Sermon 3301. A Prophetic Warning
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, MAY 9, 1912.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold." Matthew 24:12.
Christ had spoken to His disciples of earthquakes in divers places, famines and pestilences-but these were only the beginningof sorrows. Such things as these need not trouble Christians, for though the earth is removed and the mountains are carriedinto the midst of the sea, yet may the Believer be confident and his heart may abide at rest. Even when the Master told Hisdisciples that they would be hated of all men for His name's sake, that needed not afflict them. He had taught them before,"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both souland body in Hell." They were thus braced up to meet the fiery trial. Earthquake, pestilence, war and persecution fail to disturbthe serenity of Believers in Christ! But the evil spoken of in our text-this is the wound, this is the sorrow! Here is somethingto tremble at! "Because iniquity shall abound"-that is worse than pestilence- "the love of many shall grow cold"-that is worsethan persecution! As all the water outside a vessel can do it no harm until it enters the vessel, itself, so outward persecutionscannot really injure the Church of God. But when the mischief oozes into the Church and the love of God's people grows cold-ah,then the boat is in sore distress! I fear that we are much in this condition at the present hour. May the Holy Spirit blessthe alarming prophecy now before us to our awakening!
I. Notice, first, THE CAUSE OF THAT GRIEVOUS CHILL OF HEART which is here spoken of-"Because iniquity shall abound, the loveof many shall grow cold." When love grows cold, it is a serious sign. Then the heart is affected-affected with a chill! Isnot this the forerunner of death? What is the cause of it? According to our text, it is the abounding of iniquity!
Sin does its best to destroy Divine Grace. So much sin, so much the less of holiness, so much the less of every ChristianGrace! Sin is like a poisonous atmosphere-if a man has to live in it, he has good need to pray that he may not be overcomeby it. You and I, seeing that we are in this world and cannot go altogether out of it, will come into contact with evil. Inour daily avocations however careful we are, we must encounter this infection. We cannot but feel that the evil around usis a hindrance to our holiness and a detriment to our growth in Grace. When the society around the Christian becomes flagrantlywicked, corrupt and offensive, it is difficult for him to maintain the purity of his life and the strength of his spiritualcharacter. At this time, we live in an atmosphere which hinders our growth, yet in the early days of Christianity the Lord'speople had, as a, rule, to live in worse society than that which surrounds us today! I will not say this without an exception.There are quarters of London, I am told, as vicious as ever existed in Corinth, or in old Rome. And I am afraid that someof the grossest vices which we dare not even mention, abound in this city. We have a fringe of respectability which barelyconceals the licentiousness and abomination which abound. I have been reading today some details as to the number of illegitimatebirths and I am perfectly astounded at the awful wickedness of this land! We call ourselves a Christian country. Do not daretospeak so falsely! This is growing to be a heathen land-part of it bowing before images, another part howling out, "There isno God," and a third secretly reveling in unutterable filthi-ness.
Still, the most of us do not come into contact with vice to the same degree as the first Christians did. Society in the RomanEmpire was utterly rotten. It is a wonder that God permitted the world to exist in that loathsome age! It tended greatly tothe depression of Christian principle for infamous crimes to be tolerated in the society which surrounded the faithful. Lookat these first Churches which some think so much of! They were not half as good as the Churches of today,
bad as these are. Take the Church at Corinth, for instance. Did you ever hear of a Church in our day which allowed drunkennessat the Lord's Supper? Have we personally met with a Church which would knowingly allow a person living in incest to remainin its membership? I hope not! But gross offenses had become so common in general society in Paul's day that it did not strikeeven Christian people that some of these things were wrong! Iniquity abounded and it was greatly detrimental to Grace.
