My brother Apollos makes some excellent points in his post “This Generation” and the Jewish People. It challenges the key conclusion drawn in my previous post, “This Generation”—Getting All the Pieces to Fit. I appreciate Apollos’ attempt to present an alternate finding to this question, because it has forced me to re-examine my logic and in doing so, I believe he has helped me cement it further.
Our goal, both his and mine, is the goal of most of the regular readership of this forum: To establish Bible truth through an accurate and unbiased understanding of Scripture. Since bias is such a tricky devil, both to identify and weed out, having the right to challenge anyone’s thesis is crucial to its eradication. It is the lack of this freedom—the freedom to challenge an idea—that is at the heart of so many of the errors and misinterpretations that have bedeviled Jehovah’s Witnesses for the past century and a half.
Apollos makes a good observation when he states that in the majority of occasions when Jesus uses the term “this generation”, he is referring to the Jewish people, specifically, the wicked element among them. He then states: “In other words if we start with a clean slate rather than introduce preconceptions, the burden of proof ought to be on the one who claims a different meaning, when the meaning is otherwise so consistent.”
This is a valid point. Certainly, coming up with a different definition than the one that would be consistent with the rest of the gospel accounts would require some compelling evidence. Otherwise, it would indeed be a mere preconception.
As the title of my previous post indicates, my premise was finding a solution that allows all the pieces to fit without making unnecessary or unwarranted assumptions. As I tried to reconcile the idea that “this generation” refers to the race of the Jewish people, I found that a key piece of the puzzle no longer fit.
Apollos makes the case that the Jewish people would endure and survive; that a “future special consideration to the Jews” would cause them to be saved. He points to Romans 11:26 to support this as well as the promise God made to Abraham regarding his seed. Without getting into an interpretive discussion of Revelation 12 and Romans 11, I submit that this belief alone eliminates the Jewish nation from consideration with regard to the fulfillment of Mat. 24:34. The reason is that “this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” If the Jewish nation is saved, if they survive as a nation, then they do not pass away. For all the pieces to fit, we must look for a generation that passes away, but only after all the things Jesus spoke of have occurred. There is only one generation that fits the bill and still meets all the other criteria of Matthew 24:4-35. This would be a generation which from the first century down to the end can call Jehovah their Father because they are his progeny, the offspring of a single father. I refer to the Children of God. Whether the race of Jews is eventually restored to a state of being God’s children (along with the rest of humankind) or not is moot. During the period prescribed by the prophecy, the Jewish nation is not referred to as God’s children. Only one group can lay claim to that status: the anointed brothers of Jesus.
Once that last one of his brothers has died, or being transformed, “this generation” will have passed away, fulfilling Matthew 24:34.
Is there scriptural support for a generation from God that comes into existence apart from the nation of the Jews? Yes, there is:
“This is written for the future generation; And the people that is to be created will praise Jah.” (Psalm 102:18)
Written at a time that the Jewish people already existed, this verse cannot be referring to the race of the Jews by the term “future generation”; nor can it be referring to the Jewish people when speaking of a “people that is to be created”. The only candidate for such a ‘created people’ and “future generation” is that of the Children of God. (Romans 8:21)
A Word about Romans Chapter 11
[I think I’ve proven my point vis-à-vis this generation not applying to the Jewish people as a race. However, there remains the tangential issues raised by Apollos and others concerning Revelation 12 and Romans 11. I will not deal with Revelation 12 here because it is a highly symbolic passage of Scripture, and I don’t see how we can establish hard evidence from it for purposes of this discussion. This is not to say that it is not a worthy topic in its own right, but that would be for future consideration. Romans 11 on the other hand deserves our immediate attention.]
[I’ve inserted my comments in boldface throughout the text. Italics mine for emphasis.]
