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Saint Thomas Aquinas
l. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.
Origen: Christ, when He had foretold all that should come upon Jerusalem, "went forth out of the temple," He, who while He was in it, had upheld the temple that it should not fall. And so each man, being the temple of God by reason of the Spirit of God dwelling in him, is himself the cause of his being deserted, that Christ should depart from him. It is worthy of note how they "shew Him the buildings of the temple," as though He had never seen them. We reply, that when Christ had foretold the destruction that should come upon the temple, His disciples were amazed at the thought that so magnificent buildings should be utterly ruined, and therefore they shew them to Him to move Him to pity, that He would not do what He had threatened. And because the constitution of human nature is wonderful, being made the temple of God, the disciples and the rest of the saints confessing the wonderful working of God in respect of the forming of men, intercede before the face of Christ, that He would not forsake the human race for their sins.
Raban.: The historical sense is clear, that in the forty-second year after the Lord's passion, the city and temple were overthrown under the Roman Emperors Vespasian and Titus.
Remig.: So it was ordained of God, that as soon as the light of grace was revealed, the temple with its ceremonies should be taken out of the way, lest any weakling in the faith, beholding all the things [p. 800] instituted of the Lord and hallowed by the Prophets yet abiding, might be gradually drawn away from the purity of the faith to a carnal Judaism.
Chrys., Hom lxxv: How means He Hom. this, "that one stone shalt not be left upon another?" Either as conveying the notion of its utter overthrow; or with respect to the place in which it stood, for its parts were broken up to its very foundations. But I would add, that, after the fate it underwent, the most captious might be satisfied that its very fragments have perished.
Jerome: Figuratively; When the Lord departed from the temple, all the buildings of the Law and the structure of the Commandments were so overthrown, that none of them could be fulfilled by the Jews, but, the Head being taken away, all the parts were at war among themselves.
Origen: Every man also, who, by taking into him the word of God, is become a temple, if after sinning he yet retains in part the traces of faith and religion, his temple is in part destroyed, and in part standing. But he who after sin has no regard for himself is gradually alienated, until he has altogether forsaken the living God, and so one stone is not left upon another of God's commandments, which be has not thrown down.
3. 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 end of the world?"
Remig.: The Lord continuing His walk arrives at Mount Olivet, having by the way foretold the destruction of the temple to those disciples who had shewn and commended the buildings. When they had reached the Mount they came to Him, asking Him further of this.
Chrys.: They asked Him in private, because they were great things about which they were going to ask Him. They wished to know the [p. 801] day of His coming, for the vehement desire they had to see His glory.
Jerome: They ask Him three things. First, The time of the destruction of Jerusalem, saying, "Tell us when shall these things be?" Secondly, The time of Christ's coming, saying, "And what shall be the sign of Thy coming?" Thirdly, The time of the consummation of this world, saying, "And of the end of the world?"
Chrys.: Luke speaks of one enquiry, that concerning Jerusalem, as though the disciples supposed that Christ's coming should be then, and the end of the world should be when Jerusalem should be destroyed.
Whereas Mark does not state them all to have asked concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, but Peter, James, John, and Andrew, as having more bold and free speech with Christ.
Origen: I think Mount Olivet to be a mystery of the Church out of the Gentiles.
Remig.: For Mount Olivet has no unfruitful trees, but olives, which supply light to dispel darkness, which give rest to the weary, health to the sick. And sitting on Mount Olivet over against the temple, the Lord discourses of its destruction, and the destruction of the Jewish nation, that even by His choice of a situation He might shew, that abiding still in the Church He condemns the pride of the wicked.
Origen: For the husbandman dwelling on Mount Olivet is the word of God confirmed in the Church, that is, Christ, who ever grafts the branches of the wild olive on the good olive tree of the Fathers. They who have confidence before Christ, seek to learn the sign of the coming of Christ, and of the consummation of this world.
And the coming of the Word into the soul is of two sorts. The first is that foolish preaching concerning Christ, when we preach that Christ was born and crucified; the second its coming in perfect men, concerning which it is said, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect;" [1 Cor 2:6] and to this second coming is added the end of the world in the perfect man to whom the world is crucified.
Hilary: And because the questions of the disciples are threefold, they are separated by different times and meanings. That concerning the destruction of the city is first answered, and is then confirmed by truth of doctrine, that no seducer might prevail with the ignorant.
Chrys.: His first answer is neither concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, nor concerning [p. 802] His second coming, but concerning the evils which were to be immediately encountered.
Jerome: One of them of whom He speaks was Simon of Samaria, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, that he gave himself out to be the great Power, leaving these things written in his works [ed. note: "The followers of Simon and Cleobius compose books in the name of Christ and His disciples, which they circulate, and so deceive men." Apostol. Const. The author of the Treatise De Divinis Nomin. also mentions "Simon's Controversial Discourses." Vallarsi.] among others, I am the Word of God, I am the Almighty, I am all things of God. The Apostle John also in his Epistle, "Ye have heard that Antichrist shall come; even now there are many Antichrists." [1 John 2:18]
I suppose all heresiarchs. to be Antichrists, and under the name of Christ to teach those things which are contrary to Christ. No wonder if we see some led away by such teachers, when the Lord has said, "And shall deceive many."
Origen: They that are deceived are many, because "wide is the gate that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." [Matt 7:13] This one thing is enough to detect the Antichrists and seducers, that they shall say, "I am Christ," which Christ Himself is no where read to have said: for the works of God, and the word which He taught, and His power, were enough to produce belief that He is Christ.
For every discourse which professes to expound Scripture faithfully, and has not the truth, is Antichrist. For the truth is Christ, that which feigns itself to be the truth is Antichrist. So also all virtues are Christ, all that feigns itself to be virtue is Antichrist; for Christ has in Himself in truth all manner of good for the edification of men, but the devil has forged resemblances of the same for the deceiving of the saints.
We have need therefore of God to help us, that none deceive us, neither word nor power. It is a bad thing to find any one erring in his course of life; but I esteem it much worse not to think according to the most true rule of Scripture.
6. "And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled : for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. [p. 803]
Aug., Ep. 199. 25: To this enquiry of the disciples the Lord makes answer, declaring all things which were to come to pass from that time forwards, whether relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, which had given occasion to their enquiry; or to His coming through the Church, in which He ceases not to come to the end of time; for He is acknowledged as coming among His own, while new members are daily born to Him; or relating to the end itself when He shall appear to judge the quick and the dead.
When then He describes the signs which shall attend these three events, we must carefully consider which signs belong to which events, lest perchance we refer to one that which belongs to another.
Chrys.: Here He speaks of the battles which should be fought at Jerusalem; when He says, "Ye shall hear wars, and rumours of wars."
Origen: To hear the shouts raised in the battles, is to "hear wars;" to hear "rumours of wars," is to hear accounts of wars waged afar off.
Chrys.: And because this might alarm the disciples, He continues, "See that ye be not troubled." And because they supposed that the end of the world would follow immediately after the war in which Jerusalem should be destroyed, He corrects their suspicions concerning this, "These things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."
Jerome: That is, Think not that the day of judgment is at hand, but that it is reserved against another time; the sign of which is plainly put in what follows, "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."
Raban. [ed. note: From this to v. 36. the commentary of Rabanus is wanting in the printed edition. See Pref.]: Or, this is a warning to the Apostles not to flee from Jerusalem and Judaea in terror of these things, when they should begin to come upon them; because the end was not immediately, but the desolation of the province, and the destruction of the city and temple should not come till the fortieth year. And we know that most grievous woes, [p. 804] which spread over the whole province, fell out to the very letter.
Chrys.: And to shew that He also should fight against the Jews, He tells them not only of wars, but of calamities inflicted by Providence, "And there shall be pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes in divers places."
Raban.: "Nation shall rise against nation," shews the disquietude of men's minds; "pestilences," the affliction of their bodies; "famines," the barrenness of the soil; "earthquakes in divers places," wrath from heaven above.
Chrys.: And these things shall not happen according to the order of nature before established among men, but shall come of wrath from heaven, and therefore He said not that they should come only, or come suddenly, but adds significantly, "These all are the beginnings of troubles," that is, of the Jewish troubles.
Origen: Or otherwise; As the body sickens before the death of the man, so it must needs be that before the consummation of this world the earth should be shaken, as though it were palsied, with frequent earthquakes, the air should gather a deadly quality and become pestilential, and that the vital energy of the soil should fail, and its fruits wither. And by consequence of this scarcity, men are stirred up to robbery and war. But because war and strife arise sometimes from covetousness, and sometimes from desire of power and empty glory, of these which shall happen before the end of the world a yet deeper cause shall be assignable.
For as Christ's coming brought through His divine power peace to divers nations, so it shall be on the other hand, "that when iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold," and God and His Christ shall desert them; wars shall be again when actions which beget wars are not hindered by holiness; and hostile powers when they are not restrained by the Saints and by Christ shall work unchecked in the hearts of men, stirring up nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
But if, as some will have it, famine and pestilence are from the Angels of Satan, these shall then gather might from opposite powers, when the salt of the earth, and the lights of the world, Christ's disciples, shall be no longer, destroying those things which the malice of daemons hatches. Ofttimes in Israel famines and pestilences were caused by sin, and removed by the prayers of the Saints. [marg. note: 1 Ki 17:1, Jer 14, James 5:17-18]
Well is that [p. 805] said, "In divers places," for God will not destroy the whole race of men at once, but judging them in portions, He gives opportunity of repentance. But if some stop be not put to these evils in their commencement, they will progress to worse, as it follows, "These all are the beginnings of sorrows," that is, sorrows common to the whole world, and those which are to come upon the wicked who shall be tormented in most sharp pains.
Jerome: Figuratively; Kingdom rising against kingdom and pestilence of that discourse which spreadeth, as a plague-spot, and hunger of hearing the word of God, and commotion throughout the earth, and separation from the true faith, may be rather understood of the heretics, who fighting among themselves give the victory to the Church.
Origen: This must come to pass before we can see the perfection of that wisdom which is in Christ; but not yet shall be that end which we seek, for a peaceful end is far from those men.
Jerome: "These all are the beginnings Of sorrows," is better understood of pains of labour, as it were the conception of the coming of Antichrist, and not of the birth.
9. "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
Raban.: For what desert so many evils are to be brought [p. 806] upon Jerusalem, and the whole Jewish province the Lord shews, when He adds, "Then shall they deliver you up, &c."
Chrys.: Or otherwise; The disciples when they heard these things which were spoken of Jerusalem might suppose that they should be beyond reach of harm, as though what they now heard was the sufferings of others, while they themselves should meet with nothing but prosperous times, He therefore announces the grievous things which should befal them, putting them in fear for themselves.
First He had bid them be on their guard against the arts of false teachers, He now foretels to them the violence of tyrants. In good season He thus introduces their own woes, as here they will receive consolation from the common calamities; and He held out to them not this comfort only, but also that of the cause for which they should suffer, shewing that it was for His name's sake, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake."
Origen: But how should the people of Christ be hated by the nations who dwelt in the uttermost parts of the earth? But one may perhaps say, that in this place all is put hyperbolically for many. But this that He says, "Then shall they deliver you," presents some difficulty; for before these things the Christians were delivered to tribulation. To this it may be answered, that at that time the Christians shall be more delivered to tribulation than ever.
And persons in any misfortune love to examine into the origin of them, and to talk about them. Hence when the worship of the Gods shall be almost deserted by reason of the multitude of Christians, it will be said that that is the cause of the wars, and famines, and pestilences; and of the earthquakes also they will say that the Christians are the cause, whence the persecution of the Churches.
