The Gospel of Matthew (part 2)

An Exposition

Arno Clement Gaebelein

Part 1 (ch. 1-13)

 

CHAPTER XIV

The fourteenth chapter contains the record of events put together so as to harmonize with the purpose of this Gospel. The Lord had revealed the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens, mysteries, as we have seen, repeated by the Lord in His seven messages to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. At the end of the previous chapter we learned once more of His rejection. "They were offended at Him." In the chapter before us He appears as the rejected One. The right key to understand the events described here, is to look upon all dispensationally. We have in them a description of what takes place while the King is absent and rejected by His own people. At the end of this chapter He comes in the fourth watch, and with His coming brings the calm for the troubled sea and His troubled disciples.

The first incident we find is the martyrdom of John the Baptist. Herod stands with his kingdom and abomination for the world, the prince of this age, and his persecutions. The record is put in here to show that during the absence of the King, the world will hate and persecute those who are of the Truth, but it carries us on to the end likewise, when a false king will rule once more -- the Antichrist; typified by Herod.

The second incident is the miraculous feeding of the five thousand men, besides women and children. He had gone to a desert place, but the crowds followed Him, and He supplies their need in His own miraculous way. The keeping of His people is here demonstrated, while on the other hand, we find spiritual lessons, which lead us deeper, especially if we compare this section with the record in the Gospel of John.

The third incident is the storm on the sea, lasting a whole night, during which the Lord is absent. He went into the mountain apart to pray, which is a picture of His presence with the Father during this age. This section is especially rich in dispensational lessons. We learn from this short outline of the fourteenth chapter, that it forms a kind of bird's-eye view of the age, which follows the rejection of our Lord.

"At that time Herod, the tetrarch, heard of the fame of Jesus, and said to his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and because of this, these works of power display their force in him" (verses 1, 2).

The Herod mentioned here is not the Herod in the second chapter of the Gospel. The Herod under which the children of Bethlehem were slain was Herod the Great, an Idumean who had been proclaimed king of the Jews by Rome and exercised his evil reign under the protection of Rome. After his death Archelaus became tetrarch of Judea, Samaria and Idumea, Philip of Trachonitis and Herod Antipas of Galilee and Peraea, who also had the title of tetrarch. It is this Herod who is before us in this chapter He was married to a daughter of King Aretas of Arabia. He lived, however, in open adultery with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Like his father, Herod the Great, he was a wicked man, the murderer of John the Baptist. He was followed by Herod Agrippa, under whose regime the persecution of the Christians broke out in Jerusalem.

 

The dreadful end of this wicked king is described in Acts 12. He was smitten by an angel of God and eaten by worms. His son, named likewise Herod Agrippa, took his place.

 

These Herods -- who ruled under Rome over Immanuel's land and were such bloody men, false kings upon a throne, which was not theirs -- are all types of Antichrist, that false king, who comes in his own name and will be received by the Jews.

 

During this entire age "the mystery of iniquity already works," and in the end of it that wicked one will be revealed. Satan rules over the world now, and by and by, his power will have full sway for a little while, and then through the revived Roman Empire, the beast out of the sea, a false king, the great final Herod, will rule and reign, as well as the beast out of the earth.

 

These dispensational facts make it clear why the story of John's martyrdom is introduced now in this Gospel. It is brought forth here to show that alongside of the kingdom of the heavens in its mysteries, there is the kingdom of the world culminating in a wicked leader, the man of sin and son of perdition.

 

The incident itself comes in at the time when our Lord sent out His disciples. In the fourth chapter we heard that John was delivered up (4:12). In the eleventh he sent his disciples from the prison to the Lord, and now his fate is made known after the Lord had revealed the secret things.

 

On account of the report concerning Jesus, Herod is troubled, like his father before him was troubled, when the wise men from the east came to Jerusalem. Conscience speaks with a loud voice, and though Herod was neither a Pharisee nor a Sadducee, he is superstitious and looks upon Jesus as John the Baptist risen from the dead. It is still so; where there is no faith, superstitions hold sway. And why was he troubled and uneasy? Why did his conscience speak? "For Herod had seized John, and had bound him and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And while desiring to kill him, he feared the crowd, because they held him for a prophet. But when Herod's birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod; whereupon he promised with oath to give her whatsoever she should ask. But she, being set on by her mother, says, Give me here upon a dish the head of John the Baptist. And the king was grieved; but on account of the oaths, and those lying at table with him, he commanded it to be given. And he sent and beheaded John in the prison; and his head was brought upon a dish, and was given to the damsel, and she carried it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it and came and told Jesus. And Jesus having heard it, went away thence by ship to a desert place apart" (verses 3-13").

 

What a scene of wickedness and crime, lust and blood shed is here revealed! It is the true picture of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. And this world, this age is unchanged. It is not improved and gradually subdued. This evil world is not getting better. It is not giving up its lust and pride, its hatred and persecution under "the civilizing influence of Christendom" as it is claimed. The things manifested here by the Spirit of God, as they transpired at the merry feast of Herod are the same today. The hatred of the Truth and the servant of the Lord is the same. The lust of the flesh and the eyes and the pride of life have not changed a particle. All is present with all its disgusting features in the midst of the boasted "civilizing influences of Christendom."

 

John had been faithful in discharging his God-given ministry. Openly he had confronted the despot with his evil doing and a dungeon becomes his lot. How often it has been repeated throughout the age. How many faithful servants have been hated and persecuted thus. The world receives not the truth, but hates it. Having rejected the Lord and hated Him, the world rejects and hates Him who is of the truth. How sad to look upon that which professes to be the church, that which professes to be Christian and to see it in friendship with the world! At last professing and apostate Christendom will form that great world center, and center of abomination and wickedness, " Babylon the Great," and in her will be found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all the slain upon the earth (Rev. 18:24).

 

Oh, let us herald it forth, separation from the world! "Adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, is minded to be the friend of the world is the constituted enemy of God" (James 4:4). May it reach our conscience that we may live indeed as such who are in the world but not of the world, not conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind. Like John the Baptist, let us be faithful in our testimony, no matter what the consequences may be.

 

John represents here also him who is one of the two witnesses. Elijah will come once more, not now, but at the Jewish end of the age; not in this country, but in Israel 's land. As a witness, with his companion, he will witness against the beast, and will be slain by it, as John was slain by Herod.

 

We pass over the details of that libertine feast, the dance, unquestionably indecent, the beastly mother, with her awful request. Of Herod we read, he was grieved on account of the request. He feared the crowd on the one hand, and on the other he feared those who lay at table with him. He wanted to appear religious. If he made an oath and it was heard by those with him, and he did not keep it, they would surely tell it abroad. If his religiousness led him to commit a murder it is a small matter. How often it has been repeated! Under the garb of religiousness crimes upon crimes have been committed, and the end is not yet.

 

What a moment it must have been when the messenger entered the dungeon of John and his life is taken. "And he sent and beheaded John in prison." This is all the Spirit of God tells us of it. No doubt John met the messenger in the triumph of faith.

 

John's disciples came and took the headless body and buried it and then they came and told Jesus.

 

There they found the comfort and the hope of resurrection and life. What words of cheer He may have given to them we do not read here, but we are sure they came not in vain to Him. And shall we come in vain to Him with our cares and griefs, trials and losses? Go and tell Jesus Christ your Lord!

 

Such then is the world in its hatred and such what the servants of Christ may expect from the world.

 

Our Lord having heard the report went away to a desert place apart. He knew that it was only a little while longer and He would be rejected, condemned and crucified. But His time had not yet come. He would not hasten matters, however, even if then Herod would have attempted to do anything to him he would have not succeeded. How the Spotless and Holy One must have felt in that hour, when wickedness had reached such a climax! Yet He is silent No word comes from His lips. No word of disapproval no word of judgment or wrath. Thus He is silent throughout this present evil age until that day comes, His own day, when He will keep silent no longer.

 

And now as He goes away by ship into a desert place apart, truly as the Rejected One. The multitudes hearing of it follow Him on foot from the cities. They seek Him in the wilderness, in the place of rejection. In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, we have the full record of what follows and likewise the condition of the people. Here we have only a brief description. "And going out He saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion about them, and healed their infirm" (verse 14). A few words only, but how His grace shines in them. Though He knew their hearts, which were far from seeking Him, yet was He moved with compassion. This is the second time we read of His compassion for the people. Not alone did He pity them but He healed their infirm. It must have kept Him busy as He moved among them, touching the sick and healing their diseases. "But when even was come, His disciples came to Him saying: The place is desert and much of the daytime already gone by; dismiss the crowds that they may go in the villages and buy food for themselves" (verse 15). What a contrast between the compassionate Lord and His disciples! How little they had learned of Him and of His gracious ways. Most likely while He was still occupied with the people and still stretching forth His hands with healing power, they interrupted Him in His blessed work, reminding Him of the physical needs of the multitudes. As if He knew not Himself what they needed, as if He cared not for them and their welfare! It was unbelief which manifested itself thus. They even ask the Lord to dismiss the multitudes, to send them away. Heartless, they would have let them find their way back to their villages to satisfy their wants. Instead of looking to the Lord they looked to circumstances, to the numbers of the people. They did not reckon with Him and His power, who fed Israel for forty years in the wilderness, who sent the ravens to Elijah. Such is unbelief. How calm and sublime is the Lord's answer. No word of reproof falls from His blessed lips. "But Jesus said to them, They have no need to go; give ye them to eat." There was surely no need to go away empty from Him, no need to go elsewhere and seek what He so plentifully can give and does give to all who trust Him. They have no need to go. In this word He reveals Himself once more as the omnipotent Lord. A desert place, and He declares a crowd of five thousand men, besides women and children, have no need to go, to leave Him, to find bread to satisfy their hunger. But still more, He tells His disciples, "give ye them to eat." This they could not understand. They had very little to minister to the great needs of such a company. That the Lord could feed them they had not considered, and that they, in giving them to eat, could count on His power to minister to their need was far from their thoughts. Yet this is the lesson which the Lord wanted to teach them and us likewise. He is the All-sufficient One. He has all power, and there is no need for anyone to go away empty from Him. He wishes to minister to the needs of His people, through His own. "Give ye them to eat" is still His loving word, and He backs it up with all His grace and riches in glory. We mean, of course, all this of a ministry in spiritual things.

 

Let us think of this as we minister the things of God, whether it be the Gospel or the ministry of His Word, for the edification of believers. All is entrusted to us by the Head of the Body. He Himself will minister through our ministry if the heart rests believingly in Him and faith looks away from circumstances and difficulties to a rich and gracious Lord in Glory. He knows the needs of all. He is still the compassionate One, and as Lord in glory tells His servants: "Give ye them to eat." Oh for faith to count on Him and His gracious power.

 

And now they speak, "But they say to Him, We have not here save five loaves and two fishes" (verse 17). From the Gospel of John we learn that the Lord said to Philip, "Whence shall we buy loaves that these may eat? But this He said trying him, for He knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, Loaves for two hundred denarii are not sufficient for them, that each may have some little portion. One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, says to Him, There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two small fishes; but this, what is it for so many?" (John 6:5~9). They even had not the small supply themselves, but it was in the hands of a little boy. How suggestive! It was little, very little they possessed, and it was in the hands of a little boy, one who was weak. It is so with ourselves and the little we have. Blessed are we indeed if we do know how little it is which is in our hands and how much is lacking. But let it not be in unbelief, thinking it is such a little bit, which cannot be used. Nothing is too small, nothing too little, if it is brought to Him; yea, He has chosen the weak things. "Bring them here to Me" is His command. What condescension, He does not despise the little we have, He does not set it aside in manifesting His power. How easy it would have been for Him to speak only a word in that desert place and bread would have fallen again upon the ground, for the crowds to gather and take with them. He wishes to use the little, the weak things, to show forth His power. It is the way He works throughout this age, in which He is the Rejected One.

 

"Bring them here to Me," and do we bring what we have to Him always? Is every service first brought to Him for blessing? Is the little put into His hands first for blessing? Are all our undertakings really brought to Him; our little, our all, put at His disposal? If we bring it to Him He will bless it and with His blessing we can go forth to minister to others. There can be and will be no lack in such ministry in dependence upon Him.

 

This is true ministry. How far Christendom has drifted away from it, and how short we come of it, with our unbelieving hearts. We ever reckon with circumstances and difficulties and not with the loving, gracious and all sufficient Lord in glory! May we learn and profit by His Word.

 

"And having commanded the multitudes to recline upon the grass, having taken the five loaves and two fishes, He looked up to heaven and blessed; and having broken the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the multitudes" (verses 18, 19). He blessed and broke the bread, and the broken bread is first put into the hands of the disciples, and after they received they gave it to the people. This is the divine order of ministry. The little handed over to Him, He blesses and we receive first of Him, and what we receive from His hands we can pass on to others. (In the Gospel of John He Himself feeds with His own hands the crowds. The ministry of the disciples is not mentioned there, because in John He is described as the Divine One.)

 

What a scene it must have been! Five thousand men besides women and children crowding about Him, and at His loving command they lay down upon the grass and after they found rest He feeds them with His bread. In looking upon that blessed picture we think of Him as Jehovah-Roi, the Lord, my Shepherd. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." It is fulfilled here. Jehovah, the Shepherd, is present with His people. Jehovah, the Shepherd, gives them rest and then in the green pastures He refreshes them. Thus He acts still. Rest and food in Him and through Him are still His precious gifts to all who put their trust in Him. He Himself is our Rest and our Bread. He satisfies the poor with bread. It is prophetic. He will yet be the great Shepherd of Israel and gather His people, His scattered sheep, and supply their wants. We read of it in that restoration Psalm, the one hundred and thirty-second: "For the Lord hath chosen Zion ; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest forever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread."

 

"And all ate and were filled, and they took up what was over and above of fragments twelve hand baskets full. But those that had eaten were about five thousand men besides women and children" (verses 20-21). Here is the miracle. The little was not only sufficient for all, but more was left over at the end than they had in the beginning. His blessing was not only upon the little for all, but He blessed it in such a manner that from it came an abundant increase. It is not different now in the ministry of spiritual things. The more we give out, having received from Him, the greater the increase and possession for us in the end.

 

In the Gospel of John the definite teachings of our Lord concerning life through Him and in Him the true bread come down from heaven, and the sustenance of that life, are connected with this episode. John's Gospel is the place for that. In the feeding of the people as recorded in Matthew and the applications we have made of it, we have brought out the character of the age, the age in which Israel has rejected her King. Let us notice that the feeding of the multitude closes abruptly. In John 6:15 we read they would make Him king. But the attempt was carnal. No faith in Him, no devotion to His person was behind it, and the Searcher of hearts had to declare unto them when the crowds sought Him again: "Verily, verily I say unto you, ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled" (John 6:20). In Matthew's Gospel the whole scene closes without any record about the behaviour of the multitudes. Significantly we read at once: "And immediately He compelled the disciples to go on board the ship, and to go before Him to the other side until He should have dismissed the multitudes. And having dismissed the multitudes, He went up into the mountain apart to pray."

 

Every word here is pregnant with meaning. He compelled the disciples to go on board ship. A change is to take place by His own arrangement and the people are dismissed by Himself. All this indicates the setting aside of Israel, their rejection, though never complete nor final. He Himself goes up into the mountain apart to pray. The whole night is spent by Him there in the presence of the Father. He is absent, both from the crowds and from His disciples, and while the multitudes He had fed scatter, His disciples are tossed upon the sea. In the prophet Hosea we read that Jehovah saith "I will go and return to My place" (Hosea 5:15). His going upon the mountain speaks of His withdrawal and the place which He occupies in the presence of the Father, as intercessor and advocate. The third incident recorded, the stormy night, the storm-tossed disciples, the coming Lord in the fourth watch, Peter's separation to meet him, the morning which brings peace and the renewed healing by the returned Lord, all is full of meaning and rich in typical application.

 

The night is a picture of the time during which He is absent, this present evil age in which we live. His return from the mountain in the morning foreshadows His second coming and the beginning of a new age.

 

And now we read what happens in that night during His absence. "But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, distressed by the waves for the wind was contrary" (verse 24). While He is away night and storm reign and His own are in distress, the wind is contrary. Could we find a better description of the present age than a stormy sea, a contrary wind and a dark night? Surely the age is perfectly portrayed by these. It is an age of storm, peril and night. How strange that with the most emphatic as well as plain statements of holy writ concerning the characteristics of this age, the greater part of the professing church can teach precisely the opposite and speak of it as an age of peace, light and progress. Surely Scripture is very definite that Satan is the god of this age, and night increases under his rule; peace is impossible. We find in the very short description of that night in which the Lord was absent, a description of the age. It is true still and the one who believes otherwise and expects peace and calm now will be sadly disappointed.

 

But if the night, the rising waves, the contrary wind, are pictures of the age, what can the little ship mean, which sails across the storm sea? The applications which are made of the ship are manifold. A favored one is to use it as a type of the church and speak of the disciples as believers who are in the church and who have their fears and doubts, who tremble in view of the towering waves and the contrary wind. But such an application cannot be made to correspond with the teaching of the Word concerning the true church. The true church is above the waters, above the storms, in union with Himself who is in the presence of God. The frightened disciples, full of fears and expecting every moment the deep to swallow them up, could hardly be taken as types of the true believer, who knows his position in Christ. He, too, is above the storm, and though he may be storm-tossed, as much as this little ship upon the sea, though Satan's power may ever play about him and the wind be contrary, yet through it all does he not fear, but sings the song which is heard above the howling wind, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

 

What does the ship mean? It may be taken in a general way to be a type of the Jewish people. The Lord absent from those who are in a sense His own to whom He came, and who rejected Him, who refused Him, are upon the sea. The sea represents the nations; the waves and the wind, the persecutions and the distress which come upon them. It is an excellent portrayal of the history of God's ancient people from the time they refused their King until He returns to be received by them. This ship with fluttering sails, broken masts, tossed like a ball from wave to wave, blown hither and thither, uncontrollable and yet controlled, ever in danger and never in danger of going down -- this ship is the type of the Jewish ship, the Jewish nation. It is still upon the sea. It is still the same old storm-tossed vessel. The winds more than ever contrary. It seeks an harbor now, trying to cast anchor on the shore of their own land, but a boisterous wind is coming and while the ship is miraculously kept, there will be no haven, no peace, till He comes again who is their King, the Son of David.

 

But this application, correct as it is, is too general. We have spoken of the ship and not of the disciples. The disciples must be taken as the type of the Jewish remnant. We saw from the tenth chapter that the disciples sent forth then were representing the Jewish remnant. When the Lord Jesus Christ left the earth and went to the Father's house to prepare a place, He did not leave a church behind. There was no church on the earth when our Lord ascended upon high, and when He comes back to earth again He will not find the church on the earth, but He will come back to be received by the remnant of His earthly people. It is in this light the incident has to be interpreted, which however does not forbid applications in other directions.

 

"And in the fourth watch of the night He went toward them, walking upon the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking upon the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is an apparition; and they cried out for fear" (verses 25, 26).

 

He had left His place on the mountain and returned. His return was in the fourth watch of the night, right before the dawning of the morning. And as He left that place on the mountain when He was here in the earth, so will He arise and leave the place on His Father's throne and come back to earth, to the very land where He was once rejected. First, He will leave His place and descend from heaven with a shout and come into the air, where we shall meet Him. The fourth watch is the time when He leaves His place and comes. The fourth watch is now. The gradual approaching of the Lord, His person seen dimly in the distance, the fear of the disciples who cry out for terror, instead of shouting for joy that He is coming, all finds its proper application. How many there are in Christendom, for whom the coming of the Lord and the events connected with it have no joy, but bring fear and terror to the heart. And these days, the days of the fourth watch, are filled with signs which herald His coming. The true believer, however, knows no fear in the fourth watch, for he waits and watches for His coming, and if it were possible to get a glimpse of the Coming One leaving His Father's throne, descending into the air, the believing heart would rejoice. We love His appearing, and the fact that He is coming but intensifies the longing of the heart to see Him as He is. The believer knows no such fear as the Jewish disciples had, when they saw Him walking on the water. Had they known, it is the Lord, and that He comes to bring peace and safety, we doubt not their cries would have ceased. All has a meaning for the Jewish remnant, which will be on the scene when our glorious hope has been realized.

 

"But immediately Jesus spake unto them saying, Be of good courage: it is I; be not afraid" (verse 27). These precious, comforting words were heard above the roaring of the hurricane and the noise of many waters. May we hear them continually in the midst of increasing difficulties, in the hour of test and trial, in affliction, in the dark valley of suffering and in the experiences we call "disappointments." Blessed are we if we do. The darkest place, even if it is the dungeon, will become illuminated and resound with joyous praise. Surely Paul in Rome must have heard these precious words, "Be of good courage -- it is I -- be not afraid!" May we take all from His hands by believing we are in His hands and thus face every trial, every tempest, with the assurance that there is nothing to be feared.

 

But in the ship, in that company is one who recognizes the voice, one who recognizes Him through the mist of the storm and the vanishing shadows of the night. And Peter answered and said: "Lord, if it be Thou, bid me to come to Thee upon the waters. And He said, Come. And Peter having descended from the ship, walked on the waters to go to Jesus." Here another significant type is before us. We shall soon learn from this Gospel that the Lord announces the building of His church. In the sixteenth chapter we find the words, "Upon this rock I will build My church." We learn that it was Peter who said, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God," and upon this rock, Christ in resurrection, the Lord announces His church will be built. To Peter also the keys of the kingdom were committed, and how he could use them we find in the book of Acts. Now church means "out-calling," not only an out-calling from the nations, but an out-calling from that which is passed, the Jewish things. Peter, so prominent in this incident, in his act of faith in leaving the ship, turning his back upon his frightened kinsmen, stepping on the waters, going to Jesus to meet Him, stands as a type for the church. It is true all the truth concerning the church was revealed through Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. It is true, through Paul the company was led forth out of the ship to go forth to meet the Coming One, but Peter also stands in his action typically for these truths, which we have later so fully revealed in the Pauline epistles.

 

It is separation, and this separation was an act of faith which we see here. It is the true position of the church, as well as the individual believer. The old Jewish ship is to be left behind. The path for the church is the path of faith. The object before the church is the coming Lord. The word from Him is, Come. The walk to be like His walk. He has triumphed over sin and death, the world and Satan; the waves and storms cannot harm nor hinder Him. And we are associated with Him. He wants us to walk on the water. This is the calling of the church. Separation first unto Him. Obedience to His Word and then walking on the water to meet Him.

 

Alas! where is it now, this church separated, gone out to meet the Bridegroom? That which calls itself church is a miserable ship, worse than the Jewish ship after which the modern "church" is only too often modeled. As individual believers, however, separation is possible. You, dear reader, in the midst of all the confusion and failure, in this fourth watch, you may hear His voice, "Come." He is coming. He wants you to take the path of faith, the path He walked Himself. "Behold the Bridegroom! Go ye out to meet Him!" Have you gone out to meet Him?

 

"But seeing the wind boisterous, He was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, Lord save me. And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

 

All is again pregnant with meaning.

 

What made Peter sink after he stepped out so boldly and walked on the stormy waves to meet his Lord? It was a boisterous wind; and Peter, instead of looking to Jesus only, was frightened by that boisterous wind and began to sink. Has this not been repeated in our own experience? We heard His voice, we separated ourselves, we followed Him, and then the enemy raised some boisterous wind. He always does when we desire to follow the Lord in all things. Oh, how often we made the same mistake which Peter made! Looking away from the Coming One, the One who is able to save to the uttermost, our feet began to sink and to slip back. But could Peter ever have sunk down? Never! Nor can the believer ever perish. But Jesus lifted Peter up, and he stood again on the waves, triumphing now through His power over the boisterous wind, and then he walked not towards Jesus, but he walked with Jesus. Even so He deals with us in His great mercy, never leaving nor forsaking us, saving us out of the tempestuous sea.

 

How beautifully this fits into the dispensational picture we have already given. There is a time coming when Satan will bring on a very boisterous wind. It is called the "hour of temptation" in Revelation. That old serpent is even now getting ready for it. But the Lord will never let His own sink. Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught Peter. He takes him by the hand, and both go now to the ship. So will He catch up His waiting church, and will return with His saints to bring peace.

 

And as they came into the ship the wind ceased. Satan's power was at an end as soon as Jesus was in the ship. When He comes back to earth again there will be peace, and not before. The great need of the world is to have the King back. What a glorious picture that must have been -- Jesus and Peter coming to the ship! The sun was now shedding the first rays over the sea, the dark night was over, the anxiety of the little flock was turned into joy and laughter, while the raging sea became as calm and smooth as if there had never been a storm. How much grander it will be when the Lord comes back with His saints, and the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings!

 

"Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped Him, saying: Truly, Thou art the Son of God."

 

It seems they had never believed this. The great stumbling block with the Jew is yet, "He made Himself God." Again and again we are being asked by them, "Can God have a Son?" Many of the Jews acknowledge Jesus today as a reformer and a good man, but never as Son of God. They will know Him when He comes, and the nation will fall at His pierced feet and worship Him as the King and Son of the Living God.

 

The closing verses of the fourteenth chapter of Matthew speak of Jesus going to the opposite shore, where He healed the diseased. "And when they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had recognized Him, they sent in all that region round about, and they brought unto Him all that were sick. And they besought Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment; and as many as touched were made perfectly whole." It happened in the place where they had rejected Him. This may be taken as a true type of the blessed work of redemption, salvation and restoration which will take place during the millennium.

 

_25

 

CHAPTER XV

 

This chapter introduces us more fully into the events which follow the rejection of the King by His people and which manifest the enmity, the Satanic hatred against the Lord. He has now set His face like a flint to go up to Jerusalem and soon He will reveal His sufferings; His death, His resurrection and His return to earth. While going on steadily towards the cross, which was ever before Him, that departure He should accomplish in Jerusalem, the enemies swarm around Him, they test Him and bring their questions, but He silences them all. The wisdom of Him who is wisdom Himself is gloriously manifested. At last the tempting and accusing scribes and Pharisees have spent their last arrow upon Him. He asks them a question which they could not answer (chapter 22). He then reveals their wickedness and hatred of Him and pronounces His "woes" upon them followed by His last word to Jerusalem (chapter 23). But while these evil men with their evil hearts, under the leadership of Satan, approach the Lord from time to time, He also teaches His disciples and utters parables all in harmony with the scope of the entire gospel. We shall fully show this as we continue in our exposition.

 

"Then the scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem come up to Jesus, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress what has been delivered by the ancients, for they do not wash their hands when they eat bread?" (v. 1, 2).

 

We can easily learn from this that behind this deputation from the religious Jerusalem stood the whole company of Pharisees and scribes, and that it was a cunningly devised and concerted attempt to ensnare Him. The Lord in answer asks them another question and lays bare their wicked hypocrisies, after which He addresses the people and answers Peter's question. Before we follow these events a more detailed explanation of the question of the Pharisees and scribes is in order.

 

We are aware that the two questions, the one by the Pharisees and the other, the Lord's counter question in the beginning of the fifteenth chapter, are not fully grasped by many readers of the Word. The Jews believed and still believe (at least, the orthodox) in a written law and in an oral law. This they founded upon Exodus 34:27 and taught that while Moses wrote down a law another oral law was given to him and that this oral law was handed down from generation to generation. It is believed by them that Moses received both the written and the oral law on Mount Sinai. They placed the oral law above the written law. (The words of the scribes are lovely above the words of the law; for the words of the law are light and weighty, but the words of the scribes are all weighty. -- Beracoth.) Circumstances, however, forced them to commit the oral law to writing, which was done in the Talmud (meaning doctrine), from which we can learn all the ridiculous paraphrases and wicked additions to the law the ancients had made under the plea that it was given by God. To illustrate what interpretation they put upon certain statements of the law we select Exodus 34:26: "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk." The oral law has expounded this to mean that it is a sin to eat meat and drink milk at the same time, and the elders have gone so far as to declare, if a pot of milk boils over and some of the milk drops into a pot of meat, the meat is unclean and must be thrown away. Butter, coming from milk, is likewise not to be eaten with meat, etc.

 

Such a question these tempting scribes and Pharisees brought to the Lord. It is the question about the washing of the hands. It will interest the reader to learn a little more about this unscriptural act and what emphasis the Pharisees and the present day talmudical Jews lay upon the washing of hands.

 

Nothing whatever is said about such washing of hands in the Old Testament scriptures, but the oral law has precept upon precept upon this ceremony, which, if neglected, is looked upon as a great sin, worthy of excommunication. One even was permitted to eat unclean meats, forbidden in the law, and drink unclean drinks, as long as he fulfilled the traditions of the elders and washed his hands before he broke the law. The Pharisaical righteousness consisted in this: "Whosoever hath his place in the land of Israel, and eateth his common food in cleanness, and speaks the holy language, and recites his prayers morning and evening, let him be confident that he obtains the life of the world to come." Volumes were written and are in existence which enlarge in the most critical and minutest way upon the washing of hands. Dissertations we find here on the simple washing and the plunging into water, on the manner of the washing, what hand is to be washed first, the time when it is to be done, the quantity of water to be used, and many other rules. Besides this we find the grossest superstitions. We read some years ago in a jargon book, published in Poland, that evil spirits light upon the hands over night and if the hands are not washed as prescribed by the oral law these evil spirits find their way into the mouth and stomach of the transgressor and defile him. (This is undoubtedly founded upon the following talmudical statement: "Shibta is an evil spirit which sits upon man's hands at night. If any touch his food with unwashed hands, that spirit sits upon that food, and there is danger from it.")

 

But enough of this. Such were and are the traditions of the elders. The Lord might have easily dismissed the question of the Jerusalem deputation by telling them that their oral law is invalid, but He aims at something higher. He aims at their conscience and uncovers their true condition. With His divine wisdom He has the answer ready which will completely shut their mouths.

 

"But He answering said to them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God on account of your traditional teaching?" For God commanded saying: "Honor father and mother; and he that speaks ill of father and mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, It is a gift (corban) whatsoever it be by which received from me thou wouldst be profited; and he shall in no wise honor his father or his mother; and ye have made void the commandment of God on account of your traditional teaching" (v. 3-6).

 

The great lesson from this is the fact which our Lord makes so prominent, that traditional teachings lead to the transgressing of God's commandment and make it void. This is true in every case. If we look upon religious Christendom with its traditions and man made rules and institutions, we find ample proof of it and could illustrate it in many ways. The one who follows the traditions of Christendom most, finds himself soon in Rome and then in out and out opposition to God's revealed will and purpose, and he who has nothing at all to do with traditional teachings and rejects them altogether is in submission to the Word of God and looks to it as his only authority.

 

Surely ritualistic Christendom, the so-called religious world, is the direct offspring of Phariseeism. Its traditions, lent, holidays, man made ministry and many invented ceremonies, have superseded the Word of God and made it of non-effect. We could easily digress here and enlarge upon this thought. We leave it to the reader to make the application. But think of the awful sin, dear reader, that men can dare to set aside with their own inventions and traditional teachings the very Word of God, eternally settled in the heavens! This has been done, and God will judge Christendom for it in His own time. The Pharisees had no room for the Christ of God; they hated Him. Modern Phariseeism may talk of a Christ and use His name; it rejects the Christ, His person and His work.

 

The Lord, to uncover the hypocrisy of the Pharisees with their traditions, refers to the commandment which demands the child to honor father and mother. To this Jewish tradition had added, "A son is bound to provide his father meat and drink, to clothe him, to cover him, to lead him in and out, to wash his face, hands and feet. A son is bound to nourish his father, yea, to beg for him." (Kiddushim.) But with all this strictness tradition had found a way how to avoid this obligation. A person had only to say "corban" -- a gift, something dedicated to the temple or a vow of personal obligation, and the son was completely released from any duty towards his father and mother.

 

"And so stringent was the ordinance that it is expressly stated that such a vow was binding, even if what was voiced involved a breach of the law. It cannot be denied that such vows in regard to parents would be binding, and were actually made. Indeed, the question is discussed in the Mishnah, in so many words, whether "honor of father and mother" constituted a ground for invalidating a vow, and decided on the negative against a solitary dissenting voice. And if doubt should still exist, a case is related in the Mishnah, in which a father was thus shut out by the vow of his son from anything by which he might be profited by him." (See Edersheim, "Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah.")

 

And now follows the righteous word of condemnation by Him who searches the hearts of men. "Hypocrites! well has Esaias prophesied about you, saying, This people honor Me with the lips, but their heart is far away from Me; but in vain do they worship Me, teaching as teachings commandments of men" (v. 8, 9).

 

The same verdict He pronounces upon the religious world, modern Phariseeism. There is much talk of worship and approaching God -- the Lord has only one word for the whole thing, "Hypocrites"! May we through the rich grace of God be delivered from Phariseeism in any shape or form and keep delivered. It will need great heart-searching and self-judgment.

 

"And having called to Him the crowd, He said to them, Hear and understand. Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what goes forth out of the mouth, this defiles the man" (v. 10, 11). Without fear, which He never knew, He declares publicly the evil teachings of the sayings of the elders. Simple truth, indeed, and yet how many who are professing Christians have not hold of the very first principle, that the evil is within which defiles the man.

 

Of course the Pharisees were offended. It lowered their dignity with the common people. They looked upon themselves as the leaders of the people and here, after so strongly proving the contrary teachings of traditions, He corrects in a few simple words the errors of the Pharisees.

 

"Then His disciples coming up said to Him, Dost thou know that the Pharisees, having heard this word, have been offended? But He answering said, Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up. Leave them alone; they are blind leaders of the blind; but if blind lead blind, both will fall into a ditch" (v. 12-14). These words not alone show the doom of the Jewish Pharisees, but they speak also of the doom of that which His heavenly Father has not planted -- Christendom. It will be rooted up and then cast out with its boasted leaders, who are but leaders of the blind.

 

But even the disciples did not understand His plain and simple language. Peter calls that which was plain teaching "a parable."

 

"And Peter answering to Him said, Expound to us this parable. But He said, Are ye also without intelligence? Do ye not apprehend that everything that enters into the mouth finds its way into the belly, and is cast forth into the draught? but the things which go forth out of the mouth come out of the heart and these defile men. For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnessings, blasphemies; these are the things which defile man, but the eating with unwashed hands does not defile man" (v. 15-20). How slow they were to understand the full meaning of what He wanted to convey to their hearts. Our Lord shows the true source of all defilement. It is within. The Pharisees did not believe in the utter corruption of the heart. "I the Lord search the heart" (Jer. 17:10). And this searcher of hearts is present here on the scene and throws His own light upon the source of evil, of which He had said through Jeremiah, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Blessed is he who bows before this verdict.

 

The incident which follows is in closest connection and fullest harmony with all this inasmuch as it reveals deliverance from the evil which is within.

 

The first part showed us how the Lord tore down the mask from the Pharisees and uncovered the human heart. "All things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." The One who uncovers here and knoweth the heart, desperately wicked, the Heart-searcher, is the same who called in Eden, "Adam, where art thou?" What else are the religious observances, the traditions of men, than miserable fig leaves to conceal the nakedness of the sinner! But He stripped off these fig leaves, He removed the covering and aimed at the conscience. His divine light revealed the darkness and defilement within. Blessed is the man who puts himself in that light and lets that light uncover and undo him!

 

The Holy Spirit now connects with the manifestation of Christ as the One who uncovers the heart -- another incident. It is the Syrophoenician woman and the healing of her daughter. If we have in the first part of this chapter the manifestation of Jehovah, who reveals, we find in the second part Jehovah revealed, who covers and delivers His poor, naked and needy creature. The blessed story before us is the full revelation of the loving heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

"And Jesus going forth from thence, went away into parts of Tyre and Sidon." He left the religious Pharisees with their hypocrisies and deceitful dealings. He turns His back upon all, and chooses for His path a country where religious observances were unknown, where sin and misery held sway. How significant once more! A foreshadowing again of what should happen soon: the Gospel to be sent to the Gentiles. And now we read of her who is the object of His divine compassion, and through her the Lord manifests His rich grace and power to deliver from evil.

 

"And lo, a Canaanitish woman, coming out from those borders, cried to Him, saying, Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is miserably possessed by a demon. But He did not answer her a word."

 

Assuredly He knew her and her need, her struggles and her faith, and as He went through Samaria on account of that one soul who came to the well, so here He enters these parts to meet the needy one and deliver her. His heart is all for her, and His divine love and desire is toward her. But who is this miserable, crying woman, with her face marred by suffering, lifting her imploring eyes to Him in whom she recognized her Deliverer? She is a Canaanitish woman, or, as she is also called on account of her living in that country, a Syrophoenician. She belongs to a race which is cursed. The Caananite was to perish. Israel was called to carry out the divine sentence. She directs her prayer for help to Him as Son of David. Perhaps she had heard of Him by that name, and how He, the Son of David, drove out demons, healed the sick and raised the dead. Faith she possesses, and faith casts itself upon Him, trusting in His power and willingness to help. But had she a claim upon Him, the Son of David? Had she a promise anywhere that the Son of David would come and deliver and heal a Canaanitish woman? No, not one. For the Canaanite is no hope held out in connection with Israel 's Messiah. When at last the Son of David has taken His place upon the throne of His father David, the Canaanite will have been driven out of the land (Joel 3:17; Zech. 14:21). For this reason He did not answer her a word. If He had opened His lips it could have only been to speak with the authority of the Son of David, and that would have meant her doom. But nevertheless is His heart full of grace and sympathy for her. He who read the hearts of the proud Pharisees reads her heart too, knows her state and that faith will triumph. So He answered her not a word. In that silence was hidden all His rich Grace towards her. It told her: You have no claim on Me as Son of David; you have no promise to claim Me as David's Son. In calling Him "Son of David" she claimed what was not hers. He wants her to know that she is to come with no claim, as one stripped of all. This is the gracious object before Him in being silent to her pitiful cries.

 

We next hear the voice of the disciples. "And His disciples came to Him and asked Him, saying, Dismiss her, for she cries after us." They did not suggest that her request should be granted. Perhaps they meant it by their expressed desire, "Dismiss her." Had they not seen multitudes healed? Did they not see the blind, the deaf and dumb, the fever-stricken and the infirm press around Him, and He had healed them all? The centurion with his sick servant, too, was a Gentile, and now they ask Him to dismiss her. How little they knew of His ways. He could not dismiss her without the blessing she craved. He could not give her the blessing she wanted as long as she appealed to Him as Son of David, laying claim to that to which she had no right.

 

"But He answering said, I have not been sent save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

 

His answer was not only meant for the imploring disciples but it was meant for her. He speaks, of course, as Son of David. And oh! how wonderful is this word, though it has often been declared as harsh. He puts her, so to speak, in the right path to receive the blessing. It is one little word around which all is centered. The little word is ¦ "lost." He gave her thus to understand He had come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel ; and if they were lost and needed a Saviour, how much more she, a Canaanitish woman? And it is this word, lost, which faith lays hold upon, and through which she is enabled to draw near and ask His help simply as a needy one. "But she came and worshipped Him, saying. Lord help me." She has understood; her heart grasped the meaning. She fully realized her place outside of the commonwealth of Israel, and because she knows it she drops His title, Son of David. With this she declared, "I have no claim upon His mercy." But she came. Yes, she came into his divine presence, and worshipping she falls at his feet with a cry of need, "Lord help me." She has taken her place before Him, and casts herself upon Him with all her need. "Lord help me" -- what a blessed prayer it is!

 

And that she had taken the true place in which He, the Son of God, could bless her, is soon to be brought out. Her faith is to be tested -- to pass through the fire. He knew her; He knew the answer she would give, and in testing her He points out the way to Himself and to the blessing once more. Oh! how gracious and tender He is! And still He deals with the soul in the same tender and loving way.

 

"But He answering said, It is not well to take the bread of the children and cast it to the dogs." What would she say to this? A dog -- a Gentile -- the bread for the children! Is her faith truly paired with humility (and true faith always is) to stand this word? Does she really know herself as such an unworthy outcast? Before we read her answer let us glance at the word "dogs." The word used by our Lord is a diminutive; it really means "little dogs." It denotes the dogs which enter the house to find something to eat there and not the homeless animals which roam through Oriental villages. In the use of this word she understands once more His readiness and willingness to bless her. And so He led her down, deeper and deeper, and as He leads her down her hope becomes brighter and brighter. Thus He deals with the soul which seeks His help.

 

But now faith bursts forth in all its fragrance. Crushed she lays before Him, the Lord. Tenderly His eyes must have rested upon His poor creature. Her appeal to the Son of David was hushed, her need and help, her expectation from Him alone, and now the word which had crushed her still more and yet which holds out to her the brightest promise.

 

Listen to her answer as it comes from her trembling heart and lips, "Yea, Lord, for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the table of their master." She admits it all. She has nothing to answer back. She assents to it: "Yea, Lord." Thou art right! But faith rises higher. She takes His word in her lips, "the dogs" -- the little dogs -- "eat of the crumbs which fall from the table of their master." The little dogs are cared for and in the confession of being one of these little dogs she claims from Mercy's hands a few crumbs. She has conquered. Once more greater faith is found than in Israel. And now He speaks the Word which must have filled her with praise: "O, woman, great is thy faith; be it to thee as thou desirest. And her daughter was healed from that very hour." But how it all must have refreshed His heart -- the heart of the rejected One -- moving on towards the cross!

 

However, while we learn the way of grace and spiritual lessons from these events, let us not forget the dispensational phase of it. The first part of this chapter (verses 1-20) stands for the apostasy of Israel and Israel set aside. The incident of the Canaanitish woman stands typically for the call of the Gentiles and Salvation going forth to them. The third part of the chapter reveals the dispensation to come: the Kingdom age.

 

"And Jesus going away from thence came towards the sea of Galilee, and He went up into the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to Him, having with them lame, blind, dumb, crippled and many others, and they cast them at His feet, and He healed them; so that the crowds wondered, seeing dumb speaking, crippled sound, lame walking, and blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel. But Jesus having called His disciples to Him said, I have compassion on the crowd, because they have stayed with Me already three days and they have not anything that they can eat, and I would not send them away fasting lest they should faint on the way. And His disciples say to Him, Whence should we have so many loaves in the wilderness as to satisfy so great a crowd? And Jesus says to them, How many loaves have ye? But they said, Seven and a few small fishes. And He commanded the crowds to lie down on the ground; and having taken the seven loaves and the fishes, and having given thanks, He broke them and gave them to His disciples and His disciples to the crowd. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was over and above of the fragments seven baskets full; but they that ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And having dismissed the crowds, He went on board ship and came to the borders of Magadan."

 

Here, then, we have once more a foreshadowing of the coming age. The God of Israel is glorified, which will not come to pass in the earth until the King comes back and establishes His kingdom. Then it shall be, "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth." The feeding of the second crowd of people has the same meaning. Three days they were with Him and on the third day He fed them miraculously. As we have shown elsewhere, the third day stands always for resurrection and the completion. The seven loaves and seven baskets of fragments teach us the same lessons. _38

 

CHAPTER XVI

 

After the wonderful manifestation of Jehovah among His people, in the healing of the great multitudes and the feeding of the four thousand men, besides women and children, the Pharisees appear again upon the scene, and this time with the Sadducees to tempt Him.

 

"And the Pharisees and Sadducees came and asked Him, tempting Him, to shew them a sign out of heaven" (verse 1). The Pharisees were the strictest sect among the Jews. They were the religious class, the Ritualists who not alone held to the letter of the law, but who enforced the traditional teachings. They were hypocrites, and fully exposed as such by our Lord in the previous chapter. There He uncovered the hypocrisies and the wickedness of their hearts. Once before the Pharisees and the scribes had come to Him with their subtle cunning and asked to see a sign from Him (chapter 12:38). The scribes were in fullest sympathy with the Pharisees, being as religious and ritualistic as they were. These scribes had the care of the written law and studied it. They made the transcripts, expounded the law, explained difficulties, kept the records and were also called lawyers.

 

The Sadducees were the very opposite from the Pharisees and the scribes. The Pharisees hated the Sadducees, and the Sadducees were the sworn enemies of the Pharisees. Sadduceeism was the reaction of Phariseeism. It was a reform movement, and as such (like all reform) a big failure. The Sadducees were Freethinkers, Rationalists. They denied the supernatural. Up to this chapter they are mentioned only once before. In the third chapter we read that the Pharisees and the Sadducees came to the Baptism of John. We can well imagine how the Pharisee, when he saw a Sadducee on the road out to the wilderness, would gather his long, flowing robe around himself for fear that the hem of his garment would become defiled by brushing up against that unrighteous Sadducee, while the Sadducee had nothing but looks of scorn and hatred for his brother. John greeted them with the title which belongs to them both, "Offspring of vipers!"

 

Now, here in the beginning of the sixteenth chapter, this event happens, the Pharisees and Sadducees agree together to tempt the Lord. Both make a common cause in opposing the Lord. Most likely they came together in Conference. Well could they meet together, though outwardly separated, yet inwardly possessed by the same satanic hatred against Him, whose words had so completely unmasked Phariseeism and whose deeds and mighty miracles had so perfectly exposed the fallacy of Sadduceeism. While they could not agree in doctrine and practice in one thing they could agree and were perfectly harmonious, and this was, the hatred and rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, as before indicated in our exposition of this Gospel, these Pharisees and Sadducees, these sects among the professing earthly people of God in the past, are perfectly reproduced in the professing sphere of Christendom. The modern "Christian" Phariseeism is the religious, ritualistic part of Christendom, having a name to live but being dead, the form of godliness, but denying its power. Sadduceeism in its "Christian" aspect is the liberal current so strong in our day, the new theology which puts supernaturalism out of the way, the higher critics who deny the inspiration of the Bible, beginning with the denial of the written Word and rapidly ending with the denial of the living Word. And these two great parts of Christendom, modern Phariseeism and Sadduceeism are opposing the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The day is not far off when there will be a great union of Christendom, a union which will take in the most ritualistic and the most liberal, a union which will also include the reform Jew and which will aim at a universal religion founded upon that anti-Christian doctrine of "a Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of men." All this is seen approaching by the modern drift of things throughout Christendom. This union to come will be upon the ground of opposing the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement He made on the Cross. That coming union will be "the devil's millennium." When the Lord Jesus Christ comes the second time He will find that monstrosity fully developed in the earth.

 

And thus they came asking a sign out of Heaven. Before it was only "asking a sign of Him." But now it was to be a sign out of Heaven. Perhaps the Sadducees had asked this and the Pharisees were well satisfied. He had done many signs among them and He Himself, God manifested in the flesh, was the Sign, and now they desire a sign. Would they have believed if He had given them a sign? Supposing He had with His omnipotent power opened the Heavens and shown out of Heaven with the rays of glory; what would have been the effect upon their unbelieving hearts? Would they have bowed in worship before Him? We believe not. The Sadducees, with a sneer, would have explained it as a phenomenon of nature. They do it so now. During a visit to California a brother told us how the leading preacher of a certain city, a "Congregationalist," had told his hearers that it was a stroke of lightning which fell upon the sacrifice of Elijah on Mt. Carmel. And the Pharisees would have only blasphemed the more. They would have repeated their previous blasphemy in saying that the sign was given through Beelzebub's power. Indeed, the ritualistic, Jewish fanatic believes to this day that our Lord did His miracles through the mysterious and unlawful use of the Holy Name. A sign out of Heaven! Infidelity still demands it occasionally through its disciples. "If some one came back from the 'other world' we would believe," persons have often told us. But would they believe? "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, not even if one rise from the dead will they be persuaded" (Luke 16:31). That awful delusion "Spiritualism" with its satanic abominations has for a bait that ridiculous assertion, "the evidence of a future life, the demonstration and sign of a hereafter," and many have been ensnared by these demon doctrines. No signs any more; the Sign of all signs has come, Christ Himself. But a sign will yet come, the sign of the Son of Man followed by the Manifestation of Himself out of Heaven. Of this we shall hear more in the closing verses of this chapter.

 

"But He answering said to them, When evening is come, ye say, Fine weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning, A storm today, for the sky is red and lowering; ye know how to discern the face of the sky, but ye cannot the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and a sign shall not be given to it, save the sign of Jonas. And He left them and went away" (vv. 2-4).

 

They understood the signs of nature, the warnings of the coming storm and the harbingers of a beautiful day. The Jews in general closely observed the seasons and signs in nature. ("In the going out of the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, all observed the rising of the smoke. If the smoke bended northward, the poor rejoiced, but the rich were troubled; because there would be much rain the following year and the fruits would be corrupted; if it bended southward, the poor grieved and the rich rejoiced, for there would be fewer rains that year, and the fruit would be sound; if eastward, all rejoiced; if westward, all were troubled." From Talmud, Bal. Ioma. -- Horae Hebraeicae.) All the changes in nature they observed, but the signs of the times they did not discern. They were blinded to these. If their eyes had been open they would surely have known that a great change of seasons in another realm than nature had come. They could have seen the evidences of a fast approaching judgment upon the apostate nation and likewise the blessed evidences of the visitation from on High, by the Presence of the Lord, which had taken place.

 

And is professing Christendom less blind? Alas; almost everything is discerned and studied, the records of the past, the history of Christendom, everything else except the signs of the times. This strange, unscriptural optimism, by which Christendom closes wilfully the eyes, so as not to see the signs of an approaching crisis, this false cry of "Peace and Safety," is indeed blindness as great, perhaps greater, than the blindness of those who asked a sign of the Lord.

 

But thanks be to God, not all are blinded, but many do discern the signs of the times and know "the morning cometh, but also the night."

 

They were "a wicked and adulterous generation;" this solved the whole problem why they could not discern the signs of the times. The sign of the Prophet Jonas was to be the only sign they were to receive and that refers us to the death and resurrection of our Lord.

 

"He left them and departed." Significant words as well as a symbolical action once more.

 

"And when His disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. And Jesus said to them, See and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, Because we have taken no bread. And Jesus knowing said, Why reason ye among yourselves, O ye of little faith, because ye have taken no bread? Do ye not yet understand nor remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many hand baskets ye took up? nor the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How do ye not understand that it was not concerning bread I said to you, Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Then they comprehended that He did not speak to them to beware of the leaven of bread but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (verses 5-12). Here the slowness of heart and the unbelief of the disciples stands exposed. The Lord turns to His own, right after He had turned His back upon these enemies, and He warns now that even His disciples, believers, are to beware of the terrible leaven of Ritualism and Rationalism. How significant that after He left the offspring of vipers and before He unfolds the truths concerning the church which was to be built, He warns to beware of the leaven and its pernicious work and effect. At no time perhaps is this warning to be heeded so much as in the times we live.

 

But they understood Him not. They thought of the bread which perishes and even then unbelief was mixed with it. Instead of being occupied with Christ Himself and spiritual things they minded earthly things and so He had to tell them in plain words that He did not speak of the leaven of bread, but of that which leaven typifies, the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

 

What follows now after the warning words of our Lord is one of the most important sections of this Gospel. Around the contents of the second half of the sixteenth chapter cluster indeed the most vital and solemn doctrines. We approach, therefore, the exposition of this part with much prayer, that His Word may be made very plain to every reader and all may learn the lessons which are put before us.

 

We find the Lord and His disciples in Caesarea-Philippi, and there He asks His disciples what men say concerning Himself. After the disciples had answered He turns to them with the same question and Simon Peter gives that wonderful answer upon which the Lord announces the fact of the future building of His church, as well as His coming suffering, death and resurrection. Before we begin the study of these events in detail we wish to say that only in Matthew do we find the full answer to Peter's confession and the fact brought out that the Lord is to have a church. The other Gospel records do not mention these words at all. The Holy Spirit put them here in this dispensational Gospel because there it is where they belong. He, as the writer of this Gospel, is like a goldsmith who has numerous precious stones and pearls, each a costly gem in itself, and forms them in a perfect chain. He arranges all in His divine order, in perfect beauty, to work out and show forth the perfection and worth of the Lord. And so He put the events before us into the very heart of the Gospel of the King.

 

"But when Jesus was come into the parts of Caesarea-Philippi, He demanded of His disciples, saying, Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am? And they said, Some, John the Baptist; and others Elias; and others, again, Jeremias, or one of the prophets" (verses 14, 15).

 

It is significant that this takes place in Caesarea-Philippi. It is on Gentile ground, so to speak, where it happens and where on the one hand it is demonstrated once more that His own had not received Him; and on the other, He is truly confessed and His revelation concerning the church is made known.

