is the misery of a fallen creature, and in heaven no such beggar's badge can anywhere be found. Its places of trust are places of service therefore, new ability to serve, ― to satisfy love's desire, and pour out of fulness which shall find even there some room for happy overflow, if yet we know little what. Thus, then, the Lord looks at service here as qualifying for service, higher and fuller there ― reaping in the same sort as that which has been sown: and that is the law of harvest.

(2) But there is another side which we are to consider: for "if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and shall eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in an hour when he looketh not for him, and shall cut him asunder and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites." Plainly the man is a hypocrite: it is no case of ignorance merely as to prophetic teaching; it is what his heart says, whether his prophetic views are right or wrong. He, too, like Israel when the Lord came, wants the vineyard for himself, and this he shows by his conduct: he usurps authority over his fellow-servants, and associates himself with loose livers; it does not say that he becomes drunken, but a man is known by the company he keeps; and he is perhaps worse than his company because of the profession he makes. He is a hypocrite, and his doctrine (whether publicly professed or not) comes from his heart, as so much false doctrine does. We are apt to be easily persuaded of that which we want to be true; and so in this case.

Primarily, it is the individual of whom the Lord speaks, but we cannot be aware of the history of the Church without realizing that there is a wider significance; and that along with the decline of the expectation of the Lord's speedy return; and with the coincident assertion of the Church's heirship to Israel's promises, there did in fact ensue that hierarchical transformation of ministry into lordship which culminated at last in papal domination and the necessarily lax manners of the growing world-church. The grain of mustard-seed, enlarged into a tree, sent down its roots proportionately into the earth; and the parable of the transformation soon became its justification also. But this brings the judgment of the world upon the professing church itself: "upon thee goodness, if thou continue in His goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off" (Rom. 11:22). The true saints being removed to be with their Lord in heaven, there is left upon earth nothing but a decaying carcase, to which the eagles will presently gather. Upon every one so left, the awful doom will come which the Lord announces: "the Lord of that servant shall cut him asunder and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

2. The second parable deals still more directly with the Church's expectancy of Christ, which is indeed the very point of it; the figure of a marriage has been already used by the Lord in a parable of the Kingdom (Matt. 22) but there neither bridegroom nor bride is actually brought in; although the bridegroom is named as the King's son. The gathering of the guests is there the central feature of the parable; here it is the going forth to meet the bridegroom; and the Bridegroom Himself takes the most important place in it.

The bride is still not seen;* but not surely because the virgins are the bride in another aspect, as so many think. This is not more against the unity of thought than it is against the connection; or the orderly development of the revelation. For the heavenly bride has not yet been revealed; and the prophecy as a whole is evidently from the Jewish standpoint, from which the Baptist speaks when he says, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom" (John 3:23) Israel is the bride, as with the Old Testament prophets, and it is when Christ comes to take Israel into relationship to Himself, that on the way Christians are called out to meet Him and come with Him to the marriage. The very fact of being called out to meet Him shows who they are. Jewish disciples could not be called out to meet Him; and it is a New Testament truth altogether that "when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory."** Thus the bride is Jewish and the virgins are Christian; and if we will remember this, every feature of the parable becomes harmonious.

{*There is, however, a reading "and the bride" at the end of the first verse, which Westcott and Hort insert in their margin, and which Trench (Notes on the Parables) approves as to the sense, as conformed to the Jewish customs. Probably it is this conformity that has led to the interpolation, which is certainly opposed to the plain meaning of the parable. The marriage could not have taken place before the virgins are called out to meet the bridegroom.

**In Zechariah 14:5 "the Lord my God shall come, and all the holy ones with Thee" does not necessarily imply more than "angels"; and so with Enoch's prophecy which Jude quotes: "The Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints," or "holy ones."}

(1) "Then shall the Kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom."