Chrys.: Having named two sources of opposition, that from seducers, and that from enemies, He adds a third, that from false brethren; "And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." See Paul bewailing these same things, "Without were fightings, within were fears;" [2 Cor 7:5] and in another place; "In perils among false brethren," [2 Cor 11:26] of whom he says, "Such are false Apostles, deceitful workers." [2 Cor 11:13]
Remig.: As the capture of Jerusalem approached, many rose up, calling themselves Christians, and deceived many , such [p. 807] Paul calls "false brethren," John "Antichrists."
Hilary: Such Was Nicolaus, one of the seven deacons, who led astray many by his pretences. And Simon Magus who, armed with diabolic works and words, perverted many by false miracles.
Chrys.: And He adds, what is still more cruel, that such false Prophets shall have no alleviation in charity; "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
Remig.: That is, true love towards God and our neighbour, in proportion as each surrenders himself to iniquity, in that proportion will the flame of charity in his heart be extinguished.
Jerome: Observe, He says, "the love of many," not 'of all,' for in the Apostles, and those like them, love would continue, as Paul speaks, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" [Rom 8:35]
Remig.: "Whoso shall endure unto the end," i.e. to the end of his life; for whoso to the end of his life shall persevere in the confession of the name of Christ, and in love, he shall be saved.
Chrys.: Then that they should not say, How then shall we live among so many evils? He promises not only that they should live, but that they should teach every where. "And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world."
Remig.: For the Lord knew that the hearts of the disciples would be made sad by the destruction of Jerusalem, and overthrow of their nation, and He therefore comforts them with a promise that more of the Gentiles should believe than of the Jews should perish.
Chrys.: That before the taking of Jerusalem the Gospel was preached every where, hear what Paul says, "Their sound is gone out into all the earth;" [Rom 10:18] and see himself travelling from Jerusalem into Spain. And if one had so large a province, think how much all must have done. Whence writing to certain, he says of the Gospel, "It bears fruit, and increases in every creature under heaven." [Col 1:6].
And this is the strongest proof of Christ's power, that in thirty years or a little more, the word of the Gospel filled the ends of the world. Though the Gospel was preached every where, yet all did not believe, whence He adds, "For a witness unto all nations," in accusation, that is, of such as believe not, they who have believed bearing witness against them that believed not, and condemning them.
And in fit season did Jerusalem fall, namely, after the Gospel had been preached throughout the world; as it follows, "And then [p. 808] shalt the consummation come," i.e. the end of Jerusalem. For they who have seen Christ's power shining forth every where, and in brief space spread over the whole world, what mercy did they deserve when they continued still in ingratitude?
Remig.: But the whole passage might be referred to the end of the world. For then "shall many be offended," and depart from the faith, when they see the numbers and wealth of the wicked, and the miracles of Antichrist, and they shall persecute their brethren; and Antichrist shall send "false Prophets, who shall deceive many; iniquity shall abound," because the number of the wicked shall be increased; and "love shall wax cold," because the number of the good shall diminish.
Jerome: And the sign of the Lord's second coming is, that the Gospel shall be preached in all the world, so that all may be without excuse.
Origen: And that, "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake," might be then applied thus; That indeed at this time all nations are conspired together against the Christians, but that when the things foretold by Christ shall have come to pass, then there shall be persecutions, not as before in places, but everywhere against the people of God.
Aug., Ep. 199, 46: But that this preaching "the Gospel of the kingdom in all the world" was accomplished by the Apostles, we have not any certain evidence, to prove. There are numberless barbarous nations in Africa, among whom the Gospel is not even yet preached, as it is easy to learn from the prisoners who are brought from thence. But it cannot be said that these have no part in the promise of God. For God promised with an oath not the Romans only, but all nations to the seed of Abraham.
But in whatever nation there is yet no Church established, it must needs be that there should be one, not that all the people should believe; for how then should that be fulfilled, "Ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake," unless there be in all nations those who hate and those who are hated? That preaching therefore was not accomplished by the Apostles, while as yet there were nations among whom it had not begun to be fulfilled. The words of the Apostle also, "Their sound hath gone out into all the world," though expressed as of time past, are meant to apply to something future, not yet completed; as the Prophet [marg. note: Ps 19:4], whose words he quotes, said that the Gospel bore fruit and grew in the whole world, [p. 809] to shew thereby to what extent its growth should come. If then we know not when it shall be that the whole world shall be filled with the Gospel, undoubtedly we know not when the end shall be; but it shall not be before such time.
Origen: When every nation shall have heard the preaching of the Gospel, then shall come the end of the world. For at this time there are many nations, not of barbarians only, but of our own, who have not yet heard the word of Christianity.
Gloss., non occ. [ed. note: This Gloss appears to be a note of S. Thomas, in confirmation of the view of S. Chrysostom, which refers this to the taking of Jerusalem. cf. Iren Haeres. i. 2 and 3.]: But it is possible to maintain both applications of the passage, if only we will take this diffusion of Gospel preaching in a double sense. If we understand it of fruit produced by the preaching, and the foundation in every nation of a Church of believers in Christ, as Augustine (in the passage above quoted) expounds it, then it is a sign which ought to precede the end of the world, and which did not precede the destruction of Jerusalem. But if we understand it of the fame of their preaching, then it was accomplished before the destruction of Jerusalem, when Christ's disciples had been dispersed over the four quarters of the earth.
Whence Jerome says, I do not suppose that there remained any nation which knew not the name of Christ; for where preacher had never been, some notion of the faith must have been communicated by neighbouring nations. [marg. note: Hieron. in loc.]
Origen: Morally; He who shall see that glorious second coming of the word of God into his soul, must needs suffer in proportion to the measure of his proficiency assaults of opposing influences, and Christ in him must be hated by all, not only by the nations literally understood, but by the nations of spiritual vices.
And in such enquiries there will be few who shall reach the truth with any fulness, the more part shall be offended and fall therefrom, betraying and accusing one another because of their disagreement respecting doctrines, which shall give rise to a mutual hatred. Also there shall be many setting forth unsound words concerning things to come, and interpreting the Prophets in a manner in which they ought not; these are the false Prophets who shall deceive many, and who shall cause to wax cold that fervour of love which was before in the simplicity of the [p. 810] faith.
But he who can abide firmly in the Apostolic tradition, he shall be saved; and the Gospel being preached to the minds of all shall be for a testimony to all nations, that is, to all the unbelieving thoughts of the soul.
15. "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:)
Chrys.: As above He had obscurely intimated the end of Jerusalem; He now proceeds to a more plain announcement of it, citing a prophecy which should make them believe it.
Jerome: That, "Let him that readeth understand," is said to call us to the mystic understanding of the place. What we read in Daniel is this; "And in the midst of the week the sacrifice and the oblation shall be taken away, and in the temple shall be the abomination of desolations until the consummation of the time, and consummation shall be given upon the desolate." [Dan 9:27, septuagint]
Aug., Ep. 199, 31: Luke, in order to shew that the abomination of desolation foretold by Daniel had reference to the time of the siege of Jerusalem, repeats these words [p. 811] of our Lord, "When ye shall see Jerusalem encompassed by armies, then know ye that its desolation draweth nigh." [Luke 21:20]
Pseudo-Chrys.: Whence I think that by the abomination of desolation, He means the army by which the city of the holy Jerusalem was desolated.
Jerome: Or it may be understood of the statue of Caesar, which Pilate set up in the temple; or of the equestrian statue of Adrian, which stood to the present time in the very Holy of Holies. For, according to the Old Scripture, an idol is called 'abomination;' "of desolation" is added, because the idol was set up in the desolated and deserted temple.
Chrys.: Or because he who desolated the city and the temple placed his statue there. He says, "When ye shall see," because these things were to happen while some of them were yet alive. Wherein admire Christ's power, and the courage of the disciples, who preached through those times in which all things Jewish were the object of attack. The Apostles, being Jews, introduced new laws in opposition to the Roman authority. The Romans conquered countless thousands of Jews, but could not overcome twelve unarmed unprotected men. [marg. note: Chrys., Hom. lxxvi]
But because it had often happened to the Jews to be recovered in very desperate circumstances, as in the times of Sennacherib and Antiochus, that no man might look for any such event now, He gave command to His disciples to fly, saying, "Then let them which, are in Judaea flee to the mountains."
Remig.: And this we know was so done when the fall of Jerusalem drew near; for on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, [marg. note: Euseb., H. E., iii. 5] miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time; but Agrippa himself, with the Jews whom he governed, was subjected to the dominion of the Romans.
Chrys.: Then to shew how inevitable the evils that should come upon the Jews, and how infinite their calamity, He adds, "And let him which is on the housetop, not come down to take any thing out of his house," for it was better to be saved, and to lose his clothes, than to put on a garment and perish; and of him who is in the field He says the same. For if those who are in the [p. 812] city fly from it, little need is there for those who are abroad to return to the city.
But it is easy to despise money, and not hard to provide other raiment; but how can one avoid natural circumstances? How can a woman with child be made active for flight, or how can she that gives suck desert the child she has brought forth?
"Woe," therefore, "to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days;" to the one, because they are encumbered, and cannot easily fly, bearing about the burden of the womb; to the other, because they are held by compassion for their children, and cannot save with them those whom they are suckling.
Origen: Or because that will not be a time of shewing pity, neither upon them who are with child, nor upon them who are suckling, nor upon their infants. And as speaking to Jews who thought they might travel no more upon the sabbath than a sabbath-day's journey, He adds, "But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath."
Jerome: Because in the one the severity of the cold prevents your flight to the deserts, and your lurking in mountains and wilds; in the other, you must either transgress the Law, if you will fly, or encounter instant death if you will stay.
Chrys.:. Note how this speech is directed against the Jews; for when these things were done by Vespasian, the Apostles could neither observe the Sabbath nor fly, seeing most of them were already dead, and those who survived were living in distant countries. And why they should pray for this He adds a reason, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor shall be."
Aug., Ep. 199. 30: In Luke it is thus read, "There shall be great distress upon the earth, and wrath upon this people, and they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations." [Luke 21:23]
And so Josephus [marg. note: B. J. vii], who wrote the Jewish History, relates evils so great happening to this people as to seem hardly credible. Whence it was not unreasonably said, that such tribulation had never been from the beginning of creation, nor should be; for though in the time of Antichrist shall be such, or perhaps greater; yet to the Jews, of whom we must understand this, such shall never more befal. For if they shall be the first and the chief to receive Antichrist, they will then [p. 813] rather inflict than suffer tribulation.
Chrys.: I ask the Jews, whence came upon them so grievous wrath from heaven more woeful than all that had come upon them before? Plainly it was because of the desperate crime and the denial of the Cross. But He shews that they deserved still heavier punishment than they received, when He adds, "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved;" that is, If the siege by the Romans should be continued longer, all the Jews would perish; for by "all flesh," He means all the Jewish nation, those within and those without; for the Romans were at war not only with those in Judaea, but with the whole race wherever dispersed.
Aug.: Indeed some persons seem to me not unfitly to understand by "these days" the evils themselves, as in other places of divine Scripture evil days are spoken of; not that the days themselves are evil, but the things that are done on them. And they are said to be shortened, because they are less felt, God giving us endurance; so that even though grievous, they are felt as short.
Chrys.: But that the Jews should not say that these evils came because of the preaching and the disciples of Christ, He shews them that had it not been for His disciples, they would have totally perished, "but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."
Aug.: For we ought not to doubt that when Jerusalem was overthrown, there were among that people elect of God who had believed out of the circumcision, or would have believed, elect before the foundation of the world, for whose sake those days should be shortened, and their evils made endurable. Some there are who suppose that the days will be shortened by a more rapid motion of the sun, as the day was made longer on the prayer of Jesus Name. [?]
