And as he went forth out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him Master, behold, what manner, of stones and what manner of buildings! This would be in the evening. According to St. Luke (Luke 21:37), our Lord, during the early part of this week, passed his nights upon the Mount of Olives, taking his food at Bethany with Martha and Mary, and spending his days in the temple at Jerusalem, teaching the people. It is most probable that he left the temple by the golden gate on the east, from whence the view of the temple would be particularly striking. We learn from St. Matthew (Matthew 24:1-51.) that our Lord had just been predicting the fall of Jerusalem. It was, therefore, natural for the disciples to call his attention at that moment to the grandeur and beauty of the building and its surroundings. The temple at Jerusalem was one of the wonders of the world. Josephus says that it wanted nothing that the eye and the mind could admire. It shone with a fiery splendor; so that when the eye gazed upon it, it turned away as from the rays of the sun. The size of the foundation-stones was enormous. Josephus speaks of some of the stones as forty-five cubits in length, five in height, and six in breadth. One of the foundation-stones, measured in recent times, proved to be nearly twenty-four feet in length, by four feet in depth. But all this magnificence had no effect upon our Lord, who only repeated the sentence of its downfall
There shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down. The word ( ὧδε) "here" is rightly inserted; and the prophecy is justified by scientific investigation. The expression is not hyperbolic. Modern investigation shows that the present wall has been rebuilt, probably on the foundation of the older One.
And as he sat on the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? St. Matthew and St. Luke only mention his disciples generally. St. Mark, going more into detail, gives the names of those who thus asked him; namely, Peter and James and John, already distinguished, and Andrew, who enjoyed the distinction of having been the first called. These men appear to have been our Lord's inner council; and they asked him ( κατ ἰδίαν) privately, or separately, not only from the multitude, but from the rest of the disciples. It was a dangerous thing to speak of the destruction of the temple, or even to inquire about such an event, for fear of the scribes and Pharisees. It was this accusation that led to the stoning of Stephen. It is evident from St. Matthew (Matthew 24:3) that the disciples closely associated together the destruction of the temple and his final coming at the end of the world. They knew from our Lord's words that the destruction of Jerusalem was near at hand, and therefore they thought that the destruction of the world itself, and the day of judgment, were also near at hand. Hence their questions.
Mark 13:5, Mark 13:6
Take heed that no man lead you astray. The Greek word is πλανήση. Their first temptation would be of this kind—that many would come in Christ's name, saying, "I am he;" claiming, that is, the title which belonged to him alone. Such were Theudas (Acts 5:36) and Simon Magus (Acts 8:10), who, according to Jerome, said, "Ego sum Sermo Dei, ego speciosus, ego Paracletus, ego omnipotens, ego omnia." Such were Menander and the Gnostics.
Wars and rumors of wars. "Rumours of wars" are mentioned, because they are often worse and more distressing than wars themselves; according to the saying, "Pejor est belle timer ipse belli." Be not troubled; be not troubled, that is, so as to let go your faith in me, through fear of the enemy, or through despair of any fruit of your apostolic labors; but persevere steadfastly to preach faith in me and in my gospel. These things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. There would be a succession of calamities, one leading on to another. But they must take courage, and prepare themselves for greater evils, not hoping for lasting peace on earth, but by patient endurance of evils here, reach onwards to a blessed and eternal rest in heaven. Our Lord, when his disciples asked him, as in one breath, about the destruction of their city, replied obscurely and ambiguously; mingling together the two events, in order that his disciples and the faithful through all times might be prepared, and never taken by surprise. Some of our Lord's predictions, however, clearly refer to the generation then living on the earth.
And the gospel must first be preached unto all the nations. St. Matthew (Matthew 24:14) says it shall be preached "in the whole world, for a testimony unto all the nations" ( ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ οἰκουμένῃ εἰς μαρτύριον). This literally took place, as far as the inhabited world was concerned at that time, before the destruction of Jerusalem. St. Paul (Romans 10:18) reminds us that "their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world;" and he tells the Colossians (Colossians 1:6) that the gospel was come unto them, and was bearing fruit and increasing in all the world. But even if we regard these expressions as somewhat hyperbolic, it is unquestionable that before the armies of Titus entered Jerusalem, the gospel had been published through the principal parts and provinces of the then inhabited world ( οἰκουμένῃ). And it is certainly a wonderful fact that within fifty years after the death of Christ, Christian Churches had been planted in almost every district of the earth as then known to the Romans. But if we extend these prophetical sayings so as to reach onwards to the end of all things, we must then understand the expression, "all the nations," in its most unrestricted sense; so that the prophecy announces the universal proclamation of the gospel over the whole inhabited earth as an event which is to precede the time of the end. It is interesting to observe the difference in the amount of knowledge possessed by us of this earth and its population at the present time, as compared with the knowledge which men had of it at the time when our Lord delivered this prediction. It was not until the beginning of the sixteenth century, nearly fifteen hundred years after Christ, that Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci laid open that other hemisphere which takes its name from Amerigo; and there are few facts more interesting to a philosophic mind than the discovery of this new continent, now so important to us in England as the chief receptacle, together with Australia, of our redundant population. But this new world, as we call it, although there are material evidences that portions of it at least were occupied in very remote times by men of high civilization, was present to the mind of our Lord when he said that "the gospel must first be preached unto all the nations." So that the prophecy expands, as the ages roll onwards and the population of this earth increases; and it still demands its fulfillment, embracing the vast multitudes now dwelling on the face of the earth to the number of about 1,450,000,000. Such a consideration may well lead us to the inference that we are now approaching sensibly nearer to the end of the world. There are no other new worlds like America or Australia now to be discovered. The whole face of the earth is now laid open to us; and there is now hardly any part of the world which has not at some time or other received the message of salvation.
