Prophetic Personages and Events

The Bible Monthly vol 2



Shortly before His crucifixion the Lord Jesus delivered an important prophecy on the Mount of Olives with regard to the future of His kingdom. On another mountain He laid down the moral features of that kingdom, in what is called the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. v.-vii.).

Records are given in each of the first three Gospels of the Lord’s utterances on Mount Olivet. Each evangelist incorporates what is specially in accordance with the subject of his Gospel. Matthew in his record shows how the Lord’s latest teaching by prophecy was the expansion of what He had previously taught in parables concerning the development of the kingdom (Matt. xiii.).

It is proposed now to look at the chapters in Matthew only (xxiv., xxv.), and to glance briefly at the great subjects they contain. We beg our readers to consult the verses themselves as we proceed.

The occasion of this prophecy is plainly stated in the beginning of the chapter. The disciples drew the attention of the Lord to the beautiful construction of the temple, and the Lord to their utter astonishment declared that the whole pile of buildings was to be desolated so utterly that not one stone would be left upon another (xxiv. 1, 2).

As the Lord sat upon Mount Olivet, His disciples being puzzled sought further explanation from Him. They put their difficulties in the form of a threefold question to the. Master, saying, Tell us :—

(1) When shall these things be?

(2) What shall be the sign of Thy coming?

(3) And of the end of the world [age]?

It is important to note that “world” here means “age,” and not the physical system that God made, as is meant, for instance, in Acts xvii. 24. The disciples spoke of the end of the age then present in contrast with the age to come (Mark x, 30; Luke xviii. 30).

The Lord in His reply to the disciples not only’ answered their questions but brought out of His treasure-house many things new and old to prepare them for a right understanding of the future. .

It will be found that the Lord’s discourse as it is here given may be divided into three main parts according to the subjects of which it treats. These three sections contain :—

(I.) Prophecies relating to Jewish believers (xxiv. 1-44);

(II.) Parables relating to Christendom (xxiv. 45xxv. 30);

(III.) Prophecy relating to the judgment of Gentile nations (xxv. 31-46).


(I.) The last part of the query of the disciples referred to. the end of the age, and the first part (xxiv. 4-14) of the first of the three sections concludes with the words, “then shalt the end come.” Before that end should come He warned them against being deceived by false Christs and false prophets, as the many, or the majority of Jews would be {xxiv. 11). There would be wars and providential inflictions, such as famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. The disciples would be persecuted and slain, and hated by all the nations, not for being Jews, but for Christ’s sake (xxiv. 9). There would be treachery and desertion from their own ranks. On account of the prevalence of lawlessness, the love of the great mass would grow cold. But the end of the age would finally come, and he that endured to the end would be saved (x. 22; xxiv. 13).

But when would the end come? The Lord gives them an indication : “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and TuEN shall the END come” (xxiv. 14, R.V.). Previously the Lord when sending them to preach had said to the apostles, “Ye shall not have gone through the cities of Israel till the: Son of man be come’ (Matt. x. 23, R.V.) From a comparison of the two passages we learn that a testimony to the coming kingdom will be rendered to all Israel and to all the nations before the end of the age and the coming of the Son of man. This testimony will therefore be resumed prior to Christ's public coming.

In the verses that follow (xxiv, 15-44) the Lord gives in greater detail the events that will immediately precede. the coming of the end of the age.

The Lord first points out that which will be the signal for the instant flight of all who are in Judea. This signal will be the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place (Dan. xii. 11), and the terms of the announcement of this signal show that it will apply to the Jewish rather than Christian disciples (xxiv. 16, 20).

The appearance of the abomination of desolation will be the sure sign to those that heed the Lord’s words that a great tribulation will immediately follow, such as the world had never seen before, nor will ever see again, Except those days be shortened, no flesh could endure to the end and be saved (xxiv. 21, 22).

Again, the Lord warned of false Christs and false prophets. They need not seek the Messiah in the desert, nor in secret chambers, for the coming of the Son of man can not be concealed any more than a flash of lightning. Where the dead carcase (the apostate Jews) shall be, there the vultures of judgment will assemble (xxiv. 23-28).

Immediately after this unparalleled tribulation the Son of man will come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and will gather together the elect of the twelve tribes of Israel from the four winds (xxiv. 29-31),

As surely as the young leaves of the fig-tree are a sign of coming summer, so all these things (from the false Christs of verse 5 to the appearing of the Son of man in verse 30) will indicate that the coming millennial age is at the doors. Then the generation of Christ-rejectors will have- passed away, and the Lord’s words fulfilled (xxiv. 32-35),

The day and hour of the Lord’s return are unknown, but His coming will be unexpected, like the flood in the days of Noah. Of two persons one will be. taken in judgment, and the other will be left in the ark of safety (xxiv. 36-41).

