The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
We have learned that Matthew's Gospel is dispensational in its teaching. In the study of the words of our Lord, in this Gospel, therefore, we must be particularly careful to determine of what age He was speaking. The only method which can be accurate is to compare Scripture with Scripture, not relying on our own judgment. If the interpretations of all parts of the Scripture which relate to the same things dove-tail, then we may be sure that our understanding is of the Holy Spirit. In the passage before us, dealing with utterances of our Lord about things which should come to pass, let us be careful to compare these statements with the Old Testament and other New Testament revelations, that the Spirit may fully reveal to us the marvellous truths and accuracy of the Word of God.
Before His previously recorded great discourse, the parables of the mystery of the Kingdom, the Word tells us, Matthew 13:1: "The same day Jesus went out of the house, and sat by the seaside," indicating His turning of His back on the old relationships of Israel, and a turning toward the Gentiles. In the present instance, again there is a "going out:" "And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple." He had answered the questions of His enemies, and now He was again turning His back on the relationships of Israel, but looking forward to another day when again He should deal with God's chosen people, before His return to earth in glory.
"And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the buildings of the temple. 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. And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the consummation of the age?" (Matt. 24:1-3).
"When shall these things be?" What things? Not only the destruction of the temple, mentioned in the preceding verse, but the judgment upon the Pharisees and other events of the then future which our Lord had predicted. The destruction of the temple prophesied here took place under the siege of Titus, 70 A.D., as did the woes pronounced upon the Pharisees. The answer about the temple is not found in Matthew, but in Luke 21:20-24 there is a full record of that which was to take place. The Lord also had spoken of it in a general way in the parable of the marriage feast, Matthew 22:7, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the consummation of the age?"
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My Name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars ... nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: ... And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. ... But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 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" (Matt. 24:4-14).
There are three view-points taken of the Scripture now under consideration: the post-millenarians believe that a great many of these predictions were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.; the post-tribulationists believe that verses four to thirty-one have to do with the end of the Church "Age", that these exhortations are intended for Christians living at the end of the Age of Grace, which will come to its close after the Great Tribulation, through which the Church will remain on earth; the _pre-millennial _pre-tribulationists identify verses four to thirty-one not as a part of the Church Age, but as Jewish, belonging to Daniel's seventieth week, the seven years of Tribulation. (See Appendix G for _pre-millenial and Appendix F for _pre-tribulationists.)
There are expressions in the discourse which might apply accurately to any of the three view-points mentioned. But we believe, and prayerfully suggest, that there are definite statements which oppose the post-millenarian and post-tribulationist views. We shall mention them briefly, and then go on with the exposition.
First, regarding the post-millennial interpretation, that all these predictions were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and the forty years preceding that event: verse fourteen tells us that the "Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." The Gospel of the Kingdom was not preached in all the world between 30 A.D. and 70 A.D.; in fact, the Gospel of the Kingdom was not being preached at all, but the Gospel of Grace. Then, too, the Son of Man did not return in person at the destruction of Jerusalem, and finally, verse thirty-one tells us that at His return the elect (Israel) shall be gathered together from the four winds. In 70 A.D. Israel was dispersed, not gathered.
Secondly regarding the post-tribulationists' interpretation, that these predictions speak of the end of the Church Age and are warnings for Christians, the disciples knew nothing of the Church Age; they were living in a Jewish Age, and they asked: "What shall be the sign of Thy coming (in glory, for that was what they were looking for), and of the consummation of the age?" What age? The age in which they were living. Oh, but you say, that ended at Calvary. Yes, Law ended at Calvary, but Daniel's seventieth week, the end of the Jewish Age, is still unfulfilled. The Church Age, in which we are living, is a parenthesis, and before the Lord returns in glory, the last week of Daniel's prophecy will be fulfilled. Also, in the Church Age the Gospel of the Kingdom is not preached to all nations, but the Gospel of Grace is preached, as we said above. Verse thirteen says: "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." We know that in this Age of Grace salvation is by no other means than belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. False prophets, false Christs, are to arise; that is Tribulation truth. Church teaching in the Epistles tells us that at the end of this age, Grace, false teachers shall arise (2 Peter 2:1). Verse fifteen tells us that the Lord Himself referred to Daniel's prophecy; Daniel's prophecy is Jewish and does not belong to the Gentiles.
