He sat upon the Mount of Olives - See the notes at Matthew 21:1. From that mount there was a magnificent view of the whole city.
The disciples came unto him privately - Not all of them, but Peter, James, John, and Andrew, Mark 13:3. The prediction that the temple would be destroyed Matthew 24:2 had been made in the presence of all the apostles. A “part” now came privately to know more particularly when this would be.
When shall these things be? - There are three questions here:
1.when those things should take place
2.what should be the signs of his own coming
3.what should be the signs that the end of the world was near
To these questions He replies in this and the following chapters. This He does, not by noticing them distinctly, but by intermingling the descriptions of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world, so that it is sometimes difficult to tell to what particular subject his remarks apply. The principle on which this combined description of two events was spoken appears to be, that “they could be described in the same words,” and therefore the accounts are intermingled. A similar use of language is found in some parts of Isaiah, where the same language will describe the return from the Babylonian captivity, and deliverance by the Messiah. See Introduction to Isaiah, section 7.
Sign of thy coming - Evidence that thou art coming. By what token shall we know that thou art coming?
Tell us, when shall these things be? - There appear to be three questions asked here by the disciples.
2dly. What shall be the sign of thy coming? viz. to execute these judgments upon them, and to establish thy own Church: and
But there are some who maintain that these are but three parts of the same question, and that our Lord's answers only refer to the destruction of the Jewish state, and that nothing is spoken here concerning the Last or judgment day.
End of the world - Του αιωνος ; or, of the age, viz. the Jewish economy, which is a frequent accommodated meaning of the word Αιων, the proper meaning of which is, as Aristotle (De Caelo) observes, Eternal. Αιων, quasi αει ων continual being: and no words can more forcibly point out eternity than these. See the note on Genesis 21:33.
Paul speaks of a class to whom the Lord's appearing will come unawares. “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, ... and they shall not escape.” But he adds, to those who have given heed to the Saviour's warning: “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5. GC 371.1
Thus it was shown that Scripture gives no warrant for men to remain in ignorance concerning the nearness of Christ's coming. But those who desired only an excuse to reject the truth closed their ears to this explanation, and the words “No man knoweth the day nor the hour” continued to be echoed by the bold scoffer and even by the professed minister of Christ. As the people were roused, and began to inquire the way of salvation, religious teachers stepped in between them and the truth, seeking to quiet their fears by falsely interpreting the word of God. Unfaithful watchmen united in the work of the great deceiver, crying, Peace, peace, when God had not spoken peace. Like the Pharisees in Christ's day, many refused to enter the kingdom of heaven themselves, and those who were entering in they hindered. The blood of these souls will be required at their hand. GC 372.1
The most humble and devoted in the churches were usually the first to receive the message. Those who studied the Bible for themselves could not but see the unscriptural character of the popular views of prophecy; and wherever the people were not controlled by the influence of the clergy, wherever they would search the word of God for themselves, the advent doctrine needed only to be compared with the Scriptures to establish its divine authority. GC 372.2Read in context »
It is impossible for man to present his body a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, while, because it is customary for the world to do so, he is indulging in habits that are lessening physical, mental, and moral vigor. The apostle adds: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Jesus, seated upon the Mount of Olives, gave instruction to His disciples concerning the signs which should precede His coming. He said: “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the Flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the Flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” 3T 163.1
The same sins exist in our day which brought the wrath of God upon the world in the days of Noah. Men and women now carry their eating and drinking to gluttony and drunkenness. This prevailing sin, the indulgence of perverted appetite, inflamed the passions of men in the days of Noah and led to general corruption, until their violence and crimes reached to heaven, and God washed the earth of its moral pollution by a flood. 3T 163.2
The same sins of gluttony and drunkenness benumbed the moral sensibilities of the inhabitants of Sodom so that crimes seemed to be the delight of the men and women of that wicked city. Christ thus warns the world: “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” 3T 163.3Read in context »
Christ's words had been spoken in the hearing of a large number of people; but when He was alone, Peter, John, James, and Andrew came to Him as He sat upon the Mount of Olives. “Tell us,” they said, “when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Jesus did not answer His disciples by taking up separately the destruction of Jerusalem and the great day of His coming. He mingled the description of these two events. Had He opened to His disciples future events as He beheld them, they would have been unable to endure the sight. In mercy to them He blended the description of the two great crises, leaving the disciples to study out the meaning for themselves. When He referred to the destruction of Jerusalem, His prophetic words reached beyond that event to the final conflagration in that day when the Lord shall rise out of His place to punish the world for their iniquity, when the earth shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain. This entire discourse was given, not for the disciples only, but for those who should live in the last scenes of this earth's history. DA 628.1
Turning to the disciples, Christ said, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Many false messiahs will appear, claiming to work miracles, and declaring that the time of the deliverance of the Jewish nation has come. These will mislead many. Christ's words were fulfilled. Between His death and the siege of Jerusalem many false messiahs appeared. But this warning was given also to those who live in this age of the world. The same deceptions practiced prior to the destruction of Jerusalem have been practiced through the ages, and will be practiced again. DA 628.2
“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, men wrestled for the supremacy. Emperors were murdered. Those supposed to be standing next the throne were slain. There were wars and rumors of wars. “All these things must come to pass,” said Christ, “but the end [of the Jewish nation as a nation] is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Christ said, As the rabbis see these signs, they will declare them to be God's judgments upon the nations for holding in bondage His chosen people. They will declare that these signs are the token of the advent of the Messiah. Be not deceived; they are the beginning of His judgments. The people have looked to themselves. They have not repented and been converted that I should heal them. The signs that they represent as tokens of their release from bondage are signs of their destruction. DA 628.3Read in context »
The waiting ones rejoiced, believing that He who knows the end from the beginning had looked down through the ages and, foreseeing their disappointment, had given them words of courage and hope. Had it not been for such portions of Scripture, admonishing them to wait with patience and to hold fast their confidence in God's word, their faith would have failed in that trying hour. GC 393.1
The parable of the ten virgins of Matthew 25 also illustrates the experience of the Adventist people. In Matthew 24, in answer to the question of His disciples concerning the sign of His coming and of the end of the world, Christ had pointed out some of the most important events in the history of the world and of the church from His first to His second advent; namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, the great tribulation of the church under the pagan and papal persecutions, the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars. After this He spoke of His coming in His kingdom, and related the parable describing the two classes of servants who look for His appearing. Chapter 25 opens with the words: “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins.” Here is brought to view the church living in the last days, the same that is pointed out in the close of chapter 24. In this parable their experience is illustrated by the incidents of an Eastern marriage. GC 393.2
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” GC 393.3Read in context »
To these words, Jesus made the solemn and startling reply: “Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:2. GC 25.1
With the overthrow of Jerusalem the disciples associated the events of Christ's personal coming in temporal glory to take the throne of universal empire, to punish the impenitent Jews, and to break from off the nation the Roman yoke. The Lord had told them that He would come the second time. Hence at the mention of judgments upon Jerusalem, their minds reverted to that coming; and as they were gathered about the Saviour upon the Mount of Olives, they asked: “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Verse 3. GC 25.2
The future was mercifully veiled from the disciples. Had they at that time fully comprehended the two awful facts—the Redeemer's sufferings and death, and the destruction of their city and temple—they would have been overwhelmed with horror. Christ presented before them an outline of the prominent events to take place before the close of time. His words were not then fully understood; but their meaning was to be unfolded as His people should need the instruction therein given. The prophecy which He uttered was twofold in its meaning; while foreshadowing the destruction of Jerusalem, it prefigured also the terrors of the last great day. GC 25.3Read in context »