Jerome: Not remembering that which is written. "The day continues according to thy ordinances." [Ps 119:91] We must understand it of their being shortened not in measure, but in number, lest the faith of believers should be shaken by lengthened affliction.
Aug.: For let us not suppose that the computation of Daniel's weeks was interfered with by this shortening of those days, or that they were not already at that time complete, but had to be completed afterwards in the end of all things, for Luke most plainly testifies that the prophecy of Daniel was accomplished at the time when [p. 814] Jerusalem was overthrown.
Chrys.: Observe this economy of the Holy Spirit in this, that John wrote nothing of all this, that he might not seem to be writing a history after the event; for he survived sometime the taking of Jerusalem. But these who died before it, and saw nothing of it, these write it, that the power of prophecy may shine manifestly forth.
Hilary: Or otherwise; It is a sign of His future coming that the Lord gives, when He says, "When ye shall see the abomination." For the Prophet spoke this of the times of Antichrist; and he calls abomination that which coming against God claims to itself the honour of God. It is "the abomination of desolation," because it will desolate the earth with wars and slaughter; and it is admitted by the Jews, and set up in the holy place, that where God had been invoked by the prayers of the saints, into that same place admitted by the unbelievers it might be adored with the worship of God. And because this error will be peculiar to the Jews, that having rejected the truth they should adopt a lie, He warns them to leave Judaea, and flee to the mountains, that no pollution or infection might be gathered by admixture with a people who should believe on Antichrist.
That He says, "Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house," is thus understood. The roof is the highest part of the house, the summit and perfection of the whole building. He then who stands on the top of his house, i.e. in the perfection of his heart, aloft in the regeneration of a new spirit, ought not to come down to the lower desire of things of the world.
"Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his coat;" i.e. He that has attained to obedience to the command, let him not return back to his former cares, to take on him again the coat of his former sins in which be once was clothed.
Aug.: For in tribulations we must beware of coming down from the spiritual heights, and yielding ourselves to the carnal life; or of failing and looking behind us, after having made some progress forwards.
Hilary: That which is said, "Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck," is not to be taken literally as an admonition to women pregnant, but as a description of souls burdened with the weight of sin, that neither in the house, nor in the field, may escape the [p. 815] storm of the wrath that is in store for them.
Woe also to those that are being suckled; the weak souls, that is, who are being brought to the knowledge of God as by milk, to whom it shall be woe, because they are too laden to fly, and too inexperienced to resist Antichrist, having neither escaped sin, nor partaken of the food of true bread.
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. App. 75, 2: Or, "They that are with child," are they who covet what belongs to others; "they that give suck," are they who have already forcibly taken that which they coveted; to them shall be "woe" in the day of judgment. "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, or on the sabbath day;" that is,
Aug., Quaest. Ev., I, 37: that no one be found in that day in either joy or sorrow for temporal things.
Hilary: Or; That we be not taken in the frost of sins., or in discontinuance of good works, because of the soreness of the affliction; notwithstanding that for the sake of God's elect, those days shall be shortened, that the abridgment of the time may disarm the force of the calamities.
Origen: Mystically; In the holy place of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, Antichrist, that is, false word, has often stood; let those who see this flee from the Judaea of the letter to the high mountains of truth. And whoso has been found to have gone up to the house-top of the word, and to be standing upon its summit, let him not come down thence as though he would fetch any thing out of his house. And if he be in the field in which the treasure is hid, and return thence to his house, he will run into the temptation of a false word; but especially if he have stripped off his old garment, that is, the old man, and should have returned again to take it up. Then the soul, as it were with child by the word, not having yet brought forth, is liable to a woe; for it casts that which it had conceived, and loses that hope which is in the acts of truth; and the same also if the word has been brought forth perfect and entire, but not having yet attained sufficient growth.
Let them that flee to the mountains pray that their flight be not in the winter or on the sabbath-day, because in the serenity of a settled spirit they may reach the way of salvation, but if the winter overtake them they fall amongst those whom they would fly from. And there be some who rest from evil works, but do not good works; be your flight then not on such sabbath [p.816] when a man rests from good works, for no man is easily overcome in times of peril from false doctrines, except he is unprovided with good works.
But what sorer affliction is there than to see our brethren deceived, and to feel one's self shaken and terrified? Those days mean the precepts and dogmas of truth; and all interpretations coming of "science falsely so called" [1 Tim 6:20] are so many additions to those days, which God shortens by those whom He wills.
23. "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
Chrys.: When the Lord had finished all that related to Jerusalem, He came in the rest to His own coming, and gives them signs thereof, useful not for them only, but for us and for all who shall be after us.
As above, the Evangelist said, "In those days came John the Baptist," [Matt 3:1] not implying immediately after what had gone before, but thirty years after; so here, when He says, "Then," He passes over the whole interval of time between the taking of Jerusalem and the beginnings of the consummation of the world.
Among the signs which He gives of His second coming He certifies them concerning the place, and the deceivers. For it shall not be then as at His former coming, when He appeared in Bethlehem, in a corner of the world, unknown of any; but [p. 817] He shall come openly so as not to need any to announce His approach.
Wherefore, "If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe not."
Jerome: Wherein He shews that His second coming shall be not in lowliness as His first, but in glory; and therefore it is folly to seek in places little and obscure for Him who is the Light of the whole world. [marg note: John 8:12]
Hilary: Notwithstanding, by reason of the great tribulation in which men shall be cast, false prophets promising to shew aid present from Christ, will falsely affirm that Christ is present in divers places, that they may draw into the service of Antichrist men discouraged and distracted.
Chrys.: He speaks here of Antichrist, and of certain his ministers, whom He calls false Christs and false prophets, such as were many in the time of the Apostles; but before Christ's second coming there shall come others more bitter than the former, "And they shall shew great signs and wonders." [2 Thes 2:9]
Aug., Lib. 83, Quaest., Q79: Here the Lord forewarns us that even wicked men shall do some miracles which the saints cannot do, yet are they not therefore to be thought to have a higher place in the sight of God. For the Egyptian magi were not more acceptable to God than the people of Israel, because they could do what the Israelites could not; yet did Moses, by the power of God, work greater things. This gift is not bestowed on all the saints, lest the weak should be led astray by a most destructive error, supposing such powers to be higher gifts than those works of righteousness by which eternal life is secured. And though magi do the same miracles that the saints do, yet are they done with a different end, and through a different authority; for the one do them seeking the glory of God, the others seeking their own glory; these do them by some special compact or privilege [marg. note: al. veneficia] granted to the Powers, within their sphere, those by the public dispensation and the command of Him to whom all creation is subject [ed. note: see above on chap. vii, 22].
For it is one thing for the owner of a horse to be compelled to give it up to a soldier, another for him to hand it over to a purchaser, or to give or lend it to a friend; and as those evil soldiers, who are condemned by the imperial discipline, employ the imperial ensigns to terrify the owners of any property, and to extort from them what is not required by [p. 818] the public service; so some evil Christians, by means of the name of Christ, or by words or sacraments Christian, compel somewhat from the Powers; yet these, when thus at the bidding of evil men, they depart from their purpose, they depart in order to deceive men in whose wanderings they rejoice.
It is one way then in which magi, another in which good Christians, another in which bad Christians, work miracles; the magi by a private compact, good Christians by the public righteousness, evil Christians by the signs of public righteousness. [marg. note: non occ.] And we ought not to wonder at this when we believe not unreasonably that all that we see happen is wrought by the agency of the inferior powers of this air.
Aug., de Trin., iii, 8: Yet are we not therefore to think that this visible material world attends the nod of the disobedient angels, but rather the power is given them of God. Nor are we to suppose that such evil angels have creative power, but by their spirituality they know the seeds of things which are bidden from us, and these they secretly scatter by suitable adaptations of the elements, and so they give occasion both to the whole being, and the more rapid increase of substances.
For so there are many men who know what sort of creatures use to be generated out of certain herbs, meats, juices and humours, bruised and mingled together in a certain fashion; save only that it is harder for men to do these things, inasmuch as they lack that subtlety of sense, and penetrativeness of body in their limbs dull and of earthly mould.
Greg., Mor. xv, 61: When then Antichrist shall have wrought wonderful prodigies before the eyes of the carnal, he shall draw men after him, all such as delight in present goods, surrendering themselves irrevocably to his sway, "Insomuch that if it were possible the very elect should be led astray."
Origen: That, "If it were possible," is spoken hyperbolically; not that the elect can be led astray, but He wishes to shew that the discourse of heretics is often so persuasive, as to have force to prevail even with those who act [marg. note: al. audiunt] wisely.
Greg., Mor., xxxiii, 36: Or, because the heart of the elect is assailed with fearful thoughts, yet their faithfulness is not shaken, the Lord comprehends both under the same sentence, for to waver in thought is to err. He adds, "If it were possible," because it is not possible that the elect should be taken in error. [p. 819]
Raban.: He says not this because it is possible for the divine election to be defeated, but because they, who to men's judgment seemed elect, shall be led into error.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxxv, i: And as darts, when foreseen, are less likely to hit, He adds, "Lo, I have told you." Our Lord announces the woes which are to precede the destruction of the world, that when they come they may alarm the less from having been foreknown.
Hilary: The false prophets, of whom He had spoken above, shall say of Christ one while, "Lo, He is in the desert," in order that they may cause men to wander astray; another while, "Lo, He is in the secret chambers," that they may enthral men under the dominion of Antichrist. But the Lord declares Himself to be neither lurking in a remote corner, nor shut up to be visited singly, but that He shall be exhibited to the view of all, and in every place, "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be."
Chrys.: As He had above described in what guise Antichrist should come, so here He describes how He Himself shall come. For as the lightning needeth none to herald or announce it, but is in an instant of time visible throughout the whole world, even to those that are sitting in their chambers, so the coming of Christ shall be seen every where at once, because of the brightness of His glory.
Another sign He adds of His coming, "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." The eagles denote the company of the Angels, Martyrs, and Saints.
Jerome: By an instance from nature, which we daily see, we are instructed in a sacrament of Christ. Eagles and vultures are said to scent dead bodies even beyond sea, and to flock to feed upon them. If then birds, not having the gift of reason, by instinct alone find out where lays a dead body, separated by so great space of country, how much more ought the whole multitude of believers to hasten to Christ, whose lightning goeth forth out of the east, and shines even to the west? We may understand by the carcase here, or corpse, which in the Latin is more expressively 'cadaver,' an allusion to the passion of Christ's death.
Hilary: That we might not be ignorant of the place in which He should come, He adds this, "Wheresoever [p. 820] the carcase, &c." He calls the Saints "eagles," from the spiritual flight of their bodies, and shews that their gathering shall be to the place of His passion, the Angels guiding them thither; and rightly should we look for His coming in glory there, where He wrought for us eternal glory by the suffering of His bodily humiliation.
Origen: And observe, He says not vultures or crows, but "eagles," shewing the lordliness and royalty of all who have believed in the Lord's passion.
Jerome: They are called eagles whose youth is renewed as the eagle's, and who take to themselves wings that they may come to Christ's passion. [marg. note: Ps 103:5, Isa 40:31]
Greg., Mor. xxxi, 53: We may understand this, "Wheresoever the carcase is," as meaning, I who incarnate sit on the throne of heaven, as soon as I shall have loosed the souls of the elect from the flesh, will exalt them to heavenly places.
