“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34)
Amen! The Word of God is the truth!
In this very blessed prophecy of our Lord, people usually concentrate on the expression “this generation”, considering as a fact that they know the events until which “this generation” would not pass away…
But the fact is that we must concentrate on the expression “all these things” and try to find out what Jesus meant by it.
If we take the context of this passage, we will see that Jesus was answering TWO main questions asked by the disciples, and each question needed an answer. Let’s see what were those questions:
“Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.
And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?“” (Matthew 24:1-3)
First, note what I have put in bold and what I have underlined.
The questions asked by the disciples were:
1. When will these things happen? I.e. when not one stone in the Temple will be left upon another, which will not be torn down?
2. What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?
Note that “What will be the sign of Your coming” relates the two questions together. I will explain this relation in the following lines.
Note also that same expression “these things” in the first question. Jesus will answer when all “these things” would happen…
Jesus answered both of these questions. And as they are related to each other, so we sometimes mix up the one answer with the other.
The answer of Jesus to these questions:
1. When will these things happen? I.e. when not one stone in the Temple will be left upon another which will not be torn down?
Answer: He answers with a long passage where the destruction of the Temple is related to the end of the age with a deep spiritual meaning about which we will not talk in detail here, and then He concludes His answer about “these things” by saying: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34)
After 40 years from this prophecy, in 70 A.D., the Temple was destroyed, and not one stone was left upon another which was not torn down! And 40 years is one generation. So the prophecy of our Lord was fulfilled exactly in one generation, during the lifetime of the generation who was listening to Jesus’ prophecy.
2. What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?
Answer: Actually, the second coming of Jesus has two aspects. The first is His coming with power through the Holy Spirit and the establishment of His Kingdom in our hearts, and the second is the visible coming of the King on the clouds. There was a time between these two, and this is the age of Grace during which the original people (the children of Israel) reject their Messiah King while the Gentiles believe in Him. So the Kingdom already came but did not come yet visibly…
So Jesus, while answering this question, He relates it to the destruction of the Temple which marked the end of the Old Covenant with the earthly people of God (the Israelites) , thus establishing the Kingdom of God in our hearts and among the Gentiles. This Kingdom actually came with power in Pentecost, when Jesus took His place on the right hand of God as the KING of this Kingdom until all His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. Thus the first aspect of His Kingdom actually came before the destruction of the Temple and before that generation had passed away. That first aspect of the Kingdom even came before many persons who lived during the lifetime of Jesus were dead! And thus another prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)
It was also about this first aspect of the Kingdom that Jesus was talking in the following passage: “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21)
This last passage doesn’t mean that the second aspect of the Kingdom will not come with signs to be observed. This passage is about the first aspect of the Kingdom. And it is with this aspect of the Kingdom that the Old Covenant people needed to be answered in Luke 17:20-21.
Now, as for the second aspect of His coming, Jesus answered: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36)
So nobody of us knows! We can only watch the signs and recognize them, and thus be prepared!
Today, those who do not understand the mind of Jesus and thus they do not understand what He said in this passage, distort the meaning of His words just as Peter explained concerning the Epistles of Paul and the whole Scripture: “as also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; among which some things are hard to be understood, which the untaught and ill-established wrest, as also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16) Only those who are truly taught in Christ and are stable (well established) in Christ will understand what Jesus and the whole Scripture say (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14-16). Indeed, those who are misled by false theologies interpret this passage as meaning that either this prophecy didn’t happen as it was prophesied by the Lord (and thus they deny the Omniscience and Deity of Christ), or that all what Jesus said in this passage has already happened and that we should not wait for His second coming… Indeed, these are people who distort the meaning of God’s Word to their own destruction. Do they know and understand better than the Apostle Peter what Jesus said?!… Peter heard Jesus saying what He said in this passage that we studied, but he didn’t understand it as meaning that the end would come in that generation, as the untaught and the unstable understand it today. Look how Peter understood that: “knowing this first, that there shall come at [the] close of the days mockers with mocking, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for from the time the fathers fell asleep all things remain thus from [the] beginning of [the] creation. For this is hidden from them through their own wilfulness, that heavens were of old, and an earth, having its subsistence out of water and in water, by the word of God, through which [waters] the then world, deluged with water, perished. But the present heavens and the earth by his word are laid up in store, kept for fire unto a day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But let not this one thing be hidden from you, beloved, that one day with [the] Lord [is] as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [The] Lord does not delay his promise, as some account of delay, but is longsuffering towards you, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of [the] Lord will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a rushing noise, and [the] elements, burning with heat, shall be dissolved, and [the] earth and the works in it shall be burnt up. All these things then being to be dissolved, what ought ye to be in holy conversation and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, by reason of which [the] heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and [the] elements, burning with heat, shall melt? But, according to his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, as ye wait for these things, be diligent to be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:3-14) So if Jesus meant that His second coming would be in one generation, then why did the Holy Spirit say these things through Peter? This passage clearly says that we can’t know when the Lord will come back, because He will come like a thief, just as Jesus Himself said. Indeed, just as Peter prophesied, many today mockingly say that Jesus didn’t come quickly as He promised, but Peter explains that they say this because they interpret the words of Jesus according to their lusts and not according to the mind of Christ as we have seen in this article, and thus the truth is hidden from them through their own willfulness to refuse the truth of God.
And, as we do always after studying a Bible difficulty, here also we must not be lost in the satisfaction of having found a solution to the difficulty, but we must listen to the warning that God is giving to us in the studied passage! Just as Peter said in the above quoted passage, we must be prepared! The passage of our study said many important things: many false prophets and christs will come and mislead many with their false teachings and example; we will hear of wars and rumors of wars (note that the only two world wars happened in the past century! And note that we are living in the age of rumors of nuclear war!) ; nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes; there will be tribulation and persecution against true Christians; most people’s love will grow cold because of the increase of lawlessness; etc… And Jesus said that the Gospel will be preached to all the nations.
So, dear friends, let’s be prepared and let’s be warned! Let us not be misled, and let us not be afraid!
Dear friend, if you are still in your sins, and if you did not receive the forgiveness of your sins yet, please be reconciled with God today, NOW. Even a minute later may be late, very late! If you go to stand before the Holy Judge with your sins, you will be condemned to the eternal punishment in Hell. God knows your heart and its sinfulness. He knows each of your secret thoughts! Be reconciled with God by accepting what Jesus Christ has done for you. Receive Him in your heart as your personal Lord and King and Savior. He saves you from all your sins.
And if you want to know more about this blessed Gospel of God’s forgiveness, please contact me.
In Christ’s Love,