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    CHAPTER 18. Matthew 24

    THE 24th chapter of Matthew, being the longest prediction of consecutive events uttered by Christ while here upon the earth, has been justly styled “Our Lord’s Great Prophecy.” Peculiar dignity and importance attaches to it because it is a prophecy from the lips of Christ himself, unlike most others which came through the medium of inspired men.SYNPT 177.1

    1. The prediction covers all the gospel dispensation from the days of Christ to the end of time. It was not all fulfilled at and by the overthrow of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and the dispersion of the Jewish nation, as some claim. This is proved by many considerations, among which may be mentioned, -SYNPT 177.2

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    1. What is the 24th of Matthew justly styled?
    2. What gives it peculiar importance?
    3. How much time does the prediction cover?
    4. When do some claim it was fulfilled?
    5. What limits the fulfillment of verse 7?
    6. How long after Jerusalem’s overthrow did the Roman kingdom remain a unit?

    (1.) The fulfillment of verse 7, which could not take place till after the Roman empire had broken up, and nations and kingdoms had been developed therefrom. But for a hundred years previous to the overthrow of Jerusalem, and for nearly three hundred years afterward, Rome, like a mighty colossus, bestrode the world, and held all people subject to itself in the unity of its empire.SYNPT 177.3

    (2.) After their rejection of Christ, the Jews were not the elect of verse 22. The days of tribulation accompanying the destruction of Jerusalem were not shortened for their sake, neither were they shortened for the sake of Christians, the true elect; for these all fled from Jerusalem at the appointed sign, and found safe shelter at Pella, sixty miles away, while wrath to the uttermost came upon the Jewish people.SYNPT 178.1

    (3.) The signs predicted, verse 29, were to come after the tribulation referred to; but all the signs pertaining to the destruction of Jerusalem occurred before that event. And moreover Christ had said that there should be no sign given to that people, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.SYNPT 178.2

    (4.) Verse 14 could not be fulfilled till the light of the gospel had made the circuit of the globe. This was not true in that day, but it is in ours.SYNPT 178.3

    (5.) No such signs as verse 29 predicted to occur, took place at the destruction of Jerusalem. It must therefore refer to a later time.SYNPT 178.4

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    7. Who were the elect?
    8. Was the tribulation attending the overthrow of Jerusalem shortened for either Jews or Christians?
    9. Where did the Christians find shelter?
    10. When were the signs of verse 29 to occur?
    11. When did the signs attending Jerusalem’s destruction occur?
    12. What only true sign was to be given to that generation?
    13. What must transpire before verse 14 could be fulfilled?
    14. Why must the prediction of verse 29 refer to a later time than that of the destruction of Jerusalem?
    15. What can be said of the events mentioned in verses 27, 30, 31?

    (6.) The events attendant upon the coming of the Son of man, as described in verses 27, 30, 31, - the sudden glory, flashing like the lightning from east to west, his sign in heaven, the great sound of the trumpet, the wailing of all the tribes of the earth, and the speeding away of the cohorts of angels in dazzling glory to gather the elect from the four winds of heaven, - no such events occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem. The man is utterly reckless who will make such a preposterous affirmation. If the warlike entry of Titus into Judea, and his massing of the Roman legions against Jerusalem, fulfilled to the Jews all that is said of the coming of Christ, similar events would be his coming to other nations; and then it could be shown that he has already come thousands of times, and to almost every nation under heaven.SYNPT 178.5

    2. As the prophecy, according to the foregoing evidence, was not confined to the destruction of Jerusalem, but reaches to the end of the world, it follows that wherever the “coming of Christ,” or “the end,” is spoken of, it refers to the end of the world. Following this clew, we find that we are, in three distinct sections in the chapter, taken over the ground from some event in the past to the close of time. The first section embraces verses 4-14; the second, verses 15-28; the third, verses 29-51.SYNPT 179.1

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    16. If we apply these to Jerusalem, what conclusion follows?
    17. What do the expressions “coming of Christ” and “the end,” as found in this chapter, refer to?
    18. Of how many sections is the chapter composed? and what verses embrace them?
    19. What is evident from verse 3?

