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Postmillennialist: John A. Broadus (Part 2)

Postmillennialist: John A. Broadus (Part 2)

After an introduction to the commentary of John Broadus on Matthew, it is time to enjoy the full insight of the Matthew 24 text under the eyes of this old timin' Baptist. Recall that this gentleman was the president of Southern Baptist Seminary and was sought after both as a president and New Testament professor.

The commentary on Matthew that we are inspecting took Broadus twenty years to finish. Perhaps that is why there is so much confusion in the modern church on some of these texts. We haven't leaned on the faithful shoulders of those who went before us? Because I am quite convinced of this, we will be spending a significant time simply reading the words of Broadus.

Matthew 24:1-3

We'll warm up to the text by allowing Broadus to introduce us to the context of the discourse and the visible surroundings that sparked the conversation,

Was going on his way (Rev. Ver.), doubtless returning towards Bethany, whence he had come that morning (Mt 21:17 f.; Lu 21:37); and the disciples interrupted his progress to show him the buildings of the temple. In Mark (Mr 13:2) they are expressly called ‘great buildings,’ and in Mark and Luke special attention is directed to the vast "stones" employed. Josephus says ("Ant.," 15, 11, 3) that Herod built the sanctuary of stones that were "white and strong," probably meaning a hard variety of white limestone  still much used in Palestine, and that they were about twenty-five cubits long, eight in height, and twelve in breadth, or in our feet about forty by twelve by twenty, which is even larger than the stones now found in the southern angles of Herod the Great’s outer wall (See on "Mt 21:42"). In "War," 5, 5, 6, Josephus even says that some of the stones were forty-five cubits long (eighty-five feet). Doubtless the inner walls also, and pillars of the colonnades (see on "Mt 21:12"), presented very large and ‘beautiful’ stones (Lu 21:5)...

Our Lord seems to have been outside of the temple when his attention was called by the disciples, but this does not show that they were observing only the stones of the outer wall, for the central building rose high above the outer court and its wall, and was visible to a great distance, as Josephus states, ("Ant.," 15, 11, 3.) Our Lord’s language in v. 2 shows that he is referring to the entire structure. And Jesus said , etc. But he answered and said , is the correct Greek text. The subsequent insertion of the name ‘Jesus’ is a thing of frequent occurrence in the manuscripts, comp. on Mt 14:14 . See ye not all these things? This called their attention to the vast and solid mass of buildings, by way of preparation for the statement that all would be overthrown, a thing which then seemed in the highest degree unlikely; indeed, we know that Titus fully meant to preserve it. (Jos. "War," 6, 4.) There shall not be left here one stone upon another. So also in Mark and Luke. Some stickle at the fact that several stones of Herod’s outer wall now remain in situ, e.g. , at the Jews’ place of wailing, and at the southeast and southwest corners; indeed, at the southeast corner the recent English excavations reached foundation-stones supposed to have been laid by Solomon. Our Lord’s language is of course popular, and such an objection is trifling (Comp. Jer 26:18). In fact, it is wonderful how literally the prediction was fulfilled, for very seldom was a great city so completely destroyed. Josephus says ("War," 7, 1, 1) that Titus finally ordered the whole city and the sanctuary to be razed to its foundations, except three towers and part of the western wall, and that all the rest of the city wall "was so completely leveled with the ground that there was no longer anything to lead those who visited the spot to believe that it had ever been inhabited."

Just in the introduction one can feel the weight of history that Broadus brings into the discussion of the passage. It must certainly be entertained that this works as a prejudice in his interpretation of the verses but the same thoughts can be brought against the many modern teachers who refuse to even acknowledge the history when teaching their congregants.

When shall these things be? So Mark and Luke. The prediction that the entire temple would be thrown down reminded them of previous predictions that he would come again as the Messiah (Mt 16:27 f.; Lu 19:11 Mt 23:39), for they might well suppose such an utter destruction would occur only in connection with the establishment of the Messianic kingdom, which many Jews believed would be attended by mighty changes. So the disciples privately inquire as to the time of his promised coming, and the sign of it. The sign of thy coming, presence (Rev. Ver. margin), as in 2Co 10:10 , or ‘arrival’ as in the phrase ‘by the coming of Titus’(2 Co 7:6); the idea is of not merely arriving but then remaining present. The word suggests (Ewald) that Jesus will come and stay with his people. This peculiar term is used for the second coming of Christ four times in the chapter (v. 3, 27, 37, 39), and repeatedly by James, Paul, Peter; also in 1Jo 2:28. Other terms used in the Epistles are manifestation, revelation, appearing, coming, day. The word ‘thy’ has a certain emphasis in the Greek. He has spoken of the Messiah’s coming (Mt 23:39 16:28); they are satisfied that this means his coming. And of the end of the world, or, as the Greek exactly means, the consummation of the age (Rev. Ver. margin) (see on "Mt 13:39" f). There is here no reference to any such idea as that of the destruction of the material universe, but only the consummation and termination of the present , age, or state of things. A common Jewish conception was that the appearing of the Messiah would close ‘this age,’ and introduce ‘the coming age’—these phrases often occurring in the Talmud. The disciples would easily transform the conception into that of a future appearance of their Master as the Messiah. Jesus had taught them that at ‘the consummation of the age,’ the end of the present state of things, the Messiah would destroy the wicked (Mt 13:41,49), and they were now fully convinced that he himself was the Messiah. Thus it was natural for them to ask these questions. It is not wise to distinguish sharply between the three clauses as if representing three entirely separate points. Evidently the disciples did not separate between his future coming and the end of the present period; nor has the Saviour done so in his reply. They also then supposed that the destruction of the temple would coincide with his coming and the end of the age; the reply did not clearly show that they would in fact be far apart, but it left the way open for what has in this respect turned out to be the case. The phrases ‘coming’ and ‘consummation of the age’ would be readily intelligible to the Jewish readers contemplated by Matt., but not to Gentiles; and accordingly Mark and Luke have simply ‘and what is the sign when all these things are going to be completed’ (Luke ‘to come to pass’).