 

In putting the question to His disciples, "Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?" He knew, of course, perfectly well what men said of Him, for He knows all things. Nor does He include in this question those proud and evil Pharisees with their blasphemies, but He means the multitudes who had followed Him, the men who had listened to His words and who had seen His miracles. The answer they give Him, the echo of the different voices in Israel, proves only too well that they knew Him not. John the Baptist, Elias, Jeremias, or one of the prophets, these were the estimates of Him who is God manifested in the flesh. And is not this yet the burning and important question, "Who is He? What think ye of Christ?" It is still so, and the attacks of the enemy are ever aimed at the person of the Lord. The answer is a manifestation of the unbelief of His earthly people Israel, and this unbelief which became more and more evident indicated the setting aside of Israel. So it is likewise at the end of this Christian age. The ever increasing denial of the Deity of Christ and of His Glory, as it is going on in that which claims His name, Christendom, is the forerunner of judgment. (2 Pet. 2)

 

But now the Lord turns to His own. "He says to them, But ye, who do ye say that I am? And Simon Peter answering, said to Him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." The question was addressed to the disciples, but Peter answers as the representative of the disciples, and is also the mouthpiece of the Father, whose revelation has come to his heart. But what does this confession mean and what does it all include? It includes more than the prophetic statements contained in the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the Deity of the Messiah, that He is the Mighty God, Immanuel. It is more than the expression of faith in the prophecies and the fulfilment of them in the person of Him who was standing in their midst. The confession is personal faith in the Christ, the Son of the living God, and as such He had been revealed unto Peter by the Father, and Peter, knowing Him as the eternal life, realizing Him as the one who hath life and who imparts life, gives utterance to it. The confession goes beyond the cross and the grave and shows forth Christ the Son of God in resurrection, though Peter had not the full grasp of this when he spoke. It includes all that, realized in personal faith, of which the Lord speaks of in the Gospel of John. "For even as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to the Son also to have life in Himself,"... and that which precedes this statement in John 5, "Verily, verily I say unto you, that an hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have heard shall live." But all is, of course, in anticipation of His resurrection from the dead, as we read in the Epistle to the Romans, "marked out Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 1:4).

 

And thus Peter's confession includes all upon which personal faith in the Son of God rests. The first Epistle Peter wrote by the Spirit of God shows forth the word "living" in connection with the resurrection of Christ. There we read of "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead," and "the living and abiding Word of God," and the Lord is termed "a living Stone," while believers are "living stones." The confession of Him by Peter, through the Father's revelation, is then something altogether new. It denotes a new departure and is the very opposite from Israel 's unbelief. How it must have delighted His heart, when for the first time the full truth concerning Himself comes forth from human lips as the result of divine revelation! And now He is ready and free to give as the Son of the living God a new revelation. He is now giving a glimpse of what is going to be and He speaks of that mystery hidden in former ages, the church or assembly, which He calls "My church."

 

"And Jesus answering said to him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in the heavens. And I, also, I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (assembly), and hades' gates shall not prevail against it" (verses 17, 18).

 

The blessedness of Peter is announced first, a blessedness which is equally upon each sinner who believes in the Christ, the Son of the living God. "Bar Jona," as the Lord calls Simon, means "son of a dove," and the dove is the emblem and type of the Holy Spirit. Flesh and blood could not produce such a revelation and such faith, it was the work of the Father; and upon this He, the Son, speaks, "I also, I say unto thee..." So in the event before us we have the Father mentioned as well as the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

With His own divine authority the Lord now speaks to Simon. Simon Bar Jona receives a new name. Thou art Peter. The Greek word _Petros means "a stone;" and then the Lord gives the declaration of the building of His assembly upon this rock. The new revelation is concerning His church. The word "ecclesia" is found here for the first time in the Bible. It means literally "to call out," and denotes an assembly of persons. It would be much better if the word assembly could be substituted for the word "church," as that term is so much misused. By speaking of "my church" the Lord indicates what he is going to do with those who, like Peter, with a God-given faith, confess Him as the Son of the living God. They are to form His church, one great assembly.

 

This passage containing the word "church" for the first time, and the Lord intimating that it is still a thing of the future, should be sufficient in itself to clear up all the unscriptural views held and taught throughout Christendom about the "church."

 

The Lord's speaking of the church as to be built upon this rock makes it clear that there was no church in existence up to that time. It is therefore all wrong to speak, as it is done so often, of the Old Testament church. There was no such institution in Old Testament times. It is altogether unknown on the pages of the Old Testament prophetic Word. There are, of course, types which indicate that a church was to be called into existence and which we now understand after God's hidden secret has been made known. We remember some years ago, after giving an address on the church, how a number of brethren took exception to our statement that there was no church in the Old Testament. The argument they brought was from Stephen's address in Acts 7, where it speaks of "the church in the wilderness," and because this referred to Israel these brethren took it for granted that Israel was the church of Christ in the wilderness. What havoc and confusion such a view produces and leads to! All the sad conditions about us in Christendom originate from the prevailing ignorance of what the church is. The miserable method of applying promises made to God's earthly people Israel to the church, and forcing the fulfilment of them into this present age, has its starting point from the same misconception.

 

Now if the term "church in the wilderness" is mentioned in the Book of Acts, it simply means "a congregation, an assembly of people in the wilderness," and such was Israel. The word "ecclesia" church is likewise used in Acts 19:32. The mob there is called "ecclesia," but, unlike Acts 7:38, the translators used the word assembly instead of "church."

 

However, the emphasis here is upon the word "my." He is going to have an assembly of people, a church; this out-called people is for Himself. The formation of His assembly could only begin after the work of redemption had been accomplished. He had first to suffer and die, to be raised from the dead and by it become Lord and Christ, to be received up into Glory and the Holy Spirit sent down, ere the building of His assembly could begin. Therefore He says here, "I will build my church;" not I am building it now, or it has been building since Adam's day, but "I will build." Get this clearly settled in your mind and the fuller revelation about the church, the body and bride of Christ, her heavenly calling, heavenly relationship, heavenly hope and heavenly destiny, will soon be understood. And the gates of hades, death, cannot prevail against it because He whose is the church and who builds it has prevailed over death and has annulled him, who has the power of death, that is the devil.

 

This fuller revelation we do not find here. This is not the place for it. Nor do we find the full truth concerning the church revealed on the day of Pentecost. If Peter were the rock, a statement we shall follow closely, the rock upon which the church is built, we could surely expect that on that wonderful day, when the Spirit was poured out, Peter in his preaching would refer to himself and to the church. But he uses the word "church" not once in his address. When at last all is to be brought out and that mystery hidden in former ages is to be made known, the Lord does not commit these truths at all to Peter, but he chooses another instrument to whom He intrusts His secrets, Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles. Through Paul the full revelation of the assembly, the one body, is given.

 

As it is so well known, Roman Catholicism founds upon the Lord's words to Peter the assertion of Peter's supremacy, and as an outflow from this the Papacy. Peter, according to the poor Romanist, is the stone upon which the church is built, and the infallibility of the church is claimed from the words "hades' gate shall not prevail against it."

 

What then does the Lord mean when He says, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock will I build my assembly?" He did not mean Peter or He would have said "upon thee will I build my church." The word Peter -- petros -- means a part of a rock, that is a stone. When the Lord says upon what He is going to build His church, He no longer speaks of petros, a stone, but he uses the word _petra, which means a rock, out of which the _petros, the stone, is hewn. The word petra, rock, He uses for the first time in Matt. 7:24, 25. The house there is built upon a petra, a rock, and cannot fall, and this rock is He Himself. "This rock" upon which the assembly is built is "Christ, the Son of the living God" as confessed by Peter.

 

But why this peculiar use of petros and petra -- a part of a rock and the rock? Ah, it brings out the most precious truth that Peter and every true believer in possession of eternal life, this life imparted, is associated with Him, is a part of Him, for He is the Eternal Life.

 

Let Peter answer from the God-breathed words of his first Epistle, "To whom (Christ) coming, a living stone, cast away indeed as worthless by men, but with God chosen, precious, yourselves also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:4-6). Here is the same relation of stone and stones, and Peter himself settles the question of who the stone is -- not he, but Christ -- and Peter, like every other true believer, is but a living stone built upon Himself. It would take us too far to look to the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 28:16, the basis of Peter's words.

 

But the Lord has more to say to Peter. "And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens; and whatsoever thou mayest bind upon the earth shall be bound in the heavens; and whatsoever thou mayest loose on the earth, shall be loosed in the heavens" (verse 19).

 

These words have been very grossly misapplied and the most abominable doctrines have been built upon it. It is indeed strange that but few Christian believers are clear about their meaning. From these words to Peter the very ridiculous, Christ and the Gospel dishonoring picture is drawn, which represents Peter with keys in his hands guarding the entrance of heaven, and that it is left to him, who shall be admitted and who rejected. The Lord did not say the keys to heaven were given to him, nor did he say that the keys to the church were in his hands and with the loosing in the earth and loosing in heaven the Lord never meant that the eternal destiny of one single soul was left in Peter's hands.

 

Let us see that the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens were given to him. The Kingdom of the heavens is not heaven nor is it the church, and upon this fact rests the true meaning of the words before us. Notice the place Peter has in the church, not different from the place every believer holds in the assembly through the Grace of God, is given first and when the Lord speaks of giving him keys of the Kingdom of the heavens, He confers upon him authority for actions not in the church, but in the Kingdom of the heavens. It is therefore wrong to say that the Lord gave the keys of the church to Peter, except one assumes (which is so often done) that the church and the Kingdom are identical.

 

We have learned before (Matt, 13) what we have to understand by the Kingdom of the heavens in its present form. It embraces the entire sphere of Christian profession, all Christendom. Every one who confesses the name of Christ is in the Kingdom of the heavens, though that one may not at all be a true believer. This Kingdom of the heavens is in existence in the earth during the absence of the King; it is committed into the hands of men, and it is to be administered by men. Now, if the Lord tells Peter that He will give to him the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens, He puts the administration of the Kingdom into his hands. The question arises next, Did the Lord assign to Peter a special place distinct from the other disciples? Are the keys peculiar to Peter and only to Peter? Was Peter to have these keys exclusively? These are important questions.

 

It is easily proven that the Lord did not mean to single out Peter and give to him a work distinct from the other disciples, nor did he give him a peculiar place or one of supremacy.

 

The Lord adds immediately after the declaration that He will give to him the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens -- "and whatsoever thou mayest bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, etc." Now, if we turn to the eighteenth chapter of this Gospel (verse 18) we find that the Lord repeats this very commission and He addresses it no longer to Peter but to the whole company of disciples. Peter must be looked upon in the whole passage as the representative of the disciples and as such of all true believers. If the Lord calls him "a stone," He certainly did not mean him alone, but every one who believes is a living stone, and so when He speaks of the keys and the binding and loosing He commits this authority not upon Peter exclusively, but upon every disciple, and as true believers form His assembly, upon the assembly as such.

 

It is generally taught that Peter used the keys on the day of Pentecost, and when he preached to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10). It is assumed that the Lord gave this commission to him exclusively and that the words of the Lord were fulfilled at these occasions. However, this cannot be proven from the Scriptures, nor does Peter refer to any special authority in preaching on the day of Pentecost or in the house of Cornelius. (After all that Rome and ritualism and even more evangelical systems have found in these keys it may be hard to credit such a view as this; and with many it has been customary to point to Peter's eminent place on the day of Pentecost in opening the kingdom to the Jews, as afterwards in the person of Cornelius to the Gentiles. But an eminent place may be fully allowed him in this way, while yet we deny him an exclusive place; and, in fact, we cannot exclude others on the day of Pentecost; nor even at Caesarea allow that this was the sole use of the key in relation to the Gentiles, any more than the use of another key than that which before had opened the kingdom to the Jews. One act did surely not exhaust the service of the key, nor to open the door twice require two keys. Can it be thought that the door once, opened simply remained open, and needed no more opening? On the contrary, I believe it can be conclusively shown that the administration of the kingdom, which these keys stand for, is not yet over, is not at all come to an end in one initial authoritative act. Men still receive and are received in; and if the power of the keys speaks of admission into the kingdom, and the kingdom be the sphere of discipleship, then the key is in fact but authority to disciple. -- Numerical Bible.)

 

But what are the keys? The answer is, Knowledge (teaching and preaching) and Baptizing. "Go ye therefore and teach (disciple) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt. 28:19). These are the doors of entering into the professing sphere of Christendom, that is the Kingdom of the heavens. These keys are still used. The binding and loosing refers only to discipline on the earth. It has nothing whatever to do with remission of sins or eternal salvation. We pass this over at present, but shall enter into it more fully when we reach the eighteenth chapter, where we find these words in connection with the statement, "where two or three are gathered together unto My Name, there am I in the midst of them."

 

"Then He enjoined on His disciples that they should say to no man that He was the Christ" (verse 20). As the promised Messiah His people had rejected Him; He is now to go on towards Jerusalem to be delivered up and then raised from the dead to be announced as Lord and Christ. Therefore He enjoined His disciples not to publish Him as the Christ.

 

And now after the Lord had made known for the first time, upon Peter's confession, the future building of His assembly, He speaks likewise for the first time in this Gospel of His rejection, death and resurrection. "From that time Jesus began to shew to His disciples that He must go away to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised" (verse 21).

 

In the beginning of this chapter the fact was brought out that Israel had no heart for Him and His own knew Him not nor would they receive Him. What they would do to Him He now reveals. It was more than mere rejection of His Person and His words. He would have to suffer many things from the hands of the leaders of the nation and be killed; after death His resurrection. And when this solemn announcement came from His blessed lips He knew the full meaning of what was included in "the suffering of many things and be killed." He knew before He entered into the world what work He was to do. "Wherefore coming into the world He says, Sacrifice and offering thou willest not; but thou hast prepared me a body. Thou tookest no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin. Then I said, Lo, I come, in the roll of the book it is written of me to do, O God, thy will" (Heb. 10:5-7). He knew the suffering, for His own Spirit was in the prophets of old, testifying before of the sufferings which belong to Christ (1 Pet. 1:11). He began then to speak of these sufferings to His disciples, but He alone knew what it all meant. He had entered into the world for this very purpose to give His life and as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. We must also lay emphasis upon the words "from that time began Jesus." The building of His assembly and His suffering, death and resurrection are closely connected. The beginning of the assembly, the building of the same, could only be possible after the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ was finished. We read in Genesis 2:22 how the helpmeet of the first Adam was made. She was taken from Adam's side while he slept. She was built out of his side. It is that well known and blessed type of the last Adam and His assembly, Christ and the church.

 

No sooner had the last word of the announcement of His passion fallen from the lips of the Lord than the enemy is manifested, attempting to keep Him from going to the cross. It is Peter who interrupts Him. "And Peter taking Him began to rebuke Him, saying, God be favorable to thee, Lord; this shall in no wise be unto thee" (verse 22). The same Peter who had uttered that glorious confession, the revelation of the Father, becomes all at once the mouthpiece of the adversary. He had not been asked by the Lord what he thought of His statement; he speaks in the impulsiveness of the flesh, as a natural man. Perhaps the conception of Messiah's kingdom, His glory as an earthly King in which He as a Jew with his fellow disciples so strongly believed, was in part responsible for this hasty word, and explains why he became so readily an instrument of Satan. May be the words addressed to Peter by the Lord, the giving of a new name and the commission, lifted up Peter and gave him a spiritual pride, which brought on his hasty action. The way he acts seems to indicate this. He acts in an astonishing forwardness. He takes his Lord aside and then began to rebuke Him. The Lord, who rebuked the winds and the sea, rebuked by His creature! What ignorance of the person of the Lord and what failure this action of Peter reveals. And what does he say to the Lord? He desires that God should be favorable unto Him by keeping Him from such a fate. But only through His sacrificial death could God's favor flow forth to lost men, and so Peter gives expression to the very endeavor of Satan, who would have kept the Lord Jesus Christ from going up to Jerusalem to die on that cross of shame.

And now turning round to Peter, the Lord speaks: "Get away behind Me, Satan; thou art an offence to Me, for thy mind is not on the things that are of God, but on the things that are of men" (verse 23). The Lord recognizes the enemy behind Peter's words and He addresses that unseen one in almost the identical words He had used upon yonder mountain, from which Satan had showed Him the kingdoms of the world, offering the same to Him. We learned from the fourth chapter in the Gospel, from the temptations of our Lord by Satan, what the aim of the enemy was with every one of these temptations. He attempted to keep the Lord from going that path of humiliation, of obedience unto death, unto the death of the cross. Satan knew all his dreadful power, the power of death, would be broken and his complete defeat wrought on the cross, and to keep Him from going there was his aim. Here is a blunt attempt of Satan through Peter to hinder the Lord in His path.

 

And there is still another lesson which we cannot pass by. We read in the Epistle of James concerning the tongue, "Does the fountain, out of the same opening, pour forth sweet and bitter? Can, my brethren, a fig produce olives, or a vine figs?" Alas! it may be so with any believer, as it was with Peter, going on from the sweet revelation of the Father to the bitter things of the enemy and giving expression to them; and he was not conscious of it. "Thy mind is not on the things that are of God." What a word this, is for our consideration! As soon as the mind ceases to be occupied with the things that are of God, and we turn to the things that are of men, we are stepping on the territory of the adversary. "For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are amiable, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8, 9).

 

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, If any one desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever shall desire to save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it" (verses 24, 25).

 

These words are addressed to the disciples and not to unbelievers. It is therefore not a question of salvation. We are not asked to deny self and take up the cross in order to be saved. These words tell us that the way the Lord went is the way of all His true disciples. He states in a few words all the great truths of the association of the believer with the Lord, which the Holy Spirit brings out so fully in the Epistles. We read of the same association in the Gospel of John, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit. He that loves his life shall lose it, and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If any one serve me, let him follow me; and where I am there also shall be my servant" (John 12:24-26). Of course there is an immeasurable difference between Him and the believer. He alone could drink the cup, and yet the path He went is our path. In the third chapter of Joshua we read of the passage of God's people over Jordan. The ark of the covenant led the way and all the people followed. Between the ark and the people, however, was maintained the space of two thousand cubits. And yet they all followed after. It is the type for us. He has made the way and we follow Him. "For to this have ye been called; for Christ also has suffered for you, leaving you a model that ye should follow in His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21). But how little of the denial of self and the losing of the life is known in these days. Many are, no doubt, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; but do they follow Him? Is His path ours, too? It is not only possible to believe in the Lord and not follow Him, but it is the most common thing we see today about us. If we are loyal to Him in a world which has rejected Him and which is unchanged, we shall share His rejection. We may not be called upon in these days to lay down our lives for His sake, but we should be willing for it, should it become again a test of following Him. Surely as we desire to follow Him and He is before us, we shall find abundant occasion to deny ourselves and take up our cross. In the degree we look upon Him, our adorable Lord, and He is the object of our affection, in that degree shall we be obedient to Him, deny self and take up the little cross. It will be a pleasure, a joy and a blessing then. As the martyrs went to the stake with singing or faced the wild animals with holy laughter and praises on their lips, so shall we praise Him for the little suffering with Him in these evil days. ("Take up his cross. These words are not to be understood as meaning that we should choose a cross. Begin only with self-denial and then the cross will come of itself. He says 'his cross'; for He does not teach that we should bear the identical cross which He bore. Everyone's cross has been prepared according to the measure of each one's strength" (1 Cor. 10:13). -- Martin Luther on the Gospels.)

 

"For what does a man profit if he should gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (verse 26). What solemn questions these are! And who could answer them? Surely if anything is taught in them it is the immense, immeasurable value of the soul. The soul is immortal; if it were not these questions would be unreasonable.

 

The denial of the immortality of the soul and with it the teaching of man dying like the beast, if he dies without Christ, is one of Satan's lies which has gained ground throughout Christendom in these last days.

 

The last verse of this chapter contains another revelation. "For the Son of Man is about to come in the Glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will render to each according to his doings. Verily, I say unto you, There are some of those standing here that shall not taste of death at all until they shall have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom" (verses 27, 28).

 

These words refer to His second coming, His coming in power and in glory. They have puzzled not a few readers, and all kinds of spiritual meaning have been read into them. They are, however, very clear if we read at once the first part of the seventeenth chapter, where we find six days after the Lord and three of His disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. What the disciples beheld there was the type of His glorious second coming as Son of Man in His Kingdom. Our exposition of the next chapter will lead us deeper into this fact.

 

The sixteenth chapter has brought before us seven revelations:

 

1. The Rejection of the Lord.

 

2. The Confession of the Lord as the Christ the Son of the Living God.

 

3. The Building of His Assembly.

 

4. The Authority of His Assembly.

 

5. The Death and Resurrection of the Lord.

 

6. The Path of the Disciple.

 

7. The Return of the Lord. _60

 

CHAPTER XVII

 

The first part of this chapter gives us the record of the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. The portion before us is one of the richest in the entire book of Matthew; so full of precious teachings and suggestions that one almost shrinks from attempting an exposition, for it seems impossible to touch on all the phases and lessons coming from this great event.

 

Let us remember that the Holy Spirit has given us three accounts of the transfiguration. Besides the one here we have one in Mark and in Luke. In each, special points of the great event are made prominent in full accord with the meaning and scope of the three Gospels. We find no record of the transfiguration in the fourth Gospel. It would be out of place in that Gospel, for John is the instrument to reveal Christ as the Son of God and the eternal Life. In Luke we find that something is said which is not found in the other two accounts. We read there: "And as He prayed the fashion of His countenance became different and His raiment white and effulgent." The Gospel of Luke presents our Lord as Son of Man and we read there often that He prayed, and thus the information given to us in Luke is in full accord with that Gospel. In Matthew we learn something which is only reported there, namely, that His face shone as the sun. The importance of this fact we shall discover in the course of the exposition. In Mark and Luke the voice out of the cloud says, "This is my beloved Son; hear Him"; but in Matthew alone we read, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight; hear Him." These and other differences are the mark of divine inspiration; the Holy Spirit, being the narrator of the event, reports the occurrence in harmony with the purpose of each one of these Gospels.

 

And now as we turn to the divine record of the transfiguration in the Gospel of Matthew we desire first of all to quote the inspired words of the man who stands out so prominently in the sixteenth chapter and who is likewise one of the witnesses of the transfiguration; that is Peter. In his last Epistle we read: "For we have not made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, following cleverly imagined fables, but having been eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from the Father honor and glory, such a voice being uttered to Him by the excellent glory: This is my beloved Son, in whom I found my delight; (The "Hear Him" is here omitted.) and this voice we heard uttered from heaven, being with Him in the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic Word made surer, to which ye do well taking heed as to a lamp shining in an obscure place until the day dawn and the morning star arise in your hearts" (2 Pet. 1:16-20).

 

That Peter refers in these words once more to the scene of glory on that mountain top which his eyes beheld long ago needs no further proof. He does so "knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle is speedily to take place" (verse 14).

 

We learn therefore that the transfiguration as interpreted not by men but by the Holy Spirit, is the pattern of the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. That wonderful scene on the holy mountain of which Peter had been eye-witness was a pattern of the return of the Lord, visibly and gloriously to the earth surrounded by His saints. The entire Old Testament prophetic word speaks of this great event, and for this reason the transfiguration of the Lord is a confirmation of these prophetic predictions, and more than that, the earnest of their final and complete fulfilment. We have the prophetic word made surer in the scene on the holy mountain, for in the transfiguration we behold that which prophet after prophet had declared.

 

What we have just stated is a most important key to the right understanding of the passage before. Let us call to mind again, the Holy Spirit tells us that the transfiguration is the pattern of the coming of the Lord.

 

Now this should silence once and for all the strange interpretations which are made of the last verse of the preceding chapter, which is, by the unfortunate division of these chapters, wrested from its true place. Some, the Lord had said, were standing with Him there who should not taste death at all until they should see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. The favorite expositions are that the Lord meant "the destruction of Jerusalem," and others tell us "they were to see the Lord coming in the triumphs of the Gospel," etc.

 

All these opinions are the opinions of men. Some of those standing there did not taste death until they saw Him coming, for after six days Peter, James and John beheld Him in His power and Glory, a pattern of the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

 

"After six days." -- Even the number six is full of meaning as the number "eight" has a similar meaning in Luke where it says, "After these words, about eight days." The number eight is the number of resurrection, and as the Son of Man in resurrection He appears in Luke; while "six" is man's number, the number signifying the days of work -- after six days -- after work and man's day is run out, the day of the Lord, the kingdom. And with Him He takes Peter, and James, and John his brother, and brings them into a high mountain apart. The mountain may have been Hermon, which is not far from Caesarea-Philippi. The men who were later with Him in the garden in that awful night scene, when they slept, while He prayed and His sweat became as great drops of blood, falling down upon the earth, are here on the mountain with Him to witness His Glory. But here, too, while He prayed they were oppressed with sleep (Luke 9:32). How this manifests what man is and how it brings out the perfection of Himself! The fact that the disciples were oppressed with sleep makes it evident that the transfiguration must have been at night. The Lord so often spent His nights in prayer and came down in the morning. Blessed type of His presence with the Father now as our intercessor and advocate and His coming again.

 

"And He was transfigured before them. And His face shone as the sun and His garments became white as the light" (verse 2). What a transformation it must have been! How the garment of light and glory is put upon Him and rays of glory shot forth from His person, the One whom Pharisees a little while ago had blasphemed and who had said, "The foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head." The One who had hidden His glory beneath the form of a servant bursts forth in glory, and it was His glory. The word used here in the original for "transfigured" is used only twice besides in this passage. We find it in Romans 12:2 and 2 Cor. 3:18. His Grace transforms us now, and by and bye in resurrection we shall be transformed according to the same image -- "conformed to the image of His Son, so that He should be the first born among many brethren." We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. Thus may we, as children of God, look upon His glory here and know it is our Glory. Beloved! look upon Him and rejoice, for "when the Christ is manifested, who is our life, then shall ye also be manifested with Him in glory."

 

And His face shone like the sun. He is the Sun, the Sun of righteousness, and as we have in Matthew the dispensational side, it is once more the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to put this description here and omit it in the other Gospels. The sun is the great light which rules the day, and when the sun is absent night rules. He does not shine now as Sun of Righteousness, the moon only -- the type of the church -- gives her faint light; it is night. But day will come and the Sun of Righteousness rises with healing in His wings. Then He the Sun cometh forth "as a bridegroom of His chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and His circuit unto the ends of it, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof" (Ps. 19:5, 6). Thus shall He come again, and the Sun He created will pale before Him in His wonderful Glory.

 

"And lo, Moses and Elias appeared to them talking with Him." Two departed saints come into view first of all. Moses, the representative of the law, one who had passed through death, and Elias, standing for the prophets, the one who had never seen death, but had been removed in a fiery chariot, appear alongside the Lord. We may well think of Him as standing in the middle. He is the center of the Heavens and of heavenly beings. In the Gospel of Luke we read that Moses and Elias, appearing in glory, spoke of His departure which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. Both Law and Prophets speak of His suffering and of His Glory as well. He the one in the middle is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.

 

Looked upon from the standpoint of a pattern of His coming into His kingdom, Moses is the type of those saints who died in Christ, who were put to sleep through Jesus, and whom the Lord will bring with Him when He comes. Elias, the one who did not see death, who was caught up from the earth, is the type of those believers who shall not sleep but be changed in the twinkling of an eye -- caught up to meet the Lord in the air. So we have even here the precious revelation in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 "made surer." When He comes He will bring us all with Him.

 

And of course Moses and Elias were known. Their individuality was not swallowed up by death or removal from the earth without death. This should answer definitely the oft made inquiry, shall we know each other in resurrection glory? Of course we will. As Moses and Elias were easily recognized by the disciples, so shall every saint be recognized. What joy it will be then to see him first of all and to be with Him, whom we have never seen and whom we shall see as he is, the Man in Glory. What joy to look upon a Paul, John, Peter and all the beloved of God! Yes we shall know each other, though all human, earthly relationship ceases forever in resurrection.

 

The three disciples who gazed upon this glorious scene typify here the remnant of Israel, those who in the night look up and see Him coming in the clouds of heaven. Thus the kingdom scene is complete.

 

And Peter answering said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good we should be here. If thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; for thee one, and for Moses one, and one for Elias" (verse 4).

 

Poor Peter! What a failure he makes of it again. Once more he acts as spokesman for his fellow disciples and intrudes himself upon the scene of glory. He had absolutely no conception of what all this meant. He had of course later by the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and opening the eyes of his heart. (How often in prayer meetings one hears requests that feelings of joy and blessing may come upon the meeting, that they might say "it is good for us to be here -- let us make here three tabernacles." This is a much used phrase and indicates how little the vision is understood by Christian people.) But what was the harm in making the suggestion? It was simply the flesh speaking and Peter uttered still words as he did previously, which flowed from a mind which is not on the things which are of God, but that are of men. In the sixteenth chapter he rebuked His Lord and tried to keep Him back from going to the cross and was an instrument of the enemy, and here once more his words show the subtle cunning of the same enemy, whose tool Peter so readily became even on that holy mountain.

 

He lowers the dignity and person of his Lord by putting Him on the same level with Moses and Elias. And behind it lurked another thought, the very same attempt to keep the Lord from being obedient unto the death of the cross, which was made in the temptations in the wilderness, which was hid in Peter's "God be favorable unto Thee," is made here once more. Peter would have a Christ in Glory and the state of the kingdom there without the cross, and he is even willing with his two associates to work for it, for he says, "Let us make here three tabernacles."

 

All this foreshadows what would be done with the Lord of glory. The corrupt forms of Christianity have put the Lord Jesus Christ alongside of holy men (holy in their estimation), or alongside of great men of the world, and thus robbed Him of His Glory. Not for a moment could this be tolerated. Peter is still babbling -- while he was still speaking something happens. It is God the Father Himself who interferes and who bears witness that this Jesus, this Son of Man, is His Son, is God. "While he was still speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and lo a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight, hear Him" (verse 5).

 

Wonderful heavenly answer. "And the disciples hearing it, fell upon their faces and were greatly terrified." The heavens opened and the Glory of the Lord in that bright cloud is manifested. These three men well knew what that cloud meant. It was the cloud which spoke of Jehovah's presence. That cloud which had been withdrawn from Israel for centuries had all at once appeared again. Then Jehovah had returned and condescended to be with His people once more. They knew they stood in His presence as Isaiah knew it when he saw the glorious vision. Therefore, they were terrified, for they knew as sinful men they stood in the Holy of Holiest and they had no sacrifice. And now the voice out of the cloud. The Father speaks and He speaks of the Son. He bears witness to the eternal relationship of Himself with Him, who was ever with Him and ever His delight. He calls them away from occupation with Moses and Elias; neither law nor prophets can help you and make you acceptable. Here He is -- my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him! He has pleased the Father and in Him the Father and the Father's heart is revealed. Men are to hear Him, and refusing Him means refusing God. In Him we are brought to God. Of course the work of the cross is here anticipated. And thus in Him the Father speaks, to Him the Father directs us, through Him we are brought to the Father, and by Him the heavens are opened. And all the precious thoughts which here crowd to the heart and the mind we must leave untouched. Oh, may we find our delight in Him in whom God finds His delight! Never can we make too much of Him. As then the cloud appeared and there was an open manifestation of the Glory and Jehovah's presence, so in the coming day of His return all will be repeated. Then He must be heard.

 

"And Jesus coming to them touched them, and said, Rise up and be not terrified. And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus alone" (verse 8).

 

He touched them as He will touch His poor frightened people, the remnant of Israel, in that day. But they saw Jesus alone. Blessed are we if we see Him and Him alone.

 

We have learned then from the transfiguration that we have in it a perfect picture of the kingdom to come. Christ in Glory, His face like the Sun, in the center. Resurrected saints and those who were caught up are with Him. His Glory covers Him and them. Living men are in His presence terrified. The heavens are opened and mercy and peace flow forth.

 

"And as they descended from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man be risen up from among the dead" (verse 9).

 

The sounding forth of His Kingdom glory was no longer in order, for the Kingdom had been rejected; after His resurrection this vision was to be made known and fully understood, but not before. The disciples, the witnesses of the transfiguration, had indeed little knowledge of its meaning. From the Gospel of Mark we learn that they kept this saying and questioned themselves what rising from the dead was (Mark 9:10). How all this became changed after the Lord had risen, ascended on high, and the Holy Spirit had come down from heaven!

 

The appearance of Elijah in that glorious vision on the holy mountain leads to a question which the disciples bring to their Master. The coming of Elijah as the forerunner of King Messiah was firmly believed by every Jew, and it is still held by all orthodox Jews. Elijah is first to come, and when he is come then the Messiah is about to come and with His coming begins the _olam _habo (the world or age to come), this is a strong article of talmudical Judaism. The disciples bring their question, "Why then say the scribes that Elias must first have come? And He answering said to them, Elias indeed comes first and will restore all things. But I say unto you that Elias has already come, and they have not known him, but have done unto him whatever they would. Thus also the Son of Man is about to suffer from them. Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist" (verses 10-13). The difficulty which the disciples had about Elias was about the prophecy contained in the last prophetic book of the Old Testament: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Mal. 4:5, 6). They had seen Elias in glory. In the land and among the people all was dark; no restoration, no turning of the heart of the fathers to the children and the children to their fathers was noticeable. On the contrary, they had witnessed how He in whom they believed as the promised Messiah, the King of Israel, was being rejected and the nation knew Him not. And still they hoped for the kingdom and that age of blessing for Jerusalem. What then about Elias? Would he yet appear and restore all things? The Lord answers their difficulty, as He always does when His own turn to Him and put their difficulties before Him. He does not deny the fact that Elias comes first and will restore all things. Furthermore, He told them that he had come and they had not received him, but rejected him and his testimony. As he was rejected, so He the Son of Man was now about to suffer from them, is His third statement. All at once they understood that He meant John the Baptist. They were right. John the Baptist had come in the power and spirit of Elijah. He was the voice in the wilderness, the way preparer, the one in whom the last prophecy in Malachi might have been fulfilled, but they did not know Him. His rejection was the prelude to the rejection of the Lord as we have seen before (chapter 11). John surely was the Elias for that time.

 

But this does not fulfill Malachi's prophecy. That prophecy is yet to see its fulfilment. Before the Lord returns to earth in power and glory another forerunner, an Elijah, will come and his testimony will not be rejected then; he will indeed be Elijah who restores all things and he will be followed by the coming of the King to set up His kingdom. This brings before us the questions, when will the Elijah who restores all things appear? where will he appear, and what will his work be? These questions are important in view of men who have of late arisen claiming that they are Elijah, one especially calling himself Elijah the Restorer, and boldly and boastingly declares that his mission is to establish a Zion in the earth and restore things before the Lord comes. When will Elijah appear? He will come upon the scene at the time of the end. This prophetic time of the end is specified in the entire prophetic Word; it is Jewish history resumed. As long as the church is in the earth that end time does not begin. The removal of the church will be followed by the last stage of the ending of the age. During that time, the great tribulation, Elijah appears. Any believer who holds the scriptural doctrine of the coming of the Lord for His saints before the great tribulation is in no danger to follow deceivers who claim to be something, for he knows he shall see not Elijah nor the Antichrist.

 

Where will Elijah appear? Certainly not in America, Australia or Europe, but in Israel 's land, where Elijah of old witnessed and John the Baptist, as herald of the King, stood. His ministry is confined to the land of Israel. What will his work be? It will not be a work to restore Christendom or to restore the church, or to purify the politics of this world and rid society of certain evils, but his work is exclusively among the people who are the kingdom people. His witness is to the remnant of Israel. Like John's call to repentance, he will preach repentance and his testimony will be received; he will accomplish the mission of Malachi 4:5, 6.

 

The appearance of Elijah, therefore, does not come as long as the church is present; he appears in Israel's land and his work is not among Gentiles, but among the remnant of Israel. This stamps every man who arises at this time with the assertion that he is Elijah as one who is deceived or a deceiver, perhaps, both, deceived and a deceiver. It is not at all strange that such men find listening ears among Christians.

 

And now the Lord and His disciples are down in the valley again. They had descended from the holy mountain and once more they are among the multitude, who perhaps had waited through the night for Him. At the dawn of the morning He appears.

 

"And when they came to the multitude, a man came to Him, falling on his knees before Him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is lunatic and suffers sorely; for often he falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to the disciples and they were not able to heal him. And Jesus answering said, O, unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to me. And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon went out from him and the boy was healed from that hour. Then the disciples, coming to Jesus apart, said to Him, Why were we not able to cast him out? And He says to them, Because of your unbelief; for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Be transported hence to yonder place, and it shall transport itself; and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out but by prayer and fasting" (verses 14-21). (It is interesting to know that the twenty-first verse is not found in the two oldest manuscripts dating back to the fourth century, the Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.)

 

This is another very suggestive passage. It has many dispensational and spiritual lessons. The coming down of the Lord, the one who has been transfigured, from the mountain in the morning is clearly typical of His coming again in Glory. And what does He find when He comes? He finds Satan exercising his soul and body-destroying power. The boy possessed by a demon suffering sorely is the type of Satan's dominion when the Son of Man comes again. Multitudes wait for His return, and when He comes He finds misery, suffering and unbelief. The disciples had the power conferred upon them to cast out demons, but they were helpless; they could not do it, and unbelief was plainly at the root of their inability. We must, however, be cautious to apply this in the right way. It would be incorrect to make these disciples the church. We have seen before that they represent the Jewish remnant (chapter 10). Such a remnant of Jewish believers will be in existence after the body of Christ, the church, is complete and come into the presence of the Lord. This future Jewish remnant will preach the Gospel of the kingdom and they will go once more through the cities of Israel manifesting the powers of the kingdom. And yet they will not be able to cast out the demon which holds dominion. The coming Lord can do this and does it with His manifestation.

 

However, the principles underlying the incident have a deeper spiritual application. Here is a company of believers, for such were the disciples, and the Lord had put power into their hands, yet they were not able to use it. Perhaps, as over and over again they attempted to drive out the demon and failure followed, the multitude jeered at them, and the effect upon the child must have been awful. Their failure made the case worse. Thus we are as believers in the midst of an evil world, which is under the sway of its god, the devil, and his demons. Complete victory and power over the world and its god is given to us by, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet here are many of God's people as helpless and powerless as were these disciples at the foot of the mountain. Weakness and failure is seen everywhere, and instead of exercising full control and having full power over that which is evil, the evil has full control. And why? Oh, let us put the words prominently before the eyes of our hearts, "Because of your unbelief." Unbelief is the only reason for this failure. Unbelief gives the world and Satan all their power. Faith lays him low and the walls of Jericho (the world) must crumble to dust without even a single hand lifted up against them. Nothing is impossible for him who believes. Faith can remove and does remove mountains, which mean obstacles and difficulties in our way. How little such faith is exercised among believers. And we may go still further and ask what is the reason of lack of faith? A severed communion with the Lord and occupation with self. If the Lord is ever before our hearts and self is out of sight, faith can readily be exercised. Therefore the Lord gives the remedy, "Prayer and Fasting." Prayer means communion with the Lord and dependence on Him. Fasting (the least meaning of it, abstinence from food), the losing sight of self; self-denial.

 

The healing of the lunatic is followed by a second announcement of His suffering, death and resurrection. "And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said to them, The Son of Man is about to be delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and the third day He shall be raised up. And they were greatly grieved" (verses 22, 23). This new declaration of His passion, following the transfiguration scene and the manifestation of His power over the devil, is a reminder that through the cross alone the glory could be accomplished. In the sixteenth chapter the announcement of the fact that He would build His church is followed by the first statement of His suffering, and there the elders, chief priests and scribes are mentioned, and His glory as the Son of Man is manifested. He speaks again of His death, and the chief priests and elders are not mentioned, but He speaks of being about to be delivered into the hands of men. This head of the body, His church, and head of the new creation as Second Man He was to become by death and resurrection. And His disciples, in hearing these words, were greatly grieved. All these sayings of the Lord were mysterious unto them. They knew not that all the hope of glory and the kingdom could only be realized by His death and triumphant resurrection, or they would not have been grieved.

 

The closing paragraph of the seventeenth chapter contains a most precious incident, which we shall find again full of most suggestive and blessed teachings. The scene is at Capernaum, meaning village of comfort. Let us read the text first. "And when they came to Capernaum, those who received the didrachmas came to Peter and said, Does your teacher not pay the didrachmas? He says, Yes. And when he came to the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, What dost thou think, Simon? the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive custom or tribute? from their own sons or from strangers? Peter says to Him, From strangers. Jesus said to him, Then are the sons free. But that we may not be an offence to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish which comes up, and when thou hast opened its mouth thou wilt find a stater; take that and give it to them for me and thee" (verses 24-27).

 

One is at a loss how to give out a little of the wonderful riches of grace and glory which are manifested in this little incident there by the sea of Galilee. And even if we would bring out every point and lesson the Holy Spirit has put here for us, it would all be but imperfect stammering. The grace and glory of Himself is here most wonderfully brought forth. He manifests Himself as the omnipotent Lord; His divine majesty and power is shown forth in the miracle of the fish, and in wonderful condescension this Lord is servant, to make us sons with Himself, and as such, free. But let us point out the details.

 

The temple-tribute is here meant, which, according to Jewish custom, was collected at the end of the month Adar (March). That it was not the ransom money for the soul, spoken of in Exodus 30:11-16, is obvious. The amount of tribute was in our money about sixty cents. The collector came to Peter, perhaps for the reason that the Lord was not present. And Peter acts once more in his hasty manner. Without thinking he answers with a ready "yes." But, Peter, hast thou forgotten thy wonderful confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God?" Is the vision from the holy mountain so quickly gone that thou canst put again thy Lord down on the level with every other Jew who is obliged to pay temple-tribute? Alas! even so it was. The dignity and glory of His Lord was quite forgotten and out of sight.

 

We see Peter after his hasty reply in the house surprised by the Lord. He knew his heart and the question which had been asked, as well as the answer which Peter had given. Jesus anticipated him, and addressing him as Simon, He asks, "the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive tribute? from their own sons or from strangers?" What a strong proof this is once more of the Divinity of the humble Jesus. He knew the thoughts of His disciple; this Jesus is the omniscient God, God manifested in the flesh. Peter now gives the correct answer, "From strangers;" to which Jesus replies, "Then are the sons free." In this declaration all His glory is once more revealed. He is the Son, He is Jehovah, whose glory had appeared in the temple; how could He then pay tribute to that which is His own? As Son He was free, no such obligation was upon Him. Oh, how the dignity of His Person stands before us in these simple words. He shows His place as Son, and as such He is exempt from the tribute. But while thus He shows His divine right, He does not insist upon it. "But that we may not be an offence to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou wilt find a stater; take that and give it to them for me and thee."

 

And here still greater grace and glory is revealed for our hearts to enjoy. First notice that the Lord speaks not of Himself alone, but also of Peter. He had not said that He as the Son is free, but the "sons are free." In speaking of giving offence He says "we," and when the money is miraculously provided it was to be "for me and thee," for the Lord and for Peter. What precious thoughts these facts bring to us! The Lord, the Son of God, who is free, identifies Himself with His disciple, with Peter, who, as we have seen before, is the representative of the disciples. In this gracious identification of the Lord with His own, every believer is included. He is Son and we are sons with Him; He is free and He has made us free. "If therefore the Son shall set you free ye shall be really free" -- He has identified Himself with us and we are sharers of His grace, His humiliation and His glory. But what an example it is which He in His gracious action puts here before us for our consideration and "to go and do likewise." He surrenders His personal right for the sake of "not giving offence." Surely "He has left us an example that we should follow in His steps." It behooves us now, though we are sons of God and sons of glory, to walk in humility, without asserting our right, willing in all things which concern ourselves to suffer. Alas! how little it is done -- how great the offence given again and again, by the self-assertion, the ungracious and worldly behavior of those who through the grace of God are not of the world as He is not of it. May we learn of Him in this sweet lesson. He could say, "I am meek and lowly of heart," and His humility shines forth in His action. Like He the Son becoming a servant may we as sons be servants too. And then, think of it, He provided for all which was needed. Just the amount which was needed "for me and for thee" was at His command; it was ready and prepared. All is His and unto the riches of Himself He has taken us. "For me and thee" speaks of individuality and intimacy. Faith is to take hold of it and realize even better and more fully that all need is supplied by Himself and that from Him all comes to us. And by what a mighty miracle He provides the need. Once more His glory flashes forth. Again we learn that this Jesus who speaks here is God, God the Creator; as such He manifests Himself. It is a practical illustration of Col. 1:16 and Hebrews 1:3. He knows the deep sea, for He made the sea. He knows the mysteries of the deep, nothing is hid from Him. He knows the piece of money in the bottom of the sea, for the silver and the gold are His. As He spoke before to the restless sea and wind and waves obeyed Him, so here, the deep obeys His voice. A creature of His is there, a fish, and He commands the fish to take up a piece of money. Then He brings the fish to Peter's hook. Omniscience and omnipotence is here which belong to God and God is present. And this Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He who knew the fish and commanded that fish to take the stater and guided it to Peter's hook, is our Lord, with power in heaven and on earth. In view of such gracious and wonderful demonstration of His power the heart cries out -- Oh why do we not trust Him fully at all times and circumstances! Why do we not even hasten to such a Lord whose grace and power is all for us, and ever trust Him for all we want?

 

Perhaps here is also the thought of death in type and that through death our need is provided. Out of the water the fish was taken, and out of the deep provision was made.

 

CHAPTER XVIII

 

So closely is this chapter connected with the events of the previous one that it should not be divided into a separate chapter at all. It was "in that hour" the disciples came to Him with their question. When the Lord had just uttered the great truth "the sons are free" and added His gracious Word "that we may not be an offence to them" and the disciples asked their question about being greatest in the kingdom, the great Teacher continues His teachings.

 

"Who then is greatest in the kingdom of the heavens? And Jesus having called a little child to Him, set it in their midst, and said, Verily I say to you, unless ye are converted and become as little children, ye will not at all enter into the kingdom of the heavens. Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens" (verses 1-5). In the Gospel of Luke (chapter 9:46) we read that they were reasoning amongst themselves who should be the greatest. Perhaps the Lord's words to Peter about the keys of the kingdom produced this strife among the disciples. While the Lord had set His face like a flint to go up to Jerusalem and spoke of His coming suffering and death, they had these selfish thoughts and reasonings. And so they approach the Lord, in the hour when He, who had become poor, had manifested His divine power in bringing the fish with a piece of money from the bottom of the sea to Peter's hook. And how graciously He teaches them. He knew their hearts and read their thoughts. He knew the depths of their natures and that one of their numbers was not His own. What love that He so patiently instructs them.

 

The disciples meant of course the kingdom of the heavens, as they understood it, that kingdom which was and is to be established in the earth, and their selfish ambition was reaching out for a great earthly position in that kingdom. They thought of the time when service, self-denial and suffering would be rewarded by the King; who then would be greatest? And the Lord takes a little child and sets the little one in their midst and through this object lesson teaches them who will be the greatest in the kingdom. What the Lord tells His disciples here is practically the same which Nicodemus heard from His lips in that night visit. The kingdom must be entered in and that means conversion, to turn about in a different direction, and become as a little child, in other words, a new life is given, a new existence begins, the believer is born again and enters the kingdom as a little child, as he entered by the natural birth into the world. He gives therefore the great characteristics of those who have entered the kingdom and the great principles which are to govern them. It is lowliness, littleness and dependence. These are the characteristics of a little child. "Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens." Having entered into the kingdom by being born again, we are to act practically according to these principles and he who does so is the greatest. The new life will grow and develop, but in regard of these characteristics the believer is ever to remain a child in simplicity, dependence on the Lord and in lowliness of mind as well as self-forgetfulness. It is by the constant following of these principles that growth in Grace is attained. Nothing is more detrimental to the development of spiritual life than self-consciousness, self confidence and pride. How often the Lord has to do with His children what the earthly father has to do with his children when they are wilful. He has to discipline them, and that means to show them their true place as a little child. "Moreover, we have had the fathers of our flesh as chasteners, and we reverenced them; shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they indeed chastened for a few days, as seemed good to them; but He for profit, in order to the partaking of His holiness" (Heb. 12:9, 10). Lowliness of mind, that self-forgetfulness and dependence on God, was the path of the Lord Jesus Christ in the days of His humiliation. Let this mind, therefore, be in you which was in Christ Jesus.

 

"And whosoever shall receive one such little child in my name receives me. But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were profitable for him that a great millstone had been hanged upon his neck and he be sunk into the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; yet woe to that man by whom the offence comes! And if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee; it is good for thee to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than have two hands or two feet to be cast into eternal fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; it is good for thee to enter into life one-eyed, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire" (verses 5-9).

 

The great thought put here before us is the identification of the Lord with every little one, each who has become a little child, that is born again. He is their Father and their Lord, closely identified with them. It reminds us of that beautiful word "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye" (Zech. 2:8). It is spoken of Israel, it finds a still higher application in us. We also may think of that other statement: "In all their affliction, He was afflicted" (Is. 63:9). And so honor done to one of the little ones is done unto Him, injury done to one of them is injury done to Him. What glory of the believer this reveals! How this fact should teach us how to behave one towards the other and not despise any one who is Christ's. How apt we are to do this. This one or that one is so little taught in the Word, he is so ungracious -- and with all our criticism we forget he is after all one of Christ's own.

 

Care, however, must be taken in interpreting the passage concerning those who offend, the casting into the sea with a millstone* and into eternal fire. (Christ here speaks of a kind of death, perhaps nowhere, certainly never used among the Jews; He does it either to aggravate the thing, or in allusion to drowning in the Dead Sea, in which one cannot be drowned without something hung to him, and in which to drown anything by a common manner of speed implied rejection and execration. -- Horae Hebraeicae.) That this cannot mean the true believer, who gives offence is obvious. The true believer may give offence, as alas! he often does, but the fate "eternal fire" or "hell of fire" is not for him. But in the kingdom, the kingdom of the heavens as it is now, there are not alone those who are truly born again, but also many who are mere professors without possessing life. These are of course indifferent and careless about grieving Him. The "eternal fire" is surely for those who though professing, continue deliberately in sin and unbelief. And yet the exhortation has a most solemn meaning for every true believer. Whatever is in your way, whatever is a stumbling block it is to be removed. If it is the hand by which we serve and act, or by the foot, the walk, or by the eye, the very best we have, put it away so as not to give an offence.

 

And our Lord continues: "See that ye do not despise one of these little ones; for I say unto you that their angels in the heavens continually behold the face of my Father who is in the heavens" (verse 10). It would take many pages to follow or state all the different interpretations of these words and the various theories and doctrines which have been built upon it. That there are difficulties here none would deny.

 

Much has been made of this passage in teaching that there is a "guardian angel" for every believer. That angels have ministries which we cannot fully grasp now, cannot be denied.

 

"Are they not all ministering spirits sent out for service on account of those who shall inherit salvation?" (Heb. 1:14). Faith can enjoy it, child-like faith, without going into speculation. However the passage does not teach that every believer has an angel who guards and protects him and who sees the Father.

 

The question is, does the Lord still speak of believers or does He now refer to actual little ones? We believe the latter is the case. With the tenth verse ends properly the exhortation of the Lord in answer to the question of the disciples. The little child He had put in their midst was most likely still there, and it is now concerning little ones, little children, He speaks, that they should not be despised. Children are subjects in the kingdom of the heavens. How little the disciples understood their Lord and how they needed the very exhortation not to despise one of these little ones is seen in the next chapter, when they brought little children to the Lord and the disciples rebuked them. The Lord then declared: "Suffer little children, and do not hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven is of such" (chapter 19:13, 14). And when the Lord now speaks of "their angels in the heavens continually behold the face of my Father," what does He mean by it?

 

All of course depends on the interpretation of "angel." At the first glance it would seem as if these little ones have angels in heaven. There is a passage in Acts 12 which is the key to solve the difficulty here. When Peter, rescued by an angel, led forth miraculously from the prison house, knocked at the door of the praying assembly and Rhoda maintained that Peter stood outside, they said "It is his angel." They believed that Peter had suffered death and that his angel stood outside. What does "angel" mean in this passage? It must mean the departed spirit of Peter. This fact throws light on the passage before us. If these little ones, who belong to the kingdom of the heavens, depart, their disembodied spirits behold the Father's face in heaven; in other words, they are saved. Surely heaven is peopled by these little ones. What a company of them is in the presence of the Lord! The little ones perish not. The work of the Lord Jesus Christ was for them. The verses which follow and which have been said to be an interpolation, belong rightly here; indeed, they fit in most wonderfully, though in the Gospel of Luke we have the substance of these words enlarged. "For the Son of Man has come to save* that which is lost." (The omission of "to seek" is significant. They (little children) are lost ones needing a Saviour, but seeking implies a condition of active wandering from God such as in their case is hardly begun yet. -- Num. Bible.) "What think ye? If a certain man should have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine on the mountains, go and seek the one which has gone astray? And if it should come to pass that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoices more because of it than because of the ninety and nine not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in the heavens that one of these little ones should perish" (verses 11-14).