And when they lead you to judgment, and deliver you up, be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak. Our Lord does not mean by this that they were not to premeditate a prudent and wise answer Rut he means that they were not to be too anxious about it. In St. Luke (Luke 21:15) he says, "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay." So here, it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost who shall inspire you with wisdom and courage. The words "neither do ye premeditate" ( μηδὲ μελετᾶτε) are omitted in the Revised Version, as not having sufficient authority.
Our Lord further warns his disciples that they would have to suffer persecution even from their own relations, their brethren, and their fathers, who, forgetful of natural affection, would persecute the faithful even unto death. It is related of Woodman, a martyr in Sussex, in Queen Mary's time, that he was betrayed and taken by his father and his brother, and that he comforted himself with the thought that this very text of Scripture was verified in him. Bede says that our Lord predicted these evils, in order that his disciples, by a knowledge of them beforehand, might be the better able to bear them when they came.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake ( ὑπο πάντων). The faith and preaching of a crucified Savior was a new thing. Hence everywhere, the Jews, accustomed to their own Law, and the Gentiles, to their own idols, set themselves against the preachers of the gospel, and against those who were converted to it. "All men" means great numbers, perhaps the greater number. Just as, when we say, "The majority are doing anything," we say, in popular language, "Everybody does it." But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved ( ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος). What is "the end" here referred to? Not, I imagine, the end of the age, but the end of the moral probation of the individual. The Greek word for "endureth" is very significant; it implies "a bearing up, and persevering under great trials." It is not enough once and again or a third time to have overcome, but, in order to obtain the crown, it is necessary to endure and to conquer, even to the end. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." The crown of patience is perseverance.
But when ye see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not. In the Authorized Version, after the word "desolation," the words "spoken of by Daniel the prophet," are introduced, but without sufficient authority. They were probably interpolated from St. Matthew, where there is abundant authority for them; and thus their omission by St. Mark does not affect the argument drawn from them in favor of the genuineness of the Book of Daniel, against those, whether in earlier or in later times, who reject this book, or ascribe it to some mere recent authorship. The "abomination of desolation" is a Hebrew idiom, meaning "the abomination that maketh desolate." St. Luke (Luke 21:20) does not use the expression; it would have sounded strange to his Gentile readers. He says, "When ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that her desolation is at hand." This reference to the Roman armies by St. Luke has led some commentators to suppose that "the abomination of desolation" meant the Roman eagles. But this was a sign from without; whereas "the abomination of desolation" was a sign from within, connected with the ceasing of the daily sacrifice of the temple. It is alluded to by the Prophet Daniel in three places, namely, Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11. We must seek for its explanation in something within the temple. "standing in the holy place" (Matthew 24:15)—some profanation of the temple, on account of which God's judgments would fall on Jerusalem. Now, Daniel's prophecy had already received one fulfillment, when we read (1 Macc. 1:54) that they set up "the abomination of desolation upon the altar." This was when Antiochus Epiphanes set up the statue of Jupiter on the great altar of burnt sacrifice. But that "abomination of desolation" was the forerunner of another and a worse profanation yet to come, which our Lord, no doubt, had in his mind when he called the attention of his disciples to these predictions by Daniel. There is a remarkable passage in Josephus ('Wars of the Jews,' 4.6), in which he refers to an ancient saying then current, that "Jerusalem would be taken, and the temple be destroyed, when it had been defiled by the hands of Jews themselves." Now, this literally took place. For while the Roman armies were investing Jerusalem, the Jews within the city were in fierce conflict amongst themselves. And it would seem most probable that our Lord had in his mind, in connection with Daniel's prophecy, more especially that at Daniel 9:27, the irruption of the army of Zealots and Assassins into the temple, filling the holy place with the dead bodies of their own fellow-citizens. The Jews had invited these marauders to defend them against the army of the Romans; and they, by their outrages against God, were the special cause of the desolation of Jerusalem. Thus, while St. Luke points to the sign from without, namely, the Roman forces surrounding the city, St. Matthew and St. Mark refer to the more terrible sign from within, the "abomination of desolation "—the abomination that would fill up the measure of their iniquities, and cause the avenging power of Rome to come down upon them and crush them. It was after these two signs—the sign from within and the sign from without—that Jerusalem was laid prostrate. Therefore our Lord proceeds to warn both Jews and Christians alike, that when they saw these signs they should flee unto the mountains—not to the mountains of Judaea, for these were already occupied by the Roman army, but those further off, beyond Judaea. We know from Eusebius (3.15) that the Christians fled to Pella, on the other side of the Jordan. The Jews, on the other hand, as they saw the Roman army approaching nearer, betook themselves to Jerusalem, as to an asylum, thinking that there they would be under the special protection of Jehovah; but there, alas, they were imprisoned and slain.
