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Mat.xxiv.l. Mark xiii. 1.
Christ foretells the Destruction of Jerusalem-the End of
the Jewish Dispensation, and of the World".
MATT. xxiv. 1-35. MARK Xiii. 1-31. LUKE Xxi. 5-33.
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple.
And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples
17 In the ancient times of the world, when all mankind began to apostatize from the faith of their fathers, it pleased the true God to select the illustrious ancestor of the now scattered sons of Israel, to maintain and perpetuate the true religion. Thus for a long series of ages, the God of Nature demonstrated to the whole world that He was the God of the Church also, by the most stupendous miracles in favour of the chosen family of Abraham. For them the sea was divided, the tides of rivers were stopped, and the waters rose up in heaps. Fountains broke forth in the desert; decay approached not their garments, nor fatigue their limbs. The God of the idolaters stood still in the temple of Heaven, and the moon pansed in her course at the voice of a mortal. For them the fire descended from heaven. God himself reigned over them, enthroned in a pillar of fire at night, and a cloud by day. He was their king -He was their deliverer. Whatever were their wanderings or deviations from his institutions; continued miracles, and the spirit of prophecy, demonstrated the perpetual superintendence of a presiding Providence. The records, handed down from their fathers, have been faithfully preserved; and we are there assured that the same power which ordained these wonders for the family of Abraham in the olden times, will never leave them, nor forsake them: "Can a woman forget her sucking child? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."
Is God unchangeable. Is Hea man that He should lie, or the son of man that he should repent? To what condition are his people reduced? Nearly two thousand years have elapsed since their holy city was burnt with fire, and their nation scattered among their insulting Gentile brethren. To the intolerable sufferings of the sons of Israel during this long period, it is not necessary to make further allusion. They are stamped on every page of history. The Jews are still dispersed over every part of the known world. "Among us, but not of us," they wander over the earth, banished from their holy cityfrom that city which was the joy of the whole earth-the residence of their prophets the seat of the greatness of their kings-the home, and the capital, as they fondly believed, of their expected Messiah. From the contemplation of the former splendour, and present depression of the house of Israel, I would request the modern Jew, who believes in the truth of those sacred books which have been transmitted to him from his illustrious ancestors, to propose to himself this question, "Whether it is probable that the God of their fathers should thus consign the peculiarly favoured family of Abraham to exile and misery the most intolerable, for so long a space of time, without some adequate cause?" Is it probable that Jerusalem, the holy city, the city of the great king, should be burnt with fire, and be trodden under foot of the Gentiles, and no warning voice be given, either by miracle, or by prophecy? When the Chaldeans polluted the sacred territority, and destroyed the carved work of the first temple, Ezekiel denounced the coming ven
Mat.xxiv.1. (his disciples) came to him for to shew him the buildings Jerusalem. of the temple;
geance; and Jeremiah wept night and day for the transgression
of the daughter of his people. When a greater and more last-
ing punishment was about to be inflicted, was it not to be ex-
pected that a prophet should arise among the people of God,
to appeal to them, with the stern dignity of Ezekiel, or the
tender, yet majestic, eloquence of Jeremiah? The books of
the Christian Scriptures alone, solve this difficulty, and assure
them that this expectation was not unreasonable. They tell
them that the greatest of all prophets appealed to them—the
son of David addressed them, but they would none of his re-
proof-He foretold, in his very last prediction, with sympathiz-
ing energy, the fearful destruction that awaited their beloved
city, and its unbelieving inhabitants; offering at the same time
the means of salvation to the faithful few.
At this time the Jews, through all ranks and classes, were
zealous for the law of their fathers, and persecuted to
death every one, even of their own nation, who spoke but
with indifference of its sanctions. Must not, then, some unac-
knowledged and proportionate crime have been committed,
which could thus call down the just judgment of the God of
their fathers? The Christian Scriptures alone can solve the
mystery, and vindicate the unchangeableness of the God of
Israel. Here is related the hitherto unrepented and propor-
tionate crime. They rejected their long promised Messiah-
they crucified the Lord of life; they nailed him to the cross;
they clamoured for his blood. For this their holy city is left unto
them desolate; for this they have been for so many centuries
the scorn, and outcasts of mankind. The fall of Jerusalem,
the miseries of its inhabitants, and the evils that have so long
pursued the sons of Israel, have been uniformly regarded as
monuments of the truth of Christianity, and the most undeni-
able and solemn appeal to the Jewish nation. And as this pre-
diction of our Lord is the most remarkable in the New Testa
ment; so also are the destruction it predicts, and the present
condition of the Jews, without any exception whatever, the most
calamitous, and the most striking, and, on all known prin-
ciples of action, the most unlooked for, unaccountable events,
Let us now consider the occasion on which the predictions were
spoken. When our Saviour pronounced his pathetic lamenta-
tion over Jerusalem, he was in the temple, surrounded by the
multitude and his own disciples; when he left it, "his dis-
ciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple,
how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts."
