"Then, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ,
or there; believe it not: for there shall arise false Christs, and false
prophets, and shall show signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible,
the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall
say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert, go not forth: behold, He is
in the secret chambers, believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out
of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of
the Son of Man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there shall the eagles
be gathered together."
Having finished what concerned Jerusalem, He passes on to His own coming,
and tells the signs of it, not for their use only, but for us also, and
for all that shall come after us.
"Then." When? Here, as I have often said, the word, "then," relates
not to the connection in order of time with the things before mentioned.
At least, when He was minded to express the connection of time, He added,
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days," but here not so, but,
"then," not meaning what should follow straightway after these things,
but what should be in the time, when these things were to be done, of which
He was about to speak. So also when it is said, "In those days cometh John
the Baptist," he is not speaking of the time that should straightway follow,
but that many years after, and that in which these things were done, of
which He was about to speak. For, in fact, having spoken of the birth of
Jesus, and of the coming of the magi, and of the death of Herod, He at
once saith, "In those days cometh John the Baptist;" although thirty years
had intervened. But this is customary in the Scripture, I mean, to use
this manner of narration. So then here also, having passed over all the
intermediate time from the taking of Jerusalem unto the preludes of the
consummation, He speaketh of the time just before the consummation. "Then,"
He saith therefore, "if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ,
or there, believe it not."
Awhile He secures them by the place, mentioning the distinguishing marks
of His second coming, and the indications of the deceivers. For not, as
when at His former coming He appeared in Bethlehem, and in a small corner
of the world, and no one knew Him at the beginning, so doth He say it shall
be then too; but openly and with all circumstance, and so as not to need
one to tell these things. And this is no small sign that He will not come
But mark how here He saith nothing of war (for He is interpreting the
doctrine concerning His advent), but of them that attempt to deceive. For
some in the days of the apostles deceived the multitude, "for they shall
come," saith He, "and shall deceive many;" and others shall do so before
His second coming, who shall also be more grievous than the former. "For
they shall show," He saith, "signs and wonders, so as to deceive if possible
the very elect:" here He is speaking of Antichrist, and indicates that
some also shall minister to him. Of him Paul too speaks on this wise. Having
called him "man of sin," and "son of perdition," He added, "Whose coming
is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders;
and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish."
And see how He secures them; "Go not forth into the deserts, enter not
into the secret chambers." He did not say, "Go, and do not believe;" but,
"Go not forth, neither depart thither." For great then will be the deceiving,
because that even deceiving miracles are wrought.
3. Having told them how Antichrist cometh, as, for instance, that it
will be in a place; He saith how Himself also cometh. How then doth He
Himself come? "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even
unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For wheresoever
the carcase is, there also will the eagles be gathered together."
How then shineth the lightning? It needs not one to talk of it, it needs
not a herald, but even to them that sit in houses, and to them in chambers
it shows itself in an instant of time throughout the whole world. So shall
that coming be, showing itself at once everywhere by reason of the shining
forth of His glory. But He mentions also another sign, "where the carcase
is, there also shall the eagles be;" meaning the multitude of the angels,
of the martyrs, of all the saints.
Then He tells of fearful prodigies. What are these prodigies? "Immediately
after the tribulation of those days," saith He, "the sun shall be darkened."
Of the tribulation of what days doth He speak? Of those of Antichrist and
of the false prophets? For there shall be great tribulation, there being
so many deceivers. But it is not protracted to a length of time. For if
the Jewish war was shortened for the elect's sake, much more shall this
temptation be limited for these same's sake. Therefore, He said not, "after
the tribulation," but Immediately "after the tribulation of those days
shall the sun be darkened," for almost at the same time all things come
to pass. For the false prophets and false Christs shall come and cause
confusion, and immediately He Himself will be here. Because no small turmoil
is then to prevail over the world.
But how doth He come? The very creation being then transfigured, for
"the sun shall be darkened," not destroyed, but overcome by the light of
His presence; and the stars shall fall, for what shall be the need of them
thenceforth, there being no night? and "the powers of Heaven shall be shaken,"
and in all likelihood, seeing so great a change come to pass. For if when
the stars were made, they trembled and marvelled ("for when the stars were
made, all angels," it is said, "praised Me with a loud voice"); much more
seeing all things in course of change, and their fellow servants giving
account, and the whole world standing by that awful judgment-seat, and
those who have lived from Adam unto His coming, having an account demanded
of them of all that they did, how shall they but tremble, and be shaken?
"Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven;" that
is, the cross being brighter than the sun, since this last will be darkened,
and hide himself, and that will appear when it would not appear, unless
it were far brighter than the beams of the sun. But wherefore doth the
sign appear? In order that the shamelessness of the Jews may be more abundantly
silenced. For having the cross as the greatest plea, Christ thus cometh
to that judgment-seat, showing not His wounds only, but also the death
of reproach. "Then shall the tribes mourn," for there shall be no need
of an accusation, when they see the cross; and they shall mourn, that by
His death they are nothing benefited; because they crucified Him whom they
ought to have adored.