Let him that is on the house-top ( ἐπὶ τοῦ δώματος) not go down, nor enter in, to take anything out of his house. The roofs of the houses were flat, with frequently a little "dome" ( δῶμα) in the center. The people lived very much upon them; and the stairs were outside, so that a person wishing to enter the house must first descend by these outer stairs. The words, therefore, mean that he must flee suddenly, if he would save his life, even though he might lose his goods, he must escape, perhaps by crossing over the parapet of his own housetop, and so from house-top to house-top, until he could find a convenient point for flight into the hill country.
And let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloke ( τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ ). This was the outer garment or pallium. They who worked in the field were accustomed to leave their cloak and their tunic at home; so that, half-stripped, they might be more free to labor. Therefore our Lord warns them that in this impending destruction, so suddenly would it come, they must be ready to fly just as they were. It was the direction given to Lot, "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee."
But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! Women in this condition would be specially objects of pity, for they would be more exposed to danger. The words, "Woe to them ( οὐαι)!" are an exclamation of pity, as, though it was said, "Alas! for them." Josephus (Mark 7:8) mentions that some mothers, constrained by hunger during the siege, devoured their own infants!
And pray ye that it be not in the winter. According to the best authorities, "your flight" ( ἡ φυγὴ ὑμῶν) is omitted, but the meaning remains very much the same. St. Matthew (Matthew 24:20) adds, "neither on a sabbath." But this would be comparatively of little interest to those to whom St. Mark was writing. Our Lord thus specifies the winter, because at that season, on account of the cold and snow, flight would be attended with special difficulty and hardship, and would be almost impossible for the aged and infirm.
For those days shall be tribulation, such as there hath not been the like from the beginning of the creation. These expressions are very remarkable. To begin with, the tribulation would be so unexampled and so severe that the days themselves would be called "tribulation." They would be known ever after as "the tribulation.'" There never had been anything like them, and there never would be again. Neither the Deluge, nor the destruction of the cities of the plain, nor the drowning of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, nor the slaughter of the Canaanites, nor the destruction of Nineveh, or of Babylon, or of other great cities and nations, would be so violent and dreadful as the overthrow of Jerusalem by Titus. All this is confirmed by Josephus, who says, speaking of this overthrow, "I do not think that any state ever suffered such things, or any nation within the memory of man." St. Chrysostom assigns the cause of all this to the base and cruel treatment of the Son of God by the Jews. The destruction of their city and their temple, and their continued desolation afterwards, were the lessons by which the Jews were to be taught that the Christ had indeed come, and that this was the Christ whom they had crucified and slain.
And except the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he chose, he shortened the days. St. Matthew's record (Matthew 24:22) differs from that of St. Mark in the omission of the words "the Lord," and the clause "whom he chose." If the time of the siege of Jerusalem had lasted much longer, not one of the nation could have survived; all would have perished by war, or famine, or pestilence. The Romans raged against the Jews as an obstinate and rebellious nation, and would have exterminated them. But "the Lord" shortened the time of this frightful catastrophe, for the elect's sake, that is, partly for the sake of the Christians who could not escape from Jerusalem, and partly for that of the Jews, who, subdued by this awful visitation, were converted to Christ or would hereafter be converted to him We learn from hence how great is the love of God towards his elect, and his care for them. For their sakes he spared many Jews. For their sakes he created and preserves the whole world. Yea, for their sakes, Christ the eternal Son was made man, and became obedient unto death. "All things are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." It may be added that a number of providential circumstances combined to shorten these days of terror. Titus was himself disposed to clemency, and friendly towards Josephus. Moreover, he was attached to Bernice, a Jewess, the sister of Agrippa. All these and other circumstances conspired in the providence of God to "shorten the days."
