Saint Matthew – Chapter 24

The Bible – New Testament

Saint Matthew

Chapter 24


1 Jesus left the temple area and was going away, when his disciples approached him to point out the temple buildings.


2 He said to them in reply, «You see all these things, do you not? Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.»


As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, 3 the disciples approached him privately and said, «Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?»


4 Jesus said to them in reply, «See that no one deceives you.


For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many.


You will hear of wars 5 and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end.


Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place.


6 All these are the beginning of the labor pains.


7 Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.


And then many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another.


Many false prophets will arise and deceive many;


and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold.


But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.


And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, 8 and then the end will come.


9 «When you see the desolating abomination 10 spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),


then those in Judea must flee 11 to the mountains,


12 a person on the housetop must not go down to get things out of his house,


a person in the field must not return to get his cloak.


Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days.


13 Pray that your flight not be in winter or on the sabbath,


14 for at that time there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will be.


And if those days had not been shortened, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect they will be shortened.


If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.


False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect.


Behold, I have told it to you beforehand.


So if they say to you, ‘He is in the desert,’ do not go out there; if they say, ‘He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 15


For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.


Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.


16 «Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.


And then the sign of the Son of Man 17 will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.


And he will send out his angels 18 with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.


19 «Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.


In the same way, when you see all these things, know that he is near, at the gates.


Amen, I say to you, this generation 20 will not pass away until all these things have taken place.


Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.


21 «But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, 22 but the Father alone.


23 For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.


In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.


They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man.


24 Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.


Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.


25 Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.


Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.


So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.


26 27 «Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time?


Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.


Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.


28 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’


and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards,


the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour


and will punish him severely 29 and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