seemed, by this action, to infer that such a magnificent edifice
could not be destroyed. But, as our Saviour had prophesied
its total ruin and desolation, they were anxious to know more
of these things, and, as soon as he had disengaged himself from
the multitude, they come unto him privately, as he was sitting
on the Mount of Olives; and entreat Him to tell them, when
will these things be, and what the sign of thy coming, and
τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος) of the end of the world? From
this question, it appears evident that the disciples viewed the
coming of Christ and the end of the world or age, as events
nearly related, and which would indisputably take place to-
gether: they had no idea of the dissolution of the Jewish
polity, with its attendant miseries, as really signified, or in-
Luke xxi. 5. how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts,
Mark xiii.1. and saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones
and what buildings are here!
cluded in, either of those events. They imagined, perhaps, a
great and awful change in the physical constitution of the uni-
verse, which they probably expected would occur within the
term of their own lives; but they could have no conception of
what was really meant by the expression which they employed,
the coming of Christ. "From their very childhood," says a
judicious and penetrating commentator, "they imagined that
the temple would stand to the end of time: and this notion
was so deeply fixed in their minds, that they regarded it as im-
possible for the temple to be overthrown, while the structure
of the universe remained. As soon therefore as Christ told them
that the temple would be destroyed, their thoughts instantly
ran to the consummation of all things. Thus they connect
with the destruction of the temple, as things inseparable, the
coming of Christ and the end of the world." Rosenmüller ob-
serves on this passage, "it is certain that the phrase ǹ ovvτέλεiα
Tou alwvoc, is understood in the New Testament (Matt. xiii.
39, 40. 49. xxviii. 20.) of the end of the world. The disciples
spoke according to the opinions of their countrymen, and be-
lieved that the end of this world, and the beginning of a new
one, would follow immediately upon the destruction of the
The coming of Christ, and the end of the world, being there-
fore only different expressions to denote the same period as
the destruction of Jerusalem, the purport of the disciples
question plainly is, When shall the destruction of Jerusalem
be-and what shall be the signs of it? The latter part of the
question is the first answered, and our Saviour foretells, in the
clearest manner, the signs of his coming, and the destruction
of Jerusalem. He then passes on to the other part of the
question, concerning the time of his coming. History is the
only certain interpreter of prophecy, and by a comparison of
the two, we shall see with what stupendous accuracy the latter
has been accomplished. Our blessed Saviour foretells, as the
first sign of his coming, that there should be false prophets,
(Matt. xxiv. 4, 5.) adding (Luke xxi. 8.) the time draweth near;
and we find, in a very short time after, this prophecy began to
be realized. Very soon after our Lord's decease, Simon Magus
appeared, and bewitched the people of Samaria, &c. (Acts viii.
9, 10.) See also Acts xxi. 38.
Of the same stamp and character was also Dositheus, the Samaritan, who pretended that he was the Christ foretold by Moses.
About twelve years after the death of our Lord, when Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, arose an impostor of the name of Theudas, who said he was a prophet, and persuaded a great multitude to follow him with their best effects to the river Jordan, which he promised to divide for their passage; and saying these things, says Josephus, he deceived many almost the very words of our Lord.
A few years afterwards, under the reign of Nerò, while Felix was procurator of Judea, impostors of this stamp were so frequent, that some were taken and killed almost every day. Jos. Ant. b. xx. c. 4. and 7. It was a just judgment for God to deliver up that people into the hands of false Christs, who had so wilfully rejected the true one.
The next signs given by our Lord, are, Wars and rumours
And Jesus answering, said unto them, Seest thou these Jerusalem. great buildings?
of wars, &c. These may be seen in Josephus, (b. xviii. c. 9. War.
b. xi. c. 10.) especially as to the rumours of wars, when Caligula
ordered his statue to be set up in the temple of God, which the
Jews having refused, had every reason to expect a war with the
Romans; and were in such consternation on the occasion, that
they even neglected to till the ground: but their fears were
soon dissipated by the timely death of that emperor.
"Nation shall rise against nation." This portended greater
disturbances than those which took place under Caligula, in the
latter times of Claudius, and in the reign of Nero. It foretold
the dissensions, insurrections, and mutual slaughter of the Jews,
and those of other nations, who dwelt in the same cities to-
gether; as particularly at Cesarea, where the Jews and Syrians
contended about the right of the city, which ended in the total
expulsion of the Jews, above 20,000 of whom were slain. The
whole Jewish nation being exasperated at this, flew to arms,
and burnt and plundered the neighbouring cities and villages
of the Syrians, making an immense slaughter of the people.
The Syrians, in return, destroyed not a less number of the
Jews. At Scythopolis they murdered upwards of 13,000; at
Ascalon they killed 2500; at Ptolemais they slew 2000, and
made many prisoners. The Tyrians also put many Jews to
death, and imprisoned more: the people of Gadara did like-
wise, and all the other cities of Syria in proportion, as they
hated or feared the Jews. At Alexandria the Jews and Heathens
fought, and 50,000 of the former were slain. The people of
Damascus conspired against the Jews of that city, and assault-
ing them unarmed, killed 10,000 of them.