Jerome: Or otherwise ; This may be understood of the false prophets. At the time of the Jewish captivity, there were many leaders who declared themselves to be Christs, [marg. note: Josephus, B. J., v. 1] so that while the Romans were actually besieging them, there were three factions within. But it is better taken as we expounded it above, of the end of the world.
Thirdly, it may be understood of the warfare of the heretics against the Church, and of those Antichrists, who under pretext of false science, fight against Christ.
Origen: The genus of Antichrist is one, the species many, just as all lies are of one sort. As all the holy Prophets were Prophets of the true Christ, so understand that each false Christ shall have his own false Prophets, who shall preach as true the false teachings of some Antichrist. When then one shall say, "Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there," we need not look abroad out of the Scriptures, for out of the Law, the Prophets, and the Apostles, they bring the things which seem to favour their lie.
Or by this, "Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there," they shew that it was not Christ, but some impostor under the same title, such for example as Marcion, or Valentinus, or Basilides taught.
Jerome: If then any one assert to you that Christ tarries in "the desert" of the Gentiles, or in the teaching of the Philosophers, or in "the secret chambers" of the heretics, who promise the hidden things of God, believe Him not, but believe that the Catholic Faith shines from "east to west" in [p. 821] the Churches.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 38: By the "east" and "west," He signifies the whole world, throughout which the Church should be. In the same way as He said below, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man coming in the clouds, of heaven," [Matt 26:64] so now He likens His coming to lightning, which uses to flash out of the clouds. When then the authority of the Church is set up clear and manifest throughout the whole world, He suitably warns His disciples that they should not believe schismatics and heretics. Each schism and heresy holds its own place, either occupying some important position in the earth, or ensnaring men's curiosity in obscure and remote conventicles.
"Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there," refers to some district or province of the earth; "the secret chambers," or "the desert," signify the obscure and lurking conventicles of heretics.
Jerome: Or by this, "in the desert," or "in the secret chambers," He means that in times of persecution and distress, the false Prophets always find place for deceiving.
Origen: Or, when they allege secret and before unpublished Scriptures, in proof of their lie, they seem to say, Lo, the word of truth is in the desert. But when they produce canonical Scripture in which all Christians agree, they seem to say, Lo, the word of truth is in the chambers.
Or wishing to point out such discourses as are altogether without Scripture, He said, "If they shall say to you, Lo, he is in the secret chambers, believe it not." Truth is like the "lightning that cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west."
Or this may mean, that truth can be supported out of every passage of Scripture. The lightning of truth comes out of "the east," that is, from the first beginnings of Christ, and shines throughout even to His passion, which is His setting; or from the very beginning of creation, to the last Scripture of the Apostles.
Or, "the east" is the Law, "the west" is the end of the Law, and of John's prophecy. The Church alone neither takes away word or meaning from this lightning, nor adds aught to its prophecy.
Or He means that we should give no heed to those who say, "Lo, here is Christ," but shew Him not in the Church, in which alone is the coming or the Son of Man, who said, "Lo, I am with you, always even to the end of the world." [Matt 28:20]
Jerome: We are invited to flock to Christ's passion wheresoever in Scripture it [p. 822] read of, that through it we may be able to come to God's word.
29. "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:
Gloss., non occ.: As soon as the Lord has fortified the believers against the arts of Antichrist and his ministers, by shewing that His coming would be public, He proceeds to shew the order and method of His coming.
Chrys.: By the tribulation, He means the times of Antichrist and the false Prophets; for when there are so many deceivers, the tribulation will be great. But it shall not extend through any great length of time. For if for the elect's sake the Jewish war is shortened, much more shall this tribulation be shortened for their sakes; for which reason He said not "After," but "Immediately after," for He shall come immediately after.
Hilary: The darkening of the sun, the failing of the moon, and the fall of the stars, indicate the glories of His coming.
Origen: One will say, As at the breaking out of great conflagrations, great darkness is at the first caused by the smoke, so when the world shall be consumed by fire, which shall be kindled, even the great luminaries shall be darkened; and when the light of the stars is decayed, the rest of their substance, incapable of exaltation, shall fall from heaven into what it was, when it was first raised aloft by the light.
When this shall have taken place, it follows that the rational heavenly powers shall suffer dismay and derangement, and shall be suspended from their functions. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven," that sign by which the heavenly things were made, that is, the power which the Son wrought when He hung upon the cross. And the sign shall appear in heaven, that men of all tribes [p. 823] who before had not believed Christianity when preached, then by that sign, acknowledging it as made plain, shall grieve and mourn for their ignorance and sins.
Others will think otherwise, that as the light of a lamp dies away by degrees, so when the supply of the heavenly luminaries shall fail, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon and the light of the stars shall grow dim, and that which in their composition is earthy shall fall from heaven. But how can it be said of the sun that its light shall be darkened, when Esaias the Prophet declares, that in the end of the world, there shall be light proceeding forth from the sun? [Isa 30:26]
And of the moon he declares that it shall be as the sun. But concerning the stars, there are some that endeavour to convince us that all, or many of them, are larger than the whole earth. How then shall they fall from heaven, when this earth would not be large enough to contain them?
Jerome: These things, therefore, shall not come to pass by any diminution of light, for in another place we read that the light of the sun shall be sevenfold; but by comparison with real light, all things shall seem dim.
Raban.: But nothing hinders our supposing that the sun and moon with the other stars shall for a time lose their light, as we know did the sun at the time of the Lord's passion; as Joel also says, "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come." [Joel 2:31]
But when the day of judgment is passed, and the life of future glory shall dawn, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, then shall that come to pass of which Isaiah speaks, "The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold. The stars shall fall from heaven," [Isa 30:26] is expressed in Mark; "There shall be stars falling from heaven," [Mark 13:25] that is, lacking their proper light.
Jerome: "By the powers of heaven," we understand the bands of the Angels.
Chrys.: Very fitly shall they be shaken and dismayed, seeing so mighty a change being wrought, their fellow-servants punished, and the universe standing before a terrible tribunal.
Origen: But as, at the dispensation of the Cross, the sun was eclipsed, and darkness was spread over the earth; so when the sign of the Son of Man appears in heaven, the light of the sun, moon, and [p. 824] stars, shall fail, as though waning before the might of that sign. This we understand to be the sign of the cross, that the Jews. may see, as Zacharias and John speak, "Him whom they have pierced," [Zech 12:10, John 19:37] and the sign of victory.
Chrys.: But because the sun will be darkened, the cross would not be seen, if it were not far brighter than the rays of the sun. That the disciples might not be ashamed, and grieve over the cross, He speaks of it as a sign, with a kind of distinction. The sign of the cross will appear to overthrow the shamelessness of the Jews, when Christ shall appear in the judgment, shewing not only His wounds, but His most ignominious death, "And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn." For when they shall see the cross, they shall bethink them how they have gained nought by His death, and that they have crucified Him whom they ought to have worshipped.
Jerome: Rightly does He say, "the tribes of the earth," for they shall mourn who have no citizenship in heaven, but are written in earth. [Jer 17:13]
Origen: Morally, one may say that the sun, which shall be darkened, is the Devil, who shall be convicted in the end of the world, that whereas he is darkness, he has feigned himself to be the sun; the moon, which seems to receive its light from this sun, is the Church of the wicked, which professes to have and to give light, but then convicted with its sinful dogmas, shall lose its brightness; and all those who, either by false teaching, or false virtues, promised truth to men, but led them astray by lies, these are fitly called stars falling from, so to say, their own heaven, where they were raised on high, exalting themselves against the knowledge of God.
For illustration of this discourse, we may apply that place in Proverbs, which says, "The light of the just is unquenchable, but the light of the wicked shall be quenched." [Prov 4:18] Then the brightness of God shall appear in every one who has borne the image of the heavenly; and they of heaven shall rejoice, but they of earth shall lament.
Aug., Ep. 199, 39: Or, the Church is the sun, moon, and stars, to which it is said, "Fair as the moon, bright as the sun. Then shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light," [Song of Songs 6:10] because in that ungoverned fury of wicked persecutors, the Church shall not be seen.
"Then shall the stars fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be [p. 825] shaken," because many, who seemed to be shining in God's grace, shall give way to their persecutors, and shall fall, and even the stoutest believers shall be shaken. And these things shall be "after the tribulation of those days," not because they shall happen when the whole persecution is overpast, but because the tribulation shall be first, that the falling away may come after. And because it shall be so throughout all those days, it shall be "after the tribulation of those days," yet on those very days.
 "And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
Chrys.: He adds this, that having heard of the cross, they should not now imagine a similar degradation.
Aug., Ep. 199, 41: The first and most apparent meaning of this is of that time when He shall come to judge the quick and the dead in His body -- that body in which He sits at the right hand of the Father, in which He died and rose again and ascended into heaven. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles; "He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out their sight," [Acts 1:9] upon which it was said by the Angels, "He shall so come as ye have seen Him go into heaven," we may reasonably believe that He will come again, not only in the same body, but also in a cloud.
Origen: Therefore shall they see with the bodily eyes the Son of Man, coming in human shape, "in the clouds of heaven," that is, on high. As at the transfiguration, a voice came out of the cloud, so when He shall come again transformed into His glorious appearance, it shall be not on one cloud, but upon many, which shall be His chariot. And if when the Son of God went up to Jerusalem, they who loved Him spread their garments in the way, not willing that even the ass that carried Him should tread upon the earth; what wonder, if the Father and God of all should spread the clouds of heaven under the body of the Son, when He comes to the work of the consummation?
And one may say, that as in the creation of man, God took clay from the earth and made man; so to manifest the glory of Christ, the Lord taking of the heaven, and of its substance, gave it a body [p. 826] of a bright cloud in the Transfiguration, and of bright clouds at the Consummation; wherefore it is here said, "in the clouds of heaven," as it was there said, "of the clay of the ground." [Gen 2:7]
And it behoves the Father to give all such admirable gifts to the Son, because He humbled Himself; and He has also exalted Him, not only spiritually, but bodily, that He should come upon such clouds; and perhaps upon rational clouds, that even the chariot of the glorified Son of Man should not be irrational.
At the first, Jesus came with that power with which He wrought signs and wonders in the people; yet was that power little in comparison of that great power with which He shall come in the end; for that was the power of one emptying Himself of power. And also, it is fitting that He should be transformed into greater glory than at the transfiguration on the mount; for then He was transfigured for the sake of three only, but in the consummation of the whole world, He shall appear in great glory, that all may see Him in glory.
Aug.: But because the Scriptures are to be searched, and we are not to content ourselves with the surface of them, let us look closely at what follows, "When ye see all these things come to pass, know that he is near even at the door." We know then that He is near, when we see come to pass not any of the foregoing things, but all of them, among which is this that the Son of Man shall be seen coming. "And he shall send his Angels," who from the four quarters of the world shall gather together His elect.
All these things He does at "the last hour" [1 John 2:18] coming in His members as in the clouds, or in the whole Church as in one great cloud, as now He ceases not to come. And "with great power and glory," because His power and glory will seem greater in the Saints to whom He will give great power, that they may not be overcome of persecution.
Origen: Or He comes every day "with great power" to the mind of the believer in the clouds of prophecy, that is, in the Scriptures of the Prophets and the Apostles, who utter the word of God with a meaning above human nature.
Also we say that to those who understand He comes with "great glory," and that this is the more seen in the second coming of the Word which is to the perfect. And so it may be, that all which the three Evangelists have said concerning Christ's [p. 827] coming, if carefully compared together and thoroughly examined, would be found to apply to His continual daily coming in His body, which is the Church, of which coming He said in another place, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man. sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven," [Matt 26:6] excepting those places in which He promises that His last coming in His own person.