 

The words of our Lord, which follow His gracious declaration, that it is not the Father's will that one of these little ones should perish, are very important. Here for the second time in this gospel and the last time, the Lord uses the word "church," or as we translate it "assembly." We must have therefore additional teachings given by our Lord concerning His church, which He had announced in the sixteenth chapter He is going to build. We have learned before that the building of the church was future, that when He gave that statement there was no church in existence. And so the words He spoke to His disciples in the passage before us are in anticipation of the gathering out of the assembly or church.

 

Some have taught that the word "church" means a synagogue. Church and synagogue, however, are totally different terms. (Of late this argument has been pressed in certain quarters that the word church means synagogue. However if the Lord had meant synagogue the Holy Spirit surely would have used the Greek word "synagoge" instead of "ecclesia.") Others have failed to see the close connection which exists between the first part of the chapter and the continued teachings of our Lord going now on about the authority of the church. That all is vitally connected in this chapter may not be discovered at the first glance, but it is so nevertheless. He had answered their question about the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens and true believers were described by Him as little children, born of God and in possession of the characteristics of a little child. No offence should be given to any of these little ones. He then spoke of His own mission, that He came to save that which is lost and of His Grace in seeking the sheep which has gone astray till He finds it and rejoices over it. And now He speaks of a brother who has sinned. How is he to be treated? The connection then is clear. If He sought us and saved us when we were lost in our sins, so we, in possession of His life, in the spirit of a little child in dependence upon Him and in meekness, are to seek our brother who has sinned. The instructions He gives, however, soon refer us to the church and her executive power on the earth during the absence of the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. But we have to examine these words in detail.

 

"But if thy brother sin against thee, go reprove him between thee and him alone. If he hear thee, thou hast gained a brother" (verse 15). The question is how sin in a brother is to be treated. What kind of a sin is meant, whether a sin against a person or sin in a wider sense of the word, we shall not attempt to discuss. He is a brother who has sinned and the first thing to be done is that the one who knows about it is to go to him personally and reprove him, that is, show him his fault. The object of his reprover is not perhaps to defend himself, if a personal matter, a false accusation, is the sin, but it is to restore and gain the brother. But to go to the brother who has sinned needs great caution, earnest prayer, meekness and self judgment. If the reproving is attempted in a wrong spirit it will work untold harm. The Holy Spirit has given us in Galatians the description of the brother who should go and reprove him who has sinned and the manner in which he is to do it. "Brethren, if even a man be taken in some fault, ye who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). Alas! how little this is done. Instead of going at once to the brother who sinned, after earnest prayer and with the love and grace of God in the heart, the sin of the brother is often spread about and by this un-Christlike behavior magnified. Bitter feelings are stirred up, resulting in greater evils, slanders, backbiting, lying and other sins. If at last some one makes an attempt to see the brother, he finds the case perhaps beyond hope. How simply our gracious Lord has pointed out the way for us, what the first step is to be if the brother has sinned. It is to be treated as a personal matter and the sinning brother should not needlessly be exposed. Such grace manifested is able to gain the brother.

 

But in case he does not hear, what is to be the second step? "But if he do not hear thee, take with thee one or two besides, that every matter may stand upon the word of two witnesses or three" (verse 16). Of course the two, which are to be taken along in this second step to restore a brother, must have the same spiritual characteristics as the brother who came to him first. It is to bring still greater love to bear upon him, but at the same time to show the brother that unconfessed sin, sin not put away, cannot be tolerated in a brother. Should he stubbornly refuse to see his fault, his case would appear hopeless and the last step to be done would hardly reach him, for from the very outset he has been hardening his heart against love and grace, the love of Christ, which sought to restore him.

 

And so the Lord gives the last injunction, "But if he will not listen to them tell it to the assembly." The sin is now to be made public, the whole assembly is to hear of it and of course from the side of the assembly or church there is to be renewed seeking to gain the brother in love. Hasty judging is to be avoided and in all these steps impatient haste, the fruit of the flesh, is to be avoided.

 

The assembly is mentioned, we repeat, in anticipation of its building in the future. The injunction given here could not have been kept at the time when the Lord gave it, nor before the day of Pentecost. (It is very interesting though to find that the Elders and Rabbis of old had many sayings about reproving a brother which remind one strongly of the words here. It was also customary among the Jews to note those that were obstinate and after public admonition in the synagogue to set a mark of disgrace upon them. The words by our Lord, "Where two or three are gathered together unto my Name there I am in the midst of them," is also found in the talmudical writings. The old Rabbis say, "Two or three sitting in judgment, the Shekinah is in the midst of them." However all this does not authorize to say the synagogue is meant here.) First of all the church had to be called in existence. That the church is a gathering of persons unto the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we find later. This assembly then, the church, is to act as a body in the case of the brother who has sinned. Of course it means a local church gathered unto the name of the Lord of which the offender is a part.

 

"And if also he will not listen to the assembly; let him be to thee as one of the nations and a taxgatherer. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on the earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on the earth shall be loosed in heaven." These are solemn and important words, as they not alone give us light on what is to be done with an impenitent brother, but also show us the responsibility and authority of the church on earth. He is, after refusing to hear the church, to be considered as one outside, one who has forfeited his place. This however does not mean that further attempts should not be made to restore him. The action of the assembly is to prove that holiness is to be maintained.

 

And now the "verily" of the Lord. Whatever has been read into these words of binding and loosing by the assembly we pass by. The words simply tell us that the Lord conferred authority to act on the earth for Himself, and the authority is absolute. But to whom does He give this authority? To the disciples, apostles to be conferred by them upon others? Never! That is the unscriptural, man-made doctrine which has displaced the person and the work of Christ, one of Satan's most powerful inventions. The authority is given to the church. He gives the church executive power. She is to act according to His rules laid down and in acting in fullest harmony with the absent Lord and obedient to His Word as well as guided by His Spirit, the action of the assembly is valid in heaven. The Lord sanctions it in heaven, whether it is binding or loosing. If, therefore, anything is done which deviates from His Word and is not according to His mind, He cannot sanction it. The case must be a very plain one. If there is disagreement, diversity of opinion, taking of different sides, it is evidence that the Lord cannot sanction what is done.

 

Alas! how little these injunctions have been followed! How little the church has understood the way of grace as well as her heaven-given, solemn authority. That which professes to be the church has made attempts to follow these injunctions, but being disobedient to the Word, has failed long ago and is powerless to carry out these words. Much of that which calls itself church is simply a human man-made institution, having adopted a set of rules, a form of government much like a club. Saved and unsaved are taken in and as for discipline that is all out of question.

 

And those who returned to the first principles how great their failure! The flesh has come in and worked havoc; things are done often in a sectarian spirit, a spirit which the Lord can never sanction. Yet all failure is no proof that what is spoken here by the Lord is impossible to carry out. It is possible and ever will be possible as long as our Lord is gathering out a people for His name. And while failure is everywhere failure may be avoided from our side if we are obedient to Him and to His Word.

 

He then continues with the words of comfort just on account of the difficulty: "Again I say to you, that if two shall agree on the earth concerning any matter, whatsoever it may be that they shall ask, it shall come to them from my Father who is in the heavens. For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them" (verses 19-20).

 

The Lord knew the difficulty of such a path and the responsibility which rests upon believers as an assembly with such an authority put upon them, and therefore He gives this exceeding great and precious promise. It is a promise which tells us that He and His strength and wisdom is on our side and that He is willing to supply that which we lack. The promise stands first of all in connection with the restoring of a brother who sinned. United prayer is first of all needed. Yet the promise is not limited to this. We are told to ask touching anything and the assurance is given that it shall be done for us by the heavenly Father. Prayer in secret is blessed and made in His Name has the assurance likewise of an answer, but united prayer, even if only by two who are agreed, who know their place, their responsibility, is what the Lord here emphasizes. And there is much need in these days of believers being agreed and casting themselves upon this promise, in confession of their weakness and with their responsibility resting upon them, making their requests known unto God. What mighty works have been accomplished in this way! It would take pages to record some of the victories gained, doors opened, barriers broken down, hundreds and thousands of souls saved, all accomplished through united prayer. He is still the same; the promise still holds good. And how graciously He puts the number the lowest; not a hundred, not fifty, not twenty-five -- but if two shall agree.

 

The words "Where two or three are gathered together unto my name,* there am I in the midst of them" gives us the center to which the assembly is gathered. (Not in My Name. This is a wrong translation. It is _unto My Name.) Not the name of a man, but unto the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the exalted Head of His body. The promised presence of the Lord is for those who acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as the One to whom they are gathered. Alas! that the very passage should have been used to foster the same sectarianism which has been the snare of the professing church! And still it is true where two or three are gathered unto the Name, which is above every name, rejecting all other names, there is an assembly and there is the Lord in the midst of them.

 

Peter now comes once more to the foreground. He is again the spokesman of the disciples. The mention of the word "church" most likely revived in him the memory of the words the Lord had uttered after Peter's confession of Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Peter had, of course, then no knowledge of the full meaning of that which came from the lips of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Until seven times? Jesus says to him, I say not to thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven" (verses 21, 22). The question is in closest connection with what the Lord had said. But He had not said a word about forgiving a brother. The word "forgive" was not used once by our Lord; He had spoken of gaining a brother who had sinned. Did Peter perhaps mean how often he should forgive his brother before the case should be taken up in the order as indicated by our Lord? We think it is now specifically the question of personal grievances we may have against a brother. Peter thinks and speaks of self. The Rabbis had given the following rule: "Pardon a man once, that sins against another; secondly pardon him; thirdly pardon him; fourthly do not pardon him," etc. (Bab. Joma.)

 

Peter, quite well acquainted with the traditions of the elders, most likely thought of this and he desired to show his appreciation of the gracious words he had heard by declaring his readiness to forgive his brother not three times, but twice three times and a little over. Until seven times? he asks. Surely, he must have thought the Lord will be pleased with such generosity and brotherly love. Ah, how little he knew the Grace of Him whom he had followed. The answer of the Lord must have been a revelation to Peter, "until seventy times seven." This is unlimited forgiveness. This God in Christ has forgiven us and forgives us, and the same Grace, unlimited Grace is to be shown towards the brother who sins against me. It is the same blessed word God the Holy Spirit gives us in the Epistles, "forbearing one another, if any should have a complaint against any; even as the Christ has forgiven you, so also do ye" (Col. 3:13). "And be to one another kind, compassionate, forgiving one another, so as God also in Christ has forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32).

 

This human question of Peter brought out the fullness of divine Grace.

 

And now the heavenly Teacher utters in connection with this a parable. "For this cause the kingdom of the heavens has become like a King who would reckon with his bondmen. And having begun to reckon, one debtor of ten thousand talents was brought to him. But he not having anything to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and his children, and everything that he had; and that payment should be made. The bondman, therefore, falling down did him homage, saying, 'Lord have patience with me and I will pay thee all.' And the lord of that bondman, being moved with compassion, loosed him and forgave him the loan. But that bondman having gone out, found one of his fellow bondmen who owed him a hundred denarii. And having seized him, he throttled him, saying, Pay me if thou owest anything. His fellow bondman therefore, having fallen down at his feet, besought him, saying, Have patience with me and I will pay thee. But he would not, but went away and cast him into prison until he should pay what was owing. But his fellow bondmen having seen what had taken place, were greatly grieved, and went and recounted to the lord all that had taken place. Then his lord having called him, says to him, Wicked bondman! I forgave thee all that debt because thou besoughtest me; shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow bondman, as I also had compassion on thee? And his lord being angry delivered him to the tormentors till he paid all that was owing to him. Thus also my heavenly Father shall do to you if ye forgive not from your hearts every one his brother" (verses 23-35).

 

In looking closer at this parable we must first of all be clear on the fact that it is a parable of the kingdom of heaven, and as such does not present to us the conditions as they prevail under the Gospel of Grace and in the church.

 

It is not the assembly which is before the Lord, but the Kingdom of the heavens, therefore the parable describes conditions as prevailing in the Kingdom. The parable illustrates an important principle. Here we have a picture of the sinner in the servant who owes the king ten thousand talents, about twelve million dollars. He is unable to pay this immense debt, as the sinner is unable to pay his debt. The servant is threatened with complete loss of all he has and possesses; and then appeals to the king, asking his patience for his willingness to pay all. But what does the king do? He ignores the plea; he knows the impossibility that this penniless servant could ever pay the debt he owes, and then in marvelous compassion he sets the bound servant free and forgives him. All this illustrates the hopelessness of the sinner and the Mercy of God without bringing out the blessed facts of the Gospel. This would be beyond the scope of the parable. But what happens? The liberated and forgiven one finds a fellow servant who owes him a hundred denarii, which is about seventeen dollars. Fresh from his terrible experience, his narrow escape and the great mercy shown to him, he flies at the poor fellow's throat, a thing the king had not done, demands his pay, and without taking his plea at all into consideration casts him into prison. The mercy shown to him had not touched his heart; and with all that rich mercy extended to him, he is a wicked man and addressed thus by the king, who gives him over to tormentors, to suffer till he should pay all that was due. Thus a mere professor of the Gospel may act; his profession outwardly is that he is a sinner, that he owes God much and he professes to believe in the compassion and forgiveness of God. His heart, however, knows nothing of the Mercy and Grace of God. He goes on acting wickedly, and his evil heart is manifested by the way he treats his fellow servant. Where Mercy is given, Mercy must be shown. If the heart has really apprehended the Grace of God and realizes what God has done for us in His wonderful Grace, it will ever be gracious and forgive; if we do not act according to this principle we must expect to be dealt with by a righteous and holy God.

 

_95

 

CHAPTER XIX

 

In the first part of the nineteenth chapter we find a continuation of teachings concerning the kingdom. This, we repeat, is not the same kingdom promised to Israel, as it was preached by the Lord and His disciples, in the first part of this Gospel, but it is the kingdom in its condition during the absence of the King, that condition which we saw revealed in the thirteenth chapter. The teachings given now by the Lord concern the institution, which the Creator in His infinite wisdom had established in the beginning. Are the relationships of nature to be given up in the kingdom? Is there to be a change from that which God originally instituted? We shall learn that the Lord teaches that these natural relationships are not to be dissolved or set aside in the kingdom. We shall find, however, that we have here not the fullest teaching concerning these earthly relations. In the Epistles are given the exhortations to husbands, wives and children; and always after the Christian believer's position and standing has been clearly defined. To be in the kingdom does, therefore, not free from natural relationship. Indeed, it is just in these that the life of Christ in love, patience, meekness and forbearance is to be manifested. The exhortations in Ephesians, Romans, Colossians, Titus and other Epistles teach this most positively.

 

"And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, He withdrew from Galilee, and came to the coasts of Judea beyond the Jordan ; and a great multitude followed Him, and He healed them there. And the Pharisees came to Him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any cause?" (verses 1-3). Galilee is left now behind and He nears Judea and Jerusalem ; and again He is followed by a multitude and many are healed by His loving hands and His divine power.

 

The subject of the earthly relationship instituted by God before the fall, called marriage, is brought into the foreground by tempting Pharisees. We have heard nothing of these enemies of the Lord since the beginning of the fifteenth chapter. These traditionalists and strong ritualists are now coming upon the scene again. Once more it is a question about their oral law, their man-made rules. He had silenced them about the Sabbath day and declared that He, the Son of Man, is Lord even of the Sabbath. When they came with the ridiculous tradition of the elders about the washing of hands, He had boldly declared, "Ye hypocrites!" and that they teach as doctrines the commandment of men. And now they are going to tempt Him once more. How awful this attempt appears when we consider the dignity of the person whom they try to tempt! He is the Wisdom, the Lord, who created all things; the one who instituted marriage and whose fingers wrote upon the tables of stone. Instead of worshipping Him and taking their place at His feet, to be taught by Him, they try in their blindness to ensnare Him. But why do they bring this special question about putting away a wife for any cause? Most likely the utterance of the Lord in the fifth chapter was reported to these men. There the Lawgiver Himself had declared: "It has been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a letter of divorce. But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife except for cause of fornication makes her commit adultery, and whosoever marries one that is put away commits adultery" (5:31, 32). This word must have been a very hard saying for those men, for it flatly contradicted the rabbinical sayings. And now they think they have a fine case against Him. If He but commits Himself on some of these fine rabbinical distinctions about the cause for divorce (later collected in the talmudical tract Gittin) they would have an accusation against Him.

 

Two great opinions divided then the Pharisees about divorce. Some held to the views of Hillel and others to the views of Shammai. Hillel had taught that indeed for almost every cause a wife may be put away. We care not to fill our space with a record of all the different causes for divorce and the rules, which the elders had laid down and which, at least among the extremely orthodox Jews, are still conscientiously followed. (It has often been our experience to talk with some poor Jewish woman, left by her husband, who got a divorce from the rabbi. We remember one case where a man got a "Gett" -- a bill of divorcement from his wife for an insignificant cause and came to this country to marry again. His divorced wife followed him here. These conditions have been quite a problem in New York courts.) The school of Hillel declared openly, and practised this, that if the wife cooks her husband's food badly, by over salting or over roasting it, she is to be put away. The school of Shammai, to which other Pharisees held, permitted not divorces except in the case of adultery. This will shed more light on the temptation of these Pharisees.

 

And now the Lord speaks in answer to their question: "But He, answering, said unto them, Have ye not read that He who made them from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, On account of this a man shall leave father and mother, and shall be united to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one flesh? What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man separate" (verses 4-7). The Lord passes over all their scholastic reasonings; He ignores all their different opinions and has not a word to say about the law as given through Moses. He goes to the very beginning and shows marriage to be a divinely instituted relationship. And marriage, as instituted by the Creator, is an argument against both polygamy and divorce. Blessed institution indeed, and blessed fact, two shall be one flesh. In the new creation the relationship of marriage has a still deeper significance. The second half of Ephesians 5 acquaints us with what the believing husband and wife represent. Christ and the church and the love of Christ, the obedience of the church, the oneness which exists between Christ and the church, all practically to be seen in the relationship of husband and wife. "For no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as also the Christ, the church; for we are members of His body; of His flesh and of His bones. Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be united to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ and as to the church" (Eph. 5:29-32). But the Pharisees have an answer ready. "They say to Him, Why then did Moses command to give a letter of divorce and to send her away?" But even in this they were erring. It was not a "command," but something which Moses allowed. The law had much to say about the suspicion of adultery, in which case the wife had to undergo a trial by the bitter waters (Num. 5). Actual adultery was punishable by death. And so the Lord has His answer for their objection. "He says, Moses, in view of your hardheartedness, allowed you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not thus. But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, not for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and he who marries one put away commits adultery" (verses 8, 9).

 

Moses but allowed them divorce (Deut. 24:1). Adultery, however, such was the divine law, meant death. The Lord, now in His divine authority as the great "I am," gives a law about divorce, which is binding. Divorce, putting away a wife is wrong, except in case of unfaithfulness, adultery. All divorce for other causes is sin, and whosoever marries such a wrongly divorced person commits adultery. Many questions which arise here, difficulties in individual cases, complications of different nature, we must pass by. And yet we cannot conclude our meditation on these verses, without calling to mind the condition, which prevails about us, in professing Christendom, on these very things. The sacred institution of marriage has never been so misused as in these days. Society, so called, is corrupt in morals. Divorces and scandals are becoming almost fashionable. The frightful increase of unlawful divorces and prostitution is alarming to the moralist and reformer. We know, however, that it will be so in the last days, for He said, "As it was in the days of Lot, so shall it be when the Son of Man cometh."

 

"His disciples say to Him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. And He said to them, All cannot receive this word, but those to whom it has been given; for there are eunuchs, which have been born thus from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs of men; and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs of themselves for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens." He that is able to receive it, let him receive it (verses 10-12).

 

The disciples, with their question, lay bare their own hearts. If such was the case, they think, that the best thing is not to marry at all. He speaks then of what incapacitates for marriage. Some are unfitted for this divinely instituted relation by nature, others have been made so by wicked men, a custom still largely prevailing in the Orient. There is a third class who are exempt, and these are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens. This does not mean mutilation. It means, no doubt, living in an unmarried state for the sake of the kingdom. It is not a law, not an obligation, nor a "sacrament." Celibacy is a man-made and wicked doctrine, contrary to Scripture. "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." It is then something to be received, a gift from above. The grace and power of God is able to lift some to whom it is given, above the natural things of life. Paul undoubtedly was such a one to whom it was given. "For I would that all men were even as myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.... But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh; but I spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time is short, it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none.... But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord" (1 Cor. 7:7, 28-32).

 

And now the scene changes once more. The Pharisees with their temptation had been silenced by the Lord and their question resulted in definite teachings from the lips of the great Teacher concerning the institution of marriage in the kingdom. Another question is now to be answered by Him, the question of the relation of children to the kingdom. In the eighteenth chapter the Lord had put a little child in their midst and had said "Unless ye are converted and become as little children, ye will not at all enter into the kingdom of heaven;" but here little children are brought to Him.

 

"Then there were brought to Him little children, that He might lay His hands on them and pray; but the disciples rebuked them" (verse 13). It was an old custom among the Jews to bring children to an acknowledged teacher and pious man, that he might pronounce a blessing upon them. The laying on of hands was done to symbolize the fulfilment of the blessing upon the head of the little one. These little ones were, therefore, not brought to Him for healing of any bodily disease, but they were brought to be blest by Him. Whose children they were is not stated. However, it is very improbable that they were the children of unbelieving Jews; these were rejecting the Lord and would hardly bring their little ones to Him. They must have been children of such, who believed in the Lord, and bringing these little ones to Him they manifested their faith that He would be willing to bless them and occupy Himself with them. Most likely the act of the Lord in putting the child in the midst of the disciples, and his previous teaching about the little ones, was an incentive to bring boldly the children to the Lord for a blessing. How strange once more the behavior of the disciples! The disciples rebuked them. They had listened to His gracious declarations about the little ones and how He told them, that he who humbles himself as a little child is the greatest in the kingdom, and yet they understood Him not. Did they want to keep an annoyance from the Lord? Was it a selfish motive which prompted them to act in this spirit? Perhaps they thought these little ones too insignificant, too unworthy for Him to bless. What could He do with these little ones?

 

This event brings out a very important and alas! too often forgotten declaration from our Lord. The declaration is that the little ones are recognized as the subjects of His kingdom, the kingdom of the heavens. There is a place for little children in the kingdom; they are a part of it is the emphatic teaching of the passage before us.

 

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children and do not hinder them from coming to me, for the kingdom of the heavens is of such; and having laid His hands upon them, He departed thence." With such a definite word it seems next to impossible that anyone could doubt the love of God for the little ones. Still it has been done; there is an interpretation of the gracious words of our Lord, which makes the little children types of believers, and that only such who have believed are meant. In Mark and in Luke (Mark 10:13; Luke 18:15) the Lord adds, "Verily, I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein," but here no such addition is given by the Holy Spirit, because it concerns the relation of actual little ones to the kingdom. The Lord takes up these little ones and approves of the faith, which had presented them to Him for a blessing. He puts His hands upon them and declares that these little ones are a part of the kingdom. How much like Him who loves to take up that which is weak and lowly! The passage is sufficient to teach believers that the Lord Jesus Christ has a loving interest in the little ones, looks upon them as belonging to His kingdom and is ready to bless them. But where is the faith from the side of believing parents, fully entering into His thoughts and looking upon the little ones as in the kingdom presenting these to Himself? Alas! how great the failure! He tells us of His willingness to receive them, that they are subjects of His kingdom and faith should act upon this and put them into His loving hands. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house" (Acts 16:31). Faith should take hold of this gracious family promise and claim it. Of course, this does not say that personal faith is unnecessary from the side of children.

 

In the epistles we find children mentioned. In the epistle, which contains God's highest revelation, Ephesians, children are treated as belonging to the Lord in the believing family. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is just. Honor thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment which has a promise, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest be long-lived on the earth. And ye fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:1-4). The last means to instruct them in the things of the Lord. We have come occasionally in touch with good Christian people, who declared it wrong to teach a child to pray and who refused to tell little ones to pray to God. As far as certain forms of prayers are concerned we are, of course, fully agreed that a parrotlike repetition of prayers is to be avoided and harmful. But to teach the child prayer, the expression of weakness and dependence on God, as well as confidence in Him, is the first lesson to be taught. We think it a wrong, where this is not done. No day should pass in the home of believers, where the Word is not read and the knees of all bow before Him, who is the Head over all, the Lord Jesus Christ. And if through the grace of God the sweet instructions of Ephesians 5:22-32 are carried out in the Christian family, the home will become a place of fragrance, influence and blessing.

 

But now we behold another one appearing, one who had been a little one, a young man, and he is asking the way to eternal life. "And lo, one coming up said to Him, Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have life eternal? And He said to him, What askest thou me concerning goodness? One is good. But if thou wouldst enter into life, keep the commandments. He says to Him, Which? And Jesus said, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man says to Him, All these have I kept; what lack I yet? Jesus said to him, If thou wouldst be perfect, go, sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me. But the young man, having heard the word, went away grieved, for he had large possessions" (verses 16-23).

 

This is a most instructive incident. It is a striking portrayal of many who are in the professing sphere, in Christendom, their natural and moral condition; and the teaching of the incident is, that salvation is not of man, not depending on the deeds of man, but salvation is of God.

 

The young man is a typical religious, moral and natural man. In the Gospel of Mark we read, that he came running and kneeled down and that the Lord loved him; and in Luke we find that he was a young ruler, holding an ecclesiastical position. The question is the all important one for the religious man, the question of how to obtain eternal life. He is in ignorance about eternal life. In spite of all his religious observations, his position, his good moral qualities, he had no certainty, no assurance of life eternal; though a member of the professing people of God, he gropes in the dark. And is this not the case of the so-called Christian masses of our day? He furthermore expects eternal life from God as the reward of having done some good thing. He wants to earn eternal life, "do and live," as the law demands. He is ignorant of the great fundamental fact, that he is with all his religiousness and good moral qualities a guilty and lost sinner. He does not know (the blindness of the natural man) that he never did a good thing, which pleased God and that he can never do any good thing from himself. And this is equally true of a large number of subjects in the kingdom of heaven, who are mere professors of Christianity and who are unsaved and strangers to the grace of God. And now the Lord's dealing with him. He gives him, first of all, to understand that only One is good and that One is, of course, God. "Good master," said he, according to the other record. He looked upon the Lord as a good man merely, and this He at once repudiates. God alone is good, and the One the young man addressed is "God manifested in the flesh." He was ignorant of His person. The Lord then meets him on his own ground. The ground upon which he stands is the law, and with the law the Lord answers his question. How else could He treat him? The first need for him was to know himself a lost and helpless sinner. If the Lord had spoken of His grace, of eternal life as a free gift, he would not have understood Him at all. The law was needed to make known to him his desperate condition and to lay bare his heart. And the Lord who searches the hearts does this for him. With a few sentences he uncovers the true state of the young man, who leaves Him grieved, full of sorrow; he had many possessions and he would not part with them. He had declared that he loved his neighbor as himself; had he done so he would have readily sold his possessions, given them to the poor and followed the Lord. As a natural man, he could not and would not do it.

 

In type this young, religious man "touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless," stands for the self-righteous Jewish people, turned away from the Lord with sorrow and yet loved by Him.

 

"And Jesus said to His disciples, Verily, I say unto you, a rich man shall with difficulty enter into the kingdom of the heavens, and again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to enter a needle's eye than a rich man into the kingdom of God" (verses 23, 24). The verse tells us that the natural man, like the rich ruler, burdened by his possessions and under the control of the world and the god of this age, cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The illustration of the camel and the needle's eye was a well-known Jewish phrase in the days of our Lord. It is an impossible thing that a camel laden down with goods could pass through the eye of a needle; just as impossible is it for the natural rich man to enter the kingdom of God. In astonishment the disciples now turn to the Lord with the question, a question perfectly in order after such a solemn declaration. "And when the disciples heard it they were exceedingly astonished, saying, Who, then, can be saved? But Jesus, looking on them, said, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (verses 25, 26). Here is a bright and glorious flashing forth of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. His words are a blessed indication of what His loving heart knew so well, that salvation is of God. With men salvation is impossible, to get into the kingdom of God an impossibility, but God, in His marvelous grace in Christ Jesus has made it possible. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

And now the last paragraph of this most interesting chapter.

 

It is Peter once more who steps into the foreground as mouthpiece of the disciples. Again he acts and speaks in the flesh. Indeed, all through this Gospel Peter shows himself self-centered and self-seeking and intruding in that spirit into the things of the Lord. Only once was this not the case, and that was when the Father in heaven had given to him the revelation concerning His Son (Matt. 16). With what self consciousness and feeling of superiority Peter must have looked upon the young ruler as he sneaked away with hanging head. And then, instead of bowing in silence and wonder after the Lord had flashed forth His grace and truth, he thinks of himself. "Then, Peter answering said to Him, Behold we have left all things and have followed Thee; what then shall happen to us?" Self is here prominently before us. But the Lord in His graciousness is far from rebuking Peter; He makes the self-gratifying question the basis of still further teaching by speaking of the future rewards of His own who follow Him and share His rejection.

 

"And Jesus said to them, Verily, I say unto you, That ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit down upon His throne of glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one who has left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life. But many first shall be last, and last first" (verses 28-30). Here is the declaration of an important principle, the principle of rewards in glory. Whatever a disciple, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ has done or suffered for His sake will not be forgotten. This, however, does not mean that we can earn a position in glory; it is grace and grace alone, which has brought us there. Service and self-denial of a believer are the results of grace, and so the rewards are mercies, nothing else. But it is glorious to think, He remembers all, yea even the cup of cold water given in His name and for all we shall find in His presence a recompense.

 

Besides the principle of rewards we have here dispensational teachings. The Lord speaks of the time of regeneration. There is a time of regeneration coming, when all things will be made over, when groaning creation is delivered and the reign of Satan and of sin ends. It is the millennial age. Throughout the Old Testament the prophets declare this great regeneration, in the promises, which are so universally spiritualized in our day. This regeneration is not yet; and it cannot come as long as the Son of Man does not occupy the throne of His glory. He will not occupy that throne as long as His fellow heirs are not with Him. Everything then in its order. The completion of the church, as to numbers, the removal of the church to meet Him in the air, His coming with His saints in glory, His own throne, which He will occupy and then, and not before, the regeneration.

 

The promise here to the disciples is a specific one for them, and does not mean other believers. In the kingdom, the reign of Christ over the earth, the disciples will hold a glorious position in connection with the government of the earth through Israel and occupy twelve thrones. The saints will judge the world. As He received of His Father, so shall the overcomer receive from His hands. (Rev. 2:26-28.)

 

We have gone through a most blessed chapter in which all is connected by the Holy Spirit. The teaching is continued in the next, and the last sentence of the nineteenth chapter belongs to the twentieth chapter. "But many first shall be last, and last first," its meaning is explained by the Lord in a parable.

 

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CHAPTER XX

 

The Lord had spoken about the rewards to be given at the time when the kingdom is to be established on the earth in power and glory, the time of regeneration. His last word in the nineteenth chapter was the statement, "many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." If we turn to our chapter we find the same words again. "So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called ones, but few are chosen ones" (verse 16). It is evident by the word "so" that the Lord gives us the interpretation of this sentence in the first part of the twentieth chapter, and, as already indicated, the last verse of the nineteenth chapter belongs properly to the beginning of the chapter which follows. A parable it is by which the Lord continues to teach about the rewards of the kingdom. "But many first shall be last, and last first. For the kingdom of the heavens is like a householder who went out with the early morning to hire workmen for his vineyard. And having agreed with the workmen for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And having gone out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market place idle; and to them he said: Go also ye into the vineyard, and whatsoever may be just I will give you. And they went their way. Again, having gone out about the sixth and ninth hour, he did likewise. But about the eleventh hour, having gone out, he found others standing, and says to them, Why stand ye here all day idle? They say to him, because no man has hired us. He says to them, Go also ye into the vineyard and whatsoever may be just ye shall receive. But when the evening was come the Lord of the vineyard says to his steward, Call the workmen and pay them their wages, beginning from the last even to the first. And when they who came to work about the eleventh hour came, they received each a denarius. And when the first came they supposed that they would receive more, and they received also themselves each a denarius. And on receiving it they murmured against the master of the house, saying, these last have worked one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, who have borne the burden of the day and the heat. But he, answering, said to one of them, My friend, I do not wrong thee. Didst thou not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is thine and go. But it is my will to give to this last even as to thee, is it not lawful for me to do what I will in my own affairs? Is thine eye evil because I am good? So shall the last be first and the first last; for many are called ones, but few chosen ones."

 

This parable has difficulties to many readers of the Bible, and all kinds of interpretations have been attempted. Some of these are altogether wrong and contradict Scripture. Among them we mention the exposition of the denarius or penny to mean eternal life and salvation. Thus Luther states on this parable, and after him many other commentators, "the penny which each receives, whether he has labored much or little, is His Son Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, His Holy Spirit, and finally He gives eternal life." That this is wrong needs hardly to be mentioned. The salvation of the sinner is here not at all in view. If it were true that the penny, which all receive alike, means salvation, then salvation would have to be worked for and earned by man as a laborer. This strikes at grace and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. No, the question of the parable is not the question of salvation.

 

Again, others, recognizing that it is about rewards in the kingdom of which the Lord speaks, have claimed that the teaching is that there will be no diversities or degrees of rewards in the kingdom, but all will receive alike from the hands of the Lord. This, too, is wrong, for it is in opposition to the teachings of the Scriptures. The difficulty of this parable will easily be overcome, if we take into consideration that a parable is an allegorical representation by ¦which a principle is demonstrated or a moral is drawn for instruction. It is, therefore, not at all correct to think that everything in a parable must have a specific meaning and must be spiritually applied. As soon as we enter into the details of this parable and attempt a detailed exposition and try to make an application of these, we shall miss the true lesson, and, perhaps, in the attempt, teach exactly the opposite from what the Lord teaches. We do not think that the penny, or, as it is correctly translated, denarius, has a special spiritual meaning at all. It simply stands for something received. Men have tried to ascertain the time when the laborers were hired, what is meant by the morning, by the third hour, the sixth hour, the ninth hour and the eleventh. Some have fixed these different hours and declare that the early morning laborers were the apostles, the early Christians, and the eleventh hour workers, the laborers living in our days. Now, if we are authorized to seek a meaning in all these terms and give it such an interpretation, then we must do so with every statement found here. According to this the early morning workers would murmur in the presence of the Lord of the vineyard, then there would be murmuring in the day when the rewards are distributed.

 

We have to pass over the details and look for the great lesson which our teacher desires to bring to our hearts in this parable. We have already shown how closely the parable is connected with the events recorded at the close of the previous chapter. There one, who was rich in himself and knew not his true condition, and rich in possessions, had gone away sorrowful from the Lord; and the Lord had declared, while salvation is impossible with men, all things are possible with God. Salvation is of God. It is grace which has saved us. "For ye are saved by grace, through faith" (Eph. 2:8). That grace has brought salvation, what all is included in this we cannot follow here. But then one, a saved one, Peter, spoke and though it was self which uttered these words, the Lord gave Peter and the disciples a gracious answer. He assured them that there was a time coming when they should receive a reward and that He would not forget the service, self-denial and sacrifice of His own.

 

But with this declaration, so comforting to the hearts of the disciples, there is a great danger connected. The danger is that the believer may forget that he is a debtor to grace and to grace alone, that all he has, he is and he ever will be in all eternity is the result of grace. He may become occupied with his service, his sacrifice and expecting rewards, lose sight of grace and become thoroughly self-righteous. God does not want us to get our hearts away from His riches of grace in Christ Jesus. He is delighted with His children when they magnify that wonderful grace, when they cast themselves upon it; never can we make too much of grace. To keep the disciple from a spirit of self-righteousness as well as occupation with service and rewards, the Lord brings in this parable. The great principle which He teaches is, that God will give the rewards in His own sovereignty, as it seems best to Him, never out of harmony with His wonderful justice. "Should not the judge of the whole earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25) "The principle is this, that while God owns every service and loss for the sake of Christ, yet He maintains His own title to do as He will."

 

While we labor, our labor is not to be for the sake of reward, as one who is hired for a certain sum of money. We are to be laborers with no trace of legality about us. The servant, the laborer who has the thought before the soul to earn something by his service and sacrifice, lives but to himself, and would be only a hired servant, which the believer is not. Such a one, though he has stood the heat and burden of the day, would find the Lord acting on the principle expounded here by Himself. He will hear from Him: "Take what is thine and go. But if it is my will to give to this last even as to thee; is it not lawful for me to do what I will in my own affairs?" The Lord wants us to trust grace and trust the rewards, the recompense to Him and His own will to give as it pleases Him, and not think anything of our service. Thus the parable appears as a rebuke to Peter, who was occupied with what he had given up.

 

"The first shall be last;" thus the parable began, and it indicates the human failure. At the end of the parable the order is reversed, the last shall be first; the Lord, in His sovereign grace will lift up those who trusted in His grace. "Many are called, but few are chosen ones," which has nothing to do with salvation, but is in connection with rewards.

 

And now we are told that the Lord went up to Jerusalem, and as He directs His steps there He announces once more the fact of His coming passion, death and resurrection. "And Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples with Him apart in the way, and said to them, Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death; and they will deliver Him up to the nations to mock and to scourge and to crucify, and the third day He shall rise again" (verses 17-19). And as He uttered these solemn words, His soul knew all what it meant for Him and the bitter cup He was to drink to the very last drop. Some have taught and teach that it dawned upon Him gradually and that He was not conscious of all which was before Him. But He knew everything which would happen to Him in Jerusalem, for His own Spirit had revealed these sufferings in the prophets (1 Pet. 1:11). What awe and silence must have rested upon the disciples as He acquainted them with the path He was to go! In Mark we read that they were amazed, and as they followed they were afraid (Mark 10:32). In the Gospel of Luke the Holy Spirit gives additional information: "And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hid from them; neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34). He alone knew the meaning of all before Him, and as the hour draweth near, for which He had come into the world, when He was to be delivered up and to die, we see Him setting His face like a flint to go to Jerusalem.

 

But now we hear the silence broken. It is a woman who approaches Him. "Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, doing homage and asking something of Him. And He said to her, What wilt thou? She says to Him, Speak the Word that these, my two sons, may sit, one on thy right hand and one on thy left in thy kingdom" (verses 20, 21). Self-seeking, the ambition of the flesh, is here again in evidence. Most likely the words of our Lord in answer to Peter's words in chapter 19 prompted this desire. He had spoken of those that followed Him, that, in the regeneration, they should occupy twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. This word impressed itself, no doubt, upon the mother of the sons of Zebedee, as well as upon the sons themselves, John and James. It was a custom of Oriental kings to have a person sit at their right hand and one on the left; and so the wish is uttered for places of honor in His Kingdom. The mother of Zebedee's sons here leads; from the Gospel of Mark we learn that John and James made the request. This is no discrepancy, as often called by unbelievers in the verbal inspiration of the Bible. Both mother and sons came together, having both the same wish. The mother's desire and request was the desire and request of the sons. In Mark's Gospel the sons are in the foreground, and in Matthew the mother. This is seen by the fact that the Lord does not answer the mother at all. And the ten were indignant about the two brothers. The parable the Lord had just given concerning the workmen in the vineyard was not understood by them all. The request is the manifestation of self. Peter had been uncovered in the presence of the Lord, and now we find that in the beloved disciple, in John and in James, the same evil thing is present. But all brings out His own perfection and His glory; the imperfection and selfishness of His disciples reveals His perfection.

 

"And Jesus, answering, said, Ye know not what ye ask. Can ye drink the cup which I am about to drink? They say to Him, We are able; He says to them, Ye shall drink indeed my cup, and to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but to those for whom it is prepared by my Father" (verses 22-24). (The words "and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with," are left out, also the same words in the 23rd verse. They are an interpolation in Matthew.) How lovingly and with what patience He reproves her. There is no harshness about it, but it is all tenderness and grace. They did, indeed, know not what they asked. He asks them if they could drink the cup He was about to drink. A cup was to be drunk by Him, and this cup stands for all the agony He was about to suffer. They knew nothing of that cup He was about to drink; nothing of the suffering and the cross which was before Him. It was their own selfishness and a presumption that they answered in the affirmative. They think they are able without knowing what the cup was.

 

He tells them that they should indeed drink His cup. They were to be partakers of His sufferings and have fellowship with it. That this does not mean the sufferings our Lord had to undergo from the side of God is evident. He alone could suffer thus, and no human being could follow Him there. They would drink His cup, which not alone contained the suffering from God, but sufferings from men, rejection, reproach, and much else besides. In His rejection and sufferings from men they had to enter in. And to this we are also called. "For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21). Paul speaks of the sufferings of Christ. "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the church" (Col. 1:24). "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death" (Phil, 3:10).

 

And now we see the place the Lord Jesus Christ takes in His humiliation. He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. To say that He did not know to whom the places of honor in the kingdom belonged, or that He has no right to give these places and bestow these honors, would be dishonoring to His person. He both knew it, and had a right to place in the seats of honor whomsoever He chooses. He had humbled Himself and had come to exalt the Father, and here He shows forth His place He had taken. He declares in that perfect humiliation that it is not for Him to give these places, but for the Father. Here is a marvelous depth of precious truth. The One equal with the Father in all eternity, One with the Father, truly God in all eternity, without any beginning, came and humbled Himself, made of Himself no reputation. He came to do the will of the Father to the Glory and Praise of His name. He put Himself in the place of humiliation, under the Father, though ever Jehovah while in the earth. Raised from the dead, highly exalted, seated on the right hand of God, though absolutely and eternally one with God, the Father, He yet, as glorified Man, does the Father's will, subject to the Father. When every knee at last bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, it will be to the glory of God the Father. It is the glory of the Father which is His aim. In this light 1 Cor. 15:27, 28 are correctly understood: "For He (the Father) hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is exempted, which did put all things under Him." The Father is meant and the Son of God incarnate, as glorified Man is under Him, though as God the Son absolutely One with the Father. But still more: "And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him, that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all." Such passages have ever been used by the subtlety of the enemy to rob the Lord Jesus Christ of His absolute Deity. So has the word in our chapter been construed to mean that the Lord is inferior to the Father.

 

"And the ten, having heard of it, were indignant about the two brothers" (verse 24). This is a verse which tells us much. One could easily draw a picture of the ten Jews, how they gesticulated and showed their indignation by looks and words. What kind of an indignation was it? Did perhaps Peter say, "too bad for John and James to intrude thus upon the Lord, and after He made such an announcement to disturb Him; and then the mother came also; what do they mean anyway by such a selfish desire?" did he speak thus? We think not. Most likely Peter was very much occupied with his own case, and the words, "keys of kingdom," were ringing in his ears. The pride in these two they most likely recognized, as well as the forwardness of the mother. It was, however, their own pride which moved them to indignation. And thus it is repeated over and over again. The fault-finding spirit is rarely anything less than the manifestation of the same evil. What often a brother accuses his brother of is just that what he himself does.

 

This indignation of the disciples brings out another gracious instruction from the Lord. Once more he teaches in perfect patience His poor erring ones. And oh! Praise to His name! He is ever the same. We are all His dull and weak disciples, and the graciousness and patience He manifests here He has manifested towards us a thousand times. And still He teaches; He bears us and treats us with such loving tenderness. Why do we not learn from Him how to deal with a weak and erring brother?

 

"But Jesus, having called them to Him, said, Ye know that the rulers of the nations exercise lordship over them, and the great exercise authority over them. It shall not be thus amongst you, but whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever will be first among you, let him be your bondman; as, indeed, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (verses 25-28).

 

The mistake the disputing disciples had made was to think of His Kingdom, like the kingdoms of the nations. He dispels this conception; it would be the very opposite from what it is in the kingdoms of the nations. The greatest in His Kingdom are those who are servants and the bondman is the first. He Himself, the Son of Man, came to serve. Blessed words are these indeed, lowering all that is of self, dethroning pride and ambition, teaching us to let this mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus.

 

The closing scene of this chapter is the healing of the two blind men. The Lord is departing with His disciples from Jericho, followed by a great multitude, going up to Jerusalem to fulfil all that which was written concerning Him. The incident before us is the beginning of the end and one of the last miracles of healing recorded in this Gospel.

 

"And as they went out from Jericho a great multitude followed Him. And lo, two blind men, sitting by the wayside, having heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David. But the multitude rebuked them, that they might be silent. But they cried out the more, saying, Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David. And Jesus, having stopped, called them and said, What will ye that I shall do to you? They say to Him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. And Jesus, moved with compassion, touched their eyes, and immediately their eyes had sight restored to them, and they followed Him" (verses 29-34).

 

We had before a similar miracle in this Gospel. In the ninth chapter, when Jesus departed, two blind men followed Him, and they, too, cried to Him as Son of David, and He touched and healed them (chapter 9:27-31). The miracle there preceded the sending out of the twelve to preach that the kingdom of the heavens is at hand. Here the healing of the two blind men stands at the close of the Galilean ministry and precedes His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

 

It has significance in different directions. These two men were witnesses to Him. They cried to Him as Lord and Son of David. When in Caesarea-Philippi He had asked His disciples what men say of Him. The answer showed then that His own knew Him not. None said that He is the Son of David, His messianic title. Before a Gentile, the Canaanitish woman, had called to Him as Lord, Son of David, and He had not answered till she had dropped "Son of David." There was no confession from the side of the multitudes of Him as Son of David, no appeal to Him as such. This fully shows the condition of the people, the great multitude who had seen Him, beheld His miracles and heard His words. They did not believe on Him as the promised One, the Son of David, the King and Redeemer of Israel. Quite true we read in the next chapter that the multitudes who went before Him and who followed cried, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" But this never came from the heart. It was the temporary enthusiasm of a great multitude of excitable Jews. Soon their cry changes and they say: "This is Jesus the prophet, who is from Nazareth of Galilee!"

 

While then the great mass of people presses around Him, following Him from Jericho, there comes the voice of the two blind men, moved, no doubt, by the Holy Spirit, and they confess Him as Son of David. Had they cried to Him as Jesus of Nazareth or simply as "Lord" their witness would have not fitted into the scene at all. But as Son of David and Heir to the Throne of David, He was to be presented to Jerusalem, and ere this takes place He has the witness of two witnesses that He is the Son of David. According to the law the testimony of two witnesses was necessary. The Holy Spirit here supplies these in the cry of the two blind men at the wayside. This is the reason why two blind men are mentioned exclusively in the first Gospel, the Jewish Gospel, while Luke and Mark speak of only the one. And so while the Lord is on His way to Jerusalem and no voice from the multitude is heard declaring Him and confessing Him as Son of David, and therefore as the King, a confession from these two sitting in darkness is heard.

 

That these men had heard of Him is evident, that their chief desire was to be healed is equally certain; and they had faith in Him, that He could do it, but it was the Holy Spirit who put that confession and cry in their hearts and lips: "Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David." And the multitude rebuked them that they might be silent. Surely this is proof enough of the unbelief and condition of this great company of people following Him. Why should they have rebuked these men, commanding them to be silent, if they had shared the faith of these two? The confession of this Jesus as "Son of David" was obnoxious to the multitude. But they could not be silenced. The Holy Spirit had moved them, and as they are rebuked they cry the more with their solemn witness, "Son of David."

 

And full of compassion He touched them, and their sight was restored. We have learned before the typical meaning of healing by touch in this Gospel. Whenever the Lord heals by touch it has reference, dispensationally, to His personal presence on the earth and His merciful dealing with Israel. When He heals by His Word, absent in person, as it is in the case of the Centurian's servant, and the Canaanitish woman, or if He is touched in faith, it refers to the time when He is absent from the earth, and Gentiles approaching Him in faith are healed by Him.

 

Now here we have a dispensational foreshadowing, the importance of which should not be overlooked. These two blind men sitting at the wayside, groping in the dark, crying to the Son of David for deliverance, are types of the poor and feeble remnant of Israel in the end of this age, after the testimony of the church for Christ the Son of God by resurrection from the dead, has been finished and the church is no longer upon this scene. That remnant of Israel will cry to Him as Son of David and call upon Him for deliverance. The entrance of Jerusalem, which follows in the next chapter, foreshadows also that coming of the Son of David to Jerusalem, when He comes as King crowned with honor and glory. And as the two blind ones called upon Him when He was on the way to Jerusalem, and He heard and delivered them, so will that remnant of His earthly people seek Him, and in that darkness which precedes His return to Jerusalem cry to the Son of David, without seeing Him in person, though they believe on Him, that He is the promised One. And as the cry of the blind men was the work of the Holy Spirit, so will the seeking, the longing, the prayer of that future remnant be produced by the Spirit of God.

 

The multitudes which rebuked the two at the wayside and tried to silence them foreshadows that part of the people of Israel, which in that great tribulation remains in unbelief and which hates their own brethren, who are expecting the Coming of the Messiah and cry to him for deliverance. In Isaiah 66 we read of this: "Hear the Word of the Lord, ye that tremble at His Word. Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let Jehovah be glorified, and let us see your joy! But they shall be ashamed" (Isa. 66:5). Those in Israel, who at the end time tremble at His Word are the godly remnant. They are hated by their own brethren and are cast out. They also mock at them and their expectation; but they shall be ashamed.

 

The two blind men were healed and followed Him. Their eyes were suddenly opened. So shall the remnant behold Him, and as, no doubt, these two were witnesses of His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and shouted out the Praise and Glory of His name, so will the delivered remnant of Israel sing forth His Praises.

 

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CHAPTER XXI

 

We are now reaching the beginning of the end. The King with His disciples draws near to Jerusalem to hold his triumphant royal entry into the city, and to be presented as King to the same. What scenes have passed before our eyes in the study of the Gospel. We have followed the mighty events connected with the manifestation of the King in the midst of His people, the miracles of messianic power, which demonstrated before the eyes of Israel that He is Jehovah. We learned how the kingdom was preached and rejected; how His own to whom He came received Him not. In all these events and miracles the most complete dispensational facts were seen foreshadowed, while we learned the same facts from the Words and parables of the King. We are in the last stage now, one intensely interesting, of great importance and solemn meaning. May He Himself through His Spirit open this Gospel still more to our understanding and give us much light and great blessing through the meditation on His Word.

 

His entry into Jerusalem, which is before us first of all, was witnessed by immense multitudes of people, as we shall learn from the text. Criticism has given a strange motive for the Lord's entrance into Jerusalem. It has been said that He was carried away by enthusiasm and expected that the people would now surely receive Him as the Messiah-King; while other critics explained His entry to the city as a kind of a concession to the messianic expectations of His disciples. How dishonoring to Him are all such foolish speculation. The simple fact is that He is the King and as such He had to come to Jerusalem and fulfill that which had been predicted by Zechariah, the prophet.

 

"And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, Go into the village over against you, and immediately ye will find an ass tied, and a colt with it; loose them and lead them to me. And if anyone say anything to you, ye shall say, The Lord has need of them, and straightway he will send them. But all this came to pass, that that might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, Say to the daughters of Zion, Behold thy King cometh to Thee, meek and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." (Verses 1-5)

 

"Bethphage" means "house of unripe figs," surely significant if we consider the typical meaning of the fig tree, and the cursing of the fig tree, which is recorded in the chapter. From this place He sends forth His two disciples to bring the colt and the ass to Him. This act of the Lord flashes forth once more His Glory and that the King-Messiah is Jehovah. He knew that yonder was an ass tied with a colt as He knew the fish and the piece of silver in the sea, and as He commanded the fish with the stater to go to Peter's hook so here He demands the use of the ass and colt; He has a right to them for He is the Creator and He can say as He has said: "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine" (Ps. 50:10, 11). In Mark's Gospel we read, "And they found the colt bound to the door without at the crossway and they loose him. And some of those standing there said to them, What are you doing loosing the colt? And they said to them as Jesus had commanded them. And they let them do it" (Mark 11:4-7). No doubt the majestic "The Lord has need of them" made such a deep impression upon the hearts of these men who either owned the colt or had charge of it, that they were ready at once to let them go. It was His Word which demanded obedience and which was obeyed.