The connective "then" has certainly a meaning, and as certainly connects this parable with that which has gone before; nay, even with the judgment upon the evil servant. But that will not suffice to make it mean all that interpreters have taken from it. But it is when the end is reached that the "likeness" of the Kingdom to what is here before us will be fully complete. Nevertheless the parable takes us back to the beginning of the Church's history ― to the time of first freshness, when the heathen world around was witness not only that they had "turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God," but also "to wait for His Son from heaven; even Jesus, who delivered them from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:9-10). What is referred to here is certainly not the fact of what at last took place when the midnight cry had aroused the sleepers, and when in fact the unpreparedness to go forth together immediately manifested itself. As yet the virgins are one, as it would seem, in heart and hope. Afterwards we find the tarrying of the bridegroom, the falling asleep, the startling cry; but not as yet.

The being "virgins" must not be pressed too far, nor yet lost sight of. Hebrew customs are illustrated in it all, even in the number, for "ten lamps or torches were the usual number in marriage processions"; still that does not in the least prevent there being a deeper meaning, for Scripture selects what it can turn to spiritual profit. Thus, though the virgins are not (from the point of view taken here) the bride, or the espoused, yet we are not to refuse the conception naturally attaching to such, of purity, of separation from the world; while the number ten; as well as five, show that this is their responsibility rather than necessarily the reality of their condition. And this comes out clearly in the sequel, though it has been lost sight of by many, in a way that has not only led to misconstruction of the parable but has perverted important truth. The going out to meet the bridegroom is, in the first place and essentially, in desire and expectation of heart, though it results in a positive "going forth" from the world and its associations. A heart in heaven can be fairly measured by the reality of pilgrim- and stranger-ship on earth.

(2) A great and fundamental contrast is found to exist between two classes of these virgins: "five of them were foolish and five were wise." And their folly or wisdom is shown in regard to that for which they had come out: "the foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them; but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps."

Here naturally the difference between those of whom I have just spoken and other interpreters comes out. We are told that in this parable all are spoken of as "virgins;" while in those that precede and follow it, all are spoken of as "servants." They are therefore all alike true Christians ― "Christians with no stain upon the genuineness of their profession, but whose Christianity lacks that maturity of growth, depth of consecration, and perfection of development which can alone entitle to the highest honors and joys of the kingdom." And this is supposed to be shown in the fact that their lack in the case spoken of here "is not of oil in their lamps, but of oil in their vessels with their lamps" ― an extra supply of grace, which the wise virgins carried with them.

A lamp without any oil is, no doubt, a foolish thing enough; too foolish, it might be supposed, for any to think of. Spiritually, however, alas! there is no difficulty at all in the conception of what is seen continually, men satisfied with the form without the power; and this is even the special characteristic of the last days (2 Tim. 3:1, 5). "The lamps consisted of a round receptacle for pitch or oil for the wick. This was placed in a hollow cup or deep saucer which was fastened by a pointed end into a long wooden pole, on which it was borne aloft." It is distinctly said that the "foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them"; but we cannot definitely say whether the "vessels" in which the wise took their oil were just the receptacles on the top of the poles or something separate altogether from the lamps. The foolish have no oil, no power of the Spirit to make "a burning and a shining light" for Christ; and this their end demonstrates absolutely.

(3) The bridegroom tarries, and this has its effect upon them all. Wise and foolish alike, they become drowsy and sleep. So in the history of the professing church the expectation of the Lord grew languid and ceased. The expectation of the conversion of the world came in to replace the true Christian hope of being taken out of it, the millennial reign being finally interpreted by the event, of the overthrow of paganism in the Roman empire. After Constantine, but one prominent teacher is known to have favored what was then called "chiliasm"; and he an unsound man.* There was no longer a watcher to disturb the slumberers.

{*Apollinaris the Younger, bishop of Laodicea (died A.D. 390).}

In the middle of the night, however, a cry is heard, "Behold the Bridegroom; come ye out to meet Him;" and this rouses all the virgins. It is more, surely, than a revival of the doctrine of the Lord's coming which is indicated by this: it is a definite announcement, rather, of His being at hand, which is followed so promptly by His actual arrival that there is no time for those who are awakened unprepared to remedy their condition.

