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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
The principal things in this chapter are fully explained in Matthew 24.
1And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!
What manner of stones - The stones here referred to were those used in the building of the temple, and the walls on the sides of Mount Moriah, on which the temple stood. The temple was constructed of white marble, and the blocks were of a prodigious size. Josephus says that these stones were, some of them, 50 feet long, 24 feet broad, and 16 feet in thickness.
2And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,
On the mount of Olives, over against the temple - The Mount of Olives was directly east of Jerusalem, and from it there was a fine view of the temple.
4Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?
5And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:
6For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
7And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.
8For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.
9But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.
Take heed to yourselves - Be cautious that no man deceive you; or, take care of your lives, not to run into unnecessary danger.
To councils - The higher ecclesiastical courts of the Jews, including the Sanhedrin, or great council of the nation.
Rulers and kings - Referring to Roman officers.
For a testimony against them - Rather to bear testimony to them, or to be witnesses "before them" of the truth. This was" for the sake" of Jesus, or because they were attached to him; and God would overrule it so that at the same time they should bear witness "to" the rulers of the truth, as was the case with Peter and John, Acts 4; with Stephen, Acts 6-7; and with Paul, Acts 23; Acts 24:24-25.
10And the gospel must first be published among all nations.
11But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.
Neither do ye premeditate - Do not think beforehand, or "prepare" an answer. You know not what the accusations will be, and God will furnish you with a reply that shall be adapted to the occasion.
Not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit - This is a full promise that they should be inspired, and consequently their defenses recorded in the Acts of the Apostles are the words of the Holy Spirit. There could be no more explicit promise that they should be under an infallible guidance, and we are not left to doubt that they were taught of God. At the same time, this was a most desirable and gracious aid. They were illiterate, unknown, without power. They were unfit of themselves to make the important statements of religion which were requisite, but God gave them power, and they spake with a wisdom, fearlessness, pungency, and ability which no other men have ever manifested - full proof that these illiterate fishermen were under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
12Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.
The brother shall betray ... - The brother shall give up in a treacherous manner his brother to be put to death, on account of his attachment to Jesus. Through fear, or from the hope of reward and from the hatred of the gospel, he will overcome all the natural ties of brotherhood. and give up his own kindred to be burnt or crucified. Perhaps nothing could more clearly show the dreadful evil of those times, as well as the natural opposition of the heart to the religion of Christ.
13And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:
15And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house:
On the house-top - See the notes at Matthew 9:1-8.
16And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
17But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
18And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.
19For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.
20And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.
21And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:
22For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.
23But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
24But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
25And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
26And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
27And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
28Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:
29So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.
30Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
31Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
32But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Neither the Son - This text has always presented serious difficulties. It has been asked, If Jesus had a divine nature, how could he say that he knew not the day and hour of a future event? In reply, it has been said that the passage was missing, according to Ambrose, in some Greek manuscripts; but it is now found in all, and there can be little doubt that the passage is genuine. Others have said that the verb rendered "knoweth" means sometimes to "make" known or to reveal, and that the passage means, "that day and hour none makes known, neither the angels, nor the Son, but the Father." It is true that the word has sometimes that meaning, as in 1 Corinthians 2:2, but then it is natural to ask where has "the Father" made it known? In what place did he reveal it? After all, the passage has no more difficulty than that in Luke 2:52, where it is said that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature. He had a human nature. He grew as a man in knowledge. As a man his knowledge must be finite, for the faculties of the human soul are not infinite. As a man he often spoke, reasoned, inquired, felt, feared, read, learned, ate, drank, and walked. Why are not all these, which imply that he was a "man" - that, "as a man," he was not infinite - why are not these as difficult as the want of knowledge respecting the particular "time" of a future event, especially when that time must be made known by God, and when he chose that the man Christ Jesus should grow, and think, and speak "as a man?"
33Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
34For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
Who left his house - The word "house" often means family. Our Saviour here represents himself as going away, leaving his household the church, assigning to the apostles and all his servants their duty, and leaving it uncertain when he would return. Since his return was a matter of vast consequence, and as the affairs of his kingdom were entrusted to them, just as the affairs of a house are to servants when the master is absent, so it was of vast importance that they should be faithful at their post, that they should defend the house from danger, and be ready for his return.
The porter - The doorkeeper. To the janitor or doorkeeper was entrusted particularly the care of the house, whose duty it was to attend faithfully on those who came and those who left the house.
35Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
Watch ye - Be diligent, faithful, and waiting for the return of your Lord, who will come at an unexpected hour.
Master of the house - Denoting here the Lord Jesus.
At even, or at midnight, or ... - This refers to the four divisions into which the Jews divided the night.
36Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
Find you sleeping - Inattentive to your post, neglecting your duty, and unprepared for his coming.
37And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
I say unto all, Watch - This command was proper, not only for those who were expecting the calamities that were soon to come upon the Jews, but for all who are soon to die and to go to the judgment. We know not the time of our death. We know not how soon we shall be called to the judgment. The Son of man may come at any moment, and we should therefore be ready. If we are his friends; if we have been renewed and pardoned; if we have repented of our sins, and have believed on him. and are leading a holy life, we "are" ready. If not, we are unprepared, and soon - probably while we are not expecting it - the cold hand of death will be laid on us, and we shall be hurried to the place where is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Oh how important it is to be ready, and to escape the awful sufferings of an eternal hell!