Chapter 2: The Question Stated, Matthew 24

were with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Olives, a few days before He suffered, a portion of that Church which He desired to instruct: whatever He then said to Peter, Andrew, James, and John, was not addressed to them for themselves merely, but to them as a portion of that one body to which, amongst other endowments, there had been given corporate hopes; that is, expectations not confined to individuals merely, not mere promises to be fulfilled to persons then living, but a hope belonging to a body as such, the visible accomplishment of which should take place in the days of certain of that body living in some one age. And thus the Lord Jesus in that prophetic discourse applies the terms "ye" and "you," not to the four disciples who had questioned Him as individuals, but to the Church of the first-born as one body, and having one hope, of which those four were representatives. Thus when He says, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation" (Matthew 24:15), "If they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert, go not forth; behold, He is in the secret chambers, believe it not; for as the lightning," etc. (verses 26, 27), He specially, of course, regards those to whom His words would be applicable from the age in which they should live, and from their location and circumstances. But lest any should say that these things related to persons then living, merely as individuals, or lest in any other way they should avoid the force of the corporate "ye," our Lord in the same discourse adds, "What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:37).

Now the questions put to the Lord Jesus by the disciples, and His reply to them, had to do with His coming in glory. They say, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world [age]?"[1] (Matthew 24:3). If, then, we would be rightly instructed as to these things, we are called on to take heed to His reply. In His answer, He first tells His disciples of many and various intervening events; deceivers should arise; there should be commotions amongst the nations—persecutions of the faithful servants of Christ-and the preaching of the Gospel should be carried out as a witness amongst all nations: all this must precede the end, and, in fact, must continue up to the end. The words, "the end is not yet" (verse 6)... "and then shall the end come" (verse 14), are of especial importance and weight as to this.

Whatever be the moral bearing of the hope of the coming of our Lord, He regarded it as being in nowise impaired by the knowledge which He himself gave of events that would intervene; for He taught such preceding events in answer to the inquiry of the disciples. If, then, we were to say that a belief in intervening events interferes with the hope of the coming of the Lord, or contradicts it, we must have adopted some incorrect opinion respecting it. The point now to be noticed is, not whether certain predicted events have now been accomplished, but whether the knowledge of such intervening events dims the hope of the second appearing of Christ. I shall have occasion subsequently to notice some of the particulars of this prophetic discourse: it is evident, on simply reading the inspired record of what our Lord then taught, that it sets before the believing people of Christ the hope that He shall himself come "in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory;" that then "He shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other;" that before this coming there "shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be;" and that the parable of the fig tree is given us that we may learn how to watch and to wait. We have, in fact, to expect the Lord as He has promised to come, and in no other way.


[1] "It is certainly a question whether we might not have made more use of ‘age’ in our version (for a i w n ). . . age may sound to us inadequate now; but it is quite possible that, so used, it would little by little have expanded, and acquired a larger, deeper meaning than it now possesses." (Abp. Trench; Synonyms of the New Testament Part the Second. 1863, p. 32.).