Again, iniquity is especially injurious to the growth of love. Because iniquity abounded, therefore the love of many grewcold. Men inside the Christian Church found themselves betrayed by other members of the Church. Frequently, the heads of theBrothers and Sisters were sold to the executioner by hypocrites like Judas. That would greatly tend to injure Christian love.Men began to suspect one another. You did not know that the man who sat next to you at the Lord's Table would not tomorrowinform against you and get blood-money for you! Therefore suspicion entered with its wintry breath. It was natural that itshould be so, albeit that there was sin in it, yet you and I would have probably fallen into the same. All around, men wereso loathsome that Christian love, which teaches us to pity the most degraded and to do good to the most unworthy, found ita difficult struggle to live. Godly men endeavored to win the ungodly from their lusts, but they found themselves persecutedin consequence-the more they sought to do good, the more they were hated-and this put their love to a severe test.
I think that you can see why our Savior has given us a warning in this particular form.
Iniquity is naturally opposed to Grace, but it is most of all injurious to the Grace of love. If sin abounds in a Church,it is little wonder if the love of many should grow cold. Young members introduced into the Church after a short time findthat those whom they looked upon as being examples are walking disorderly and using lightness of speech and of behavior. Thoseyoung people cannot be very warm in love-they are led to stumble and are scandalized. Older saints who have for years heldonto their way in integrity, and by Grace have kept their garments unspotted from the world, see those around them who havecome into the Church who seem to be of quite another race, who can drink of the cup of Belial and of the cup of the Lord,who seem to follow Christ and the devil, too! Seeing this evil, these godly men and women gather up their garments in holyindignation and find it difficult to feel the love of purer days.
Oh, Friends, if the frost of sin rules in a Church, every tender flower is injured and nothing flourishes! Love is a sensitiveplant and if it is touched by the finger of sin, it will show it. The lilies of Love's Paradise cannot bloom amid the smokeand dust of unholiness!
Because iniquity abounds even in the professing Church, the love of many is growing cold today. What a sermon one might preachupon this!-but I shall not do anything of the kind. I am not so desirous to deplore the evils of others as to watch againstevils within myself. I am not so anxious to make you discover transgression in the Church as to make you watch against itin your hearts-for rest sure of this-if you give sin any license in your heart, your love will grow cold! You cannot walkin love to Christ and yet live in the love of sin. If today you have indulged an unholy temper, if you have given way to covetousness,if you have in any way transgressed against the Lord, you will not feel that warmth of love towards Jesus Christ which youfelt yesterday! Your life will have lost much of its beauty and its sweetness. Cry to God that He would give it back to you!Do not rest satisfied until it is perfectly restored.
II. Now let us consider THE SERIOUS CHARACTER OF THIS EVIL. "The love of many shall grow cold." It is a very dreadful thingthat love in any man's heart should grow cold. Observe the bearings of Christian love and you will see the sin of it undervarious aspects.
Our love is, first, a love to the great Father-our Father who chose us before ever the earth was, by whom we have been begottenagain and received into His family. If our love to Him grows cold, what mischief that must bring! Coldness towards the fatherin a family-do you know any household afflicted in that way? I should be very sorry to be a member of it! Coldness of loveto the father? Why, that household is scarcely a family! It has lost the bond which holds it together and constitutes it afamily. May the good Lord save us from this ruin of all holy unity!
Next, our love is love to Jesus Christ, "who loved us and gave Himself for us." If love to Jesus should grow cold, the resultwould be grievous! Is there any spiritual Grace within you that can be in a healthy condition when your love to Christ isdeclining? Are you right anywhere if your heart is wrong towards your Lord? Can you do anything earnestly when love to Jesusis chilled? Can you sing aright? Can you pray aright? Can you live aright? Do not let us dream of
bearing fruit if we are severed from the Vine! It is vitally important that we should love Jesus with all our heart, souland strength!
