Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The knowledge most Christians have of Matthew 24 and 25 is vague and indefinite. As we come to these chapters, we need to drop this kind of vague knowledge. For the basic understanding of these chapters we are standing upon the shoulders of many great teachers who have gone before us. These great teachers include Darby, Newton, Pember, Govett, and Panton. According to church history, not until about one hundred fifty years ago were these chapters opened to the Lord’s people. After 1829, when the Brethren were raised up, these chapters began to be opened to the seeking saints. If you collect the various writings regarding Christ’s second coming, the great tribulation, the prophecy concerning the seventy weeks in Daniel, and the rapture, you will see that during the past one hundred fifty years the knowledge of Matthew 24 and 25 has progressed.
When Brother Nee was young, he was helped a great deal by reading the books of Pember, Govett, and Panton. Of course, he saw something even further, and before 1930 he conducted a study of the book of Revelation, upon which our study of Revelation was based. Later, Brother Nee held a study of Matthew in which he gave several messages on chapters twenty-four and twenty-five. He also had studies on the matters of the rapture and the tribulation. After he conducted these studies, Brother Nee saw something further. During the last twenty years, I myself also have gone on a little in understanding these matters. Therefore, what I shall present to you in these messages on chapters twenty-four and twenty-five is not merely the result of my own study, but the product of knowledge that has progressed throughout the past one hundred fifty years. It is not something superficial, but the cream of the labor of many others. The more I have ministered on the Lord’s coming, the rapture, and the tribulation, the more convinced I have become that we have the proper understanding of these things.
Prophecy in the Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle. We need to find the various pieces that are scattered throughout the Bible and see how they fit together. I have been doing this for more than fifty years. What I am presenting in these messages is the result of all these years of study.
Matthew 24:1-31 is concerned with Israel. Verses 1-14 cover the time from Christ’s ascension to the end of the age.
The prophecy of the kingdom given on the Mount of Olives is a continuation of the Lord’s declaration regarding His forsaking of Israel. This declaration is given at the end of chapter twenty-three. Chapter twenty-four continues, “And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away, and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple” (v. 1). Notice that chapter twenty-four begins with the word “And.” This indicates that this chapter is a direct continuation of the last part of chapter twenty-three. In 23:37-39 the Lord said that He desired to gather Jerusalem, that the house was left desolate, and that they would not see Him until they say, “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.” Then, immediately after this, chapter twenty-four continues with the words, “And Jesus came out from the temple.” This indicates that as soon as the Lord had declared that He was forsaking Israel, He came out of the temple and began to go away. The word “away” is very strong, showing that the Lord was not merely going, but going away. The fact that the Lord had come out from the temple indicates that He had left the temple. This was to fulfill His word in 23:38 concerning leaving the temple to the rejecting Jews as their house of desolation. This is equivalent to God’s glory leaving the temple in the time of Ezekiel (Ezek. 10:18).
As the Lord Jesus was going away from the temple, “His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple.” The word “temple” here denotes the entire precincts of the temple. As the Lord was going away, there might have been a distance between Him and His disciples, who were probably still lingering by the temple. Therefore, they came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple. This indicates that the disciples did not agree with the Lord’s forsaking of the temple. The Lord had forsaken the den of robbers, leaving the temple to be a house of desolation. But the disciples still appreciated the temple and were trying to bring Him back to it by pointing out the buildings, perhaps by pointing them out one by one.
Verse 2 says, “But He answered and said to them, Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, A stone shall by no means be left upon a stone which shall not be thrown down.” This was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when Titus with the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem.
Notice that the Lord did not say, “I have seen these things”; instead, He said, “Do you not see all these things?” This indicates clearly that the Lord Jesus would not turn His eyes back to look at the buildings. He seemed to be saying, “I don’t like to look at these things, but you have seen them. To you, they are complete, beautiful, splendid, and perfect. But there will not be one stone left upon another which will not be thrown down. Now you point out these things to Me building by building. But the day is coming when all this will be leveled.” We need to visualize the situation here. The disciples kept their eyes upon the buildings and pointed them out to the Lord. But the Lord would not turn to see them. Rather, He told His disciples that the buildings would be torn down. His answer must have shocked the disciples. As they all walked from the temple to the Mount of Olives, neither the Lord nor the disciples had anything more to say. Because the matter was too serious, the disciples asked Him nothing further until they came to the Mount of Olives.
Verse 3 says that after the Lord came to the Mount of Olives and sat down there, the disciples came to Him privately to ask Him about these things. Their meeting with the Lord on the mountain reveals that in order to receive the vision of the Lord’s prophecy concerning this age, we need to climb to the high mountain to enter into His presence.
The disciples came to the Lord privately. Having heard the terrible news that the buildings of the temple would be leveled, they wanted to keep this matter confidential. Perhaps as we read these verses today, we do not sense the seriousness of them. But when the disciples heard this word from the Lord Jesus, they were shocked and dared not talk about it openly. Not until the Lord had come to the Mount of Olives and sat down were they bold enough to ask Him about these things.
In verse 2 the word “things” refers to the buildings of the temple. But the same term used in verse 3 refers to matters, which include the things covered from verse 32 of the foregoing chapter: the Jews’ filling up the measure of their fathers, the coming of the judgment of God upon them, their persecution of the Lord’s sent ones, and the destruction of the temple. In verse 3 the disciples were asking the Lord Jesus when these things would transpire.
In verse 3 the disciples said, “Tell us, When shall these things be, and what is the sign of Your coming and of the consummation of the age?” The question of the disciples consists of three points: when these things will be, including not only the destruction of the temple (v. 2), but also the things mentioned in 23:32-39; the sign of Christ’s coming; and the sign of the consummation of the age. The Lord’s word from verse 4 through 25:46 answers the disciples’ question concerning these three points.
The Greek word rendered “coming” in this verse is parousia,which means presence. Christ’s coming will be His presence with His believers. This parousia will begin with His coming to the air and end with His coming to the earth. Within His parousia, there will be the rapture of the majority of the believers to the air (1 Thes. 4:15-17), the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), and the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9). The question asked here is concerning the sign of the Lord’s parousia and the sign of the end of this age. Hence, His answer in chapter twenty-four deals mainly with the sign of His parousia and with the sign of the end of this age.
The disciples did not ask, “What is Your coming?” They asked, “What is the sign of Your coming?” Thus, chapters twenty-four and twenty-five deal with the Lord’s answer regarding when these things would take place, the sign of His coming, and the sign of the consummation of the age. The consummation of the age denotes the very end of this present age. As we read chapters twenty-four and twenty-five, we need to be clear that the Lord’s answer is directed to the disciples’ three questions.
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