15. When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which is described by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, (let him that readeth understand,) 16. Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains.17. Let not him who is on the housetop go down to carry anything out of his house; 18. And let not him who is in the field return to carry away his clothes.19. But woe to the women with child, and to them that give suck in those days.20. And pray that your flight may not be in the winter, nor on the sabbath. 21. For there will then be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world till this time, nor will be.22. And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved, but on account of the elect those days shall be shortened.23. If anyone shall then say to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, do not believe it.24. For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall perform great signs and wonders, so that even the elect (if it were possible) will be led into error.25. Lo, I have foretold it to you.26. If then they shall say to you, Lo, he is in the desert, go not out; lo, he is in the secret chamber, do not believe it.27. For as the lightning goeth out of the east, and shineth even to the west, so shall also be the coming of the Son of man.28. For wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles also be gathered together.
14. But when you shall see the abomination of desolation, which is described by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that are in Judea flee to the mountains; 15. And let not him who is on the housetop go down into the house, or enter into it, to carry away anything out of his house.16. And let not him that is in the field return back to bring away his cloak.17. But woe to the women with child, and to them that give suck in those days.18. But pray that your flight may not be in the winter.19. For in those days there shall be tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the creation which God created till this time, nor will be.20. And unless the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved, but on account of the elect whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.21. And if anyone shall then say to you, Lo, here is Christ, or, lo, there, do not believe it.22. For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall perform signs and wonders to deceive (if it were possible) even the elect.23. But take heed; lo, I have foretold to you all things.
20. And when you shall see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is at hand.21. Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them who are in the midst of it withdraw; and let not those who are in the fields enter into it.22. For these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.23. But woe to women with child, and to them that give suck in those days; for there shall be great tribulation on the earth, and wrath on this people.24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
22. And he said to the disciples, The days will come when you shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and shall not see it.23. And they will say to you, Lo, he is here, or, lo, he is here; do not go, nor follow them. 24. For as the lightning, flashing from one side which is under heaven, shineth to the other side which is under heaven, so shall be also the Son of man in his day.25. But he must first suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.
Matthew 24:15. When you shall see the abomination of desolation. Because the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem, together with the overthrow of the whole Jewish government, was (as we have already said) a thing incredible, and because it might be thought strange, that the disciples could not be saved without being torn from that nation, to which had been committed the adoption and the covenant (Romans 9:4) of eternal salvation, Christ confirms both by the testimony of Daniel As if he had said, That you may not be too strongly attached to the temple and to the ceremonies of the Law, God has limited them to a fixed time, and has long ago declared, that when the Redeemer should come, sacrifices would cease; and that it may not give you uneasiness to be cut off from your own nation, God has also forewarned his people, that in due time it would be rejected. Such a prediction was not only well adapted for removing ground of offense, but likewise for animating the minds of the godly, that amidst the sorest calamities -- knowing that God was looking upon them, and was taking care of their salvation -- they might betake themselves to the sacred anchor, where, amidst the most dreadful heavings of the billows, their condition would be firm and secure.
But before I proceed farther, I must examine the passage which is quoted by Christ. Those commentators are, I think, mistaken, who think that this quotation is made from the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel For there we do not literally find the words, abomination, of desolation; and it is certain that the angel does not there speak of the final destruction which Christ now mentions, but of the temporary dispersion which was brought about by the tyranny of Antiochus. But in the twelfth chapter the angel predicts what is called the final abrogation of the services of the Law, which was to take place at the coming of Christ. For, after having exhorted believers to unshaken constancy, he fixes absolutely the time both of the ruin and of the restoration.
From the time, says he, that the daily sacrifices shall be taken away, and the abomination of desolation set up, there will be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who shall wait till he come to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days, (Daniel 12:11, 12.)