I ask, then, God did not reject his people, did he? Never may that happen! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he first recognized. Why, do YOU not know what the Scripture says in connection with E·li′jah, as he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Jehovah, they have killed your prophets, they have dug up your altars, and I alone am left, and they are looking for my soul.” 4 Yet, what does the divine pronouncement say to him? “I have left seven thousand men over for myself, [men] who have not bent the knee to Ba′al.” [Why does Paul bring this account up in his discussion? He explains…]5 In this way, therefore, at the present season also a remnant has turned up according to a choosing due to undeserved kindness. [So the 7,000 left over for Jehovah (“for myself”) represent the remnant that has turned up. Not all Israel was “for myself” in Elijah’s day and not all Israel “turned up according to a choosing” in Paul’s day.] 6 Now if it is by undeserved kindness, it is no longer due to works; otherwise, the undeserved kindness no longer proves to be undeserved kindness. 7 What, then? The very thing Israel is earnestly seeking he did not obtain, but the ones chosen obtained it. [The Jewish people didn’t obtain this, but only the chosen ones, the remnant. Question: What was obtained? Not simply salvation from sin, but much more. The fulfillment of the promise to become a kingdom of priests and for the nations to be blessed by them.] The rest had their sensibilities blunted; 8 just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of deep sleep, eyes so as not to see and ears so as not to hear, down to this very day.” 9 Also, David says: “Let their table become for them a snare and a trap and a stumbling block and a retribution; 10 let their eyes become darkened so as not to see, and always bow down their back.” 11 Therefore I ask, Did they stumble so that they fell completely? Never may that happen! But by their false step there is salvation to people of the nations, to incite them to jealousy. 12 Now if their false step means riches to the world, and their decrease means riches to people of the nations, how much more will the full number of them mean it! [What does he mean by the “full number of them”? Verse 26 speaks of “the full number of the people of the nations”, and here in vs. 12, we have the full number of the Jews. Rev. 6:11 speaks of the dead waiting “until the number was filled…of their brothers.” Revelation 7 speaks of 144,000 from the tribes of Israel and an unknown number of others from “every tribe, nation and people.” Evidently, the full number of the Jews mentioned in vs. 12 refers to the full number of Jewish chosen ones, not of the entire nation.]13 Now I speak to YOU who are people of the nations. Forasmuch as I am, in reality, an apostle to the nations, I glorify my ministry, 14 if I may by any means incite [those who are] my own flesh to jealousy and save some from among them. [Notice: not save all, but some. So the saving of all Israel referred to in vs. 26 must be different from what Paul refers to here. The salvation he refers to here is that peculiar to the children of God.] 15 For if the casting of them away means reconciliation for the world, what will the receiving of them mean but life from the dead? [What is “reconciliation for the world” but the saving of the world? In vs. 26 he speaks specifically of the saving of the Jews, while here he broadens his scope to include the whole world. The saving of the Jews and the reconciliation (saving) of the world are parallel and made possible by the glorious freedom of the children of God.] 16 Further, if the [part taken as] firstfruits is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are also. [The root was indeed holy (set apart) because God made it so by calling them out to himself. They lost that holiness however. But a remnant remained holy.] 17 However, if some of the branches were broken off but you, although being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became a sharer of the olive’s root of fatness, 18 do not be exulting over the branches. If, though, you are exulting over them, it is not you that bear the root, but the root [bears] you. 19 You will say, then: “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 All right! For [their] lack of faith they were broken off, but you are standing by faith. Quit having lofty ideas, but be in fear. [A warning not to allow the newly exalted status of the gentile Christians to go to their head. Otherwise, pride could cause them to suffer the same fate as the root, the rejected Jewish nation.] 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 See, therefore, God’s kindness and severity. Toward those who fell there is severity, but toward you there is God’s kindness, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise, you also will be lopped off. 23 They also, if they do not remain in their lack of faith, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree that is wild by nature and were grafted contrary to nature into the garden olive tree, how much rather will these who are natural be grafted into their own olive tree! 25 For I do not want YOU, brothers, to be ignorant of this sacred secret, in order for YOU not to be discreet in your own eyes: that a dulling of sensibilities has happened in part to Israel until the full number of people of the nations has come in, 26 and in this manner all Israel will be saved. [Israel was first to be chosen and from them, like the 7,000 men Jehovah had to himself, comes a remnant that Jehovah calls his own. However, we must wait for the full number of the nations to come into this remnant. But what does he mean that “all Israel will be saved” by this. He cannot mean the remnant—that is, spiritual Israel. That would contradict all that he has just explained. As explained above, the saving of the Jews parallels the saving of the world, made possible by the arrangement of the chosen seed.] Just as it is written: “The deliverer will come out of Zion and turn away ungodly practices from Jacob. [In conclusion, the Messianic seed, the children of God, is the deliverer.]