    3. From the request of the disciples (verse 3), “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end ofSYNPT 179.2

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    20. What prediction did Christ make concerning the temple?
    21. What were the dimensions of some of the foundation stones?
    22. Would a pretender have ventured to predict their destruction?
    23. What did Titus say when he finally took the Jewish citadel?
    24. What was done by Turnus Rufus?

    the world?” it is evident that Christ had held with his disciples a more extensive conversation upon these subjects than is recorded in verse 2. The expression, “these things,” doubtless refers to the primary object of their inquiry; namely, the overthrow of the temple and the destruction of the city; while the subject of his second coming and the end of the world, was one which had been naturally connected with it. The disciples, impressed with the glory and magnificence of the temple, called Christ’s attention to the massive and apparently imperishable structure. The stone in the foundation were of marvelous size, - fifty feet long, twenty-four feet broad, and fifteen feet thick, making eighteen thousand cubic feet of stone in one block; and these were bound together with lead, and fastened with strong iron clamps. In reply he reveals to them the sad fact of its coming destruction, when not one stone should be left upon another. No impostor would ever have made such a prediction. The Jews were then at peace with the Romans; and their citadel was so strong that when Titus finally took it in A.D. 70, he acknowledged that it was God’s hand which had compelled the Jews to relinquish their strongholds, which no human power could have conquered. In the overthrow of Jerusalem, the stones of the temple were not only broken and dislodged, but the very ground on which they were erected was dug up and finally plowed by one Turnus Rufus.SYNPT 180.1

    Passing naturally from this destruction, Christ takes occasion to refer to the greater destruction at his coming and kingdom, which shall involve, not Judea only, but the whole world. This is evident from their subsequent conversation, in which Christ still further elucidates this question by tracing the history of his people through this dispensation, giving some of the great features of their experience, and pointing out the great signs which should herald his second coming.SYNPT 181.1

    He first puts them on their guard against impostors who should arise in his name. Having rejected the true Messiah, Satan was very willing that they should follow pretenders. One of these, Theudas by name, is mentioned by Josephus, of whom he says that “he deceived many.” Another is called in Acts 21:38, the “Egyptian,” who had four thousand followers. Following the overthrow of Jerusalem, there have appeared during this dispensation, according to Buck’s Theological Dictionary, no less than twenty-four pretended Messiahs, who have drawn away multitudes of deluded followers.SYNPT 181.2

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    25. What does Christ say of false christs?
    26. How was his prediction fulfilled?
    27. What prepared the way for the predicted “wars and rumors of war?”

    “Wars and rumors of war,” soon followed. Rome broke up into ten kingdoms; and between these divisions and other nations which have arisen, there has been increasing strife and war to the present time. We might expect from the nature of the prophecy that these would increase as we approach the end; and in confirmation of this, it is only necessary to state that, according to the London Economist, the estimated cost of the great wars of the world for twenty-five years, from 1852 to 1877, was something over twelve thousand millions of dollars!SYNPT 181.3

    “Famines, pestilences, and earthquakes” were next mentioned as visitations to come upon the world in confirmation of this prophecy. These may not be taken as special signs of Christ’s coming, only in so far as they show that the prophecy is true;and the increase of these occurrences would in a general way indicate the approach of the end. The past seventeen centuries have been marked by such calamities. In a work on Epidemics, etc., by Noah Webster, we have a record of eight great famines, five destructive earthquakes, thirteen visitations of plague and pestilence, involving the destruction of many millions of human beings. And from 1755, where Mr. Webster’s list ends, the People’s Cyclopedia gives a list of thirty-four plagues and epidemics, down to 1878, which inflicted great suffering and loss of life upon the human family.SYNPT 182.1

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    28. What did the wars of 25 years from 1852 to 1877, in our own generation cost?
    29. What may be said of famines, etc?
    30. How have the past seventeen centuries been marked by these calamities?
    31. What has fulfilled verses 9-12?
    32. What great sign is now before us?
    33. What turn does the discourse take in verse 15?