Finally, while we believe that these prophecies have to do entirely with the Tribulation of Israel, let us remember that there will be tendencies towards these very things before the end of the age in which we are living, before the Rapture, and before the Tribulation sets in. Wars and rumours of wars ... nation shall rise against nation ... famines, pestilences, earthquakes ... false teaching... Are we not beset on all sides with such today? We believe that the Lord may come for His saints at any moment, for "all these are the beginning of sorrows;" surely, then, the Tribulation must be near. Christian, "see that ye be not troubled," for before then "the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord, Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
The seventieth week of Daniel, as yet unfulfilled, will be divided into two parts, each of three and one-half years' duration (see Daniel 9). In "Matthew 24, verses four to fourteen" refer to the first half of that week, the beginning of the end; and verses fifteen to twenty-six relate to the latter half, the Great Tribulation, and then shall the end come. Throughout the Old Testament there are references to the time of tribulation, Jacob's trouble, that shall precede the Lord's coming to reign on earth. We mention two references: Jeremiah 30:4-9; Joel 2:1-17. In the New Testament also we shall see what awful things shall occur before our Lord shall come in glory, and we shall find in the Book of the Revelation that the predictions for the first part of the Tribulation agree with Matthew 24:4-14. In Revelation four, the removal of the Church to be with the Lord is indicated, and in the fourth and fifth chapters it (the Church) is seen symbolically in the presence of the Lord. The Lord opens the seven-sealed book, and what is revealed beginning in the brewing of the seals is the last week of Daniel's prophecy. (Refer to Revelation six to nineteen.) The first seal was opened revealing a man on a white horse, who had a bow, who went forth to conquer. The Lord Jesus shall come on a white horse, but this is not He, but a false Christ, who establishes a temporary peace. What is the first prediction of Matthew twenty-four. "Many shall come in My Name, saying, I am Christ" (vs. 5). The second seal was opened revealing a man on a red horse, who should take peace from the earth. The second prediction of Matthew twenty-four is found in verses six and seven: "Wars and rumours of wars ... nation shall rise against nation." The third seal was opened revealing a man on a black horse, who had balances in his hand; and "a voice in the midst of the four beasts" indicated famine. The third prediction of Matthew twenty-four is: "There shall be famines" (vs. 7). The fourth seal was opened revealing one on a pale horse, whose name was Death, and the fourth prophecy of Matthew twenty-four tells of pestilences and earthquakes. The fifth seal has to do with those who were slain for the Word of God, who, under the altar, cry, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" What is the fifth prophecy of Matthew twenty-four? "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you" (vs. 9).
We see, then, how the words of our Lord and the words of the Spirit through John in the Book of the Revelation are in accord. These predictions have to do with the Tribulation; they are Jewish, and these things shall surely come to pass before the Lord Jesus Christ comes with His saints. But as we see the world in its tendencies approaching those things which are the beginning of sorrow, we believe that the Bride is almost complete, and that soon we shall be with the Bridegroom.
The Gospel of the Kingdom will again be preached, when the 144,000 Jewish people shall proclaim the message of the coming King. Then, before He returns, it "shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them who be in Judaea flee into the mountains. ... For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved" (Matt. 24:15-22).
"The abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet." Let us look at Daniel's words. In speaking of the Beast, in Daniel 9:27, we read: "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week (seven years): and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." In Daniel 12:1, read of the Great Tribulation: "there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time." In the Book of the Revelation further light is thrown upon this last three and one-half years of Daniel's seventieth week. The Beast out of the sea (Rev. 13:1) will break his covenant with the Jews at the beginning of the second three and one-half years, and will demand worship to himself as God, standing in the Holy place (Matt. 24:15). To go fully into these things here would require full studies of Daniel and Revelation. We suggest the careful reading of the Book of the Revelation, chapters eleven to eighteen, for better understanding of the awfulness of those things to come. Thank God, we believers shall not be a part of Jacob's trouble, for it is our blessed hope to look for our Lord's return to meet His saints in the air before that time.
What, then, did the Lord Jesus mean: "Then let them who be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him who is on the housetop not come down ... neither let him who is in the field return. ... And woe unto them who are with child. ... But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day"? The Lord was talking to the disciples, Jewish believers, a type of that part of the remnant of Israel still living at the end of the Jewish Age, the last week of Daniel's prophecy. "When _ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation. ... Then let them _who _be _in _Judaea ... neither on the _Sabbath day." This is a message to Israel, not to the Church, as the italicized words above should clearly show us.
"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For then shall rise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore, 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" (Matt. 24:23-26). Revelation thirteen tells us of the power which the antichrist and the false prophet shall have from Satan; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 also gives us a picture of these things.
"For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. ... Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall 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: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heavens with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other" (Matt. 24:27-31).
Our Lord Himself tells us that His coming after the Tribulation will be in power and glory, and from other passages in the Word, we know that this will be a visible manifestation of Himself upon the earth. "Behold, every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him" (Rev. 1:7). Revelation 19:11-16 gives us a further picture of His return with His saints after Jacob's trouble. There are many prophecies of the Old Testament which tell us of the remarkable signs in the heavens when the day of the Lord cometh. See Ezekiel 32:7, 8, and Isaiah 13:9, 10. Not only will there be these unusual physical signs, but "then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens" (vs. 30). What will be the sign of the Son of Man? Scripture does not tell us, but Dr. A.C. Gaebelein has suggested, and we agree with him, that it will be the Shekinah cloud of Old Testament record. This was the cloud in which the presence of the Lord was enfolded, over His people Israel. A cloud covered the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration when He appeared for a moment glorified: He ascended to Heaven in a cloud, and "in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven" He shall so come again (Acts 1:11).
