<< Matthew XXIV: Leaving the Temple: Prophecy of Dark Days >>
IT was the end of the last day of teaching in the temple, and the Lord was turning with the disciples to the quiet of the Mount of Olives. They pointed out to Him the buildings of the temple, and perhaps some of the great stones which made the outer wall. The temple had been building forty six years, and was not yet finished. The Lord told them it would all be overthrown. Forty years later the Romans came, under their general Titus, and the city was destroyed and the temple burned, and a great many of the people were killed. You can see in Rome the arch built in memory of the victory, arid on one side are sculptured the golden lamp and table from the temple, carried on Ihe shoulders of the victors.
But the real temple is not built of stones, but of the truth and love in the minds and hearts of men. When the Lord said that the temple would be overthrown He meant also that there was little truth and goodness left among the Jews.
Then the Lord sat on the Mount of Olives over against the temple, looking down on the city which He loved so much, but which cared so little for Him, and as the shades of evening deepened around, Peter and James and John and Andrew came to Him privately and asked about the sad things that were coming. He told them that there would be darkness and wars, ---darkness in the minds of men, when almost all true knowledge about the Lord and heaven would be lost; and wars when those who called themselves Christians would quarrel about holy things.
Then would come the sign of brighter days. Men would grow more kind, and would take better care of sick people and of children, and of the poor. All this which is coming true to-day, is the budding of the fig tree. And the Lord would come in the clouds of His Holy Word. He is teaching us to understand the Bible, revealing Himself to us in its deeper meaning. He has truly come again with new power.
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end 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....
Immediately after the tribulation of those days 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, and 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. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; 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.---Matthew XXIV.1-8, 29-33.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Mountain of Olives >> State of heavenly affection and perfect love
There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down >> The falsifying of Truth
Famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes >> Lack of goods and Truths and changes of spiritual state
The sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven >> The light of understanding of heavenly things will gradually go out >> The fullest kind of understanding or perception of a loving heart (fiery sun) will be lost, clear intelligence (moon) will no longer be available, and the little bits of knowledge about heavenly things (stars) will be lost
The Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory >> The Lord will come to men in the letter of the Word which conceals and yet reveals the Lord like a cloud hides and reveals the sun
He shall send his angels >> Angels attend His coming, and they, like prophets, represent in an impersonal sense the many messages of truth which come to us from the Lord
Great sound of a trumpet >> The great power of the Lord's truth
AND now their judgment follows, which would free the simple-hearted from their yoke : They had the law, and taught truth from it for the common people, even if they perverted it for themselves. Their requirements were heavy for people who must live in the world, but they separated themselves from the world, and bore none of the burdens. (AC 9825 ; AE 395.) They taught truth showily, that they might be seen of men, and have honor as teachers of men. The Lord's followers should not try to be leaders, but brethren, loving the Lord, children of one Father. They should not care to be great, but to serve and do good. But they who were in pride of truth and of holiness, neither sought the life of heaven, nor permitted others to seek it, but turned the faces of all to themselves.(AC 4844; AE1121.) Those who were in good and desired truth they misled. They had the Word and should have led to God and heaven, but instead they led to hell, even by teachings which they themselves did not believe. The gold and the gift which were of men they held to be more holy, and swearing by them more binding, than the altar and the temple when yet the altar with its fires stood for the Lord uniting men to Himself, which alone gives holiness to the gifts of affection ; and the temple for His teaching of truth, which makes holy the good of their lives.