I am aware that this passage is tortured in a variety of ways on account of its obscurity; but I consider the natural meaning of it to be, that the angel declares that, after the temple has been once purified from the pollutions and idols of Antiochus, another period will arrive when it will be exposed to a new profanation, and when all its sacredness and majesty will be for ever lost. And as that message was sad and melancholy, he again recalls the prophet to one year, and two years, and six months. These words denote both the duration and the close of the calamities; for, in an interrupted succession of calamities, the course of one year appears to us very long, but when that space of time is doubled, the distress is greatly increased. The Spirit therefore exhorts believers to prepare themselves for the exercise of patience, not only for a single year, that is, for a long period, but to lay their account with enduring tribulations through an uninterrupted succession of many ages. There is no small consolation also in the phrase, half a time, (Daniel 12:7) for though the tribulations be of long continuance, yet the Spirit shows that they will not be perpetual. And, indeed, he had formerly used this form of expression: The calamity of the Church shall last through a time, times, and half a time, (Daniel 7:25.) But now he reckons the period of three years and six months by days, that believers may be more and more hardened by a very long continuance of calamities; for it is customary with men in adversity to compute time, not by years or months, but by days, a single day being, in their estimation, equal to a year He says that those will be happy who bear up to the end of that period; that is, who with invincible patience persevere to the end.
Now Christ selects only what suited his purpose, namely, that the termination of sacrifices was at hand, and that the abomination, which was the sign of the final desolation, would be placed in the temple. But as the Jews were too strongly attached to their present condition, and therefore paid little attention to the prophecies which foretold the abolition of it, Christ, as if endeavoring to gain their ear, bids them read attentively that passage, where they would learn that what appeared to them difficult to be believed was plainly declared by the Prophets. Abomination means profanation; for this word denotes uncleanness, which corrupts or overturns the pure worship of God. It is called desolation, because it drew along with it the destruction of the temple and of the government; as he had formerly said, (Daniel 9:27,) that the pollution introduced by Antiochus was, as it were, the standard of temporary desolation; for such I conceive to be the meaning of the wing, or, |spreading out.| It is a mistake to suppose that this expression denotes the siege of Jerusalem, and the mistake receives no countenance from the words of Luke, who did not intend to say the same thing, but something quite different. For that city having been formerly delivered, when it appeared to be in the midst of destruction, lest believers should expect something of the same kind in future, Christ declares that, as soon as it would be surrounded by armies, it was utterly ruined, because it was wholly deprived of divine assistance. The meaning therefore is, that the issue of the war will not be doubtful, because that city is devoted to destruction, which it will not be able to escape any more than to rescind a decree of heaven. Accordingly, Luke shortly afterwards adds, that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, a mode of expression which denotes utter ruin. But as it might appear to be strange that the holy city should be thus given up to the Gentiles, to do with it as they pleased, he adds a consolation, that it was only for a time that so much liberty was allowed to the Gentiles, till their iniquity was ripe, and the vengeance which had been reserved for them was fully displayed.
16. Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Having shown by the testimony of the prophet that, when the temple had been profaned, the services of the Law would soon afterwards be abolished, he adds, that fearful and appalling calamities will soon overtake the whole of Judea, so that there will be nothing more desirable than to withdraw a distance from it; and, at the same time, he states that they will be so sudden, that time will scarcely be time allowed for the most rapid flight. For such is the import of the expressions, Let not him who is on the house-top enter into the house; let not him who is in the field turn back; that is, lest, by attempting to save their property, they themselves perish. Again, Woe to the women with child, and to them that give suck; for they will not be in a fit condition for flight. Again, Pray that your fight may not be in the winter; that is, that neither a regard to the sacredness of the day, nor the roughness of the roads, nor the shortness of the clays, may prevent or retard your flight. The design of Christ therefore was, first, to arouse his followers, that they might no longer indulge the hope of ease and repose, and the enjoyments of an earthly kingdom; and, secondly, to fortify their minds, that they might not give way under ordinary calamities. Such an admonition, no doubt, was fir from being agreeable, but, in consequence of their stupidity, and the great weight of the calamities, it was highly necessary.