There are some, post-tribulationists, who are convinced that the gathering together of the elect of verse thirty-one and the rapture of the Church, 1 Thessalonians 4, are identical. We do not believe this is the teaching of Scripture. In Matthew the Lord is speaking of a visible return to the earth. In Thessalonians the Word tells us of a meeting with the saints in the air; in the Gospels the "elect" means Israel, the chosen people; in the Epistles the "elect" means the Church, the body of believers; "the gathering together" of Matthew is predicted throughout the Old Testament as connected with the Lord's return to earth (Isa. 11:11, 12; Isa. 27:13; Jer. 16:4-16); Revelation four and five signifies that the Church will be with the Lord during the Tribulation, and Revelation nineteen shows the Lord coming with His saints.
"And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds." This is the regathering of the remnant of Israel, that portion which will be left after the end of the Great Tribulation. During the age of the Kingdom, the millennial reign of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God will fulfil all His promises to Israel.
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of Heaven, but My Father only" (Matt. 24:32-36).
The fig tree is always a type of Israel. Israel has been barren, but one day it will put forth leaves; then know that the Lord's return is near. Here again is prophecy concerning Tribulation. "The characteristic of the fig tree is that fruit and leaves are there together." Israel's blessing will be quickly realized when the time comes for it to seed, for God to deal with His people again. Yes, this is Tribulation teaching, but Christians, can we not see things today which point to a near accomplishment of these things? Israel is going back to its land, Israel is persecuted on all sides, Israel is once more being identified as a national unity. The summer is nigh -- soon, sooner than we think, we may go to be with our Lord.
The word generation in verse thirty-four has puzzled some, who because of this verse are led to believe that the Lord's return was spiritual and took place in 70 A.D. The word comes from _genea, whose primary meaning is race or family; thus our Lord said, "This race (Israel) shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass." No man could so speak, but only God. And God the Father is the only One Who knows when the Son shall return. His time will be the right time; we need have no fear.
"But as the days of Noe-were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. ... Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. ... Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh" (Matt. 24:37-44).
"As the days of Noah were." Noah lived in the closing days of the age, judgment came, the wicked were destroyed, and Noah was the first of a new age. "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be." It will be the end of a Jewish Age, judgment will come, the wicked of Israel will be judged (Ezek. 20:33-44), and the believing remnant of Israel will be the first of a new age. Here again the Lord was speaking of the condition which shall be at the end of the Tribulation, but here again we may recognize tendencies, leading to those conditions, which tell us that the Lord may come any day for His saints. Let us wait for Him, in the wonderful hope that it will be soon.
Verses forty and forty-one, "two shall be in the field ... two women shall be grinding at the mill, and the one shall be taken, and the other left," are quite generally connected in thought with the Rapture (1 Thess. 4), indicating that when the Lord comes and we meet Him in the air, the believer shall be taken, and the unbeliever left. Such is true of the Rapture. But in this instance, since all that the Lord said had to do with Israel, Daniel's seventieth week, and the Lord's coming in glory, and since the immediate reference is to the days of Noah, when the wicked were taken (destroyed), and Noah, the righteous, and his family were left (on earth), He must have meant that when the Lord shall come in glory and shall judge Israel to determine who shall enter the land of Kingdom blessing, one shall be taken who is a rebel and shall be purged out from among Israel (Ezek. 20:38), and another shall be left, who will be accepted and shall be brought "into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up Mine hand to give it to your fathers" (Ezek. 20:42). Those who were "taken" by the flood were not taken into glory but into destruction; those who were left after the flood were left that God might bless the race in a new way. "Watch therefore ... therefore be ye ready."
There follows a parable, which is applied by many to this age, but also should be interpreted as belonging to the Tribulation period. It indicates the attitude of some who think that the Lord delays His coming. Its application can be brought to Christians also. Those who hope in the Lord's soon return are those who are busiest in His service; those who have been deceived by one of Satan's agents to think that the Lord's coming is delayed, are usually careless in their Christian testimony; not always, but usually. In 1 John 3:2, 3, we are told: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is, and every man who hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself, even as He is pure." May the Lord Jesus soon take us to Himself.
Do not let the fact that these teachings are peculiarly Jewish rob you of your joy and hope in the Lord's soon coming. All the things which we see about us which look like the signs of the Lord Jesus' Olivet Discourse show us that the end of the age of Jacob's trouble is near. And if the end of that age is near, then the age in which we live must be seven years nearer. Let us look for Him in full peace and joy, comforting one another with these words.