Here, again, the warning regarding the destruction of Jerusalem is blended with the warning of the Second Advent. The disciples heard Christ's words, but they did not then fully understand them. It was necessary for the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth, bringing to their remembrance all things that Christ had said to them. They could not understand why He connected the perils of the overthrow of Jerusalem with the perils of the last days. But those who live in this age may understand Christ's warning, and should place it in the period where it belongs. The gospel must be carried to every kingdom under heaven, and then shall the end come.
Christ knew that the disciples could not comprehend the instruction He had given them in answer to their question, "When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" Matthew 24:3. He knew the terrible future of the once-chosen people of God; but He knew, also, that His disciples could not then fully understand His description of the fearful scenes to be enacted at the destruction of Jerusalem. In His answer, the two events--the destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of the world--were merged into one. It was in mercy to His disciples that Christ blended these events, leaving them to study out the meaning for themselves.
Christ had made every effort to keep His disciples informed in regard to the truth. He had given them every opportunity to know the truth. He had invited them to put their confidence in Him as the Messiah, and in His mission and work, but they had not yet a proper understanding of the nature of His kingdom. They were thrilled with distress as they listened to His lamentation over Jerusalem; but they did not realise the true meaning of His words. Had Christ opened the future to them as He saw it, they would have been unable to endure the scene. To the last, they looked for a temporal kingdom, to be established at Jerusalem. Christ's revelation of the scenes to take place at the destruction of Jerusalem, they associated with His personal coming, when He Himself would punish the Jews, but would also free them from Roman bondage. He had told them definitely that He would come a second time, and they thought that probably His judgements would fall upon those who had rejected His love. He would then, they thought, lay low every stone in the temple; for they believed that no earthly power could do this.
But long before Christ's Second Coming, retribution fell upon the apostate nation, which was still further to show its hatred against Christ by its treatment of His followers.
From the destruction of Jerusalem, Christ passed on to a much greater event--the last link in the chain of this earth's history--the coming of the Son of God in majesty and glory. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days," He said, "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: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, when they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 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." Matthew 24:29-31.
Christ gave special directions in regard to this event. "Now learn a parable of the fig tree," he said; "when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation [the generation that saw the signs] shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Matthew 24:32-35.
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Matthew 24:36. Christ plainly said that He Himself could not make known the day or the hour of His Second Appearing. Had He been at liberty to make this time known, what need would there have been for Him to exhort His followers to maintain an attitude of earnest watchfulness, living, working, and waiting as if their time was not their own, but the Lord's; cultivating fidelity, faith, and love; and purifying the soul through the truth?
Christ told His disciples that the time of His coming was involved in secrecy; yet notwithstanding this, there have been and will be those who claim to know when this great event will take place. Very earnest they are in trying to map out the future, which the Lord has placed in a thick cloud; and notwithstanding their failures, they continue their work. But their reasoning is false, and the Lord has warned them off the ground they occupy; for the coming of the Son of man is God's mystery. "Secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever." Deuteronomy 29:29.
"But as the days of Noe were," Christ continued, "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 Noe 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." Matthew 24:37-39. Christ does not here bring to view a temporal millennium--a thousand years in which all are to prepare for eternity. He tells us that as it was in Noah's day, so will it be when the Son of man comes.
How was it in Noah's day?--"God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5. Had man co-operated with God, there would have been no Cain worshipers. Abel's example of obedience would have been followed. Men might have worked out the will of God. They might have obeyed His law, and in obedience they would have found salvation. God and the heavenly universe would have helped them to retain the divine likeness. Longevity would have been preserved; and God would have delighted in the work of His hands. But the inhabitants of the antediluvian world turned from Jehovah, refusing to do His will. They followed their unholy imagination and perverted ideas. "God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah. . . . Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. . . . And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die." Genesis 6:12-17.
Remember the warning, "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." It was because of the wickedness of the inhabitants of the old world, that they were destroyed; and today the world is following in the same way. No flattering signs of millennial glory are to be seen. Human lawmakers open their law books, and pronounce sentence against those who do not keep their laws. But those who frame and enforce these laws are themselves transgressors of God's law, and their transgression is filling the earth with wickedness. Betting, horseracing, gambling, dissipation, lustful practices, untameable passions, are fast filling the earth with violence and moral pollution. Bank failures ruin thousands of families. Widows and orphans are left to starve. Every species of indulgence prevails. Men have become so infatuated with vice that they will not listen to warnings or appeals.
"Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. . . . Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 24:42-51.
This is the day of the Lord's preparation. He says: "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." Revelation 16:15. The great work from which the mind should not be diverted, is the consideration of our safety in the sight of God. The storm is coming, relentless in its fury. Are we prepared to meet it? Are our feet on the Rock of Ages? Are we one with Christ, as He is one with the Father?
Review and Herald, December 27, 1898.