31. "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 heaven to the other."
Origen: Because He had spoken of mourning, which shall be only that they may bear witness against themselves and condemn themselves, that none should suppose that that mourning will end their woes, He now adds, "And he shall send his Angels with a trump and a loud voice."
Remig.: Here we are not to think of a real trumpet, but of the voice of the archangel, which shall be so loud that at its sound all the dead shall rise out of the dust of the earth.
Chrys.: The sound of the trump refers to the resurrection, and the rejoicing, and to represent the astonishment which shall be then, and the woe of those that shall be left, and shall not be snatched up into the clouds.
Origen: It is written in Numbers, that the Priests shall summon by the sound of the trumpet from the four winds those who are of the camp of Israel [Num 10:3], and it is in allusion to this that Christ speaks here of the Angels, "And they shall gather together the elect from the four winds."
Remig.: That is, from the four quarters of the world, north, south, east, and west.
Origen: Some of little discernment think, that only those who shall then be found in the body shall be gathered together, but it is better to say that the Angels of Christ shall then gather together not only all who from the coming of Christ to the end of the world have been called and chosen, but all from the foundation of the world, who like Abraham have seen the day of Christ and rejoiced therein. [marg. note: John 8:56] And that He here means not only those that shall be found in the body, but those also who have quitted the body, the following words shew, "from one end of heaven to the other," which cannot be meant of any one upon earth,
Or, the heavens are the divine [p. 828] Scriptures and their authors [marg. note: al. autoritates] in which God dwells. "One end of heaven" is the beginning of the Scriptures, "the other" end is their conclusion. The saints there are gathered together "from one end of heaven," that is, from those that live in the beginning of the Scriptures to those who live in the ends of them. They shall be gathered together "with a trump and a loud voice," that they who bear and attend may prepare themselves for that way of perfection which leads to the Son of God.
Remig.: Or otherwise; Lest any one should suppose that they should be gathered only from the four quarters of the world, and not from the middle regions, He adds this, "And from one end of heaven to the other." By the heights of heaven meaning the central regions of the earth, which are under the heights of heaven; and by the ends of heaven, meaning the extreme parts of the earth, where the land seems to join a very wide and distant horizon.
Chrys.: That the Lord calls His elect by His Angels pertains to the honour of the elect; and Paul also says "that they shall be caught into the clouds;" [1 Thes 4:17] that is, the Angels shall gather together those that have risen, and when they are gathered together, the clouds shall receive them.
32. "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
Chrys., Hom. lxxvii: Because He had said that these things should come to pass "immediately after the tribulation of those days," they might ask, How long time hence, He therefore gives them an instance in the fig.
Jerome: As much as to say, When the tender shoots first shew themselves in the stem of the fig tree, and the bud bursts into flower, and the bark puts forth leaves, ye perceive the approach of summer and the season of spring and growth; so when ye shall see all [p. 829] these things that are written, do not suppose that the end of the world is immediate, but that certain monitory signs and precursors are shewing its approach.
Chrys.: He shews that the interval of time shall not be great, but that the coming of Christ will be presently. By the comparison of the tree He signifies the spiritual summer and peace that the just shall enjoy after their winter, while sinners on the other hand shall have a winter after summer.
Origen: As the fig has its vital powers torpid within it through the season of winter, but when that is past its branches become tender by those very powers and put forth leaves; so the world and all those who are saved had before Christ's coming their vital energies dormant within them as in a season of winter. Christ's Spirit breathing upon them makes the branches of their hearts soft and tender, and that which was dormant within burgeons into leaf, and makes shew of fruit. To such the summer and the coming of the glory of the Word of God is nigh at hand.
Chrys.: This analogy also adds credit to His foregoing discourse; for wherever He speaks of what must by all means come to pass, Christ ever brings forward parallel physical laws.
Aug., Ep. 199, 22: That now from the Evangelic and Prophetic signs that we see come to pass, we ought to look that the Lord's coming should be nigh, who is there that denies? For daily it draws ever more and more near, but of the exact time it is said, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons." [Acts 1:7] See how long ago the Apostle said, "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." [Rom 13:11] What he spoke was not false, and yet how many years have elapsed, how much more may we not say that the Lord's coming is at hand now, that so great an accession of time has been made?
Hilary: Mystically; The Synagogue is likened to the fig tree; [ed. note: See above on chap xxi, 19] its branch is Antichrist, the son of the Devil, the portion of sin, the maintainer of the law; when this shall begin to swell and to put forth leaves, then summer is nigh, i.e. the approach of the day of judgment shall be perceived.
Remig.: Or, when this fig shall again bud, that is, when the synagogue shall receive the word of holy preaching, as the preaching of Enoch and Elias, then we ought to understand that the day of the consummation is at hand.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 39: Or, by the fig tree understand the human race, by reason of the [p. 830] temptations of the flesh. "When its branch is tender," i.e. when the sons of men through faith in Christ have progressed towards spiritual fruits, and the honour of their adoption to be the sons of God has shone forth in them.
Hilary: To give sure credit to the things which should come to pass He adds, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled." By saying "Verily," He gives asseveration to the truth.
Origen: The uninstructed refer the words to the destruction of Jerusalem, and suppose them to have been said of that generation which saw Christ's death, that it should not pass away before the city should be destroyed. But I doubt that they would succeed in thus expounding every word from that, "one stone shall not be left upon another," to that, "it is even at the door;" in some perhaps they would succeed, in others not altogether.
Chrys.: All these things therefore mean what was said of the end of Jerusalem, of the false prophets, and the false Christs, and all the rest which shall happen down to the time of Christ's coming, That He said, "This generation," He meant not of the men then living, but of the generation of the faithful; for so Scripture uses to speak of generations, not of time only, but of place, life, and conversation; as it is said, "This, is the generation of them that seek the Lord." [Ps 24:6]
Herein He teaches that Jerusalem shall perish, and the greater part of the Jews be destroyed, but that no trial shall overthrow the generation of the faithful.
Origen: Yet shall the generation of the Church survive the whole of this world, that it may inherit the world to come, yet it shall not pass away until all these things have come to pass. But when all these shall have been fulfilled, then not the earth only but the heavens also shall pass away; that is, not only the men whose life is earthly, and who are therefore called the earth, but also they whose conversation is in heaven, and who are therefore called the heaven; these "shall pass away" to things to come, that they may come to better things.
But the words spoken by the Saviour shall not pass away, because they effect and shall ever effect their purpose; but the perfect and they that admit no further improvement, passing through what they are, come to that which they are not; and this is that, "My words shall not pass away." And perhaps the words of Moses and the Prophets have passed away, because all that they prophesied has [p. 831] been fulfilled; but the words of Christ are always complete, daily fulfilling and to be fulfilled in the saints. Or perhaps we ought not to say that the words of Moses and the Prophets are once for all fulfilled; seeing they also are the words of the Son of God, and are fulfilled continually.
Jerome: Or, by "generation" here He means the whole human race, and the Jews in particular. And He adds, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away," to confirm their faith in what has gone before; as though He had said, it is easier to destroy things solid and immovable, than that aught should fail of my words.
Hilary: For heaven and earth have in their constitution no necessity of existence, but Christ's words derived from eternity have in them such virtue that they must needs abide.
Jerome: The heaven and the earth shall pass away by a change, not by annihilation; for how should the "sun be darkened, and the moon not give her light," if earth and heaven in which these are should be no more?
Raban.: The heaven which shall pass away is not the starry [marg. note: sidereum] but the atmospheric [marg. note: aereum] heaven which of old was destroyed by the deluge.
Chrys.: He brings forward the elements of the earth to shew that the Church is of more value than either heaven or earth, and that He is Maker of all things. [marg. note: 2 Pet 3:5]
36. "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
Chrys.: The Lord having described all the tokens that shall precede His coming, and brought His discourse to the [p. 832] very doors, yet would not name the day; "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the Angels Of heaven, but my Father only."
Jerome: In some Latin copies is added here, "neither the Son:" but in the Greek copies, and particularly those of Adamantius and Pierius, it is not found. [ed. note: The addition is found in a very few Greek MSS., and ancient versions, in Chrys. and Theophylact. It is in the Old Italic version, and is acknowledged by Hilary, Ambrose, and Pseudo-Chrys.; but the preponderance of evidence is greatly against it, and it is not admitted into the text of the G. T. by any editors. It probably crept in from the parallel passage in S. Mark. Adamantius is a surname of Origen. Pierius was a presbyter of Alexandria in the third century, whose learning occasioned him to be styled 'Origen the younger.'] But because it is read in some, it seems to require our notice.
Remig.: And Mark has the addition. [Mark 13:32]
Jerome: Whereat Arius and Eunomius rejoice greatly; for say they, He who knows and He who is ignorant cannot be both equal. Against these we answer shortly; Seeing that Jesus, that is, The Word of God, made all times, (for "By him all things were made, and without him was not any thing made that was made, [1 John 1:3]) and that the day of judgment must be in all time, by what reasoning can He who knows the whole be shewn to be ignorant of a part?
This we will further say; Which is the greater, the knowledge of the Father, or the knowledge of the judgment? If He knows the greater, how can He be ignorant of the less?
Hilary: And has indeed God the Father denied the knowledge of that day to the Son, when He has declared, "All things are committed to me of my Father?" [Luke 10:22] but if any thing has been denied, all things are not committed to Him.
Jerome: Having then shewn that the Son of God cannot be ignorant of the day of the consummation, we must now show a cause why He should be said to be ignorant. When after the resurrection He is demanded concerning this day by the Apostles, He answers more openly; "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in his own power." [Acts 1:7] Wherein He shews that Himself knows, but that it was not expedient for the Apostles to know, that being in uncertainty of the coming of their Judge, they should live every day as though they were to be judged that day.
Aug., de Trin., i, 12: When He says here, "Knows not," He means, 'makes others not to know;' i.e. He knew not then, so as to tell His disciples; as it was said to Abraham, "Now I know that thou fearest God;" [Gen 22:19] i.e. 'Now have I caused that thou shouldest know,' because by the temptation he came to know himself.
Aug., Serm., 97, 1: That [p. 833] He says that the "Father knoweth," implies that in the Father the Son also knows. For what can there be in time which was not made by the Word, seeing that time itself was made by the Word!
Aug., Lib. 83, Quaest. Q60: That the Father alone knows may be well understood in the above-mentioned manner of knowing, that He makes the Son to know; but the Son is said not to know, because be does not make men to know.
Origen: Otherwise; So long as the Church which is Christ's body knows not that day and hour, so long the Son Himself is said not to know that day and hour. The word "know" is used according to its proper usual meaning in Scripture. The Apostle speaks of Christ, as "him who knew no sin," [1 Cor 5:21] i.e. sinned not. The knowledge of that day and hour the Son reserves in store for the fellow-heirs of the promise, that all may know at once, i.e. in the day when it shall come upon them, "what things God hath prepared for them that love him." [1 Cor 2:9]
Raban.: I have read also in some one's book, that "the Son" here is not to be taken of the Only-begotten, but of the adopted, for that He would not have put the Angels before the Only-begotten Son, saying, "Not the Angels of heaven, neither the Son." [ed. note: See further on this Passage, Hil. de Trin. ix. 58, cited in the Catena on Mark, xiii. 32, and Basil adv. Eunom. iv.]
Aug., Ep. 199, 16: The Gospel then says, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man;" but you say, That neither the month nor the year of His coming can be known. This exactness of yours up to this point seems as if you meant that the year could not be known, but that the week or the decade of years might be known, as though it was possible to fix or assign it to some seven, ten, or a hundred, or some number of years more or less. If you allow that you cannot so limit it, you think with me.
