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Jerusalem. (his disciples) came to him for to shew him the Matt. xxiv. I.
buildings of the temple;
in the temple, surrounded by the multitude and his own disciples; when he left
The coming of Christ, and the end of the world, being therefore only different expressions to denote the same period as the destruction of Jerusalem, the purport of the disciples' question plainly is, When shall the destruction of Jerusalem be—and what shall be the signs of it? The latter part of the question is
(a) Discipuli communi Juædorum occupati errore arbitrabantur, Messiam præsentem Gentium victorem extiturum, atque triumphorum suorum celebritate universum, qua patet, orbem esse impleturum; porro ex ejus victoriis profundissimam pacem regni ejus esse extituram, in qua felicissima futura esset eorum, qui in partes regni ejus venirent, apostolorum et discipulorum conditio: tum denique unam veram religionem, sublato omni dissensu, idololatriâ et falsâ prophetiâ submotâ, orbem terrarum esse occupaturam. Hanc vero aapnoiav illustratura esse signa quædam luculenta, vel extraordinarios quosdam eventus, quibus adesse jam eum ad regnum ejusmodi capessendum constet, recepta tum fuit et hodie adhuc est Judæorum opinio, &c. Rosenmüller Scholia. in Matt. vol. 1. p. 469.70. Rosenmüller refers in this last sentence to the custom said to be observed among the Jews of opening their windows in a thunder storm, in expectation of their Messiah.
Luke xxi. 5. how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, Jerusalem. Mark xiii. 1, and saith unto him, Master, see what manner of
stones and what buildings are here!
the first answered, and our Saviour foretells, in the clearest manner, the signs of his coming, and the destruction of Jerusalem. He then passes on to the other part of the question, concerning the time of his coming. History is the only certain interpreter of prophecy; and by a comparison of the two, we shall see with what stupendous accuracy the latter has been accomplished. Our blessed Saviour foretells, as the first sign of his coming, that there should be false prophets, (Matt. xxiv. 4, 5.) adding (Luke xxi. 8.) "the time draweth near;" and we find, in a very short time, this prophecy began to be realized. Very soon after our Lord's decease, Simon Magus appeared, and bewitched the people of Samaria, &c. (Acts viii. 9, 10.) See also Acts xxi. 38.
Of the same stamp and character was also Dositheus, the Samaritan, who pretended that he was the Christ foretold by Moses.
About twelve years after the death of our Lord, when Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judæa, arose an impostor of the name of Theudas, who said he was a prophet, and persuaded a great multitude to follow him with their best effects to the river Jordan, which he promised to divide for their passage ; "and, saying these things,” says Josephus, “ he deceived many:" almost the very words of our Lord.
A few years afterwards, under the reign of Nero, while Felix was procurator of Judæa, impostors of this stamp were so frequent, that some were taken and killed almost every day. Jos. Ant. b. xx. c. 4. and 7. It was a just judgment for God to deliver up that people into the hands of false Christs, who had so wilfully rejected the true one.
The next signs given by our Lord, are, “Wars and rumours of wars," &c. These may be seen in Josephus, (b. xviii. c. 9. War. b. xi. c. 10.) especially as the rumours of wars, when Caligula ordered his statue to be set up in the temple of God, which the Jews having refused, had every reason to expect a war with the Romans; and were in such consternation on the occasion, that they even neglected to till the ground : but their fears were soon dissipated by the timely death of that emperor.
“ Nation shall rise up against nation." This portended greater disturbances than those which took place under Caligula, in the latter times of Claudius, and in the reign of Nero. It foretold the dissension, insurrections, and mutual slaughter of the Jews, and those of other nations, who dwelt in the same cities together; as particularly at Cesarea, where the Jews and Syrians contended about the right of the city, which ended in the total expulsion of the Jews, above 20,000 of whom were slain. The'whole Jewish nation, being exasperated at this, flew to arms, and burnt and plundered the neighbouring cities and villages of the Syrians, making an immense slaughter of the people. The Syrians, in return, destroyed not a less number of the Jews. At Scythopolis they murdered upwards of 13,000; at Ascalon they killed 2500 ; at Ptolemais they slew 2000, and made many prisoners. The Tyrians also put many Jews to death, and imprisoned more: the people of Gadara did likewise ; and all the other cities of Syria, in proportion as they hated or feared the Jews. At Alexandria the Jews and Heathens fought, and 50,000 of the former were slain. The people of
And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest Mark xiii. 2. thou these great buildings?