    The affliction of the church during the long period of papal persecution (verse 9) is then pointed out; then the false prophets of the last days (verse 11), fulfilled in modern Spiritualism; then prevailing iniquity and great spiritual declension, which we now behold (verse 12); and finally the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in all the world, not to convert it, but simply as a witness to all nations; and then the end comes. This last great sign stands out before us in the very last stages of its fulfillment. In our day the whole earth has been explored; every nation under the heaven is known; and to every one the sound of the gospel has gone. From the very nature of the case we know that not much more can be required to constitute it a witness in the sense of the prophecy; and then the end will come.SYNPT 182.2

    In verse 15 the Saviour turns his discourse back again to the destruction of Jerusalem, making evident allusion to the prophecy of Daniel 9:26, 27, in which Rome in its pagan form is called an “abomination.” When Cestius Gallus, in October, A.D. 66, drew his legions up around Jerusalem, and commenced the siege of the devoted city, the disciples recognized the sign; and when, without any visible cause, he suddenly withdrew it, they saw their opportunity, and fled in haste, as the Lord had instructed them. Safe sheltered in the little village of Pella, they escaped the horrors of Jerusalem’s overthrow. The prayer which the Saviour taught them to use (verse 20), - that they might not be obliged to flee in the winter, nor on the Sabbath day, thus recognizing the existence of the Sabbath as late as A.D. 66 to 70, - was fulfilled.SYNPT 183.1

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    34. What prophecy is alluded to?
    35. When did Cestius Gallus begin the siege of Jerusalem?
    36. What sign did the disciples see in this?
    37. What providence appeared in their favor?
    38. What prayer was answered?
    39. When were verses 21, 22 fulfilled?

    Verses 21 and 22 look far into the future from that day, and bring to view the next most prominent feature in the experience of the church. From the great tribulation of the Jews, the mind is naturally carried forward by the word “then,” Which is occasionally used in the Scriptures to cover a long period, as in verse 9, to the unparalleled affliction which his own people would suffer. This was fulfilled during the Dark ages, when the little horn of Daniel 7, the “man of sin,” the papacy, made war for centuries on the saints of the Most High, and wore them out, till twenty times as many of the servants of Christ went to a martyr’s death, under this professedly Christian power, as had perished under the long rule of paganism.SYNPT 183.2

    “Those days” (of persecution not the prophetic period which marked the papal supremacy) were shortened for the elect’s sake, in the introduction and subsequent maintenance of the work of the great Reformation of the 16th century. Verse 22.SYNPT 184.1

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    40. What days were shortened? and how? and when?
    41. To what point are we then carried forward?
    42. What will Christ’s coming be like in appearance?

    From this point we are again carried forward by the word “then” to the time when the subject of the second coming of Christ should be agitated, as we have seen in our own day. The false christs and false prophets have appeared in modern spiritualism, which boldly claims to be the coming of Christ and the ushering in of a new spiritual dispensation. But Christ charges us not to be moved by their “lo here’s” or “lo there’s;” for the coming of Christ is not to occur in the “secret chambers” where spiritual circles are held, or death-bed scenes transpire, nor in the work of conversion by the Holy Spirit (in which sense Christ is “always” with his people), nor in “the desert” where the Mormons have erected their pseudo heavenly kingdom; for his coming is to be as literal and visible as the lightnings flashing across the heavens, and all will know it for themselves. And the saints, as subsequently stated, will be gathered together by the angels; but the judgments of God, like the eagles, will fall upon and devour the carcass, the wicked, wherever it is found. Under these circumstances, none will be left in doubt when his coming takes place.SYNPT 184.2

    In verse 29 we are again taken back into the past, but only so far as to take in the signs in the natural world which should betoken the approach of the Son of man; for, as if in sympathy with her divine Lord, Nature herself gives signs, in her domain, of the coming of that glorious restitution which shall banish all her woe. We are pointed to the time immediately following the tribulation before referred to. A little past the middle of the 18th century the last act of martyrdom occurred, said to be in the year 1762. (Dowling’s Romanism, p. 609.) In 1780, May 19, the sun was supernaturally darkened. A summary of the facts in the case is well given in the explanatory Vocabulary of Noted Names, etc., of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary; and to this only we refer, as the general reader can perhaps the most easily verify it:-SYNPT 185.1

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    43. Where does verse 29 take us?
    44. When may the tribulation of “those days” be said to have ended?
    45. When was the sun darkened?

