Our Lord Jesus, in reply to their question, sets himself, not so much to satisfy their curiosity as to direct their consciences; leaves them still in the dark concerning the times and seasons, which the father has kept in his own power, and which it was not for them to know; but gives them the cautions which were needful, with reference to the events that should now shortly come to pass.
I. They must take heed that they be not deceived by the seducers and imposters that should now shortly arise (Mark 13:5, 6); ?Take heed lest any man deceive you, lest, having found the true Messiah, you lose him again in the crowd of pretenders, or be inveigled to embrace others in rivalship with him. Many shall come in my name (not in the name of Jesus), but saying, I am the Christ, and so claiming the dignities which I only an entitled to.? After the Jews had rejected the true Christ, they were imposed upon, and so exposed by many false Christs, but never before; those false Christs deceived many; Therefore take heed lest they deceive you. Note, When many are deceived, we should thereby be awakened to look to ourselves.
II. They must take heed that they be not disturbed at the noise of wars, which they should be alarmed with, Mark 13:7, 8. Sin introduced wars, and they come from men?s lusts. But at some times the nations are more distracted and wasted with wars than at other times; so it shall be now; Christ was born into the world when there was a general peace, but soon after he went out of the world there were general wars; Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And what will become of them then who are to preach the gospel to every nation? Inter arma silent leges?Amidst the clash of arms, the voice of law is not heard. ?But be not troubled at it.? 1. ?Let it be no surprise to you; you are bid to expect it, and such things must needs be, for God has appointed them, in order to further accomplishment of his purposes, and by the wars of the Jews? (which Josephus has given us a large account of) ?God will punish the wickedness of the Jews.? 2. ?Let it be no terror to you, as if your interest were in danger of being overthrown, or your work obstructed by these wars; you have no concern in them, and therefore need not be apprehensive of any damage by them.? Note, Those that despise the smiles of the world, and do not court and covet them, may despise the frowns of the world, and need not fear them. If we seek not to rise with them that rise in the world, why should we dread falling with them that fall in the world? 3. ?Let it not be looked upon as an omen of the approaching period of the world, for the end is not yet, Mark 13:7. Think not that these wars will bring the world to a period; no, there are other intermediate counsels to be fulfilled betwixt that end and the end of all things, which are designed to prepare you for the end, but not to hasten it out of due time.? 4. ?Let it not be looked upon as if in them God has done his worst; no, he has more arrows in his quiver, and they are ordained against the persecutors; be not troubled at the wars you shall hear of, for they are but the beginnings of sorrows, and therefore, instead of being disturbed at them, you ought to prepare for worse; for there shall also be earthquakes in divers places, which shall bury multitudes in the ruins of their own houses, and there shall be famines, by which many of the poor shall perish for want of bread, and troubles and commotions; so that there shall be no peace to him that goes out or comes in. The world shall be full of troubles, but be not ye troubled; without are fightings, within are fears, but fear not ye their fear.? Note, The disciples of Christ, if it be not their own fault, may enjoy a holy security and serenity of mind, when all about them is in the greatest disorder.
III. They must take heed that they be not drawn away from Christ, and from their duty to him, by the sufferings they should meet with for Christ?s sake. Again, he saith, ?Take heed to yourselves, Mark 13:9. Though you may escape the sword of war, better than some of your neighbours, because you interest not yourselves in the public quarrels, yet be not secure; you will be exposed to the sword of justice more than others, and the parties that contend with one another, will unite against you. Take heed therefore lest you deceive yourselves with the hopes of outward prosperity, and such a temporal kingdom as you have been dreaming of, when it is through many tribulations that you must enter into the kingdom of God. Take heed lest you needlessly expose yourselves to trouble, and pull it upon your own head. Take heed what you say and do, for you will have many eyes upon you.? Observe,
1. What the trouble is which they must expect.
(1.) They shall be hated of all men; trouble enough! The thoughts of being hated are grievous to a tender spirit, and the fruits of that hatred must needs be a constant vexation; those that are malicious, will be mischievous. It was not for any thing amiss in them, or done amiss by them, that they were hated, but for Christ?s name sake, because they were called by his name, called upon his name, preached his name, and wrought miracles in his name. The world hated them because he loved them.
(2.) Their own relations shall betray them, those to whom they were most nearly allied, and on whom therefore they depended for protection; ?They shall betray you, shall inform against you, and be your prosecutors.? If a father has a child that is a Christian, he shall become void of natural affection, it shall be swallowed up in bigotry, and he shall betray his own child to the persecutors, as if he were a worshipper of other gods, Deut. 13:6-10.
(3.) Their church-rulers shall inflict their censures upon them; ?You shall be delivered up to the great Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and to the inferior courts and consistories in other cities, and shall be beaten in the synagogues with forty stripes at a time, as offenders against the law which was read in the synagogue.? It is no new thing for the church?s artillery, through the treachery of its officers, to be turned against some of its best friends.
(4.) Governors and kings shall use their power against them. Because the Jews have not power to put them to death, they shall incense the Roman powers against them, as they did Herod against James and Peter; and they shall cause you to be put to death, as enemies to the empire. They must resist unto blood, and still resist.
2. What they shall have to comfort themselves with, in the midst of these great and sore troubles.
(1.) That the work they were called to should be carried on and prosper, notwithstanding all this opposition which they should meet with in it (Mark 13:10); ?The gospel shall, for all this, be published among all nations, and before the destruction of Jerusalem the sound of it shall go forth into all the earth; not only through all the nation of the Jews, but to all the nations of the earth.? It is comfort to those who suffer for the gospel, that, though they may be crushed and borne down, the gospel cannot; it shall keep its ground, and carry the day.
(2.) That their sufferings, instead of obstructing their work, should forward it; ?Your being brought before governors and kings shall be for a testimony of them (so some read it, Mark 13:9); it shall give you an opportunity of preaching the gospel to those before whom you are brought as criminals, to whom otherwise you could not have access.? Thus St. Paul?s being brought before Felix, and Festus, and Agrippa, and Nero, was a testimony to them concerning Christ and his gospel. Or, as we read it, It shall be for a testimony against them, against both the judges and the prosecutors, who pursue those with the utmost rage that appear, upon examination, to be not only innocent but excellent persons. The gospel is a testimony to us concerning Christ and heaven. If we receive it, it will be a testimony for us: it will justify and save us; if not, it will be a testimony against us in the great day.
(3.) That, when they were brought before kings and governors for Christ?s sake, they should have special assistance from heaven, to plead Christ?s cause and their own (Mark 13:11); ?Take no thought before-hand what he shall speak, be not solicitous how to address yourselves to great men, so as to obtain their favour; your cause is just and glorious, and needs not be supported by premeditated speeches and harangues; but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, whatsoever shall be suggested to you, and put into your minds, and into your mouths? (pro re natâ?on the spur of the occasion), ?that speak ye, and fear not the success of it, because it is off-hand, for it is not ye that speak, purely by the strength of your own wisdom, consideration, and resolution, but it is the Holy Ghost.? Note, Those whom Christ calls out to be advocates for him, shall be furnished with full instructions: and when we are engaged in the service of Christ, we may depend upon the aids of the Spirit of Christ.
(4.) That heaven at last would make amends for all; ?You will meet with a great deal of hardship in your way, but have a good heart on it, your warfare will be accomplished, and your testimony finished, and he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved,? Mark 13:13. Perseverance gains the crown. The salvation here promised is more than a deliverance from evil, it is an everlasting blessedness, which shall be an abundant recompence for all their services and sufferings. All this we have, Matt. 10:17