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In chapter 13 the Lord takes up much more the service of the apostles in
the circumstances that would surround them, than the development of the
dispensations and the ways of God with respect to the kingdom-a point of
view more presented in Matthew, who treats of this subject.
It will be observed, that the disciples' question takes only a general view
of the subject which pre-occupied them. They ask when the judgment upon the
temple and all these things shall be fulfilled. And from verses 9-13,
although some circumstances found in Matthew 24 are included, the passage
relates even more to that which is said in Matthew 10. It speaks of the
service which the disciples would accomplish in the midst of Israel, and in
testimony against persecuting authorities, the gospel being preached in all
nations before the end came. They were, as preachers, to fill the place
which Jesus had occupied among the people, only that the testimony was to
extend much farther. It would be in the face of all possible suffering and
most trying persecutions.
But there would be a moment when this service should end. The well-known
sign of the abomination that maketh desolate would point it out. They were
then to flee. These would be the days of unparalleled distress, and of
signs and wonders, which, if it were possible, would deceive the very
elect. But they were forewarned. Everything should be shaken after that
time, and the Son of man should come. Power should take the place of
testimony, and the Son of man should gather together His elect (of Israel)
from all parts of the earth.
It appears to me that in this Gospel, more than in any other, the Lord
brings together the judgment on Jerusalem then at hand, and that which is
yet to come, carrying the mind on to the latter, because He is here more
occupied with the conduct of His disciples during those events. Israel, the
whole system into which the Lord had come, was to be set aside
provisionally, in order to bring in the assembly and the kingdom in its
heavenly character, and afterwards the millennium-that is, the assembly in
its glory and the kingdom established in power-when the legal system and
Israel under the first covenant should be finally set aside. At these two
periods the general position of the disciples would be the same; but the
events of the latter period would be definitive and important, and the Lord
speaks especially of them. Nevertheless that which was the most imminent,
and which, for the present, set aside Israel and the testimony, required
that a warning should be addressed to the disciples on account of their
immediate danger; and they receive it accordingly.
The effort of the Jews to re-establish their system at the end, in despite
of God, will but lead to open apostasy and definitive judgment. This will
be the time of unequalled affliction, of which the Lord speaks. But from
the time of the first destruction of Jerusalem by Titus until the coming of
the Lord, the Jews are considered as set aside and under this judgment, in
what degree soever it may have been accomplished.
The disciples are commanded to watch, for they know not the hour. It is the
conduct of the disciples in this respect which is here especially before
the eyes of the Lord. It is of this great day, and the hour of its arrival,
that the angels and even the Son, as Prophet, know not. For Jesus must sit
at the right hand of God until His enemies are made His footstool, and the
time of His rising up is not revealed. The Father has kept it, says Jesus,
in His own power. See Acts 3, where Peter proposes to the Jews the Lord's
return. They rejected his testimony; and now they wait for the full
accomplishment of all that has been spoken. Meantime the servants are left
to serve during the Master's absence. He commanded the porter in particular
to watch. They knew not at what hour the Master would come. This applies to
the disciples in their connection with Israel, but at the same time it is a
general principle. The Lord addresses it to all.