Christian love also embraces the Truths of God. They that love God and His Divine Son, love the Truth which He has committedto them. The Church is the trustee of the Gospel-she is "the pillar and ground of the Truth." And when men begin to play withthe Truth of God and think that one set of Doctrines is as good as another, and that nothing is of any particular importance,evil must come! In former days our fathers counted it a small thing to go to prison for a Doctrine, or to be burnt to deathfor a testimony! Look at the multitudes in Holland who were drowned, or who were tied to ladders and roasted to death fornothing but their conviction that Believers should be baptized! Nowadays, people consider Scriptural views of Baptism to bea mere trifle. I question whether our present Broad Churchmen think that there is any Doctrine worth a person's losing thefirst joint of his little finger for! As to burning to death for a Truth of God- that must seem a great absurdity to theseliberal theologians! Now that things have reached this pass, need we wonder that heresies and all manner of errors rush intorrents down our streets? When she can afford to trifle with the Truths of God, what is the Church worth?
Our love is also love to our fellow Christians. This is a vital principle. "We know that we have passed from death unto lifebecause we love the brethren." But when members of Churches have no love to one another. When a professor does not care atall what becomes of his Brothers and Sisters, has the Church any Christianity left? No, it has a name to live, and is dead!Christianity is gone when the heart is cold-its very life is mutual affection.
Then, again, we are to love the ungodly and the unconverted. It is by love that we are to win them to Christ. But if the Churchhas no love to the dying sons of men, what is she worth? Where will be her missionary operations? What will be the use ofher ministry? Think of her Sunday schools without love to the children! Think of people pretending to win souls who have nolove for them and do not care whether they are lost or saved. Can the Church sustain a worse loss than the losing of her ferventlove to perishing men? And yet, if iniquity abounds, this is the great risk we run- compassionate love will cease to ministerto man's miseries!
Beloved, when we love best, how little is our love compared with what it ought to be for Him who left the royalties of Heavenfor the shame and sorrow of our Nature! If we glowed with seraphic fire night and day through a life as long as that of Methuselah,our love could not repay the love of Christ! If that love, poor as it is, grows colder, what will it come to? Oh, eyes thatare to look upon the Well-Beloved forever and ever, if you cease to see beauty in Him, now, what has blinded you? Oh, heartsthat are to glow forever with delight in the Presence of the Reigning One, who once was crucified, what ails you if you growcold when you most need His love and are receiving most from Him? I cannot bear it that we should love Jesus so little! Itseems to me horrible! Not to have your heart all on fire for Christ Jesus is immoral! Let us love Him to the utmost! Let usask Him to give us larger hearts and to fire them with the same love that is in His own, that we may love Him to the utmostpossibilities of affection!
Ah, then, Beloved, think again. Suppose our love grows cold-do you not see how it paralyzes the entire system? If the reservoiris empty, you cannot expect to get much water from the pipes. If the heart grows cold, everything will be coldly done. Whenlove declines, what cold preaching we have! All moonlight-light without heat-polished like marble and as cold! What cold singingwe get-pretty music made by pipes and wind, but oh, how little soul-song!-how little singing in the Holy Spirit, making melodyin the heart unto God! And what poor praying! Do you call it praying? What little giving! When the hot is cold, the handscan find nothing in the purse and Christ's Church, and Christ's poor, and the heathen may perish, for we must hoard up forourselves and live to grow rich! Is there anything that goes on as it ought to go when love grows cold? I should like to actthroughout life as I have when my soul has been stirred to its inmost depths with affection for my Lord! I would continuallyact as if I had just seen Him and had put my fingers into the print of the nails! I would live as if I had been just sittingwith Mary at His feet, yes, and were still sitting there! I would speak for Him, work for Him and give for Him as if I hadfreshly lifted my head from John's place upon His bosom!
m. Thirdly, THE SOLEMN DANGER of the spread of this mischief.
I will read you the text translated accurately. "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of the many shall grow cold." Thatis a more saddening expression than "the love of many." It is, "the love of the many." That is, of the major part of the Church-thebulk of it. This supposes a dreadful state of things because when the many have become cold, they keep one another in countenance.One cold Brother says to the other, "What is your temperature?" "I think I am far below
zero." "So am I," says the first one, "and we are about right." If the majority are warm, then the cold ones are thawed, butif they are all below zero, then they freeze into a wretched compactness! It is the most sober, respectable Church you everknew-they have no quarrelling-everything is so comfortable and orderly. Alas, they are frozen together, and their peace isthat of death! The love of the many has grown cold and they are full of mutual admiration for their quietness.