Mark 13:21, Mark 13:22
And then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ; or, Lo, there, believe it not; for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets. Josephus mentions one Simon of Gerasa, who, pretending to be a deliverer of the people from the Romans, gathered around him a crowd of followers, and gained admission into Jerusalem, and harassed the Jews. In like manner, Eleazar and John, leaders of the Zealots, gained admission into the holy place, under pretense of defending the city, but really that they might plunder it. But it seems as though our Lord here. looked beyond the siege of Jerusalem to the end of the world; and he warns us that as the time of his second advent approaches, deceivers will arise, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. The word "to seduce" ( ἀποπλανᾶν) is more properly rendered, as in the Revised Version, to lead astray. Every age has produced its crop of such deceivers; and it may be expected that, as the time of the end draws nearer and nearer, their number will increase. Sometimes those idiosyncrasies in them which show themselves in lying wonders, are the result of self-delusion; but still oftener they are deliberate attempts made for the purpose of imposing on the unwary. Sometimes they are a combination of both. In the cases to which our Lord refers there is evidently an intention to lead astray, although it may have had its origin in self-deceit. In our day there is a sad tendency to lead men astray with regard to the great fundamental verities of Christianity. And the words of St. Jerome may well be remembered here: "If any would persuade you that Christ is to be found in the wilderness of unbelief or sceptical philosophy, or in the secret chambers of heresy, believe them not."
But take ye heed ( ὑμεῖς δὲ βλέπετε). The "ye" is here emphatic. The disciples were around him, hanging upon his lips. But his admonition is meant for Christians everywhere, even to the end of the world.
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light. St. Matthew (Matthew 24:29) has the word "immediately," before the words "after that tribulation." If this word "immediately" is to be understood literally, then the things spoken of subsequently must be understood in a figurative and spiritual sense. But it would seem more natural to understand "immediately" according to the reckoning of him with whom "a thousand years are as one day." Our Lord now passes away from the events connected with the overthrow of the Jewish polity, and proceeds to speak of things connected with the new dispensation. His mind is now turned to "the last time"—to the whole period between his first and his second advent. The things towards which he was now looking belonged, not to the end of the Jewish dispensation, but to the end of the present age and the present dispensation. Eighteen centuries have passed since the destruction of Jerusalem; and more years, it may be, will come and go before the end. Nevertheless, all this time, although it may seem long to us who are confined within the narrow limits of a short life, is nevertheless, when compared with the eternity of God, but as a moment. "The sun shall be darkened." The signs here enumerated are mentioned elsewhere as the signs that would appear before the second coming of Christ. (See Joel 2:31 and Luke 21:25, Luke 21:26.) St. Augustine (Eph 80, 'Ad Hesychium') says, "The light of truth shall be obscured; because in the great tribulation that shall come on the world, many will fall from the faith, who had seemed to be bright and firm, like the sun and the stars." "And the moon," that is, the Church, "shall not give her light."
And the stars shall be falling from heaven ( ἔσονται ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πίπτοντες) and the powers that are in the heavens shall be shaken. In the great events of the creation recorded in Genesis 1:1-31 the sun and the moon and the stars did not show their light until that period which is called the fourth day. So in the end of the world, the sun and the moon and the stars are represented as withdrawing their light, perhaps figuratively, but perhaps also literally, in the course of some of the unknown physical changes which shall accompany the winding up of the present dispensation. To this agree the next words, "the powers that are in the heavens shall be shaken." The powers may here mean those great unseen forces of nature by which the universe is now held in equipoise. When the Creator wills it, these powers shall be shaken. (See Job 26:11, "The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof;" see also Isaiah 34:4, "And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll.") As the end of the world approaches, the elements will quiver and tremble.
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. St. Matthew (Matthew 24:30) introduces here the words, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven." Many of the Fathers, as St. Chrysostom, Jerome, Bede, and others, think that this sign will be the cross. Josephus (5.3) says that shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, a portent like a sword, glittering as a star, appeared in the heavens. But surely the sign of the Son of man at the end of the world will be the Son of man himself coming in clouds. The clouds, covering the troubled heaven and now illuminated by the brightness of his coming, will constitute "the sublime drapery of his presence" (Dr. Morison).
And then shall he send forth the angels. This represents the great harvest at the end of the world, when the angel-reapers shall be sent forth to separate the wicked from the just. The elect will be gathered from the four winds ( ἐκ τῶν πεσσάρων ἀνέμων); literally, out of the four winds—the winds representing figuratively every corner of the world; or, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. At its extremities, in the horizon, there appears to be the end alike of earth and of heaven, as though earth and heaven joined, and the heaven terminated by melting into the earth and becoming one with it. The expression simply means, "from horizon to horizon," or from every part of the earth.
Mark 13:28, Mark 13:29
Now from the fig tree learn her parable; that is, her own particular teaching. Our Lord makes frequent mention and use of the fig tree, as we have seen already. It is probable that a fig tree may have been near to them. When her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh. The branch ( κλάδος) would be the young shoot, now become tender under the quickening influences of the spring; and this was an evident sign that the summer was at hand. The Asiatic fig tree requires a considerable amount of warmth to enable it to put forth leaves and fruit. Its rich flavour requires a summer heat to mature it. Aristotle says that the fig is the choice food of bees, from which they make their richest honey. Then the fig tree does not flower after the ordinary manner; but produces flower and fruit at once from the tree, and rapidly matures the fruit. The lesson, therefore, from the fig tree is this—the speed with which she ripens her fruit when she feels the warmth of summer. In like manner, as soon as the disciples perceived the signs of Christ's coming, they were to learn that he was close at hand, as certainly as the ripening fruit of the fig tree showed that summer was at hand.