 

But the whole scene had been predicted in the Old Testament and here in the Gospel of the King this prophecy is put into the foreground. The quotation refers us to Zechariah 9. We shall quote the whole prophecy:

 

"Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion, Shout aloud daughter of Jerusalem, Behold thy King cometh to thee, Just and having salvation, Meek and riding upon an ass, Even upon a colt, the she-ass's foal."

 

This prophecy stands in contrast to the Grecian conqueror, mentioned in the first part of the ninth chapter of Zechariah. The Jews acknowledged that the words are a messianic prophecy. One of the leading Jewish commentators (Solomon Ben Jarchi commonly known as Rashi.) says, "It is impossible to interpret it of any other than King Messiah."

 

The Jews have also an interesting legend, though foolish, which claims that the ass upon which King Messiah rides is the same which Abraham saddled when he went on the way to offer up Isaac and that is the same animal which Moses used. This shows how firmly the Jews believe in Zechariah (9:9-10) as a messianic prediction. But we noticed that only part of the original prophecy is quoted in Matthew. The Holy Spirit leaves out "Just and having salvation." In these omissions the critics as well as other unbelievers in the inspiration of the Bible scent discrepancies and errors. But recently a professor made the statement that the writers of the New Testament had a limited and imperfect knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures and he tried to prove his assertion by the quotations found in the New Testament. But Matthew, Mark, John, Peter or Paul did not write themselves, but it is the Holy Spirit who used them as an instrument. It is not Matthew or Paul quoting the Old Testament, but the same Spirit of God who gave the Old Testament Scriptures through the prophets, quotes in the New His own utterances. And while these critics see nothing but imperfection in these quotations the true believer sees nothing but perfection in them and finds here a strong argument for verbal inspiration. It is so in the passage before us. Man would have quoted every word from Zechariah's prophecy, but the Spirit of God leaves out "just and having salvation" because this was not to come to Jerusalem then, for Jerusalem would not have the King. The King is coming again to Jerusalem and then when He comes riding the white horse (Rev. 19) all that which is not yet fulfilled in Zechariah's prophecy will be fulfilled. Then it shall be as we read in the context:

 

"And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off, and He shall speak peace to the nations and His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth."

 

The Talmudists have labored to overcome the difficulty which they have concerning the coming of the Messiah, when they consider (Daniel 7:13) that He comes in the clouds of Heaven, and in Zechariah that He comes riding upon an ass. "If the Israelites are good then He shall come in the clouds of heaven, but if not good, then riding upon an ass." (Sanhedrin Tract) We return to the account before us.

 

"But the disciples having gone and done as Jesus had ordered them, brought the ass and the colt and put their garments upon them and He sat on them. But a very great multitude strewed their own garments on the way, and others kept cutting down branches from the trees and strewing them on the way. And the multitudes who went before Him, and who followed cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed be He, who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the Highest. And so He entered into Jerusalem, the whole city was moved saying, Who is this? And the multitudes said, This is the Prophet, who is from Nazareth of Galilee."

 

What a sight this must have been to behold! How eager the disciples were to act their parts. No doubt enthusiastic Peter was here in the lead, only too ready to put His Lord into the place of authority. The multitude was very great. Large numbers had followed Him from Jericho, while equally large numbers came forth from the City. Large numbers of pilgrims had come to Jerusalem for the feast, among them many, no doubt, who had seen Jesus and had witnessed His mighty miracles in Galilee. The news of the resurrection of Lazarus, which is not reported in our Gospel, because it belongs properly only in the fourth Gospel record, had spread throughout Jerusalem and when the news reached there that He was coming near the city, ready to hold his entry, thousands went forth to meet Him. The garments were spread in the way; it was an Oriental custom to put before the feet of kings costly rugs and the multitudes followed this custom by putting their garments down. What a sight it must have been -- the thousands coming to meet Him with Palm branches in their hands, waving them over their heads, while the multitudes which followed did the same. And then they broke out in the glad shouts, quoting partly from the 118th Psalm "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest." Hosanna means "save now." The phrase "Hosanna" is used by the Jews at the feast of tabernacles and the waving of the palms reminds one also of that feast, which has such a prophetic significance. It will be kept throughout the Millennium and the nations will go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord of hosts. According to Jewish tradition the 118th Psalm was also chanted when the people came forth from Jerusalem to meet the pilgrims. And this foreshadows also His second coming. But how different the scene will be then. He comes forth out of the opened heavens, riding upon a white horse; Jerusalem will be besieged and in great distress; a great multitude will accompany Him from above, His many sons, the Saints as well as angels; the remnant of Israel will cry out "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."

 

When that wonderful entry took place, the King riding upon the colt, and the whole city was moved as by a mighty earthquake, His enemies declared amongst themselves, "Behold, the world is gone after Him" (John 12:10). What a triumph it was! The King entering Jerusalem. And in all He is undisturbed. Others might have been swept away by this enthusiasm; but He is calm in all His kingly majesty. Luke's gospel tells us that He wept. "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it." And what kind of weeping was this? He wept at the grave of Lazarus and that was a still, a silent weeping. But before Jerusalem He broke out in loud and deep lamentations. This is clearly proven by the different words used in the original.

 

The King knew what was soon to be, and on yonder hill He saw looming up the cross. True, they were crying, "Son of David, save now!" But the question, "Who is this?" is answered in the terms of rejection. Instead of "the King, Jehovah-Jesus, the Messiah," the multitude answers "Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee."

 

The first errand of the King in His city is the temple. "And Jesus entered into the temple of God, and cast out all that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those that sold the doves. And He says to them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of robbers" (verses 12-13). This is the second time that the Lord acted in cleansing the temple. The first is recorded in the Gospel of John 2:13, 17, and it took place at the beginning of His ministry. There it is the zeal for God's house, but here He acts in all His Kingly authority. How great and awful must have been the defilement of God's temple in those days. Money changers were undoubtedly in the foreground, for money played then in the days of the Jewish apostasy as important a role as it does in the apostasy we witness about us. "We can picture to ourselves the scene around the table of an eastern money changer -- the weighing of the coins, deductions for loss of weight, arguing, disputing, bargaining, and we realize the terrible truthfulness of our Lord's charge that they had made the Father's house a mart and a place of traffic." (Edersheim: Life of Christ, Vol. I., 369.) And besides the money changers were those who bought and sold. All that which was required for the meat and drink offering was for sale by the Temple authorities. With the sale much speculation was connected; covetousness, as Jewish talmudical writings prove, was the ruling passion in this blasphemous traffic. And the most awful fact was that the priesthood, especially the High-priestly family earned riches from it. The Bazaars and the Temple markets were controlled and owned by the sons of Annas.

 

Into this scene of desecration He enters. No whip of cords is in His hands; the King does not need it. The tables are turned over in wild confusion; the coins roll over the pavement, while the sacrificial animals and birds are driven out, perhaps in a wild stampede, followed by their owners and the officials of the temple. And what He uses is His own Word. "It is written my house shall be called an house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of robbers." It was His house, as well as His Father's. Of old in the first house His own Glory appeared and dwelt there. The words "mine house shall be called an house of prayer" are found in Isaiah 56:7. "For all people" which is in Isaiah, the Lord does not quote. That temple was not meant to be a house "for all people;" the temple in Is. 56:7 is the millennial temple, and that future temple will be the house to which the nations of the earth will come during the coming age, to worship the Lord of Hosts. And so the Lord came suddenly to His temple to cleanse it (Mal. 3:1-3). But this again is only a shadow of another coming and the final fulfilment of the prophecy contained in the third chapter of Malachi. Another temple will stand in Jerusalem during the great tribulation and there will be even greater defilement. In that temple one will sit who is clearly pictured in the Word. "That man of sin, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing Himself that He is God" (2 Thess. 2:3, 4). Him the Lord will destroy with the brightness of His coming.

 

But a more refreshing scene follows. The temple is cleansed. The noise and confusion is at an end. Nothing is said of the return of these evil occupants. But instead of them, there came the blind and the lame to Him in the temple and He healed them. The vacancy was filled by the crowd of poor, stricken, suffering ones, who were delivered of their pains and diseases. Blessed and glorious foreshadowing of what will be when He comes again and when by His life-giving, healing touch, He will cure "all diseases" and make perfectly whole. And still another thing happens. "And when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders which He wrought, and the children crying in the temple and saying 'Hosanna to the Son of David' they were indignant, and said to Him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus says to them, Yes; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?" (Verses 15, 16.) The children sang their Hosanna to Him, the Son of David, and our Lord refers the murmuring, accusing chief priests and scribes to the eighth Psalm. The meaning of that Psalm is clearly established by the second chapter of Hebrews. It is Jesus, the Son of Man, who is here seen in His dominion over the earth. When at last He has all things under His feet, there will be a silencing of the enemy by perfect praise. The praise of the children foreshadows the praise He will receive when He comes again.

 

Beautifully Edersheim in his excellent work describes this scene. "It was truly spring time in that temple, and the boys had gathered about their fathers and looked from their faces of wrapt wonderment and enthusiasm to the Godlike face of the Christ, and then on those healed sufferers, took up the echoes of the welcome at His entrance into Jerusalem -- in their simplicity and understanding applying them better, as they burst into, Hosanna to the Son of David! It rang through the courts and porches of the temple, this children's Hosanna. They heard it, whom the wonders He had spoken and done, had only filled with indignation. Once more in their impotent anger, they sought, as the Pharisees had done, by a hypocritical appeal to His reverence for God, not only to mislead, and so to use His very love of the truth against the truth, but to betray Him into silencing those children's voices."

 

No answer comes from the lips of those hypocrites to the Word of God, the Sword, He used once more. The very next act of His is one of deep solemnity. "And leaving them He went forth out of the City to Bethany, and there He passed the night" (verse 17). There they stood in the darkening porches of the temple, the pictures of hate and despair. The night came on rapidly for them. They knew Him and had rejected Him and now He leaves them.

 

"But early in the morning, as He came back into the City, He hungered. And seeing a fig tree in the way, He came to it and found on it nothing but leaves only. And He says to it, Let there be never more fruit of thee forever. And the fig tree was immediately dried up" (verses 18, 19). Early in the morning the blessed One is up to return to the City. What a story the two words tell us "He hungered." The King was hungry. He who was rich, had indeed become poor. There by the wayside is a fig tree bearing many leaves; there He looked for some of the old fruit, or perhaps some of the unripe figs. He finds nothing and a curse follows, which withers the tree. It is well known that the fig tree is the type of Israel. The cursing of the fig tree stands for the national rejection of the people. Israel yielded no fruit, therefore the barren tree was cut off and cast into the fire, while the root remains (Luke 13).

 

"And when the disciples saw it, they wondered, saying, How immediately is the fig tree dried up! And Jesus answering said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith and do not doubt not only shall ye do what is done to the fig tree, but even, if ye should say to this mountain, Be thou taken away and be cast into the sea, it shall come to pass. And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (verses 20-22).

 

They wondered at the power which made the fig tree wither, and He calls their attention that the power of God is ready to answer their faith. The connection is obvious. Israel had no faith in God, hence their bareness. If they have faith, it shall be far different; the power of God is then at their disposal. The mountain is the type of an obstacle. Every obstacle can be and will be removed out of the way in answer to prayer. That there is a reference to Israel in these words is no doubt true. The nation was a mountain and by its disobedience and rejection of the Lord, the nation was an obstacle in the path of the Gospel. But on account of faith this mountain was indeed cast into the sea, the type of the nations. Precious to faith has ever been and ever will be the Word, the author and finisher of the faith speaks here. "And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." Let us not limit them, nor say as some have said, it is not for us. They are for the children of God and there is no limit to them. All things -- whatsoever; surely there is no limit here; and then the three steps -- asking in prayer, believing and receiving. He, the King, who has all power spake these words; and what a meaning they should have for us! May we cast ourselves upon them in childlike faith.

 

Again we see our Lord in the temple. He is teaching the people. Perhaps it was a great multitude which had gathered. Soon the enemies came also to oppose Him. These men, the rulers of the people, are now gathering force and getting ready for the great final rejection of the King. But ere this comes He silences all their objections and accusations and shows them in their evil and hateful character.

 

"And when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, saying, By what authority doest Thou these things? And who gave thee this authority?" (Verse 23) What troubled them most was no doubt the scene of the preceding day, the cleansing of the temple. He is face to face with the mighty ecclesiastical rulers of the people, those who constitute the Sanhedrin. How will He deal with them? How will He answer their question? Divine wisdom is manifested in the way He deals with them. It is so in the chapters which follow, in these conflicts with the men who were so soon to be His accusers, to deliver Him into the hands of the Gentiles. "And Jesus answering said to them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John, whence was it? of heaven? or of men?" (Verses 24, 25) Here was the question for them to answer. And in this way He not only silenced them but He also answered the question. John the Baptist to whom He appealed had borne witness of Him. John himself, the forerunner of the Christ to whom He so faithfully pointed, was believed to have been a prophet. If they said, Yes, the Baptism of John was of heaven, as they should have said, they would have both endorsed John's statement concerning Jesus and this would have condemned them, their unbelief and satanic hatred. They dared not to say that John's Baptism was not of heaven. What could they do? There they stand with their dark faces, talking over this serious matter. "And they reasoned among themselves, saying, If we should say, Of heaven, He will say to us, Why then have ye not believed him? But if we should say, Of men, we fear the people, for all hold John for a prophet. And answering Jesus they said, We do not know" (verses 25, 26). Miserable, self-condemned, dishonest men they were! Alas! how much of the same spirit and worse is found today among the self-appointed ecclesiastical rulers of the people, who reject the Christ of God. The Lord refuses to discuss with them this question. "Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things." The question they had asked was answered. He is the King, the Christ, the Son of God and as such He was about His Father's business and that was His authority for cleansing the temple, His Father's house and His own.

 

And now a parable. "A man had two children, and coming to the first he said, Child, go today, work in my vineyard. And He answering said, I will not; but afterwards repenting Himself He went. And coming to the second he said likewise; and he answering said, I go, sir, and went not. Which of the two did the will of the father? They say to Him, the first. Jesus says to them, Verily I say unto you that the tax gatherers and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the tax gatherers and harlots believed Him; but ye when ye saw it repented not yourselves afterwards to believe him" (verses 28-32).

 

The parable needs but little comment. They despised the tax gatherers and harlots, but the Lord proves that these polished, cultured, educated, religious priests and elders were far worse, far more obnoxious. The tax gatherers and harlots are meant by the son who said he would not go and repented and went. The second who said, I go, and does not go, nor does he repent, is the proud religious Pharisee, the high priests and elders. Thus the righteous Judge lays them bare with His mighty sword. Self-righteous they repented not. Convicted and condemned the Sanhedrin stands in the presence of the King.

 

The chief priests and elders have no answer to the parable the Lord had spoken, and now after, perhaps, a brief silence He gives them a second parable. This one is a parable which reviews the history of their nation and predicts the soon coming calamity. Again He makes His enemies to bear witness themselves, and we shall learn later that these men understood of what the King spake.

 

"Hear another parable. There was a man, a householder, who planted a vineyard, and put a hedge round it, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went abroad. But when the time of the fruit came nigh, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, to receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did to them likewise. And afterwards he sent to them his son, saying, They will respect my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and lay hold of his inheritance. And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and slew him. When, therefore, the Lord of the vineyard cometh, what will he do to these husbandmen?" (Verses 33-40.) When the Lord spoke of the vineyard, with the hedge and the winepress, the tower and the husbandmen, as well as of the fruit the vineyard was to yield, they must have recognized at once that this referred to Israel. He meant by it the nation to whom He had come to offer the Kingdom. Israel, a vineyard, is an Old Testament picture. The King, no doubt, had Isaiah's prophecy in mind, when He uttered this parable. It is founded upon Isaiah, chapter 5:1-7. Jeremiah 2:21; Psalm 80:8, and other passages speak of the same fact. The Lord through His Spirit had spoken all these words by the Prophets and now He Himself had come to flash the truth of God's mercy to Israel, their shameful past and the still greater, impending sin before the hearts of these national leaders. The vineyard so well kept and provided for had not yielded fruit. The servants who came to the vineyard are the prophets whom God sent, and they had rejected and maltreated them. At last the Son came, sent by the Father. This is the full dealing of God with Israel. Prophet after prophet came and spake in Jehovah's name and then God sent forth His Son. What a moment it must have been when the Lord Jesus Christ uttered these words. The Son the Father had sent stood in their midst and they could not but realize that He is the Son. What will they do with the Son? Will they receive His message? Will they bow to His authority? No. He saith that they took the heir, "cast him out of the vineyard and slew him." Awful prediction of the coming events. And He knew all what it meant for Himself to be taken outside and be slain there. The climax of sin is here revealed. But let us not pass by the significant word, "let us kill him and lay hold of his inheritance." Even so by the death of the Son of God we receive, believing on Him, His inheritance.

 

The question had been asked by the King, "what will the Lord do to those husbandmen?" It is for them to answer and their answer must be their own verdict. Will they dare and give Him an answer? So blinded were they that they did indeed. "They said unto Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, who will render to him the fruits in their season." Well said! And what they had spoken to their own condemnation came upon these wicked husbandmen.

 

And now the Lord continues quoting from the Book of Psalms: "Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner; this is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes" (verse 42). The quotation is from Psalm 118. This psalm is much used in the ritual of Judaism. The rejected stone is the Messiah, and in His rejection He becomes the head of the corner. The same truth is witnessed to by the Holy Spirit in Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20, and 1 Pet. 2:7. The leaders of the people are the builders. What foreshadowings of events to come!

 

But the Lord now pronounces His verdict upon them. He had heard the words spoken by His enemies in their self-condemnation; He speaks next and tells them that their judgment was right. "Wherefore I say unto you, that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given unto a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (verse 43).

 

They had refused not alone that kingdom but the King; the Son they would soon cast out and therefore the Kingdom was to be taken from them. These men who stood there, the generation which had share and part in the rejection of the Kingdom and the King, will never see the Kingdom. It is a sad blindness when men can teach in these days a restitutionism which includes these scribes, elders and chief priests, that they are to be raised from the dead at the time of the coming of the Lord and receive a share in the Kingdom. The Word of the Lord is emphatic and absolute; there is no hope for them. The nation to whom the Lord promises the Kingdom is not the Church. The Church is called the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Habitation of God by the Spirit, the Lamb's Wife, but never a nation. The nation is Israel still, but that believing remnant of the nation, living when the Lord comes. He adds another word in connection with speaking of Himself as the Stone, that Old Testament type of King Messiah. "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (verse 44). This is a very significant utterance. The Lord in these few words predicts the coming judgment of the Jews and the Gentiles. The one sentence has been carried out and the other is still to be executed. The Jews have fallen on this stone and they have been broken. How it has become true! The stone is yet to fall and strike the world-powers, the Gentiles, and grind them to powder. Our space does not permit to follow this thought, but we advise our readers to turn in their Bibles to Daniel 2 and read Nebuchadnezzar's dream and the divinely given interpretation. The stone cut out without hands, falling out of heaven, smiting the great image at its feet, is the Lord Jesus Christ in His Second Coming. The Lord refers to this here. As truly as He broke the Jews who fell on Him, so will He pulverize Gentile world power and dominion, when He is revealed from heaven. The nations are ripe for their judgment.

 

"And when the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that He spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they held Him for a prophet."

 

Thus ends this remarkable chapter. They knew Him; they knew what He meant. They wanted to take Him then, so great was their hatred, yet they were cowards fearing men, not God. The people held Him for a prophet only and not for the Messiah.

CHAPTER XXII

 

A third parable follows immediately. They would have laid their hands upon Him, after that searching second parable had been uttered by the Lord, but His hour was not yet. Once more He flashes forth His truth and reveals events to come.

 

"And Jesus answering spoke to them again in parables, and said, The Kingdom of the heavens has become like a king, who made a wedding feast for his son, and sent his bondmen to call the persons invited to the wedding feast, and they would not come. Again he sent other bondmen, saying, Say to the persons invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatted beasts are killed, and all things are ready; come to the wedding feast. But they made light of it, and went, one to his own land, and another to his merchandise. And the rest laying hold of his bondmen, ill-treated and slew them. And when the King heard of it he was wroth, and having sent his forces, destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he says to his bondmen, The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy; go therefore into the thoroughfares of the highways, and as many as ye shall find invite to the wedding feast. And those bondmen went out into the highways and brought together all as many as they found, both evil and good; and the wedding feast was furnished with guests. And the King having gone in to see the guests, beheld there a man not clothed with a wedding garment. And he says to him, Friend, how camest thou in here not having a wedding garment? But he was speechless. Then said the King to the servants, Bind him feet and hands and take him away, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called ones, but few chosen ones" (verses 1-14).

 

The dispensational character of this parable is very marked. It is ushered in with the familiar words found alone in this Gospel. "The Kingdom of the heavens is like," or as it ought to be, "has become like." No doubt it is the same parable as in Luke, chapter 14:16-24; only here the Holy Spirit makes prominent the dispensational features, which are not mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, because they do not belong there. The marriage feast which the King makes for his son and to which he invites guests typifies the gracious offer of God to give joy, comfort and blessings to those whom he wishes to partake of it. It is for the Son, in honor of the Son, that the feast is made. Of the Bride, who of course belongs also to the marriage feast, nothing is said. This parable foreshadows a great deal more than the other two parables in the previous chapter. It goes beyond the cross, for the offer is made not only to Israel but also to the Gentiles. The Kingdom was offered to the nation; had the Jews repented, there would have been a marriage feast for them, a feast of fat things, as promised by the prophets. God's mercy would have been manifested upon them. The invitation contained in the third verse was given in the preaching of the Kingdom before the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Between the third and fourth verses these great events, as well as the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, must be placed. The preaching of the Kingdom with its gracious blessings stopped, as we learned in the study of this Gospel, with the twelfth chapter. In the thirteenth chapter the Lord teaches the mysteries of the Kingdom, that which takes place during this present dispensation. Now, in the fourth verse we read of a second invitation. When was this second invitation given to the invited guests, that is to Israel ? Not before the Cross, but immediately after, with the Holy Spirit come down from Heaven. These servants were to tell them which were bidden, that all things are ready. The work of redemption accomplished, God in His infinite mercy gives another call and now He can say that indeed all is ready, even for the people who had rejected the Son of His love and had crucified Him. The opening chapters of the Book of Acts give us the history of this invitation. There we find the record of the second call to Israel.

 

The preaching of the Kingdom is resumed for a brief period and with this preaching is the promise of forgiveness of sins and the times of refreshing and restitution. The invitation, which went forth after the Lord had taken His place at the right hand of the Majesty on high, is clearly stated by Peter in the third chapter of Acts. "Repent, therefore, and be converted, for the blotting out of your sins, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and He may send Jesus Christ, who was foreordained for you, whom heaven indeed must receive till the times of restoration of all things, of which God has spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets since time began" (Acts 3:19-21).

 

No Gentile heard this message, nor was it meant for a Gentile; it was exclusively addressed to Jerusalem. It is a mistake to teach otherwise. The times of restoration or restitution of all things, refer us to that which is promised to Israel when converted, with the Kingdom restored. To use this passage, as it is done so often, as an argument for that wicked doctrine, the restitution of all things, including the unsaved, is fundamentally wrong. Most of the soul-destroying errors taught in these last days spring from a wrong division of the Word of Truth. If this new invitation had been accepted by the Jews, then the Lord would have returned and the restoration of all things, spoken by the prophets and promised to His earthly people, would have come to pass. But the call was not heeded; the restoration of all things, promised to Israel, has been postponed.

 

Of this refusal to accept this gracious invitation to come to the marriage feast we read in this parable in the fifth and sixth verses. They made light of it, they ignored the offer and occupied themselves with earthly things, such as merchandise. They did the same, what Judah had done after he had with his brethren sold Joseph, he turned a merchant (Gen. 38). But simple rejection of the gracious offer is not all, "the rest (the leaders of the people) laying hold of his bondmen, ill-treated and slew them." The Book of Acts show how literally these words of the Lord were fulfilled. The climax was the stoning of Stephen.

 

And after this rejected second offer to the bidden guests, the Jews, comes the punishment sent upon them by God. Their city is destroyed, burned by fire, and these evil men, who are now called murderers, suffer the judgment as well. The Roman army came against Jerusalem, the city is burned; that awful judgment the Lord had predicted when He beheld the city, fell upon Jerusalem and the nation was dispersed. Again we say, what a literal fulfilment! This ends God's dealing with Israel as a nation for the present age. He will deal with them again ere long; but nationally they are set aside during this age, which, however, does not mean that the individual Jew could not hear and accept the offer of Grace.

 

Now follows something new. It corresponds to that of which we read in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, "the sower went out to sow." It is now outside of Israel nationally that the Grace of God is offered and the invitation to the wedding feast is given. The servants go out into the highways and give the invitation and bring together all as many as they found, both evil and good, so that the wedding feast was furnished.

 

It is clear that this going forth of the servants stands for the Gospel call going out to the Gentiles. "By their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles" as the Holy Spirit later testifies through Paul, is taught by the Lord Himself in this parable.

 

Something follows, which is often misapplied. All the confusion about the wedding garment springs from the wrong conception of the parable, in giving it a church application and putting the scene into Heaven. However, the church is here not at all in view. It is, as in Matthew 13, the Kingdom of the heavens, the professing sphere of Christendom. The Lord shows that this sphere where His Name is professed and His gracious Gospel invitation is heard, is in a mixed condition. It is composed of professors and possessors. The call goes forth, many hear and follow the call, but not all believe with the heart unto salvation. The man without the wedding garment is the representative of this class and a large class it is. This is evident from the words with which our Lord closes the parable, "For many are called, but few chosen." The many which are called are all those who heard the call and made an outward profession, without having accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. The wedding garment is the same as the "best robe" which by the Father was put upon the prodigal. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the wedding garment and all who are mere professors of Christ, without having put on the Lord Jesus Christ, will share the fate of this man in the parable. They will be cast into the outer darkness. Awful fate for every one who has not Christ to cover him in the presence of a holy and righteous God. However man may cover himself, however moral and cultured he may be, or religious and philanthropic, if he has not put on Christ he is naked and his place will be where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth forever. We only wish to add that the scene of viewing the guests must not be put in heaven. None but those who are Christ's, saved and in possession of eternal life, will be in heaven, and none of those can nor ever will be cast out. It refers to the same time as Matthew 13:40-43. Nor does the Lord teach the last things here, how judgment is to take place, where and in what order. In a general way He teaches this as a warning that though His invitation goes forth and many hear, yet not all will be chosen and that simply because they refuse to accept the gift of God -- the wedding garment, which alone fits us to be in the presence of the King.

 

The wonderful parable had been uttered; the fearful doom of Jerusalem and its evil leaders predicted; once more the Pharisees are silent in the presence of the King. Their hearts and moral condition had been uncovered, but determined to refuse the light which shone upon them, their darkness became greater than before. We see them withdrawing from His presence. They had nothing to say to Him; no answer to give; no confession to make. Led by their evil hearts, under the control of Satan they turned their backs upon the Lord. Light refused becomes darkness. "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness." This is a solemn word, especially in our day. Light received, truth revealed and not acted upon and followed, results in darkness in our days.

 

We see now the Pharisees in desperate council against the Lord. "Then went the Pharisees and held council how they might ensnare Him in speaking" (verse 15). This was their only weapon now. They tried to find a way to ensnare Him, and having defeated Him, they intended to publish their victory abroad and find cause to accuse Him and reject Him. The second half of this chapter is occupied with the record of these attempts. The three great factions, Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees combine in this. Ritualists, Worldlings and Rationalists make common cause to defeat the Lord. Though so essentially different, they unite in this one thing, the rejection of the Lord. It is not better in our day. First came the Pharisees and sent their disciples with the Herodians to Him. After He had answered their very subtle question the Sadducees appeared; they also have to return completely silenced. Then comes a great lawyer of the Pharisees and he tempts and once more the Lord wins the victory. Three times the Devil tempted the Lord and three times the Lord is tempted by the leaders of the people. No doubt the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees were but the instruments of that evil being. Then the Lord turns questioner. He only needs to put one question. They cannot answer Him. Not a word could they say nor did any one dare from that day to ask Him another question. After this the King takes the place of the Judge and pronounces judgment upon the corrupt ecclesiastical leaders.

 

But let us look briefly at the account of the temptings. "And they sent out to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Teacher, we know that thou art true and teachest the way of God in truth, and carest not for any one, for Thou regardest not men's persons; tell us therefore what Thou thinkest: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? But Jesus, knowing their wickedness, said, Why tempt ye me, hypocrites? Show me the money of the tribute. And they presented unto Him a denarius. And He says to them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say to Him, Caesar's. Then He says to them: Pay then what is Caesar's to Caesar and what is God's to God. And when they heard Him they wondered and left Him and went away" (verses 16-22).

 

With what cunning.and flattery they had approached Him. For once they spoke the truth when they had declared, "Thou art true and teachest the way of God in truth." But He knew them, He read their thoughts and sinister purpose.

 

The temptation was a very subtle one. The Pharisees had no doubt planned it all amongst themselves and had brought the Herodians along as witnesses to take down His answer. The Herodians were mean, low Jews, who favored the political rule and Roman authority and that, no doubt, for selfish reasons. Had the Lord answered the question in the negative and had He forbidden to give tribute to Caesar, these Herodians with the Pharisees (whom the Herodians must have hated) would certainly have accused the Lord as being a conspirator against the Roman government. Had the Lord answered the question in the affirmative and demanded that Caesar should receive tribute, the Pharisees would have claimed that He could not be the Messiah of Israel, inasmuch as He taught subjection under a Gentile King. "There was a strong party in the land, with which, not only politically but religiously, many of the noblest spirits would sympathize, which maintained, that to pay the tribute money to Caesar was virtually to own his royal authority, and so to disown that of Jehovah, who alone was Israel 's King. They argued that all the miseries of the land and the people were due to this national unfaithfulness." (Edersheim.)

 

To the Pharisees it must have seemed as if for the Lord there could be no escape. Their astonishment when He answered the question, in His heavenly wisdom, shows that they had not anticipated any defeat at all.

 

They had to show Him the tribute money and on it appeared the image and superscription of Caesar. They had to make the declaration whose image it was. And in His answer He tells them plainly that not only should that be given to Caesar which is Caesar's, but unto God that which is God's. How was it that the people had to give at all tribute to Caesar? Did God mean that His people should be under Gentile rule and power? What had put them there? If they had given to God that which is God's they would never have had to pay tribute to Caesar. Now that they had put themselves by their sin and apostasy in that condition they were to render that to Caesar which belongs to him and to God what is His. This surely was a divine answer such as only the Lord Himself could give. They could give no answer. They wondered and went away.

 

The Sadducees appear next upon the scene. These deniers of the resurrection come with a temptation of their own. "On the same day there came unto Him Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, and they asked Him saying, Teacher, Moses said, if a man die, not having children, that his brother should marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers, and the first having married died, and not having seed left his wife to his brother. In like manner also the second and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection therefore of which of the seven shall she be wife, for all had her?"

 

This attempt is as blunt as the other was subtle. The Sadducees denied both the resurrection and the existence of angels; it was not at all believed by them what they had asked. There was also a sneer at the Pharisees in their words. The question is based on the divine law as given through Moses in the book of Deuteronomy (chapter 25:5, etc.). However, the law in this respect was far from being practiced in those days, and the interpreters of this law had put all kinds of limitations upon it. There may, of course, be a case possible like the one recited by the Sadducees, but it is unlikely that it was a real case they laid before Him; it was no doubt gotten up for the occasion. Ignorance, unbelief and sarcasm prompted this question. And what did He answer? He lays bare both their ignorance of the Scripture and the power of God. "And Jesus answering said to them, Ye err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (verse 29). They did not believe in the Scriptures as the God breathed Word; they were the "Higher Critics" of their day. But the Lord does not try to prove to them the validity of the Scriptures, but tells them that they are ignorant. Then He continues, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as angels of God in heaven." In a few words the Lord affirms the truth of resurrection, the existence of angels, which they denied, and shows that their carnal imaginations were but the result of their carnal hearts. The body of humiliation will not be continued in resurrection and earthly relations such as marrying and giving in marriage will cease there. The Lord of course does not teach about resurrection itself in this passage. His purpose is to answer the Sadducees with their foolish question. What He had stated about the state of resurrection was generally believed by the Jews living at that time. The rabbis declared, as learned from talmudical literature, "that in the world to come there would be neither eating nor drinking, fruitfulness nor increase, business nor envy, hatred nor strife, but that the righteous would sit with crowns on their heads and feast on the splendor of the Shekinah."

 

He has still an additional word to say about resurrection, which is convincing proof that there will be a resurrection. "But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard it they were astonished at His doctrine" (verses 30-32). God calls Himself by the name of these three men (Exodus 3), and as He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living, therefore a resurrection must take place. There was nothing left for the Sadducees then but to withdraw.

 

Once more the Pharisees appear. "But the Pharisees, having heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, were gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, demanded, tempting Him, and saying, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law, And He said to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy understanding. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law and the prophets hang" (verses 34-40). There were various disputations among the Jewish scribes, the lawyers, about the greatest commandment, but the Lord does not enter into these at all. Once more His answer manifests perfect wisdom and according to the record given in the Gospel of Mark the lawyer was greatly moved by this answer. The Lord told him, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God " (Mark 12:34). However, the questioner did not realize that He who stood before him in that hour was Jehovah Himself, the giver of the law.

 

After this the hopelessness of their case is apparent. They gathered together in a group, but none can suggest a new question, another temptation. All their attempts had proven futile. The Lord now approaches them. He has a question for them. The question of the Messiah, His personality, was never touched upon by the Pharisees and it was after all the most important. The Lord has a question for them about Himself, and, unlike the Pharisees, he uses the Scripture, quoting from His own Word. "And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus demanded of them, saying, What think ye concerning the Christ? Whose Son is He? They say to Him, David's. He says to them, How, then, does David in Spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand until I put thine enemies under thy feet? If, therefore, David call Him Lord, How is He His son? And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did any one dare from that day to question Him any more" (verses 41-46).

 

It is from the 110th Psalm the Lord draws His question. This Psalm is one of the great messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. It is very prominent in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where it is quoted a number of times as being fulfilled in Him, who is now the man of glory, seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. This will be done when He comes again. In sending Him, the First begotten, into the world, God will put down all his enemies. It is almost impossible to believe that, with the evidences from Scripture, such as the word of our Lord and the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Hebrews, certain men who call themselves "scholars" and assume the place of "critics" can deny the 110th Psalm was composed by David and that the Psalm has any messianic reference at all. This surely is wicked unbelief, as pronounced, perhaps more so, than the unbelief of the Pharisees.

 

Well, the Pharisees here answer that Messiah is to be the Son of David. They were professed teachers of Israel and still they did not understand the Scriptures. The question the Lord now puts to them, David calling Him who is to be a son of his, Lord, that is Jehovah, they could not, perhaps would not, answer. The passage teaches clearly who Messiah is. He is Jehovah incarnate, the Son of David and David's Lord. And the interrogator is He. His Davidic descent could not be denied; that He has a legal title to the throne of David is clearly proven by the genealogy. In His ministry throughout these years, He had manifested Himself in His mighty works as Jehovah. They could give Him no answer. Solemn moment it was. No answer! No repentance! They are silenced, and when they open their lips again it is to cry "Crucify Him!" The end is now coming on rapidly. In the next chapter He speaks as Judge pronouncing His judgment upon the leaders of the nation.

 

_153

 

CHAPTER XXIII

 

For the last time we have seen the Pharisees in the presence of the Lord in the previous chapter. What an important part these ecclesiastical leaders of the professing people of God play in this Gospel. They rejected Him; hated Him without a cause, and after they found they could not ensnare Him they resorted to that which Satan had put into their wicked hearts "that they might kill Him." That which the Lord had foretold in His parable of the vineyard is now soon to take place. They made their plans and are ready to take their King and deliver Him into the hands of the Gentiles to be crucified. He is now soon to be taken, delivered into man's hand, going to the cross, where He, who knew no sin, was to be made sin for us. How solemn His words when He stood before Pilate and declared, "Thou hadst no authority whatever against me if it were not given to thee from above. On this account he that has delivered me up to thee has greater sin." But before we reach the story of the passion of the King, so wonderfully told in this Gospel, we find the King first of all passing judgment upon these evil leaders of the people. In the next place we have recorded, as nowhere else in the Gospel records, the great Olivet discourse, in which the King reveals the future. Here we find prophecy concerning the Jews and Jerusalem, the church and the Gentiles.

 

The chapter which is before us contains the "Woes" of the King upon the Pharisees. It is one of the most solemn ones in Matthew. Pharisaism is still in the earth; Ritualism, Traditionalism and with it the rejection of the authority of the Lord and His written Word, is Pharisaism, that evil leaven against which the Lord warns. This Christian Pharisaism is far worse than the old Jewish system. And where in Christendom is a little of that leaven lacking? Only the Grace of God, an unbroken fellowship with the Father and His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, can keep the individual believer from manifesting a Pharisaical spirit.

 

"Then Jesus spoke to the multitude and to His disciples, saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have set themselves down in Moses' seat; all things therefore, whatever they may tell you, do keep. But do not after their works, for they say and do not, but bind burdens heavy and hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of men, but will not move them with their finger. And all their works they do to be seen of men: for they make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the chief place in feasts, and the first seats in the synagogue, and salutations in the market places, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But ye, be ye not called Rabbi; for one is your instructor, and all ye are brethren. And call not any one your father upon earth; for one is your Father, He who is in the heavens. Neither be called leaders, for one is your leader, the Christ. But the greatest of you shall be your servant. And whoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, and whoever shall humble himself shall be exalted" (verses 1-12). These are indeed cutting words. Out of His mouth goes a two-edged sword. Well may these words be placed in connection with the church message to Pergamos, in which the glorified Christ saith, "These things says He that has the sharp two-edged sword." Pergamos shows prophetically that period of the church when Ritualism, Nicolaitanism (Clericalism) came in like a flood and a certain class of men assumed the place of authority in the church, as leaders, priests, and began to dictate and teach the traditions of men. And ever since that time and through that into which Pergamos developed, Thyatira (Roman Catholicism), the leaven of the Pharisees, has worked on in Christendom and is still working. The Lord speaks first of all of the place which the scribes and Pharisees had chosen. They had placed themselves in Moses' seat. This no doubt He spoke in reference to legislation and not in regard to doctrine.

 

They had occupied the legislative seat, and when their sect started it was with a zeal for the law, which God had given through Moses. Soon, however, they became corrupt. In that part of the Talmud which is called the Mishnah* it is stated that they were to be regarded as if put into that place by Moses himself, taking their places in his seat, and were to be obeyed, so far as outward observations were concerned. (The Talmud is composed of two parts, the Gemara and the Mishna. Mishna means "repetition," and was a repetition of the written law.)

 

As far as the God given law was concerned and its observances, they were to do and to keep what the Pharisees said. What a wise exhortation this is! He, the King, fully recognized the position they had taken; if He had spoken otherwise, they might have accused Him of inciting the multitudes to riot against their authority. Romans 13:1-7 contains a similar wise exhortation by the Spirit of God for this present age. Against which the Lord warns is their works. There were two great schools among these Pharisees as we stated before; the school of Hillel and the school of Shammai. These were occupied with interpretations of the law. What strange interpretations were given, what tedious burdens were bound upon the people, which God never meant, could easily be illustrated and demonstrated by quotations from that tremendous literary work, the Talmud. "The burdens became intolerable. The blame rested equally on both the great rabbinic schools. For although the school of Hillel was supposed in general to make the yoke lighter, and that of Shammai heavier, yet not only did they agree on many points, but the school of Hillel was not unfrequently even more strict than that of his rival. In truth their differences seem too often only prompted by a spirit of opposition, so that the serious business of religion became in their hands one of rival authority and mere wrangling" (Edersheim). But while they put these burdens upon the people and domineered over them they neither kept them nor did they move a finger to remove them. In connection with this external show of religion, for which the Pharisees stood, the Phylacteries are mentioned. The general Christian reader has little information about the meaning of this word. The word "phylacteries" means "observatories" to keep the remembrance of the Law alive. In different parts of the Pentateuch we read these words, "And thou shalt bind these words for a sign on thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and upon thy gates" (Exod. 13:9-16; Deut. 6:9, etc.). The last named injunction, "Write them upon the posts of thy house," is literally practised by orthodox Jews, by writing these words upon a piece of parchment, inclosing them in a tin box, and this box is nailed on the door posts. From the same words the phylacteries, or tephillin, were instituted. These are two strips of leather to each of which is attached a small box; in these boxes there are likewise pieces of parchment upon which the Hebrew text of Deut. 6:4-8 is written. The one leather strip with this box is wound around the forehead, the box resting in the middle of the forehead, while the second strip is wound around the arm, the left arm, which is nearest to the heart. The ends of this one is made to form the Hebrew letter "shin," which stands for Shaddai, the Almighty. Strange and curious laws are connected with the preparation of the phylacteries, the wearing of them; the rabbinical writings contain much on the phylacteries which is superstitious. Thus the talmudical tract Berachoth declares, "It is necessary to wear the phylacteries nights in the home as they drive away the demons." Orthodox Jews use them as their fathers did, and there is no doubt that the wearing of phylacteries in the twentieth century by strictly orthodox Jews and their belief in them is the same as in the days when our Lord spake these words. It is seen that the phylacteries sprung from a literal interpretation of the above passages in the Pentateuch, an outward religious observance for which there was no foundation whatever in the law. The Lord, however, does not attack this, we believe, ancient custom, but He attacks the habits of the Pharisees to wear the phylacteries and the enlarged borders of their garments (Num. 15:38), so as to be seen of men. They did it all for show; selfishness controlled them and they had no heart for the things of God. They loved the first places, the honor and praise of men; flatterers, they enjoyed and loved to receive honoring salutations from the side of men in market places. "Rabbi, Rabbi," which means teacher or instructor, they loved to be addressed as well as "Abba," which is "father." All these titles simply sprang from their self-seeking. The Lord now gives teaching, telling his hearers that which concerns of course disciples alone, that they are brethren and that they have but one teacher, the Christ Himself; that they should not call man father, but one is their Father, God Himself. The greatest of His own is the One, who is a servant of all. This reaches over into the new dispensation. The instructor, the guide, is the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Alas! how the enemy has succeeded in producing and fostering this distinctive mark of Pharisaism in Christendom, with its man-made institutions, titles, honors, offices and leaderships. It was not so in the beginning, but corruption has entered in and we find at the end of the age a Pharisaism far worse than that which the Lord here condemns. And there is a judgment coming upon that boasting, proud, Pharisaical, ritualistic Christendom. The judgment broke over the heads of the Pharisees, their religious system, and so will it break over Christendom. Then those who exalted themselves will be humbled and those who humbled themselves will be exalted. What an encouragement for every true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ to follow strictly these words of our Lord, to go on under Him as Lord and under the guidance of His Spirit, to have no name among men, but to be known of God. In this there is rest and joy and the power of God rests upon the testimony of such who serve in this spirit.

 

And there is a deeper meaning still to verses 8-10. We quote from one who has expressed it in simple as well as beautiful language. "It is a declaration of the essential relations of man to God. Three things constitute a Christian: What He is, what he believes, what he does; doctrine, experience, practice. Man needs for his spiritual being three things: Life, instruction, guidance; just what our Lord declares in the ten words of the Gospel, 'I am the way, and the truth and the life.' The Roman Catholic 'church'... has caught these three things with its usual insight and avows its ability to supply them. The office of the Roman Catholic 'church' is claimed to be threefold: the priestly office imparting and sustaining life by means of the sacraments; the teaching office endowed with infallibility; the guiding office by spiritual confessors. These three things are just what our Lord forbids in the passage under consideration. Acknowledge no man as Father; for no man can impart or sustain spiritual life; install no man as an infallible teacher; allow no one to assume the office of spiritual director; your relation to God and to Christ is as close as that of any other person." (Western: The Genesis of the New Testament)

 

And now the Lord takes up His "Woes." It is a fearful uncovering of the hearts of the Pharisees and their corruption. And thus He lays bare the hidden things. He will do so again. There are eight woes given in this chapter, though it seems the fourteenth verse does not belong to this chapter. It is, however, found in both the Gospels of Mark and Luke, so that it is evident the Lord also uttered these words. In different respects there is a correspondency between the first discourse of our Lord in this Gospel, the sermon on the mountain and the last one addressed to the multitudes and to His disciples. The Olivet discourse is addressed exclusively to the disciples, who have asked Him. The Sermon on the Mount, as generally the great discourse in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of this Gospel is called, was addressed to the multitudes and the disciples. What this great discourse stands for, the proclamation of the King, we learned in our exposition. He sat there as the great One greater than Moses, expounding and expanding the Law. Here He is upon the seat of judgment; the King is the Judge. In the sermon on the Mount He utters His Blessings, Beatitudes, but here as judge He pronounces His Woes.

 

We shall not follow these woes in a detailed exposition, but mention the leading thoughts in them.

 

"But woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye shut up the kingdom of the heavens before men; for ye do not enter, nor do ye suffer those that are entering to go in" (verse 13). The Kingdom has been preached unto them, but they shut willfully their eyes and turned away from the light, which had burst upon them. They did not enter in and kept others away from it. And this is an awful "woe" which falls likewise upon the modern Pharisees, though in a different sense. How many of the man-made "priests" and "teachers," following the traditions of men, usurping the place of the Lord Jesus Christ, are themselves unsaved and keep others from knowing the truth.

 

Omitting that which is given as the next verse, we read the second Woe. "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye compass the sea and the dry land to make one proselyte, and when he is become such, ye make him twofold more the son of hell than yourselves" (verse 15). Coming from such lips, what a condemnation they contain! They were sectarians, and sectarianism is the fruit of the flesh, as clearly taught in the Epistles. They did everything to make proselytes, and that too for selfish motives. Proselytism was condemned by the rabbinical schools. One of the talmudical sayings is, "Proselytes are as a scab to Israel." It was for selfish reasons they made proselytes to their sect. Is it any different in the proselyting Christendom, down to the smallest party? And after they had attracted some to themselves they made them worse than they were. An awful indictment indeed.

 

Woe unto you, blind guides, who say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple he is a debtor. Fools and blind, for which is greater, the gold, or the temple which sanctifieth the gold? And, whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gift that is upon it is a debtor. Fools and blind ones, for which is greater, the gift, or the altar which sanctifieth the gift? He therefore that sweareth by the altar swears by it and by all things that are upon it. And he that sweareth by the temple swears by it and by Him that dwells in it" (verses 16-22.) Without following this woe in every word, it is evident that these leaders loved the gold of the temple more than the temple and the gift which was upon the altar more than the altar. Fools and blind guides they were.

 

"Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin, and ye have left aside the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy and faith; these ye ought to have done and not have left those aside. Blind guides who strain out the gnat, but drink down the camel" (verses 23-24).

 

Their self-righteousness and piety consisted in being very scrupulous about minor things, while the important matters were completely ignored by them. They strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel. It is not different today. The little unessential things in religious practices are unduly magnified, while the important matters are ignored. "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within they are full of rapine and intemperance. Blind Pharisees, make clean first the inside of the cup and of the dish, that their outside also may become clean. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye are like whited sepulchres which appear beautiful outwardly, but within are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Thus also ye, outwardly ye appear righteous to men, but within are full of hypocrisies and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets and adorn the tombs of the just, and ye say, If we had been in the days of our fathers we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. So that you bear witness of yourselves that ye are sons of those who slew the prophets; and ye, fill up the measure of your fathers. Serpents, offspring of vipers, how should ye escape the judgment of hell?" (verses 25-33).

 

These are the concluding woes. They need not much comment. Pharisiaism keeps the outside clean, while inside there is corruption and death. There is a self-righteous, religious boasting of being more advanced than the fathers, and more tolerant than they were. But the omniscient One, reads their hearts and declares that they fill up the measure of the fathers. They were unsaved men, not the offspring of God, but of vipers; their father, the devil; and they were facing judgment of Gehenna.

 

Other words were uttered by the King. These are found in the three verses which follow. He would send them prophets and wise men and scribes, and they were to kill them, crucify them, persecute them, and all the righteous blood shed upon the earth should come upon them. This was to come upon that generation. What they hear from His lips another witness filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen, tells them; with the stoning of Stephen the measure was filled up and judgment came.

 

And now the sublime, mournful ending. The last word of the King to Jerusalem. "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent to her, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate; for I say unto you, Ye shall in no wise see me henceforth until ye say, Blessed be He that comes in the name of the Lord."

 

What a loving, sublime lamentation this is! The King is a King of Love and His heart yearns over His city Jerusalem. How He did long for them! The illustration He uses is one they fully understood, not alone by its simplicity, a hen gathering her chickens, but also because their elders had mentioned this very fact. The Rabbis spoke of Messiah under the name of the Shekinah and declared that Israel would be gathered under the wings of the Shekinah, where they would find rest and blessing. And now the Shekinah was with them. The promised One has come and they would not have Him. They turned away from Jehovah, their King. Their house -- no longer "the Father's house" -- is to be left desolate. They would see Him in no wise henceforth. That this has a national significance, the rejection of them is evident. And no sooner were the words spoken than He left the temple and went away.

 

But the discourse which has nothing but Woes ends with a "Blessed," and here comes in the bright ray of hope for Israel. "Ye shall in no wise see me henceforth until ye say, Blessed be He that comes in the name of the Lord." This is the promise of His second Coming, and when He comes He will find a believing remnant of that very people, welcoming Him with the messianic greeting of the 118th Psalm. Then the Shekinah-Glory will spread over Jerusalem and Israel 's land, and He that scattered Israel will gather them from the four corners of the earth. It is a strange and evil doctrine which maintains that inasmuch as the woes were spoken upon these Pharisees, that they are also to see Him again. It is claimed that these wicked Pharisees, the offspring of vipers, who could not escape the judgment of hell, are all to be raised from the dead when Christ comes again and have "a second chance" to see Him, and that then they will receive Him. Such Jewish universalism has no Scripture foundation whatever. It is a remnant which will behold the King coming out of the opened heavens in the day of His manifestation. _164

 

CHAPTER XXIV

 

In the two chapters, which follow, we have the great Olivet discourse of our Lord.

 

Next to the thirteenth of Matthew, the seven parables, these two chapters are the most misunderstood. We shall have occasion to point out the erroneous interpretations which spring mostly from a false conception of the characteristics of the age in which we live.

 

First of all we shall look at the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters in a general way. We mention them together for they should never be separated. The Olivet discourse, was spoken in answer to the questions the disciples had asked of the Lord Jesus. In Mark and Luke the Spirit of God has recorded parts of this discourse, but only in the first Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, do we find a full report. This is in fullest harmony with the scope of the Gospel.

 

"I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee." Thus God had spoken to Moses (Deut. 18:18). We know from the Book of Acts that this was a prophecy to be fulfilled in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22 and 7:37). But the Lord is greater than Moses (Hebrews 3:5-6). In the first great discourse in this Gospel, the sermon on the mount, He expounded the law and spoke with greater authority than Moses ever could speak; "I say unto you." He fulfilled the law. But Moses was also a prophet. Before he left his people, he uttered a great prophecy. This is found in Deuteronomy 32. It is in the form of a song, a wonderful inspired unfolding of the history of Israel. God's dealings with them in the past is reviewed and then follows a forecast of their future to the very end, which up to the present time has not yet been reached. This is followed by the Blessing of Moses, likewise a prophecy.

 

And now He, who is greater than Moses, the prophet like unto Moses utters a great prophecy, more complete and far-reaching than that of Moses. He, Jehovah, had come in the midst of His people. As king He had offered the promised kingdom; He and the offer of the kingdom had been rejected by His own, and now before He goes to the cross to fulfil all that was written concerning His sufferings in the law and the prophets, He predicts events connected with the end of the age and His future glorious manifestation, which will usher in that new age of blessing and glory, of which His own Spirit testified in all the prophets.

