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"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."

(Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32)

I think most questions on this phrase are asking about the word "generation", but I'm wondering about the word "this". I see here that they interpret "this" to mean "the generation we are talking about", but I know that differing opinions (preterist, for example) would interpret "this" to mean "the generation I am speaking with now". So my question is simply this (no pun intended): is there anything about the word "this" that tells us whether Jesus is speaking of a) X number of years from that date, or b) X number of years from the time of the things he's speaking about (which could be later, even now...). Thanks!

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    I think this is a good question. I used to firmly believe that "this" generation was the generation that was alive when all those events Jesus was describing were taking place. I was taught that from a child so it made sense to me. Now I am not so sure. If Jesus meant the generation that was then living then there are indeed problems that I have no explanation for. The preterist interpretations look weak to me. But I don't worry about it much because one day I will have the answer. Good question though. Jun 6, 2023 at 15:50
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    No @Michael16, but thank you, I think that question and other similar ones are focusing on the word generation, but I'm wondering more if the verses have a "people around me" vs "what Im talking about" connotation, I don't think that link contains that
    – fandang
    Jun 6, 2023 at 18:35
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    You're focusing on "this" which only refers to the generation he was speaking to, not today's generation. The end of world happened during 70-80 AD.
    – Michael16
    Jun 7, 2023 at 2:35
  • If Jesus prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem metaphorically refered to the destruction of the body at death then the generation of the day could not escape it. They all at some stage in their lives would have to experience his coming to meet their souls in the spiritual sky. Sep 25, 2023 at 23:45

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The pertinent word involved here (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32) is αὕτη (haute) - the neuter form of the demonstrative pronoun, meaning a pointed "this" pointing to the then current generation of people to whom Jesus was speaking in the first century.

Grammatically, there can be no other possibility.

This was literally fulfilled. Jerusalem was destroyed in full view of many of those present as per Matt 24:1, 2.

However, we should pause to note that Jesus was pointedly asked a double question in Matt 24:1, 2, about:

  • the destruction of Jerusalem, AND
  • the end of the world

Thus, Jesus' prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem in Matt 24, Mark 13 etc, has a secondary application - a common feature of Jewish prophecies - see appendix below.

APPENDIX - Dual Fulfilment

Here are a few prophecies that have a dual fulfillment:

  1. Matt 24:3 - While Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will (a) these things happen, and (b) what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” Thus, Jesus combined the destruction of Jerusalem with the end of the world when He would return. This includes the “abomination of desolation”.
  2. Isa 7:14 - Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel. This was a prophecy about Isaiah's wife but was also applied to Mary and Jesus as per Matt 1:23.
  3. Joel 2:28-32 is an example of a prophecy that was fulfilled at Pentecost in Acts 2 but which appears to be capable of eschatological fulfillment again in the period before Jesus returns
  4. Hos 10:8 is about the wicked asking to be destroyed by rocks and mountains is a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem; but it also receives a dual application by Rev 6:15-17 at the end of time when Jesus returns.
  5. The prophecy about Gog and Magog in Eze 38 concerns the punishment meted out to these pagan nations in OT times. However, it is given a second impetus in Rev 20:8 in the time after the 1000 years.
  6. Mal 4:5 predicts the arrival of Elijah the prophet before the “Day of the Lord” and the NT claims fulfilment in places like Matt 11:13, 14, 17:11-14, Mark 9:12, 13, Luke 1:17 as John the Baptist. However, the “great and terrible day of the Lord” (Mal 4:5) clearly also has eschatological fulfilment and confirmed by the indirect allusions to Elijah in the book of Revelation.
  7. Ps 22 is about the loneliness and isolation of David as were many of his psalms. However, it has been correctly understood by many, including Jesus Himself, as Messianic, as conformed by Matt 27:43, 46, Mark 15:34. Many Jewish interpreters also understood this Psalm as messianic. Note that in all of these cases (this is not an exhaustive list), the second application can only be claimed where such is explicit in the Bible text itself and NOT simply due to the over-active imagination of the exegete.
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    (TWO SUBJECTS) A careful exegesis reveals "two" separate topics listed consecutively with a transition section in between---not an overlapping dual fulfilment. In the first section, with book-ends (All these things shall come upon this generation. 23:36, 24:34) Jesus enumerated all the events leading up to the Destruction of Judaism (signs); then in the second section Jesus described the Second Coming with No Signs. ("But concerning that Day")
    – ray grant
    Jun 6, 2023 at 23:06
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    @raygrant - that is the difference between us. Jesus used the destruction of Jerusalem to teach about the second coming.
    – Dottard
    Jun 6, 2023 at 23:25
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Definition of Generation Confusion about "generation" comes from mixing two different Greek words. They are spelled similar. The one Greek word is defined as a "race" or ethnic group of people. THIS IS NOT the one used here. The other Greek word means a set of men in a particular span of time. In this instance people living 30-70 A.D. Check out how this same word is used in the same book of Matthew (1:17). And this span of time is limited to the contemporaries by "this." (Thayers Lexicon)