Seest thou how fearfully He has pictured His coming? how He has stirred
up the spirits of His disciples? For this reason, let me add, He puts the
mournful things first, and then the good things, that in this way also
He may comfort and refresh them. And of His passion He suggests to them
the remembrance, and of His resurrection, and with a display of glory,
He mentions His cross, so that they may not be ashamed nor grieve, whereas
indeed He cometh then setting it forth for His sign. And another saith,
"They shall look on Him whom they pierced." Therefore it is that they shall
mourn, when they see that this is He.
And forasmuch as He had made mention of the cross, He added, "They
shall see the Son of Man coming," no longer on the cross, but "in
the clouds of Heaven, with power and great glory."
For think not, He meaneth, because thou hearest of the cross, that it
is again anything mournful, for He shall come with power and great glory.
But He bringeth it, that their sin may be self-condemned, as if any one
who had been struck by a stone, were to show the stone itself, or his garments
stained with blood. And He cometh in a cloud as He was taken up, and the
tribes seeing these things mourn. Not however that the terrors shall with
them proceed no further than mournings; but the mourning shall be, that
they may bring forth their sentence from within, and condemn themselves.
And then again, "He will send His angels with a great trumpet, and they
shall gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of Heaven to the
But when thou hast heard of this, consider the punishment of them that
remain. For neither shall they suffer that former penalty only, but this
too. And as above He said, that they should say, "Blessed is He that cometh
in the name of the Lord," so here, that they shall mourn. For since He
had spoken unto them of grievous wars, that they might learn, that together
with the fearful things here, the torments there also await them, He brings
them in mourning and separated from the elect, and consigned to hell; by
this again rousing the disciples, and indicating from how many evils they
should be delivered, and how many good things they shall enjoy.
5. And why now doth He call them by angels, if He comes thus openly?'
To honor them in this way also. But Paul saith, that they "shall be caught
up in clouds." And He said this also, when He was speaking concerning a
resurrection. "For the Lord Himself," it is said, "shall descend from Heaven
with a shout, with the voice of an archangel." So that when risen again,
the angels shall gather them together, when gathered together the clouds
shall catch them up; and all these things are done in a moment, in an instant.
For it is not that He abiding above calleth them, but He Himself cometh
with the sound of a trumpet. And what mean the trumpets and the sound?
They are for arousing, for gladness, to set forth the amazing nature of
the things then doing, for grief to them that are left.
Woe is me for that fearful day! For though we ought to rejoice when
we hear these things, we feel pain, and are dejected, and our countenance
is sad. Or is it I only that feel thus, and do ye rejoice at hearing of
these things? For upon me at least there comes a kind of shudder when these
things are said, and I lament bitterly, and groan from the very depth of
my heart. For I have no part in these things, but in those that are spoken
afterwards, that are said unto the virgins, unto him mat buried the talents
he had received, unto the wicked servant. For this cause I weep, to think
from what glory we are to be cast out, from what hope of blessings, and
this perpetually, and forever, to spare ourselves a little labor. For if
indeed this were a great toil, and a grievous law, we ought even so to
do all things; nevertheless many of the remiss would seem to have at least
some pretext, a poor pretext indeed, yet would they seem to have some,
that the toil was great, and the time endless, and the burden intolerable;
but now we can put forward no such objection; which circumstance most of
all will gnaw us no less than hell at that time, when for want of a slight
endeavor, and a little toil, we shall have lost Heaven, and the unspeakable
blessings. For both the time is short, and the labor small, and yet we
faint and are supine. Thou strivest on earth, and the crown is in Heaven;
thou art punished of men, and art honored of God; the race is for two days,
and the reward for endless ages; the struggle is a corruptible body, and
the rewards in an incorruptible.
And apart from these things, we should consider another point also,
that even if we do not choose to suffer any of the things that are painful
for Christ's sake, we must in other ways most assuredly endure them. For
neither, though thou shouldest not have died for Christ, wilt thou be immortal;
neither though thou shouldest not have cast away thy riches for Christ,
wilt thou go away hence with them. These things He requires of thee, which
although He should not require them, thou wilt have to give up, because
thou art mortal; He willeth thee to do these by thy choice, which thou
must do by necessity. So much only He requires to be added, that it be
done for His sake; since that these things befall men and pass away, cometh
to pass of natural necessity. Seest thou how easy the conflict? What it
is altogether necessary for thee to suffer, that choose to suffer for my
sake; let this only be added, and I have sufficient obedience. The gold
which thou intendest to lend to another, this lend to me, both at more
profit, and in greater security. Thy body, wherewith thou art going to
warfare for another, make it to war for me, for indeed I surpass thy toils
with recompenses in the most abundant excess. Yet thou in all other matters
preferrest him that giveth thee more as well in loans, as in marketing
and in warfare; but Christ alone, when giving more, and infinitely more
than all, thou dost not receive. And what is this so great hostility? What
is this so great enmity? Where will there be any excuse or defense left
for thee, when the reasons for which thou preferrest man to man avail not
to induce thee to prefer God to man?