 

The Olivet discourse is a great prophecy, the King's last, great utterance. It was spoken, as we shall see later, in answer to the question of the disciples. He had just predicted the destruction of the magnificent temple buildings, and while He sat upon the Mount of Olives, where in the future His glorious feet shall stand in the hour of His manifestation, they asked Him: "Tell us when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the Age?" We shall find later that here in Matthew, the Spirit of God in giving us the discourse does not give us the words which relate to the destruction of the temple, which was then standing. He omits here certain words, which, however, are given in the Gospel of Luke. All this and much else our exposition will bring out.

 

The discourse itself is divided into three great parts clearly marked. The answer of the Lord to the question asked begins with the fourth verse. Up to the forty-fourth verse we have the first part of His predictions. Beginning with the forty-fifth verse, He changes His mode of speaking. No longer direct predictions, but He speaks again in parables. These are three: 1. The parable of the faithful and evil servant. 2. The parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins. 3. The parable of the man traveling into a far country and delivering unto his servants his goods. In one of these parables we find again the phrase so peculiar to the Gospel of Matthew "the kingdom of the heavens." These parables end with the thirtieth verse. In the verses which follow the Lord no longer speaks in parables. It is true Matthew 25:31 to 46 is often called a parable, but it is not. It is a revelation the King gives concerning His own glorious appearing and the judgment He will execute in that day. We have therefore a three-fold division of the Olivet discourse.

 

First division: Chapter 24:4-44. Second division: Chapter 24:45 to chapter 25:30. Third division: Chapter 25:31-46.

 

We shall look at these divisions first of all to find out to what season or time they refer and after we have cleared away some of the false interpretations and misconceptions, we hope to study each division in detail.

 

In reading over the first part of the discourse of our Lord we find that it relates to disciples, which of necessity must be Jewish. In this part the Lord speaks of the ending of the age, the time of distress which is to come, the great tribulation and a climax is reached in this division, when the Lord speaks of His coming again in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. This is to take place immediately after the days of that tribulation.

 

The most widespread interpretation of this part of the discourse is that it all was fulfilled in the past. The great tribulation is a thing of the past and the Lord Jesus Christ came again in the destruction of Jerusalem. This is the foolish, spiritualizing method, which does such violence to the Word of God. These interpreters are given to the wildest and most fanciful imaginations to prove their assertions. Quite often they make use of the writings of Josephus instead of God's Word. According to them the year 70 was the year in which "the Son of Man came in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory." In a recent volume published in defense of this theory, which is unknown in primitive Christianity, the writer tries to get over the difficulties by saying the following: "But who can say what other sights appeared at the final moment of the catastrophe? (The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.) The 'Coming' was like a lightning flash, not abiding for days like the glory on Sinai. The sight of the Glory of Jehovah was like devouring fire on the top of the mountains to the eyes of the sons of Israel ; and that glory was a real presence, a veritable parousia, for Jehovah came down upon Mount Sinai. And yet in that Sinaitic parousia the Israelites saw no form or shape of the divine person. Whether those who saw the sign of the Son of Man which appeared in heaven immediately after the tribulation of those days saw the person and form of the Son of Man Himself, or only some symbol of His presence, must remain a mystery." This interpretation, which looks upon verses 4-44 fulfilled in the past at the time when Titus besieged Jerusalem, has its origin in a deplorable ignorance of God's dispensational dealings with the Jews and the Gentiles. It leaves nothing for the Jewish nation in the future. It would take us too long to show the impossibility that the Lord meant by these predictions the events which transpired between the time of His resurrection and the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. But had the Lord nothing to say in this discourse about the great judgment, which befell Jerusalem. He certainly gave a revelation concerning it as well as warnings. But the record of this prediction of the fall of Jerusalem under Titus is not at all given in Matthew twenty-four, but we find that the Spirit of God has put that in the Gospel of Luke, In Luke 21:20-23 we have the words which predict the siege and fall of Jerusalem in the year 70. The prediction is, that after that catastrophe has taken place and they have fallen by the edge of the sword and are led away captives, that Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. This happened after the destruction of the City and Jerusalem is still trodden down, because the times of the Gentiles have not yet run out. But now turning to the words in Matthew we find an entirely different result from the manifestation of the Son of Man in Glory and in the clouds of heaven (that which postmillennialism claims to be identical with the destruction of Jerusalem ). There is not a word mentioned of their being scattered among the nations, but the very opposite is said "they shall gather together his elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other." The predictions in Matthew 24:4-44 have nothing whatever to do with the 40 years which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, nor with that event in the year 70. That they refer to Judea and Jerusalem, that the predictions concern Jewish disciples and that they describe scenes of distress and tribulation to be enacted in the land of Israel is quite true.

 

Another mode of explaining these first predictions of the Olivet discourse is, to apply them to this Christian age in which we live. This is generally done by those who have the correct Scriptural belief in the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. They reject the spiritualizing teaching of postmillennialism and hold that there will be a future great tribulation, which will close with the visible and glorious manifestation of the Son of Man out of heaven. They tell us that the Lord describes this entire Christian age and especially the closing of it, the end. Then they maintain that the church is to remain on the earth in this end of the age and to pass through the great tribulation, and therefore the exhortations contained in this chapter are meant for Christian believers living in the end of the age. This wrong interpretation has confused not a few of God's people. Let one get clear on two important teachings of the word and deliverance from this false interpretation of this part of our Lord's discourse will speedily follow. We mean the teaching of the Scriptures of what the church is, her calling and her destiny. And in the second place the teaching of the prophetic word, that the Lord will call a believing Jewish remnant, which will suffer and witness at the end of the age. If a person, be he a teacher or not, is ignorant of either one of these, he must be confused in his conception of the first part of Matthew 24.

 

Furthermore it is to be said that the disciples knew absolutely nothing of a Christian age. Such an age could not even begin, when they asked the question about the end of the age. They did not mean a Christian age, but their Jewish age. All through these forty verses everything is of Jewish character. The warning is against false Christs and false prophets; the warning given to church is against false spirits. The condition of salvation that one must endure to the end is nowhere given to the Christian believer, who is saved and safe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It has an entirely different meaning here. Again the prayer that the flight should not take place on the Sabbath day is Jewish, for the Christian believer has no Sabbath day, but the Lord's day. The reference to Daniel and the great tribulation, which never concerns the church, but Israel, shows us that we are not on Christian, but Jewish ground. The preaching which is mentioned is that of the Gospel of the Kingdom, but that Gospel is not now preached, for we preach the Gospel of Grace. When we turn to the different verses we shall go carefully over this theory again and disprove it by what is written.

 

There remains the third way of interpreting these words of our Lord, it is to look upon these predictions about the end of the Jewish age as being still future. This is the right and only key to understand these verses. The first part of the Olivet discourse of our Lord is a prediction of how the Jewish age will end. The disciples only knew of a Jewish age. This Jewish age has not yet ended; it has been interrupted. A careful study of the great prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 reveals the fact that one year-week, the seventieth, has not yet been fulfilled. The Christian age, in which God visits the Gentiles and takes out a people for His name, the church, is the great parenthesis, which has come in between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week of Daniel. [See also "The Great Parenthesis" by H.A. Ironside.] As soon as the purpose of God is fulfilled, the church complete, the Lord will resume His dealing with Israel and the seventieth week (seven years) will end the Jewish age. Before that end, the seventieth week can come, the church must be complete and be removed from these earthly scenes, according to the divinely revealed destiny of the church. The church complete and taken up, the end of the age will follow and that will be Jewish and as far as the so-called "christian world" is concerned one of complete apostasy. Then the 144,000 of whom we read in Rev. 7 will be sealed and bear their witness. This is the Jewish remnant and the exhortations here concern them. No doubt when the time comes they will find great comfort here in the words of our Lord. They will preach the Gospel of the kingdom and the unfinished testimony, of which we read in Matthew 10, will be finished by them. Thus the disciples the Lord addressed were typical of similar Jewish disciples living after the church has ceased her testimony. A striking fact is that this interpretation can be verified by many Scripture passages from the Old Testament. The teaching of a future remnant of Jewish believers, suffering and witnessing for God during the great tribulation, is very pronounced in the Old Testament We shall have occasion to turn to some of these Scripture references when we come to the different verses. The Old Testament predicts a siege of Jerusalem which has not yet been. The reader in turning to Zechariah 14 will find a full description of what awaits Jerusalem and a faithful remnant in the end time. Though Jerusalem has had so many sieges in the past there is not one which could be said to be a fulfilment of Zechariah 14. The Lord Himself appears for the deliverance of His people, His feet standing on the Mount of Olives. Matthew 24:4-44 refers to this, and His coming and all His saints with Him in Zechariah corresponds to "the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."

 

In the second part of this discourse, chapter 24:45-25:30, we find that the Lord speaks in an entirely different way. He mentions no longer the tribulation, nor the Sabbath or Judea. He speaks again in parables. These parables, each one having for its central thought, His coming again, relate not to the Christian church as some have expressed it, but rather to the Christian profession. We notice the true and the false throughout. A faithful servant and an evil servant; wise virgins and foolish virgins; servants who use their talents and one who does not. Here, then, we have the revelation of the judgement between the true and the false.

 

The third part, chapter 25:31-46, is not a revelation concerning the universal judgment; no such judgment is ever mentioned in the Bible. The Lord describes the judgment of nations which takes place when he sits upon the throne of His glory.

 

The first part of the Olivet Discourse, verses 4-44, is now before us. At the close of the previous chapter we learn that the King after His loving outburst over Jerusalem had made the declaration, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate." This prophecy is fulfilled throughout this present age. In the beginning of the twenty-fourth chapter we read that the Lord left the temple. "And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple; and His disciples came to show Him the buildings of the temple." There is a strongly marked correspondency between the end of the twelfth chapter and the beginning of the thirteenth and the close of the twenty-third and the beginning of the twenty-fourth. At the close of the twelfth chapter the Lord by His symbolical action in refusing to see His mother and brethren, declared His relationship with His own to whom He had come, and who received Him not, broken; at the close of the twenty-third there is a fuller break with the nation, the nation for whom He came to die. In Matthew 13 it is recorded that on the same day Jesus went out of the house, and sat by the seaside, giving there His parables concerning the kingdom of the heavens. In the twenty-fourth He also goes out and departs, to give soon after the great Olivet discourse. While His parables, the mysteries of the kingdom, relate to this present age and the end of the age, in a general way, in the first part of the Olivet discourse, He makes known the details of that ending of the age, of which He spoke repeatedly in the thirteenth of Matthew.

 

In leaving the temple and going towards the Mount of Olives, the Lord had to cross over the brook Cedron, and in ascending the mountain, they must have had a magnificent view of the temple buildings. These buildings were of the most massive construction, some of them still in process of erection. An enormous wall encircled the whole temple area; some of the stones used in that wall were 23 and 24 feet in length. It must have been a wonderful sight for human eyes to behold. Not a word had come from the disciples' lips during the events recorded in the twenty-second and twenty-third chapters. They had heard His answers to the tempting Pharisees, and the pronunciation upon them. They listened to His loving outburst over Jerusalem and heard His prediction of the desolation of their house. But now they call His attention to the buildings of the temple, to the great sight before them. "And Jesus said unto them, see ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." What a solemn prediction this was! How it must have impressed these Jewish men, His disciples, whose hearts clung to the temple and its wonderful buildings. These mighty stones, so solidly put together, were to be rent asunder, not one remaining upon the other. Only the Lord could make such a prediction. Here then is a prediction which refers to the destruction of the temple in the great catastrophe which came upon Jerusalem in the year 70. It is, as stated before, fully given by our Lord in Luke 21:20-24: What should happen to the rebellious city, to the murderers, the Lord had revealed in the parable of the marriage feast, when He said: "But when the king heard it he was wroth; and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city."

 

"And as He was sitting upon the Mount of Olives the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be, and what is the sign of Thy coming and the completion of the age?"

 

The question asked by the disciples is threefold. When shall these things be? The sign of Thy Coming? The completion or consummation of the age? It is of great importance to see that the record of the discourse, as given by the Holy Spirit, passes over the answer to the first question, "When shall these things be?" This is evident by the fact that the Lord says not a word in the discourse of Jerusalem or the destruction of the temple, and as stated in our introduction to this chapter, while in Luke we hear that Jerusalem is to be besieged by armies, and the inhabitants are seen falling by the edge of the sword and led away captive into all the nations and Jerusalem trodden down by the Gentiles; in Matthew 24 we do not find a word of all this at all. Indeed we read of great distress, which is to be in Judea, but nothing whatever of them being led away captive, or Jerusalem to be trodden down by the Gentiles. Instead of a scattering of the elect people at the close of the great tribulation, we have a gathering of the elect. The word in the passage (24:31), that is the word "elect" refers to the literal Israel.

 

Turning to the next two questions, "What is the sign of Thy coming and the completion of the age?" it is to be said that undoubtedly in the minds of the disciples this question was one. He had repeatedly spoken about His return. As true Jews they expected, and that with perfect right, the establishment of the messianic kingdom by the Messiah. They had seen how He, in whom they had believed, and the kingdom He offered, had been rejected. All, of necessity, must have been very misty before their view; but they take heart and ask Him about the sign of His coming, the coming He had mentioned before. It is evident that the coming is His coming in power and glory for the establishment of the kingdom promised to Israel in the Old Testament. This coming is His visible and glorious return to the earth "in like manner as He went up into heaven"; it takes place in the land and His feet will stand on the mount of Olives. The synoptic Gospels know of no other coming of the Lord than His visible return to Jerusalem ; connected with this return we find always besides blessings, judgment. Entirely different is His coming for His Saints who compose the Church. This coming is revealed through the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians, the fourth chapter. There we read that the Lord will descend into the air, not to the earth. The dead in Christ will be raised and the living saints be caught up, together with them, in clouds to meet the Lord in the air and to be forever with the Lord. In John 14 the Lord gives a little word which may be taken to indicate that coming for His own, though the manner is not made known. It is that word of comfort to His own. "I will come again and receive you unto myself." It is strange that believers in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ can fail to see the strongly marked difference between His visible and glorious return, His coming in power and great Glory, taking place in the land of Israel and His coming for His Church, as revealed exclusively through the great Apostle. It is not strange that where this distinction is given up confusion and error result.

 

Then they asked about the completion or consummation of the age. The authorized version simply has it "the end of the world." That is a translation which is responsible for much wrong teaching. The end of the world as generally understood in Christendom is not at all in view here. It is the consummation, the winding up of the age, the _aion. As we have shown this age could not be the "Christian age," but it is the ending of the Jewish age, which is still future. Such an age ending predicts the entire Old Testament prophetic World.

 

There we find numerous predictions of a great coming day, the day of the Lord, in which Jehovah is visibly seen in His Glory and majesty, coming forth to deliver His persecuted and downtrodden earthly people, who wait for Him and to judge the nations likewise. According to Old Testament prophecy this day of the Lord's visible and glorious manifestation is preceded by a time of great trouble and distress. The center of the tribulation is Jerusalem, and when the height of the tribulation is reached, the heavens and the earth are shaken and Jehovah appears. Furthermore it is seen that there is a believing and suffering remnant of Jews passing through that time of trouble, who are faithful in the midst of universal apostasy, wickedness and worship of the false king, who is likewise described in the Prophets. Their prayers and calls upon God are prophetically recorded by the Spirit of God as well as their deliverance by the manifestation of Jehovah. Now all this has never been fulfilled. That great day so often spoken of by the Prophets, the day of the Lord, has not yet come; it is still future. So is the time of distress, which is called "the time of Jacob's trouble," and therefore the suffering of a Jewish remnant, which is not identified with the church is likewise future. When the Lord speaks in Matthew 24 about the consummation of the age and the signs of His coming, He gives altogether that which is revealed in the Old Testament and which has not been fulfilled up to the present time. The purpose of God in this present Christian age is to take out from among the Gentiles a people for His Name. This taken out people is the Church. As long as this calling out through the preaching of the Gospel continues and new members are added to the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ (the church), the predicted end of the age does not come. Besides having a description of the end of the age, of which our Lord speaks here, in the Old Testament we have also one in the Book of Revelation. From the sixth chapter on to the nineteenth we find another record of the future age-ending. In studying the account our Lord gives here in Matthew we must compare Old Testament prophecy and the visions of the Book of Revelation, with what the Lord saith in His discourse. If our interpretation is the right one there must be perfect harmony between these three: Old Testament Prophecy: Matthew 24:4-44, and Revelation 6-19.

 

And now we turn to the text and give the first section of the discourse. "And Jesus answering said to them, See that no one mislead you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they shall mislead many. But ye will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that ye be not disturbed; for all these things must take place, but it is not yet the end. For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. But all these are the beginning of the throes. Then shall they deliver you up to tribulation, and shall kill you and ye will be hated of all the nations for my name's sake. And then will many be offended, and will deliver one another up, and hate one another; and many false prophets shall arise and shall mislead many; and because lawlessness shall prevail, the love of the most shall grow cold; but he that endureth to the end, he shall be saved. And these glad tidings of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole habitable earth for a witness to all the nations, and then shall the end come" (verses 4-14).

 

These are the opening words of the Lord, which describe the age ending. In a secondary and general way they likewise describe, no doubt, the characteristics of the times during which the Lord is not on the earth. Looked upon in this light what an argument they form against the modern optimistic dreams of the professing church! Neither the Lord, nor the Spirit in giving the Epistles of the New Testament have a single word to say that this present age and the world is to be getting better and that the end will be righteousness and peace. The testimony of the Scriptures is wholly on the other side. Wars there have been all along as well as rumors of wars. Famines, pestilences and earthquakes have again and again swept over this globe, as well as the persecution of such who are the Lord's. All this is true in a general way. But the Lord describes not the age as such, but shows what will be in the end. The words we have before us refer us to the beginning of that end, while in the last verse quoted, the fourteenth, the Lord saith "then shall come the end." What follows the fourteenth verse then refers directly to the end. The last week of Daniel, the seventieth, is marked off in two halves, each having three and a half years. The words here before us up to the fourteenth verse refer to the first half of the last week, while the fifteenth verse and the verses which follow bring us to the middle of that week.

 

Verses 4-14 then contain the prophecy of our Lord relating to the beginning of the end of the Jewish age, while with the 15th verse the end itself in its fearful great tribulation and "the abomination of desolation" is described. The whole period is the last week of Daniel's great prophecy, a prophetic week, consisting of seven years, which cannot begin as long as the church is on the earth. The first part of it is now before us. The Lord saith in His answer to the question concerning the sign of His coming and the end of the age, that these things He mentions first are "the beginning of throes" (verse 8).

 

And now let us look at the predictions. We find them in the following order:

 

1. Many coming, saying, I am the Christ and succeeding in misleading many.

 

2. Wars, rumors of wars. Nation lifting up sword against nation. Kingdom against kingdom.

 

3. Famines and pestilences and earthquakes.

 

4. Many witnesses to be killed and hated by all nations. False prophets and lawlessness prevailing.

 

5. The preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom before the end is reached.

 

These are the startling prophecies of our Lord, soon to be followed by other predictions of what shall be before He returns in the clouds of heaven, immediately after the tribulation of those days. The disciples, all Jews, no doubt well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, must have had considerable knowledge of such awful events as described by the Lord, for Old Testament prophecy predicts precisely such troubles preceding the visible manifestation of Jehovah out of the opened heavens, the beginning of the restoration of His earthly people and the blessings of the coming age. The following passages are but a few of those which might be quoted: Joel 2:1-17; Hosea 5:14; Jer. 30:4-9; Ezekiel 21:27; Daniel 12:1; Micah 7:1-7; Hab. 3:16. It is also true that Jewish tradition maintained in fullest harmony with these teachings that the days preceding the glorious coming of the Messiah are to be days of woe and sorrow. One of these ancient traditions is so striking that we quote it.

 

Rabbi Jochunan says: "Seven years of trouble come before Messiah comes. The first year before the Son of David comes the prophecy of Amos (chap, 4:7) will be fulfilled. In the second year of tribulation there will be six months of famine. In the third year there will be great famine. Many men, women and children will die and the pious will be few. The law and the prophets will be forgotten by Israel. The last years will bring signs in heaven and wars and at the end of the seventh year the Son of David will come." Similar statements could be easily quoted from the Talmudical writings.

 

All that which the above Old Testament passages predict, a time of trouble, before an age of blessing begins and nations learn war no more, is still a matter of the future, and so are the predictions our Lord makes here. The disciples to whom He gives these words and warnings are typical representatives of disciples, who will live when that end comes; they will be Jewish disciples. When on the Mount of Olives, before His ascension, they asked Him their last question: "Lord, is it at this time that Thou restorest the Kingdom to Israel ?" He answered: "It is not yours to know times or seasons, which the Father has placed in His own authority" (Acts 1:6-7). The kingdom will be restored with the coming of the King. It was not revealed when it was to be; all was to be postponed. They passed off the scene When the end at last will come other Jewish disciples, waiting for the kingdom to be restored to Israel, will witness and suffer, and they will turn to these words of our Lord and find comfort and instruction in them.

 

And now there is something still more significant. Not alone does Old Testament prophecy predict distress for the ending of the Jewish age, but we have an additional description of these great coming events in the last book of the Bible, the only book of prophecy in the New Testament, that glorious book, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ."

 

The book is divinely divided into three parts (chapter 1:9): I. The things seen; Christ walking in the midst of the candlesticks (chapter 1). II. The things which are. The present church age; a wonderful prophecy concerning the history of the church (chapters 2 and 3) III. The things which shall be after these (chapter 4 to 22). Here follows all which will take place after the church has completed her history. The removal of the true church from earth to heaven is promised in the third chapter of Revelation and is indicated in the opening verses of the fourth chapter. In the fourth and fifth chapters the church is seen symbolically in the twenty-four elders, seated, clothed and crowned in the presence of the throne. Then the Lamb takes the book to break its seals. That which is revealed, beginning with the sixth chapter, the breaking of the seals, the sounding of the seven trumpets and the outpouring of the seven vials together with the great events described from that chapter to the nineteenth, is nothing else but a more detailed history of the last week of Daniel. It is here in the last book of the Bible fully revealed what judgment will be executed upon the earth during that period of distress and what great tribulation will be for those who dwell upon the earth, Jews and Gentiles (never the true church). It is an intensely interesting fact that this part of Revelation (chapters 6-19) ever points us back to Old Testament prophecy. Hundreds of passages from all the prophets can easily be put alongside of the visions of judgment, tribulation and wrath in the Apocalypse.

 

The point which we wish to make is the following: If this is the correct interpretation, if Matthew 24:4-14 refers to the beginning of that coming end of the age and if Revelation 6 refers to the same beginning of the end and that which follows the sixth chapter leads us on into the great tribulation, then there must be a perfect harmony between that part of the Olivet discourse contained in Matthew 24 and the part of Revelation beginning with the sixth chapter. And such is indeed the case.

 

We turn briefly to the sixth chapter of Revelation. The Lamb opens one of the seals, after that great worship scene in heaven had taken place. Then we read: "And I saw; and behold a white horse, and he that sat upon it having a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went forth conquering and that he might conquer." It is strange that so many expositors have expounded this to be the Lord Himself. The Lord indeed is described in this book as coming riding a white horse; but this description is found at the close of the Revelation in the nineteenth chapter. The rider upon the white horse under the first seal is a counterfeit. He is a false Christ, who goes forth to conquer. His conquest is a bloodless one, as he has only a bow. He will bring about a false peace among the nations, which for a time may have been alarmed by the supernatural removal of the church. The second rider "takes peace from the earth," from which we would conclude that the first rider upon the white horse (white the emblem of peace) had established peace.

 

And as we turn to Matthew 24 we find that the first thing our Lord saith, is about the deceivers who will come with the beginning of the age ending saying: "I am Christ," and succeeding to lead away many. It is true throughout this age impostors came among the Jews claiming to be the Messiah. It is true even now men rise up saying they are some great one, Elijah, prophets or even Christ.

 

All these are but faint shadows of what will take place in that soon coming end. Indeed the increasing delusions and the claims of, as we believe, demon-possessed men and women, are strong indications that the end is very near. Then deceivers, led by Satan, possessed by his demons, will arise and among them there will be a mighty leader going forth to conquer, saying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace.

 

The rider upon the red horse, as already stated, takes peace from the earth. The second seal shows him coming forth with a great sword, "that they should slay one and another."

 

And the very next thing which the Lord saith in Matthew 24 is, "But ye will hear of wars and rumors of wars... Nation shall lift up sword against nation and kingdom against kingdom" (verse 7). Wars there have been in the past; this earth is saturated with blood. But there will be a time, and it is soon coming, when literally nation will lift up sword against nation and kingdom against kingdom, when they will slay each other. Any one who follows present-day history will see how everything is ripening for just such a universal warfare. And yet secure, sleeping Christendom is dreaming of peace, world wide peace and times of prosperity!

 

The third the Lord mentions is "there shall be famines." And the third seal reveals a rider upon a black horse and he has a balance in his hand and what he saith indicates clearly that he brings famines (Rev. 6:5-6), The fourth rider of the fourth seal is upon a pale horse. His name is "Death." He takes the fourth part of the earth away. This corresponds to the Lord's announcement that there will be "pestilences and earthquakes in divers places." Fearful have been the famines, pestilences and earthquakes of the last twenty-five years. (Especially great has been the loss of life and property from earthquakes and volcanic disturbances since 1900. The last, the destruction of San Francisco, has been one of the most terrible of the recent catastrophes. A harbinger indeed of the nearness of the far greater earthquakes to come.) But these are insignificant in comparison with those to which our Lord refers here, the mighty events which tell all the earth that the day of wrath is rapidly approaching. Blessed be His name, who delivereth us from that wrath to come that "His Beloved," "His Dove," "His Bride," the church, will be safe within when these awful things come to pass.

 

And now under the fifth seal we do not behold another rider, but instead of it we hear the souls underneath the altar, that had been slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they gave, crying out with a loud voice, saying, How long? (Rev. 6:9,-11) Who are these? Not saints of the church. These are all raised up when the Lord comes into the air (1 Thess. 4:17) and are caught up with the living saints. They are such of the remnant of Jews who began to give their witness for the Word of God after the church had departed and they suffered martyrdom in consequence of their faithful testimony. It is exactly that of which our Lord speaks next in His discourse. "Then shall they deliver you up to tribulation and shall kill you; ye will be hated of all the nations for my name's sake." As we shall show later this faithful Jewish remnant will go throughout the world proclaiming the coming of the kingdom and calling to repentance.

 

We see then how striking the agreement is between the beginning of Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation, the seal judgments. The interpretation we have undertaken to give is therefore proven to be correct.

 

We point out but a few more of the facts mentioned by our Lord. False prophets shall arise misleading many. The Jewish age has false prophets; the Christian age has false teachers. "But there were false prophets also among the people, as there shall be also among you false teachers, who shall bring in by the bye destructive heresies, etc." (2 Pet. 2:1). These false prophets who come in the end of the Jewish age will be possessed by evil spirits. Such was the case during the great apostasy of Israel under the reign of Ahab. The Lord permitted then a lying spirit to take possession of the false prophets as revealed by the prophet Micaiah (2 Chronicles 18:18-22).

 

"Lawlessness shall prevail;" that is, complete anarchy will hold sway. This too is clearly seen in the breaking of the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12-17). The earthquake, the darkened sun, the blood-red moon, the falling stars, the rolled up heavens and the removal of mountains and islands are all great symbols of startling political events, which will take place in the first three and one-half years. Government and authority is swept away; civil and ecclesiastical powers are shaken; mountains (the type of kingdoms) are moved out of their places and as a consequence of this awful upheaval, the reign of terror and anarchy, worse than that of the French revolution and the Russian revolution of today, all classes of men, the kings, the wealthy, the rich and the poor, the bondman and the free, will be seized with terror. Well has a recent writer said: "The scene here described is an awful and sublime one. The symbols employed to set it forth are the powers of nature convulsed. The whole fabric of civil and governmental power on earth breaks up. Disorder reigns supreme. It is not simply the collapse of this or that government, but the total subversion of all governing authority -- both supreme and dependent. The general idea which the metaphors present is a universal overthrow of all existing authority; a revolutionary crisis of such magnitude and character that kings and slaves are in equal terror. The coming crash will involve in one general catastrophe everything on earth deemed secure and strong. A vast civil and political chaos will be created. What an awful scene to contemplate! a world without a magistrate! without even the semblance of power! without government! without the authority of repression!"

 

This is the sixth seal, and it is precisely what the Lord saith: "Lawlessness shall prevail." And later the lawless One will take the lead. He comes into full display in the middle of the week. How near, how very near all these events are, even at our doors, is seen by the increasing unrest of all nations, the manifestation of the spirit of anarchy among all people. Yet there is One who hindereth (2 Thess. 2). The Holy Spirit is the One who keeps it back and He has His abode in the body of Christ, the church. Only after the church is taken into glory can that lawless One be revealed. But even in those awful days the mercy of God lingers and one more great testimony goes forth; the Gospel of the kingdom will yet be preached in a very short time to all the nations, then the end comes.

 

"And these glad tidings of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole habitable earth for a witness to all nations, and then shall come the end" (verse 14). This verse relates exclusively to the end of the age, that is the Jewish age. And here we have to speak of all of the wrong application of this word of our Lord.

 

It is generally looked upon as a condition to be fulfilled before the Lord can come. Post-millennialism, believing as it does, without any authority from the Word of God, in the conversion of the world before the coming of the Lord, makes use of this verse to uphold its unscriptural theory. Then there are others who believe in the premillennial coming of Christ who misapply this statement of our Lord. They ever speak of preaching the Gospel to all the nations as a necessary condition before the Lord can come for the church. It is often pressed in this way in missionary meetings, conventions as an incentive to giving, that unless the Gospel is preached to all nations, the Lord cannot come. Now such an application of this verse is certainly wrong.

 

It is true that the Gospel is to be preached in the regions beyond and that by this preaching a people is called out from the Gentiles, a people for His name, the church; but it would be incorrect to say that in order that the Lord may come for His Church, all the individuals of all the nations must hear the Gospel. Believers in the blessed Hope of the Coming of the Lord have a deep interest in foreign missions, unless they are given to extreme, fanciful or unscriptural notions. This is clearly established by a number of foreign missionary enterprises of the last twenty-five years, which have been inaugurated by men who believe in the premillennial Coming of the Lord and also by the large number of missionaries in all lands, who are out and out premillennialists. The accusation that believing in the imminent Coming of the Lord paralyzes missionary efforts is unjust and unfair. It stimulates missionary activity. The believer in the Coming of the Lord desires the Gospel to be preached in the great, wide field of the nations, that the church may be completed as to numbers. How soon this may be none can tell.

 

If the verse before us contained a necessary condition before the Lord can come to receive His fellow heirs, the church, in Glory, then the end must be indefinitely postponed. Other difficulties arise if this were the case.

 

But let us look at this preaching of this Gospel as in the future and all will become clear. In the first place must we remind ourselves that it is at the end of the age that the glad tidings of the Kingdom are to be heralded through the earth. The end of which the Lord speaks, the termination of that Jewish age, as we shall see later in this chapter, will be the visible manifestation of the Son of Man in power and in glory out of the opened heavens. The glorified church, the Lamb's wife, comes forth with Him in that visible manifestation.

 

Let us then have this fixed first of all, the preaching of which the Lord speaks is a future witness to all the nations, and that witness must be given before His visible manifestation will take place.

 

In the next place we have to ascertain what witness will be given. It will be the proclamation of the glad tidings, or Gospel, of the Kingdom. What does this mean? Superficial readers of the Word of God make no difference between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace. Many speak of the preaching of John the Baptist and the Lord and His disciples in the first part of Matthew, when they announced "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," as if it were the same thing as the Gospel of Grace, which is so freely offered after the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a difference between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace.

 

What then is the Gospel of the Kingdom? As we learn in the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of the Kingdom is the good news that the promised Kingdom* of the Old Testament was about to be established with the manifestation of the King. (Our lecture on the Kingdom in the Old Testament, published in tract form, will give more complete information about the Kingdom.) But the nation rejected Him and rejected the offered Kingdom. Some time after the day of Pentecost this Gospel of the Kingdom was preached to the nation. It was to Jews that Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. It is the Gospel of the Kingdom when Peter declared unto them after the healing of the lame man, he being a type of the nation (Acts 3:1), "Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached to you; whom the heavens must receive, until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-20). This was the good news of the Kingdom. If the nation had then repented and accepted the renewed offer, the Lord would have come again and with His coming the restitution of all things as foretold by all the prophets. This restitution, of course, does not consist in the resurrection and restoration of the wicked dead, as an unscriptural restitutionism claims, but in the glorious things of the earthly Kingdom and the promised blessings to Israel. Soon the nation rejected the last offer in the stoning of Stephen. The measure was full. In the Old Testament Jehovah had offered Himself to them as their King and they had rejected Him. Then He came manifested in the flesh and they rejected Him, God the Son. Then the Holy Spirit in Stephen's testimony was likewise rejected.

 

With that event the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom ceased. Another Gospel was preached. The Lord gave it to the great Apostle, whom He called Himself, Paul. And Paul calls this Gospel "my Gospel." It is the Gospel of God's free Grace to all who believe, the Gospel of the Glory of God, the Gospel of a risen and glorified Lord. The mystery of the church is made known to Paul, and it is part of that blessed Gospel that every believing sinner, Jew or Gentile, is baptized by the one Spirit into the one body. This Baptism took place on the day of Pentecost. The Gospel of Grace declares that all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are quickened together with Him, raised up and seated with Him in the Heavenly, that they are Sons of God and Heirs of God and joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. This then is the Gospel of Grace. This wonderful offer goes out now to the nations of the earth that the Bride of the Lord Jesus Christ may be gathered. It had a definite beginning, it will have a definite end. When that body, the church, is complete, the church will be removed from the earth in the manner as revealed in 1 Thess. 4:16-17, and with this the preaching of the Gospel of Grace will come to an end, because the purpose for which God had this Gospel proclaimed is accomplished.

 

Now during the time that the Kingdom was preached to be at hand the Gospel of Grace was not heard, and during the time the Gospel of Grace is preached the Gospel of the Kingdom is not preached. But as soon as the Gospel of Grace has fulfilled its mission and is no longer heard, the glad tidings of the kingdom will be preached again.

 

As soon then as the church leaves this earthly scene and the end of the age begins, the Gospel of Grace will no more be heard, but in place of it, the Gospel of the Kingdom will be sounded forth once more to all the nations, before the heavens, silent for so many, many centuries, will be opened again to reveal the King, who comes to execute judgment and to rule the earth in righteousness, Under the solemn signs of the ending Jewish age it will be proclaimed world wide, "Fear God and give Glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come and worship Him that made heaven and the earth and the sea and the fountains of waters." The Kingdom is at hand; repent!

 

And who will be the preachers of this last witness, the missionaries who reach all nations with this final message before the King appears in judgment? They are a believing Israelitish remnant. God in His wonderful grace will begin a work among His earthly people Israel. The Holy Spirit, who has His abode, as long as the church is forming, in the church, will have accomplished His mission in the completed body and will no longer be present on the earth as He is now; but He will still be working and that in the same way as He did in the Old Testament, He will come upon a remnant of believers from the long blinded nation Israel. These will take up the work of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the nations, and no doubt special power will rest upon them for that service. How well this people is fitted to do this, needs little comment. They are now scattered among all the nations. They understand the languages of the nations, they are at home in every climate. When the church is no longer here, God in His mercy will turn to His own people again and the blindness of a company of them will be removed and the Spirit of God will come upon them. We believe this remnant will most likely consist of such Hebrews who are at this time still holding to the Messianic hope of a coming deliverer, who hold fast the law and the testimony, who firmly believe in the prophecies of their own Scriptures. Alas! hundreds of thousands have broken with the faith in God's Word and God's promises.

 

Such a remnant according to the election of Grace (Romans 11) will be called, and this remnant will be used as the great herald to announce to all the nations the great coming events. What preachers they will be!

 

And now before we look at the purpose of this preaching and to whom they will go and what their success will be, we have to follow the argument laid down in the beginning of the exposition of this chapter. We remind the reader that we claimed that inasmuch as these predictions of our Lord refer to the end of the Jewish age, that we must be able to find all what is spoken of here both in the Old Testament and in that part of the book of Revelation, which treats of the things to come, after the history of the church is finished on earth (chapters 6-19). We have found already the remarkable correspondency which exists between the predictions of the Old Testament concerning the time of distress of the end of the age, the predictions of our Lord and the seal judgments of Revelation Is there a similar agreement about a witnessing remnant of God's earthly people? Has the Old Testament anything to say about this? Do we find anything mentioned about such a remnant in the book of Revelation? Both Old Testament prophecy and the book of Revelation give us most interesting light on this remnant, the testimony they will bear, the suffering and the persecution they will have to stand, and their final deliverance.

 

The Old Testament is full of predictions and descriptions of this remnant. Indeed it is next to impossible to understand prophecy relating to the things to come if one does not reckon with that remnant, which is so prominent in the pre-written history of the end of the age. Especially rich is the book of Psalms. The great prayers, cries to God for deliverance, calls to God to destroy the enemies, are all prophetic descriptions of how a faithful remnant of God's earthly people will go through that time of great trouble and be delivered out of it. In these great prayers and calls upon God for interference, the ungodly part of the nation as well as the Gentiles are mentioned. Showing how they are in the midst of them giving their faithful testimony. It would be impossible to show all the passages which speak of this future remnant in the Old Testament. Almost throughout every one of the prophets do we find this remnant and the words which God speaks to encourage and comfort them.

 

Turning to the book of Revelation we find a very striking confirmation of this fact. We found that under the sixth seal a great upheaval took place. Anarchy is let lose and all the mighty governments of the earth are shaken, rebellion spreads worldwide. Before the seventh seal is broken by the Lord we read of something else. The seventh chapter of Revelation is a parenthesis. The first part of it tells us that then in the beginning of these fearful events, a company of 144,000 will be sealed. Who is this company? It is a most fanciful, worse than that, evil interpretation, which makes of the 144,000 a company of Christian believers. The theory of a "first-fruit" rapture has no scriptural foundation whatever and it aims in a most subtle way at God's Grace, giving man a share, by his attainments, experience, suffering and other things, to become worthy to enter into the presence of the Lord. We have listened to such teaching repeatedly that the 144,000 of Revelation 7 are a company of "sanctified" Christians (as if there were sanctified and unsanctified believers). Companies of people all over this country claim to be part of "the elect Bride," a part of the 144,000, and not a few of these hold extremely fanatical views. The Word of God makes it so clear that it is almost impossible to believe that any intelligent person could fail to see who these 144,000 are. The Spirit of God tells us that they are "of all the tribes of the children of Israel." Christian believers do not belong to the twelve tribes of the children of Israel ; furthermore, if these 144,000 were parts of the church, a first-fruit, the previous part of Revelation, especially chapters 2-5, would be most difficult to explain, and the divinely given division of the book would be wiped out. The 144,000 then are literal Israelites and these constitute the remnant of God's earthly people, the preachers of the Kingdom Gospel during the great tribulation.

 

In the second part of Revelation 7 we read of a countless multitude out of all nations, who have come out of the great tribulation and who stand before the throne of God. This multitude is not the church, because the church does not come "out of the great tribulation," nor do the church saints stand before the throne, but they are seated upon thrones in the presence of the throne of God (Rev. 4). This great multitude are those who heard God's last witness during the end of the age, the preaching of the Kingdom Gospel and who believed the message and were yet saved and we see these in the presence of the throne of God, their millennial position and blessing in the earth. The multitude is the blessed result of the preaching of the remnant of Israel.

 

It is, however, to be stated that those who had the Gospel of Grace presented unto them and who rejected God's gracious offer, who went on in apostasy will not have another chance to accept "the Gospel of the Kingdom." Second Thess. 2:10-12 reveals the fate of all the Christ and Gospel rejecting professing "Christian" masses. But the nations in Africa, China, India, the isles of the sea will hear and accept the Gospel of the Kingdom and gladly receive these messengers whom later the Lord calls "these my brethren" (Matthew 25:31, etc). Thus during the very end, God's Grace will still be manifested ere that great and terrible day of the Lord comes.

 

The next verse brings us into the middle of the week, the great tribulation, and we shall have to turn to the prophet Daniel and the thirteenth chapter of Revelation to establish still clearer the fact that our Lord has in these predictions exclusive reference to the end of the Jewish age.

 

We have learned then that the events predicted by our Lord up to the fourteenth verse fall into the beginning of the ending of the Jewish age, the seven prophetic years; with the fifteenth verse we reach the middle of this period, three years and a half are passed and the second half with its mighty events culminating in the personal and visible manifestation of the Son of Man out of heaven is now described. With the second half of these seven years, the last 1,260 days, the great tribulation, the time of Jacob's trouble, is fully developed. We shall find as we advance that not alone the interpretation we have laid down for this chapter is the right one, but that no other one is possible; all expositions, which claim a fulfilment of these words of our Lord in the past, or which apply these events to the church period, must be rejected as incorrect. Let us read the words of our Lord beginning at the fifteenth verse.

 

"When therefore ye shall see the abomination of desolation, which is spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in what is a holy place (he that reads let him understand); then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let not him that is on the house come down to take the things out of his house; and let not him that is in the field turn back to take his garment. But woe to those that are with child, and those that give suck in those days. But pray that your flight may not be in winter time nor on Sabbath; for then shall there be great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now nor ever shall be; and if those days had not been cut short no flesh had been saved; but on account of the elect those days shall be cut short" (verses 15-22).

 

Our Lord gives us a most important hint on what He means by these words, by mentioning the Prophet Daniel. Then furthermore, the Holy Spirit adds through Matthew a word of exhortation, which calls special attention to the Lord's reference to Daniel, the prophet. The Holy Spirit saith, "He that reads let him understand"; or, as it might be put, "Consider so as to understand." It will, therefore, not do for us to hurry over this word of our Lord, to which the Holy Spirit calls our special attention, which He the great interpreter of the Word of God wants us to consider and to understand fully.

 

We must, therefore, turn first of all to the Prophet Daniel. Does he mention anything in his great prophecies about a future abomination and where do we find these passages? He does in three places.

 

"And he shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week, and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and because of the protection of the abominations there shall be a desolator, even until that the consumption and what is determined shall be poured out upon the desolate" (Daniel 9:27).

 

"And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, the fortress, and shall take away the continual sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate" (11:31).

 

"And from the time that the continual sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days" (12:11).

 

There can be no doubt that the Lord refers to these three passages in Daniel, and it is of that abomination mentioned in these passages of which He speaks. These three verses in Daniel refer all to the same period of time; this period is three years and a half. The same space of time is mentioned in Daniel 7:25. "And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws, and they shall be given into his hands, until a time and times and the dividing of time" (which makes three and a half). Then in Daniel 10:7 we have it mentioned again.... "It shall be for a time, times and a half, and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished." When later in the course of this exposition we come to the book of Revelation we shall discover the same period of time there.

 

It is not our purpose to enter fully into Daniel's great prophecies. To do this would lead us too far and prolong our exposition. The most important passage of the three we have quoted, is the one from the ninth chapter; as the others treat of the same period, we shall not consider these (Dan. 11:31 and 12:11) at all. The ninth chapter in that prophetic book contains the prayer of Daniel and the wonderful answer he received. He was meditating on the Word of the Lord as it came to Jeremiah the prophet, when he turned to the Lord in prayer. This seems to us is the true and perfect way of turning to God in prayer. First communion with God through the written Word, His revelation, and then to seek His face. He was occupied in his prayer with the years of captivity. The man Gabriel appears, he came flying swiftly to assure him that he was greatly beloved and to give him the answer to his prayer. The answer is a revelation relating to seventy-year weeks, that is seven times seventy; a period of time which was to come.

 

We take it for granted that our readers are delivered from the old, superficial and erroneous interpretation, which looks upon Daniel 9:24-27 as having been completely fulfilled with the death of the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus. It is strange that the clear division of these seventy weeks has been so much ignored. (To our readers who are unsettled on the interpretation of this most important prophecy, or who desire a real good work on Daniel 9, we recommend Sir R. Anderson's most excellent work, "The Coming Prince." It is most helpful, clearly written and sound. See also "The Great Parenthesis" by Ironside.)

The 24th verse in Daniel 9 is the prophecy stated in a general way. "Seventy weeks are apportioned out upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to close the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make expiation for iniquity, and to bring in the righteousness of ages, and to seal the vision and the prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies." Seventy sevens, as it is in the Hebrew, make 490. This space of time is, so Gabriel declared, apportioned out, for the people of Israel and Jerusalem, and at the close of it the full blessing of Israel will come to pass; the righteousness of ages, undoubtedly refers to the kingdom age, the millennium. So in a general way the whole prophecy of seventy-year weeks is given and what shall be accomplished in them and at the close of them for the people Israel and for Jerusalem. But now as we read on we find a division of these seventy weeks. First: Seven weeks; secondly: Sixty-two weeks; thirdly: One week. What does this division mean? We are not left to speculation, for the Word makes it plain. "Know, therefore, and understand: From the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince, are seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. The street and the moat shall be built again, even in troublesome times. And after sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with an overflow, and unto the end war, the desolation determined (verses 25-26)." The first seven weeks, that is 49 years, is the period of time which elapsed from the giving of the command to rebuild Jerusalem and its walls till this was accomplished. The commission to restore and build Jerusalem was given to Nehemiah by Artaxerxes in his twentieth year. The sixty-two weeks is the period of time from the complete restoration of the city and the walls till Messiah is cut off, that is the death of Christ, and there is nothing for Him. His own people reject Him and then in consequence of that rejection, the city and the sanctuary is to be destroyed by the people of the prince, that shall come. Wars and desolations, persecutions and troubles, bloodshed and sufferings, was to be the lot of the Jewish people after the rejection of the Messiah, a prophecy stated not only here but throughout the prophetic Word and so solemnly come true for well nigh two thousand years. The people who destroyed the city and the sanctuary were Romans. But now we have one week left. Of this last week we read in the last verse of Daniel 9, the verse in which the abomination is mentioned, to which our Lord and the Holy Spirit calls attention. This week, or seven years, is the end. It is a week, a period of time still future. With the 69th week Messiah was cut off, He had nothing; His people had rejected Him and the offered kingdom; an indefinite period follows, during which the Jews are outcasts, scattered into the corners of the earth, Jerusalem trodden down by the Gentiles. It is the present age in which we live, in which God's gracious offer of free and full salvation for the gathering out of a people for His Name (the church) is preached. How soon this may end no one knows. It will end at some time and then Jewish history from a prophetic standpoint will be resumed, the Jewish age will close to be followed by the kingdom or millennial age, when the righteousness of the ages will come in.

 

And what then is to take place in that last week, in the coming seven years, that very time which was indicated in the question of the disciples when they asked about "the end of the age" and which the Lord describes in this part of His discourse? We say again it seems strange that so many learned men should be so superficial in expounding the Word of God. How true it is, many of these things are hid from the wise and the prudent; and they are revealed unto babes. Thus many have not alone made no distinction of the division of the weeks as given in the text, but they have not distinguished between the two princes mentioned in these verses. The one Prince is Messiah, the other prince is a counterfeit, the false prince. It is claimed by this incorrect interpretation that the prince who confirms the covenant with the many for one week is Christ. But the one of whom the 27th verse speaks is not Messiah the Prince, but "the prince who shall come." It is that wicked head of the Roman empire in its last revived form of whom we read in different parts in prophecy. The Roman power had come upon the land and destroyed Jerusalem and burned the temple. This was prophetically stated in verse 26; but it does not say that "the prince shall come to destroy the city," but the people of the prince "that shall come," in other words, the Roman power destroyed the city and from that power a prince is to emanate in the future. Up to now this prince has not yet appeared; when he comes he will be the leader of the confederacy of the nations, who inhabit the territory of the Roman empire, a mighty man who is under the control and inspiration of Satan. Perhaps Napoleon I is the nearest photograph the world has.seen of that prince who shall come. It would be most interesting to follow all this in detail, but we are not writing on Daniel or the false king and the antichrist, but on Matthew 24, and so we can only give the most simple facts so as to make the chapter as clear as possible. Now when this prince, the head of the revived Roman empire, appears, he will make a covenant with the Jews. His covenant will be for one week, that is for seven years. It is interesting to notice that the covenant will be made with "the many," not with all, for the believing Jewish remnant will know the true personality of the wicked prince and refuse to enter into that covenant. What this covenant will be we do not follow now. Suffice it to say that it will be undoubtedly of a political nature and connected with the resettlement of the Jews in Palestine, the rebuilding of the temple and the institution of their worship by sacrifices. Zionism, the great restoration movement of the Jews in unbelief, sheds a flood of light on these coming events. If Zionists were ready to herald the Sultan as their deliverer, should he allow them the practical carrying out of their program, how much more will they be willing to accept an agreement with that mighty prince, who is to come. This covenant will be effected in the beginning of the week (seven years) and all will run smoothly for a while. But in the middle of the week he will unmask himself and in conjunction with that other wicked one, the man of sin, the son of perdition, the personal antichrist, he will break the covenant and cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. In its place he will set up the abomination (Dan. 11:31). What then is this abomination? It will be idolatrous worship. The 13th chapter in the book of Revelation gives us more light on this abomination of the last three years and a half of the Jewish age ending. We shall turn to this chapter at once. However, before we do so we wish to say that to our mind the argument is complete. The seventy weeks have to do exclusively with the Jewish people. The first seven weeks, the sixty-two weeks and the last, the seventieth. It is impossible to find a place for the church in this prophecy. Her place is in the unreckoned period between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week. She does not belong, nor a part of the church, into the last week.

 

And now we shall briefly examine the book of Revelation on this subject. We have laid this down in the beginning of our exposition, if the words of our Lord refer to the future events of the definitely marked end of the age then these three, Old Testament prophecy on this theme, the Words of the Lord, and the book of Revelation must be a complete harmony. We have seen how perfectly this has been the case up to the fifteenth verse and now we have still more striking proof.

 

The thirteenth chapter of Revelation corresponds in part to the middle of the week; the last half of the seven years and the events transpiring on Jewish ground, in Jerusalem, are described here. Here we find the 1,260 days, the 3-1/2 years. In the twelfth chapter Satan is seen cast out of heaven, cast down upon the earth and the heavens pronounce a woe upon the inhabiters of the earth, for he is come down and has great wrath, for he has but little time. When the church is received into glory, the casting out of Satan will take place. He comes down and finds the church gone from this earthly scene and then in his great wrath he begins his awful work.

 

The thirteenth chapter of Revelation is the perfect counterpart of Daniel's prophecies; even a beginner in the study of prophecy can see that. Two beasts are seen in this chapter. The first rises out of the sea typifying the nations. The second comes out of the earth and has two horns like a lamb, but speaks as a dragon. The first is "the prince that shall come," the wicked leader of the revived Roman empire ; the second one is the false Messiah, the antichrist, who mimics the true Christ. What will then take place is clearly stated in Rev. 13:12-18. There we read of an image. "And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." This, no doubt, will be the abomination, an image worshipped; as well as the second beast, "who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God (not in Rome, but in Jerusalem), showing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2:4). This then is the abomination which falls in the last half of the seventieth week. The result of this abomination, the revelation of Satan's power upon the earth, will be the great tribulation. This is fully borne out by the thirteenth chapter in Revelation. Of this our Lord speaks, when he said, "for then shall there be great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world, until now, nor ever shall be." And in Daniel we likewise read of this tribulation. "And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation" (12:1). The context shows that it will be at this very time of which the Lord speaks, immediately before His personal, visible and glorious Coming.

 

The words which the Lord utters concerning those who will be then on the earth show clearly that they are not church saints. They are in Judea and are asked to flee to the mountains; a foreshadowing of this was seen at the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus. They are asked to pray that their flight should not take place on the Sabbath; they are called the "elect," a term which in this chapter as well as throughout the Gospels always means His earthly people; in the Epistles the word "elect" always means the church.