Chrys.: That you may perceive that it is not owing to ignorance that He is silent of the day and hour of the judgment, He brings forward another token, "As it was in the days of Noe, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be." By this He means that He shall come sudden and unlooked for, and while men are taking their pleasure; of which Paul also speaks, "When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them." [1 Thess 5:3]
Raban: Marriage and meats in themselves are not here condemned, as the error of Marcion and Manicheaus teaches; for in the one the continuation of the species, in the [p. 834] other that of life, depends; but what is reproved is all unrestrained use of things lawful.
Jerome: It is asked here, how it was said above, "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, &c." when here only tokens of peace are spoken of as what shall be then? We must suppose, that after the wars and the other miseries which shall waste the human race, shall follow a short peace, offering rest and quiet to approve the faith of the believers.
Chrys.: Or, To such as are thoughtlessly disposed, it shall be a time of peace and enjoyment; as the Apostle said not, 'When there shall be peace,' but "When they shall say, Peace and safety," shewing their insensibility to be such as was theirs in the days of Noe, when the wicked, and not the good, indulged themselves, but their end was sorrow and tribulation. This shews also, that when Antichrist shall come, those who are wicked, and despair of their salvation, shall run into illicit pleasures; therefore He chooses an instance suitable. For while the ark was building, Noe preached among them, foretelling the evils that should come; but those wicked giving no heed to him, wantoned as though no evil should ever come; so now, because many would not believe things future, He makes credible what He says from what has happened.
Another token He gives to shew how unexpectedly that day shall come, and that He is not ignorant of the day, "Then two shall be in the field, one shall be taken and the other left." These words shew that masters and servants, they that work, and they that work not, shall be taken or left alike.
Hilary: Or, the two in the field, are the two people of believers and unbelievers, whom the day of the Lord shall overtake, as it were in the labours of this life. And they shall be separated, one being taken and the other left; this shews the separation that shall be between believers and unbelievers; when God's wrath is kindled, the saints shall be gathered into His garner, and the unbelievers shall be left as fuel for the fire from heaven. The same is the account to be given of that, "Two shall be grinding at the mill." The mill is the work of the Law, but as some of the Jews believed through the Apostles, so some shall believe through Elias, and be justified through faith; and one part shall [p. 835] be taken through this same faith of good works, the other part shall be left unfruitful in the work of the Law, grinding in vain, and never to produce the bread of heavenly food.
Jerome: Or, "Two men in one field" shall be found performing the same labour, sowing corn together, but not reaping the same fruit of their labour. The two "grinding together" we may understand either of the Synagogue and the Church, which seem to grind together in the Law, and to make of the same Scriptures meal of the commandments of God; or of other heresies, which out of both or one Testament, seem to grind meal of their own doctrines.
Hilary:; The "two in one bed" are those who preach alike the Lord's rest after His passion, about which heretics and catholics have the same confession; but because the Catholic Faith preaches the unity of the Godhead of the Father and the Son, and the false creed of the heretics impugns that, therefore shall the Divine judgment decide between the confession of these two by taking one and leaving the other.
Remig.: Or, these words denote three orders in the Church. "The two men in the field" denote the order of preachers [marg. note: praedicatores], to whom is committed the field of the Church; by "the two grinding at the mill," the order of the married priests [marg. note: conjugati], who while with a divided heart they are called first to one side, then to the other, do, as it were, ever turn round a mill; by "the two in one bed," the order of the continent [marg. note: continentes], whose repose is signified by the bed. But in all these orders are good and bad, righteous and unrighteous, so that some shall be taken, and some left.
Origen: Or otherwise; The body is laid as sick on the bed of carnal passions, the soul grinds in the mill of this world, and the bodily senses labour in the field of the world.
42. "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
Jerome: Having declared that "of that hour knoweth no man, but the Father only," He shews that it was not expedient for the Apostles to know, that being ignorant they might live in perpetual expectation of His coming, and thus concluding the whole, He says, "Watch therefore, &c." And He does not say, 'Because we know not,' but "Because ye know not," shewing that He Himself is not ignorant of the day of judgment.
Chrys.: He would have them ever ready, and therefore He says, "Watch."
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ii, 3: To watch is to keep the eyes open, and looking out for the true light, to do and to observe that which one believes, to cast away the darkness of sloth and negligence.
Origen: Those of more plain understanding say, that He spoke this of His second coming; but others would say that it applies to an intellectual coming of the word into the understanding of the disciples, for as yet He was not in their understanding as He was to be.
Aug., Ep. 199, 3: He said this "Watch," not to those only who heard Him speak at the time, but to those who came after them, and to us, and to all who shall be after us, until His second coming, for it touches all in a manner. That day comes to each one of us, when it comes to him to go out of the world, such as he shall be judged, and therefore ought every Christian to watch that the Lord's coming may not find him unprepared; and he will be unprepared for the day of His coming, whom the last day of his life shall find unprepared.
Aug., non occ.: Foolish are all they, who either profess to know the day of the end of the world, when it is to come, or even the end of their own life, which no one can know unless be is illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
Jerome: And by the instance of the master of the household, He teaches more plainly why He keeps secret the day of the consummation.
Origen: "The master of the household" is the understanding, "the house" is the soul, "the thief" is the Devil. The thief is also every contrary doctrine which enters the soul of the unwary by other than the natural entrance, breaking into the house, and pulling down the soul's natural fences, that is, the natural powers of understanding, it enters the breach, and spoils the soul.
Sometimes one takes the thief in the act of breaking in, and seizing him, stabs him with a word, [p. 837] and slays him. And the thief comes not in the day-time, when the soul of the thoughtful man is illuminated with the Sun of righteousness, but in the night, that is, in the time of prevailing wickedness; in which, when one is plunged, it is possible, though he have not the power of the sun, that he may be illuminated by some rays from the Word, as from a lamp; continuing still in evil, yet having a better purpose, and watchfulness, that this his purpose should not be broken through.
Or in time of temptation, or of any calamities, is the time when the thief is most found to come, seeking to break through the house of the soul.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., xiii, 5: Or, the thief breaks into the house through the neglect of the master of the house, when the spirit has slept upon its post of guard, and death has come in unawares into the dwelling house of our flesh, and finding the lord of the house sleeping, slays him; that is, the spirit, little providing for coming evils, is taken off unprepared, to punishment, by death.
But if he had watched be would have been secure from the thief; that is, looking forward to the coming of the Judge, who takes our lives unawares, be would meet Him with penitence, and not perish impenitent. And the Lord would therefore have the last hour unknown, that it might always be in suspense, and that being unable to foresee it, we might never be unprepared for it.
Chrys.: In this He rebukes such as have less care for their souls, than they have of guarding their money against an expected thief.
45. "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
Hilary: Though the Lord had given above a general exhortation to all in common to unwearied vigilance, yet He adds a special charge to the rulers of the people, that is, the Bishops, of watchfulness in looking for His coming. Such He calls a faithful servant, and wise master of the household, careful for the needs and interests of the people entrusted to Him.
Chrys.: That He says, "Whom think ye is that faithful and wise servant," does not imply ignorance, for even the Father we find asking a question, as that, "Adam, where art thou?" [Gen 3:9]
Remig.: Nor yet does it imply the impossibility of attaining perfect virtue, but only the difficulty.
Gloss., ord.: For rare indeed is such "faithful" servant serving his Master for his Master's sake, feeding Christ's sheep not for lucre but for love of Christ, "skilled" to discern the abilities, the life, and the manner of those put under him, whom "the Lord sets over," that is, who is called of God, and has not thrust himself in.
Chrys.: He requires two things of such servant, fidelity and prudence; He calls him "faithful," because be appropriates to himself none of his Lord's goods, and wastes nought idly and unprofitably. He calls him "prudent," as knowing on what he ought to lay out the things committed to him.
Origen: Or, he that makes progress in the faith, though he is not yet perfect in it, is ordinarily called "faithful," and he who has natural quickness of intellect is called "prudent." And whoever observes will find many faithful, and zealous in their belief, but not at the same time prudent; "for God hath chosen the foolish things of the world." [1 Cor 1:27]
Others again he will see who are quick and prudent but of weak faith; for the union of faith and prudence in the same man is most rare. To give food in due season calls for prudence in a man; not to take away the food of the needy requires faithfulness. And this the literal sense obliges us to, that we be faithful in dispersing the revenues of the Church, that we [p. 839] devour not that which belongs to the widows, that we remember the poor, and that we do not take occasion from what is written, "The Lord hath ordained, that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel," [1 Cor 9:14] to seek more than plain food and necessary clothing, or to keep more for ourselves than we give to those who suffer want. And that we be prudent, to understand the cases of them that are in need, whence they come to be so, what has been the education and what are the necessities of each.
It needs much prudence to distribute fairly the revenues of the Church. Also let the servant be faithful and prudent, that he lavish not the intellectual and spiritual food upon those whom he ought not, but dispense according as each has need; to one is more behoveful that word which shall edify his behaviour, and guide his practice, than that which sheds a ray of science; but to others who can pierce more deeply let him not fail to expound the deeper things, lest if he set before them common things only, he be despised by such as have naturally keener understandings, or have been sharpened by the discipline of worldly learning.
Chrys.: This parable may be also fitted to the case of secular rulers; for each ought to employ the things he has to the common benefit, and not to the hurt of his fellow-servants, nor to his own ruin; whether it be wisdom or dominion, or whatever else be has.
Raban.: The "lord" is Christ, the "household" over which He appoints is the Church Catholic. It is hard then to find one man who is both "faithful and wise," but not impossible; for He would not pronounce a blessing on a character that could never be, as when He adds, "Blessed is that servant whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing."
Hilary: That is, obedient to his Lord's command, by the seasonableness of his teaching dispensing the word of life to a household which is to be nourished for the food of eternity.
Remig.: It should be observed, that as there is great difference of desert between good preachers and good hearers, so is there great difference between their rewards. The good hearers, if He finds them watching He will make to sit down to meat, as Luke speaks; but the good preachers "He will set over all His goods."
Origen: That he may reign with Christ, to whom the Father has committed all that is His. And as the son of a good father set over all that is his, [p. 840] He shall communicate of His dignity and glory to His faithful and wise stewards, that they also may be above the whole creation.
Raban.: Not that they only, but that they before others, shall be rewarded as well for their own lives as for their superintendence of the flock.
Hilary: Or, "shall set him over all his goods," that is, shall place him in the glory of God, because beyond this is nothing better.
Chrys.: And He instructs His hearer not only by the honour which awaits the good, but by the punishment which threatens the wicked, adding, "If that evil servant shall say in his heart, &c."
Aug., Ep. 199, 1: The temper of this servant is shewn in his behaviour, which is thus expressed by his good Master; his tyranny, "and shall begin to beat his fellow servants," his sensuality, "and to eat and drink with the drunken." So that when be said, "My Lord delayeth His coming," he is not to be supposed to speak from desire to see the Lord, such as was that of him who said, ?My soul is athirst for the living God; when shall I come?" [Ps 42:2] This shews that he was grieved at the delay, seeing that what was hastening towards him seemed to his longing desires to be coming slowly.
Origen: And every Bishop, who ministers not as a fellow servant, but rules by might as a master, and often an harsh one, sins against God; also if he does not cherish the needy, but feasts with the drunken, and is continually slumbering because his Lord cometh not till after long time.
Raban.: Typically, we may understand his beating his fellow servants, of offending the consciences of the weak by word, or by evil example.