Damascus conspired against the Jews of that city, and assaulting them unarmed, killed 10,000 of them.
“Kingdom against kingdom.” This portended the open wars of different tetrarchies and provinces against each other. That of Jews and Galileans against the Samaritans, for the murder of some Galileans going up to the feast of Jerusalem, while Cumanus was procurator. That of the whole nation of Jews against the Romans and Agrippa, and other allies of the Roman empire ; which began when Gessius Florus was procurator; and that of the civil war in Italy, when Otho and Vitellius were contending for the empire. It is worthy of remark, that the Jews themselves say, “ In the time of the Messiah, wars shall be stirred up in the world; nation shall rise against nation, and city against city.” Sohar Kadash. Again, Rab. Eleasar, the son of Abina, said, “When ye see kingdom rising against kingdom, then expect the immediate appearance of the Messiah.” Berashith Rabba, sect. 42.
“ There shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places." And we find a famine foretold by Agabus, (Acts xi. 28.) which is mentioned by Suetonius, Tacitus, and Eusebius, which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cesar; and was so severe at Jerusalem, that Josephus says, (Ant. b. xx. c. 2.) many died for lack of food. Pestilences are the usual attendants of famines; as the scarcity and badness of provisions generally produce epidemic disorders. There were several earthquakes likewise in those times to which our Lord refers; particularly one at Crete, in the reign of Claudius ; one at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, and Samos; one at Rome, mentioned by Tacitus; and one at Laodicea, in the reign of Nero, in which the city was overthrown, as were likewise Hierapolis and Colosse; one at Campania, mentioned by Seneca; and one at Rome, in the reign of Galba, mentioned by Suetonius, in the life of that emperor. Add to to all these a dreadful one in Judæa, mentioned by Josephus, (War, b. iv. c. 4.) accompanied by a dreadful tempest, violent winds, vehement showers, and continual lightnings and thunders ; which led many to believe that these things portended some uncommon calamity.
“ That there shall be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.” (chap. xxi. 11.) Josephus, in his preface to the Jewish war, mentions, that a star hung over the city like a sword; and a comet continued a whole year. The people being assembled at the feast of unleavened bread, at the ninth hour of the night, a great light shone about the altar and the temple, and this continued for half an hour. The eastern gate of the temple, which was of solid brass, and could hardly be shut by twenty men, and was fastened by strong bars and bolts, was seen at the sixth hour of the night to open of its own accord! Before sunsetting there was seen, over all the country, chariots and armies fighting in the clouds, and besieging cities. At the feast of Pentecost, when the priests were going into the inner temple by night, to attend their service, they heard first a motion and noise, and then a voice as of a multitude, saying, “Let us depart hence." What Josephus reckons one of the most terrible signs of all was, that one Jesus, a country fellow, four years before the war began, and when the city was in peace and plenty, came to the feast of tabernacles, and ran crying up and down the streets, day and night : “A voice from the East, a voice from the West! a Jerusalem.
Matt. xxiv. 2. See ye not all these things ?.
voice from the four winds! a voice against Jerusalem and the temple! a voice against the bridegroom and the bride! and a voice against all the people !" Though the magistrales endeavoured, by stripes and tortures, to interrogate him, they could obtain no answer but the mournful cry of, “ Woe, woe to Jerusalem !" and this he continued to do for several years together, going about the walls, and crying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe to the city, and to the people, and to the temple !" and, as he added, “ Woe, woe to myself,” a stone from some sling or engine struck him dead on the spot !