(4) All are aroused; and then comes the conviction on the part of the foolish, "Our lamps are going out." It is urged therefore that they had been lighted up to this time, and that they must have had oil in them, for this to be; but the parables appeal so constantly to the thoughts and feelings of men; that the argument is an unsafe one. The words are their cry only, not necessarily fact at all. And the "ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance" in the well-known fifteenth of Luke, are they in fact such, or in their own thoughts? Surely in their own thoughts only; they are in fact the Pharisees whom the Lord has before Him. So here, it is not necessarily the fact that the lamps were ever lit; and the warning is a solemn one, that one may have a good enough light to welcome the Bridegroom, when He is not there, and find, when faced with the reality, that the light reckoned on expires at once!

The foolish show their folly by their appeal to the wise. In the spiritual application of these things, none but fools could make it; for while a true soul, with the eyes on the wrong object, might fall almost into despair, yet none surely could expect to borrow from another of the grace that was in him to make a light wherewith to meet the Bridegroom. The wise virgins direct them to those that sell, to buy for themselves; and in fact Scripture exhorts men elsewhere to "buy," though "without money and without price" (Isa. 55:1). Such "selling" speaks of fixed terms upon which alone the one who seeks may obtain what he desires; and in this way, paradoxical as it may seem, we may buy without money. Nay, the very terms of the gospel are that "the gift of God" cannot be "purchased with money," or with anything that religiously might be its equivalent. The pride that will not take a free gift as such must be sent empty away.

5 They are too late, these foolish ones; for "while they were gone away to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us." But they are shut out; shut out, if (as all seems to indicate) it is the earthly marriage, from the earthly joy and blessing, as well as the heavenly; and in any case this is the truth of it. The Lord disowns any knowledge of them; and this He could not do of His own. All that is said of them too sadly agrees with this.*

{* Alford, Olshausen, and others deny the finality of the judgment here but Schaff is wrong in asserting that millenarian commentators in general take this view. He should at least own that there are many exceptions.}

3. (1) The parable which now follows speaks of the special trusts committed to the servants of the Lord in the time of His absence from them. They are left to care for His interests, and the "talents" are not what is ordinarily taken to be that, ― some natural endowment or capacity, ― but something added to this, while taking it fully into account: to each one is given "according to his own ability." It cannot be further defined than as being like money in different amounts, possibilities of gain for Christ, what in His love to God and man He counts such. The deposit itself increases by wise use of it; the sphere of service grows larger, as we serve; and this is a point insisted on. The five talents grow to ten; the two to four: capacity necessarily growing also by experience, as we know so well. How little in spiritual things are we any of us shut up to mediocrity, as we are prone to imagine, and suffer seriously by the imagination too.

(2) This is presently seen in the conduct of the three depicted here, though it is not, of course, at all a sufficient account of it. Yet it is worthy of note that the man who hides his lord's money in the ground, is not the one who has received five talents, or even the man who has received but two. And we understand well how natural this is, that it should be the receiver of the smallest gift who makes no use of it. It need not be so: the man of splendid natural ability, and who has corresponding opportunities and super-added endowments may be the very one to forfeit all by his neglect or perversion of them. Still the appropriateness and power of exhortation for us in this circumstance of the parable must not be on this account overlooked. It is the little gift which tends to be despised as little; to the great injury of the people and the cause of Christ. For thus the mass of Christians almost drop out of responsibility, drop into inactivity, more or less complete, ― practically give up their talent into the hands of those they esteem better qualified than themselves; who, however, cannot do the work thus imposed upon them, and it remains undone; but this is the largest part of all the Church's work! How necessary to remember that "much more they that are feeble are necessary," and to give a right answer to the prophet's question; "Who has despised the day of small things?"