1 [1-⇒ 25:46] The discourse of the fifth book, the last of the five around which the gospel is structured. It is called the «escha tological» discourse since it deals with the coming of the new age (the eschaton) in its fullness, with events that will precede it, and with how the disciples are to conduct themselves while awaiting an event that is as certain as its exact time is unknown to all but the Father (⇒ Matthew 24:36). The discourse may be divided into two parts, ⇒ Matthew 24:1-44 and ⇒ Matthew 24:45-⇒ 25:46. In the first, Matthew follows his Marcan source (⇒ Mark 13:1-37) closely. The second is drawn from Q and from the evangelist’s own traditional material. Both parts show Matthew’s editing of his sources by deletions, additions, and modifications. The vigilant waiting that is emphasized in the second part does not mean a cessation of ordinary activity and concentration only on what is to come, but a faithful accomplishment of duties at hand, with awareness that the end, for which the disciples must always be ready, will entail the great judgment by which the everlasting destiny of all will be determined.
2 [2] As in Mark, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple. By omitting the Marcan story of the widow’s contribution (⇒ Mark 12:41-44) that immediately precedes the prediction in that gospel, Matthew has established a close connection between it and ⇒ Matthew 23:38, «. . . your house will be abandoned desolate.»
3 [3] The Mount of Olives: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 21:1. The disciples: cf ⇒ Mark 13:3-4 where only Peter, James, John, and Andrew put the question that is answered by the discourse. In both gospels, however, the question is put privately: the ensuing discourse is only for those who are disciples of Jesus. When will this happen . . . end of the age?: Matthew distinguishes carefully between the destruction of the temple (this) and the coming of Jesus that will bring the end of the age. In Mark the two events are more closely connected, a fact that may be explained by Mark’s believing that the one would immediately succeed the other. Coming: this translates the Greek word parousia, which is used in the gospels only here and in ⇒ Matthew 24:27, ⇒ 37, ⇒ 39. It designated the official visit of a ruler to a city or the manifestation of a saving deity, and it was used by christians to refer to the final coming of Jesus in glory, a term first found in the New Testament with that meaning in ⇒ 1 Thes 2:19. The end of the age: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 13:39.
4 [4-14] This section of the discourse deals with calamities in the world (⇒ Matthew 24:6-7) and in the church (⇒ Matthew 24:9-12). The former must happen before the end comes (⇒ Matthew 24:6), but they are only the beginning of the labor pains (⇒ Matthew 24:8). (It may be noted that the Greek word translated the end in ⇒ Matthew 24:6 and in ⇒ Matthew 24:13-14 is not the same as the phrase «the end of the age» in ⇒ Matthew 24:3 although the meaning is the same.) The latter are sufferings of the church, both from within and without, that will last until the gospel is preached . . . to all nations. Then the end will come and those who have endured the sufferings with fidelity will be saved (⇒ Matthew 24:13-14).
5 [6-7] The disturbances mentioned here are a commonplace of apocalyptic language, as is the assurance that they must happen (see ⇒ Daniel 2:28 LXX), for that is the plan of God. Kingdom against kingdom: see ⇒ Isaiah 19:2.
6 [8] The labor pains: the tribulations leading up to the end of the age are compared to the pains of a woman about to give birth. There is much attestation for rabbinic use of the phrase «the woes (or birth pains) of the Messiah» after the New Testament period, but in at least one instance it is attributed to a rabbi who lived in the late first century A.D. In this Jewish usage it meant the distress of the time preceding the coming of the Messiah; here, the labor pains precede the coming of the Son of Man in glory.
7 [9-12] Matthew has used ⇒ Mark 13:9-12 in his missionary discourse (⇒ Matthew 10:17-21) and omits it here. Besides the sufferings, including death, and the hatred of all nations that the disciples will have to endure, there will be worse affliction within the church itself. This is described in ⇒ Matthew 24:10-12, which are peculiar to Matthew. Will be led into sin: literally, «will be scandalized,» probably meaning that they will become apostates; see ⇒ Matthew 13:21 where «fall away» translates the same Greek word as here. Betray: in the Greek this is the same word as the hand over of ⇒ Matthew 24:9. The handing over to persecution and hatred from outside will have their counterpart within the church. False prophets: these are Christians; see the note on ⇒ Matthew 7:15-20. Evildoing: see ⇒ Matthew 7:23. Because of the apocalyptic nature of much of this discourse, the literal meaning of this description of the church should not be pressed too hard. However, there is reason to think that Matthew’s addition of these verses reflects in some measure the condition of his community.
8 [14] Except for the last part (and then the end will come), this verse substantially repeats ⇒ Mark 13:10. The Matthean addition raises a problem since what follows in ⇒ Matthew 24:15-23 refers to the horrors of the First Jewish Revolt including the destruction of the temple, and Matthew, writing after that time, knew that the parousia of Jesus was still in the future. A solution may be that the evangelist saw the events of those verses as foreshadowing the cosmic disturbances that he associates with the parousia (⇒ Matthew 24:29) so that the period in which the former took place could be understood as belonging to the end.
9 [15-28] Cf ⇒ Mark 13:14-23; ⇒ Luke 17:23-24, ⇒ 37. A further stage in the tribulations that will precede the coming of the Son of Man, and an answer to the question of ⇒ Matthew 24:3a, «when will this (the destruction of the temple) happen?»
