What generation was Jesus talking about when he said in Matthew 24:34 – “I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.”? I think one thing we will all agree on is that he was not talking about the generation of 1914 or the next overlapping generation.

It is quite revealing to do a word search on the term “this generation”. Where else did Jesus use this term and to whom was he referring? Here are all the verses in which Jesus uses the term “this generation”: (All bible quotes from HCSB)

Matthew 11:16 – “16 “To what should I compare this generation? It’s like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to each other:”

Matthew 12:41,42- “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s proclamation; and look-something greater than Jonah is here!42 The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look-something greater than Solomon is here! ”

Matthew 23:35-37 – “So all the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 I assure you: All these things will come on this generation! 37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing! ”

Matthew 24:34 – “I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.”

Mark 8:11,12 – “The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, demanding of Him a sign from heaven to test Him. 12 But sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you: No sign will be given to this generation!”

Mark 13:30 – ” I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.”

Luke 7:31-34 – “”To what then should I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to each other: We played the flute for you, but you didn’t dance; we sang a lament, but you didn’t weep! 33 For John the Baptist did not come eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Luke 11:29-32 – ” As the crowds were increasing, He began saying: “This generation is an evil generation. It demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31 The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and look-something greater than Solomon is here! 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s proclamation, and look-something greater than Jonah is here!

Luke 11:49-51 – ” Because of this, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that this generation may be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world – 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. “Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible.”

Luke 17:25 – ” But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

Luke 21:32 – “I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place.”

 

We do well to ask ourselves to what generation was Jesus referring in these scriptures. In most it is very obvious he was referring to the generation alive at that time. Jesus never uses the term “this generation” to refer to some generation in the distant future. His condemnations always have to do with the people, especially the leadership, alive at that time. Would it be solid reasoning to conclude  that when Jesus said in Matt. 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 “I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place.” that he really meant the people alive at that time? I believe so.

What implications arise from this conclusion? Well Jesus said “I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.” This would mean the entire chapter of Matt. 24 at least through verse 35 was fulfilled when that generation was alive, culminating in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 A.D.

Is this possible? As mentioned previously in this blog and in several comments Peter’s words in Acts 2:17-21 are enlightening: “And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 I will even pour out My Spirit on My male and female slaves in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will display wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and remarkable day of the Lord comes; 21 then whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Peter identifies that time as the “last days” and links “the great and remarkable day of the Lord” with his time back in the first century. He could only be referring to the destruction of Jerusalem as the “day of the Lord”, when God poured out His anger on that city for the murder of His son.

He also says that God will display “wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood,”. This of course is figurative language used to describe God’s judgements on the city of Jerusalem. This language reminds us of  the style of words that Jesus uses in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

If you would like to investigate this line of reasoning further an interesting article can be found at : http://www.preteristsite.com/plain/warrenend.html

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17 Comments on Which Generation?

  1. JWB says:

    Thanks for the article Brother Andrew! If anyone is in any doubt as to whether events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem qualified as “last days” with all the accompanying distress, let them just turn to the works of the Jewish historian Josephus for proof. Here is just one extract:

    … So the Romans being now become masters of the walls, they both placed their ensigns upon the towers, and made joyful acclamations for the victory they had gained, as having found the end of this war much lighter than its beginning; for when they had gotten upon the last wall, without any bloodshed, they could hardly believe what they found to be true; but seeing nobody to oppose them, they stood in doubt what such an unusual solitude could mean. But when they went in numbers into the lanes of the city with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook without and set fire to the houses whither the Jews were fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is, of such as died by the famine; they then stood in a horror at this sight, and went out without touching any thing. But although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men’s blood. And truly so it happened, that though the slayers left off at the evening, yet did the fire greatly prevail in the night; and as all was burning, came that eighth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul] upon Jerusalem, a city that had been liable to so many miseries during this siege, that, had it always enjoyed as much happiness from its first foundation, it would certainly have been the envy of the world. Nor did it on any other account so much deserve these sore misfortunes, as by producing such a generation of men as were the occasions of this its overthrow.” [Josephus, “The Wars of the Jews”, 6.8.5] [http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/war-6.htm]

    Just a word on one argument sometimes put forth by those advocating Preterism. I cannot honestly accept, however tempting it might be as ‘evidence’, the use of Jesus words that some of those with him would not die before seeing the kingdom come in glory. I am still convinced that the transfiguration event fulfilled those words, as reference to that comes straight after his words. However, there are enough logical arguments and scripture references (in context of course) to show that “this generation” and “the last days” really did mean those of the first century CE.