Why dost thou commit thy treasure to the earth? "Give it into my hand,"
He saith. Doth not the earth's Lord seem to thee more worthy of trust than
the earth? This indeed restoreth that which thou laidest in it, though
oftentimes not even this, but He gives thee also recompense for His keeping
of it? For indeed He doth exceedingly love us. Therefore if thou shouldest
wish to lend, He stands ready; or to sow, He receives it; or if thou shouldest
wish to build, He draws thee unto Himself, saying, Build in my regions.
Why runnest thou unto poor, unto beggarly men, who also for little gains
occasion thee great trouble? Nevertheless, not even on hearing these things,
do we make up our minds to it, but where are fightings and wars, and wild
struggles, and trials and suits of law, and false accusations, thither
do we hasten.
5. Doth He not justly turn away from us, and punish us, when He is giving
up Himself unto us for all things, and we are resisting Him? It is surely
plain to all. For whether thou art desirous to adorn thyself, "Let it,
He saith, be with my ornaments;" or to arm thyself, "with my arms," or
to clothe thyself, "with my raiment;" or to feed thyself, "at my table;"
or to journey, "on my way;" or to inherit, "my inheritance;" or to enter
into a country, "the city of which I am builder and maker;" or to build
a house, "amongst my tabernacles." "For I, so far from asking thee for
a recompense of the things that I give thee, to even make myself owe thee
a recompense for this very thing, if thou be willing to use all I have."
What can be equal to this munificence, "I am Father, I am brother, I am
bridegroom, I am dwelling place, I am food, I am raiment, I am root, I
am foundation, all whatsoever thou wiliest, I am." "Be thou in need of
nothing, I will be even a servant, for I came to minister, not to be ministered
unto; I am friend, and member, and head, and brother, and sister, and mother;
I am all; only cling thou closely to me. I was poor for thee, and a wanderer
for thee, on the cross for thee, in the tomb for thee, above I intercede
for thee to the Father; on earth I am come for thy sake am ambassador from
my Father. Thou art all things to me, brother, and joint heir, and friend,
and member." What wouldest thou more? Why dost thou turn away from Him,
who loveth thee? Why dost thou labor for the world? Why dost thou draw
water into a broken cistern? For it is this to labor for the present life.
Why dost thou comb wool into the fire? Why dost thou "beat the air?" Why
dost thou "run in vain?"
Hath not every art an end? It is surely plain to every one. Do thou
also show the end of thy worldly eagerness. But thou canst not; for, "yanity
of vanities, all is vanity." Let us go to the tombs; show me thy father;
show me thy wife. Where is he that was clad in raiment of gold? he that
rode in the chariot? he that had armies, that had the girdle, that had
the heralds? he that was slaying these, and casting those into prison?
he that put to death whom he would, and set free whom he was minded? I
see nothing but bones, and a worm, and a spider's web; all those things
are earth, all those a fable, all a dream, and a shadow, and a bare relation,
and a picture, or rather not so much as a picture. For the picture we see
at least in a likeness, but here not so much as a likeness.
And would that the evils stop with this. For now the honor, and the
luxury, and the distinction, end with a shadow, with words; but the consequences
of them, are no longer limited to a shadow and to words, but continue,
and will pass over with us elsewhere, and will be manifest to all, the
rapine, the covetousness, the fornications, the adulteries, the dreadful
things beyond number; these not in similitude, neither in ashes, but written
above, both words and deeds.
With what eyes then shall we behold Christ? For if any one could not
bear to see his father, when conscious to himself that he had sinned against
him, upon Him who infinitely exceeds a father in forbearance how shall
we then look? how shall we bear it? For indeed we shall stand at Christ's
judgment-seat, and there will be a strict inquiry into all things.
But if any man disbelieve the judgments to come, let him look at the
things here, at those in the prisons, those in the mines, those on the
dunghills, the possessed, the frantic, them that are struggling with incurable
diseases, those that are fighting against continual poverty, them that
live in famine, them that are pierced with irremediable woes, those in
captivity. For these persons would not suffer these things here, unless
vengeance and punishments were to await all the others also that have committed
such sins. And if the rest have undergone nothing here, you ought to regard
this very fact as a sign that there is surely something to follow after
our departure here. For the self-same God of all would not take vengeance
on some, and leave others unpunished, who have committed the same or more
grievous offenses, unless He designed to bring some punishments upon them
By these arguments then and these examples let us also humble ourselves; and
let them who are obstinate unbelievers of the judgment believe it henceforth,
and become better men; that having lived here in a manner worthy of the kingdom,
we may attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of
our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.