They have nobody to rebuke them. If the many have grown cold, then the few among them, instead of being able to rebuke withauthority, are themselves snubbed. "He is a terribly fanatical young man! That zealous fellow never leaves anyone alone!""He will grow out of that," says one, "by the time he gets to my age he will be as prudent as I am." Yonder good woman feelsgreat anxiety for the conversion of souls and she is making a stir. A lady of repute declares that she is too forward, orhas got a bee in her bonnet. Active people are looked upon as rather troublesome when the love of the many grows cold. Thefew have a hard time of it and if they do venture upon a rebuke, they are soon snuffed out- this confirms the evil.
And then the tendency is to grow still colder. They go on freezing. There is no telling how cold people can be. I have beenburnt with cold and I suppose you have been too. I have preached in places whose spiritual temperature was that of an icehouseand, preach as hard as I could, nothing could possibly come of it, for my words fell to the ground like lumps of ice! Colderand colder Churches become till, at last, the great God who breaks up icebergs in due season, destroys a Church and its placeknows it no more!
IV. In the presence of the danger which is seriously threatening many Churches, there is A CALL FOR SERIOUS ACTION ON OURPART. What is that serious action?
Why, it is, first, that we should remember that if the love of the many may grow cold, then our love may grow cold! What arewe that we should think ourselves secure where others are in danger? If other men as good as we are have gradually cooleddown, may not we? Let us be watchful and careful-and let us go to God for more Grace.
Let us notice, next, that if the love of the many grows cold, it is not much use our complaining about it, but the few mustget together and pray. The real vitality of a Church seldom lies in the many, but generally in the few. Inside the electionthere is another election. Do you remember that out of Christ's disciples there were twelve? Out of the 12 there were three?Out of the three there was one? And so election has rings within rings. Inside the nominal Church-(we cannot say whether theyare all God's people or not)-the many may grow cold, but there ought to be a remnant who abide in life and love. God grantthat we may belong to it! We must at once grow warmer. We must live nearer to Christ. We must be more enthusiastic. Oh fora band of choice spirits-men fit to walk with Christ in white, for they are worthy- men who will be prepared to follow theLamb wherever He goes! The Spirit said, "You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments." And soin every Church there are some that have not grown idle or heretical! Let them get together and help each other! I thank Godfor those whom the Lord keeps very near to Him-may their number be daily increased! May each one of us be filled with theSpirit! When I hear of one minister after another giving up the old-fashioned Gospel, do you know what I say to myself? Iresolve that I will stick the closer to it! If the many cannot bear Calvinistic Doctrine, I will be more Calvinistic thanever! The more men do not like the Truths of God, the more they shall have it! Let this be our line of action. If men becomemore worldly, we will become more Puritanical. If professing Christians do not exhibit the Spirit of Christ, we will ask ourLord to give us sevenfold of His Spirit, that we may maintain His Truths!
Suppose you expected a famine in London as there was in Paris during the siege? Everybody who could do so, would get in ahundred-fold supply of provisions. Every good housewife would lay out every penny that she could get and fill her cellarsfull of food. There is going to be a spiritual famine-therefore buy the Truth of God and sell it not. Go to your Lord andget larger supplies from Him. Do not go to one another for it. That will be like saying, "Give us of your oil"-and your companionswill wisely reply, "Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you." Go to your Master and ask Him to fan the fire withinyou to a great heat, that if there should be cold everywhere else, there may be warmth in your bosoms! The Lord help you todo this, dear Friends, for Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: MATTHEW24:1-28.