How Jehovah accomplishes this is unknown to us at the present time. We can speculate that millions of ignorant unrighteous ones will survive Armageddon, or we can theorized that those killed at Armageddon will all be resurrected in a progressive and orderly manner. Or perhaps there is another alternative. Whatever the case, it is sure to astonish. This is all in keeping with the sentiments expressed by Paul at Romans 11:33:
”O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments [are] and past tracing out his ways [are]!”
A Word About the Abrahamic Covenant
Let’s start with what was actually promised.
“I shall surely bless youA and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; B and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. C 18 And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselvesD due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.’”” (Genesis 22:17, 18)
Let’s break it down.
A) Fulfillment: There is no doubt that Jehovah blessed Abraham.
B) Fulfillment: The Israelites did multiply like the stars of the heavens. We could stop there and this element would have its fulfillment. However, another option is to apply it additionally to Revelation 7:9 where the great multitude which stands in the heavenly temple with the 144,000 is depicted as being unnumberable. Either way, it’s fulfilled.
C) Fulfillment: The Israelites did rout its enemies and take possession of their gate. This was fulfilled in the conquest and occupation of Canaan. Again, there is a case to be made for an additional fulfillment. For Jesus and his anointed brothers are the Messianic seed and they will conquer and take possession of the gate of their enemies. Accept one, accept them both; either way the scripture is fulfilled.
D) Fulfillment: The Messiah and his anointed brothers are part of the seed of Abraham, derived through the genetic lineage of the nation of Israel, and all the nations are blessed through them. (Romans 8:20-22) There is no need for the entire Jewish race to be considered his seed nor to consider that it is by the entire Jewish race from Abraham’s day down to the end of this system of things by which all the nations are blessed. Even if—IF—we consider that the woman of Genesis 3:15 is the nation of Israel, it is not her, but the seed that she produces—the children of God—that results in a blessing upon all nations.
A Word About Generation as a Race of People
“Rather than turn this into a long article by including extensive dictionary and concordance references I will simply point out that the word is connected with begetting or birth, and very much allows for the idea of it referring to a race of people. The readers may check Strong’s, Vine’s etc, to easily verify this.” [Italics for emphasis]
I checked out both Strong’s and Vine’s concordances and I think that saying the word genea “very much allows for the idea of it referring to a race of people” is misleading. Apollos is referring in his analysis to the Jewish people as the race of the Jews. He makes reference to how the Jewish race has been persecuted down through the centuries but has survived. The Jewish race has survived. That is how all of us understand the meaning of the term, “a race of people”. If you were to convey that meaning in Greek, you would use the word genos, not genea. (See Acts 7:19 where genos is translated as “race”)
Genea can also mean “race”, but in a different sense. Strong’s concordance gives the following sub-definition.
2b metaphorically, a race of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character; and especially in a bad sense, a perverse race. Matthew 17:17; Mark 9:19; Luke 9:41; Luke 16:8; (Acts 2:40).
If you look up all of those scriptural references, you’ll see that none of them refers to a “race of people” specifically, but instead uses “generation” (for the most part) to render genea. While the context can be understood to comply to the 2b definition of a metaphorical race—people with the same pursuits and characteristic—none of those scriptures make sense if we infer he was referring to the race of the Jews that has endured down to our day. Neither can we infer reasonably that Jesus meant the race of the Jews from Abraham down to his day. That would require that he characterize all the Jews from Isaac, through Jacob and on down as “a wicked and perverse generation”.
The primary definition in both Strong’s and Vine’s upon which both Apollos and I agree is that genea refers to:
1. a begetting, birth, nativity.
2. passively, that which has been begotten, men of the same stock, a family
There are two seeds mentioned in the Bible. One is produced by an unnamed woman and the other is produced by the serpent. (Gen. 3:15) Jesus clearly identified the wicked generation (literally, generated ones) as having the serpent as their Father.
“Jesus said to them: “If God were YOUR Father, YOU would love me, for from God I came forth and am here…44 YOU are from YOUR father the Devil, and YOU wish to do the desires of YOUR father” (John 8:42, 44)
Since we are looking at context, we have to concur that every time Jesus used “generation” outside of the prophecy of Mat. 24:34, he was referring to the perverse group of men who were Satan’s seed. They were Satan’s generation for he gave birth to them and he was their father. If you wish to infer that Strong’s definition 2b applies to these verses, then we can say that Jesus was referring to “a race of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character”. Again, that fits with being Satan’s seed.
