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Christian Pilgrim

 

19. Generation



Many people believe that everything foretold by Christ in Matthew 24 took place before AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. This bases itself solely upon one particular interpretation of the word "generation" in Matthew 24:34:

"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."

If the word "generation" ONLY means a period of twenty or forty years (i.e. "generations" being father to son in series), then this view could be correct. However, we only need to find ONE instance where the word "generation" CANNOT have this meaning, and we have destroyed this theory.

The other interpretation of the word "generation" is to mean "family line" or "set of people"- i.e. meaning either one particular family tree (e.g. Matthew 1:1) or numbers of families in parallel, e.g. in the phrases "generation of the righteous" and "generation of the wicked."


Take all instances of the word "generation" in the New Testament:

All where "generation" ONLY means twenty or forty years:

Luke 1:50 - "And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation."

Acts 13:36 - "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption."

Hebrews 3:10 - "Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways."


All where "generation" could mean either "twenty or forty years" OR "set of people":

Matthew 11:16 - "But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows"

Matthew 12:39 - "But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas"

Matthew 12:41,42 - "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here."

Matthew 12:45 - "Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation."

Matthew 16:4 - "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed."

Matthew 17:17 - "Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me."

Matthew 23:36 - "Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation."

Matthew 24:34 - "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."

Mark 8:12 - "And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation."

Mark 8:38 - "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Mark 9:19 - "He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me."

Mark 13:30 - "Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done."

Luke 7:31 - "And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?"

Luke 9:41 - "And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither."

Luke 11:29-32 - "And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."

Luke 11:50 - "That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation."

Luke 17:25 - "But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation."

Luke 21:32 - "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled."

Acts 2:40 - "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation."


All where "generation" ONLY means "set of people" or "family line":

Matthew 1:1 - "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."

Matthew 3:7 - "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"

Matthew 12:34 - "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."

Matthew 23:33 - "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"

Luke 3:7 - "Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"

Luke 16:8 - "And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."

Acts 8:33 - "In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth."

1 Peter 2:9 - "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light"


We see that a vast majority of these occurrences of the word "generation" in the Bible could have either interpretation put on it, including the disputed Matthew 24:34. However, we also have some occurrences where the word can ONLY mean "set of people," and so Matthew 24:34 cannot be used to assert that all the events of Matthew 24 have occurred before AD 70, when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.

In all three gospels, the phrase is used in conjunction with the idea that God's Word will not pass away. Therefore it cannot mean "until AD 70," but must mean that "the generation of the righteous" will always exist on the earth for as long as God's Word is here (i.e. until Christ comes again).


Three references exist in the Old Testament to "a thousand generations":

Deuteronomy 7:9 - "Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations."

1Chronicles 16:15 - "Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations."

Psalm 105:8 - "He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations."

Whilst this COULD mean "twenty or forty years," if it did, it would mean that Christ will not come again for another 20,000 years minimum. This is what some people really believe. But we have been told to expect Christ to come at any time "as a thief in the night," and never to name a date or time. How complacent it would make us if we believed that there was this long period of time before His return! Surely the more obvious meaning would be "to a thousand families."


Other Old Testament references which ONLY mean "set of people" or "family line" are more numerous:

Genesis 2:4 -"These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth."

Genesis 6:9 - "These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." Note the plural.

Genesis 25:13 - "And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations" Note the plural, yet only one "generation" of twenty to forty years is listed! Therefore this must mean families.

Leviticus 3:17 - "It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood."

Numbers 15:23 - "Even all that the LORD hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that the LORD commanded Moses, and henceforward among your generations" Note the plural.

Psalm 14:5 - "There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous."

Psalm 22:30 - "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation."

Psalm 24:6 - "This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob."

Psalm 49:19 - "He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light."

Psalm 73:15 - "If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children."

Psalm 78:4-6 - "We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:"

Psalm 112:2 - "His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed."

Proverbs 30:11-14 - "There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men."

Isaiah 41:4 - "Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he."

Isaiah 53:8 - "who shall declare his generation?"

Isaiah 58:12 - "thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations."

Jeremiah 7:29 - "the LORD hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath."


Also note that in the New Testament the same word in Greek for "generation" is also translated "offspring," and can ONLY mean "family line":

Acts 17:28,29 - "For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device."

Revelation 22:16 - "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."