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  2. Amos says:

    Brothers Andrew & JWB,
    I can only agree with & support your views, this is what I’ve recently discovered myself. I certainly believe the “last days” began at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I believe that this was in the year 30AD, & not 33AD as commonly believed. Another brother & myself, plus others, have done consierable research into this. This date, 30AD, also fits in with the 40 year period between the cricifiction & the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. There are many major events in scripture that are associated with a period on 40, either days or years.

    Does any one have any thoughts concerning a completion of the Olivet sign? Was it completed entirely during the 1st century, or is there a later fulfillment also?

    If we look to Matt.24:29-31, these verses may refer to a later time as they are refering to the return or parousia of Christ. Is it possible for this to have occured during the 1st century, or is this still future?

    Are there any thoughts surrounding these few verses?

    Amos

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  3. andrew says:

    Amos consider what Eze.32:7,8 says regarding judgement against Egypt ” When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars. I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. 8 I will darken all the shining lights in the heavens over you, and will bring darkness on your land.”

    This type of figurative phrasing is used to denote judgement. Jesus uses similar wording in Matthew 24:29.

    Notice in Isaiah 19:1 how a coming on the clouds is described “An oracle against Egypt: Look, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. Egypt’s idols will tremble before Him, and Egypt’s heart will melt within it.”

    Often clouds in the OT are connected with judgement: see Ezekiel 30:3; Nahum 1:3; Zephaniah 1:14–15.

    Also “coming on the clouds” is a reference to Daniel 7:13 where the direction of the coming was upwards towards heaven and the Ancient of Days and not downwards towards earth. Daniel 7:13 was most likely fulfilled when Christ ascended to his Father.

    Many of these thoughts are relatively new to me as well. Having been a JW, who are like most other Christian churches futurists, it can be hard for us to see things from a different perspective.

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  4. Amos says:

    These are good points Andrew, It excites me greatly when we arrive at some new/clearer understandings.

    I agree concerning the futurist viewpoints, this began with the Miller mavement & flowed into CT. Russell’s beliefs, & has continued in the WTS. I am changing many views concerning this.

    SO, where does that leave us/our generation?

    Will the parousia still be a future event?

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  5. andrew says:

    YHWH in the OT “came” many times to execute judgement against a particular nation or city.

    Jesus also came with the clouds to execute judgement on Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

    Perhaps Jesus also “came” in judgement against the church in Ephesus if they remained unrepentant. Revelation 2:5 “Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent.”

    It could be said YHWH and Jesus have “come” many times to mete out justice to various parties.

    So was the destruction of Jerusalem the last coming or parousia? I would think probably not.

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  6. JWB says:

    Brother Amos, here is my attempt to answer the question you raised.

    ‘And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “ALL AUTHORITY HAS BEEN GIVEN ME IN HEAVEN AND ON THE EARTH. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I AM WITH YOU ALL THE DAYS UNTIL THE CONCLUSION OF THE SYSTEM OF THINGS.”‘ [Matthew 24:18-20]

    My current view is that the presence (parousia) meant the time that Jesus would be invisibly “with” his disciples, until the conclusion of the JEWISH system of things. It makes sense to me that the disciples could ask for signs to reassure them that Jesus was still “with” them. I am also in agreement with Andrew that God’s judgement (with Jesus as ‘commander-in-chief’) came against the Jewish nation at the hands of the Romans. In view of what Paul tells us in Romans chapter 13 that the “superior authorities” (in that day and age it would be the Romans) can act as God’s executioner, I have no problem understanding the whole prophecy as being fulfilled in the first century.

    I think the mention of the “presence” at Matthew 24:3 in no way changes the fact that “all things would take place” before the end of the Jewish system of things. The “presence” is not spoken of in either Mark or Luke, so I don’t see that the mention of such in Matthew is significant in any way concerning the fulfillment of the prophecy.

    Let us also not forget that Jesus said to those assembled at the Sanhedrin, “You (plural) will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” How that was actually fulfilled is not said specifically in Scripture, nevertheless it WAS said. My view is that when the distress and final destruction came, they would be in no doubt as to the source of the judgement, even if they did not literally see Jesus coming “on the clouds of heaven.” I must stress this is my own personal view, the one that currently seems to me the most logical, without trying to bend the words of Jesus.

    Do I believe that the future will never see perfect world under the “kingdom of the Son of God’s love”? Certainly not, but I believe it is fruitless to try to get to know “times and seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.”

    Andrew gives a very logical and powerful argument by showing how certain words, similar those of the prophecy of Jesus, were used of another fulfilled event as described at Ezekiel 32:7, 8. It is interesting to note what the Society says about this, showing that these words do not need to have a literal meaning:

    “When Pharaoh and his armies fell, the literal heavens did not darken. But Egypt’s future became very dark. As Bible scholar C. F. Keil notes, ‘the darkness consequent [upon Pharaoh’s fall] is a figurative representation of utterly hopeless circumstances.’ Forever finished as an independent world power, Egypt was dominated by one world power after another! Today, most of the territory of the ancient Pharaonic world power is ruled by an Arab nation.” [Watch. 1988 Oct 15, “What Will the Lord’s Day Mean for You?”, paragraph 10]

    Andrew has also shown how “coming on the clouds of heaven” can be understood by referencing other Scriptures. Isn’t that what real Bible study is all about, actually letting the Bible itself help us comprehend what we might view as difficult to understand scriptures? Maybe conclusions we draw when allowing the Scriptures to speak for themselves might seriously challenge long-cherished beliefs. However, we should not be afraid of this but yield to what God’s word is telling us and allow even for the “overturning strongly entrenched things.” [2 Corinthians 10:4]

    “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling out of heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send forth the angels and will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from earth’s extremity to heaven’s extremity.” [Mark 13:24-27]

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  7. Amos says:

    JWB & Andrew, this is a good & necessary discussion. So far I’m with you both concerning these thoughts.

    I particularly agree with you both concerning the “presence & heavenly signs.” These topics have been bent & twisted to support individual & organizational eisegesis for far too long.

    As JWB rightly says;
    “Andrew has also shown how “coming on the clouds of heaven” can be understood by referencing other Scriptures. Isn’t that what real Bible study is all about, actually letting the Bible itself help us comprehend what we might view as difficult to understand scriptures? Maybe conclusions we draw when allowing the Scriptures to speak for themselves might seriously challenge long-cherished beliefs. However, we should not be afraid of this but yield to what God’s word is telling us and allow even for the “overturning strongly entrenched things.”

    I absolutely concur with this statement, as I’ve done substantial overturning of my own personal & aquired paradigms in the last couple of years. This of course invariably happens during & after deep scriptural study, by allowing God’s Word to re-adjust my views & thinking.

    Keep it going Brothers, I think that we’ve only just begun to uncover some deeply hidden truths.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Amos

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  8. JWB says:

    I would be interested in any comments about the arguments put forth in this article about the book of Revelation:

    http://www.biblescholars.org/featurearticle.php

    [The Book of Revelations Course Notes. By: Ron Moseley, Ph.D., D.Phil. Posted: June 11 2011]

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  9. andrew says:

    Thanks for the link JWB. During the last couple months I have spent a fair amount of time considering the preterist viewpoint of bible prophecy, and I have to say a lot of it makes quite a bit of sense and seems to fit better.

    There a couple of divergent views in the preterist camp. Some called full or hyper preterists believe everything in the bible is fulfilled. This I can not agree with.

    Then there are the partial preterists or orthodox preterists who believe the 2nd coming of Christ has not happened, although he did come to destroy Jerusalem. They also believe the resurrection has not happened. This viewpoint I believe is more in line with the bible.

    Coming to terms with the implications of this way of viewing bible prophecy can be eye opening and difficult.

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  10. JWB says:

    I don’t want to go too much off topic, but there are a couple of points I’d like to add here, that I think have a relevance to Revelation in particular and prophecies in general.

    [1] In Daniel chapter seven we read of four INDIVIDUAL beasts representing four INDIVIDUAL empires. In revelation we read of an INDIVIDUAL beast that had seven heads (‘kings’). The fact that the heads are attached to the ONE beast suggests to me that each head is part of the SAME empire and are a chronological succession of ‘kings’ (or emperors).

    [2] In the Christian scriptures, the English word translated as ‘earth’ is most often from the Greek word ‘gē’. This Greek word can also be translated as: ‘country’, ‘land’, ‘ground’ and ‘soil’. Whereas we might tend to think of the PLANET earth whenever we see the word ‘earth’, this is not what the Greek word necessarily means. When we come across phrases like ‘the whole inhabited earth’, do we assume that it means the ‘whole inhabited planet’? How about trying to rephrase those passages to read ‘the whole inhabited land’, or ‘the whole inhabited country’, or even ‘the whole inhabited [Roman] empire’? By doing that we may come to a completely different understanding of some scriptures! For example, although using a different Greek word (oikoumenē), Luke 2:1 speaks about a decree that went out from Emperor Augustus for the “world” (NRSV) or “all the inhabited earth” (NASB). Did that mean literally all places on the globe where humans existed, or did it mean all the areas of the globe where the Roman Empire had expanded?

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  11. jads says:

    I think that most ex-jws throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. They try to justify believing in false doctrines so that they don’t appear different. Yes the Watchtower Society has done alot of horrible things in the name of Jehovah and Jesus and I will not try to defend them but the truth of the matter is that they are dead right on most of their biblical doctrines such as the Trinity, Hellfire, soul, paradise earth, etc; I believe as one poster said and I agree totally in that Every group of people Jehovah has used has fell short and sinned against Jehovah. Why do ex-jws and born-agains feel that all of a sudden things will change? And I am so sick and tired of born-agains always talking about false prophets and JW’s and Mormons. But look into born-again history and Catholic history and it is riddled with false dates for the end of the world/rapture. But you never hear ex-jws and born-agains talk about that. I have brought this to the attention of some hard core born agains and they will always answer “but those born agains are not apart of my church” But in the very next breath they will say “we are the body of christ”. So you cannot have it both ways when born-agains do some bad things other born agains always sweep it under the rug but shout the loudest when jw’s and mormon give dates. I know every scripture born-agains will bring up and it still does not make the trinity, rapture, bodily res of Christ, soul, and all other false doctrines right. I always give the example of if a skilled surgeon is caught stealing funds from the hospital does that make his surgical skills null and void? Of course not. Just because the Wt society is guilty of sinning on many occasions they still have most of the truth from the bible I believe.

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  12. andrew says:

    Hi jads
    I think there is enough blame to go around to everyone.

    It would be best if all Christians were more accepting of other Christians who believe in different doctrine then they themselves do. Not so many years ago Christians were burned at the stake by other so-called Christians because they believed different doctrine.

    I happen to still agree with the Society on some issues. But the more one studies the bible the more one realizes why people believe in different doctrine. For instance, personally I don’t believe in the Trinity but I can certainly understand why some do and I admit I could be wrong on the issue.

    I personally believe the hope for all Christians is the heavenly hope, but I understand why JWs and others do not agree and I concede I could be wrong.

    When Jesus was on earth different factions of Jews believed in many different things. Josephus tells us that the Pharisees believed in reincarnation. Other factions had other false beliefs. Did Jesus center his ministry in correcting all those misconceptions? No, instead he taught about love for God and neighbor.

    Frankly we can’t be sure on many if not most of our cherished doctrinal beliefs. That is where faith and trust in God comes in.

    Love God, follow Jesus, love our neighbor, be charitable to the poor, show compassion, show the fruitage of the Spirit and everything else will work itself out.

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  13. Reader says:

    The Early Christians did tolerate some differences.
    The Arrogance of official Dogma really showed itself at the Third Council of Constantinople : 680-681 ce. They anathematized a dead Pope, who had previously decided differently -the Middle Ages followed. Burning etc.
    Little open dissension after this.
    When we say somebody ‘pontificates’ or is ‘dogmatic’, you know what we mean.
    B
    http://www.papalencyclicals.ne.....ecum06.htm

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  14. Ruth says:

    Bro Andrew you hit the nail right on the head!
    LOVE is the only way. Treating each other with respect and kindness. and be patient is a small measure compared to The sacrifice of our Lord and saviour Yeshua our Christ.

    Jesus speaks about the love he wants us to have!
    A new cmmandment l give you that you love one another, as l have loved you, you also love one another. All will know you are my disciples “IF” you love one another John 13:34-35

    “If a man or(woman) love me, they will keep my words, and my Father will love them and dwell with them. John 14:23

    Matthew 5:44-45 Love enemies

    “No other commmandment is greater than this! ‘To love ones neighbour as thy self. Mark 12:30-31
    love
    Greater has no man that he lay down his life for his friends.
    Sister Ruth

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  15. Reader says:

    Dear All;
    I did not in my WT times, fully separate the Olivet discourse, there are two “this generations” which differ but I/we thought them the same as did/do many commentators beside WT.
    1/; Temple mount in the morning .. 70CE Luke
    2/; Mount of Olives in the evening ..Last Days Matthew & Mark
    There is a diagram on my site which may help, brush your mouse over “reader”.
    Comments by Jesus in the morning fed the evening questions.
    B

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