The End of the Age - A Study of Matthew 24 Part One
The End of the Age - A STUDY OF MATTHEW 24 - Part One
In vv. 4-8, Jesus warns His disciples about being deceived. If they could be deceived, so can men today. Verse 4 - “And Jesus answered and said to them, See to it that no one misleads you” (King James - “deceives you” - planao: to cause one to wander). The reason for this warning is given in vv. 4-8. These are only the beginning signs of the destruction. Verse 5 - “For many will come in My name (acting by or in the place of His authority) saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and will mislead many”
The Jews had been looking for the Messiah, to free them from Roman dominion and restore the kingdom of David (John 12:34; 6:15).
Because the desire for a political Messiah was so great among the Jews, many men took advantage of this as a means to popularity and power.
The Levite historian, Josephus, tells us that there were many imposters and deceivers which appeared among the people during this time. “And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness and pretend that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God. And many that were prevailed on by them suffered the punishment of their folly; for Felix (ruled AD 41-54) brought them back and punished them.” (Antiquities Book 20, chapter 8)
Josephus also mentions an Egyptian “who came to Jerusalem and said that he was a prophet. He advised the multitude of common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives. There he would show them how at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down and he would then make entrance into the city for them. Felix, hearing of this, sent soldiers who slew 400 and took 200 alive, but the Egyptian escaped.” (compare Acts 21:38). (Antiquities Book 20, chapter 8, section 6)
Later we are told by Josephus that many “men deceived and deluded the people under the pretense of divine inspiration.” (Wars II. 13.4, 5). This was for the purpose of harming the Roman government. (See also Antiquities Book 20, 5:1 concerning Theudas and his claim to be a prophet; compare Acts 5:36)
Verse 6 - “And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end” (the destruction of Jerusalem). Notice again that Jesus is speaking to His disciples (v. 3) and continually uses the second person pronoun “you”. Verses 4, 6 - these disciples, not men today. Verse 9 - “They will deliver you up to tribulation”, 15, 20, 23, 25 - “Behold I have told you in advance”, 26, 33, 34. This shows conclusively that the events in verses 4-34 were fulfilled in that generation.
A second beginning sign to that generation of disciples would be “wars and rumors of wars”. “It is recorded in the history of Rome that the most violent agitations prevailed in the Roman empire previous to the destruction of Jerusalem. Four emperors: Nero, Galba, Otho and Vitellius suffered violent deaths in the space of 18 months. In consequence of these changes there were commotions throughout the empire. Parties were formed; and bloody and violent wars were the consequence of attachment to particular emperors. This is the more remarkable, as at the time the prophecy was made, the empire was in a state of peace.” (Barnes Notes on Matt. 24:6)
Rome was at war with Syria, Samaria and others just before the destruction of Jerusalem. There were also wars among the Jews themselves agitated by zealots, and these intensified as the siege of Jerusalem commenced.
(Our study of Matthew 24 will be continued in succeeding blog updates)