"Kingdom against kingdom." This portended the open wars of different tetrarchies and provinces against each other. That of Jews and Galileans against the Samaritans, for the murder of some Galileans going up to the feast of Jerusalem, while Cumanus was procurator. That of the whole nation of Jews against the Romans and Agrippa, and other allies of the Roman empire; which began when Gessius Florus was procurator; and that of the civil war in Italy, while Otho and Vitellius were contending for the empire. It is worthy of remark, that the Jews themselves say, "In the time of the Messiah, wars shall be stirred up in the world; nation shall rise against nation, and city against city." Sohar Kadash. Again, Rab. Eleasar, the son of Abina, said, "When ye see kingdom rising against kingdom, then expect the immediate appearance of the Messiah." Berashith Rabba, sect. 42.
"There shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places." And we find a famine foretold by Agabus, (Acts xi. 28.) which is mentioned by Suetonius, Tacitus, and Eusebius, which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cesar; and was so severe at Jerusalem, that Jospephus says, (Ant. b. xx. c. 2.) many died for lack of food. Pestilences are the usual attendants of famines; as the scarcity and badness of provisions generally produce epidemic disorders. There were several earthquakes likewise in those times to which our Lord refers; particularly one at Crete, in the reign of Claudius; one at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, and Samos. See Grotius; one at Rome, mentioned by Tacitus; and one at Laodicea, in the reign of Nero, in which the city was overthrown, as were likewise Hierapolis and Colosse. See Tacit. Annal. lib. xii. and lib. xiv. one; at Campania, mentioned by Seneca; and one at Rome, in the reign of Galba, mentioned by Suetonius, in the
Mat. xxiv.2. See ye not all these things?
As for these things which
life of that emperor. Add to all these a dreadful one in Judea,
mentioned by Josephus, (War, b. iv. c. 4.) accompanied by a
dreadful tempest, violent winds, vehement showers, and conti-
nual lightnings and thunders; which led many to believe that
these things portended some uncommon calamity.
"That there shall be fearful sights and great signs from
heaven," (chap. xxi. 11.) Josephus, in his preface to the
Jewish war mentions that a star hung over the city like a
sword; and a comet continued a whole year.
being assembled at the feast of unleavened bread, at the ninth
hour of the night, a great light shone about the altar and the
temple, and this continued for half an hour. The eastern gate
of the temple, which was of solid brass, and could hardly be
shut by twenty men, and was fastened by strong bars and bolts,
was seen at the sixth hour of the night to open of its own ac-
cord! Before sunsetting there was seen, over all the country,
chariots and armies fighting in the clouds, and besieging cities.
At the feast of Pentecost, when the priests were going into the
inner temple by night, to attend their service, they heard first
a motion and noise, and then a voice as of a multitude, saying,
"Let us depart hence." What Josephus reckons one of the
most terrible signs of all was; that one Jesus, a country fellow,
four years before the war began, and when the city was in
peace and plenty, came to the feast of tabernacles, and ran crying
up and down the streets, day and night: "A voice from the East,
a voice from the West! a voice from the four winds! a voice
against Jerusalem and the temple! a voice against the bride-
groom and the bride! and a voice against all the people!”
Though the magistrates endeavoured, by stripes and tortures,
to interrogate him, they could obtain no answer but the mourn-
ful cry of," Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" and this he continued
to do for several years together, going about the walls, and
crying with a loud voice," Woe, woe to the city, and to the
people, and to the temple!" and, as he added, “Woe, woe to
myself," a stone from some sling or engine struck him dead on
These were indeed fearful signs and wonders; and there is
not a more credible historian than the one who relates them,
who appeals to the testimony of those who saw and heard them.
But an additional evidence is given to his relation by the Ro-
man historian Tacitus, who presents us with a summary ac-
count of the same occurrences; and as "the testimonies of
Josephus and Tacitus confirm the predictions of Christ, so the
predictions of Christ confirm the wonders recorded by these his-
torians (c)." But these were only the beginnings of sorrows,
(Matt. xxiv. 8.) and from the calamities of the nation in general,
Christ passes to those of the Christians in particular, (xxiv. 9.
Mark xiii. 9, 11. Luke xxi. 13, 14. 15.) We need look no fur-
ther than the Acts of the Apostles for a melancholy proof of the
truth of their predictions. But although the followers of
Christ's religion were persecuted beyond measure, it is a re-
markable fact, and a signal act of Divine Providence, that none
of the Christians perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. So
literally was that assertion fulfilled, "There shall not an hair
of your head perish." And, notwithstanding the persecutions
and calamities of the Christians, it was prophesied, "This Gos-
pel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a
witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come." And
accordingly we find, from the writers of the history of the