Jerome: "The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for Him," is to rouse the stewards to watchfulness and carefulness. "He shall cut him in sunder," is not to be understood of execution by the sword, but that he shall sever him from the company of the saints.
Origen: Or, "He shall cut him in sunder," when his spirit, that is, his spiritual gift, shall return to God who gave it; but his soul shall go with his body into hell. But the righteous man is not cut in sunder, but his soul, with his spirit, that is, with his gift, spiritual enters into the kingdom of heaven. They that are cut in sunder have in them thenceforth no part of that spiritual gift which was from God, but there remains to them that part which was their own, that is, their soul, which shall be punished with [p. 841] their body.
Jerome: "And shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites," with those, namely, that were in the field, and grinding at the mill, and were nevertheless left. For as we often say that the hypocrite is one who is one thing, and passes himself for another; so in the field and at the mill he seemed to be doing the same as others, but the event proved that his purpose was different.
Raban.: Or, "appoints him his portion with the hypocrites," that is, a twofold share of punishment, that of fire and frost; to the fire belongs the "weeping," to the frost the "gnashing of teeth." [ed. note: See above on chap. viii, 12]
Origen: Or, there shall be "weeping" for such as have laughed amiss in this world, "gnashing of teeth" for those who have enjoyed an irrational peace. For being unwilling to suffer bodily pain, now the torture forces their teeth to chatter, with which they have eaten the bitterness of wickedness. From this we may learn that the Lord sets over His household not the faithful and wise only, but the wicked also; and that it will not save them to have been set over His household, but only if they have given them their food in due season, and have abstained from beating and drunkenness.
Aug., Ep. 199, in fin.: Putting aside this wicked servant, who, there is no doubt, hates his Master's coming, let us set before our eyes these good servants, who anxiously expect their Lord's coming. One looks for His coming sooner, another later, the third confesses his ignorance of the matter.
Let us see which is most agreeable to the Gospel. One says, Let us watch and pray, because the Lord will quickly come; another, Let us watch and pray, because this life is short and uncertain, though the Lord's coining may be distant; and the third, Let us watch, because this life is short and uncertain, and we know not the time when the Lord will come. What else does this man say than what we hear the Gospel say, "Watch, because ye know not the hour in which the Lord shall come?" All indeed, through longing for the kingdom, desire that that should be true which the first thinks, and if it should so come to pass, the second and third would rejoice with him; but if it should not come to pass, it were to be feared that the belief of its supporters might be shaken by the delay, and they might begin to think that the Lord's [p. 842] coming shall be, not remote, but never. He who believes with the second that the Lord's coming is distant will not be shaken in faith, but will receive an unlooked for joy. He who confesses his ignorance which of these is true, wishes for the one, is resigned to the other, but errs in neither, because he neither affirms or denies either.
1. And as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples saith unto Him, "Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!"
Bede, in Marc., iv, 42: Because after the founding of the Church of Christ, Judaea was to be punished for her treachery, the Lord fitly, after praising the devotedness of the Church in the person of the poor widow, goes out of the temple, and foretold its coming ruin, and the contempt in which the buildings now so wonderful were soon to be held.
Wherefore it is said, "And as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples saith unto Him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!"
Theophylact: For, since the Lord had spoken much concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, His disciples wondered, that such numerous and beautiful buildings were to be destroyed; and this is the reason why they point out the beauty of the temple, and He answers not only that they were to be destroyed, but also that one stone should not be left upon another.
Wherefore it goes on: "And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Now some may endeavour to prove that Christ's words were false, by saying that many ruins were left, but this is not at all the point; for though some ruins had been left, still at the consummation of all things one stone shall not be left upon another. Besides it is related, that Aelius Adrian overturned [p. 255] the city and the temple from the foundation, so that the word of the Lord here spoken was fulfilled.
Bede: But it was ordered by Divine power that after that the grace of the faith of the Gospel was made known through the world, the temple itself with its ceremonies should be taken away; lest perchance some one weak in the faith, if he saw that these things which had been instituted by God still remained, might by degrees drop from the sincerity of the faith, which is in Christ Jesus, into carnal Judaism.
Pseudo-Jerome: Here also the Lord enumerates to His disciples the destruction of the last time, that is of the temple, with the people, and its letter; of which one stone shall not be left upon another, that is, no testimony of the Prophets upon those, to whom the Jews perversely applied them, that is, on Ezra, Zerubbabel and the Maccabees.
Bede: Again, when the Lord left the temple, all the edifice of the law and the framework of the commandments were destroyed, so that nothing could be filled up by the Jews; and now that the head has been taken away, all the limbs fight one against the other.
3. And as He sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately,
Wherefore it is said: "And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately, Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?"
The Lord sits upon the mount of Olives, over against the temple, when He discourses upon the ruin and destruction of the temple, so that even His bodily position may be in accordance with the words which He speaks, pointing out mystically that, abiding in peace with the saints, He hates the madness of the proud. For the mount of Olives marks the fruitful sublimity of the Holy Church.
Augustine, Epist., cxcix, 9: In answer to the disciples, the Lord tells them of things which were from that time forth to have their course; whether He meant the destruction of Jerusalem which occasioned their question, or His own coming through the Church, (in which He ever comes even unto the end, for we know that He comes in His own, when His members are born day by day,) or the end itself, in which He will appear to judge the quick and the dead.
Theophylact: But before answering their question, He strengthens their minds that they may not be deceived.
Wherefore there follows: "And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you?"
And this He says, because when the sufferings of the Jews began, some arose professing to be teachers.
Wherefore there follows: "For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."
Bede: For many came forward, when destruction was hanging over Jerusalem, saying that they were Christs, and that the time of freedom was now approaching. Many teachers of heresy also arose in the Church even in the time of the Apostles; and many Antichrists came in the name of Christ, the first of whom was Simon Magus, to whom the Samaritans, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, listened, saying, "This man is the great power of God." [Acts 8:10]
Wherefore also it is added here, "And shall deceive many."
Now from the time of the Passion of our Lord there ceased not amongst the [p. 257] Jewish people, who chose the seditious robber and rejected Christ the Saviour, either external wars or civil discord.
Wherefore it goes on: "And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled."
And when these come, the Apostles are warned not to be afraid, or to leave Jerusalem and Judaea, because the end was not to come at once, nay was to be put off for forty years.
And this is what is added: "for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet," that is, the desolation of the province, and the last destruction of the city and temple.
It goes on: "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."
Theophylact: That is, the Romans against the Jews, which Josephus relates happened before the destruction of Jerusalem. For when the Jews refused to pay tribute, the Romans arose, in anger; but because at that time they were merciful, they took indeed their spoils, but did not destroy Jerusalem. What follows shews that God fought against the Jews, for it is said, "And there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines."
Bede: Now it is on record that this literally took place at the time of the Jewish rebellion. But "kingdom against kingdom," the pestilence of those whose word spreads as a canker, dearth of the word of God, the commotion of the whole earth, and the separation from the true faith, may all rather be understood of heretics who, by fighting one against the other, bring about the triumph of the Church.
9. "But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them.
Bede: The Lords shews how Jerusalem and the province of Judaea merited the infliction of such calamities, in the following words: "But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten."
For the greatest cause of destruction to the Jewish people was, that after slaying the Saviour, they also tormented the heralds of His name and faith with wicked cruelty.
Theophylact: Fitly also did He premise a recital of those things which concerned the Apostles, that in their own tribulations they might find some consolation in the community of troubles and sufferings.
There follows: "And ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them."
He says "kings and rulers," as, for instance, Agrippa, Nero and Herod. Again, His saying, "for My sake," gave them no small consolation, in that they were about to suffer for His sake. "For a testimony against them," means, as a judgment beforehand against them, that they might be inexcusable, in that though the Apostles were labouring for the truth, they would not join themselves to it. Then, that they might not think that their preaching should be impeded by troubles and dangers, He adds: "And the Gospel must first be published among all nations."
Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 77: Matthew adds, "And then shall the end come." [Matt 24:14]
Bede: Ecclesiastical historians testify that this was fulfilled, for they relate that all the Apostles long before the destruction of the province of Judaea were dispersed to preach the Gospel over the whole world, except James the son of Zebedee and James the brother of our Lord, who had before shed their blood in Judaea for the word of the Lord. Since then the Lord knew that the hearts of the disciples would be saddened by the fall and destruction of their nation, He relieves them by this consolation, to let them know that even after the casting away of the Jews, companions in their joy and heavenly kingdom should not be wanting, [p. 259] nay that many more were to be collected out of all mankind than perished in Judaea.
Gloss.: Another anxiety might also arise in the breasts of the disciples. Lest therefore after hearing that they were to be brought before kings and rulers, they should fear that their want of science and eloquence should render them unable to answer, our Lord consoles them by saying, "But when they shall lead you and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye."
Bede: For when we are led before judges for Christ's sake, all our duty is to offer up our will for Christ. As for the rest, Christ Himself who dwells in us speaks for us, and the grace of the Holy Ghost shall be given us, when we answer.
Wherefore it goes on: "For it is not ye that shall speak, but the Holy Ghost."
Theophylact: He also foretells to them a worse evil, that they should suffer persecution from their relations.
Wherefore there follows: "Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death; and ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake."
Bede: This has often been seen in time of persecution, nor can there be any firm affection amongst men who differ in faith.
Theophylact: And this He says, that on hearing it, they might prepare themselves to bear persecutions and ills with greater patience. Then He brings them consolation, saying, "And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake;" for the being hated for Christ's sake is a sufficient reason for suffering persecutions patiently, for it is not the punishment, but the cause, that makes the martyr. Again, that which follows is no small comfort amidst persecution: "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
14. "But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:
Gloss.: After speaking of the things which were to happen before the destruction of the city, the Lord now foretells those which happened about the destruction itself of the city, saying, "But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand)."
Augustine, de Con Evan, ii, 77: Matthew says, standing "in the holy place;" but with this verbal difference Mark has expressed the same meaning; for He says "where it ought not" to stand, because it ought not to stand in the holy place.
Bede: When we are challenged to understand what is said, we may conclude that it is mystical. But it may either be said simply of Antichrist, or of the statue of Caesar, which Pilate put into the temple, or of the equestrian statue of Adrian, which for a long time stood in the holy of holies itself. An idol is also called abomination according to the Old Testament, and He has added "of desolation" because it was placed in the temple when desolate and deserted.
Theophylact: Or He means by "the abomination of desolation" the entrance of enemies into the city by violence.
Augustine, Epist., cxcix, 9: But Luke, in order to shew that the abomination of desolation happened when Jerusalem was taken, in this same place gives the words of our Lord, "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh." [Luke 21:20]
It goes on: "Then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains."
Bede: [p. 261] It is on record that this was literally fulfilled, when on the approach of the war with Rome and the extermination of the Jewish people, all the Christians who were in that province, warned by the prophecy, fled far away, as Church history relates, and retiring beyond Jordan, remained for a time in the city of Pella under the protection of Agrippa, the king of the Jews, to whom mention is made in the Acts, and who with that part of the Jews, who chose to obey him, always continued subject to the Roman empire.
Theophylact: And well does He say, "Who are in Judaea," for the Apostles were no longer in Judaea, but before the battle had been driven from Jerusalem.
Gloss.: [ed. note: Non in Gloss - sed ap. Theophylact] Or rather went out of their own accord, being led by the Holy Ghost.
It goes on: "And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house;" for it is a desirable thing to be saved even naked from such a destruction.
It goes on: "But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days."
Bede: That is, they whose wombs or whose hands, overladen with the burden of children, in no small measure impede their forced flight.
Theophylact: But it seems to me, that in these words He foretells the eating of children, for when afflicted by famine and pestilence, they laid hands on their children.