To emphasize the correct interpretation, notice that Jesus is face-to-face with the scoundrels when he said this generation, and then face-to-face with the disciples on Mt. Olivet when He made the other pronouncement,this generation. Jesus is not addressing "people down the road...of time." The Priest was irate because he knew whom Jesus was talking about. (23:36, 24:34, 26:64)

Notice that if the other interpretation is advocated, it doesn't make sense: The people living when these things take place will all be alive when these things take place. If Jesus meant a people years away, the most logical linguistic word used would have been "that." Notice how many times Jesus used the word you when He related the events in the first half of this Discourse! There is no mistaking He was referring to events about to happen to the disciples in the first century.

Symbolism The hang-up that some have is caused by not understanding the symbolism, imagery, metaphors, etc. used by Jesus in the first half of this Discourse. The verbage seems to grandiose, with all the meteorological phenom. A verse by verse exegesis (seeing how the words and phrases were used in the Old Testament) will remove the fog of doubt about fulfillment in the first century. Remember that the Law and Prophets was the only scripture they had...and it wasn't written in King's English! It was a Jewish book with Jewish lingo.

Again, the use of "this"...the Announcement of Jesus about the Destruction of the Temple (70 A.D.)...and the immanent danger sign applying to the first century...all point to the generation then living. Remember that later Jesus would tell the Priest to his face, I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven! (Matt. 26:64). These were "fighting words" because in the O.T. when a prophet spoke of God coming in power with the clouds, it was a judgment on a nation and its rulers. (Edom, Egypt, Babylon, and Israel) Jesus was announcing judgement on Israel, total destruction...in that generation of time. (History is the surest proof of fulfillment!)

For a verse by verse exegesis see Raymond Grant, TIMES, THEY ARE A'CHANGING, or Marcellus Kik, MATTHEW TWENTY-FOUR.

'

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The word also means "age" we are in the end time or end of this age. This is referring to the end of this creation not people specific, but all things. Romans 8:18-23 Essentially we are being told the second coming will not happen until all of what he described happens. The details of which are the book of Revelation 4-21 the passing, seals 1-4 are already opened, possibly 5th as well as it takes place in heaven. We will see the 6th, darkening of the sun and earthquakes. Revelation 22 is the new age, eternity. Rev 22:20 Says the one witnessing these things, "Yes, I am coming quickly. Amen. Yes, come, Master Yeshua.

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    – agarza
    Jun 9, 2023 at 13:26
  • @Corey-Thank you for your input. But an exegesis of Matthew 24, instead of Revelation, would have been more to the question. "This generation" does not mean "age, according to any Greek Lexicon. Peace.
    – ray grant
    Jun 9, 2023 at 22:57
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    @raygrant - Hi Ray, my Strong's dictionary says that G1074 γενεά means an age or generation. Either way, the generation spoken of metaphorically is this creation, not a specific people time period, as he is foretelling the events before his second coming. That will end this generation/age.
    – Corey
    Jun 11, 2023 at 3:54
  • @Thank you for taking time to look it up. I would suggest you consult Greek Lexicons, instead of Strong's Concordance which is not as in depth. Note that there are two similar words translated "generation" in the Greek. One specifically, "race", the other involves "a people in a space of time." Check Matt. 1:17, same word for "time."
    – ray grant
    Jun 11, 2023 at 19:33
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Jesus was plainly referring the generation to whom he was speaking at that time. This may well be in addition to a future generation that should fulfill, in type, the same conditions, but it most certainly applied to the Jews then living.