Verse 1, 2. And Jesus went out, and departed from the Temple: and His disciple came to Him to show Him the buildings of theTemple. And Jesus said unto them, See you not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stoneupon another, that shall not be thrown down. The King, having finished His first discourse in the Temple, left it, never toreturn-"Jesus went out and departed from the Temple." His ministry there was ended. As His disciples moved away with Him towardsthe Mount of Olives, they called His attention to the great stones of which the Temple was constructed and the costly adornmentsof the beautiful building. To them the appearance was glorious, but to their Lord it was a sad sight. His Father's House,which ought to have been a House of Prayer for all nations, had become a den of thieves and soon would be utterly destroyed!Jesus said unto them, "See you 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." Josephus tells us that Titus at first tried to save the Temple, even after it was set on fire,but his efforts were of no avail-at last he gave orders that the whole city and Temple should be leveled, except a small portionreserved for the garrison. This was so thoroughly done that the historian says that there was but nothing to make those thatcame there believe it had ever been inhabited!
We sometimes delight in the temporal prosperity of the Church as if it were something that must certainly endure- but allthat is external will pass away or be destroyed. Let us only reckon that to be substantial which comes from God, and is God'swork. The things which are seen are temporal.
3. And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these thingsbe? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?The little procession continued ascending the Mountof Olives until Jesus reached a resting place from which He could see the Temple (Mark 13:3). There He sat down and the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shallbe the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?" These are the questions that have been asked in every age sinceour Savior's day. There are here two distinct questions, perhaps three. The disciples enquired first about the time of thedestruction of the Temple, and then about the sign of Christ's coming and of "the consummation of the age" (R.V. margin).The answers of Jesus contained much that was mysterious and that could only be fully understood as that which He foretoldactually occurred. He told His disciples some things which related to the siege of Jerusalem, some which concerned His SecondAdvent and some which would immediately precede "the end of the world." When we have clearer light, we may possibly perceivethat all our Savior's predictions on this memorable occasion had some connection with all three of these great events.
4-6. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I amChrist; and shall deceive many. And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all thesethings must come to pass, but the end is not yet Jesus was always practical. The most important thing for His disciples wasnot that they might know when "these things" would be, but that they might be preserved from the peculiar evils of the time.Therefore, 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." They were to beware lest any of the pretended Messiahs should lead them astray-as theywould pervert many others. A large number of impostors came forward before the destruction of Jerusalem, giving out that theywere the Anointed of God-almost every page of history is blotted with the names of such deceivers-and in our own day we haveseen some come in Christ's name, saying that they are Christ's. Such men seduce many, but they who heed their Lord's warningwill not be deluded by them.
Our Savior's words, "You shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars," might be applied to almost any period of the world's history.Earth has seldom had a long spell of quiet-there have almost always been both the realities of war and the rumors of war.There were many such before Jerusalem was overthrown. There have been many such ever since and there will be many such untilthat glorious period when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." "See thatyou be not troubled" is a timely message for the disciples of Christ in every age! "For all these things must come to pass."Therefore let us not be surprised or alarmed at them, "but the end is not yet." The destruction of Jerusalem was the beginningof the end-the great type and anticipation of all that will take place when Christ shall stand at the latter day upon theearth. It was an end, but not the end-"the end is not yet."
7, 8. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famine, and pestilences, and earthquakesin divers places. All there are the beginning of sorrows. One would think that there was sorrow enough in "famines, and pestilences,and earthquakes in divers places," but our Lord said that "all these" were only "the beginning of sorrows"-the first birth-pangsof the travail that must precede His coming, either to Jerusalem, or to the whole world. If famines, pestilences and earthquakesare only "the beginning of sorrows," what may we not expect the end to be? This prophecy ought both to warn the disciplesof Christ what they may expect and wean them from the world where all these and greater sorrows are to be experienced!
9. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for My name'ssake. Our Lord not only foretold the general trial that would come upon the Jews and upon the world, but also the specialpersecution which would be the portion of His chosen followers. "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shallkill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for My name's sake." The New Testament gives abundant proof of the fulfillmentof these words. Even in Paul's day, "this sect" was "everywhere spoken against." Since then, has there been any land unstainedby the blood of the martyrs? Wherever Christ's Gospel has been preached, men have risen up in arms against the messengersof mercy and afflicted and killed them wherever they could.
10. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another This would be a bitter trialfor the followers of Christ, yet this they have always had to endure. Persecution would reveal the traitors within the Churchas well as the enemies outside. In the midst of the chosen ones there would be found successors of Judas who would be willingto betray the disciples as he betrayed his Lord. Saddest of all is the betrayal of good men by their own relatives-but eventhis they have, many of them, had to bear for Christ's sake.
11. 12. And many false prophets shall rise, andshall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shallgrow cold. What could not be accomplished by persecutors outside the Church and traitors inside, would be attempted by teachersof heresy-"Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many." They have risen in all ages! In these modern times theyhave risen in clouds till the air is thick with them, as with an army of devouring locusts! These are the men who invent newdoctrines and who seem to think that the religion of Jesus Christ is something that a man may twist into any form and shapethat he pleases. Alas that such teachers should have any disciples! It is doubly sad that they should be able to lead astray"many." Yet, when it so happens, let us remember that the King said that it would be so.
Is it any wonder that where such "iniquity abounds" and such lawlessness is multiplied, "the love of many shall grow cold"?If the teachers deceive the people and give them "another gospel which is not another," it is no marvel that there is a lackof love and zeal. The wonder is that there is any love and zeal left after they have been subjected to such a chilling andkilling process as that adopted by the advocates of the modern "destructive criticism." Verily, it is rightly named "destructive,"for it destroys almost everything that is worth preserving!
13. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Again our Savior reminded His disciples of the personalresponsibility of each one of them in such a time of trial and testing as they were about to pass through. He would have themremember that it is not the man who starts in the race, but the one who runs to the goal who wins the prize-"He that shallendure unto the end, the same shall be saved." If this Doctrine were not supplemented by another, there would be but littlegood tidings for poor, tempted, tried and struggling saints in such words as these! Who among us would persevere in runningthe heavenly race if God did not preserve us from falling and give us Persevering Grace? But, blessed be His name, "the righteousshall hold on his way." "He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
14. And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the endcome.The world is to the Church like a scaffold to a building. When the Church is built, the scaffold will be taken down-theworld will remain until the last elect one is saved-"Then shall the end come." Before Jerusalem was destroyed, "this Gospelof the Kingdom" was probably "preached in all the world" as far as it was then known. But there is to be a fuller proclamationof it "for a witness unto all nations" before the great consummation of all things-"then shall the end come" and the Kingshall sit upon the Throne of His Glory, and decide the eternal destiny of the whole human race!
15-18. When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, stand in the holy place,(whoever reads, let him understand), then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him who is on the housetopnot come down to take anything out of his house: neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes. Thisportion of our Savior's words appears to relate solely to the destruction of Jerusalem. As soon as Christ's disciples saw"the abomination of desolation," that is, the Roman ensigns with their idolatrous emblems, "stand in the holy place," theyknew that the time for them to escape had arrived-and they did "flee into the mountains." The Christians in Jerusalem andthe surrounding towns and villages "in Judaea," availed themselves of the first opportunity for eluding the Roman armies,and fled to the mountain city of Pella, in Perea, where they were preserved from the general destruction which overthrew theJews. There was no time to spare before the final investment of the guilty city. The man "on the housetop" could "not comedown to take anything out of his house," and the man "in the field" could not "return back to take his clothes." They mustflee to the mountains in the greatest haste, the moment that they saw "Jerusalem compassed with armies" (Luke 21:20).