The other seed that the Bible speaks of has Jehovah as its Father. We have two groups of men begotten by two fathers, Satan and Jehovah. Satan’s seed is not limited to the wicked Jews that rejected the Messiah. Nor is Jehovah’s seed by the woman limited to faithful Jews who accepted the Messiah. Both generations include men of all races. However, the specific generation Jesus referred to repeatedly was limited to those men who rejected him; men alive at that time. In line with this, Peter said, “Get saved from this crooked generation.” (Acts 2:40) That generation passed away back then.
True, Satan’s seed continues down to our day, but it includes all nations and tribes and peoples, not just the Jews.
We must ask ourselves, when Jesus reassured his disciples that the generation would not pass away until all these things occurred, was he intending that they be reassured that Satan’s wicked seed would not end before Armageddon. That hardly makes sense because why would they care. They would prefer that it didn’t survive. Wouldn’t we all? No, what fits is that down through the epochs of history, Jesus would know that his disciples would need encouragement and reassurance that they—the children of God as a generation—would be around to the finish.
One More Word About Context
I have already provided what I feel is the single most compelling reason to not allow the context of Jesus usage of “generation” throughout the gospel accounts guide us in defining its use at Mat. 24:34, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:23. However, Apollos adds another argument to his line of reasoning.“All of the parts of the prophecy that we see as affecting true Christians…would not have been perceived in that way by the disciples at that time. As being heard through their ears Jesus was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem pure and simple. The questions to Jesus in v3 came about in response to his saying that “by no means will a stone [of the temple] be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down”. Is it not probable then that one of the follow-on questions that would be in the mind of the disciples as Jesus talked about these matters, was what the future would be for the Jewish nation?”
It is true that his disciples had a very Israel-centric view of salvation at that particular point in time. This is evident by the question they asked him just before he left them:
“Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6)
However, Jesus was not constrained in his answer by what they wanted to believe or what they were most interested in just then or what they expected to hear. Jesus imparted an enormous amount of knowledge to his disciples in the 3 ½ years of his ministry. Only a tiny portion is recorded for the benefit of his disciples throughout history. (John 21:25) Yet, the answer to the question posed by those few was recorded under inspiration in three of the four gospel accounts. Jesus would have known that their Israel-centric concern would soon change, and in fact did change, as evident from the letters that were written in the years that followed. While the term “the Jews” took on a pejorative overtone in Christian writings, the focus came to be on the Israel of God, the Christian congregation. Was his answer intended to assuage the concerns of his disciples at the time the question was posed, or was it intended for a far vaster audience of both Jewish and Gentile disciples down through the ages? I think the answer is clear, but just in case it is not, consider that his answer did not address their concern fully. He did tell them about the destruction of Jerusalem, but he made no attempt to show that it had nothing to do with his presence nor of the conclusion of the system of things. When the dust cleared in 70 C.E. there would undoubtedly have been a growing consternation on the part of his disciples. What about the darkening of the sun, moon and stars? Why weren’t the heavenly powers shaken? Why didn’t the “sign of the Son of man” appear? Why weren’t all the tribes of the earth beating themselves in lamentation? Why weren’t the faithful gathered?
As time progressed, they would have come to see that these things had a later fulfillment. But why didn’t he just tell them that when he answered the question? In part, the answer must have something to do with John 16:12.
“I have many things yet to say to YOU, but YOU are not able to bear them at present.
Likewise, if he had explained then what he meant by generation, he would have been giving them information about the length of time before them they were not able to handle.
So while they may well have thought the generation he was speaking of referred to the Jews of that age, the unfolding reality of events would have caused them to re-evaluate that conclusion. The context shows that Jesus’ use of generation was referring to the people alive at that time, not to a centuries-long race of Jews. In that context, the three disciples might well have thought he was talking about the same wicked and perverse generation at Mat. 24:34, but when that generation passed on and “all these things” had not occurred, they would have been forced to the realization that they had arrived at an erroneous conclusion. At that point, with Jerusalem in ruins and the Jews scattered, would Christians (Jews and gentiles alike) be concerned for the Jews or for themselves, the Israel of God? Jesus answered for the long term, mindful of the welfare of this disciples down through the centuries.
There is only one generation—the progeny of a single Father, one “chosen race”—that will see all these things and which will then pass away, the generation of the Children of God. The Jews as a nation or a people or a race just doesn’t cut the mustard.