Suppose we have but one talent, every day's believing use of it will carry us on some way towards two. We are not shut up within the limits of God's first gift. We may shut ourselves up; and by hiding our talent in the earth, both lose what we have and the capacity for gaining more. For the rule is, "to him that hath" ― in the way of increase ― "shall more be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away."

(3) Another thing becomes manifest in result: that it is not the amount with which we are entrusted that ensures the reward, but the faithfulness shown as to it. The servant who had the five talents has gained five talents; but he who has gained but two has as much doubled his capital as the other has, and is received with the same approval into the joy of his lord. It would be possible for the one with the smaller trust, to win even the higher approbation; and it is something for the Lord to find one of His own willing to serve as cheerfully in a humbler as in a higher position. To a love that "seeketh not her own," all would be equal here, though love itself may "covet earnestly the best gifts," these meaning fuller capacity for love's sweet service.

(4) As principles all these things apply to every Christian; yet we are not allowed to suppose that the man who hides his lord's money in the absolute way here described is possibly, after all, a Christian. His plea for it here is total unbelief, and expressed in such a way as would be impossible to the stoutest-hearted in the day which is referred to. But the Lord puts into language of the most out-spoken character what the conduct supposed would really mean. Faith would argue as to every gift of God that He who gave it had made no mistake, and that the possession of anything wherewith to serve was sufficient warrant for service; and love would prize the opportunity for this as blessing from the divine Source of blessing. The man before us is a mere accuser of his Lord; but so would He teach us to judge the legal spirit which, even in a believer, would render one incapable of using frankly and fully whatever he is possessed of, in the service of Him who has bestowed it. If we abhor the awful blasphemy which this man utters, let us abhor the unfaithful and cowardly refusal of our responsibilities which means the entertainment (however disguised) of traitorous thoughts like these. "Faith worketh by love"; and love is the free spirit of service. Lack of the one is, therefore, lack of the other; while we may be sure, and for that reason; that no true believer could be found as this man, with his Lord's talent lying entirely unused.

5 Accordingly the judgment here is absolute condemnation. He is condemned out of his own mouth, for if his master were what he thought him, he should have given his money to the bankers, that he might have received his own with interest. He is cast out into the outer darkness, which speaks of the awful darkness, away from God who is light, and of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.

Subdivision 3. (Matt. 25:31-46.)

The day of manifestation.

Thus Israel and the professing church have been before us in their relation to the coming of the Lord; and now we have the Gentiles similarly, ― the judgment of the living nations, when, having come, and His throne established upon the earth, He casts out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and those that work iniquity ― a judgment not to be confounded with the final judgment of the "great white throne," which is a judgment of the wicked dead alone.

To those who see in Scripture but one general resurrection of saint and sinner at the last day, with one general judgment in which the righteous will be manifested and separated from the wicked, the scene that the Lord puts before us here seems naturally to picture what is in their own minds. If their view be right, it is, of course, quite clear that it must picture it; and this it is to which we must confine our attention here: does it indeed represent a judgment of all the generations of men; Jew, Christian; heathen, dead and living, at the end of the world? Is this what it states or what it implies? If so, we must heartily and unreservedly accept this, assured that it will be found, of necessity, in conformity with all other scriptures; and that if it plainly declares this, we may accept it even without going further. But it must plainly declare it.

Now the coming of the Son of man in His glory with all His holy angels with Him, we have already seen in its relation to Israel, and to the prophecy of Daniel, to which our Lord Himself directly points us. In Daniel He comes to receive a kingdom which He shares with the "saints of the most high" and which stands for ever; first of all, breaking in pieces and consuming the kingdoms of the earth (Dan. 2:34-35). There surely can be no doubt, except to those entirely prepossessed with other thoughts, that this is a kingdom yet to be set up. To speak of the saints reigning now is a thought utterly foreign to Scripture. It is to the overcomer that the Lord promises that he shall sit with Him on His throne, even as He also overcame and is set down with His Father upon His throne (Rev. 3:21). Who could sit with Christ upon the Father's throne? And notice He is speaking in this promise as Son of man; walking in that character among the candlesticks (Rev. 1:13). If Christians "reign as kings without" the apostles, (who certainly never did) it is a rebuke simply to mention it (1 Cor. 4:8).

Thus the Kingdom in Daniel is the Kingdom for which still we wait, introduced by that personal and manifest coming in the clouds of heaven of which Matthew (as well as Daniel) speaks, and it is when the Son of man so comes and sits on the throne of His Kingdom that the nations are gathered before Him in the manner spoken of here. There is no hint of resurrection here, and for a good reason. The first resurrection has already taken place before His appearing, for when He appears, we shall appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). This is indeed a truth which Matthew does not reveal to us, though we have seen the living saints called forth to meet the Bridegroom. But it is a thing made known afterwards to Paul "by the word of the Lord," that the dead saints are to join this blessed company and rise to "meet the Lord in the air," together with them (1 Thess. 4:14-17). Thus it is plain why there is no mention of resurrection after He is come, and that there could not be any. The wicked dead are yet in their graves, and will only come forth after the millennium is at an end, to stand before the "great white throne" for judgment (Rev. 20:5, 11-13). The company gathered before the Son of man when He appears and sets up His throne on earth, is simply of living men who have never died, and of Gentiles only.

The judgment is a selective judgment, ― the righteous separated from the wicked, the "sheep from the goats." But the saints alive or dead of the present or the past dispensations, will not (as we have seen) stand in such a promiscuous assemblage, to be picked out from the rest by the judgment of their works. The first resurrection will have separated them wholly and for ever. Raised or changed, the saints caught up to meet the Lord in the air will be already in His likeness (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 52). Give account of themselves they will, and their works will be appraised for suited recompense, but personally into judgment they cannot come (John 5:24, R.V.). Thus it should be absolutely clear that they are not among the mingled company which the King judges here.

But a difficulty arises in the mind immediately ― one of those difficulties by which, if fairly met, we are led on to fuller apprehension of the truth itself. It may be naturally asked, if the Lord thus takes away to Himself all the living saints before His appearing, how can there be any "sheep" to put upon His right hand when the Son of man appears? What are they who now are welcomed by the King, as blessed of His Father, to inherit the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world?

A similar question, it will be remembered, is asked of John in Revelation (Rev. 7:13) by one of those elders whom he has seen in heaven; sitting upon thrones around the throne of God, and heard singing the song of redemption in the presence of the Lamb (Rev. 5:7-10). Here is another company, distinct from these, as also from the 144,000 sealed out of the tribes of Israel, just before seen. They are Gentiles, "out of every nation and tribe and people and tongue," with blood-washed robes and palms in their hands, and the elder asks, "Who are these? and whence do they come?" He asks, and has himself to answer: "These are they who come out of the great tribulation" ― not simply "out of great tribulation," which might apply very generally to Christians, but out of the tribulation of which Daniel and the Lord in Matthew speak. Thus they are a company precisely defined and limited, and to the very time of the prophecy before us, ― a time in which, if we compare the scriptures, Christianity in the true sense of that term is taken from the earth. Once more, Jew and Gentile, even in blessing, form distinct companies; temple-worship is again going on, till the abomination of desolation stands in the holy place; it is in short that "end of the (Jewish) age," which is nothing else than the cut-off end of Daniel's seventy weeks, ― the last week.

In it we see the "everlasting gospel" going out (Rev. 14:6-7), declaring (gospel as it is) "the hour of God's judgment" to have come; and here the instrumentality used is, no doubt, Jewish. Thus we can understand the special character of the judgment itself which turns entirely upon how men have treated the King in His "brethren," the time being that in which "His brethren," instead of being separate, as while the natural promises and privileges were in abeyance, have returned, as Micah prophesies they will, unto the children of Israel (Micah 5:3). Even the apparent ignorance, on the part of the righteous, of the glorious King can in this way be accounted for; because it is only when they look upon Him whom they have pierced that the veil drops completely off Israel's own face (Zech. 12:10; Zech. 13:6). No wonder if the Gentiles, turned by their means to God, should not be in advance of the ministry they have received.