19-21. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray you that your flight is notin the winter, neither on the Sabbath: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the worldto this time, no, nor ever shall be.It must have been a peculiarly trying time for the women who had to flee from their homesjust when they needed quiet and rest. How thoughtful and tender was our compassionate Savior in thus sympathizing with sufferingmothers in their hour of need! "Flight. . .in the winter" or "on the Sabbath" would have been attended with special difficulties,so the disciples were exhorted to "pray" that some other time might be available. The Lord knew exactly when they would beable to escape, yet He bade them pray that their flight might not be in the winter, nor on the Sabbath! The wise men of thepresent day would have said that prayer was useless under such conditions-not so the great Teacher and Example of His prayingpeople-He taught that such a season was the very time for special supplication!
The reason for this injunction was thus stated by the Savior. "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not sincethe beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." Read the record written by Josephus of the destruction ofJerusalem and see how truly our Lord's words were fulfilled. The Jews impiously said, concerning the death of Christ, "Hisblood be on us, and on our children." Never did any other people invoke such an awful curse upon themselves and upon no othernation did such a judgment ever fall! We read of Jews crucified till there was no more wood for making crosses-of thousandsof the people slaying one another in their fierce faction fights within the city. Of so many of them being sold for slavesthat they became a drug in the market, and all but valueless! And of the fearful carnage when the Romans at length enteredthe doomed capital and the blood-curdling story exactly bears out the Savior's statement uttered nearly 40 years before theterrible events occurred!
22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.Thesewere the words of the King as well as of the Prophet and, as such, they were both authentic and authoritative. Jesus spokeof what "should be," not only as the Seer who was able to gaze into the future, but as the Sovereign Disposer of all events.He knew what a fiery trial awaited the unbelieving nation and that "except those days should be shortened, there should noflesh be saved." If the horrors of the siege were to continue long, the whole race of the Jews would be destroyed! The Kinghad the power to cut short the evil days and He explained His reason for using that power-"For the elect's sake, those daysshall be shortened." Those who had been hated and persecuted by their own countrymen became the means of preserving them fromabsolute annihilation! Thus has it often been since those days-and for the sake of His elect the Lord has withheld many judgmentsand shortened others. The ungodly owe to the godly more than they know, or would care to admit.
23-26. Then ifanyman shallsay unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shallarise false Chr-ists,and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the veryelect. Behold, I have told you before. Therefore 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. It is a grand thing to have such faith in Christ that you have none to sparefor imposters. It is important not to distribute your faith too widely. Those who believe in a little of everything will,in the end, believe nothing of anything. If you exercise full faith in that which is sure and steadfast, "false Christs andfalse prophets" will not be able to make you their dupes! In one respect, the modern teachers of heresy are more successfulthan their Judean prototypes, for they do actually "deceive the very elect," even though they cannot "show great signs andwonders." One of the saddest signs of the times in which we live is the ease with which "the very elect" are deceived by thesmooth-tongued "false Christs and false prophets" who abound in our midst. Yet our Savior expressly forewarned His followersagainst them-"Behold, I have told you before." Forewarned is forearmed. Let it be so in our case. Our Savior's expressivecommand may be fitly applied to the whole system of "modern thought" which is contrary to the inspired Word of God-"Believeit not."
27. For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Manbe. When HE comes, we shall know who He is and why He has come. There will be no longer any mystery or secret about "the comingof the Son of Man." There will be no need to ask any questions then! No one will make a mistake about His appearing when itactually takes place. "Every eye shall see Him." Christ's coming will be sudden, startling, universally visible- and terrifyingto the ungodly! "As the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west." His first coming to judgment at thedestruction of Jerusalem had terrors about it that till then had never been realized on the earth-His last coming will bestill more dreadful.
28. For wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Judaism had become a "carcass," dead and corrupt-fitprey for the vultures or carrion-kites of Rome. By-and-by there will arrive another day when there will be a dead church ina dead world-and "the eagles" of Divine Judgment "will be gathered together" to tear in pieces those whom there shall be noneto deliver! The birds of prey gather wherever dead bodies are to be found-and the judgments of Christ will be poured out whenthe body, politic or religious, becomes unbearably corrupt!