10 [15] The desolating abomination: in 167 B.C. the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the temple by setting up in it a statue of Zeus Olympios (see ⇒ 1 Macc 1:54). That event is referred to in ⇒ Daniel 12:11 LXX as the «desolating abomination» (NAB «horrible abomination») and the same Greek term is used here; cf also ⇒ Daniel 9:27; ⇒ 11:31. Although the desecration had taken place before Dn was written, it is presented there as a future event, and Matthew sees that «prophecy» fulfilled in the desecration of the temple by the Romans. In the holy place: the temple; more precise than Mark’s where he should not (⇒ Mark 13:14). Let the reader understand: this parenthetical remark, taken from ⇒ Mark 13:14 invites the reader to realize the meaning of Daniel’s «prophecy.»
11 [16] The tradition that the Christians of Jerusalem fled from that city to Pella, a city of Transjordan, at the time of the First Jewish Revolt is found in Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, 3, 5, 3), who attributes the flight to «a certain oracle given by revelation before the war.» The tradition is not improbable but the Matthean command, derived from its Marcan source, is vague in respect to the place of flight (to the mountains), although some scholars see it as applicable to the flight to Pella.
12 [17-19] Haste is essential, and the journey will be particularly difficult for women who are burdened with unborn or infant children.
13 [20] On the sabbath: this addition to in winter (cf ⇒ Mark 13:18) has been understood as an indication that Matthew was addressed to a church still observing the Mosaic law of sabbath rest and the scribal limitations upon the length of journeys that might lawfully be made on that day. That interpretation conflicts with Matthew’s view on sabbath observance (cf ⇒ Matthew 12:1-14). The meaning of the addition may be that those undertaking on the sabbath a journey such as the one here ordered would be offending the sensibilities of law-observant Jews and would incur their hostility.
14 [21] For the unparalleled distress of that time, see ⇒ Daniel 12:1.
15 [26-28] Claims that the Messiah is to be found in some distant or secret place must be ignored. The coming of the Son of Man will be as clear as lightning is to all and as the corpse of an animal is to vultures; cf ⇒ Luke 17:24, ⇒ 37. Here there is clear identification of the Son of Man and the Messiah; cf ⇒ Matthew 24:23.
16 [29] The answer to the question of ⇒ Matthew 24:3b «What will be the sign of your coming?» Immediately after . . . those days: the shortening of time between the preceding tribulation and the parousia has been explained as Matthew’s use of a supposed device of Old Testament prophecy whereby certainty that a predicted event will occur is expressed by depicting it as imminent. While it is questionable that that is an acceptable understanding of the Old Testament predictions, it may be applicable here, for Matthew knew that the parousia had not come immediately after the fall of Jerusalem, and it is unlikely that he is attributing a mistaken calculation of time to Jesus. The sun . . . be shaken: cf ⇒ Isaiah 13:10, ⇒ 13.
17 [30] The sign of the Son of Man: perhaps this means the sign that is the glorious appearance of the Son of Man; cf ⇒ Matthew 12:39-40 where «the sign of Jonah» is Jonah’s being in the «belly of the whale.» Tribes of the earth will mourn: peculiar to Matthew; cf ⇒ Zechariah 12:12-14. Coming upon the clouds . . . glory: cf ⇒ Daniel 7:13 although there the «one like a son of man» comes to God to receive kingship; here the Son of Man comes from heaven for judgment.
18 [31] Send out his angels: cf ⇒ Matthew 13:41 where they are sent out to collect the wicked for punishment. Trumpet blast: cf ⇒ Isaiah 27:13; ⇒ 1 Thes 4:16.
19 [32-35] Cf ⇒ Mark 13:28-31.
20 [34] The difficulty raised by this verse cannot be satisfactorily removed by the supposition that this generation means the Jewish people throughout the course of their history, much less the entire human race. Perhaps for Matthew it means the generation to which he and his community belonged.
21 [36-44] The statement of ⇒ Matthew 24:34 is now counterbalanced by one that declares that the exact time of the parousia is known only to the Father (⇒ Matthew 24:36), and the disciples are warned to be always ready for it. This section is drawn from Mark and Q (cf ⇒ Luke 17:26-27, ⇒ 34-35; ⇒ 12:39-40).
22 [36] Many textual witnesses omit nor the Son, which follows ⇒ Mark 13:32. Since its omission can be explained by reluctance to attribute this ignorance to the Son, the reading that includes it is probably original.
23 [37-39] Cf ⇒ Luke 17:26-27. In the days of Noah: the Old Testament account of the flood lays no emphasis upon what is central for Matthew, i.e., the unexpected coming of the flood upon those who were unprepared for it.
24 [40-41] Cf ⇒ Luke 17:34-35. Taken . . . left: the former probably means taken into the kingdom; the latter, left for destruction. People in the same situation will be dealt with in opposite ways. In this context, the discrimination between them will be based on their readiness for the coming of the Son of Man.
25 [42-44] Cf ⇒ Luke 12:39-40. The theme of vigilance and readiness is continued with the bold comparison of the Son of Man to a thief who comes to break into a house.
26 [45-51] The second part of the discourse (see the note on ⇒ Matthew 24:1-⇒ 25:46) begins with this parable of the faithful or unfaithful servant; cf ⇒ Luke 12:41-46. It is addressed to the leaders of Matthew’s church; the servant has been put in charge of his master’s household (⇒ Matthew 24:45) even though that household is composed of those who are his fellow servants (⇒ Matthew 24:49).
27 [45] To distribute . . . proper time: readiness for the master’s return means a vigilance that is accompanied by faithful performance of the duty assigned.
28 [48] My master . . . delayed: the note of delay is found also in the other parables of this section; cf ⇒ Matthew 25:5, ⇒ 19.
29 [51] Punish him severely: the Greek verb, found in the New Testament only here and in the Lucan parallel (⇒ Luke 12:46), means, literally, «cut in two.» With the hypocrites: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 6:2. Matthew classes the unfaithful Christian leader with the unbelieving leaders of Judaism. Wailing and grinding of teeth: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 8:11-12.