21 For there will then be great tribulation. Luke says also, that there will be days of vengeance, and of wrath on that people, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. For since the people, through obstinate malice, had then broken the covenant of God, it was proper that alarming changes should take place, by which the earth itself and the air would be shaken. True, indeed, the most destructive plague inflicted on the Jews was, that the light of heavenly doctrine was extinguished among them, and that they were rejected by God; but they were compelled -- as the great hardness of their hearts made it necessary that they should be compelled -- to feel the evil of their rejection by sharp and severe chastisements. Now the true cause of such an awful punishment was, that the desperate wickedness of that nation had reached its height. For not only had they haughtily despised, but even disdainfully rejected the medicine which was brought for their diseases; and, what was worse, like persons who were mad or possessed by the devil, they wreaked their cruelty on the Physician himself. Since the Lord executed his vengeance on those men for their inveterate contempt of the Gospel, accompanied by incorrigible rage, let their punishment be always before our eyes; and let us learn from it, that no offense is more heinous in the sight of God, than obstinacy in despising his grace. But though all who in like manner despise the Gospel will receive the same punishment, God determined to make a very extraordinary demonstration in the case of the Jews, that the coming of Christ might be regarded by posterity with greater admiration and reverence. For no words can express the baseness of their criminality in putting to death the Son of God, who had been sent to them as the Author of life. Having committed this execrable sacrilege, they did not cease to incur the guilt of one crime after another, and thus to draw down upon themselves every ground of utter destruction. And, therefore, Christ declares that never afterwards will there be such tribulation in the world; for, as the rejection of Christ, viewed in itself, and especially as attended by so many circumstances of detestable obstinacy and ingratitude, was worthy of abhorrence above all the sins committed ill all ages, so also it was proper that, in the severity of punishment with which it was visited, it should go beyond all others.
22 And unless those days had been shortened. He presents an appalling view of those calamities, but at the same time mingles it with this consolation, that they would be sufficient to exterminate the very name of the Jews, if God did not look to his elect, and on their account grant some alleviation. This passage agrees with that of Isaiah:
Unless the Lord had left us a small seed, we would have been as Sodom, and we would have been like Gomorrah, (Isaiah 1:9.)
For it was necessary, as Paul assures us, that the vengeance of God, which had been displayed in the Babylonish captivity, should be again fulfilled at the coming of Christ, (Romans 9:29.) Nay more, in proportion as our wickedness was greater, it deserved a greater severity of punishment. And therefore Christ says that, unless God put a period to those calamities, the Jews will utterly perish, so that not a single individual will be left; but that God will remember his gracious covenant, and will spare his elect, according to that other prediction of Isaiah,
Though thy people were like the sand of the sea,
a remnant only shall be saved, (Isaiah 10:22.)
This affords us a striking proof of the judgment of God, when he afflicts his visible Church to such a degree, that we would be ready to conclude that it had altogether perished; and yet, in order to preserve some seed, he miraculously rescues from destruction his elect, though few in number, that, contrary to expectation, they may escape from the jaws of death. For, on the one hand, it is fitted to alarm hypocrites, that they may not, through reliance on the title and outward appearance of a Church, cherish the vain hope that they will pass unpunished, for the Lord will find some means of delivering his Church, when those men have been given up to destruction; and, on the other hand, it conveys a wonderful consolation to the godly, that God will never allow his wrath to proceed so far as not to provide for their safety. Thus, in punishing the Jews, the wrath of God burned to an extent which was truly awful, and yet, contrary to the expectation of men, he restrained it in such a manner, that not one of the elect perished. And it was a miracle which almost exceeded belief; that, as salvation was to proceed from Judea, out of a few drops of a fountain which was dried up God formed rivers to water the whole world; for, in consequence of the hatred of all nations which they had drawn upon themselves, they narrowly escaped from being murdered in all places, by a preconcerted signal, in one day. Nor can it be doubted, that when many persons entreated that they should be slaughtered in this manner, Titus was restrained by God from giving permission to his soldiers and to others who were excessively desirous to carry such a design into execution; and, therefore, when the Roman Emperor at that time prevented the utter destruction of the whole nation, that was the shortening here mentioned, for preserving some seed, (Isaiah 1:9.)
Yet it ought to be observed, that it was on account of the elect that God restrained the fierceness of his anger, that he might not consume them all. For why did he determine that a few should remain out of a vast multitude? and what reason had he for giving them a preference above others? It was because his grace dwelt in the people whom he had adopted; and, that his covenant might not fail, some were elected and appointed to salvation by his eternal purpose. Hence Paul ascribes to free election (Romans 11:5) the reason why out of an immense nation a remnant only was saved. Away then with human merits, when our attention is directed exclusively to the good pleasure of God, that the distinction between some persons and others may depend solely on this, that those who have been elected must be saved. To state the matter more clearly and fully, Mark uses a superfluity of words, expressing it thus, on account of the elect, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. Certainly the use of the word elect might have been sufficient, if he had not intended to state expressly that God is not induced by external causes to bestow his favor on some rather than on others; but that, because he has elected those whom he will save, he ratifies the secret purpose of his grace in their salvation.
