Matthew 24:23-26. If any man say, Lo, here is Christ, or there During the terrible calamities here foretold, the expectations of the nation were all turned toward their Messiah; for they thought if ever he was to appear, it would be then, to deliver them from the impending destruction. Hence many arose, pretending to be the Messiah, and boasting that they would deliver the nation; the effect of which was, that the multitude, giving credit to these deceivers, became obstinate in their opposition to the Romans, whereby their destruction was rendered both the more severe and the more inevitable. Our Lord, it must be observed, had cautioned his disciples against false Christs and false prophets before, (see Matthew 24:5,) but what he here says is not to be considered as a repetition of that, but relates to those impostors who should appear during the time of the siege. And, in fact, many such impostors did arise about that time, as we learn from Josephus, (lib. 6. cap. 5, § 2,) and promised deliverance from God, being suborned by the tyrants or governors, to prevent the people and soldiers from deserting to the Romans; and the lower the Jews were reduced, the more disposed were they to listen to these deceptions, and the more ready to follow the deceivers. Hegesippus also, quoted by Eusebius, mentions the coming of false Christs and false prophets about the same time. And shall show great signs As it was to little purpose for a man to take upon him the character of the Christ, or even of a prophet, without miracles to vouch his mission; so it was the common artifice and pretence of these impostors to show signs and wonders, σημεια και τερατα , the very words used by Christ in this prophecy, and by Josephus in his history. Behold, I have told you before Behold, I have given you sufficient warning. If they shall say, He is in the desert It is surprising that our Lord should not only foretel the appearance of these impostors, but also the manner and circumstances of their conduct. For some he mentions as appearing in the desert, and some in the secret chambers; and the event, in all points, answered to the prediction. Josephus says ( Antiq., lib. 20. cap. 7, and Bell. Jud., lib. 2. cap. 13,) that “many impostors and cheats persuaded the people to follow them into the desert, where they promised to show manifest wonders and signs done by the providence of God; and many, being persuaded, suffered the punishment of their folly.” And he mentions an Egyptian false prophet, Antiq., Matthew 20:7, (spoken of also Acts 21:38,) who led out into the desert four thousand men who were murderers; and who were all taken or destroyed by Felix: another impostor is also mentioned by the same author, who promised deliverance to the people if they would follow him into the desert, but Festus sent horse and foot against him, and destroyed both him and his followers. These things happened before the destruction of Jerusalem; and a little after, one Jonathan, a weaver, persuaded many to follow him into the desert, most or all of whom were slain or made prisoners, and he himself taken and burned alive, by order of Vespasian. As several of these impostors thus conducted their followers into the desert, so did others into the secret chambers, or places of security. One of these (according to Josephus, Bell., Mat 6:5) declared to the people in the city, that God commanded them to go up into the temple, and there they should receive the signs of deliverance. A multitude of men, women, and children went up accordingly; but, instead of deliverance, the place was set on fire by the Romans, and six thousand perished miserably in the flames, by throwing themselves down to escape them. Our Saviour therefore might well caution his disciples both against the former and the latter sort of these deceivers.
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