Thus there is fullest harmony; and we see that this last week is indeed a seed-time for Israel and the earth. Before it begins, the Lord has called His saints of the past and present up to Himself, and removed the candlestick of Christianity from the earth, spuing out, as in the threat to Laodicea, the mere lukewarm profession. Darkness then covers the earth, and gross darkness the peoples, but the light begins to rise upon Israel, the morning (stormy as it is) of an unending day (Isa. 60:

There needs not much more to be said of this closing part of the Lord's prophecy. For the righteous there is eternal life, death being for them completely abolished. They "go into eternal life," ― which is not yet said even of the Christian; and the immensely lengthened life of that time Isaiah witnesses (Isa. 65:20-22). On the other hand the wicked go away into eternal punishment ― the fire prepared, not for man but "for the devil and his angels." They share the portion of those to whom they have chosen to unite themselves. All Scripture declares, with this passage, that it is strictly eternal.*

{*See for a full discussion, "Facts and Theories as to a Future State".}

I do not know of another scripture which treats definitely of such a sessional judgment of the Gentiles as that which the Lord puts before us in this prophecy. The fiftieth psalm seems about as unique with regard to a similar judgment in Israel, when Jehovah having come and shining in glory out of Zion gathers before Him the covenanted people, and when there are, apparently, as here among the Gentiles, the wicked whom He addresses. Psalm fifty-one follows with a general confession on the part of the nation; who own their guilt in the rejection of Christ (see "Notes"). But the Lord's words in Matthew, in accordance with the character of the New Testament generally, bring in more clearly the eternal consequences.

In general the judgment of the nations when the Lord appears is set" before us, as even in Revelation (Rev. 19), as a smiting with the sword. In the symbolic language of the Apocalypse, Christ is pictured as a Warrior upon a white horse, whom the "armies in heaven" follow. The beast and the kings of the earth and their army are gathered together to make war with Him that sits upon the horse, and with His army. The beast and false prophet are taken and cast alive into the lake of fire; while those that follow them are slain with the sword that proceeds out of the mouth of Him who thus manifests Himself as the "King of kings and Lord of lords." Taken with arms in their hands, in open rebellion; there is no need of judicial inquiry in such a case. But, undoubtedly, with the "rest of the dead" (Rev. 20:5) they await the judgment of the "great white throne" for their measured out award. And this marks a wide difference between the selective judgment of Matthew and the distributive judgment which closes up the record. That in Matthew, being simply selective, requires but the one point to be raised ― for Christ or against? While that of the great white throne, being judgment according to their works, requires the whole life-history to be brought into account. As forming no part of the "first resurrection," the "resurrection of life," all is settled for these as to the company with which they stand: it is of the "few stripes," or the "many" that alone there is question.

An Old Testament prophet confirms with his testimony that of Revelation. "And it shall come to pass in that day," says Isaiah (Isa. 24:21-23), "that Jehovah shall punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; and after many days they shall be visited. Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed: for Jehovah of hosts shall reign in mount Zion; and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously."

Revelation shows us both the punishment of the "host of the high ones on high," as implied in the binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1-3) and casting him into the abyss, and that of the "kings of the earth upon the earth." But the great assize is not then. The millennium intervenes before their "visitation" comes, and final judgment. The Old Testament doctrine is in necessary harmony with the New and with the so-called "premillennial" interpretation of it.

The Old Testament also shows us Gentile nations outside of the empire of the "beast" and his associates, ― the "Latin" nations. "Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal" is neither in the empire, nor in alliance with it; and the names given and the powers connected, show not obscurely Russia and the east (Ezek. 38, 39). Daniel's "King of the north" is as certainly Greek, all through his closing chapters; and his position and might, which is not his own (Dan. 8:24) suggest that his connection is with the colossus at his back. All these are to find Jerusalem "a burdensome stone" to them, and meet their judgment at the day of the appearing of the Lord.

But these are the banded armies, behind which are the nations themselves; and we hear of spared ones sent to them (Isa. 66: And so His Kingdom still extends, not by a sudden revelation; as we might expect, and divine power alone, but by the aid of human instruments, with an economy of that which at such a time we might think would cease to be held for miracle, instructive to realize.

Christianity, it must be remembered, has entirely passed away. The true saints in Christendom having been taken up to meet the Lord in the air, those that have refused His grace while the day of grace continued, have been given up to strong delusion; to believe the lie of Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:8-12). These swell the ranks of the followers of the beast and false prophet; and their doom is fixed (Rev. 14:9-11). But the mercy of God still finds its objects, those whom divine wisdom and love may count never to have really had the truth before them, so as to have rejected it, and to these, as well as those outside all profession; the everlasting gospel may bring salvation yet. To the Old Testament prophets Christianity is a thing unknown, and in their writings we must not expect to find it. The book of Revelation it is that adds all this to the Old Testament.

Among the nations outside of the Latin powers, it would seem that the same power of delusion will work in gathering after "false prophets," if not after "false Christs." The Lord warns of these in that day, as if there were more than the one special form of Antichrist which we find in the land of Israel. Satan has usually more than one device, and although never really "divided against himself," can work upon men by deceits of diverse kinds. Thus the Grecian king of the last days, ― quite distinct as he is from the more conspicuous form of evil, ― is spoken of as a king "of bold countenance, and understanding dark sentences" and who "stands up against the Prince of princes." This is usually taken to be Antiochus, or else Mohammed; but both are negatived as the complete fulfilment by the time specified for the fulfilment by the interpreting angel, "for the vision belongeth to the time of the end," "the end of the indignation" ― of God against Israel, ― "the appointed time of the end" (Dan. 8:17, 19, R.V.). Such expressions a comparison with what we have had in Matthew should make absolutely clear.

How little we realize what "he that restraineth" (2 Thess. 2:7, R.V.) is keeping back, and the flood-tide of evil ready to roll in; when in righteous compensation for the refusal of God's fullest grace, "he is taken out of the way." It is surely the Spirit of God as now working out His purposes as to the Church, that is the restraining power. He alone is competent for it. But the wearing out of divine patience is already manifesting itself for those that have eyes to see. The fearful "end" is not far off.

It is the "cutting off" of the Gentile church, which the apostle at the beginning distinctly threatened (Rom. 11:21-22), and thus the absence of Christianity from the world when Old Testament prophecy resumes its now suspended course of fulfilment, which necessarily baffles every interpreter who does not recognize this. For he must in that case necessarily bring in what he looks for, and apply what relates to Israel wholesale to the Christian church. It must be so: for while the Church is the object of God's favor upon earth, the Jews (nationally) are "enemies for your sake" (Rom. 11:28). Christianity and Judaism cannot go on together; and the "end of the age," the Lord's prophecy here shows fully to be Jewish. For this to come, the Church, as well as the Holy Spirit indwelling her, must be taken out of the way; and "then" only "shall that wicked one be revealed," who for this reason cannot be the papacy, for it will have then no Christian "temple of God" to "sit in" (2 Thess. 2:4). Any neglect of landmarks so definite as these must work confusion as to the interpretation of prophecy.

Thus the "everlasting gospel" sent out to the nations (Rev. 14:6. 7) is applied without question to the missionary labors of the present day, although we may be thankful to know that the devoted men who give themselves to this blessed work, could scarcely find their Christian evangel in the words of the angel there, and most certainly do not say, what is so characteristic of the time to which it really refers, "the hour of His judgment is come." They say on the contrary, and rightly, with the apostle, "Now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation."

But upon all this here is not the place to enlarge further. We pass on to very different themes from this.