But a question arises, how was it on account of the elect that God set a limit to these calamities, so as not utterly to destroy the Jews, when many of those who were saved were reprobate and desperate? The reply is easy. A part of the nation was preserved, that out of them God might bring his elect, who were mixed with them, like the seed after the chaff has been blown off. So then, though temporal safety was bestowed equally on the reprobate and on the elect, yet, as it was of no advantage to the reprobate, it is justly ascribed to the elect alone, for it was to their benefit that the wonderful providence of God was directed.
23. If any one shall then say to you. He again repeats what he had said about impostors, and not without reason; for there was great danger arising from this temptation, that wretched men, while their affairs were in a troubled and desperate condition, would be deceived by false pretenses, would seek phantoms instead of Christ, and would embrace the delusions of Satan, as if they were assistance from God. As the Jews, when they were so severely oppressed on account of having despised redemption, needed, at least, violent remedies to restrain them from treachery, Satan cunningly held out to them new hopes, which would withdraw them still farther from God. And certainly, when we are left without direction in adversity, nothing is more pernicious than to be deceived, under the disguise of the name of God, by falsehoods which not only shut against us the door of repentance, but increase the darkness of infidelity, and at length overwhelm us with despair, and drive us to madness. The repetition of the statement, therefore, was far from being superfluous, when the danger was so great; and especially when Christ warns them that false prophets will come prepared with no ordinary instruments of deception, with signs and wonders fitted to confound weak minds. For since it is by miracles that God attests the presence of his power, and since they are therefore seals of the true doctrine, we need not wonder if impostors gain credit by them. By this kind of delusion God revenges the ingratitude of men, that they who rejected the truth may believe a lie, and that they who shut their eyes against the light which was offered to them may be plunged deeper and deeper in darkness. He exercises, at the same time, the constancy of his followers, which comes to shine with greater brightness, when they give way to no kind of impostures.
Again, since our Lord declares that antichrists and false prophets would be armed with miracles, there is no reason why the Papists should talk so haughtily on this ground, or why we should be terrified by their boasting. In support of their superstitions they plead miracles, -- those very miracles which, the Son of God predicted, would corrupt the faith of many, and which, therefore, wise men ought not to hold in such estimation as to be sufficient of themselves to prove either one or another kind of doctrine. If it be objected, that such reasoning would overthrow and set aside the miracles by which both the Law and the Gospel were ratified, I reply, that the Spirit engraved on them an undoubted mark, which removed from believers all doubt and fear of being mistaken. For when God displayed his power for the purpose of confirming his people, he did not act in so confused a manner as not to manifest the true and infallible distinction. Besides, the manner in which miracles seal doctrine is such, that the doctrine itself mutually shines before them, and dispels all the clouds by which Satan darkens the minds of the simple. In short, if we wish to guard against impostures, let us preserve the connection between miracles and doctrine unbroken.
24. So that even the elect (if it were possible) will be led into error. This was added for the purpose of exciting alarm, that believers may be more careful to be on their guard; for when such unbounded freedom of action is allowed to false prophets, and when they are permitted to exert such powers of deceiving, those who are careless and inattentive would easily be entangled by their snares. Christ therefore exhorts and arouses his disciples to keep watch, and at the same time reminds them that there is no reason for being troubled at the strangeness of the sight, if they see many persons on every hand led away into error. While he excites them to solicitude, that Satan may not overtake them in a state of sloth, he gives them abundant ground of confidence on which they may calmly rely, when he promises that they will be safe under the defense and protection of God against all the snares of Satan. And thus, however frail and slippery the condition of the godly may be, yet here is a firm footing on which they may stand; for it is not possible for them to fall away from salvation, to whom the Son of God is a faithful guardian. For they have not sufficient energy to resist the attacks of Satan, unless in consequence of their being
the sheep of Christ, which none can pluck out of his hand, (John 10:28.)
It must therefore be observed, that the permanency of our salvation does not depend on us, but on the secret election of God; for though our salvation is kept through faith, as Peter tells us, (1 Peter 1:5,) yet we ought to ascend higher, and assure ourselves that we are in safety, because the Father hath given us to the Son, and the Son himself declares, that
none who have been given to him shall perish (John 17:12.).