Gloss.: Again, after having mentioned this double impediment to flight, which might arise either from the desire of taking away property, or from having children to carry, He touches upon the third obstacle, namely, that coming from the season; saying, "And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter."
Theophylact: That is, lest they who wish to fly should be impeded by the difficulties of the season. And He fitly gives the cause for so great a necessity for flight; saying, "For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be."
Augustine, Epist., cxcix, 9: For Josephus, who has written the history of the Jews, relates that such things were suffered by this people, as are scarcely credible, wherefore it is said, not without cause, that there was not such tribulation from the beginning of the creation until now, nor shall ever be. But although in the time of Antichrist there shall be one similar or greater, we must understand that it is of that [p. 262] people, that it is said that there shall never happen such another. For if they are the first and foremost to receive Antichrist, that same people may rather be said to cause than to suffer tribulation.
Bede: The only refuge in such evils is, that God who gives strength to suffer, should abridge the power of inflicting.
Wherefore there follows: "And except that the Lord had shortened those days."
Theophylact: That is, if the Roman war had not been soon finished, "no flesh should be saved;" that is, no Jew should have escaped; "but for the elect's sake, whom He hath chosen," that is, for the sake of the believing Jews, or who were hereafter to believe, "He hath shortened the days," that is, the war was soon finished, for God foresaw that many Jews would believe after the destruction of the city; for which reason He would not suffer the whole race to be utterly destroyed.
Augustine: But some persons more fitly understand that the calamities themselves are signified by days, as evil days are spoken of in other parts of Holy Scripture; for the days themselves are not evil, but what is done in them. The woes themselves therefore are said to be abridged, because through the patience which God gave they felt them less, and then what was great in itself was abridged.
Bede: Or else; these words, "In those days shall be affliction," properly agree with the times of Antichrist, when not only tortures more frequent, and more painful than before are to be heaped on the faithful, but also, what is more terrible, the working of miracles shall accompany those who inflict torments. But in proportion as this tribulation shall be greater than those which preceded, by so much shall it be shorter.
For it is believed, that during three years and a half, as far as may be conjectured from the prophecy of Daniel and the Revelations of John, the Church is to be attacked. In a spiritual sense, however, when we see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not, that is, heresies and crimes reigning amongst them, who appear to be consecrated by the heavenly mysteries, then whosoever of us remain in Judaea, that is, in the confession of the true faith, ought to mount the higher in virtue, the more men we see following the broad paths of vice.
Pseudo-Jerome: For our flight is to the mountains, that he who has mounted to the heights of virtue may not go down to the depths of sin.
Bede: Then let him who is on [p. 263] the house-top, that is, whose mind rises above carnal deeds, and who lives spiritually, as it were in the free air, not come down to the base acts of his former conversation, nor seek again those things which he had left, the desires of the world or the flesh. For our house either means this world, or that in which we live, our own flesh.
Pseudo-Jerome: "Pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on the sabbath day," that is, that the fruit of our work may not be ended with the end of time; for fruit comes to an end in the winter and time in the sabbath.
Bede: But if we are to understand it of the consummation of the world, He commands that our faith and love for Christ should not grow cold, and that we should not grow lazy and cold in the work of God, by taking a sabbath from virtue.
Theophylact: We must also avoid sin with fervour, and not coldly and quietly.
Pseudo-Jerome: But the tribulation shall be great, and the days short, for the sake of the elect, lest the evil of this time should change their understanding.
21. "And then if any man shall say to you, 'Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there;' believe him not.:
It goes on: "For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect."
For many shall take upon them the name of Christ, so as to seduce even the faithful.
Augustine, de Civ. Dei, xx, 19: For then shall Satan be unchained, and work through Antichrist in all his power, wonderfully indeed, but falsely. But a doubt is often raised whether the Apostle said "signs and lying wonders," because he is to deceive mortal sense, by phantoms, so as to appear to do what he does not, or because those wonders themselves, even though true, are to turn men aside to lies, because they will not believe that any power but a Divine power could do them, being ignorant of the power of Satan, especially when he shall have received such power as he never had before. But for whichever reason it is said, they shall be deceived by those signs and wonders who deserve to be deceived.
Greg., Hom in Ezech. i, 9: Why however is it said with a doubt "if it were possible," when the Lord knows beforehand what is to be? One of two things is implied; that if they are elect, it is not possible; and if it is possible, they are not elect. This doubt therefore in our Lord's discourse expresses the trembling in the mind of the elect. And He calls them elect, because He sees that they will persevere in faith and good works; for those who are chosen to remain firm are to be tempted to fall by the signs of the preachers of Antichrist.
Bede: Some however refer this to the time of the Jewish captivity, where many, declaring themselves to be Christs, drew after them crowds of deluded persons; but during the siege of the city there was no Christian to whom the Divine exhortation, not to follow false [p. 265] teachers, could apply. Wherefore it is better to understand it of heretics, who, coming to oppose the Church, pretended to be Christs; the first of whom was Simon Magus, but that last one, greater than the rest, is Antichrist.
It goes on: "But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things."
Augustine, Epist., 78: For He did not only foretel to His disciples the good things which He would give to His saints and faithful ones, but also the woes in which this world was to abound, that we might look for our reward at the end of the world with more confidence, from feeling the woes in like manner announced as about to precede the end of the world.
Theophylact: But after the coming of Antichrist, the frame of the world shall be altered and changed, for the stars shall be obscured on account of the abundance of the brightness of Christ.
Wherefore it goes on: "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light; and the stars of heaven shall fall."
Bede: For the stars in the day of judgment shall appear obscure, not by any lessening of their own light, but because of the brightness of the true light, that is, of the most high Judge coming upon them; although there is nothing to prevent its being taken to mean, that the sun and moon with all the other heavenly bodies then for a time are really to lose their light, just as we are told was the case with the sun at the time of our Lord's Passion. But after the day of judgment, when there shall be a new sky and a new earth, then shall happen what Isaiah says: "Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold." [Isa 30:26]
There follows: "And the powers of heaven shall be shaken."
Theophylact: That is, the Angelic virtues shall be astonished, seeing that such great things are done, and that their fellow-servants are judged.
Bede: What wonder is it that men should be troubled at this judgment, the sight of which makes the very Angelic powers to tremble? What will the stories of the house do when the pillars shake? What does the shrub of the wilderness undergo, when the cedar of paradise is moved?
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, the sun shall be darkened, at the coldness of their hearts, as in the winter time. And the moon shall not give her light with serenity, in this time of [p. 266] quarrel, and the stars of heaven shall fail in their light, when the seed of Abraham shall all but disappear, for to it they are likened [Gen 22:17]. And the powers of heaven shall be stirred up to the wrath of vengeance, when they shall be sent by the Son of Man at His coming, of whose Advent it is said, "And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory," He, that is, who first came down like rain into the fleece of Gideon in all lowliness.
Augustine, Epist., cxcix, 11: For since it was said by the Angels to the Apostles, "He shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven," [Acts 1:11] rightly do we believe that He will come not only in the same body, but on a cloud, since He is to come as He went away, and a cloud received Him as He was going.
Theophylact: But they shall see the Lord as the Son of Man, that is, in the body, for that which is seen is body.
Augustine, de Trin., i, 13: For the vision of the Son of Man is shewn even to the bad, but the vision of the form of God to the pure in heart alone, "for they shall see God." [Matt 5:8] And because the wicked cannot see the Son of God, as He is in the form of God, equal to the Father, and at the same time both just and wicked are to see Him as Judge of the quick and dead, before Whom they shall be judged, it was necessary that the Son of Man should receive power to judge. Concerning the execution of which power, there is immediately added, "And then shall He send He angels."
Theophylact: Observe that Christ sends the Angels as well as the Father; where then are they who say that He is not equal to the Father? For the Angels go forth to gather together the faithful, who are chosen, that they may be carried into the air to meet Jesus Christ.
Wherefore it goes on: "And gather together His elect from the four winds."
Pseudo-Jerome: As corn winnowed from the threshing-floor of the whole earth.
Bede: By "the four winds," He means the four parts of the world, the east, the west, the north, and the south. And lest any one should think that the elect are to be gathered together only from the four edges of the world, and not from the midland regions as well as the borders, He has fitly added, "From the uttermost part of earth, to the uttermost part of heaven," that is, from the extremities of the earth to its utmost bounds, where the circle of the heavens appears to those who look from [p. 267] afar to rest upon the boundaries of the earth. No one therefore shall be elect in that day who remains behind and does not meet the Lord in the air, when He comes to judgment. The reprobate also shall come to judgment, that when it is finished they may be scattered abroad and perish from before the face of God.
28. "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:
Bede: Under the example of a tree the Lord gave a pattern of the end, saying, "Now learn a parable of the fig tree, when her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near. So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors."
Theophylact: As if He had said, As when the fig tree puts forth its leaves, summer follows at once, so also after the woes of Antichrist, at once, without an interval, shall be the coming of Christ, who will be to the just as summer after winter, but to sinners, winter after summer.
Augustine, Epist., 119, 11: All that is said by the three Evangelists concerning the Advent of our Lord, if diligently compared together and examined, will perchance be found to belong to His daily coming in His body, that is, the Church, except those places where that last coming is so promised, as if it were approaching; for instance in the last part of the discourse according to Matthew, the coming itself is clearly expressed, where it is said, "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory," [Matt 25:31] For what does He refer to in the words, "when ye shall see these things come to pass," but those things which He has mentioned above, amongst which it is said, "And then ye shall see [p. 268] the Son of Man coming in the clouds." The end therefore shall not be then, but then it shall be near at hand.
Or are we to say, that not all those things which are mentioned above are to be taken in, but only some of them, that is, leaving out these words, "Then shall ye see the Son of Man coming;" for that shall be the end itself, and not its approach only. But Matthew has declared that it is to be received without exception, saying, "When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors." That which is said above must therefore be taken thus; "And He shall send His angels, and gather together the elect from the four winds;" that is, He shall collect His elect from the four winds of heaven, which He does in the whole of the last hour, coming in His members as in clouds.
Bede: This fruitbearing of the fig tree may also be understood to mean the state of the synagogue, which was condemned to everlasting barrenness, because when the Lord came, it had no fruits of righteousness in those who were then unfaithful. But the Apostle has said that when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in [Rom 11:25], all Israel shall be saved. What means this, but that the tree, which has been long barren, shall then yield the fruit, which it had withheld? When this shall happen, doubt not that a summer of true peace is at hand.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, the leaves which come forth are words now spoken, the summer at hand is the day of Judgment, in which every tree shall shew what it had within it, deadness for burning, or greenness to be planted with the tree of life.
There follows: "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till these things be done."
Bede: By generation He either means the whole race of mankind, or specially the Jews.
Theophylact: Or else, "This generation shall not pass away," that is, the generation of Christians, "until all things be fulfilled," which were spoken concerning Jerusalem and the coming of Antichrist; for He does not mean the generation of the Apostles, for the greater part of the Apostles did not live up to the destruction of Jerusalem. But He says this of the generation of Christians, wishing to console His disciples, lest they should believe that the faith should fail at that time; for the immoveable elements shall first fail, before the words of Christ fail; wherefore it is added, "Heaven and earth [p. 269] shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away."
Bede: The heaven which shall pass away is not the ethereal or starry heaven, but the heaven where is the air. For wheresoever the water of the judgment could reach, there also, according to the words of the blessed Peter, the fire of judgment shall reach [2 Pet 3:10-12]. But the heaven and the earth shall pass away in that form which they now have, but in their essence they shall last without end.
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