This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished. This is one of those prophecies which admit of a growing fulfillment. If the word "generation" ( γανεὰ) be understood to mean the sum total of those living at any time on the earth, the prediction would hold true as far as the destruction of Jerusalem was concerned. The destruction of Jerusalem took place within the limits of the generation living in our Lord's time; and there might be some of those whom he was then addressing who would live to see the event. His prediction amounted, in fact, to this, that the destruction of Jerusalem would take place within forty years of the time when he was speaking. But it may have a wider meaning. It may mean the Jewish people. Their city would be destroyed their power overthrown. They would be "peeled and scattered." But they would still remain a distinct and separate nation to the end of the world. And there are other prophecies which show that with their national conversion to Christianity will be associated all that is most glorious in the future Church of God.
Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. Here is a distinct prediction that the present structure of the universe will pass away; that is, that it will be changed, that it will perish, as far as its present state and condition are concerned; but only that it may be refashioned in a more beautiful form. "We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). With this declaration of our blessed Lord all the discoveries of science coincide. Astronomy and geology alike concur in the conclusion that the whole system of the universe is moving onwards to its change. Our blessed Lord did but affirm that which is demonstrated by science. But my words shall not pass away; not merely the words which with his full self-consciousness he had just uttered respecting Jerusalem, but all his other words—all the revelation of God, all the words of him who is the Truth.
But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. He who from all eternity has decreed the time when this day is to come, is pleased to hide it in the hidden depths of his own counsels. But the eternal Son, and the Holy Spirit, both alike one with the Father, are of his counsels. They are not excluded from this knowledge; they, equally with the Father, know the day and the hour of the end, since they are of the same substance, power, and majesty. Why; then, does St. Mark here add, "neither the Son"? The answer is surely to be found in the great truth of the hypostatic union. The eternal Son, as God, by his omniscience, and as man, by knowledge imparted to him, knows perfectly the day and the hour of the future judgment. But Christ as man, and as the Messenger from God to men, did not so know it as to be able to reveal it to men. The ambassador, if he is asked concerning the secret counsels of his sovereign, may truly answer that he knows them not so as to communicate them to others. For as an ambassador he only communicates those things which are committed to him by his sovereign to deliver, and not those things which he is bidden to keep secret.
These exhortations, which gather up in a succinct form the practical bearing of the parallel passages and parables in St. Matthew, must not be understood as implying that our Lord's coming in judgment would be during the lifetime of his disciples. The preceding words would teach them plainly enough that the actual time of this coming was hidden from the. m. But the intention was that, while by the certainty of the event their faith and hope would be quickened, by the uncertainty of the time they might be left in a continual state of watchfulness and prayer. According to the Jewish reckoning, there were only three watches—namely, the first watch, from sunset to 10 p.m.; the second watch, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.; and the third watch, from 2 a.m. to sunrise. But after the establishment of the Roman power in Judaea, these watches were divided into four; and were either described as the first, second, third, and fourth respectively; or, as here, by the terms even, beginning at six and ending at nine; midnight, ending at twelve; cockcrowing, ending at three; and morning, ending at six.
Mark 13:1, Mark 13:2
The downfall of the temple.
Our Lord's ministry in the temple was now over. Within those precincts he had taught the teachable, he had rebuked the selfish and profane, he had received the homage of the children, he had healed the afflicted, and he had denounced and warned the unfaithful and the hypocritical. How strange the contrast between the early days, when Jesus had taken his place in the midst of the rabbis, "both hearing them, and asking them questions," and these later days, when the same edifice witnessed his keen and truceless conflicts with the leaders of the nation, whose errors he exposed and whose vengeance he incurred! It was as Jesus left the gorgeous and consecrated building that his disciples, with national pride and affection, pointed out to his eyes the magnificence of the temple, the stupendous stones of which it was composed, and the costly gifts with which it was adorned. Upon this suggestion, Jesus uttered the prediction, which he could not have uttered without emotions of disappointment and distress, "Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down."
I. NOTHING EARTHLY AND HUMAN, HOWEVER STATELY AND SACRED, IS IMPERISHABLE. It was, no doubt, a splendid spectacle to which his disciples directed the gaze of Jesus. "They stopped to cast upon it one last lingering gaze, and one of them was eager to call his attention to its goodly stones and splendid offerings—those nine gates overlaid with gold and silver, and the one of solid Corinthian brass yet more precious; those graceful and towering porches; those bevelled blocks of marble, forty cubits long and ten cubits high, testifying to the toil and munificence of so many generations; those double cloisters and stately pillars; that lavish adornment of sculpture and arabesque; those alternate blocks of red and white marble, recalling the crest and hollow of the sea-waves; those vast clusters of golden grapes, each cluster as large as a man, which twined their splendid luxuriance over the golden doors. They would have him gaze with them on the rising terraces of courts—the court of the Gentiles, with its monolithic columns and rich mosaic; above this, the flight of fourteen steps which led to the court of the women; then the flight of fifteen steps which led up to the court of the priests; then, once more, the twelve steps which led to the final platform, crowned by the actual holy, and holy of holies, which the rabbis fondly compared for its shape to a couchant hen, and which, with its marble whiteness and gilded roofs, looked like a glorious mountain whose snowy summit was gilded by the sun" (Farrar). Majestic, however, as was the edifice, sacred as were its purposes, ennobling as were its associations, the temple at Jerusalem was not indestructible. All things finding their foundation upon this changing earth, all things reared and fashioned by human hands, are transitory and perishing. Nothing continueth in one stay. "The solemn temples," like "the great globe itself," are destined to decay and destruction. The material perishes, and that which is spiritual alone abides.