25. Lo, I have foretold it to you. Mark expresses our Lord's meaning more fully. But take heed: lo, I have foretold you all things. By these words we are taught that they who are dismayed by the stumbling-blocks which Christ predicted are altogether inexcusable; for since the will of God ought to be our rule, it is sufficient that we have received timely warning that such is his pleasure. Again, as he declares that
he is faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear, (1 Corinthians 10:13,)
we shall never be in want of strength to resist, provided that our weakness be not nourished by indifference.
26. Lo, he is in the desert. Luke connects this discourse with another reply of Christ; for, having been interrogated by the Pharisees about the coming of the kingdom of God, he replied, that it would not come with observation; and then follows in Luke's narrative that, turning to his disciples, he informed them that the days would come when they would no longer see a day of the Son of man. By these words he intended to charge them
to walls in the light before the darkness of the night overtook them, (John 12:35;)
for this ought to have been a very powerful excitement to endeavor to make progress, so long as they enjoyed the presence of Christ, when they 1earned that very serious disturbances were at hand. Whether or not Christ admonished his disciples twice on this subject is uncertain; but I think it. probable that Luke, while he was speaking of the coming of the kingdom of God introduced sentences taken from a different occasion, which he frequently does, as we have seen in other instances.
But as this passage has been, through ignorance, tortured in various ways, that the reader may ascertain the true meaning, he must attend to the contrast between a state of concealment and that extension of the kingdom of Christ far and wide, and which would be sudden and unexpected, as the lightning dashes from the east to the west. For we know that the false Christs -- in accordance with the gross and foolish hope of that nation -- drew along with them as large bodies of men as they could collect into the recesses of the desert, or into caverns, or other places of retirement, in order to throw off the yoke of the Roman government by force and by arms. The meaning therefore is, that every one who collects his forces into a secret place, in order to regain the freedom of the nation by arms, falsely pretends to be the Christ; for the Redeemer is sent to diffuse his grace suddenly and unexpectedly through every quarter of the world. But these two things are quite contrary, to shut up redemption within some corner, and to spread it through the whole world. The disciples were thus reminded that they must no longer seek a Redeemer within the small enclosure of Judea, because he will suddenly extend the limits of his kingdom to the uttermost ends of the world. And, indeed, this astonishing rapidity, with which the gospel flew through every part of the world, was a manifest testimony of divine power. For it could not be the result of human industry, that the light of the gospel, as soon as it appear, darted from one side of the world to the opposite side like lightning; and therefore it is not without reason that Christ introduces this circumstance for demonstrating and magnifying his heavenly glory. Besides, by holding out this vast extent of his kingdom, he intended to show that the desolation of Judea would not hinder him from reigning.
28 Wheresoever the carcass is. The meaning is, that by whatever methods Satan endeavors to scatter the children of God in various directions, still in Christ himself is the sacred bond of union, by which they must be kept united. For whence comes the dispersion, but that many depart from Christ, in whom alone our strength lies? Here then is a method laid down for promoting a holy union, that the separations produced by errors may not tear in pieces the body of the Church; and that method is, when we remain united to Christ. This ought to be carefully observed; for Christ does not restrict us either to the primacy of the Roman See, or to any other foolery, but employs this method alone for binding his Church together, that all in every quarter should look to him as the only head. Hence it follows, that those who are united to him by pure faith are beyond the risk of schism. Let the adherents of Rome now go, and exclaim that all are schismatics who do not allow themselves to be separated from Christ, that they may transfer their allegiance to a robber.
There also will the eagles be gathered together. When the Papists interpret the word carcass to denote the company of those who profess the same faith, and allegorically explain the eagles to represent acute and sagacious men, it is excessively absurd, for Christ had manifestly no other design than to call to himself, and to retain in union to him, the children of God, wherever they were scattered. Nor does Christ simply employ the word body, but (ptoma) carcass; and he ascribes nothing to eagles but what we might apply to crows or vultures, according to the nature of the country which we inhabit. I attach as little value to the ingenuity of other commentators, who say that the death of Christ had a sweet savor, to draw the elect to God; for, in my opinion, Christ intended to argue from the less to the greater, that if birds have so great sagacity as to flock in great numbers from distant places to a single carcass, it would be disgraceful in believers not to assemble to the Author of life, from whom alone they derive their actual nourishment.