 

The next words of the Lord in His discourse contain warnings. "Then if any one say to you, Behold here is the Christ, or here, believe is not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold I have told you beforehand. If, therefore, they say to you, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth; behold he is in the inner chambers, do not believe it. For as the lightning goes forth from the east and shines to the west, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man" (verses 23-27). Deceivers have appeared from time to time throughout this age, claiming, like Simon Magus, "to be some great one." No question that many of these evil, fanatical leaders were and are energized by Satan. Not a few of such deluded persons we see today; the evil power likewise manifests its signs and lying wonders to a certain degree, while another system claims that the Lord Jesus Christ came in a secret manner in 1874 (Millennial Dawnism). But all this is not a fulfilment of the words spoken by the Lord. The fulfilment comes in the great tribulation. Of the second beast, who imitates the lamb, but speaks as a dragon, it is written, "He doeth great wonders so that he maketh fire to come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of these miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast" (Rev. 13:13-14). This corresponds with that passage in 2 Thess. 2 from which we quoted above; the false Christ will deceive by his signs and lying wonders and the strong delusion, all those who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Not alone will the apostate part of the Jewish people be deceived by these lying wonders, but also the apostate part of Christendom, left behind after the rapture of the church has taken place, will be deceived and swept away in the great judgments of that coming day. These warnings will be of great importance and value to the Jewish believing remnant, living in those days. The Lord tells them that His coming will not be in a secret way but openly, seen by all like the flash of lightning. It will be a sudden, a startling coming; as the lightning flashes over the dark sky and strikes down upon the earth, so will He the Son of Man make his appearance. It is not necessary to say that this lightning-like Coming is wholly distinct from His coming for His own. Then the Lord adds a significant word, "For wherever the carcass is, there will be gathered the eagles" (verse 28). The interpretation which makes the eagles the church, or a certain class of "advanced believers" is so weak and fanciful that we do not think it necessary to speak of it here. The carcass is the type of corruption and it represents here the unbelieving part of the Jewish people, that part which followed the beast. The eagles stand for the judgments. In the next verses the Coming of the Son of Man in Power and Glory is revealed by Himself, the coming One. Once more we shall have to turn back to the Old Testament and to the book of Revelation to find another perfect harmony.

 

"But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; then shall all the tribes of the land mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds from the one extremity of the heavens to the other extremity of them" (verses 29-31).

 

It is unnecessary to call attention to the misinterpretation of this passage, which by the spiritualizing method claims a fulfillment of these words at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. What we have learned in the exposition of this part of the Olivet discourse makes such an application and interpretation an impossibility. It is ridiculous to say that the Lord spoke these words about His visible manifestation, but did not really mean a literal return; but what He meant is the destruction of Jerusalem. The context proves that the event could not have taken place at the time of the destruction of the city.

 

What is before us in these words of the Lord is the great climax of the end, the visible appearing of the Son of Man. It is to be immediately after the days of tribulation; that tribulation we have seen is still future and has for its center Jerusalem, though all the earth will share in it. And now we have to turn once more to the Old Testament Word of Prophecy. Do we find there anything promised, which corresponds to this predicted visible and glorious coming of the Son of Man? And if we find in the Old Testament prophecies which correspond to these words, in what connection do we find them?

 

We find indeed in the Old Testament numerous predictions of just such an event of which the Lord speaks here and a careful investigation will show that these predictions of the Old Testament and the prediction of our Lord here fully harmonize.

 

The first passage we desire to mention is a prophecy in the last chapter of Joel. "The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining" (Joel 3:15). Joel is one of the earliest prophets. While he announces and speaks of a great locust judgment which came upon the people Israel and upon the land, his prophecy points to the great future fulfillment in the "Yom Jehovah," the Day of the Lord. The third chapter contains one of the great prophecies of that future day and the events connected with that day. The verse we quoted gives the physical signs and the verses which follow show that the Lord will be manifested in His Glory in the midst of these wonders in the heavens. The prophets which prophesy after Joel have nearly all visions of that day.

 

We give a few other Scriptures to show this. "And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright light will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land saith the Lord God" (Ezek. 32:7-8). Here it is the proclamation of the day as it is to come upon Egypt and the nations. Another prophecy of the day of the Lord's manifestation is found in Isaiah 13:9-10. "Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate, and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the Stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine." We do not need to quote other prophecies from the prophetic books and the Psalms. The day of the Lord is announced in many passages. It is always seen in connection with great troubles on the earth, tribulation for His earthly people, culminating in these startling physical signs, darkened heavens, shaking earth and the manifestation of the Glory of the Lord. And this is the event of which our Lord speaks in Matthew 24:29.

 

But there will be not only physical signs, but something else will occur. The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heaven. This will be followed by the mourning of the tribes and then the Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

 

What is the sign of the Son of Man? We believe it will be the Shekinah cloud. It was a cloud which enshrouded His form when He tarried with Israel of old. A cloud it was which received Him out of the sight of His disciples; a cloud must bring Him back. At the bitter end of the great tribulation, when His faithful remnant is hard pressed on all sides, when they cry to God for the heavens to open and to come down, there will be seen, we believe, in the heavens a bright and shining cloud, a cloud from which fire shines out. Well may the believing Jewish remnant then cry out, "Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him, this is the Lord, He will save us." His elect earthly people, those which have not been swept away during the great tribulation, the "all Israel " of Romans 11:26 will know what that cloud means. Jehovah is coming to be manifested. What their prophets saw and predicted is at last to come true. The Day of Jehovah is about to dawn, the Lord their King is coming.

 

The consequence will be a national mourning. It is not to be thought for a moment that all the tribes must be in the land. The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens and will be seen from all continents. "All the tribes of the land" simply means that the persons who mourn belong to all the tribes of Israel. This again is predicted in the Old Testament. "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his first born" (Zech. 12:10). But that sign of the Son of Man will not tarry long in the heavens. He Himself comes on the clouds of heaven in great power and glory. The promise given by the two men at the time of the Lord's ascension is now to be fulfilled. "This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner, as ye see Him go into heaven." He ascended upon high; He predicted this event in uttering these words in the Olivet discourse.

 

And this too is found in the Old Testament prophetic Word. "I saw in the night visions and behold, one, like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven..." (Daniel 7:14). This takes place after the ten-horned beast with the little horn, with the eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things, had come forth. All this refers to the end of the Jewish age. The little horn is the same evil person seen elsewhere in prophecy. It is then and not before, when the little horn is in existence, that Daniel sees the Ancient of Days and the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven to receive the Kingdom. What a wonderful and divine unity the Scriptures are!

 

If we turn briefly to the Book of Revelation, we shall find once more a minute confirmation of these revealed events. It is the Book which in its greater part is taken up with the description of the tribulation, judgments and other events of the last week of Daniel; the seven years with which the age closes. Therefore in the very beginning of the Book do we find a solemn announcement which fully harmonizes with the words before us here. "Behold He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all the tribes of the land shall wail because of Him. Even so. Amen" (Rev. 1:7). It needs no further comment to show how fully these words confirm both the Old Testament predictions and the predictions of our Lord. This striking harmony should not appear to us as so very wonderful, for He who speaks the words on the Mount of Olives is the same who spoke through the prophets and the last Book is "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him."

 

For a fuller description of His Coming the reader will turn to Rev. 19:11-16.

 

Let us now turn to the next words. "And He shall send His angels with a great sound of trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the one extremity of the heavens to the other extremity of them." Angels appear now once more upon the scene. Throughout this present dispensation angels as the ministering spirits are not seen; that they do minister is certainly a fact. But as soon as He comes again, He who was made a little lower than the angels, and who is above the angels in Glory, they will be sent forth again. When he was born in Bethlehem they appeared with their heavenly song of praise; when He comes again the holy angels will accompany the Christ and His church and the angels will worship Him (Heb. 1:6). It is also written "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 1:7-8). In Matthew 13 we likewise find that angels are mentioned in connection with the end of the age, the same end as here. "The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and He shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend and them which do iniquity" (13:41). "So shall it be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just" (13:49). In our passage the angels sound a trumpet and they go out to gather His elect from the four winds. We say once more that this has nothing to do with the church. The removal of the church takes place before the last week of Daniel's prophecy begins and when the Lord comes immediately after the days of tribulation, the church is with Him and in His Glory the church is manifested. He comes and brings His saints with Him. The revelation concerning His coming for the church is recorded in 1 Thess. 4:15-18. To make the elect in Matthew 24:30 the church, as it is done so often, is bewildering and a wrong interpretation. This part of the Olivet discourse, as we have shown, has nothing whatever to do with the church. The "Elect" in this chapter always means His elect earthly people, as stated before.

 

The angels will gather them back to the land and bring them in, for the people in greater part are still scattered in the corners of the earth, when the Son of Man, the King of Israel, returns. Of this the Old Testament bears witness. "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come, which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount of Jerusalem" (Isaiah 27:13). "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros and from Cush, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:11, 12). "Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. But the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither He had driven them; and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall find them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks" (Jer. 16:14-16). This regathering of the remnant of Israel, the people left after the great tribulation, takes place after the Lord has been manifested out of the heavens. Then the "lost tribes" will be discovered, and during the age of the Kingdom, God will fulfil in His regathered people, the nation Israel, all the precious promises His prophets spoke and which a false theory called "Anglo-Israelism" attempts to have realized in this present Christian age.

 

What follows now are exhortations and solemn warnings given by the Lord, and these form a sublime conclusion of this first part of the Olivet discourse, referring, as we have learned, to the end of the Jewish Age. We shall look briefly at each verse.

 

"But learn the parable from the fig tree: When already its branch becomes tender and produces leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh. Thus also ye, when ye see all these things, know that it is near, at the doors" (verses 32, 33). The fig tree is the picture of Israel. The parable of the fig tree in Luke 13 is well known, and its application is Israel, to whom the Lord came, looking for fruit, and did not find it. Luke 21, the record there of this discourse, mentions likewise the fig tree and all the trees; these are the Gentiles, the nations. In Matthew 21, we see in the withered fig tree a type of Israel 's spiritual and national death. But that withered tree is to be vitalized. The fig tree will bud again. However, the characteristic of the fig tree is that fruit and leaves are there together. As soon as the branch becomes tender the fruit is found. It is a rapid development. This is the lesson here. Israel 's blessing, new life, fruit and glory will quickly be realized in those end days. When in these last seven years, and especially the last 1,260 days, all these things come to pass, they will know that all which is promised to Israel will be at hand. The other application, that now we behold Israel like a budding fig tree, signs of new national life and in this a sign of the times, is certainly not wrong. It tells us of the nearness of the end.

 

"Verily I say unto you, This generation will not have passed away until all these things shall have taken place. The heavens and the earth shall pass away, but my Words shall in no wise pass away" (verses 34, 35).

 

The wrong interpretation of the word "generation" is responsible for the erroneous conception so prevalent in our days. It is said that "this generation" must mean the very generation, the people who lived then upon the earth, when the Lord spoke these words. It is easily seen how, if this is the meaning of "this generation," the events predicted by our Lord must have been fulfilled within the life-time of the people living then. What other event could be meant than the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70? Thus the wrong interpretation of these two words, "this generation," has led the large numbers of Bible teachers and readers of this discourse astray. But let us get the right meaning of "generation" and all will be clear. The word _genea means not necessarily the same persons living, but it has also the meaning of race. The English word "generation" has this meaning of "family or a race of a certain class of people." And so has the Greek. It is used in that sense in Luke 16:8. "This generation" is the race sprung from Abraham, God's chosen earthly people. Well have they been called "the everlasting nation;" better still we could call them "the nation of destiny." God has kept this race, and is keeping them for the fulfilment of His own great, revealed purpose. The verse, however, has also the meaning that the people living, when the end of the Jewish age sets in, will behold its termination; it will all be accomplished in a small space of time. Yea heaven and earth may pass away but His Words will not pass away. How solemn this is! Here we read still the same great and mighty Words, which were hated by thousands of God's enemies in the past; words which have been attacked and denied. And still the old enemy of the written Word is at it, and through his chosen instruments (alas! many of them in the midst of the professing church) attacks and belittles these Words. They stand! They are as eternal and divine, as infallible and true, as He, the eternal Son of God, is from whose lips they came.

 

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of the heavens, but my Father alone" (verse 36).

 

This makes the matter still more solemn. That day and hour, which will usher in these mighty events, of which the Lord speaks in His discourse, culminating in His own personal and glorious manifestation, is unknown. In the Gospel of Mark the Holy Spirit adds, "nor the Son." This addition is made in Mark because there our Lord is viewed as God's servant, and a servant "does not know what his master doeth." The Father knows the day and the hour, when all this is to come to pass The beginning of it is liable to occur at any time. How foolish, then, to speculate on the possible time of our Lord's return -- and the setting of years and days. It dishonors the Word and brings reproach upon Prophecy.

 

"But as the days of Noe, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man. For as they were in the days which were before the flood, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day on which Noe entered into the ark, and they knew not till the flood came and took all away; thus shall be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two shall be in the field, one is taken and one is left; two women grinding at the mill, one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for ye know not in what hour your Lord comes" (verses 37-42).

 

The introduction here of Noah and the flood is in fullest accord with the entire chapter. Noah lived at the close of an age, and was saved with his house through a great judgment, and then became the beginning of a new age. That this is typical of the remnant of Israel living at the close of the Jewish age is well known. As Noah's age closed with the deluge, so will the Jewish age close with judgment. The judgment came suddenly upon the ungodly generation of Noah's day; thus will it be when the Son of Man cometh. Two classes were living in Noah's day. The one who were unbelieving and these were swept away by the divine judgment. The other class was Noah and his house, and he and his own were left and not destroyed by the judgment. It will be so again in the coming of the Son of Man. The unbelievers will be taken away in the day of judgment and wrath; the others will be left on the earth to receive and enjoy the blessings of the coming age and enter into the kingdom, which will then be established. It is the opposite meaning of "taken" and "left" when the Lord comes as the "Bridegroom" for His church. Then, too, some will be taken and others left. The true believers will be taken into glory, caught up in clouds to meet Him in the air; the unbelievers and mere professors will be left. Some deny that the word "taken" in our passage means a judicial taking away. The context, however, shows (the reference to Noah and the flood) that this must be the meaning. Surely those who were taken by the flood were not "received into glory."

 

And now once more His warning voice is heard.

 

"But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and not have suffered his house to be dug through. Wherefore ye also, be ye ready, for in that hour ye think not the Son of Man comes" (verses 43, 44). With these words of warning and exhortation to watch, our Lord closes the predictions relating to the end of the Jewish age. This warning will be understood and heeded by the Jewish remnant, to which it is addressed. They are to watch for the Son of Man; the church is to wait for her Lord.

 

With the next verse, the beginning of the first of three parables relating to His coming, a new part of the Olivet discourse begins. We will find this very clearly marked and shall prove next that this part, from chapter 24:45 to chapter 25:30 refers no longer to the events which transpire on the earth during the end of the Jewish age, but to something altogether different. [For an excellent interpretation of this passage, 24:45-25:30, cf. "studies in the Gospel of Matthew" by E. Schuyler English, pp. 180-188.]

 

The second part of the Olivet discourse begins with the 45th verse of this great chapter and extends to chapter 25:30. The contents of this division are entirely different from the preceding one. Up to the forty-fourth verse we learned that the Lord gives predictions relating to the end of the Jewish age, an end still to come. We traced all these predictions in the Old Testament and in the great book of prophecy in the New Testament, the Revelation. We found the closest correspondency between Matthew 24:3-44, certain parts of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation, because all three deal with the same period of time. But now another series of predictions are before us which have no connection with Old Testament prophecy nor with Revelation 6-19.

 

In the first part of this discourse we hear of wars, pestilence, famine, great tribulation, false Christs, the abomination of desolation, Judea, the Sabbath day and the visible and glorious coming of the Son of Man. The exhortations were to flee to the mountains, to pray that the flight take not place on the Sabbath day, to endure unto the end for salvation, etc. Of all this we do not read a word in the second section of our Lord's utterances. Here again he speaks in parables as He did in His second discourse in this Gospel, contained in chapter 13. The three parables which make up this part of the Olivet discourse picture the condition of things during the absence of the King and how in the professing church, in Christendom, there will be the true and the false, possessors and professors, saved and unsaved, such who have life and such who have a name to live but are dead. These three parables then may be justly put alongside of the seven parables in chapter 13 dealing with the kingdom of heaven; the phrase the Lord uses again in giving the second parable. The great parables in the thirteenth chapter give the beginning, the external and internal development of Christendom, in a general way; the three parables in the Olivet discourse give the moral aspect of those who are in the professing church, and each is linked with the fact of His coming again. His coming discerns the true and the false and brings the separation of the good from the bad.

 

Let us, however, understand clearly that we have in these parables not the full revelation of what is the blessed Hope for the Church. The Church is, as we have seen from our exposition, mentioned in this first Gospel and spoken of as being an institution of the future.

 

Not in the Gospels do we find full revelation about the church, her relationships, her calling, her heavenly hope and glorious destiny. All this is made known elsewhere in the New Testament. The parables concern the Christian profession in a general way. If we hold this fast in our minds we shall find no difficulties at all. This Christian age is a mixed age and will be so to the end and the Coming One will find the faithful and prudent servants and the evil servant; the wise virgins and the foolish; the faithful servants using their talents and the wicked and slothful servant. The Coming One will mete out the judgment. The faithful servant is called "Blessed," the evil servant is cut in two and cast out. The wise virgins go in with the bridegroom and the foolish face a shut door. The servants who used the talents are set over many things and the slothful servant is cast out into the outer darkness. That the Lord will first descend into the air (1 Thess. 4:15-18) and that the true believers, resurrected saints and living saints will be caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air to appear then before the judgment seat of Christ; that the unsaved, nominal Christians will go into apostasy and after the great tribulation receive judgment when the Lord comes out of heaven and all His saints with Him -- all this is not revealed in these parables.

 

And now we turn to the first parable.

 

"Who then is the faithful and prudent bondman whom his lord has set over his household, to give them food in season? Blessed is that bondman whom his lord on coming shall find doing thus. Verily, I say unto you, that he will set him over all his substance. But if that evil bondman should say in his heart, My lord delays to come, and begin to beat his fellow bondmen, and eat and drink with the drunken, the lord of that bondman shall come in a day when he does not expect it and in an hour he knows not of, and shall cut him in two and appoint his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth" (verses 45-51).

 

The Lord still speaks to His disciples, but let us understand now while they are viewed in the first part as Jewish disciples and typical of the remnant of Israel in the end of the Jewish age, here the Lord looks upon them as soon to be in connection with something new, that is, Christianity. The parable itself is the simplest of all three; yet it has very significant and far-reaching lessons. The thought in this parable is service over the household; the household are those who are Christ's. This household is to receive food in season and the bondman or servant, faithful and prudent, is to supply the household with that food. He does it faithfully and at the coming of the Lord, this faithful and prudent bondman is set over all the substance of his lord. This is an extremely beautiful and blessed parable. It takes us at once upon an entirely new ground. Judaism knows nothing of that kind of ministry which is spoken of here; it is essentially Christian. The Lord, the great shepherd of His sheep, for whom He died, whom He loves so much, appointed His own as bondmen of Himself, to feed His flock, to give them to eat. This is what pleases the Lord, and it is only another proof of how dear and beloved His own people are to Him. Faithfulness to Him and to His own, His household, is the teaching of these words. The true servant (and every true believer has a service) is faithful and prudent and attends to that, to which his Lord has called him. And what keeps in such service? What is it that makes it ever fresh and refreshing, sweet and precious? It is the Hope of His Coming, yea, His imminent coming. The next paragraph, the description of the evil servant with his evil watchword, will bring this more prominently to our view. The reward of the faithful and prudent servant is a higher service, a service over all the substance of His Lord. Service does not terminate with this earthly life; there is a service up yonder, for "His servants shall serve Him." Faithful service here fits for that higher service in His presence. According to our faithfulness in service here we shall find service there to the praise and glory of His Name.

 

But now the other side comes up. The Lord pictures an evil servant and he saith in his heart, "My lord delays his coming." He acts outrageously, smites his fellow servants and eats and drinks with the drunken; suddenly his lord comes and gives him his portion with the hypocrites.

 

The interpretation is easily made. Here is the spurious, that which has taken the name of Christ and claims to be a servant likewise. The person described is a hypocrite; he professes outwardly to be a servant under his lord, but in his heart he saith, "My lord delays his coming." Then he usurps the place of authority, instead of serving in meekness, feeding Christ's own, he domineers over fellow servants and associates with the drunken.

 

The faithful and prudent servant is a picture of how it ought to be in the house, the church, and the evil servant in his hypocrisy and evil work is a picture of Christendom in corruption. The starting point of this corruption, this domineering over fellow servants and association with the drunken, the world, began with saying "my Lord delayeth his coming." It began in the heart. He gave up first in his heart that Hope, which was so pronounced in the early church. The belief given up that the Lord would come back, the departure from the doctrine of the imminency of the coming of the Lord, soon brought out the evils which the parable pictures. If the return of the Lord at any time had been the heart faith of the professing church, all the abominations of which the parable speaks would have been well nigh an impossibility. Gradually the belief in the coming of the Lord was given up; and as it was abandoned in the professing church, "the domineers of the people," the Nicolaitans sprung up; an earthly priesthood was inaugurated, fashioned after a priesthood, which was the shadow of the better things, fulfilled in Christ. This false priesthood took the place of authority and domineers over the others, the servants of Christ. The separation was likewise given up and the church became identified with the world. It is another glimpse of the mustard seed in chapter 13 becoming a great tree with the birds flocking into its branches. The evil servant and his deeds are more fully pictured in the church message to Pergamos in the book of Revelation. But let us pass lightly over the fact that the evil servant began by saying in his heart, "my lord delayeth his coming." He may not have been that evil servant all at once; but as soon as he said in his heart that the lord delays he had taken the first step towards becoming corrupt in doctrine and in practice. The enemy had put that foolish thought into his heart and then led him on into the wickedness he practiced.

 

And has this no meaning for us? Indeed it Has. God's own Spirit through the Word has but a few years ago led back to the blessed Hope and the midnight cry has been heard, "Behold the bridegroom; go ye forth to meet Him." There has been a most powerful revival of the study of prophecy and the imminency of the coming of the Lord has been taught and believed with apostolic simplicity. It has led out and on into true service for Christ. One who believes in the imminent coming of the Lord cannot help himself from looking to that Lord of being responsible to Him for service and wait on Him for service. This has been the case. Of the large numbers of servants who have been used in preaching the Gospel and shepherding the flock of Christ, the great majority have been and are such "who wait for His Son from heaven." There is a remnant of faithful ones who expect Him to come, who wait for Him; this expectation leads to faithful and happy service. One can be very happy indeed in serving the Lord with the childlike but scriptural Hope "He may come today."

 

The enemy, however, is not satisfied with having God's people waiting for the Lord. He is the author of that evil cry, "my Lord delayeth his coming." And he has succeeded in producing it in these days of revival of the study of Prophecy. We know some who taught and believed the imminency of the coming of the Lord. All at once their voices were silent as to the blessed Hope. Why? In some way they became ensnared in teachings which put off the glorious event till after the great tribulation, the manifestation of the antichrist, etc., and this unscriptural view silenced their testimony completely. It is sad to see this, and we fear, if our Lord tarries, some of these men (as it has been already the case) will act the part of the evil servant in a still more pronounced way.

 

Let us beware of any teaching which has even the faintest insinuation in it of the Lord delaying his coming. It is not of God. Let us rather begin each day with the blessed expectation that He may come today and then go forth to serve and be faithful to Him. But be assured the enemy will not rest, but find some new and subtle way to take away the blessed Hope and the blessed expectation, and to try and bring us into conformity with the world. Only the power of God can keep us in these evil days in this simple path and that will rest upon us as we cling to Him, the Lord who comes.

 

We take the following from a recent volume by W. Kelly:

 

"Only let the children of God get clear of those clouds of noxious and unwholesome vapors that constantly rise up between the Lord and them. Let them cherish in their souls the hope He gave them. If you bring in a millennium first, it is hard to see Christ's coming clearly; it must act as a veil, which dulls the hope of that day. It may not destroy the hope; yet one cannot but look for His coming in an imperfect manner. If you bring in a great tribulation first, this also lowers the outlook and enfeebles the hope greatly; it occupies one with evils as they rise, produces a depressing effect, and fills the heart with that judicial trouble and its shade of desolation. They are mistakes of theorists. The one puts a wrong expectation between you and the coming of the Lord, kindling meanwhile a dreamy excitement in waiting for that day. The other case produces a sort of spiritual nightmare, an oppressive feeling in the thought that the church must go through so dreadful a crisis.

 

"Be assured, my brethren, that the Scriptures deliver us from both the dream and the nightmare. They entitle the believer to wait for Christ as simply as a child, being perfectly certain that God's word is as true as our hope is blessed. There is to be God's glorious kingdom; but the Lord Jesus will bring it in at His coming. Without doubt the great tribulation shall come, but not for the Christian. When it is a question about the Jew, you can understand it well; for why does the greatest tribulation come upon him? Because of idolatry; yea, of the Beast and the Antichrist worshipped. It is for him a moral retribution, with which the Christian has nothing directly to do. The predicted trouble falls on the apostate nations and the Jews. Those that ought to be witnesses of Jehovah and His Christ will at last fall into the dreadful snare of allowing the abomination to be put into the sanctuary of God."

 

_225

 

CHAPTER XXV

 

The second parable is the parable of the ten virgins. It is one which is interpreted by students of the prophetic Word in different ways; we are therefore obliged to give it our closest attention.

 

"Then shall the kingdom of the heavens be likened to ten virgins that, having taken their lamps, went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were prudent and five foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps and did not take oil with them; but the prudent took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Now the bridegroom tarrying, they all grew heavy and slept. But in the middle of the night there was a cry, Behold, the bridegroom; go forth to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the prudent, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the prudent answered, saying: We cannot, lest it might not suffice for us and for you. Go rather to those that sell and buy for yourselves. But as they went away to buy the bridegroom came, and the ones that were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut. Afterwards came also the rest of the virgins, saying Lord, Lord, open to us; but he answering, said, Verily I say unto you, I do not know you. Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour." (Verses 1-13.)

 

We have already shown that these parables have nothing more to do with the Jewish age and the remnant of His earthly people, which stands out so prominently in the first part of this discourse. However, as there is an increasing tendency among teachers of Prophecy to apply this parable of the virgins in a Jewish way, putting its fulfillment in the time of the great tribulation, we will be obliged to look at this view first and show that it is incorrect. After we have done this we shall be able to better grasp the meaning of this great parable and its teaching. The theory advanced is the following:

 

The Lord begins His parable with the word "then". This word proves that the parable refers to the time of the end of the Jewish age for that is described in the preceding chapter. Then -- when? -- when there is a time of trouble and the Lord is about to come. The parable is therefore applied by some teachers as referring to the condition of things on the earth at the close of the great tribulation. "Then" at that time when He returns after the great tribulation, shall the kingdom of the heavens be like ten virgins. It is furthermore claimed that the ten virgins do not represent the church, as the Bride of Christ. That the Bride is already with the Bridegroom and as the virgins are not the Bride, but go forth to meet the Bridegroom who comes with the Bride to the wedding feast, the parable could not be applied to present conditions; the Bride, the church, must be first with the Bridegroom, before the virgins can go out to meet Him.

 

Another fact is used to strengthen this exposition. Some of the oldest versions have additional three words in the first verse, so that it reads: "Then shall the kingdom of the heavens be made like ten virgins that having their torches, went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bride." The words are found in the Syriac version and also in the Vulgate. This is generally taken to be the conclusive evidence that the parable falls in its fulfillment in the close of the great tribulation and that the five prudent virgins are the Jewish remnant.

 

And now we challenge this exposition as being incorrect and contrary to Scripture. Let us look at the arguments against it.

 

The use of the word "then" proves the very opposite from what it is made to prove. "Then," this little word, has always a great significance in Prophecy. Now if the parable of the ten virgins would come in at the close of the forty-fourth verse in chapter 24, the parable could mean absolutely nothing else but an event which is connected with the end of the great tribulation. We learned that the forty-fourth verse in the preceding chapter marked the close of the part of the discourse in which the Lord speaks of the signs of His coming and the end of the age. If we were to read in the forty-fifth verse, "Then shall the kingdom of the heavens be likened to ten virgins, etc.," there would be no other way but to connect the parable with the mighty events which the Lord had just described. It would have the same application as the "then" in verse forty. "Then two shall be in the field, one is taken and one is left." But will the reader notice as we have shown before, that with the forty-fifth verse the Lord introduces an entirely different theme; it is no longer the Jewish end of the age, the Jewish remnant, their suffering and deliverance, no longer His visible manifestation out of the heavens, but it is teaching in parables concerning this present Christian age, the Christian profession. One parable He had spoken, the parable of the faithful and the evil servant. How perfectly it applies to Christian conditions in this age, the true and the false, we have seen in our exposition. The "then" with which the second parable begins is to be brought in connection with the first parable; it refers to the same period of time when in the professing sphere of Christendom there is a faithful servant and an evil servant, and not to the end of the Jewish age.

 

A brief word on the question of the virgins representing the Jewish remnant and the apostate part of the nation (in the foolish virgins) is in order. We read in the parable of the ten virgins going to sleep because the bridegroom tarried. It is generally conceded that the going to sleep happened on account of the long delay of the bridegroom and that the virgins watched no longer for his coming. It is impossible to apply this to the condition of things during the great tribulation. It is all out of the question to think of the remnant, if that remnant is represented by the wise virgins, as going to sleep, when that remnant, as we learned from Chapter 24 will preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and herald the coming of the King. This one argument is sufficient to completely answer this mode of interpretation. Furthermore the remnant is not called out to go forth to meet the bridegroom. The virgins are such who are called out to go forth. The remnant is the opposite. The prudent virgins have the oil, which is a type of the Holy Spirit; they have the supply of the Holy Spirit, which could hardly be applied to the Jews before the visible return of the Lord.

 

And what about the reading of some of the old versions? There is not sufficient evidence that it is genuine. The evidences against it are two-fold. The teaching that the church is the bride of Christ is a subsequent revelation. We cannot look for it here, and in the second place it is opposed to the meaning of the parable itself. This parable relates to the coming of the Bridegroom and that is why there is no need of mentioning the Bride. With this we dismiss this theory that the parable is one which refers to the Jews during the tribulation.

 

Before we turn to the exposition of the parable itself we want to mention another wrong interpretation which likewise is gaining ground in these days. It is taught that the five prudent virgins with the oil are such who have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit, who, have attained to a high standard of holiness, who are fully surrendered and are virgins indeed, separated from the world in the highest sense. The foolish virgins are Christians too, but lack the "higher life," a phrase as unscriptural as "the second blessing." Such teaching is not alone confusing but it aims finally at the Grace of God and the blessed work of our Lord. (Quite often Psalm 45 is used in teaching the difference of the Bride and the virgins. However, that Psalm refers to Israel and the nations.) We do well to beware of anything which magnifies the attainments of man and thereby obscures Grace. No, the wise virgins do not represent the select company called by some "the First Fruits," who are filled with the Spirit and are taken to be with the Lord while the foolish are "only justified believers" who have to go through the tribulation. The foolish virgins could not represent real Christians for the Lord tells them "I know you not."

 

And now before we look at the parable, which is simple indeed, we wish to remind the reader again, that it is not necessary that everything in a parable be applied in some way. A parable is an allegorical representation illustrating some great principle. This parable shows under the picture of the ten virgins the Christian profession, the true and the false again and yet in profession alike in having gone out to meet the Bridegroom.

 

It must be looked upon as referring first of all to the beginning of this Christian age. The Christian church started out so to speak with this two-fold attitude, separation from the world and in expectation of the Coming of the Bridegroom.

 

The teaching of Christianity is that such who accept the name of Christian are to go out and separate from the old and go forth with the purpose to meet the Bridegroom. It was so in the beginning. The Jews had to go forth from the camp and the Gentiles had to turn to God from their idols; all waited for His Son from heaven that blessed Hope, which was so lively in the very start of Christianity. The name "virgin" conveys the same thought of separation. The lamps which they had tell us of another Christian characteristic; he is called to give light. The first verse of the parable gives us in a few words that which is characteristic of the Christian calling and which was so marked in the beginning. Going forth, that is separation from the world, going forth with lamps, to give light and shine and going forth to meet the Bridegroom, who promised to come again. Separation, manifestation and expectation is that in which Christianity consists.

 

In the next place we read that half of the virgins representing the Christian profession were foolish. Their foolishness consisted in taking their lamps, but they took no oil. However, their condition is fully discovered and demonstrated after the midnight cry. The other five were wise and they took oil in their vessels with their lamps. What these lamps and vessels were is best explained by Edersheim. He says: "The lamps consisted of round receptacles for pitch or oil for the wick. This was placed in a hollow cup or deep saucer, which was fastened by a pointed end into a long wooden pole, in which it was borne aloft."

 

That we have in the division of the ten virgins, into five foolish and five wise, the false and the true is obvious enough. The five foolish virgins are representing such who are only professing Christians, while the five wise are possessing Christians, true believers. But it may be said, did not the foolish virgins go forth to meet the Bridegroom? In their profession they certainly did, but that does not make them really saved persons. Everything later shows that they were unsaved and all their profession was simply empty. They are the representatives of such who have the form of godliness (the lamps) but who deny the power thereof, who lack the power to give out light (the oil). And here again is an objection. Did they not later say "give us of your oil for our lamps are going out?" Then they must have had some oil else how could they say that the lamps were going out? There is no proof at all in this that they possessed oil. In the first place, it says in the beginning, "they took no oil"; this in itself should settle this question. In their alarm, however, when the cry of the coming of the Bridegroom was heard they made an effort to have shining lamps. Who does not know that a wick may be set burning without oil to give forth a puff of smoke and then to go out? This was the case with the foolish virgins. They never had oil as the great masses of professing Christians in these days have lamps, the form outwardly, but they have never accepted Christ in the heart, and therefore the oil, the Holy Spirit and His power, is lacking. A fearful condition it is! Alas! the innumerable thousands and hundreds of thousands who are in this condition today! The wise virgins represent the true believers, who not alone have lamps, but oil in their lamps with their vessels. The Holy Spirit is present with every true child of God, though he be the weakest and the least taught.

 

And now we read of the tarrying of the bridegroom and that both, the foolish and the wise, grew heavy and slept. This has been interpreted in different ways, but only one interpretation can be made. The bridegroom tarrying long they did no longer expect him and were overcome by sleep. In the beginning of the Christian church they all expected the coming of the Lord, but as years went on they gave up the blessed Hope and ceased looking for the Lord. The sleeping of the virgins stands for this fact that the expectancy of the coming of the Lord was given up. Occasionally during the centuries when the professing church had gone into corruption, there was an alarm of the coming judgment day. It was so in the beginning of the seventh century and about the year 1000. But it was not a going forth again to meet the bridegroom with joy, but rather the opposite, an expectation of judgment and the end of the world. The priests then made use of the opportunity and the poor frightened people expecting the end of the world handed over their treasures to the "church." Aside from these alarms of the end of the world the sleep continued, and instead of waiting for the Bridegroom, going forth to meet Him, the professing church, the foolish and the wise, became occupied with earthly things, earthly power and government and the conversion of the world. Here in this verse we note a second period in the history of Christendom, the period in which the return of the Lord is not expected; they all slept.

 

But now comes a third period. "But in the middle of the night there was a cry, Behold the Bridegroom, go ye forth to meet Him." The question is, has this period been reached or are we to wait for a startling cry of this nature, awaking the foolish and the wise, the professors and the possessors? Some teach that this midnight cry refers to the shout of the Lord when He comes into the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Dear readers, we are living in the very time of the fulfillment of this verse and are facing the soon coming of the Bridegroom. The midnight cry has been heard toward the middle of the last century, when the Holy Spirit through mighty instruments, though humble, gave a revival of the blessed Hope and all that which is connected with it. And this cry is still heard, "Behold the Bridegroom! go ye forth to meet Him." The enemy would silence this blessed word, but he cannot do it. But notice it is not alone the announcement of the fact of the coming of the Bridegroom, but it is more than that. The right reading is to leave out the word "cometh" in the authorized version and read simply, "Behold the Bridegroom!" The blessed Hope of His coming does not so much put the coming before our hearts as it does Himself. And as we behold the Bridegroom and know He is soon coming, how can we help ourselves but to go forth to meet Him. That means then a return to the true Christian calling, which is separation from the world, separation from all which is false and unscriptural, which dishonors Him. His person, His Work or His Word. And this has been exactly the case. The midnight cry has awakened the true believers to a return to the true position and led on to a separation from that which is evil. It is so still. There is of course a preaching and teaching of Prophecy which does not touch the conscience, which is only for the head. Men teach correctly all about the 70 year weeks in Daniel, the restoration of the Jews and the millennium, and they go on in their evil ways. This is an evil thing. May the Lord keep us from it. The midnight cry is given that we may go forth to meet Him and be truly separated unto Him, who is soon coming. And if we have heard that cry by the power of the Spirit of God and are gone forth to meet the Bridegroom, we have a responsibility to take it up and sound it forth. And now what happens next? "Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the prudent, Give us of your oil for our lamps are gone out. But the prudent answered saying, We cannot lest it might not suffice for us and for you. Go rather to those that sell and buy for yourselves. But as they went away the Bridegroom came, and the ones that were ready went in with Him to the wedding feast and the door was shut."

 

The midnight cry discovers the true condition of the foolish and the wise. The foolish without oil running hither and thither, the prudent calm, arising, trimming their lamps, ready for the Bridegroom. It is a most significant fact that the blessed Hope of the coming of the Bridegroom, the midnight cry, is causing a separation between the true and the false. Those who are the Lord's and have the oil seem to be attracted to Himself and love His appearing, while the others, the mere professors, are behaving as foolishly as the foolish virgins in the parable. We can do no better than quote from the writings of one of the earnest and devoted men, who were used under God, to have a part in giving the midnight cry. "Awestricken come the foolish virgins to the wise saying, 'Give us of your oil,' but this is beyond the Christian, and the wise bid them, 'Go buy oil for yourselves.' There is one who sells, but freely, without money and without price, to buy even from an apostle is fatal. The cry was given to revive the hope, as it had the effect also of recalling the original and only right attitude of the saints toward Christ. It was enough to sever the wise as alone ready to act accordingly. It was too late for the foolish; who but one could give what they wanted. What is the meaning of all the recent agitation? People zealous for religious forms, who know not really of Christianity. The foolish virgins are in quest of the oil, leaving no stone unturned to get what they have not, the one thing needful -- taking every way except the right. The decking of ecclesiastical buildings, the fantastical costumes of clergymen, the modern taste for church music, simply show that the foolish virgins are at work. They are not in fit state to meet the Lord and fear it themselves. They are troubled with the rumor of they know not what. The consequence then of this midnight cry is that a double activity is going on. For the Lord is awakening those who know Himself, and are wise by His Grace to go forth to meet the Bridegroom. The others, if indirectly are none the less powerfully, but in their own way affected by the cry and its effects, which rise not above nature and the earth." Utterly ignorant of the Grace of God, they are trying to make up by what is called "earnestness." They know not that they are far from God, yea, dead in trespasses and sins. So they think or hope, that being "earnest they may somehow or other get right at last. What delusion can be more hopeless?"

 

And what else might be added to this? Religious activities, societies, endeavors and other things are constantly multiplying and one can see readily in much of this the running about of the foolish virgins. None could take from the parable however that when the midnight cry is heard that an individual who discovers that he has no oil, that he is not the Lord's, could not come to Him, who is ready to sell without money and without price. Blessed be His Name, He stands ready to the very last moment to give the oil, fulfilling to the last moment while He tarrieth His own gracious word, "He that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." The trouble however with the foolish virgins is they do not want to come to HIM to buy of Him, but rather go on in their own natural, foolish way.

 

And now comes the last stage of this parable. The Bridegroom comes. The prudent enter in, the foolish are shut out. The door was shut. Oh, solemn, solemn word! The door was shut! How soon all this may be a reality. The midnight brought the cry; now we are facing the dawn of the morning. We are in the fourth watch. Soon He will come and all who are saved by Grace, though they may be ignorant of His premillennial coming, or sadly lacking in other respects, will go in to the wedding feast. All others, who are not saved, will be shut out. It is a final judgment. They can never enter in. "I know you not," is all they hear. "Watch therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour." Reader! Are you ready?

 

And now we come to the third parable. This parable concludes the second part of the Olivet discourse.

 

"For it is as if a man going away out of a country called his bondsmen and delivered to them his substance. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his particular ability, and immediately went away out of the country. And he that had received the five talents went and trafficked with them, and made five other talents. In like manner also he that had received the two, he also gained two others. But he that had received the one went and dug in the earth and hid the money of his lord. After a long time the lord of those bondmen comes and reckons with them. And he that had received the five talents came to him and brought five other talents, saying, My lord, thou deliveredst me five talents; behold I have gained five other talents besides them. His lord said to him, Well, good and faithful bondman; thou wast faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter into the joy of thy lord. And he also that had received the two talents came to him and said, My lord, thou deliveredst me two talents; behold I have gained two other talents besides them. His lord said to him, Well, good and faithful bondman, thou wast faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord. And he also that had received the one talent coming to him said, My lord, I know thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sowed, and gathering from where thou hadst not scattered, and being afraid I went away and hid thy talent in the earth; behold thou hast that which is thine. And his lord answering said to him, Wicked and slothful bondman, thou knewest that I reap where I had not sowed, and gathered from where I had not scattered; thou oughtest then to have put my money to the money changers, and when I came I should have got what is mine with interest. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that has the ten talents; for to every one that has shall be given, and he shall be in abundance; but from him that has not, that even which he has shall be taken from him. And cast out the useless bondman into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (verses 14-30).

 

This parable is not identical with the one which is recorded in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 19:12-27). The one in Luke, the parable of the ten pounds, was uttered before the last visit to Jerusalem ; the one here in Matthew when His visit was almost ended. The parable in Luke has more to do with the rewards in the Kingdom and has its special application into which we do not enter here. The parable here, following that of the ten virgins, shows us the same period of time, when the Lord is not present. We see in it again the responsibility which man has, in possession of the gifts which the absent Lord has bestowed and how the gifts may either be used or not used and that when He comes again the good and faithful servant will have an abundant entrance into the joy of His Lord, while the unprofitable servant is cast out.

 

The difficulty in this parable seems to have always been the servant who received the one talent. The teaching which is often, or rather generally given from his case, is one which is positively unscriptural. It is taught that he, as a believer and servant of Christ, did not make use of his talent and that all Christian believers who act in the same way, must share his fate. Upon this conception, believers are exhorted to faithfulness, to be diligent and use that which the Lord has given to them, in case they do not, they will surely be cast out into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. According to this teaching final salvation depends not upon the work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, but upon the faithfulness of the believer and upon the use of what he has received. How this thought can be enlarged is easily seen. Some say, indeed, that every human being has some talent, even if it is a very small one, some light, something good, and if it is used, improved, that little good developed, it will result in salvation. That all such teaching is wicked and strikes at the very fundamentals of the blessed Gospel, is seen at the first glance. How can we reconcile the teaching of the Gospel of Grace with the case of the unprofitable servant in this parable? There is no need of attempting to reconcile it, for the one who had received the one talent and who hid it does not represent a true believer at all. To verify this we only need to hear what he has to say, what excuse he gives for having put away the talent. His words discover his true condition. He was far from being a true servant with a heart full of confidence and love. He is the very opposite. He did not trust the Lord at all, and with his words he accuses the Lord of being a hard master. Surely a true believer could never say such words about his gracious Lord. That he did not use the talent at all and then upon his idleness accuses the Lord unjustly is proof enough that the man represents a mere professing servant. What the Lord had put at his disposal he had refused by not using it.

 

The whole parable, aside from the case of the unprofitable servant, is not difficult to understand. We must, however, be careful to avoid the thought that the talents, the five talents and the two talents, are things like earthly possessions, mental faculties, such as a good memory, a keen, logical mind, or a robust body. That all these are blessings and gifts of God none would doubt. The talents are His goods and delivered into the hands of the servants when He went away. However natural endowments are considered in the distribution of the gifts. To each is given "according to his particular ability." His own divine wisdom manifests itself in the bestowal of these talents. There is no true servant of Christ who is left without a gift. The absent Lord has given to each according to their ability.

 

Another great principle which this parable teaches is that the gift can be enlarged and increased. The two trafficked with the talents and doubled them. Exercise of any gift, no matter how small it is, will increase that gift and there will be gain, which of necessity is gain first of all for the Lord Himself. It will be for Him, as these servants laid before Him what they had received and what they had gained.

 

However, the distinction between the parable of the prudent servant and the evil servant at the close of chapter 24 must also be maintained. The sphere of the prudent servant was narrower. He had to give meat in season to the household. The talents here are to be used in a wider sphere. Just as the merchant who trafficks and wishes to gain goes outside, the servant of Christ is to use that the Lord has given to him according to his natural ability and as he uses it, whether it is the preaching of the Gospel or labor among God's people, it will increase.

 

And then the Coming of the Lord and how He dealt with the good and faithful servants brings out another principle. Each receives a reward. To each the Lord saith, "Well, good and faithful bondman, thou wast faithful over few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." He does not speak a higher and better word of approval to the one who had the five talents and brought him five other talents. Both hear the same word of approval. It is therefore not the question of how much we have received of the Lord, but how we use that which He has given to us. Faithful service, even in the smallest matter, though there be but one talent, will bring approval.

 

To fully understand "the setting over many things," and what it is "to enter into the joy of the Lord" we shall have to wait until we stand in His own glorious presence and see Him face to face.

 

May this parable, like the preceding ones, urge us on as true believers to be faithful to the Lord. Soon He will come. Soon we shall appear before His judgment seat to give an account. May we all use what He has given and use it with confidence in Him and with Love for Him.

 

In the closing verses of this chapter (vv. 31-46), we find the third part of the great prophetic discourse of our Lord. It relates to the Gentiles. Quite often this part is spoken of by expositors as a parable, just as some call the description of the future state of Dives and Lazarus in Luke 16, a parable. But neither is a parable. Both are solemn descriptions of events and conditions which are real.

 

The King here gives us the picture of a great judgment, which He Himself conducts while He occupies the throne of His glory.

 

"But when the Son of man comes, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit upon His throne of glory, and all the nations shall be gathered before Him; and He shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will set the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left" (vv. 31-33).

 

It is evident that these words must be connected with chapter 24:30, 31. The scene takes place after His visible and glorious appearing as Son of Man and after His elect (the remnant of His earthly people; that is, the "all Israel ") have been gathered. Leaving out the central portion of the discourse, the three parables, relating to the Christian profession, we have in chapter 24:3-41 and chapter 25:31-46 chronological events relating to the end of the Jewish age and the judgment which follows immediately after the Lord has come.

 

And will He occupy a literal throne? Some take it as being only a picture. But such a conception is totally wrong and dangerous. The angels will also appear with Him and will be seen by the inhabiters of the earth; what reason could be given that the throne, which He occupies, is a spiritual throne? No, the throne will be a literal throne, and it will be "His throne of Glory." To this same throne He referred when He answered Peter in chapter 19:28, "And Jesus said to them, Verily I say unto you, That ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit down upon His throne of Glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The "Regeneration," the "Paligenesia" of the coming age, begins with His second visible coming, and the first great event which takes place after He has sat down upon His own throne will be the judgment, as described by Himself in this part of the discourse.

 

The church is not seen here in Matthew. He will bring His own with Him and the church will take part in the scene pictured here as well as in the government of the earth and the universe. "Do ye not know that the Saints shall judge the world?" (1 Cor. 6:2). The angels will have their definite work in this judgment scene (Matt. 13:41-42). The question which arises now is who the persons are, who will be judged. What judgment is it, which the Lord here describes? There should be little difficulty in ascertaining this and the person who closely adheres to the text, without consulting the traditional views of the professing church will see at a glance who will be judged. The Lord says "all nations" will be gathered before Him. The persons judged must therefore be the nations, which are living in the day when the Lord appears in His Glory.

 

This excludes at once the true church. The church is with Him. No such judgment can be for the true church. The judgment seat of Christ (not of the Son of man) before which all true believers have to appear, either for approval or disapproval, is when this judgment of the nations takes place, a thing of the past. The judgment seat of Christ, before which believers have to appear, is not upon the earth, but in the air, in the place to which the church had been caught up.

 

Generally the great scene our Lord unfolds here of this judgment of the living nations is applied to a universal judgment. Such a judgment in which Jews, Christians, saved and unsaved, every member of the human race, all the heathen will participate is often preached from this passage, and another judgment scene, which is recorded in Rev. 20:11-15 is strangely identified with this one. We say at once there is not a line of Scripture which teaches such a universal judgment and no line of Scripture which teaches a universal resurrection, which is also taught by those who teach a general judgment. We repeat, a general judgment and a general resurrection is nowhere taught in the Word of God. However, we do not want our readers to think that we deny judgment and resurrection. We fully believe that every person who ever lived will be judged at some time, and every person who lived on this earth and died will be raised from the dead; but there are different judgments and two distinct resurrections.

 

If we turn to Rev. 20:11-15, the passage which is so often quoted with Matt, 25:31-46, we find it totally different from the judgment scene which our Lord describes here in His Olivet discourse. In Rev. 20 we do not behold a throne of Glory upon which the Son of Man sitteth, but it is a great white throne. Nor does that great white throne stand upon the earth as in Matt. 25, but the earth and heaven fled away and there was no place found for them. The subjects of the great white throne judgment are not living nations, but "the dead." As the context shows the nations, which were rebellious at the end of the thousand years were devoured by the fire from God out of heaven (verse 9). The great white throne judgment is that of the wicked dead and their eternal abiding place will be the lake of fire. This is the second resurrection or the resurrection of the unjust as our Lord calls it in John 5.

 

There is a first resurrection in which all the saved have a share, which begins when the Lord comes for His Saints, and the dead in Christ rise first and we which are alive are caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17). To this first resurrection belong likewise the martyrs during the great tribulation. All this is made clear by a few verses in the 20th chapter of Revelation. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection" (Rev. 20:4, 5). This proves clearly that there are two resurrections, one of the just and the other of the unjust, and they occur not at the same time, but there is a space of a thousand years between them.

 

Again let us remember that it is said of all such who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ that they have everlasting life and shall not come into judgment. For the true believer there is no judgment, because the Lord Jesus passed on the cross through the judgment as his substitute. The judgment seat of Christ of which we read in 2 Cor. 5 and before which all have to appear who are Christ's, concerns works, service, rewards, etc., and not an eternal destiny.

 

In our passage here an entirely different judgment is described. Not a word or a hint is given about resurrection; in fact, there is no resurrection at all in connection with the event pictured by the Lord. When He comes in His Glory, His church with Him, attended by the holy angels, He finds upon the earth His own earthly people Israel. The Israel which is left and passed through the fire and great tribulation has received Him as Redeemer and King and He turned ungodliness from Jacob. But He also finds living nations on the earth and these nations will be separated by the Son of Man sitting upon the throne of His glory. They will be parted by Him and the sheep put at His right hand and the goats at His left.

 

The place of the judgment of these living nations will no doubt be the land of Israel.

 

Zech. 14:1-5 and Joel 3 throws light upon this judgment scene. Let us then bear this clearly in mind. Matt, 25:31-46 describes a judgment, which takes place immediately after the Lord's second coming in power and in glory. The persons concerned in it are not Jews, nor the church, nor the dead, but the nations which are living in that day. And now after the separation has taken place the King speaks: "Then shall the King say to those at His right hand, Come blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the world's foundation; for I hungered and you gave me to eat; I thirsted and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked and ye clothed me; I was ill and ye visited me; I was in prison and ye came to me. Then shall the righteous answer Him saying, Lord, when saw we Thee hungering, and nourished Thee; or thirsting and gave Thee to drink? and when saw we Thee a stranger and took Thee in; or naked and clothed Thee? and when saw we Thee ill or in prison and came to Thee? And the King answering shall say to them, Verily, I say to you, inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me. Then shall He also say to those on the left, Go from me cursed into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels; for I hungered, and ye gave me not to eat; thirsted and ye gave me not to drink; I was a stranger and ye took me not in; naked and ye did not clothe me; ill and in prison and ye did not visit me. Then shall they also answer saying, Lord, when saw we Thee hungering, or thirsting, or a stranger or naked, or ill, or in prison, and have not ministered to Thee? Then shall He answer them saying, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have not done it to one of these least, neither have ye done it to me. And these shall go away into eternal punishment, and the righteous into eternal life."