II. AN UNFAITHFUL NATION'S GLORY IS, IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD, MADE THE SYMBOL OF ITS SHAME. There was nothing which the Jews so valued and reverenced as their temple and all the paraphernalia of the temple-worship. The national life seemed to flow from that sacred spot as from a beating heart. Not only was it, in its situation, its structure, its services, priesthoods, and sacrifices, itself most majestic and imposing; but to the Hebrew mind it was the expression of the peculiar interest and favor of the Supreme. How could the Israelite think, without a shudder of horror and dismay, of the time when the noble building should be laid in the dust; when the chants should be silenced, the altars be overturned, the priests be slain, and the services and offerings be no more? Yet this was the doom which the last and greatest Prophet now foretold—a doom which they might have averted by timely repentance and by cordial faith, but which their rejection of the Christ of God made certain and irrevocable. Thus was Israel smitten in the most vulnerable, the most sensitive point; thus was the rule of the righteous Lord awfully and sublimely vindicated; thus was a lesson of Divine government and human subjection thereto published for the benefit of all generations to come.
III. ALL THAT IS MATERIAL IN RELIGION IS DESTINED TO VANISH AND DISAPPEAR. The temple at Jerusalem was the temple of the Lord; yet it served a temporary purpose, and when this purpose was accomplished it was superseded by the temple of the Lord's Body, and by the imperishable temple constituted by consecrated spiritual natures, and inhabited by the Holy Spirit of God. Human nature is such that men are prone to lay stress upon the outward, the visible, the tangible, the material. Even the truly religious are in danger of regarding the vestment of religion rather than the form it clothes, of hallowing places, observances, offices, and institutions. But Christ's whole teaching is a protest against this natural error and folly. The temple of Jerusalem disappeared; but its disappearance, so far from ruining the prospects and crippling the power of religion, was, in reality, the occasion of placing religion upon a sounder basis, and giving to religion a world-wide and an everlasting sway. Let not men cling too closely to the form; it is the spirit which quickeneth; it is the spirit which endures.
IV. SPIRITUAL TEMPLES ALONE ENDURE FOR EVER. Even the destruction of Jerusalem and its sacred buildings did not involve a universal ruin. What was good in Judaism, what was vital and hopeful in Israel, still survived. There were truths which outlasted the forms in which they had been embodied. There were pure and faithful souls which outlived the institutions amidst which and by means of which they had been called to virtue, to piety, to God. A new Israel arose, as it were, out of the ashes of the old. A temple statelier and sublimer, based upon a more enduring foundation, and rising to loftier spiritual heights, sprang into glorious being, as the armies of Titus levelled the glory of Moriah with the ground. The living stones of which this heaven-born fabric is composed can never crumble, and the services of this sanctuary shall never cease. Time and space are spurned; earthly forces are powerless; this temple groweth "an holy temple unto the Lord." It is imperishable, because it is spiritual; it is eternal, because it is Divine.
The witness of the persecuted.
It was natural enough that the disciples, when the Lord foretold the destruction of the temple, should wish to know when an event so stupendous and awful should occur. On their way to Bethany at eventide, the little party, composed of Jesus and his four most intimate friends, paused upon the crown of Olivet, and looked back upon the glorious but guilty city, and upon that edifice which was its proudest ornament and beast. The anxious, awed disciples took this opportunity of asking at what time the disaster foretold by the Lord should take place, and by what signs they might be led to expect its approach. Jesus did not state the exact date of the impending catastrophe, but he did mention certain signs by which his disciples might be forewarned; and he took occasion to forearm them against the troubles which were at hand. His words may not have gratified their curiosity, but they must have established their confidence in their Master, and they must have prepared them for the tribulation and the trial now so near. The great lesson is that Jesus would have his people prepared, especially in times and amid circumstances of affliction and probation, to bear a firm and faithful witness to himself. Our Lord, in this language, enjoins upon his disciples—
I. FIDELITY AMID TEMPTATION AND APOSTASY, Days of trial were at hand; impostors should appear, professing that the Messiah had only now arrived; and by such deceits and pretences many should be led astray from their allegiance to Jesus. Then should the faithfulness of the disciples be tested. It is always so. Rivals come forward at all periods in history, asserting claims which they cannot substantiate, but by which they impose upon the excitable and unstable. Teachers, leaders, systems, philosophies, are ever seeking to displace the Divine Christ from the throne of the human heart, of human society. Let every Christian, when exposed to such assaults, when staggered by the success with which these are too often directed against the professed followers of Jesus, be upon his guard, and listen to the voice of the rightful and authoritative Lord sounding across the ages, "Let no man lead you astray!"