The conclusion of this part of the prophecy, relating as it does to Jewish disciples with earthly expectations, contains an exhortation to watch continuously because the day of the Lord’s coming is unknown. The Lord enforces the necessity of cultivating the spirit of constant readiness by the reference to the master of a house taking precautions against the raid of a thief (xxiv. 42-44).


(II.) The second division of the Lord’s discourse deals with certain aspects of the Christian profession (xxiv. 45xxy. 30). The change of subject is marked by the absence of the Lord’s title, “Son of man.” This title occurs six times in xxiv. 27-44, but not once from xxiv. 45 to xxv. 30, the occurrence in xxv. 13 being omitted in the R.V. Then in xxv, 31 the title is resumed, indicating a further change of subject.

The last verse of the first section says, “In an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh ” (xxiv. 44), while the first verse of the third section says what will happen when the Son of man does come and sit on the throne of His glory (xxv. 31). The intermediate verses (xxiv. 45-xxv. 30) therefore form a distinct section, which is parenthetical.

Moreover, it will be seen that while the first section refers to Judea, the temple, the Old Testament prophecies, and the sabbath, no Jewish references occur in the second section. The latter applies therefore to that state of things which began when the Lord went on high, and the Spirit of God came down at Pentecost.

Section two consists of three parables, all of which are connected with the Lord’s coming after the period of His absence. They are :—

(1) The parable of the household servant (xxiv. 45-51);

(2) The parable of the ten virgins (xxv. 1-13);

(3) The parable of the trading servants (xxv. 14.30).

Each of these parables contains a central moral feature, which the Lord impresses upon His hearers thereby. These may be summed up briefly as follows :—

(1) Faithfulness : in the first parable;

(2) Watchfulness: in the second parable;

(3) Zealousness: in the third parable.

In the first parable, a bondman is said to be placed in a position where he is responsible to issue food to his lord’s household during his absence. The faithful and prudent man is found just doing what he was told to do (“so doing ”) when his lord comes, and he receives a due reward. The evil servant takes advantage of his lord’s absence to do what he would not think of doing if he thought his lord was near. He is therefore classed as a hypocrite when the lord comes, and he is judged accordingly (xxiv. 45-51).

In the second case, watchfulness is the central theme. There are ten virgins who all go out to meet or watch for the Bridegroom. This company is a figure of the Christian profession, who are set as lights in the world. They are not the Jewish remnant, for the wise are said to have oil in their vessels, a figure of the Holy Ghost, which could not be true of the Jewish remnant who will not receive the Holy Ghost until the Lord comes.

All the virgins sleep until midnight when they are roused by a special call, “Behold, the Bridegroom.” Those possessing oil are ready to enter when the door is open, but the others are refused admittance though they seek it earnestly. “Watch therefore,” the Lord says, “for ye know neither the day nor the hour.”

This parable is described as a similitude of the kingdom of the heavens, and is therefore associated with those similarly described and found in Matthew xiii.

The third parable is of the traders. The master goes away and returns. On his departure, he entrusts a variety of gifts to his servants according to their several abilities. Some serve as if the master’s eye was upon them and exhibit a spirit of diligence which is proved in the day of reckoning by the results they attain, one gaining five talents, and another two, Their proved diligence and zeal are duly re~ ‘warded.

One, however, was not only guilty of slothfulness, but he displayed an utter want of insight into his master’s character, and had no works to show when the lord came. For him there was no reward like his fellow-servants. How could he, like them, enter into the joy of his lord? He was consigned to the place of darkness and of weeping.


(III.) The third and final section of the Lord’s prophecy relates to a session of judgment. Those judged are evidently living persons, since they are assembled before the throne of the Son of man as nations or Gentiles. In that category they would be separate from Israel, a distinction that is not found when the wicked dead are raised for judgment (Rev. xx. 11-15), :

The nations are mentioned earlier in the prophecy, (1) as those who hate the disciples of Christ (xxiv. 9), and (2) those to whom the disciples are to preach the gospel of the kingdom before the “end ” comes (xxiv. 14).

The administration of judgment upon the nations is based upon the manner in which they received the messengers of the King, whom He describes as His “brethren.” As the Shepherd of Israel, the King separates the nations before Him into two companies, the sheep and the goats. The act recalls the Lord’s own words, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this [Jewish] fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John x, 16). The righteous Gentile sheep will share millennial blessing with restored Israel.

The sheep on the King’s right hand believed the gospel of the kingdom, and the King’s award is that they shall “inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world” (xxv. 34). This fact of the presence of the blessed distinguishes this: judgment from that of the great white throne,-where the whole assembly is of the raised dead only, and of the wicked only (Rev. xx, 11-15).

The goats placed on the King’s left hand are those who have despised the preachers, and rejected their gospel concerning the kingdom. It is their sad portion to hear their irrevocable doom pronounced by the King: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” The judgment is final, but the place of their eternal abode was prepared, not for them as the kingdom was for the sheep, but for the devil and his angels (xxv, 41-46).