 

And now in the first place, Who are the nations who are righteous and who figure here as sheep? That they do not represent the church and are not church saints, members of the one body, we have already demonstrated. It can easily be proven from the text itself. The righteous nations are called "the blessed of the Father," believers who constitute the church are more than blessed of the Father, they are in fellowship with the Father and the Son. These nations inherit a kingdom which is prepared from the foundation of the world. The inheritance of the church is higher than that. Our inheritance is with Himself. We are the joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore of the church it is said that God has chosen us in Him "before the foundation of the world." Other proofs that these nations do not represent the church we pass by.

 

These nations are saved nations and their acts of righteousness are given here. They were merciful to the least of the King's brethren; they fed them, gave them to drink, clothed them and visited them. What they did to the Brethren of the King, they did unto Him.

 

How great the confusion is among Christians on the meaning of these words! Often the interpretation given strikes at the very fundamentals of the Gospel. Generally charitable acts, such as hospitals and prison work, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked in connection with church work or philanthropic institutions, are thought to be meant by our Lord.

 

If any one does these things and is faithful in them the King will approve of them in the judgment and many a soul builds upon this foundation of sand. All this is absolutely wrong. The works have an entirely different meaning.

 

Who are the Brethren of the King whom these righteous nations treated with such kindness and mercy? They are the brethren of the Lord according to the flesh, in other words they are Jews. If this is grasped, the whole judgment, the righteousness of the nations at the King's right hand and the unrighteousness of the others, the goats, will be clear.

 

Let the reader turn back to the first part of this discourse. There we read, "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come." What the Gospel of the Kingdom is, when this Gospel is to be preached (during the great tribulation), who is going to preach this last great witness we have shown at length in our exposition of the preceding chapter. The preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom among all nations takes place during the end of the age. Up to this time this Gospel is not yet preached. The preachers of this Gospel during the ending years of the Jewish age will be the Jewish remnant. These are "Brethren" of our Lord according to the flesh. They will move among the nations of the world and give their startling witness in the proclamation of that Gospel, which will herald the nearness of the coming of the King and the Kingdom. How will they be received among the nations? Will their testimony be universally believed or will it be rejected? The words of our Lord here at the close of the discourse give us the answer.

 

Some of the nations will receive their testimony. They believe the Gospel of the Kingdom, this last great witness. They manifest the genuineness of their faith by works. The preachers who are going about are prosecuted and hated by others, suffering, hungry, and some cast into prison. These nations who believe their testimony show their faith by giving them to eat, clothing them, visiting them in prison, and by showing love to them. The case of Rahab may be looked upon as a typical foreshadowing. She believed. It was at a time when the judgment was gathering over Jericho (the type of the world). "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace." And again it is written of her, "Likewise also was Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?" She had faith and manifested it by works. And so these nations believe the messengers and treat them in kindness. Grace thus covers them because they believed.

 

They enter into the Kingdom and inherit the same; as righteous they go into eternal life. In other words, they remain throughout the kingdom age on the earth and pass on into the eternal state. That they will occupy with saved Israel a special position in the Kingdom we fully believe; nor can they share the revolt which takes place after the thousand years, when Satan is loosed for a little while.

 

The question may arise who these nations are, who will receive the Gospel of the Kingdom. This can hardly be answered now. One thing seems certain that the nations which heard the Gospel of Grace preached, who had a chance to believe will not have another chance to accept the Gospel of the Kingdom. (We are sorry to find this unscriptural theory of a second chance spreading in our day among many good people. Beware of it!)

 

And now the other side. There are nations in the presence of that throne of Glory who will be put at the left side of the King. The messengers came to them and they refused to believe their message and because they did not believe they did not treat the messengers in kindness and mercy. These nations continued in wickedness and unbelief; they rejected the last offer, and now their eternal destiny is to be forever settled. The King says unto them, "Go from Me, cursed, into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." At the close the Lord says, "And these shall go away into eternal punishment." How solemn are these words! Awful words! Go from Me! And where to? Into eternal fire. He does not say "Cursed of my Father," but simply "Cursed." The Father does not "Curse;" He does not want any one to be in the place of eternal distance and darkness. Nor is the place, the eternal fire, prepared for these nations, but it is prepared for the devil and his angels. By rejecting God's love and mercy, by continuing in unbelief they sided with the devil and his angels and now there is no other remedy for them but to share for all eternity the place prepared for the devil and his angels. At the close of the thousand years the devil is put into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). Previously the beast and the false prophet were cast into that place before the millennium (Rev. 19:20). The order of punishment then is the following: 1. The beast and the false prophet. 2. The unrighteous nations. These go there before the millennial kingdom. 3. The devil with his angels. 4. The wicked dead from the great white throne judgment. This takes place after the thousand years. Oh! the folly which tries to explain away the eternity of punishment of the wicked. Yet this is done in our present day as never before. God is too good, too merciful to do that; and others claim that while there is punishment, it is not eternal, but only age abiding. All these fanciful, philosophical theories, so popular in our day, are completely answered by the solemn words of our Lord, "And these shall go away into ETERNAL punishment, and the righteous into ETERNAL life."

 

Thus ends the last great discourse of the King in this Gospel and ere long all that which He predicted, sitting upon the Mount of Olives, will be reality. Reader! Let us live in the light of these solemn truths.

CHAPTER XXVI

 

The great last discourse of the King being ended there remains now nothing else to record than the story of His passion, His suffering, death and resurrection. This is the record of the remaining three chapters of the first Gospel. Two of these are the longest in the whole book. He had foretold in His great prophecy in the Olivet discourse the future of the Jews, the Christian profession and the future of the nations. Now He is to go and fulfill all the predictions concerning His sufferings and death, as written in Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. The twenty-sixth chapter, which we shall follow briefly, is one of contrasts. Here we behold Him in all His wonderful perfection again. With what calmness and dignity He enters upon that great work, which the Father gave Him to do. On the other hand we see wickedness and Satanic powers revealed which now cast themselves in all their fury upon the holy One. What a wonderful story it is which we have followed in this first Gospel. How marvelous the events and how perfect and divine the entire arrangement! Man could never have written such an account.

 

This chapter tells us of seven events, which we hope to follow in their order. These are the following:

 

1. -- The last prediction of His suffering and death (verses 1-5).

 

2. -- His anointing in the house of Simon, the leper, in Bethany (verses 6-13).

 

3. -- Judas betrays Him for thirty pieces of silver (verses 14-16).

 

4. -- The account of the passover meal and the institution of the Lord's Supper (verses 17-35).

 

5. -- The agony in the garden of Gethsemane (verses 36-46).

 

6. -- His capture and the accusations and sufferings before Caiaphas, the high priest (verses 47-68).

 

7. -- The denial of Peter (69-75).

 

"And it came to pass when Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said to His disciples, Ye know that after two days the Passover takes place and the Son of Man is delivered up to be crucified. Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together to the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together, in order that they might seize Jesus by subtlety and kill Him; but they said, Not in the feast, that there be not a tumult among the people" (verses 1-5).

 

We notice first of all the last prediction of His death. This is the fourth time He predicts His death in this Gospel. He not only predicts the manner of His death, but now also the time; He is to be crucified at the time of the Passover. All this manifests His Deity. He knew all beforehand. Let none think that all that which was before Him dawned upon Him gradually; He knew every one of the sufferings and all that which was now to come upon His holy head. But what calmness breathes in these words, in which He predicted His coming crucifixion! There is no anxiety, no concern about anything, but to do the will of Him that sent Him and to give Himself as the true passover Lamb.

 

No sooner is this announcement made and heard from His lips than the enemy becomes also busy. He would hinder this divine purpose that the great sacrifice should be brought at the predicted time. If he could not keep Him from going to the cross, he would attempt, at least, to mar the fullest meaning of that death. The chief priests and the elders are now together in counsel. The men who have appeared so often upon the scene of this Gospel appear once more, and through them the enemy utters his advice "not in the feast." But this much is decided, the King, the Prince of Life, is to be killed. They must get rid of Him, and so wicked hands are getting ready to crucify and to slay Him, as later the Holy Spirit declared "Him ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." All the wickedness, hatred of man and the sinfulness of sin, as well as Satanic power, is now to be revealed in the sufferings of Christ. And here He is the perfect One in perfect love and obedience, to do the Father's will, who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.

 

And now the second scene. It takes place in the house of Simon, the leper, most likely called by that name because he had been afflicted with leprosy. The beautiful incident, full of precious lessons, is followed by the murmuring of the disciples, especially from the side of Judas, as we learn from the Gospel of John.

 

"But Jesus being in Bethany, in Simon, the leper's house, a woman having an alabaster flask of very precious ointment, came to Him and poured it out upon His head as he lay at table. But the disciples seeing it became indignant, saying, To what end was this waste? for this might have been sold for much and been given to the poor. But Jesus knowing it said to them, Why do ye trouble the woman? for she has wrought a good work toward me. For ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always. For in pouring out this ointment on my body, she has done it for my burial. Verily I say to you, Wheresoever these glad tidings may be preached in the whole world, that also which this woman has done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her" (verses 6-13).

 

The woman who did this blessed work for the Lord is not named here. From the Gospel of John we learn that it was none other than Mary, the sister of Martha. To fully understand the scene here the account in the Gospel of John must be taken in consideration (Chapter 12). There we read the details of the feast which was made for Him in the house and that Lazarus was also present. How devoted Mary was to her Lord. We first see her at His feet listening to His words. "One thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part," He had said then. She had acknowledged Him in His office as Prophet. In John 11 we see her again at His feet. There she is weeping on account of the death of Lazarus; a little while later He weeps with her. She knew Him as the sympathizing One, as He is now our Priest. And here she anoints Him, and does it for His burying. In faith she realizes the near approach of that death, of which He had spoken. She believed He, the Lamb of God, would soon die; she understood more of that death than all the other disciples. Perhaps when she sat at His feet He had spoken to her about His coming death and burial and resurrection. But some readers of the Bible have a difficulty. Here in our Gospel she anoints His head, but in the Gospel of John she is at His feet and anoints them, wiping His feet with her hair. Critics and infidels who deny the inspiration of the Bible have pointed this out as one of the glaring contradictions, while others have thought of two different occasions when the anointing took place. There is, however, no difficulty here at all. She anointed both His feet and His head. The Holy Spirit reports the anointing of the head of the Lord in Matthew, because this is in harmony with the object of the Gospel. He is the King, and while He is the rejected King, her faith no doubt looked beyond death and burial. In John the Holy Spirit gives the anointing of the feet and leaves out the anointing of the head, because the King is the Son of God; as such he is described in the Gospel of John, and that attitude of Mary before His feet anointing them is in fullest harmony with the fourth Gospel.

 

It was an alabaster flask she brought full of ointment of spikenard, very costly. These flasks contained about a pound of this costly ointment; the probable value was 300 denarii, or about $50. It was a very large sum of money in that time, when we remember that a day laborer received only one dinar wages a day. Three hundred denarii was at that time as much as three hundred dollars to-day. How did she obtain so costly an alabaster flask with spikenard? Most likely it had been stored away from bye-gone days. It must have been the most costly she possessed. A heart filled with love and devotion prompted her to bring this costly ointment and pour it over the body of her Lord. To honor Him was her sole object, and that at a time when He was about to be rejected and forsaken by all. And let us not forget that she had learned this devotion and love to Him, manifested in the outpouring of the precious ointment, at His feet. Her heart occupation with the Lord, her anticipation in faith of what was before Him, led her on to do what she did. She had no eyes for what was around her, nor had she ears for the criticism of those who watched her deed. He and He alone was her object.

 

It should be so with us, and it will be so if we truly abide in Him. We, too, will bring our best to Him. May all we do, yea, the smallest act, be the result of the deepest appreciation of Himself, our wonderful Saviour and Lord.

 

And much more might be said by way of application of this most blessed incident. For instance from the Gospel of John we learn that the odor of the ointment filled the house. "Thy name is as ointment poured forth," we read in Solomon's song; well may we think of that precious ointment poured forth with its fragrant smell as a type of His death. In the same song we read "while the King sitteth at his table my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof." How it must have delighted and refreshed His heart when that ointment enveloped Him with its fragrance.

 

And now the murmuring. No doubt Judas was the leader of it, as we see in the Gospel of John. Some of the others were influenced by him. "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor. This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag and bare what was put therein" (John 12:5-6). Why this waste, What a state of heart these few words reveal! How different from her, who ever must remain the highest type of Christian discipleship -- Mary. She gave him the very best she had. The others thought of it as waste, as if anything devoted to the Christ of God, the One altogether lovely, could be waste. These two classes among disciples are still present; but how few the Mary-type in heart devotion.

 

The words He spoke in appreciation of her service and her gift have come blessedly true. Her act will never be forgotten. Beautifully has a saint written on this occurrence: we quote a part of it:

 

"Reader, whoever you are, or however you are engaged, ponder this. See that you keep your eye directly upon the Lord in all you do. Make Jesus the immediate object of every little act of service, no matter what. Seek so to do your every work as that He may be able to say, 'It is a good work upon me.' Do not be occupied with the thoughts of men as to your path or as to your work. Do not mind their indignation or their misunderstanding, but pour your alabaster box of ointment upon the person of your Lord. See that your every act of service is the fruit of your heart's appreciation of Him; and be assured He will appreciate your work and vindicate you before assembled myriads. Thus it was with the woman of whom we have been reading. She took her alabaster box, and made her way to the house of Simon the leper, with one object in her heart, namely, Jesus and what was before Him. She was absorbed in Him. She thought of none beside, but poured her precious ointment on His head. And note the blessed issue. Her act has come down to us, in the gospel record, coupled with His blessed Name. No one can read the gospel without reading also the memorial of her personal devotedness. Empires have risen, flourished, and passed away into the region of silence and oblivion. Monuments have been erected to commemorate human genius, greatness and philanthropy -- and these monuments have crumbled into dust; but the act of this woman still lives, and shall live for ever. The hand of the Master has erected a monument to her, which shall never, no never, perish. May we have grace to imitate her; and, in this day, when there is so much of human effort in the way of philanthropy, may our works, whatever they are, be the fruit of our heart's appreciation of an absent, rejected, crucified Lord!"

 

Mary's devotion was the cause of the failure of the plans of the enemies that the death of the Lord should not take place in the feast. It stirred up the traitor to action. This no doubt is the reason why the Holy Spirit gives the record of the anointing out of its chronological order. Judas' dark deed we behold next. "Then one of the twelve, he was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, What are ye willing to give me, and I will deliver Him up to you? And they appointed to him thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought a good opportunity that he might deliver Him up" (verses 14-16).

 

Who was Judas? His surname is given here. Iscariot is composed of two words "Ish" and "Kerioth;" translated "the man of Kerith." He was the only Judean disciple among the twelve, the rest were all from Galilee. This is significant and shows the apostasy of Judah, this man of Kerioth being the heading up of it as ere long there will be another heading up, in the man of sin and the son of perdition, the personal antichrist, who will be a Jew. (We desire to caution our readers against a fanciful teaching, which lacks scriptural support, that Judas will be raised up during the great tribulation and will be that man of sin, the antichrist foretold in 2 Thess. 2. Such teaching coming from otherwise reputable teachers of the Bible does much harm.) In Luke we have the information that Satan entered into him. That mighty enemy, who tempted our Lord and found nothing in Him, who took hold of Peter and used him as mouthpiece when he said, "Be it far from thee, Lord," now takes actual possession of the one, who was indeed his own, for Judas had never believed in Christ. Peter may deny Him and the rest of the disciples forsake their Lord, yet Satan could never enter into them, for they were saved, had life and the power of God kept them. The Lord knew that wicked one among His disciples. "But there are some of you who believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would deliver Him up" (John 6:64). "He knew him that delivered Him up; on account of this He said, Ye are not all clean" (John 13:11. Furthermore, all this had been predicted in the Old Testament. See Zechariah 11:12; Psalms 41:9.; 69:25; 109:8. And the price for which Judas betrayed the King was the price of a servant, a slave, according to Exodus 21:32.

 

And now the great event, the complete fulfillment of His own predictions concerning His sufferings and His death, draws nearer. He was not taken by surprise in anything. In the calmest dignity He moves on, knowing His Father's will He had come to do and that the mighty work could never fail, but would be accomplished. He is ready to pay the purchase price, to give all, to die for the nation, to obtain the treasure and the field and the one pearl of great price likewise. And now we follow Him and the disciples to the feast.

 

"Now on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Where wilt thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover? And He said, Go into the city unto such a one, and say to him, The Teacher says, My time is near, I will keep the passover with my disciples in thy house. And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover. And when the evening was come He lay down at table with the twelve. And as they were eating He said, Verily I say to you, that one of you shall deliver Me up. And being exceedingly grieved they began to say to Him, each of them, Is it I, Lord? But He answering said, He that dips his hand with Me in the dish, he it is that shall deliver Me up. The Son of Man goes indeed according as it is written concerning Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is delivered up; it were good for that man if he had not been born. And Judas, who delivered Him up, answering said, Is it I, Rabbi? He says to him, Thou hast said" (verses 17-25).

 

Is it not the purpose of our exposition to compare the different Gospel records, and so we shall not refer to the different accounts, which certainly are not conflicting. The first day of the feast of the unleavened bread was the day on which the passover was to be killed (Luke 22:7). It is, therefore, clear that He and His disciples commemorated then the Jewish Paschal Supper. He Himself does the ordering and manifests Himself as Lord throughout. Once more He announces the nearness of His passion -- "My time is near." What a moment that was! They had attempted before to take His life. That was impossible. The time is now near, His time, when the King was to lay down His life. Directly we see Him at the table with the twelve, and while they were eating He announces the fact of one of them being the traitor. What follows in that conversation may well be taken for a last warning to Judas. The Lord had seen him turning to the chief priests and knew of his bargaining with them. He read the whole dark story in that heart, which was before Him, the omniscient One, as an opened book. "Verily I say to you, that one of you shall deliver me up." This must have been aimed at the conscience of Judas Iscariot. Did he also show surprise? Did his face turn red or into paleness as he saw the innermost thoughts of his heart revealed? Each of them, with the exception of Judas, asks the question, Is it I, Lord? Judas is silent. Under the power of that awful being, Satan, who held him in his grasp, he hardens his heart. But more than that the Lord speaks. "He that dips his hand with me in the dish, he it is who shall deliver me up." The more detailed account of all this we find in the Gospel of John. While here we have only the fact stated of the betrayer dipping his hand into the dish, in John we read that the Lord gave him a sop. And Judas could take that morsel, a token of the love of the Lord whom he had rejected and was about to betray. It was a silent offer from the side of the Lord to give even to him, but he would not. He rejects that offer. Again we have the record for the second time that Satan entered into him (John 13:27). It was right after he had taken the morsel. The last offer was rejected, and now Satan gains a still firmer hold upon him and possesses him fully. At last these closed lips open. What awful, satanic hypocrisy he utters! "Is it I, Rabbi?" Such hypocrisy in the presence of Him who is the Truth can only be explained by the presence of that being in Judas, who is the father of lies. It is also a significant fact that Judas did not say "Lord" but he used the word "Rabbi" instead. This is evidence that he never had received Him as Lord and believed on Him as the Lord. He had power conferred on him to drive out the demons and to heal the sick -- messianic power, coming from the King, but he was nevertheless an unbeliever. "Rabbi" he said, because Satan had entered into him, and Satan refuses to call Him Lord. Yet the time will come when all knees, including Judas, must bow at (not in) the names of Jesus and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. For thus it is written: "Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and granted Him a name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly and earthly and infernal beings and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to God the Father's glory" (Phil. 2:9-11). From the lips of the Lord he hears the "Woe," and, according to the Gospel of John, "he went out immediately and it was night." He went out into a night without a morning, into eternal night, the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 13). And all who reject that Lord, who wilfully close their hearts against Him and refuse His authority, go into that night.

 

In connection with this solemn scene we find the description of another scene. We have now the record of the institution of that great and blessed memorial, generally called the Lord's supper.

 

"And as they were eating, Jesus, having taken the bread and blessed, broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is my body. And having taken the cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it. For this is my blood, that of the new covenant, that is shed for many for remission of sins. But I say to you that I will not at all drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father. And having sung a hymn, they went out to the mount of Olives" (verses 26-30).

 

What the passover feast of the Jews commemorated is so well known that it does not need further mention here. And now the true passover Lamb is about to be slain and He institutes another feast, a great and blessed memorial of His mighty work, of His sacrificial death upon the cross. "On that night the Jewish dispensation came to an end. The Passover, its great institution, had fulfilled its purpose; the Paschal Lamb it prepared for and prefigured was the next day to be slain. The same night saw the inauguration of a new feast which embodies the fundamental truth of Christianity, as the Passover embodied the fundamental truth of Judaism." (Weston in the Genesis of the New Testament.)

 

How fearfully the words of our blessed Lord have been misused, what blasphemous doctrines have been built upon the simple language of the Lord and how this blessed memorial has become the occasion for strife, violence and even bloodshed, we do not care to follow in our exposition. It would take hundreds of pages to record all that. The Roman dogma of the transubstantiation is a downright blasphemy. Hundreds of saints have been tortured and killed for stating thus the lie of transubstantiation, and, if Rome could, she would do the same in the present day. This transubstantiation claims that the bread and wine are changed into the real body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And then there is the consubstantiation, the doctrine that the body and blood of Christ coexists in and with the bread and wine, although they retain their nature as bread and wine. This is more or less the teaching of the Lutheran church.

 

But we refrain from following the different teachings concerning the Lord's supper. What can be more evident than that the new feast He instituted is a memorial? The Passover feast was a feast of remembrance, and what He does here on that solemn night was a simple meal to commemorate the giving of His body and the shedding of His blood. The account given here of the institution of the Lord's supper is in harmony with the character of this first Gospel. The Holy Spirit gives the record to show the blood of the new covenant, which the lamb of God shed for many, in contrast to the Jewish Passover, the old covenant which was exclusively only for the Jewish people. If we turn to the Gospel of Luke, which is wider in its scope than the Gospel of Matthew, we read the words, which give to the Lord's supper decidedly the character of a memorial. "Do this in remembrance of Me." It is then simply this to remember Him, not to receive anything, but to remember Him and His love. This is still more enforced by another record which we have of this great memorial. We find a record outside of the Gospels altogether. This record was given by revelation to the Apostle Paul: "For I received from the Lord, that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was delivered up, took bread, and having given thanks broke it, and said, This is my body, which is for you; this do in remembrance of Me. In like manner also the cup after having supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, this do, as often as ye shall drink it in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink the cup ye announce the death of the Lord until He come" (1 Cor. 11:23-26). And what better way could there be than the way He has shown in this request to remember Him, in this simple ceremony of breaking the bread and partaking of it and drinking from the cup? No doubt this request was fulfilled by the Saints of earliest date on every Lord's day; Acts 20:7 certainly gives one that impression; yet there is no law about it. The soul that is occupied with Him will ever long to fulfill that request He left in that night ere He was delivered up. "Till He comes" up to the time when we shall see Him face to face in the Father's house. It ever keeps Him, His death for us and His coming again as a bright and blessed reality before the heart.

 

"See the feast of Love is spread, Drink the wine and break the bread; Sweet memorials -- till the Lord Call us around His heavenly board; Some from earth, from Glory some, Severed only till He come."

 

But we return to the words of the Lord in this Gospel. Significant is the statement "But I say unto you, that I will not at all drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father." These words are characteristic to this Gospel. In Luke and Mark we read that He speaks of Himself as not drinking of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God has come. But here He speaks of that day when not only He will drink it anew but when He will drink it anew with His disciples in the kingdom of His Father. The words are beautifully in order in this Gospel, which, as we have learned, tells us so much of the kingdom. There is a day coming when that Kingdom will come in power and in Glory. It is the day of His return. Then His own will be associated with Him in heavenly Glory. For a deeper knowledge of that drinking anew with Him, the wine, the fullest joy in that mighty coming Manifestation, we have to wait till that day of Glory breaks. Dispensationally we see the King separated from His own people till the hour strikes when His Kingdom comes.

 

And now they leave the room after they had sung a hymn. This has been and is still the custom of the Jews in connection with the passover feast. Indeed it would be interesting and helpful to mention here the passover customs of the Jews; they are full of significant ceremonies. However this would lead us too far. Suffice it to say that the hymn they sang consisted of Psalms 115, 116, 117 and 118. In the Jewish ritual they are called the great Hallel. With what emotion of soul He must have sung with His disciples! What encouragement it must have been for Him! These Psalms contain such blessed and full messianic predictions. "The stone, which the builders refused, is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing, it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord." These words come in at the close of that hymn they sung, and while the disciples sang them as they had done so often before as pious Jews, for Him it meant so much. A little while longer, just a few hours, and the builders would reject Him. A few days more and by resurrection from the dead He would be the head of the corner, the chief stone, and in that shout, "Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord," He saw in the distant future a welcome from the remnant of His people, at the time of His Second Coming. And so the blessed One even then saw the travail of His soul and was satisfied.

 

The last notes have died away and He speaks again. "Then said Jesus to them, All ye shall be offended in me during this night. For it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered abroad; but after that I shall be risen, I will go before you to Galilee. And Peter answering said to Him, If all shall be offended in Thee, I will never be offended. Jesus said to him, Verily I say to thee, that during this night, before the cock shall crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter saith to Him, If I should need die with Thee, I will in nowise deny Thee. Likewise said all the disciples also" (verses 31-35). He revealed thus what was before them. The Scripture to which He refers is found in Zechariah. They were His sheep and He the shepherd, as He speaks of Himself in the Gospel of John, the good shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep. But the smiting of the shepherd, the smiting of Him who is called in that prophecy of Zechariah the fellow of God (Zech. 13:7), what was that to be? The cry of the forsaken One on the cross gives us the answer. He knew all that was before Him. (The teaching of the so-called critics, so strong today throughout the professing church, a school which claims that the Lord had no full knowledge of what the Scriptures contained, this teaching must be branded as wickedness.) And again we notice His calmness, His dignity through all this, which to a mere man would have been an almost unbearable ordeal. Then He announces His resurrection and that He would go before them to Galilee. Later we shall find the risen One there with His disciples, announcing the fact that He has all power in heaven and on earth. There is no mention made of His ascension. Peter now looms up. Once more poor Peter acts in self confidence in his own strength. The Lord had told Him before, "Where I go thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me after" (John 13:36). What significant words these were. They remind one of the third chapter of Joshua, of the record of the passing over Jordan. There was to be a space of two thousand cubits between the ark of the covenant and the people. The ark of the covenant of the Lord, typifying Christ, was alone by itself and had to make way for the people, and they followed after. So Peter would follow Him and die with Him, but he could not. Afterwards at the Lake of Tiberias the risen Christ tells him that he should indeed follow, revealing the time and the manner of his death, a death which the grace of God, the strength of the Lord made alone possible. Here he acts in the flesh, and in spite of the Lord's warning, he maintains that attitude, the attitude of self-confidence. The Lord announces his soon coming denial, the record of which we find at the close of our chapter.

 

"Then Jesus comes with them to a place called Gethsemane, and says to the disciples, sit here until I go away and pray yonder. And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply depressed. Then He says to them, My soul is very sorrowful even unto death; remain here and watch with Me. And going forward a little He fell upon His face, praying and saying, My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me; but not as I will, but as Thou wilt. And He comes to the disciples and finds them sleeping, and says to Peter, Thus ye have not been able to watch one hour with Me? Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak. Again going away a second time He prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass from Me unless I drink it, Thy will be done. And coming He found them again sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And leaving them He went away again and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then He comes to the disciples and says to them, Sleep on now and take your rest; behold the hour has drawn nigh, and the Son of man is delivered up into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us go; behold he that delivers me up has drawn nigh." (Verses 36-46)

 

What a holy scene it is that is now before us! We are face to face with the most solemn event in the life of the Son of God, save that hour when He hung on the cross, forsaken by God. It is a Scripture which we approach with the greatest caution; the words are ringing in our ears, the words which Moses heard when he stood in divine presence "put off thy shoes from off thy feet for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." It is a scene which draws out the heart in worship and adoration for it was for us He passed through this deep agony, for us that He, the mighty Creator fell on His face, into the dust of earth, He had created.

 

Hark! what sounds of bitter weeping, From yon lonesome garden sweep? 'Tis the Lord His vigil keeping, Whilst His followers sink in sleep. Ah, my soul, He loved thee, Yes, He gave Himself for me. He is speaking to His Father, Tasting deep that bitter cup, Yet He takes it, willing rather For our sakes to drink it up. Oh what love! He loved me! Gave Himself, my soul, for thee.

 

Even so, He loved me and gave Himself for me. Oh Thou blessed Lord, what agony Thou didst go through for the sake of having us poor, vile, miserable, lost sinners with Thee and share Thy presence and Glory throughout eternity. And how little we appreciate, honor and adore Thee! Much rather would we write in the strain of devotion and worship than to attempt by feeble human words a closer study of Gethsemane. Of an exposition of the events of that night we dare not speak. The suffering of our Lord in the garden is beyond the ken of any saint; no saint of God will ever be able to fathom the deep mystery of the sufferings of the holy One. If we could fully grasp His marvelous personality, how holy, how absolutely holy He was and absolutely perfect in Himself, we might be able to enter deeper into the agony of our Lord. Only the right estimate of His Person can give us, at least in part, a little of the meaning of His deep sorrow unto death.

 

But alas! just into this holy scene man with his reason and wrong conception has intruded and by attempting to solve the mystery of the suffering of the Lord has put dishonor upon His person. Different interpretations are about, which belittle and dishonor Him. We would rather pass these by, but it is expedient that we do not.

 

But recently, in a leading Christian magazine, the following appeared from the pen of a well known preacher:

 

"The second interpretation is, that He prayed literally to be delivered from death, then and there; that the severity of His agony was such that His physical nature was unable to bear it, and, unless sustained miraculously, life would have become extinct in the Garden of Gethsemane; that the conflict with Satan was so intense and prolonged that His human nature would have given way but for the Father's help. In this aspect, this was the gravest crisis of His dependence and need, and the Father did support and sustain, so that, instead of dying in Gethsemane, He was enabled and strengthened to go on to the greater agony and crisis of Calvary. We confess that our own minds turn absolutely and instinctively to the latter of these interpretations as the more rational, scriptural, and satisfactory."

 

We do not deny, that this interpretation is rational, but it is far from being scriptural. Indeed it has the elements of wicked doctrine in it. If it is true "that the conflict with Satan was so intense and prolonged that His human nature would have given way but for the Father's help" then Satan must have had the power to slay the Prince of Life. The reader will see at once to what such a conception must lead us. This interpretation likewise speaks of the agony His physical nature was unable to bear unless sustained miraculously and the possibility of His life becoming extinct in the garden. He, instead of dying on the cross, dying in Gethsemane. All this dishonors our Lord. We cannot tolerate such a thought for a moment. His life could never become extinct in Gethsemane ; there was no such danger of His death. At no time was our blessed Lord in danger of death. His body was not mortal but immortal. Death is the result of sin; where there is no sin death has no claim. Our Lord could never die under the attacks of the enemy. On the cross where He, who knew no sin was made sin for us, He gave His life; then as our substitute He died. His death could never take place till that solemn moment had come, when He was made sin for us on the cross. Furthermore He said: "Therefore doth my Father love Me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down myself, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17-18). Another view has recently been advanced. A brother wrote us about this as follows: "Have you seen anywhere that in Gethsemane, our Lord was delivered from death which he feared, according to Hebrews 5; and was strengthened to go on to the death on the cross, at which He aimed, and for which He came? His willingness to stop short of His finished work, and let all that He had accomplished thus far go if the Father so willed it, is the greatest instance of submission on record." The first statement is not true, as He was not delivered from death and the second statement is inconceivable. How could He be willing to stop short of His finished work, when He entered into the world for that very purpose and all depended on that work? How could He be willing to stop short of it after His own Spirit in the prophets had spoken of His sufferings and the accomplishment of this work of atonement? Such a conception is highly fanciful and full of mysticism. We refrain from pointing out other difficulties connected with this theory of His sufferings in the garden. But did He perhaps shrink from the physical sufferings of the cross, as others have maintained? Assuredly not, for He had announced so often, as we have seen in this Gospel, His rejection, suffering and death. And if it was not all that which is suggested in these different interpretations of His agony, what was it then? What was that cup which He dreaded? What was that sorrow unto death? It was this very fact we stated before, that He the Holy, the Spotless One, the One who is the image of God, was soon to be made sin and to stand in the presence of God, no longer as the Beloved One, but in the sinner's stead. God's face upon which He had ever gazed which had ever smiled upon Him was soon to be hid. That eternal love He enjoyed was to be no longer upon Him, but in its place judgment and wrath of God. And what was it when at last He was made sin for us? That awful cry from the cross gives us the answer, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" But oh! what did that cry mean for that Holy One? Shall we ever know its depths and the awful suffering the Holy One, made sin for us, had to pass through, when thus He cried? From this His holy soul shrank. His holiness and perfection even made this shrinking necessary. He could do nothing else but shrink from it, and yet He bows in perfect submission and obedience to the Father's will. Not my will but Thy will be done. This was before Him in the garden in that dark night of agony and sorrow. And here we would rest. But all praise and adoration to Thee our blessed Saviour and Lord for all Thine agony and sorrow and for Thine obedience unto the death of the cross!

 

Two Scriptures, one from the Old Testament, the other from the New, may be mentioned as giving further light on Gethsemane. The one hundred and second Psalm may be rightly termed "The Gethsemane Psalm." Its superscription is, "A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before God." It begins with the deepest distress and ends with the eternal Glory of the One who was in such sorrow. In the first part of this Psalm we find the great sorrow. Well may one think here of that pathetic outburst found elsewhere in the Word, "Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow" (Lam. 1:12). First we hear His cry, "Hide not Thy face from Me in the day when I am in trouble." Then He speaks of His days being consumed; His bones burned, His heart smitten and withered like grass; He is alone in His weeping and crying. Then again we hear the voice of the sufferer. "He weakened my strength in the way; He shortened my days. I said oh my God, take me not away in the midst of my days..." The words which follow are not addressed by the agonizing sufferer to God, but God addresses them to the sufferer, who is prostrated before Him. No one could have ever had this conception if the Holy Spirit had not given us the key. In the first chapter of Hebrews the closing words of the Psalm are quoted and there they are given as addressed by God Himself to the Son. As in the twenty-second Psalm, the deepest humiliation and then the exaltation of the One who suffered so we find it in the Gethsemane Psalm. The last verses of the one hundred and second Psalm are God's answer to the One who is bowed down in deepest sorrow.

 

The other passage we have in mind is the familiar one in the Epistle to the Hebrews. "Who in the days of His flesh, having offered up both supplications and entreaties to Him who was able to save Him out of death, with strong crying and tears (and having been heard because of His piety); though He were Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:7, 8). There is no doubt but these words refer us back to the Gethsemane scene. The supplications and entreaties with strong crying and tears took place in Gethsemane ; yea, even more than that, the sweat as if it were great drops of blood. But it does not say that He was saved "from" death. It is often assumed that He cried to be saved from death and upon this some of these Christ dishonoring conceptions are formed. He cried to Him who was able to save Him out of death. And He was heard. The answer came in His resurrection from the dead. But to return to the scene in the garden.

 

Where do we find His disciples? Three He had taken with Him and told them to remain there and watch with Him. Soon they were asleep. They were on the holy mountain with Him, eyewitnesses of His Glory. And did they sleep then? Luke 9:32 gives us the answer. "But Peter and they that were with Him were heavy with sleep; and when they were awake, they saw His Glory, and the two men that stood with Him." This manifests what the flesh is, which is fully exhibited in the disciples. Their Lord in tender love, appearing almost as if He looked for their sympathy, had requested them to watch with Him. Instead they sleep. How could they have looked into His loving face, with the solemn feeling upon them of great events soon to come and then going to sleep! Did that show love for Him? And He had spoken to them about not falling into temptation. They did not realize their need and their danger. And what tenderness and grace He manifests toward His disciples, who had failed! Oh the Glory of Himself even in that dark hour; how it shines forth! After He had prayed the third time He said to them, "Sleep on now and take your rest; behold, the hour is nigh, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners." Marvelous words of grace, calmness and dignity. The Shepherd is ready to give His life for the sheep, that they might have life and rest. The sword is soon to be unsheathed and fall upon the Shepherd, the man called by God "my fellow" (Zech. 13:7). The Lamb of God is ready to take away the sin of the world, ready to go to the slaughter as a lamb and as a sheep dumb before her shearers. Yea, the Holy One, the adorable, blessed One is ready to be stricken and smitten of God. What a path was His! Humbling Himself, He became obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross. The last part of that path is now before Him. What a theme it is! What food for our souls and what exercise of soul it brings to contemplate Him who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and despised the shame.

 

What other applications of this touching scene in Gethsemane might be made. How it teaches us submission and obedience and the highest prayer, the sweetest prayer as well to our Loving Father "Not my will but thy will be done." We leave these meditations to our readers with the prayer that He Himself may speak to each heart. Oh Lord, our Lord, we cannot fathom Thy Being, we cannot fully understand what Thou wast, but we know Thy love for us! We praise and adore Thee. Make Thyself a greater reality to our hearts. Amen.

 

And what a story it is which we have before us, the story of the passion of the King. And who could be able to follow the Lamb of God and fathom the depths of His sorrow! What it must have been for Him, the Holy, spotless One, to be thus delivered into the hands of sinners! Again we say that it is quite impossible to write an exposition of all these solemn events connected with the suffering and death of our Lord. Much of what might be written by way of application we must leave unsaid; it would take volumes to do that.

 

It was while He was still speaking to His disciples that the enemies came to take hold of Him, to take the Beloved of the Father captive. "And while He was yet speaking, Behold Judas, one of the twelve came, and with him a great crowd with swords and sticks" (verse 47). It seems that Judas made good use of his time since he left the room where the feast was kept. The Lord had said to him, knowing the thoughts of his dark heart, "What thou doest, do quickly." Possessed by Satan, he had rushed forth into the dark night, and, in feverish haste, led on by the evil one, he had succeeded in all his plans. The officers and a detachment of Roman soldiers, most likely several hundred, were put at his disposal. These carried swords and other weapons, besides lanterns and torches. These were Gentiles; perhaps of different countries, such which Rome had conquered. But there were others, and they carried sticks. The temple guard had turned out in full force; these were the hirelings of the chief priests and elders. The rabble of the street no doubt was also represented, for it was a great crowd. What a scene! Gentiles and Jews come to lay their hands on the Prince of Life, the Lord of Glory, ready to commit the greatest sin. All the sinfulness of sin is now to be manifested. But why such a great multitude and such precaution to capture one man, who was "meek and lowly"? What a testimony after all to His power, which they feared and yet what blindness.

 

Judas appears first on the scene. Behold Judas! What a surprise it must have been for the disciples, aroused from sleep, to find him present who had withdrawn from them under such mysterious circumstances. From the Gospel of Luke we learn that he was not only the leader of the great crowd but he walked ahead of them. What a subtle plan he had laid, and in it the cunning of that same Serpent which was in that garden, in which the first Adam had been placed. How cunning and yet how blunt. All had been arranged so as to make His escape impossible. The traitor was to kiss Him so that the Lord might be known and likewise become detached from the disciples; then they were to press at once upon Him and capture Him. All was carefully premeditated. Judas by his action and his plan shows that he did not believe in the Lord as the Son of God; he knew His power. When he walked before them he may have cunningly aimed at the hiding of his satanic deed.

 

And now he reaches the side of Him whom he still calls "Rabbi." The first word he utters was a word of joy. "Oh, the joy! Rabbi" -- thus it reads in literal translation. Then he kissed Him eagerly. The symbol of love, devotion and faithfulness so much used in the Orient is used by the traitor. What must the Holy One have suffered, when the one who had been in His loving company came up and had uttered that word, "Oh, the Joy"? What suffering must have passed through that loving heart when He felt the vile lips of that one upon His cheeks!

 

And to think that He who rebuked the sea and it obeyed His voice, whose omnipotent word had healed the sick and raised the dead, should thus be delivered up. Oh, what a story it is!

 

"But Jesus said to him, Friend, for what purpose art thou come?" What calm and gentle answer to the Satan-possessed Judas Iscariot. Should not this tender question have touched the conscience of the traitor? He was beyond hope. It is significant that the Lord addresses him with the word, Friend. Yet it is a different word which the Lord used in calling His disciples as recorded in John 15. The word He uses here signifies "companion." Judas had been a companion of the Lord, He had beheld His mighty works, and had by Him messianic power to heal the sick conferred upon himself. This is the last word that wicked man ever heard addressed to himself by the Lord. The next time we behold him is when he is filled with remorse, casting the pieces of silver in the temple; then he went and hanged himself.

 

And now they laid hands upon the Lord and seized Him. The rough hands of the inhuman Roman soldiers, the cruel hands of the hating Jewish mob took hold of that sinless body of the Lamb of God. All were energized by Satan who stands behind all this and that which follows; it is the hour of darkness and the manifestation of the power of darkness upon Him, the willing sacrifice.

 

But far different is the description of His betrayal in the Gospel of John. Not a word is said in that Gospel of His agony in the garden. As Son of God, described in the fourth Gospel, no such record would be in order. And when they come to take Him, He meets them with a calm, "Whom seek ye?" His majestic answer "I am," makes the whole multitude of Roman soldiers, temple guards and the mob fall down. "They went backward and fell to the ground." All He needed to do was to walk away and disappear between the trees of the garden. There is, of course, no discrepancy here. The Gospel of John simply shows the divine side of that scene. He allowed Himself bound, and that with the condition "let these go away." He surrenders Himself; His own are free. Blessed hint of that precious Gospel of the Son of God.

 

An incident is connected with this great event which is full of instruction. The hasty action of Peter, as we learn from the Gospel of John, almost marred the gracious scene, and only the Lord's hand could overrule the serious consequences of that action and bring good out of it. The confusion of the disciples must have been great when their beloved Master was taken captive. To see how the meek One, whom they had followed, at whose feet they had sat, in whom they believed as the Christ of God, was taken by these rough men, was too much for them. They had between themselves two swords. The words of the Lord about "Selling his garment and buying a sword" had been taken literally by them. Simon Peter possessed one of these swords, and had he not said he would be willing to lay down his life for the Lord? Now the opportunity had come to show his willingness to redeem his promise and his loyalty to his Master. In fearful rashness he draws the sword and strikes the one next to him. He strikes with the intent to kill. The one hit is the servant of the High Priest by name of Malchus. The mercy of the Lord prevented the worst and Peter only takes off the ear of the servant. Surely it was courage in Peter to do this. To attack such a large body of people was fearlessness; loyalty to Christ was the cause of the action. And yet how it belittled the Lord! Did He who had said just the word "I am" and his enemies had fallen into the dust, need such a defense? Did He who willingly stretched out His hands, the willing captive, need Peter's interference to make Him free? Upon the holy mount Peter had quite lost sight of the dignity of Him whom he called Lord and classed Him with Moses and Elias, and here he errs in the same manner. The Lord has to remind him of his mistake. "Return thy sword to its place; for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword. Or thinkest thou that I cannot now call upon my Father, and He will furnish me more than twelve legions of angels? How then should the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?" (verses 52-54). If it were a case of self-help how easy it would have been for Him to summon the angels. Peter stood in all probability in the attitude of defiance, ready to strike again if he should be attacked in return. He is told to put up the sword. Though loyal to the Lord, he had dishonored Him and not manifested the graciousness and mind of Him, whom He tried to defend. Alas! how many of us have followed impulsive Peter in this action.

 

The Scriptures had to be fulfilled, and from now on we see indeed the fulfillment of Scripture. Elsewhere we read that the Lord touched the ear of the wounded servant and healed him. It was the last miracle of healing the Lord performed before He went to the cross, and that was done to an enemy. In the tumult and confusion of the hour the act of Peter passed unnoticed.

 

"In that hour said Jesus to the crowds, Are ye come out against a robber with swords and sticks to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple and ye did not seize me? But all this is come to pass that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left Him and fled" (verses 55-56). The word He had spoken was now fulfilled, "All ye shall be offended because of Me this night; for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." The Shepherd is left alone. We pass over the account found only in the Gospel of Mark about the young man who followed clad in a linen garment.

 

Alone and forsaken the blessed Lord is taken away captive. What a scene it must have been! The fleeing disciples disappearing in the darkness of the night, the mob leading Him hence; no doubt they buffeted Him with blasphemous curses dragging Him along and so soon Gethsemane, the place of that solemn drama, is enshrouded in the stillness of the night. But oh, what it was that took place there. The mighty Creator, the Son of God, the Holy One in His agony and sinful man laying hold of the Lord of Glory!

 

We will be obliged as we pass on in meditating on the passion of our Saviour to confine ourselves strictly to the Gospel, which we study. We do not write an exposition of the entire story of His suffering and what was done to the Man of Sorrows, but only as the Holy Spirit has recorded these events in the first Gospel. And in doing this, we shall point out only the leading features.

 

First we see Him before Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. They expected Him to be brought in. What triumph must there have been upon their faces, when at last in that memorable night, the One whom they hated and despised was brought securely bound into their presence, under arrest in the hands of the Gentiles.

 

He must appear before the ecclesiastical council first; He must be tried there. But what can they say against Him? What evil had He done? They had watched Him closely. Deputations, one after another, had tried to ensnare Him. Pharisees and Sadducees, as we have seen in our study of this Gospel, had come to tempt Him. They found nothing in Him. He had asked the question in one of His great discourses, which they had heard. Which of you convinces Me of sin? There was no answer. He was the sinless One, the perfect and holy One. But it is their hour and the power of darkness. Thus we read: "And the chief priests and the elders and the whole Sanhedrin sought false witness against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death." But did they succeed? "And they found none, though many false witnesses came forward." They could find nothing. Therefore, He ought to be freed. "But at the last two false witnesses came forward and said, He said I am able to destroy the temple of God, and in three days build it." But this was a wrong quotation of His words and a wrong application. Besides this, as we learn from the Gospel of Mark, the witnesses did not agree amongst themselves. It was impossible to convict Him on such a charge. He had not a word to say. They look upon Him with their awful hatred. The high priest attempts to get Him to answer. "Answereth Thou nothing?" "But Jesus was silent." It is obvious they could not convict Him. The charge against Him was blasphemy. They had miserably failed in proving anything whatever against the Lord. But condemned to death, He must be. He must die.

 

There remained just one thing to be done, and that was to put a question to Him directly, a question, which He could not refuse to answer. Why did they not do this at once? He had first to be shown as the Holy One, the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish. The moment has come. Most likely the High priest in his excitement had arisen from his seat. The silent victim stands immediately before Him. They are face to face. The furious, heated face of Caiaphas looks into the loving tender eyes of the Lord. Did this high priest and his associates know that this lowly One, standing bound in their presence, is the Son of God, the promised Messiah? They knew that He had given the witness to that effect throughout His public ministry. He had not only given the self-witness, that He and the Father are one, that He is the Son of God, but His works had fully established His Deity. The last question the Lord put to the Pharisees concerning the Christ, whose son He is, (Chap, 22) had been answered by Him in a way they all understood. There was no doubt, they knew Him, even as the Lord had said in the parable, "He is the Heir; come let us kill Him". The high priest knew he would succeed if he put that question concerning His Sonship to Him. But little he knew what he was doing; the blessed One could not be condemned by false witnesses. His own confession of who He was, the confession of the truth alone could bring about His condemnation. "And the high priest answering said to Him, I adjure Thee by the living God that Thou tell us if Thou art the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus says to Him, Thou hast said. Moreover, I say to you, From henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Verses 63-64.)

 

Under that oath He could not be silent. For this moment He was waiting to witness that good confession. He confesses Himself the Christ, the Son of God and witnesses to His future Glory at the right hand of power, and His visible manifestation at the time of His Coming again in the clouds of heaven. What a confirmation of the fact that He is the willing sacrifice of the Holy One, who will drink that bitter cup and fulfill the Scriptures. "They all heard it -- and, as the Law directed when blasphemy was spoken, the high priest rent both his outer and inner garment, with a rent that might never be repaired. But his object was attained. Christ would neither explain, modify, nor retract His claims. They all had heard it. What use was there of witnesses." Behold now ye have heard the blasphemy. "Then turning to those assembled, he put to them the usual question which preceded the formal sentence of death. As given in the rabbinic original it is: 'What think ye gentlemen? And they answered, If for life, "For Life." If for death: "For death."' But the formal sentence of death, which if it had been a regular meeting of the Sanhedrin, must now have been spoken by the president, was not pronounced." (Edersheim)

 

"What think ye? And they answering said, He is liable to the penalty of death." (Verse 66). What a justice! Satanic, fiendish injustice rather. But there He stands, the silent Lamb of God. What a picture! Oh that we might behold Him once more as He stood before this company of His enemies. What calmness. "Majestic in His silence, majestic in His speech; unmoved by threats to speak, unmoved by threats when He had spoken."

 

And now affecting the scene, which follows. His confession set the powers of darkness loose and the undefending Christ, the Son of God is tasting a little of the cup He had to drink. Oh to think of it! They spit in His face! That face, which in loving tenderness had gazed with compassion upon the multitudes, yea, that face, the image of the invisible God, was covered with vile spittle of men. How He must have suffered! They buffeted Him, struck Him with the palms of their hands, mocked Him. And not a word, not a murmur came from His blessed lips. "When reviled, He reviled not again, when suffering, He threatened not." And reader! it was all for such vile sinners as we are! He loved us and gave Himself for us. What a Saviour! How little we think of Him; how little that which He did for us is before our hearts and has a governing power over our lives. Oh Lord! Thou art worthy of all. And then to think that such a Saviour is rejected of those for whom He suffered thus, dishonored, His mighty work denied among those who profess His name.

 

The last paragraph of this solemn chapter concerns Peter. Peter had followed Him at a distance, even to the palace of the high priest and entering in, sat with the officers to see the end. Perhaps when they all had fled, he remembered his promise to the Lord and so at a distance he followed. Far better it would have been for Peter if he had not followed at all.

 

"Now Peter sat without in the court, and a maiden came unto him and said, Thou also wast with Jesus, the Galilean. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he had gone out into the entrance, another saw him, and said unto those that were there, this man also was with Jesus, the Nazarene. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. But after a little while, they that stood by came and said unto Peter: Of a truth thou art also of them, for even thy speech discovereth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus that He had spoken, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And going out, he wept bitterly" (verses 69-75).

 

Poor Peter has to learn the depths of his own self. In self assertion and self confidence, he had boasted to lay his life down for the Lord. His Lord knew him; he was a true believer, but did not know the weakness of himself. That weakness had to be uncovered, he had to be sifted as the Lord had told him. Far different was the case of Judas. He was not a believer at all, only a professing one, and the wickedness of the flesh is manifested in his case.

 

Peter, as a true believer, did not know what the flesh was, as alas so many believers are ignorant of the true nature of the flesh. There was no willingness in Peter to sin; he wanted to do that which he had told the Lord, but he was ignorant of his own weakness. Step by step he had approached this sad and sorrowful moment. He did not plunge suddenly into the out and out denial of the Lord; he never meant to say what he did say. Had any one told him, "Peter, you are going to curse and swear, declaring, I know not the man", he would have shuddered in horror and vowed, he could never do such a thing. Gradually he had been drawn towards this awful denial. "Watch and pray" the Lord had said "that ye enter not into temptation." Peter had slept; he had neglected prayer. He could not watch an hour with His Lord. Here the first step was made. Because he was ignorant of the real character of the flesh, that old nature, he did not pray. If he had known what the flesh is he would have cast himself upon the Lord and watched and prayed. And this is the cause of every denial of our blessed Lord; and how numerous these are!