There are some thing in here that are very peculiar to Broadus. By this I mean that not even all preterist agree on the importance of the phrase "and the end of the age". I have written on here previously in agreement principally with Broadus. I think it speaks volumes that Luke and Mark lump the questions together into one question. Any attempt to derive the importance of distinction from the Matthew texts find themselves in the defensive position in my opinion.

Matthew 24:4-14

In this section Broadus titles the section to highlight "misleading signs". The mere title makes me chuckle. Because these signs are the very things often quoted to us as an indication that the final days are upon us. But these weren't the point of our Saviors very words,

(a) False Messiahs and other false teachers, v. 4 f.; also in Mark and Luke. Many shall come in my name (see on "Mt 18:5"), here means more than reliance on him, for they would claim to be what he really was. (Comp. v. 23-25 and Jer 14:14 ) We have no account of any one who claimed to be the Messiah between this time and the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet there may very well have been such persons. As the Jews expected the Messiah to be a political deliverer, it was very natural that men who set up for political deliverers should pretend to be the Messiah; but as Josephus had interpreted the Messianic predictions as fulfilled in Vespasian, and knew that any popular expectation of a native ruler would be highly unacceptable to the Romans, he would be likely to pass over such claims without mention Christ , the Christ ,with the article...

(b) Wars, famines, earthquakes, affecting the world at large, v. 6-8; so also Mark and Luke, the latter expanding. These extraordinary occurrences would become a false sign by being misinterpreted, as such events often are. Wars and rumours of wars, which latter may turn out unreal. Both real wars and such rumours were abundant before AD. 70, as well as often since. Famines (Ac 11:28) are often mentioned in Old. Test., and are still frequent in Palestine; earthquakes also frequently occur, and there are many signs of former volcanic activity. We read in Jos. and Tacitus of various famines and earthquakes in Palestine during the years preceding the destruction of Jerusalem...Be not troubled . Luke, ‘terrified.’ Alexander :" As if these commotions would necessarily imply the imminence of some great catastrophe, or of the final consummation. The necessity of this caution, not to the first disciples merely, but to their successors, is abundantly apparent from the well-known fact that pious men in every age have been continually falling into the mistake of looking on national commotions and collisions as decisive proof that the world is near its end. The meaning is not that such changes may not be immediately succeeded by the greatest change of all, but only that they are no sign of it, and ought not to be so regarded." For all these things (rather, they) must come to pass...

(c) Things directly affecting the Christians—persecution, false prophets, multiplied transgressions, v. 9-13. So Mark and Luke. But they here also give a prediction that the disciples will be brought before Jewish and heathen tribunals, with persecution and scourging (comp. Ac 22:19 2Co 11:24 f.); and that they will be taught by inspiration what to say in their defense, and need not be anxious in advance on that point (Comp. Ac 4:8-13). Matthew has given a similar passage in the discourse to the Twelve on sending them out (see Mt 10:17-22), and therefore (we may suppose) does not repeat it here. 

But all these things are merely the labor pains. They are neither the real sign nor the full sign of what God seeks to do. Broadus spends little time on the phrase "he that shall endure unto the end" and the unusual reference that has for salvation in trial. In fact, the forcing of that phrase into a solely Christian soteriological sense seems a stretch given the context. 

(d) A corrective to the false signs, v. 14; Mark 13:10 . Notwithstanding the persecution from without and the false teaching and diminished love within, the gospel will be everywhere preached; then, and not till then, will the end come. This gospel of the kingdom, the good tidings (Rev. Ver. margin) that the Messianic kingdom or reign is near ( see on "Mt 4:23" ; see on "Mt 3:2" ), which the Saviour was and long had been engaged in proclaiming. Comp. the beginning of our Lord’s preaching in Galilee, Mr 1:15 . Preached, (see on "Mt 4:17"). In all the world, more exactly, in the whole inhabited (earth), as in Rev. Ver. margin. This term, , is repeatedly used in Luke (and Acts), not elsewhere in the Gospels...This statement, that the gospel shall be preached in the whole inhabited earth, and the following expression for a witness unto all ( the ) nations, could be regarded as a hyperbolical prediction of what was fulfilled before the destruction of Jerusalem, even as Paul wrote to the Colossians (about AD. 68), concerning "the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven." (RSV Col 1:23 , Rev Ver}) It will evidently be fulfilled much more thoroughly before the second coming of Christ; yet Paul’s phrase, and the apparent primary reference here to AD. 70 as ‘the end,’ should restrain theorizers from insisting that the second coming of Christ cannot take place until this has been fulfilled with literal completeness.

Here we will bring this part of Broadus's teaching to a close. His condemnation against those who require a literal fulfillment of the gospel being spread across the nations will never again rise to prominence in the Southern Baptist Convention. In many minds, it is the unfaithfulness of the church to accomplish this that has prevented (to use human language) the return of Christ. Here Broadus hints at his postmillennial roots when he still expects the gospel to win the world before the second coming. But to expect it literally based upon this text is asking too much of the context.

We will continue to follow Broadus through the Olivet Discourse in future posts.

Edified: Just Weights and Measures /w Gary DeMar

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