These were indeed fearful signs and wonders; and there is not a more credible historian than the one who relates them, who appeals to the testimony of those who saw and heard them. But an additional evidence is given to his relation by the Roman historian Tacitus, who presents us with a summary account of the same occurrences; and as "the testimonies of Josephus and Tacitus confirm the predictions of Christ, so the predictions of Christ confirm the wonders recorded by these historians (6).” But these were only the beginnings of sorrows, (Matt. xxiv. 8.) and from the calamities of the nation in general, Christ passes to those of the Christians in particular, (xxiv. 9. Mark xiii. 9. 11. Luke xxi. 13, 14, 15.) We need look no further than the Acts of the Apostles for a melancholy proof of the truth of their predictions. But although the followers of Christ's religion were persecuted beyond measure, it is a remarkable fact, and a signal act of Divine Providence, that none of the Christians perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. So literally was that assertion fulfilled, " There shall not an hair of your head perish." And; notwithstanding the persecutions and calamities of the Christians, it was prophesied, " This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come." And accordingly we find, from the writers of the history of the Church, that before the destruction of Jerusalem the Gospel was not only preached in the Lesser Asia, and Greece, and Italy, but as far northward as Scythia, as far southward as Ethiopia, as far eastward as Parthia and India, and as far westward as Spain and Britain. Agreeably to this, Eusebius (c) informs us that the Apostles preached the Gospel in all the world, and some of them (probably either St. Simon or St. Paul,) passed beyond the ocean to the Britannic Isles. Theoderet likewise affirms, that the Apostles had induced every nation and kind of men to embrace the Gospel, among whom he reckons particularly the Britons; and St. Paul himself declares, the Gospel " is come into all the world, and preached to every creature under heaven;" and (in Rom. x. 18.) he elegantly applies to the lights of the Church these words of the Psalmist, “ Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” And all this was fulfilled to convince every nation of the crying sin of the Jews, in crucifying the Lord of glory, and of the justice of God's judgment upon them. And then came the end, the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish polity, when the abomination of desolation stood in the holy place. The verses (15 and 16 of Matt. xxiv.) are explained by the parallel pas
(6) Jortin. (c) Demonst. Evang. lib. iii. cap. 5. sect. 112. edit. Paris, 1628. and Theodor. serm. ix. tom. iv, p. 610. edit. Paris, 1642, ap. Jortir.
Verily I say unto you,
Matt, xxiv. 3.
sage in Luke xxi. 20, 21. The Roman army is the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, chap. ix. and xi. and it is so called, from its ensigns and images, which were abominations to the Jews; and Josephus informs (d) us, that after the city was taken, the Romans brought these ensigns into the temple, placed them over against the eastern gate, and there sacrificed to them.
“ Then let them which be in Judæa filee into the mountains." This counsel was remembered, and wisely followed by the Christians afterwards. And we find it accordingly most providentially ordered, that Jerusalem should be encompassed with armies, and yet that the Christians should have favourable opportunities of making their escape. Josephus (sect. iv. p. 1102. edit. Hudson) tells us that Cestius Gallus, in the 12th year of Nero, if " he had been inclined to break through the walls of the city by force, would instantly have taken it, and put an end to the war;" but, contrary to the expectation of all, and without any just cause, he departed. Vespasian was deputed in his place, as governor of Syria, and to carry on the wars against the Jews; and when he had subdued all the country, and was preparing to besiege Jerusalem, the death of Nero, and soon afterwards that of Galba, compelled him, from the disturbances and civil wars that ensued in his own country, to defer for some time his plan of operations against Jerusalem. These apparently incidental delays enabled the Christians to provide for their safety; and Eusebius and Epiphanius inform us, that all who believed in Christ left Jerusalem, and fled to Perea, and other places beyond the river Jordan. Josephus also remarks, after the retreat of Cestius Gallus, “Many of the illustrious Jews departed from the city, as from a sinking ship.” After this period, when Vespasian was confirmed in the empire, Titus surrounded the city with a wall, thirty-nine furlongs in dimensions, strengthened with thirteen forts, so that, Josephus says, “ with all means of escaping, all hope of safety was cut off from the remaining Jews." So marvellously did our blessed Saviour ensure, by his prophecy, deliverance to those who believed on him, and had faith in his promises: and so always “ The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations," 2 Pet. ii. 9. Our Saviour makes use of the expressions in Mark xiii. 15. and Matt. xxiv. 18. to signify that the departure of the Christians must be as sudden and hasty as Lot's from the destruction of Sodom.
" For then shall be great tribulation.” No history can furnish us with a parallel to the calamities and miseries of the Jews : rapine, murder, famine, and pestilence, within ; fire and sword, and all the horrors of war without Our Lord wept at the foresight of these calamities; and it is almost impossible for any humane person to read the relation of them in Josephus, without weeping also. St. Luke, chap. xxi. 22. calls these the days of vengeance, that all things which were written might be fulfilled. These were the days in which all the calamities predieted by Moses, Joel, Daniel, and other prophets, as well as those foretold by our Saviour, met in one common centre, and were fulfilled in the most terrible manner on that generation. These were the days of vengeance in another sense, as if God's judgments had certain periods and revolu
(d) Antiq. lib. xviii. cap. 6. sect. 3. ed Hudson.