 

What sad repetitions of Peter's fall in the lives of God's people. The absolute worthlessness of the flesh is learned and learned over and over again by many a sad experience. The consciousness of our utter weakness in ourselves must ever lead us into a closer fellowship in prayer with Himself. But over this sad scene of failure and denial was the gracious, loving praying Lord. Peter was His own; he could not go the way Judas went. He had foreseen all. Ere it happened He told Peter what he would do and how Satan's power linked with the flesh would result in his denial. But more than that the Lord had prayed for him. "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." Where would have Peter been, if it had not been for that prayer of the Lord. And so His loving eye watched him, and when the sin was committed and the right moment came, there was not a word spoken to Peter, but the Lord looked upon Peter. Their eyes met. That was enough. What was in that look? An angry reminder what Peter had done? A frown which showed displeasure? Far from that. It must have been a tender, loving, sad look. It went home to Peter's heart. He remembers now. The horror of his denial breaks upon him. Had he not been the Lord's own, had he not known the Lord, Satan who had led him gradually on, would have rushed him into despair. But we see him rushing out and behold him in the night, the dawning morning in the East, convulsed with bitter weeping. What a weeping it was, the tears of repentance, self judgment flowed freely. Broken in heart and broken in spirit with that tender look burning in his soul, he weeps and weeps. Reader do you know anything of such tears? You do if you walk with the Lord. Another one rushes out too when that morning had come. He went out and -- hanged himself. Satan claims his own. Oh what a loving Saviour and Lord we have. How He dealt with Peter. How He has dealt with us and still cares for His own, prays for them and keeps them and restores them to service as He did with His denying Peter. _286

 

CHAPTER XXVII

 

In this great chapter we follow the Lamb of God to the cross. What a journey it was! He, who had lived that wonderful life, had healed the sick, commanded the demons, raised the dead, He, who is announced in the beginning of this Gospel to be Immanuel, God manifested in flesh, the Beloved of the Father is in the hands of men, led away to the cross. What sufferings were His? Who is able to follow the depths of that shame, which He despised, the cross which He endured? But feebly we can meditate on these things, which He suffered in our stead.

 

The previous chapter closed with that sad record of Peter's denial and his bitter weeping. The Lord had given His great confession before the high priest, the confession of truth, which resulted in His being condemned to death. The morning had come after this eventful night. (We cannot enter here into the chronology of that week to correct some of the errors of the traditional View.) There was no sleep for many in that night. The Son of God who had watched and prayed in the garden saw no sleep; dragged along He was and reviled by sinners. Peter saw [little] sleep; he went out and wept. The forsaking disciples [had little] sleep; they had fled terror stricken. The chief priests waked and plotted on how to proceed against the Holy One in putting Him into the hands of the Roman governor. Securely bound they led Him away through the streets of Jerusalem, to hand Him over to Pontius Pilate. (Verses 1-2) What humiliation for Him to be thus led away! What a contrast with that which happened a few days before, when He was welcomed by the multitudes as the King of Israel!

 

But before we see Him standing in the presence of the roman governor, the Holy Spirit gives us the record of what became of Judas. "Then Judas, who delivered Him up, seeing that He had been condemned, filled with remorse, returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, I have sinned in having delivered up guiltless blood" (verses 3-4). No doubt he stood there and witnessed all what was done to the Lord. He too spent a sleepless night. He saw the meek and lowly One, buffeted and spit upon. It left him all unmoved; there was no love for the Lord in that heart. Did he expect the Lord to manifest that power of which he, the traitor had been so often an eye witness? Perhaps this very thought it was, which Satan, who had entered into him suggested. His love for money, Satan used as bait. He may have whispered "You get the money and he will take care of Himself. He will not die but get free." Thus Judas was deceived to sell the Lord. What a sin covetousness, the love of money is! It is the root of all evil; it is idolatry. And this sin is one of the great sins of the present day. Its worst feature is that betrayal of the Lord and His truth, for "filthy lucre's sake" which goes on in Christendom. Professed teachers, who are described in the Epistle of Jude and in the Second Epistle of Peter, who are nothing but natural men, not having the Spirit, who use great swelling words, which the world calls "oratory" are betraying the Lord as Judas did. They are rushing too in a darkness, just as dense as that into which Judas rushed that night. The Word declares "to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever."

 

He goes to the priests, who were just as much under that satanic power as he was. He gives them his confession. He has betrayed guiltless blood. That much at least he acknowledges. Then he hanged himself. This is the way Satan uses his victims. He deceives; he is a master in reasoning in a subtle way. He leads on and on, deeper and deeper and when the sin is committed he leads into despair and drags his victim down with himself into the place, which is prepared for him and his angels. Oh, what grace and blessing, to be delivered from the power of darkness, from that awful master. Judas after committing suicide went to his place (Acts 1:25). The view given out by some teachers that Judas will come out of his place, to which he departed, and that he will be the final antichrist, the man of sin, is highly fanciful; one does well to beware of such views.

 

The silver pieces he cast into the temple and the priests, as covetous as Judas, stoop down to pick them up. That which follows is only reported in this Gospel, in the other Gospel records no mention is made of the fate of Judas. It is put only in the Gospel of Matthew on account of its dispensational bearing. The priests judge very religiously that it is not lawful to put the money into the Corban, the treasury of the temple. They decide to buy with the pieces of silver, the field of the potter for a burying ground for strangers. This was in partial fulfillment of what was spoken by Jeremias. The full prophecy is found in Zechariah, but the Spirit calls here attention to what is also spoken by Jeremias. We read in that book (Chapters 17 and 19) of a potter's field, which was situated on the side of the valley of Hinnom. That valley is also called "Tophet", a fearful type with its awful memories of Gehenna. Perhaps there, Judas had ended his earthly existence, and after hanging himself had fallen down, and burst asunder. This potter's field was bought with the blood money.

 

"By a fiction of law the money was still considered to be Judas', and to have been applied by him in the purchase of that potter's field, for the charitable purpose of burying in it strangers. But from henceforth the name of potter's field, became popularly changed into that of "field of blood." And yet it was the act of Israel through its leaders. It was all theirs, though they would have fain made it all Judas': the valuing, the selling and the purchasing. And "the potter's field", the very spot on which Jeremiah had been divinely directed to prophecy against Jerusalem and against Israel, how was it now all fulfilled in the light of the completed sin and apostasy of the people, as prophetically described by Zechariah! This Tophet of Jeremiah, now that they had valued and sold at thirty shekels Israel 's Messiah-Shepherd -- truly a Tophet, and become a field of blood! Surely not an accidental coincidence this, that it should be the place of Jeremiah's announcement of judgment, not accidental, but veritably a fulfillment of this prophecy. (Edersheim Life and Times of the Messiah.)

 

Prophetically all is a foreshadowing of what was to happen to Israel and Israel 's land on account of the bloodguiltiness, which they took upon themselves. Israel 's land becoming "a burying place for strangers" and Israel scattered among the nations, finding their graves in Haqal Dama, a field of blood.

 

We see Him now before Pilate, the Gentile governor, where He was to be condemned to die; the Jews had no power and right to execute any one. First He was condemned by the Jews and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, who also condemned Him. The crowning sin of the world was therefore committed by both, the Jews and the Gentiles. Israel 's long promised Messiah and King was delivered by His own people into the hands of the Roman governor, the Gentile power, which was oppressing them. The charge which the leaders of the nation had brought against the Lord before Pilate was the charge of being a rebel; one who made himself king in opposition to the Roman authority. An immense multitude of people must have followed Him to the Praetorium. The governor questions Him without delay, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" The answer comes at once from his lips "Thou sayest." How brief and full of dignity! Then the accusation of the chief priests and elders began. One after the other spoke. They accused Him urgently, we read in the Gospel of Mark. Perhaps one tried to outdo the other in slandering Him and speaking malicious lies about Him. The Holy Spirit has not given us the detailed accusations they brought against Him; they all were undoubtedly of a political nature. But there He stood, the lamb of God and opened not His mouth. How calm He was in that Babel of voices. There was no need for Him to defend Himself against these unjust accusations. And the Gentile governor, the sharp, worldly, Roman politician wonders at that strange behaviour. Many a time accused criminals had been brought before him and he had witnessed their eagerness in defending themselves. Here stands one in his presence, who does not open His mouth. Nor does He say another word to Pilate after he had questioned him, so that Pilate wondered exceedingly. Such a prisoner had never been before him. He knew he was guiltless.

 

They had a custom, for how long we do not know, that on the feast the Roman governor would liberate a great criminal, under condemnation. As we read in the Gospel of Mark, the multitude began crying out and to beg, that he would do to them as he had always done. One notable criminal was at that time in custody; his name was Barabbas. Significant name! Translated it means "the son of the father." The old Syriac version adds another name, the very name which our Lord bore on the earth, the name of Jesus. "Jesus Barabbas" -- a miserable, satanic counterfeit of the true "Son of the Father." Who was he? He was an insurgent and had committed murder. May he not have been a false Messiah, one of these satanic instruments, who attempted to become leaders? It is not unreasonable to believe this; in all probability he was just such a character.

 

"Pilate said to them, whom will ye that I release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ? For he knew that they had delivered Him up through envy." What a scene! Barabbas still in prison, the guilty one; and here before a great multitude of people, among them the elders and the priests, moving around and whispering their satanic council in the ears of the people, there stands securely bound the Holy One, the blessed Lord, in His solemn silence. But ere the question is answered something else happens. We see a messenger coming in haste towards the seat which the governor occupies. He carries an important message, which Pilate has to see at once. The message was from his wife.

 

"But, as he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with this righteous man; for I have suffered today many things in a dream, because of Him" (verse 19). It was a solemn warning aimed at the conscience of the superstitious Roman. He knew the victim was without guilt. God in His mercy gave the Gentile a warning. He heeded it not.

 

The pause, which had come in was well used by the chief priests and the elders for they went among the multitudes and persuaded them that they should beg for Barabbas and to destroy Jesus. Fearful deed it was!

 

And now he puts the important question: "Which of the two will ye that I release unto you?" It does not take long to bring forth the answer. Barabbas is the people's choice. Barabbas! Barabbas! Not a voice was heard for the Lord. Where were now the multitudes who had followed Him? Where they who had cried "Hosanna"? If one of them was present they kept silent for fear of the wicked leaders. But Pilate convinced of the awful choice, which had been made, against the authority which he had, makes another attempt: "What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" What a solemn question it was; and it is so still. The question was answered there and it must also be answered by every, person to whom the Lord Jesus Christ is offered. He must either be accepted as Saviour and Lord or rejected. The choice decides the eternal destiny; those who accept Him and own Him as their Saviour are saved and all who reject Him as Son of God and Saviour are lost. Pilate's second question is answered by a great cry, that fearful cry: "Let Him be crucified." Again Pilate asks: "What evil then has He done?" But his voice is drowned in a greater demand: "Let Him be crucified." Pilate was fully convinced of the innocence of the silent victim before him, but miserable coward he was, he would not act. When he saw he availed nothing and a great tumult was rising, he took water, washed his hands before the crowd and said: "I am guiltless of the blood of this righteous one, see ye to it." A Roman ceremony this was not, but we think rather that he borrowed it from the Jews themselves. Deut. 21:6; 2 Sam. 3:28; Psalm 26:6 at least refer to what he did here. Pilate with his "See ye to it" casts the bloodguiltiness upon the Jews. The chief priests and elders had used almost the same phrase in speaking to Judas: "See thou to it," they had said. And what did they answer to the governor's action and "see ye to it" his word to them? And all the people answering said, "His blood be on us and our children. Then he released unto them Barabbas; but Jesus, having scourged Him, he delivered up that He might be crucified."

 

Terrible answer it was. Barabbas is the nation's choice and the blood of the Holy One is wished by them upon their heads and the heads of their children. Has that awful wish been granted? Let the history of the Jews answer down to the present day. How His blood came upon them and their children; the end is not yet. Barabbas has been their choice and there is still that false Christ to come, who comes in his own name and whom they will receive.

 

Delivered up to be crucified. The Holy One is now in the hands of cruel, wicked men and all the suffering, shame and cruelty sinful man energized by Satan is capable of inflicting was heaped upon the king, the Lord of Glory. Who could describe that scene, which is before us? Painters have attempted to picture the terrible ordeal on canvas. Recently Tissot has produced pictures, which the world calls "realistic" of great artistic value. Miserable, blasphemous works they are indeed, the imaginations of the human mind. What was done to Him and what He suffered in our stead no brush, no pen, no tongue can tell. The hands tied, the back bent, the cruel scourge of cruel Rome fell upon the Son of God. Satanic hatred against the Holy One supplied the strength to inflict that awful punishment, which Roman writers called "the intermediated death" preceding death by crucifixion. At last that Holy body was a mass of torn and bleeding flesh.

 

Then the wicked Gentile soldiers began their mockery.

 

"Then the soldiers of the governor, having taken Jesus with them to the praetorium, gathered against Him the whole band, and having taken off His garment, put on Him a scarlet cloak, and having woven a crown of thorns they put it on His head; and a reed in His right hand; and bowing the knee before Him, they mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And having spit upon Him, they took the reed and beat Him upon His head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the cloak off Him, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified" (verses 27-30.

 

A whole cohort of rough, barbaric soldiers are now taking hold of the willing victim. After that terrible scourging, the most awful indignities were heaped upon Him. First they tore His clothes from His outraged body, most likely in eager haste to have their sport with Him. Then they cast a scarlet cloak on Him. That garment was worn by kings, and the scarlet color was produced by the coccus cacti, the crushed insect. Then they wove a crown of thorns and put it on His blessed Head. The crown must have been put upon Him by these instruments of Satan, to inflict pain and to ridicule Him. The crown of thorns also points us back to the garden in which the first man fell. Thorns became the witnesses of the curse, as they are still in nature. The second Man, the Holy One, takes the curse upon His own head. They put a reed, a weak, perishable reed in His hand, the hand which upholds all things, the hand which had been outstretched in blessing over the weak, the erring, the sick, the blind and which had touched the leper; that mighty hand holds the reed, a scepter of mockery. And then the satanic drama of mockery and ridicule is complete. One after the other, these wicked men come and bow the knee before Him, they mock Him. "Oh Joy! or, Rejoice! King of the Jews." This was their greeting. But they get up from their position and spit upon Him and take the reed and beat Him on His head.

 

What a scene for us to contemplate! Who can measure its depths! The Son of God, He who came from the bosom of the Father, the Only Begotten, whose Glory Isaiah had seen, insulted, outraged, spit upon trampled upon by His vile creatures. And oh! reader, it was our sin which did it. How affecting to our hearts it should be and indeed it is. How He did love us to give Himself to such shame and suffering.

 

In that hour it was fulfilled what His Spirit had predicted of His suffering. "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off my hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6). And through it all He opened not His mouth. "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7).

 

And as we gaze upon this scene once more we behold His Glory as well. The scene of His shame and rejection, of mockery and suffering is prophetic of His exaltation and Glory.

 

He is the King in Glory; the King of kings and Lord of lords. The royal garment is His. The crown of thorne gives way to the many crowns which His brow will wear. The scepter is His. Every knee must bow before Him and every tongue confess Him Lord, to the praise of God the Father. The highest Glory He reached through suffering, the crown through the cross, because He loved such as we are; because God wants us to be with Him in all eternity. Oh! glorious, blessed Gospel, how sweet to our hearts!

 

Thy holy head, once bound with thorns, The crown of glory now adorns; Thy seat, the Father's throne; O Lord, e'en now we sing Thy praise, Ours the eternal song to raise-- Worthy the Lord alone!

 

As Head for us Thou sittest there, Until Thy members too shall share In all Thou dost receive: Thy glory and Thy royal throne Thy boundless love has made our own Who in Thy name believe.

 

We triumph in Thy triumphs, Lord; Thy joys our deepest joys afford, The fruit of love divine. While sorrow'ng, suff'ring, toiling here How does the thought our spirits cheer The throne of glory's Thine.

 

And now they led Him away that He should be crucified. "Once more was He unrobed and robed. The purple robe was torn from His bleeding body, the crown of thorns from His bleeding brow. Arrayed again in His own, now blood stained, garments, He was led forth to execution. Only about two hours and a half had passed since the time that He had first stood before Pilate (about half-past six), when the melancholy procession reached Golgotha (at nine A.M.)." (Edersheim)

 

"And as they went forth they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to go with them that he might bear His cross. And having come to a place called Golgotha, which means place of a skull, they gave Him to drink vinegar mingled with gall; and having tasted it He would not drink" (verses 32-35).

 

Physical weakness made it necessary that one should carry His cross. Was there ever such a procession seen before! The Lamb of God led forth to suffer outside of the camp! Oh, the man of sorrows, how He must have looked when they dragged Him to the place of death! But though He did not carry the cross and was weakened, yet He could not succumb at this point. The soldiers had led forth, no doubt, many a one to a similar death. Perhaps some died before the nails could be driven through the hands and feet. Did they fear that this might be the case with Him, whom they had maltreated, dishonored and mocked? Or was it mercy, which offered Him vinegar mingled with gall? Mercy, we believe it was not. It was a stimulant which they offered Him. They knew not that the Life which was in their hands could not succumb; no one could take that life from Him. He would not drink what was given to Him; He did not seek relief, He did not need it. His loving will was to endure all the suffering in perfect consciousness. But there is a prophecy that He should drink vinegar and gall in His suffering (Psalm 69). When the right moment had come for the fulfillment of that prophecy, He said, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "I thirst." Then He drank. Before the crucifixion He refused the vinegar and the gall. Golgotha, the place where they took Him, must have been to the north of Jerusalem. It was outside of the gate near gardens, in which were tombs.

 

Here they crucified Him. No description of the act itself is given in any of the Gospels. Crucifixion was the most horrible torturing mode of putting criminals to death; it originated in Phoenicia and was adopted by the Roman government. The Jews themselves knew nothing of putting transgressors to death by the cross. Inasmuch as the Holy Spirit does not describe the awful act, the nailing of the Lord to the cross, we shall not attempt it. Lifted up, His hands and feet pierced by nails, every muscle stretched and life's blood pouring out, He hung on the cross, suffering the unspeakable tortures of such a death.

 

Prophecy is now being fulfilled. All the predictions of His sufferings come true. That what was foreshadowed in the different offerings and sacrifices, is now beheld in its deep and awful reality. The heavenly Isaac is upon the altar and the hand of God about to smite Him; there is no deliverance from the cup, He drinks it to the last drop.

 

The 22nd Psalm, that great prophecy concerning the sinbearer, comes first of all into view. "They parted His clothes amongst themselves, casting lots." This was foretold by David (Psalm 22:18). It is said that the division of the garments of the victims was a Roman custom. But there is a deeper significance than a mere fulfillment of a prophecy. His enemies, those who nailed Him to the cross, received His clothes. And so for His naked creature He has provided the robe of righteousness by His death on the cross.

 

In the next place the superscription is mentioned. "And they set over His head His accusation written: "This is Jesus the King of the Jews." A board on which the crime of the condemned was written was generally carried before the criminal, who was led forth to the place of execution through the crowded streets. This custom was most likely followed with our Lord. Pilate himself had the superscription drawn up and it was written in three languages: Latin, Greek and the Aramaean dialect of Hebrew. We can not follow here the report of the different Gospel records about the writing above the cross. The one here in Matthew was undoubtedly the Latin inscription, while the fullest, as reported by John "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" was written in Aramean and the one in Mark "The King of the Jews" is the Greek inscription. Pilate could not help himself, he had to write as he did, though he may have had the thought in mind to avenge himself and to mock the Jews. In spite of the hating Jews He received His true title and that from the Gentile. There it stood written and could not be changed; so it is still. Jesus of Nazareth, the despised, the rejected One, is the King of the Jews, one of His titles; the throne of His Father David is His and in the wider sense He will be the King of kings.

 

"Then are crucified with Him two robbers, one on the right hand and one on the left." Another fulfillment of Scripture. "He was numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).

 

"But the passers-by reviled Him, shaking their heads and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou art the Son of God, descend from the cross. And in like manner the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and the elders, said, He saved others, Himself He cannot save. He is the King of Israel; let Him descend from the cross, and we will believe on Him. He trusted upon God, let Him save Him now if He will have Him. For He said, I am Son of God. And the robbers also who had been crucified with Him cast the same reproaches on Him" (verses 43-44).

 

We behold still deeper sufferings of the Holy One. We listen again to the voice of prophecy. "Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none" (Psalm 69:20). There is none to pity in the scene before us. He is alone cruelly mocked and He must have felt the reproach as only one who is absolutely holy could have felt it. He was reviled but He reviled not again. Our Gospel does not report a single word coming from His lips. From the Gospel of Luke we learn that the first word He had spoken after He had been lifted up, was that wonderful prayer "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." He is silent to the cruel and vile mockeries, born in the pit, the very breath of Satan. The old accusation is once more held up against Him. Little they knew that they were fulfilling that very Word about destroying the temple and that the third day, when He would arise as the mighty victor was not far hence.

 

But it was not only the rabble of the street, the low down element, the uncultured mob which mocked Him, but the chief priests, the elders had gone out to help in reproaching Him. They had come to deride Him in His agony. What awful depravity this reveals. It is astonishing to see that these cultured religionists in their fearful blindness quoted Scripture, when they gazed upon Him. They had said, "He is King of Israel; let Him descend now from the cross, and we will believe on Him." The great King of Israel, David, had written by the Spirit that great prophetic psalm of the suffering One, the Twenty-second. They knew that Psalm well. The ancient synagogue even had given this Psalm a Messianic interpretation. The sufferer there in that Psalm cries out, "But I am a worm and no man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people." They gazed upon this great suffering One. "All they that see me laugh me to scorn, they shoot out the lip, they shake the head." They saw the laughing throng, the cruelly mocking crowds, and they themselves joined in. But there is more than that. The wicked enemies of the great sufferer speak in that Psalm. The very Words they were to utter in the presence of the forsaken sufferer, the words with which they were to revile Him are given. "He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him; let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him." (Verse 8.) These very words the sneering chief priests, elders and scribes uttered before the cross. What awful blindness had come upon them! But more solemn still and full of meaning are the words they also said. "He saved others, Himself He cannot save." How true, He saved others. And what a confession from their lips that He did save others. They owned His divine power and yet they rejected Him. He could not save Himself, for He would not. He had come to save others, and that could only be accomplished by taking the place of those He came to save. He had to die on the cross; Himself He could not save.

 

The robbers, too, cast the same reproaches on Him. The one, indeed, becomes ere he dies the mighty trophy of His Grace and hears from the blessed Lord that marvelous word, "Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." As this incident does not belong into this Gospel we pass it by.

 

The deepest agony has not yet been reached. Awful as the physical and mental sufferings of the Son of God must have been, there was still greater suffering before Him, a suffering before which all the other sufferings pale. Up to this point He had suffered from wicked men, energized by the devil. But now He is approaching the moment when He who knew no sin is to be made sin, when, instead of suffering from men, He is to suffer from God Himself. The cup from which His holy Being shrank He takes now to drink to the last drop.

 

"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour; But about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (verses 45-47).

 

A solemn darkness settled over the whole land. Was it a darkness which covered the entire earth? Hardly, for in a part of the world it was night and darkness was not possible. No doubt the darkness covered the entire land and perhaps the entire Roman world. It enshrouded the cross with the great sufferer so that He was no longer visible to those who kept guard and those who looked on. That it was not an eclipse of the sun is learned from the fact that it was full moon at that time. It was a supernatural darkness. At the termination of the darkness about the ninth hour we hear His voice out of the darkness. About the ninth hour He cried, not in feebleness, but with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" But what is the meaning of this darkness? It was the outer sign of what passed over Him, who was then the sinner's substitute before a holy and righteous God. God had hidden His face from Him; He was forsaken by God Himself. His cry explains the meaning of the darkness, and the darkness gives us the meaning of His bitter cry. God had turned from Him, left Him, who had taken the sinner's place. He then bore our sins, was made sin for us and was the offering for sin. But who can fathom it? Who can understand the deep mystery, the deep suffering when the holy and righteous God dealt with sin in Him, who had no sin, but who was made sin?

 

"He was alone with God, made sin; nothing to turn aside the cup of justice; nothing to deaden it. The power which was in Him did not shelter Him; it rendered Him capable of bearing that which weighed on His soul, the feeling of the horror of the curse in the measure in which the love of the Father was familiar to Him, the feeling of that which it was to be made sin in the measure of the divine holiness which was in Him. Neither the one nor the other could be measured. He drank then the cup of judgment of God against sin. All forces Him to utter the cry, a cry which we are allowed to hear that we might know what passed there, the reality of atonement: 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' It is a forsaking which none can fathom, save He who felt it." (John N. Darby.)

 

Oh the blessed mystery of what transpired then in those three hours of darkness! It is true we cannot fathom it. We cannot know what it cost to make reconciliation, but we know the great work was done. The just died for the unjust that He might bring us to God. All done for us that God might be just and the justifier of him, who believes in Jesus. "And some of those who stood there, when they heard it said, This man calls for Elias. And immediately one of them running and getting a sponge, having filled it with vinegar and fixed it on a reed, gave Him to drink. But the rest said, Let be; let us see if Elias comes to save Him" (vv. 47-50). Who were those who said, This man calls for Elias? It is generally assumed that they were some of the soldiers. They knew perhaps little of Hebrew, it is said, and mistook the word "Eli" My God, for Elias. But against this it must be said that they equally knew little or nothing of Elias. We think rather the persons were mocking Jews, who understood the words and made them the occasion of new mockery. At this time it happened what is more fully recorded in the Gospel of John. "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, says, I thirst." Then they gave Him to drink after which He gave up the spirit. The work was done in the three hours of darkness. After that little unfulfilled Scripture is fulfilled at the right time He said, "It is finished."

 

But here in our Gospel we read "And Jesus having cried again with a loud voice dismissed His spirit." It is significant that twice we read of His loud voice. There was no sign and evidence of exhaustion. His life was not taken from Him but He gave His life; He laid it down Himself. The King Himself, when the moment had come, dismissed His spirit. And now we behold a three-fold result of His death. The veil in the temple was rent. The earth was shaken, and the tomb's were opened and the centurion made his confession as well as those who were with him.

 

"And lo, the veil of the temple was rent in two from top to the bottom, and the earth was shaken, and the rocks were rent, and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints fallen asleep arose, and, going out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered into the holy city and appeared unto many. But the centurion, and they that were with him on guard over Jesus, seeing the earthquake and the things that took place, feared greatly, saying, Truly this man was Son of God" (verses 51-54).

 

The rent veil is the first event following the death of the Lord. The veil was the inner one of the temple, dividing the holy of holies from the holy part. It was not an earthquake, which rent this heavy veil, but the power of God. It was done from above and not from below, "from top to bottom." It must have happened just about the time when the priests entered the holy part at the evening sacrifice. What terror must have seized these officiating priests when they beheld that unseen hand throwing open the most holy place. It has been suggested that this miracle was responsible that so many priests became converted in Jerusalem. For we read in the Book of Acts "and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7). The veil itself was the sign that man was barred from coming to God; that heavy, solid veil, ever gave that testimony that it is impossible for man to approach God. The rent veil shows that it has been made possible. The rent veil declares that the great sacrifice on the cross of the spotless Lamb of God has been accepted. It is the first great answer of God to the majestic word of the dying Saviour, "It is finished." It likewise shows that the Jewish ceremonial law is fulfilled and ended. Most beautiful and uplifting is that inspired reference to this great event in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say His flesh, and having a high priest over the house of God. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of Hope without wavering; for He is the faithful that promised" (Heb. 10:19-23).

 

In the next place the earth was shaken, the rocks were rent, and the tombs opened. This statement is peculiar to Matthew; we do not find it in the other Gospel records. The death of the King shook the earth and rent the rocks. The opened tombs declared the glorious news, that His death hath broken the bands of death forever; through death He destroyed him, that had the power of death, the devil (Heb. 2:14). The interpretation that the rocks were rent and the graves opened, because the Lord in spirit descended into hades, we reject as unscriptural and fanciful, leading towards more serious errors. The Lord did not descend into hades; He went to paradise.

 

But besides this great sign, showing the captivity led captive, the power of death destroyed by His death, we read something else. "Many bodies of the saints fallen asleep arose, and going out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered into the holy city and appeared to many." The reader notices that the resurrection of the bodies of these saints did not take place immediately after the Lord had dismissed His spirit. They came forth after His resurrection. They could not precede Him. He is the first fruits, and these saints could not rise till He was risen on the third day. But why is it mentioned here and not in the next chapter in connection with His own resurrection? It belongs there historically. It is put here by the Holy Spirit to show the effect of the great work accomplished on the cross, the efficacy of the death of our Saviour. Death is now to be swallowed up in victory. "Where O death is thy sting? Where O death thy victory? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin the law. But thanks to God, who gives us the victory by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinth 15:55-57). By His death the great work of deliverance has been accomplished, and this makes resurrection possible. The rising of the bodies of these saints is a solemn and glorious anticipation of the first resurrection, soon to come. These risen Saints, who came forth after He had left the grave, entered actually in the holy city and appeared to many. It was another mighty, supernatural witness of what had been wrought. But one might ask many questions in connection with this event. Who were they? What became of them? Where are they now? To whom did they appear and for what purpose? These questions and similar ones are unanswerable. It is useless to speculate about it. It is well in these days to abide very close to the written Word.

 

And the third event, the confession of the Saviour as Son of God by the centurion and the company of soldiers under him. In Luke and Mark we find the centurion mentioned alone, but here it is the entire company. They were Gentiles, heathen. The earthquake, the darkness, the loud voice which had spoken from the cross, all had filled these poor pagans with fear and from their lips, gazing up to the cross where He had bowed His adorable head, came the confession "Son of God." No such word came from Jewish lips. What a prophetic foreshadowing again. The Gentiles were to believe on Him. That for which they had condemned them and delivered Him into the hands of the Gentiles is confessed by those who had put Him to death.

 

The work was finished, and God made it impossible that any other indignities could be put upon Him, whose body could not see corruption. It was customary to leave the bodies of the crucified hanging on the cross, the prey of wild birds. What happened about the breaking of the bones and the spear thrust is not recorded in our Gospel, but is fully made known in the Gospel of John. We mention it, therefore, briefly without attempting an exposition. "The Jews, therefore, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, for it was the preparation, for the day of that Sabbath was a great day, demanded of Pilate that their legs might be broken and they taken away." Had they succeeded, instruments of Satan as they were, the Scriptures would have been broken. But what happened? "The soldiers, therefore, came and broke the legs of the first and of the other that had been crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead they did not break His legs, but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear and immediately there came out blood and water. And he who saw it bears witness, and his witness is true, that ye also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Not a bone of Him shall be broken. And again another Scripture says, They shall look on Him whom they pierced" (John 19:32-37).

 

Then there were many women who witnessed the sufferings of the second man how He bore the curse. They gazed upon Him from afar (verses 55-56).

 

"Now when even was come a rich man of Arimathea, his name Joseph, who also himself was a disciple of Jesus. He going to Pilate begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given up. And Joseph having got the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn in the rock; and having rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, went away. But Mary of Magdala was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the sepulchre" (verses 57-61).

 

Who was this Joseph of Arimathea? A wealthy man of the Jews and a secret disciple of the Lord Jesus. He was an honorable councillor, belonging to the Sanhedrin, who also himself was awaiting the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43). He was a good man and just. When the Sanhedrin had come together to condemn the Holy One Joseph of Arimathea had not assented to their counsel and deed (Luke 23:51). Fear of the Jews had kept his discipleship in the background, but now when the Lord had expired on the cross, and after the mighty events, which had taken place, he comes boldly to the front. His fear became a holy boldness. During the earthly life of the Lord, though he knew Him and believed on Him, fear kept him back from avowing openly his discipleship; but now as His Lord had died He makes His great confession of Him before the Jews, the Sanhedrin and the Gentiles as well. He went right to Pilate. This person had the authority to dispose of the bodies of the crucified. Generally they were, after all dishonor had been done to them, thrown in the malefactors' graves. He then begged for the body of Jesus, and Pilate consented readily and gave his permission. The death of Christ had made a deep impression upon the Roman governor. That Jesus should have died so soon was a great amazement to Pilate. He called for the centurion to get the details from him and perhaps that official gave him his conviction that the crucified One was Son of God (Mark 15:44). And now to the astonishment of Pilate the well known, prominent and wealthy Joseph comes and begs for the body to do Him honor. How it must have disturbed the coward and troubled his conscience. But another one was there, too. That One helped in the hasty preparation for the burial. "And Nicodemus also, who at first came to Jesus by night, came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. They took, therefore, the body of Jesus and bound it up in linen with the spices, as it is the custom with the Jews to prepare for burial" (John 19:39-40). Nicodemus was a very timid man by nature. How he came to the Lord by night for fear of the Jews is well known. From His own lips he heard the blessed truth, the words of life. The precious seed had been sown in his heart. Did it spring up? He also belonged to the council. When the officers returned, having been sent to capture the Lord and they gave their report, Nicodemus, the great acknowledged teacher in Israel ventured a weak defense of the Lord (John 7:50-53). It showed the seed working. But the death of Christ brought him and Joseph of Arimathea deliverance from the fear of men; light and liberty flashed in their souls as the result of the death of Christ. The Lord had said to Nicodemus: "As Moses lifted up a serpent in the wilderness so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life." He had been lifted up and Nicodemus believing, confessed Him.

 

What honor then was done to the Lord. Wrapped in a clean linen sheet, after He had been lifted from the cross and then the resting place for Him, who had finished the work the Father gave Him to do, a new tomb hewn in the rock. It was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9. It is unfortunate that the authorized version gives us such a poor translation of this verse. Literally translated it is "And men appointed His grave with the wicked, but He was with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, neither was there guile in His mouth." The authorized version "He made His grave with the wicked" is wrong. The enemy would cast His body to the place where the bodies of the wicked were cast, but the power of God made that impossible.

 

The great stone is rolled to the door of the tomb. Joseph and Nicodemus depart. Only Mary of Magdala and the other Mary keep their love watch opposite the sepulchre. Thus closed the greatest day in the history of the world, the day on which the Prince of life, the Lord of Glory died on the cross of Golgotha, when the great work of reconciliation had been accomplished and peace was made in the blood of His cross.

 

That which follows in the chapter is peculiar to Matthew. None of the other Gospels have it. It is indeed the proper place for it.

 

"Now on the morrow, which is after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees came together to Pilate, saying, Sir, we have called to mind that that deceiver said when He was still alive, after three days I arise. Command therefore that the sepulchre be secured until the third day, lest His disciples should come and steal Him away, and say to the people He is risen from the dead; and the last error shall be worst than the first. And Pilate said to them, Ye have a watch; go, secure it as well as ye know how. And they went and secured the sepulchre, having sealed the stone with the watch besides" (verses 62-66).

 

But little comment on this striking incident is necessary. The enemy is at work to make all secure, but instead of it he only makes his own defeat complete, and the wrath of the enemy is made to praise Him. They remembered suddenly the words of the Lord, showing how they had watched His utterances. The disciples to whom He had said so often that He would rise on the third day, had forgotten all about it. It did not enter into their minds. This is proven by the way they took the news of His resurrection. It was a forgetfulness, no doubt, produced by the Spirit of God; in this very fact lies a strong argument for the resurrection of the Lord. Their imaginations could not produce, as infidelity has claimed, a supposed appearing of the One who had died. But the enemy remembered. Yet could they really fear that His disciples would steal His body? The disciples had been scattered like sheep. Poor Peter, where was he? They had fled. Would the feeble women roll the stone away and steal His body? Could they think that fraud and deception might be practiced? It was the bad conscience which made them fear. Pilate made no objections; he let them have their desire. The stone is sealed, the guard is placed there to make fraud and illusion an impossibility. Little did they know that they were working to make the fact of the glorious resurrection of the Son of God secure beyond controversy. They furnished one of the strongest proofs for that event, thus becoming involuntary witnesses of His resurrection. _312

 

CHAPTER XXVIII

 

We have reached the last portion of our Gospel. The end is brief and very abrupt. The account of the resurrection of the Lord as given by Matthew is the briefest of all the Gospels. Only a few of the facts are mentioned. Then the characteristic feature of this last chapter is that no mention is made of the ascension of the Lord. However, the fact of His ascension is implied in numerous places in the Gospel. In the Gospel of Mark we find the statement that He was taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God. In Luke we read that He was "carried into heaven," but in Matthew no such statement is made. The Gospel ends as if He were still on the earth, all power in heaven and on earth in His hands and with His own to the completion of the age. All this is in perfect harmony with the scope of the Gospel.

 

In giving a brief exposition of this last chapter we shall not consider the different accounts of the resurrection, nor shall we attempt to harmonize the different manifestations of the risen Christ or to give the order of these. All this is beyond the work we have undertaken. We confine ourselves to the account as given here.

 

The chapter contains three parts. First, we find a brief account of the resurrection and the manifestation of Christ to the women. In the second place we find an account, which, like the last paragraph of the previous chapter, is peculiar to Matthew, the lying report invented by the Jews. Lastly, we see the disciples gathered in Galilee and He gives them His great commission, declares His power in heaven and on earth and assures them of His presence with them, even unto the end of the age. This is the last vision of the King in the Gospel of Matthew.

 

"Now late on Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, came Mary of Magdala and the other Mary to look at the sepulchre." This is the brief introduction to the scene which follows. With the many women the two Marys had looked on the awful crucifixion scene. How they must have suffered in these hours of the agony of Him whom they loved. Then we beheld them sitting opposite the sepulchre. And now after others had gone and were taking a physical rest they could not stay away; they overcame all fear and went out to the sepulchre once more. The wording of the first verse is peculiar. Another translation reads, "And late in the week, when it was on the point of dawning into the first of the week came Mary the Magdalene and the other Mary to view the sepulchre." ( Rotherham ) Some have thought of two visits these women made, one on the evening and the other in the early morning. This is not probable. The dawning of the first day of the week is the time marked out. The first day of the week began after sundown on the Sabbath. It is quite correct to translate "after the Sabbath." To this agree the other records.

 

"And behold there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending out of heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his look was as lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became as dead men" (verses 2-4). The great earthquake was occasioned by the descending angel and the stone, so securely sealed, was rolled away and the heavenly messenger took his seat upon it. However, the resurrection of the Lord did not take place when the earthquake happened and when the stone was rolled away. Paintings often help along this unscriptural conception. No angel was needed to open the way for Him from the tomb. God raised Him from the dead and He Himself arose. The stone was rolled away to show that the tomb was empty. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was God's mighty and glorious seal upon the atoning work accomplished on the cross. It was God's answer to His strong crying and tears (Heb. 5:7). The women no doubt felt the earthquake and may have seen that flash of light from above.

 

We have the effect of what happened upon the soldiers first, in the next place upon the women, and, lastly, upon the Jews. Three classes are seen in connection with the resurrection of the Lord in Matthew. The soldiers represent unbelieving Gentiles, the women, believers and then the Jews. The soldiers are terror-stricken. They were lying around on the ground as if they were dead. It is the effect upon the natural man of God's power made known. On what greater scale this will be repeated when He comes again in resurrection Glory, as King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

The trembling soldiers are left for the present. We shall hear of them later. The women are now addressed by the angel. They, too, must have made an outcry for the angel "answered them."

 

"And the angel answering said to the women, Fear not ye, I know that ye seek Jesus, the crucified One. He is not here, for He is risen as He said. Come and see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and say to the disciples that He is risen from the dead; and Behold He goes before you into Galilee, there shall ye see Him. Behold I have told you."

 

What a glorious message it was. The crucified One risen from the dead! Mary of Magdala is in the foreground. Out of her the Lord had driven seven demons. She and the other Mary take the place of a Miriam and Deborah in the Old Testament. They are to herald and celebrate the mighty victory over sin, death and the devil which had been won. They hear the good news first and are the publishers of the same. As in the beginning of the Gospel, in the genealogy of the King, women are prominently mentioned, so in the closing scenes, in the triumph of the King, they have the lead.

 

"Fear not ye" is the message of the angel to the women. This, indeed, is the good news from the empty tomb. There is no cause to fear, absolutely none, for those who have believed on the Lord and are His own. All darkness, all uncertainty, all doubt and fear are at an end. The whole sin question has been righteously dealt with. The empty tomb, the glorious victory over death, and the grave are the everlasting witnesses. Gazing on this empty tomb, hearing that angelic message "He is risen" faith breaks forth in that song of triumph, penned by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8. "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him give us all things? Who shall bring an accusation against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is he that condemns? It is Christ who has died, but rather has been also raised up; who is also at the right hand of God; who also intercedes for us." God is for us; He gave His Son; Christ died for us and God raised Him from the dead. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; He was buried, He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinth. 15:3-4). Thanks be unto God for His blessed Gospel.

 

But we must refrain from following the blessed doctrine of resurrection. If we were teaching this great doctrine we would have to follow the revelations as given in the Epistles. This is not our purpose. We are following only a partial historical account of the event itself.

 

The angel directs the women to bear the good news to the disciples and assures them the risen One Himself would go before them to Galilee, and there the disciples would see Him. This appointment was according to His own word. We find it in chapter 26:32. It is peculiar to Matthew and as we shall see later of no little importance.

 

"And going out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to bring His disciples word behold, also, Jesus met them, saying, Hail! And they coming up took Him by the feet and worshipped Him. Then Jesus says to them, Fear not; go, bring word to my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there they shall see Me" (verses 8-10).

 

This tells us that they had entered into the empty tomb and had looked upon the place His blessed Body had rested. They must have trembled in great excitement; but greater still was their joy. The angel's message had at last brought back the remembrance of the words of the Lord about His resurrection on the third day. They ran, therefore, to bring the news to the disciples. And as they hastened on, eager to carry out the command, behold Jesus met them and greeted them with the word _Chairete "Oh! the Joy" or "Rejoice!" He was full of joy and graciously He revealed Himself to these devoted women. But oh, the joy! when at last His own are all with Him. Worshippingly they fall at His feet, while He Himself assures them "Fear not!" and repeats the message of the angel, "Bring word to my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there they shall see Me."

 

All this is very tersely told. In the Gospel of John we find the fuller account of the Lord's manifestation to Mary (John 20:11-18). It is often said by those who do not believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures that there is a discrepancy between Matthew and John. In Matthew they fall at His feet and worship Him, but in John's Gospel the Lord says to Mary "Touch me not." There is no difficulty here at all. She fell at His feet and touched them, and laying hold of them the Lord uttered the words which are found in the Gospel of John. The taking hold by the feet is reported in the Gospel of Matthew, and the words He spake in the Gospel of John. This is one of the beautiful evidences of the divine authorship of the Gospel records. In our Gospel Christ is seen in relation to Israel. He is the risen Messiah in connection with His believing remnant. Well can she claim Him and take hold of His feet. As the women fell at His feet and worshipped Him, so His earthly people will at some day worship the Lord and own Him as the Messiah. But in John it is the heavenly side. He is to ascend, to go away, leaving the earth and going on high; His bodily presence on the earth in relation to Israel is not the revelation found in the fourth Gospel. Then the Lord calls His own "Brethren." In the Gospel of John we find the same command. Never before did the Lord call His disciples "brethren," but on that glorious resurrection morning He uses this expression. It is now fully manifested that "He that sanctifieth and they are sanctified are all of one; therefore He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2:11-12). The word itself is mentioned in Psalm 22. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren" (verse 22). That Psalm, containing the great prophecy of the suffering and exaltation of Christ, is prominent in the closing scenes of Matthew. We saw the fulfillment of the sufferings on the cross and here the prediction which relates to His resurrection. The main thing, however, insisted upon in the resurrection account in Matthew is Galilee. The disciples are told to go there; there the Lord will meet them and send them forth on their great mission among the nations. Before we behold them gathered in the mountain, which the Lord had appointed, another scene is introduced.

 

"And as they went, behold some of the watch went into the city, and brought word to the chief priests of all that had taken place. And having assembled with the elders, and having taken counsel, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers saying, Say that His disciples coming by night stole Him while we were sleeping. And if this should come to the hearing of the governor we will persuade him and save you from all anxiety. And they took the money, and did as they had been taught. And this report is current among the Jews until this day" (verses 11-15).

 

As previously stated this is peculiar to Matthew and the continuation of the story contained in the last paragraph of chapter 27. We learn that the effect of the resurrection of the Lord was a hardening one for the Jews. These wicked men had given thirty pieces of silver to have him delivered into their hands and now they are giving an immense sum to circulate a lie about His resurrection. The watch had sufficiently recovered from their awful fright, and some of them hasten back to the city. Surely something must have happened or why should they leave their important post and return to the city to make a report? Then it is strange that they went to the chief priests first and not to the Roman governor. This was indeed a very irregular proceeding. From this fact we must conclude that in the estimation of these soldiers, that which they had to report, was of greater importance for the chief priests to know than it was for Pilate. Who knows but these priests had instructed the guard, that if something should happen at the sepulchre and He should come forth, that they were to come to them first of all? This is probable. They bring their report and this was nothing less but a witness of the resurrection and that the tomb is empty. The enemies were the first witnesses of His triumph. The whole Sanhedrin was then hastily summoned to receive the report in an official way. The straightforward statement, as men of a military training are apt to report, made doubt about veracity impossible. The agitation of the guard, their frightened looks, the evidences that they had passed through a terrible experience, substantiated the truth of what they had reported. The Sanhedrin had nothing else left but to accept the report. To impeach these witnesses, to accuse them of falsehoods, would have been insane. There was no doubt in their minds that all had really happened as they reported. An earthquake had taken place, an angel had come down from heaven, the stone was rolled away, the tomb was found empty. What motives could make these soldiers to rush back to the city? Did they not do it at the risk of their own lives? The Sanhedrin was, therefore, in an awful predicament. What would happen, this must have flashed through the minds of these blinded men, if this truth should get out among the people? Perhaps they thought too of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two of their number who had confessed Him by their devoted actions. Then they had thought of the possibility of something to happen with the sepulchre and had the guard placed there. And now the attempt to defeat the resurrection of the Lord had miserably failed. He has risen from the dead. His own words came true. The temple which was destroyed was built again; as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so He was in the heart of the earth. He is risen. The very guards they had placed before the sepulchre to make any deception impossible bear the witness. Their fine minds, some of them legally trained, saw the hopelessness of their case. One thought was written upon every one of their dark hearts; the truth about the resurrection must be denied. This again could only be accomplished by inventing a lie. The only possible lie was to say that His disciples stole the body. The whole story they invented is, of course, incredible. It is far easier to believe He arose from the dead than to believe what the Jews invented about His resurrection. If His disciples could have stolen the body, if it had been possible, they surely would not have done it. But if they had a desire to steal the body, they could not have done so, for with the guard placed at the tomb, it was an impossibility. The disciples had forgotten all about the resurrection promise; they were a scattered, poor and timid lot of people. But even if they had been anxious to steal the body, how could they have done it? Here was the company of armed men. They were experienced guards and careful watchers, trained in that profession. Then there was the sealed, heavy stone. How could they have rolled away the stone and carried away the body without being detected? Impossible. But the utterly ridiculous side of the whole lie came out with the report which these soldiers were to circulate, being well paid for it by the Sanhedrin. The disciples came and stole the body, while they were sleeping! In the first place, it is incredible that all these men had fallen asleep at the same time. All were fast asleep, so fast asleep that the commotion of rolling away the stone and the carrying away of a dead one did not disturb them. Furthermore, sleeping at a post meant death for the Roman soldier. One might have nodded and thus risked his life, but that all slept is an impossibility. But the report is foolish; they were asleep, and while they were asleep they witnessed how the disciples stole the body of Jesus. How ridiculous. The whole proceedings were out and out fraud and falsehood. And this was indeed the only statement they could possibly bring against the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a miserable lie. And this lie is continued to the present day. A small volume is still circulated among the Jews, the "Toledoth Jesu" in which the most blasphemous things are said about our blessed Lord, and the lie about His resurrection invented by the Sanhedrin is likewise printed. This lie will be upheld by the unbelieving Jews till the day comes when He appears the second time, and the believing remnant of His earthly people will cry out, "Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel." We might mention here the testimony of Josephus. He says in his antiquities: "He appeared to them alive on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him."

 

Indeed the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, His physical resurrection is unassailable. How wicked then to deny it or any part of it! Yet this is of common occurrence in these last days. (That evil system known by the name of "Millennial Dawnism," or "Russellism,, [also known as Jehovah's Witnesses]" belongs to those movements which introduce damnable heresies in the last days (2 Peter 2). "Millennial Dawnism," among other things, denies the literal, physical resurrection of our Lord.)

 

And now but a few brief sentences remain with which the Gospel of Matthew closes.

 

"But the eleven disciples went into Galilee to the mountain which Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him they worshipped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus coming up spoke to them, saying, "All power has been given me in heaven and upon earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined you. And behold I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age" (verses 16-20).

 

What mountain it was He had appointed as the meeting place we do not know. Some one has said "Matthew is the Gospel of the Mountain." (H.G. Weston.)

 

From a mountain He gave as King His great proclamation, the so-called sermon on the mount, in which He proclaimed the principles of His Kingdom. On a mountain we saw Him transfigured, the blessed type of His second coming in majesty and glory for the establishment of that Kingdom. On the mount of Olives He took the place as Son of David to ride down into Jerusalem. From the same mountain He delivered His great prophetic discourse concerning the future of the Jews, the Christian profession and the nations. And now we see Him and His own on the Galilean mountain. But why is Galilee made so prominent in the last chapter of Matthew?

 

It is, indeed, a strong and important point in this Gospel. Galilee was the place of His rejection. This is evident in the whole Gospel of Matthew, which gives us exclusively His Galilean ministry. Jerusalem would not have Him. It rejected Him and sought to kill Him through Herod in His infancy. This is only found in Matthew. Therefore, when the King began His ministry He began it in "the Galilee of the nations" (chapter 4). The most ignorant Jews resided in Galilee and they had become mixed with the Gentiles. The scribes despised Galilee and as we know said "Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" (John 7:52). His first appearing there was prophetic. It was a sign that Israel would reject Him and that the people sitting in darkness would behold the great light and that to them which sit in the region and shadow of death, light would spring up (chapter 4:16). Jerusalem did reject Him and, therefore, in this Gospel of the Kingdom, the Kingdom preached and rejected, we see the risen One passing by Jerusalem. He returns to the place of His rejection and His disciples have to go there and meet Him in Galilee. Here on this significant ground He gives them the great commission to proclaim the kingdom world-wide, to disciple all nations and to baptize them.

 

This is the Kingdom commission. In Luke 24 we have the proper Christian mission. A time is coming when this great commission here will be carried out by a remnant of Jewish disciples, who are represented by the eleven. It is the same remnant as in Matthew 24.

 

We desire to give this fact in the words of another, which will be helpful. (Collected writings of J.N.D., page 327.)

 

"It is well to notice what has been alluded to: -- the ministry in the Acts is not the accomplishment of this commission in Matthew, but of the mission in Luke, the book itself being, as is known, the continuation of his Gospel; nor was the ministry of Paul, who took up by a separate divine mission the evangelization of the nations, the carrying out of this (the commission here in Matthew). His was fully more even yet a mission from the ascended and glorified Saviour, to which was added the ministry of the church. It connects itself even much more in its first elements with Luke. The ministry here established stands alone. The disciples are not sent to Jews, as in Luke. But Jerusalem is rejected and the remnant is attached to Christ (His brethren and owned in this character) sent out to Gentiles. This as far as Scripture teaches us has never been fulfilled. The course of events under the hand of God, the disciples remain in Jerusalem. A new mission is sent forth in the person of Paul and that connected with the establishment of the church on earth. The accomplishment of the commission here in Matthew has been interrupted, but there is the promise to be with those who went forth in it to the end of the age. Nor do I doubt it will be so. This testimony will go forth to the nations before the Lord comes. 'The Brethren' will carry it to warn the nations. The commission was given, but we find no accomplishment of it. It connects the testimony with the Jewish remnant owned by a risen Lord of all, with the earth and His earthly directions, and for the present it has in fact given place to a heavenly commission, and the church of God."

 

How wonderful and harmonious is the Word of God. If anything else had been put at the close of Matthew it would have disturbed and marred the scope of the whole book. Man's wisdom could never have produced such a work.

 

The eleven then saw Him there. Some doubted. How this indeed carried conviction with it of the truthfulness of the report. Most likely they were taken by surprise, beheld Him from a distance; soon all doubts vanished, for He came up and spoke to them.

 

All power is His; all power in heaven and on earth. Soon the day will come when indeed He will have all things put under His feet. And the last word, "And behold, I am with you all the days until the completion of the age." Precious promise to faith! He will never leave nor forsake, and He who is with us is the "I am," the mighty Jehovah, the Immanuel, having all power in heaven and on earth.

 

The Gospel of Matthew begins with Immanuel, "God with us," it ends with Immanuel. With Him, our Saviour and Lord, we shall be in all eternity. Forever with the Lord. With all our hearts we praise God for such a Saviour, for such a Lord, for such a Gospel and for such a future with HIMSELF, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

Our study is ended. We lay this work at His feet, and if it pleases Him to use it for the edification of His people, for the defence of the faith, above all for the PRAISE AND GLORY OF HIS ADORABLE NAME, we shall praise Him for it in all eternity. Amen and Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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