Their own wills were their standard, not the Lord. Outward symbols were to them of sole importance, while the essentials judgment, mercy, and faith they cared not for. They strained out and condemned small errors of appearances only, but fundamental false principles of morality, like making purity in mere ceremonials the essential of life, they accepted. The outward forms or receptacles of truth and goodness were all they attended to, not heeding the falsity and evil with which they were filled. (AE 659.) Woe was denounced upon them because they were of hell and tended thither. They professed the extremest righteousness of life toward God and men, but within were full of hypocrisy and iniquity. They knew the wickedness of their fathers in rejecting the warnings of God, yet they themselves were rejecting and destroying much more. The Lord Himself, with His teachings of truth and of good, was the fulfilment of all that the prophets had represented. Abel the keeper of sheep stands for those who keep charity and mutual love ; and Zacharias ( 2 CHRON. xxiv. 20-22; AE 329, 624, 655.) who warned the people who were serving idols and representatives of evil, "Why transgress ye the commandment of Jehovah ?" stands for such warning of evil. Both the love and the warning they had in. Him, and were absolutely rejecting them.
The Love of God in Him was yearning over them, and would instruct and protect them; but they rejected both its kindness and its truth. The church with them was a waste. A new church must now be raised up which should acknowledge the Divine in His Human, and receive the good and truth of heaven through that acknowledgment.
Thus ended the teaching in the temple, the public teaching of Jesus in Jerusalem. He had shown that they who had the Word, and upon whom rested the duties of the Church of God, and whose temple and altar represented the Presence of God with men, had nothing of that Presence in their hearts, had nothing of the Word in their lives, did nothing of the duty of the church ; but were destroying every truth and good from God. Also that now the time was come for their mere shell of a church to be ended, and a new church to be established which should rest upon Him, and receive of the truth and love of God from Him.
PREDICTIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
THE Lord had explored the church at Jerusalem, where was the presence of God and heaven in holy representatives, and had shown that the love and the truth of that Divine and heavenly Presence were totally destroyed in the church that the holy representatives were a husk only, with no good fruit, but decay and corruption within. The Jews were doing nothing of the use of a church in making known and interpreting to mankind the Presence of God. And now their house should be deserted, and the Divine Presence, with the duty and the privileges of the church of God, should be given to those who would recognize and receive the Divine in the Divine Human. With this prediction the Lord left their temple forever.
But it was needful that He should give warn ing of the affliction that should come upon the Christian Church also. And He made use of the imagery of the impending destruction of Jerusalem to describe the even greater misery which for a little time should come upon His own church. He spoke of the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom unto all nations; of the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place ; of the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory words which had scarce any application to the times immediately at hand, but were to have a thorough and deep fulfilment when men had learned how self would appropriate and destroy the Christian good and truth also, and should be able to receive the Lord once more in a profounder, juster humility. The stones of the temple of which He was thinking were the Christian truths of which He was even now building His church, and which should presently be thrown down.1
He "sat upon the Mount of Olives," in a state of interior union with the Divine, from which He saw all the states of the church. To the disciples 2 who were in most interior states of faith and love and good life, He foretold that he church would come into temptations from the love of rule by means of Christian truth, so that it would " not know what was good and what true." (AC 3481.) Falsified truths would be taught instead of genuine ; (AE 735) quarrels and strife would arise,(AE 734) and conflict of evil with evil, and falsity with falsity, until everything good and true in the church of the Lord was destroyed.
There is no part of the Gospel story more fully and minutely explained by Swedenborg than these chapters. We need not, therefore, dwell upon them here, further than to note that "the abomination of desolation" is the heavy cloud of evil spirits within the borders of the Christian heaven, cutting off the influence of heaven from men upon the earth ; 3 that Daniel the prophet is the truth of the Word as to judgment ; and that unless the Lord had come again to judgment, mankind must have perished from
In the clouds of heaven He would come a figure familiarly understood as the opening of the parables and representatives of the Bible to show the Divine life pictured everywhere in it. And by the truth of that Divine life the church should be judged. They would be living heedlessly, as if the Lord were not. But He should come with the fulness of Divine light and power, and the light should search through all the world, separating everywhere the evil from the good. (Author: John Worchester, 1898. Matthew's Gospel.)
1. Summary Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church, 71; Apocalypse Revealed, 191.
2. Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately. (MARK xiii. 3.)
3. The Lat Judgment, posthumous.
Pictures: James Tissot ----Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum