“I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Matthew 24:34
We cannot know the day or the hour of Jesus’ physical return to earth. But we can know when it is “near, right at the door,” by watching for the signs. Jesus expressly stated that this generation will not pass away until “all these things” are seen. Yet many generations have come and passed away and we have yet to see the consummation of all these things? Could Jesus possibly have been wrong in His predictions? If He was wrong, that would disqualify Him from being a true prophet of God and as a result would mean He was not the Messiah. If this was the case, we may as well conclude the study at this point. Since we believe He is the Messiah, then what He said must be true, and we need to dig deeper to gain a clearer understanding of what He might have meant.
There are a variety of viewpoints on what “this generation” meant.
• That Specific Generation – He might have meant the generation that was then living would not all die until all the signs were fulfilled. But we are hard pressed to account for all the signs having taken place nearly 2000 years later.
• The Jewish Race – Some believe he meant this race (Jews) would not pass away. As a race, despite persecution, dispersion and attempts at extermination, the Jewish people have miraculously survived through the many years that have since passed. This certainly gives this view some degree of plausibility. But others find it doubtful that the Greek term that is used (genea) could have this meaning.
• Temple Signs Only – He might have only been referring to the signs relating to the destruction of the Temple, in which case that generation did live to see its fulfillment.
• This Generation Type – Jesus might have meant that this type of generation would not pass away, referring to a yet future generation of wicked humanity. Then the point is that humanity will not perish, because God will redeem it.
• The Generation Seeing All the Signs – This generation may refer to the generation that sees the completion of all the signs of the end, will also see the end itself. (1) This would underscore the imminency of His return. Events will occur suddenly once they begin. It did not necessarily mean that they would begin shortly (within that generation) after they were recorded by Matthew. But once the end-time events begin (which could now be close at hand or still far into the future), they will proceed in such rapid succession that the generation seeing the signs will see the Parousia. (2) Theologians call this the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ.
• A Combination – First, as noted, within a generation Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Temple did come to pass. Second, today, some 2,000 years later, the Jewish race miraculously survives to see the final fulfillment of God’s promises to them. Third, as Jesus predicted, once the signs begin (“even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door”) His return is imminent, with the likelihood that the generation seeing the signs will see the Parousia
- Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Mt 24:34). Biblical Studies Press.
- Walvoord, J. F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 928). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.