NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
Verse 14: “And the Good News I have shared about God’s kingdom will be told throughout the world. It will be spread to every nation. Then the end will come.”
Jesus now puts a real time frame on what would happen subsequent to this period of severe persecution. The gospel would then go out and be preached around the globe so that people in every nation would have the opportunity to hear and believe. And only after this was done, then the end would come. Today, by way of television and the worldwide web, the gospel is being preached all over the earth.
Early church preacher Chrysostom gives this explanation to his listeners of what Christ was saying: “What is even more terrible than all of these things is that they will not even have love’s consolation. ‘Most men’s love will grow cold.’ Even all this, however, will in no way harm those who are noble and firm. So do not be afraid. Do not be troubled. If you demonstrate the patience that fits your faith, these dangers will not prevail over you. You will see proof of this when the gospel will be preached everywhere in the world. Then you will be above all these things that would otherwise alarm you. You will preach everywhere. You will not waste away in despair asking whether you will survive. Then he added, ‘This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.’ The sign of this final time will be the downfall of Jerusalem.”1 It appears that Chrysostom ties this to the time of the disciples.
Then Jerome gives his view on this by saying: “The sign of the Lord’s coming is that the gospel will be preached throughout the entire world, leaving no one any excuse. We believe that this has already been accomplished or is about to be accomplished since it appears to me that there remains no nation that does not know the name of Christ. Even if they haven’t been visited by an evangelist themselves, certainly they have heard about the Christian faith from neighboring countries.”2 It should be noted that Jerome wrote this between 347-420 AD. Either he did not know how big the world was at that time or how many nations existed throughout the world that had never heard the Gospel. Not only that, but we are told there are some tribes in Africa and South American jungles that have still not heard of Jesus the Messiah. So our Lord’s coming must be delayed until this gospel goes around the globe.
Finally, the anonymous writer of a work on Matthew in the 7th century AD gives us his understanding: “Both the end of the world and the Antichrist must be understood according to the spiritual sense of Scripture, since heresies, famines, epidemics and all such things will precede each of them. Finally, however, the abomination of desolation, which is the army of the Antichrist, will stand in the holy place. The army of the Antichrist consists principally of every heresy which finds its way into the church and stands in its holy place that it might appear to be the word of truth, even though it is no word of truth at all, but the abomination of desolation and the army of the Antichrist which separates the souls of many from God. Perhaps it was of this that the apostle said, ‘who opposes and exalts himself against everything which is called God or is worshiped, so that he might be seated in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.’3 In this way, the collective evil of various heresies, which at one time were only rumored, will then stand in the holy place and desecrate the church of Christ. Having been given license to go this far, they will then begin to possess the churches entirely. We here announce that reports of war, famines, earthquakes, epidemics, rumors of heresy, deprivation of the Word, the beating of Christians and the corruption of morals have already been preceding these events from the time of Constantine to the reign of Theodosius.‘4”5
Verse 15a: “Daniel prophesied about ‘the terrible thing that causes destruction.’ You will see this terrible thing standing in the holy place.”
Now our Lord quotes Daniel. This not only shows His acquaintance with the writings of Daniel, but it also gives credibility to what Daniel wrote. Since Jesus did not offer a quote, we find two places in Daniel that might qualify as the text to which our Lord refers. First, in Daniel, we learn: “Then the future ruler will make an agreement with many people. That agreement will continue for one week. The offerings and sacrifices will stop for a half of a week. And a destroyer will come. He will do terrible, destructive things, but God has ordered that destroyer to be completely destroyed.”6 And second: “The daily sacrifice will be stopped. There will be 1,290 days from that time until the time that the terrible thing that destroys is set up. The one who waits for and comes to the end of the 1,335 days will be very happy.”7
What our Lord appears to be talking about was the time when they would see the Roman armies encompassing Jerusalem with their ensigns, containing these abominable symbols on them, flying high. Therefore, most of His apostles would be out of Israel on missionary efforts or would have already been martyred. Yet, it was important for all surviving believers to know this because it would mean an end of the dominance of the Jewish religion, and the start of the evangelization of the world through the Gospel of Jesus the Christ.
Somewhat glossed over in this monologue of Jesus is the fact that He calls Daniel a “prophet.” This is in contrast to what the Jewish rabbis taught. For instance, Rabbis were discussing the Book of Ezra, which they believe was actually written by Nehemiah. Then they mentioned Daniel as being greater than Nehemiah because of his vision. Then we read where one Rabbi said: “Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. They were greater than Daniel in one respect, and yet he was superior to them in another. Therefore, they were greater than he, since they were prophets, while he was not. He, on the other hand, was superior to them, since he saw the vision which they did not.”8
Jerome gives us the understanding among scholars in his era of the early church concerning what Jesus meant here with His quote of Daniel’s prophecy. He writes: “Whenever we are urged to use our understanding, the meaning is shown to be mystical. But we read in Daniel this only: ‘And for half a week my sacrifice and offering will be removed, and the abomination of desolation shall be in the temple until the end of time, and the end will be given in abandonment.’9 The apostle also said in this regard that the man of iniquity, the enemy, would rise up against everything uttered by God and would dare to stand in the Temple and be worshiped as though he were God.10 After Satan’s work is finished, however, Christ’s coming will destroy all who raised themselves against Him and will return them to the state of divine abandonment. This man of iniquity can be interpreted either simply as the antichrist, or as the image of Caesar which Pilate put in the temple, or as the statue of Hadrian the equestrian which still today stands in the Holy of Holies. Because the Old Testament normally calls the abomination an idol, the word desolation is added here to indicate that the idol shall be placed there resulting in the Temple’s abandonment and destruction.”11
Verse 15b: (You who read this should understand what it means.)
The scribe and translator for Matthew’s Hebrew writings includes an incidental clarification that has a familiar ring to a parenthetical statement in another Jewish writing where it says: “Copies of the edict were to be proclaimed as law in every province, clearly to all the nations, so that they should be ready for that day.”12 By the time this Gospel was ready for copying, enough time had elapsed so that certain signs of coming doom were already on the horizon. Since there is no mention of the destruction of the Temple here in Matthew, it is logical to consider that this Gospel was distributed before 70 AD. If Matthew’s Gospel was read after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, then this would be obvious to those reading it who survived that terrible event. Also, the same clue should be noted by all believers today looking for our Lord’s return. While this may not be a definitive description of the end, it is certainly a warning that the time is drawing near.
1 The Megillah in English by Yosef Marcus, Published by Kehot Publication Society, Ch. 3:14
1 Chrysostom: Matthew, Homily 75.2
2 Jerome: Commentary on Matthew, Bk. 4, Ch 24:14
3 2 Thessalonians 2:4
4 Constantine reigned from 306-337 AD, and Theodosius reigned from 347-395 AD.
5 Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 49
6 Daniel 9:27
7 Ibid., 12:11
8 Rabbi Jeremiah quoted Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba: Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Masekhet Sanhedrin, folio 93b-94a
9 Daniel 9:27
10 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
11 Jerome: Commentary on Matthew: Bk. 4, Ch 24:15
12 The Megillah in English by Yosef Marcus, Published by Kehot Publication Society, Ch. 3:14