II. PEACE OF MIND AMID WARS AND CALAMITIES. The troubles and conflicts which befell the nations during the period which elapsed between the crucifixion of Christ and the fall of Jerusalem, are well known from the records of history. It could have been no easy thing for the Christians to have preserved a quiet mind amidst such constant alarms; nor can we suppose that our Lord intended to forbid or blame the natural and proper sympathy and solicitude which such circumstances must have induced. But he warned them that these events must precede the end, and must not be allowed to fill the mind with dismay, to weaken faith in Divine providence, or to deter from the fulfillment of an appointed ministry. In every age there occur events which, taken and considered alone, might appal the stoutest, bravest heart. But it is for the follower of Christ to bear in mind that light and darkness will contend until the victory of the Redeemer is complete, that the Lord reigneth, and that the convulsions of the nations are the birth-throes of the kingdom of the Christ. It is he who admonishes us, "Be not troubled!"
III. STEADFASTNESS AMID THE HOSTILITY OF FOES. The first followers of Christ were forewarned that they should incur the enmity of authorities, both civil and ecclesiastical. Before councils and in synagogues, at the bar of governors and in the presence of kings, they should be arraigned upon charges true or false, but always with a temper of enmity and with purposes of malice. How were they to demean themselves in circumstances of peril? They were to remember that they were but treated as their Master had been treated before them, that they were honored by being summoned to act as his witnesses, that they were the spokesmen, so to speak, of the very Spirit of God. Amidst trials so severe, they were directed to take heed how they comported themselves—never to yield to fear, to dismiss all anxiety, and to trust to a heavenly inspiration for their defense. And there is no age in which servants of Christ are not exposed to some of the attacks of the foe, and in which there is not need for watchfulness, fortitude, and courage. Let the persecuted remember that the eye of the Divine Lord is upon them; and let them bear themselves as those who would honor their Leader and maintain his cause—quit them like men, and be strong.
IV. ENDURANCE AMID THE TREACHERY AND DESERTION OF FRIENDS. The great Prophet foretold that discords should reveal themselves among families and social communities; that one should rise up against another. In this way was fulfilled his saying, "I am not come to send peace, but a sword." To most hearts, treason within the camp is more painful and more trying than hostility without. Yet even against this our Lord would have us proof. It is a trial to which most faithful and consistent servants of the Lord Jesus are at some time exposed; it is a trial which shakes the faith and damps the zeal of not a few. Christ calls his people, when so tried, to exercise the grace of perseverance. Whoever forsake Jesus, let their desertion only drive us closer to him we love!
V. NOTWITHSTANDING OPPOSITION, THE GOSPEL MUST BE PREACHED. It is not enough to be steadfast ourselves; we have to think of and to care for others. The glad tidings the followers of Jesus have themselves freely received, it is for them freely to communicate to their neighbors, How devotedly and valiantly the first disciples fulfilled this trust we well know. Not only the twelve, but even more notably others who were raised up in the first age, preached the gospel to all nations whom they were able by any toil and hardship to reach. The light streamed upon many a dark, benighted land, and brought hope and peace, joy and life, to many a wretched heart. The labor of the apostles and their companions was not in vain in the Lord. Far from being deterred by opposition, this seemed to act as a stimulus to new exertions and to new daring. Nor is this function of the Church peculiar to the first age. So long as there are nations unvisited by the news of salvation, so long is there a summons to engage in missionary enterprise. If this can only be done in certain cases at the risk of safety, liberty, and life, so much the more do present circumstances correspond with the predictions of our Lord. "The more danger, the more honor." There is a crown to be gained by following Christ and his apostles in the perils of the holy war.
VI. PATIENCE UNTO SALVATION. It is well known that, whilst multitudes of Jews perished in the siege and the destruction of Jerusalem, the Christians escaped. Faithful to the instructions of their Lord, they were delivered from the ruin and the death which were the fate of their fellow-countrymen. Enduring in constancy and obedience to the end, they were saved. And their exemption from disaster and death was a symbol of the salvation of all those who retain their faith and allegiance amidst the temptations and the trials of this earthly life. Endure! endure unto the end! and the unfailing promise of your Divine Lord shall be fulfilled in your experience. You shall be saved!
Very clearly did our Lord foresee, and very plainly did he foretell, the consequences which the Jews were bringing upon themselves by their rejection of God's Messiah. The language here recorded is in itself sufficient to convince a candid mind of the justice of the claims of the Lord Jesus to be the Prophet and the Son of the Most High. He sets us an example here of the propriety of uttering truthful warnings, even though they may be painful to the speaker and unwelcome to the hearer.
