“This generation will not pass away…” An examination of Mtt 24:34
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Mtt. 24:34
For most Bible believing believers, the long standing teaching of this verse and chapter has been that “in one single generation” all these things of the Last Days or End Times Scenario will be accomplished: Famine will come. Wars. Pestilence. Death and killing… what Jesus calls “the Great Tribulation” in Mtt 24. Then suddenly, like clockwork, Jesus will coming riding on the clouds and return to earth at the Second Coming. (Mtt 24:30) This will all happen in one single generation (of 40 or more years) when the Jews at long last have returned to their homeland.
This interpretation had led to the woeful predictions of the End Times coming in 1988 – literally a single generation (forty years) past 1948, the date of Israel’s being granted statehood after a 1900 year absence from the global stage. Certainly this is a dramatic date and cannot be overlooked. But obviously 1988, 1998 and 2008 has come and gone and still no Second Coming…
Some have ventured out even further to lock-in on “1967” and the Six-Day War whereby Israel took back complete control of Jerusalem from (Muslim) Jordan. Unbelievably, in just six days the tiny nation of Israel fought back against four of the strongest Arab nations and captured Gaza, the Sinai, the Golan Heights. Many Jews believe that God intervened as He did in the days of Moses. Certainly an important date in the history of Israel!
Still others contend that the “the single generation” time frame can be expanded to include up to 100 years, and not with out good Biblical exegesis:
“In the fourth generation (400 years) your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:16)
Sadly all of these (and potentially many more interpretations) miss the point completely and keeps the church imprisoned in poor eschatology. The issue at stake in “this generation” from Mtt 24 is not talking about time (be that 40 years or 100!) but about the people of God, the Jews.
Below I have listed some well known Bible commentators who reiterate this viewpoint:
This generation shall not pass – this race; i.e. the Jews shall not cease from being a distinct people, till all the counsels of God relative to them and the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible)
I believe that… this generation means the Jewish race, instead of only those then living. Christ has described the awful end of the Jewish state; after such a destruction and scattering of the remnant to the ends of the earth, all the examples of history would declare that the Jewish race would become extinct. Christ, however, declares that, contrary to all probability, it shall not pass away until He comes. They still exist, 1850 years after the prediction. (People’s New Testament)
An Evil and Adulterous Generation
If you, the reader, would just insert this common phrase — “an evil and adulterous generation” — straight from the lips of Jesus in other verses from Matthew, I believe the answer is crystal clear.
“Truly I say to you, this [evil and adulterous] generation [of Jews] will not pass away until all these things take place.” Mat 24:34
Here are a few other examples of Jesus speaking in the same book of Matthew about “this generation” of Jews:
“An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet… The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah ; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (Mtt 12:39,41)
“Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” (Mtt 12:45)
My point in writing all this is to say simply that it is an issue of the nation of Israel, the Jewish people, that will not pass away until all these end time events occur! This simple yet certain interpretation, which has strong contextual argument, takes away any possible date setting pitfalls and confusion from seeing “this generation” as a period of time.
The Jews are as a people back in Israel. Jerusalem is the spiritual capital of Israel again after a 1900 year absence. Jesus will return to Jerusalem in the future in the midst of an all out, global battle for Jerusalem. (Zech 14) With fire and sword Christ will destroy the Wicked One and his armies and then, once and for all, He will rule and reign from there as King of kings and Lord of lords, forever.
“I trod down the peoples in My anger And made them drunk in
My wrath, And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.” (Isa 63:6)
“For the LORD will execute judgment by fire
And by His sword on all flesh,
And those slain by the LORD will be many. (Isa 65:16)