How do we know?

Jesus was only seconding a prophecy that had already been given through Ezekiel. Ezekiel had prophesied both destructions of the temple in Jerusalem, giving timelines of 390 years from the rebellion of Jeroboam until the first destruction, and 40 years from the "iniquity of Judah" to the second one. Those prophecies are found in the fourth chapter of Ezekiel, with the times being particularly in focus in verses 4-6.

4Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. 5For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year. (Ezekiel 4:4-6, KJV)

So Ezekiel had been commanded to lay on his right side 40 days for Judah's iniquity, with each of those days to represent a year.

The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; (Jeremiah 17:1, KJV)

That expression "pen of iron" invokes thoughts of nails by which Jesus would be crucified. And sure enough, at the end of one generation, defined as 40 years in the Bible (see Numbers 14:34), after Jesus was put to death by the Jews (Judah), the prophecy is fulfilled. The second temple, with all of Jerusalem, is destroyed by the soldiers of Titus.

Many among those Jews who heard Jesus speak, and rejected him, would be among those upon whom the prophecy was shockingly fulfilled. That was "THIS" generation, literally.

Because the word applies to that literal generation, however, it must not be assumed that no other generation would be exemplified in parallel, as a secondary or dual fulfillment of the prophecy. The prophecy is highly likely to have a second application to the end of time, just before Jesus' return.

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  • @Biblasia-SECOND APPLICATION? The whole point of Jesus Discourse was to delineate the DIFFERENCE between the events (signs) foretelling the coming Destruction...the non-events (lack of signs) before the Second Coming. So, instead of "dual" there is CONTRAST.
    – ray grant
    Jun 11, 2023 at 19:39
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One should be aware that every time Mark uses the term ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη it is meant as a pejorative as in Mark 8:12, 8:38, 9:19. The very best example is in Mark 8:38 where we find τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ μοιχαλίδι καὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ which translates as "this generation that is adulterous and sinful" but in all other instances where γενεὰ is used he is also obviously speaking with some indignation so chances are in this case it is also about this unbelieving, adulterous or sinful bunch.
Therefore the probable meaning of this verse is that the current generation of unbelievers, sinners and adulterers will only go away when all these things have happened and the appointed time the rest of the text speaks of has come. Makes sense, come to think of it.
In the end it's all about cause and effect: when the kingdom of God has truly arrived there will be no more unbelief, no more adultery, no more sin. Even those who didn't believe in the coming of the kingdom of God beforehand, will be under His rule when it happens and therefore will believe and as a result stop sinning altogether. There is an interesting parallel to this idea to be found in Mark 9:1:

Then Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God arrive with power.”

Here Jesus expresses His doubt to the commitment His disciples show to Him and the gospel of the kingdom of God. We can understand that better if we look at the preceding verses of Mark 8:34-38:

34 Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples, and He told them, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and for the gospel will save it. 36 What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Jesus suggests that good disciples deny themselves and would give their lives willingly in order to be saved but some disciples standing there are only willing to risk their lives when the kingdom of God has already come into power. Real believers do not hesitate to give their lives but believe before the kingdom comes into power.
There is no special merit in believing when the kingdom of God has arrived in power. When it is in power everybody will believe and there will be no more sin, for that is what constitutes the rule of God on earth.

NB from the above it also becomes clear verse 9:1 is obviously erroneously disconnected from chapter 8 and as a consequence shouldn't it be reallocated as verse 8:39 like it originally was in the Vulgate? It would certainly help in understanding what the author really meant.

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  • @MartinKlatt-"When the Kingdom has truly arrived(?) The whole emphasis of Jesus's FIRST COMING was the inauguration of this Kingdom...and it was established. From the beginning of His ministry to the final days after the Resurrection (40 days), Jesus presented the Kingdom to the masses. "The good news of the Kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it!" (Luke 16:16). The "evil generation" that was "to go away", as you say, was the Jewish nation, the people which your other references were addressed to.
    – ray grant
    Jun 9, 2023 at 22:53

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