I. AFFLICTIONS ARE FORETOLD. The severity and variety of these afflictions render this prediction one of the most awful to be met with in the whole compass of Scripture.
1. National disaster. It was upon the whole nation, and especially upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the upper and ruling classes, that the retribution fell.
2. Temple desecration. This is probably what is designated "the abomination of desolation." The fanatical pollution of the temple by the Zealots was doubtless one of the most distressing accompaniments of the awful siege.
3. Religious imposture. In times of general excitement, enthusiastic pretenders are safe to make their appearance. It was so during the uttermost calamity of Israel. And there is no age when the warnings of Mark 13:21, Mark 13:22, are not timely and appropriate.
4. Individual sufferings. Several circumstances here predicted, especially the distress in which miserable mothers should be involved (Mark 13:17), serve to deepen and darken the tone of this picture of calamity.
II. COUNSELS ARE IMPARTED. Christ was not a mere Prophet of evil. He exhibited the approaching dangers, but he provided for the safety and deliverance of those who, amidst general unfaithfulness, should be faithful to him.
1. He directed flight from the scene of distress. As Noah had been sent into the ark, as Lot had been hurried out of Sodom, so the primitive Christians were directed, when Jerusalem should be besieged, to forsake the guilty city and to take refuge in the mountains. There are times when flight is prudence, when life may be preserved for future service.
2. He advised disregard of impostors. To hold to Christ is a sufficient motive for rejecting antichrist. It is condemnation enough of any pretender that he professes to be what we know the Son of God alone can be.
3. He counselled general preparation and watchfulness. "Take ye heed!" Christians are to use their own powers of observation, to exercise vigilance, to meet all circumstances with preparation and discretion. No piety, no attachment to the Savior, can absolve us from the duty of using our own faculties, of being upon the alert. "Watch and pray!" These are admonitions which are never obsolete; for the need of them is never, whilst we are upon earth, left behind.
The second coming.
It is very difficult exactly to discriminate between some words of Christ which refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, and others which refer to our Lord's coming to judge all mankind. There seems to be a designed blending of the references to these events. We are thus taught to remember that we are called to be as men that wait for their Lord.
I. THE CERTAINTY OF CHRIST'S COMING. If his words are to be accepted, this great event of the future is not to be denied or questioned. In the fulfillment of the special prediction regarding the downfall of Jerusalem in the lifetime of the generation then living, we have the pledge of the ultimate accomplishment of the larger prophecy. At his trial Jesus reported the assurance; and his inspired apostles have foretold that he shall come again the "second time without sin unto salvation."
II. THE UNCERTAINTY OF THE TIME OF CHRIST'S COMING. The words in Mark 13:32 are very distinct. The date of our Lord's return is known only to the Father. If neither the angels nor the Son himself could communicate this knowledge, how ridiculous and presumptuous is the conduct of those who, treating the Scriptures as a riddle, profess to have discovered the secret, and put forth their own fancies and follies as the declarations of the oracles of God! It is wisely hidden from us, and we show our wisdom by contented acquiescence in ignorance.
III. THE SIGNS OF CHRIST'S COMING. Changes on earth and in heaven are indications of the approaching day. As the leaves of the fig tree tell that summer is nigh, so events, will occur which to the understanding mind will herald the Lord's return. Yet even these events do not tell us when our Savior shall appear; but, since they remind us that he is at hand, they answer the purpose, for they put us upon our guard, and admonish us to be prepared.
IV. THE PREPARATION FOR CHRIST'S COMING.
1. Heedfulness and observation.
There can be no doubt as to the impression made by these and similar instructions and admonitions, uttered by the Lord Jesus towards the close of his ministry. It was understood by all his disciples that the Master, in leaving the world, retained his hold upon the world's heart and conscience. It was currently believed in the early Church, as it has been believed ever since by all Christians, that the Lord will come again, and will take account of his servants, and especially will inquire into the way in which they have acted as his representatives and ministers among men. Hence the stress which has always been laid upon the duty to watch. The apostles not only obeyed, they repeated the commandment of their Lord. Peter admonished his readers. "Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer;" John said, "Blessed is he that watcheth;" and Paul exhorted thus, "Watch ye, stand fast in your faith, be strong!" The very names which the early Christians gave to themselves and their children may be taken as an indication of the prevailing tone of feeling. Gregory among the Greeks, and Vigilantius among the Latins, both signify simply "The Watcher."
I. WATCH! FOR THIS IS THE CHARGE OF CHRIST IN THE PAST.
1. We are to consider from whom this charge proceeds. It is the word of the All-wise, and of One of unique authority. Coming from Christ, this is not counsel, it is command. The general has the right to station a guard, a sentry, and to expect vigilance and fidelity.
2. The occasion of the charge gives it a peculiar power and sacredness. It was when the Lord Jesus was leaving his house—to use the figurative language of the text—to sojourn in another country. "While I was with them," were his words in prayer, "I kept them in Thy Name .. Now come I to Thee." How can we do otherwise than attach an especial force