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The Bible Speaks
Timely topics from the pages of God's Word

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16,17, NIV).

Further Reading: Why Have Faith? (1.00). The Work Ethic (1.00)

"This Generation Shall Not Pass Away Until..."

Jesus uttered this statement that has baffled many ever since:

Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place (Luke 21:32).

By "all things", Jesus was meaning "all these things", referring to what He had just told the disciples (see Matt 24:34). Some of these things included events which happened to Jerusalem and the Jews:

  • Jerusalem being surrounded by [Roman] armies (Lk 21:20).

  • The Church having to flee from Judea to escape the slaughter (21:21-24).

  • Great distress on the land and the people (21:23).

  • And Jerusalem being occupied by Gentiles until the coming of Christ to put an end to their oppressive rule (21:24).

Some of these things which Jesus prophesied took place in His generation. Jerusalem was encircled and destroyed in AD 70 by the armies of the Roman general Titus, who later become an emperor. The true Church did receive a prompt in the Spirit when it was time to flee, and history records that they fled to Pella further north in the plains of Jordan. And there was great distress for those poor people of Jerusalem.

But there were other things which Jesus predicted which were not fulfilled at that time:

  • The end of the times of the Gentiles (21:24).

  • Signs in the sun, moon and stars (21:25).

  • Men becoming terrified by what is taking place in nature, with earthquakes and tidal waves (tsunami), volcanic eruptions (21:25-26,11).

  • And the second coming of Jesus in power and great glory (21:27).

The generation in which Jesus lived did not see all these events occur. So, how are we to understand what He meant? A footnote in the NKJV Believer's Study Bible on generation tries to explain it this way:

" 'Generation' ... can mean a period of anywhere from 30 to 100 years [I don't know about that]. Several possible explanations for the text are available:
(1) Generation (genea, Gk.) refers to Israel as a nation and guarantees her perpetuity until the end times.
(2) Generation may mean 'age' or 'time period' and therefore is a reference to the dispensation of grace.
(3) Finally, genea may carry its more usual meaning of 30 years. If the latter is the case, then Jesus is saying that one generation would not have passed until all of these signs begin to be fulfilled."

There may be some truth in the above, but I would suggest to you that there is one more important aspect that has been overlooked. As I was praying one day, I was thinking about this text, and these words came into my mind:

An evil and adulterous generation.

Think about it. What is the thrust of all Jesus' words? Does it concern the physical or the spiritual? I'm sure you know the answer.

So, I suggest that Jesus was meaning that the evil and adulterous generation of people will not be gone from the earth before all those things take place.

In other words, He was emphasising that there is no way His Kingdom can come to earth without the horrendous passage of events He described.

People want easy solutions, quick-fix deals, and the disciples were no exception. They were looking for the coming of His Kingdom there and then. But, by using that expression in a broader sense than its literal meaning, Jesus was pointing out that many terrible things had to happen before He could return, while not dispelling their need for a sense of urgency, which is essential for a Christian's spiritual survival.

We are getting very close to Jesus' coming now. Before Jesus uttered those words about the generation not passing until... He also said:

When you see all these things [occur], know that it is at the doors" (Lk 21:33).

Besides His words there, we have His continuing witness of the Spirit in the Church through prophets and prophesying.

For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy (Rev 19:10).

Malcolm B Heap

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