    “Dark Day, The. May 19, 1780; - so called on account of a remarkable darkness on that day extending over all New England. In some places, persons could not see to read common print in the open air for several hours together. Birds sang their evening song, disappeared, and became silent; fowls went to roost; cattle sought the barnyard; and candles were lighted in the houses. The obscuration began about ten o’clock in the morning, and continued till the middle of the next night.... The true cause of this remarkable phenomenon is not known.”SYNPT 185.2

    The darkness extended far beyond the limits of New England. Herschel calls it “The dark day of North america.” See “Our First Century,” by Devens. The moon refused to give her light the following night, when, as expressed by Mr. Tenney in “Gage to the Historical Society,” the darkness “was probably as gross as has ever been observed since the Almighty fiat gave birth to light.”SYNPT 186.1

    A little more than fifty years elapsed, and the predicted falling of the stars was fulfilled in the great meteoric shower of Nov. 13, 1833. This was the most notable exhibition of the kind that ever occurred, and covered extensive but undefined portions of the Western hemisphere. A star shower, almost equally striking, fulfilled it to the Eastern world, if that were necessary, in 1866.SYNPT 186.2

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    46. When was the moon darkened?
    47. When did the stars fall?
    48. What are we now witnessing?

    Fifty years have again gone by since 1833, and the world has plunged into an era of atmospheric convulsions which finds no parallel in the past. Next after the falling of the stars, the prophecy mentions the shaking of the powers of the heavens. If the atmospheric heavens are intended, are we not witnessing the fulfillment? Devastating floods in some regions, disastrous drouths in others; ocean gales, tornadoes, electric storms, and deadly cyclones all over the land, stir men’s hearts with fear; while more recently the twilight conflagrations in the sky, baffling their subtlest philosophy, are exciting large comment and wonder. May not these strange meteorological conditions be justly called the shaking of the powers of the heavens? If so, the sign of the coming Son of man cannot be far distant.SYNPT 186.3

    And when he comes, the tribes of the earth, the nations who have rejected him, they who will “mourn” because of him, see him. John says (Revelation 1:7) that when he cometh with clouds, every eye shall see him; and to show that this includes the wicked, he adds, “and they also which pierced him.” Yet men now rise up and say that nobody will see him except a few righteous; in other words, that “every” does not mean “every,” and that “see” does not mean “see.” We spend no time to refute such contradictions of the Scriptures, but leave those who make them to answer for their folly at the bar of God.SYNPT 187.1

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    49. Who behold the Saviour when he comes?
    50. What does our Lord next introduce?
    51. What events constitute the “signs” to which he refers?
    52. To whom does he refer by the word “ye?”

    To give his declarations double strength, the Lord now introduces the parable of the fig-tree. Matthew 24:32-35. At the first signs of returning vegetable life, while the bud is yet most tender, our convictions are established and sure, that summer is nigh. And no such expectation was ever yet disappointed. The summer always comes. Just so surely those who see the signs he has given are to know that his coming is at hand. And he concludes with a solemn affirmation that “this generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled.”SYNPT 187.2

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    53. Who have seen the signs referred to?
    54. What generation, then, is the one spoken of in Matthew 24:34?
    55. How near does this make the coming of the Lord to be?

    What is meant by this generation? and what generation is referred to? These are questions which have exercised many minds. And to those who insist upon finding some definite points for the beginning and ending of the generation, and gauging its length by some well-defined measuring rod, the remarks here made will not be at all satisfactory; for we attempt nothing in this direction. It does not seem to us necessary. Christ addresses those who had seen “all” of a certain class of events; and those events were the ones which are mentioned as “signs” of the great event which is here the object of discourse; namely, the appearing of Christ in the clouds of heaven. Those who saw only the darkening of the sun, had not seen all these things; those who saw the falling of the stars had not seen them. Those now living, who have a historical knowledge of the past, and see what we see, - those before whom all these things are held up, as they are now, in consolidated array, as signs of the end, - have seen them, and do see them. We believe the language is addressed to the mass of the people now living; that the present is the generation; and that this generation shall not pass before all is consummated; that is, that the mass of the world’s inhabitants now living will witness the coming of the Son of man. We say this with a full appreciation of the fact that one person dies, and more are born, every second of time; and that, with this rapid influx and exit, it takes no great length of time to change the mass of the world’s inhabitants; yet we believe the Lord is now so near that the people living at the present time, as a body, will behold his coming.SYNPT 188.1

    A striking illustration, based on a reference to the days of Noah, follows, and the chapter closes with a solemn admonition to the servants to watch, to give the household meat in due season, and to avoid the fate of the evil servant who says in his heart, “My Lord delayeth his coming.” And a blessing is pronounced upon that servant, who when his Lord cometh, shall be found in the faithful discharge of all his duty.SYNPT 189.1

    QUESTIONS ON LESSON EIGHTEEN.
    56. What is our present duty?

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