What does ‘This Generation’ mean?

Jesus said: Assuredly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Jesus prophesied these unforgettable words to four of his disciples on the Mount of Olives as recorded in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:30.

It is critical to understand which generation Jesus meant. Taking the plain meaning without any bias, Jesus was referring to his own generation—the generation of his listeners there on the Mount of Olives.

But some scholars say Jesus must have meant a future generation. 

Some others insist that Jesus meant the word “race”,  i.e., the Hebrew race. They reason that because the Hebrew race remains today, the coming of Jesus has not taken place, putting his coming far into the unknown future.

These scholars avoid the obvious meaning in the context of the gospel, dogmatically committed to a future return of Jesus, instead of simply accepting that Jesus spoke of the relative closeness of His coming.

Jesus prophesied to those disciples on the Mount of Olives, that He would return before His hearers’ generation had passed away. Yet many of the same scholars and teachers have no problem in accepting that Jesus spoke literally about the coming fall of the Jerusalem temple.

So then there is no logical reason to exclude the plain fact that Jesus spoke of his soon coming.

Further, there is no doubt the disciples took Jesus’ words “this generation” to mean soon, at the door, at hand. They knew His coming was imminent, perhaps even in their lifetime. We see it in their writings.

Their letters in the N.T. frequently reflect their expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

They knew Jesus warned them to get the Kingdom proclaimed in the towns of Judea before His coming (Matthew 10:23).

Check these references out for yourself: Rom 13:11-13, 1 Cor 10:11, Phil 1:6,10, 1 Thes 1:10, 4:17; 2 Thes 1:7; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2, 9:28, 10:29; Jas 5:3; 1 Pet 1:5, 7-9, 13, 17, 20; 2 Pet 3:3; Jude 19).

Now let’s look at only a few instances of Jesus’ phrase this generation in the gospels, paying close attention to the context of each. You will see they consistently refer to the people alive then as Jesus spoke.

Mat 12:45. . . the last of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Mat 12:41-42. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented. . . The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment. . .

Mark 8:12. Why does this generation seek . . sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.

Mark 8:38 : “For whoever 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 the glory of His Father with the holy angels”.

Jesus warned people in that crowd that some of them, this generation, will be alive ‘when He comes in glory!  He said this generation not that generation.

Luke 17:25. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Mat 17:17. O faithless generation, how long shall I bear with you . .  

Here he referred to the crowd who had no faith to heal.

Mat 23:35-36. Assuredly, I say unto you, all these things will come upon this generation.

That phrase is repeated in Mat 24:34, Mark 31:30, and Luke 21:30.

Mat 24:34f, Mk 13:30f, Lu 21:30f. NKJV. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

In all three synoptic gospels! And all three carry the word assuredly! (Grk amen) and the affirmation that though heaven and earth could pass away, his words stand forever!

So who would dare to change his plain words?

In Mat 23 we read Jesus’ savage attacks on the Jewish ruling elites of that current generation: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  Then after the 7 woes, we read verses 31-36:

Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Further, this particular generation was condemned to such a great extent, that Jesus warned those weeping women as He was led to the cross saying: Weep not for me but for yourselves and your children . . . as he knew what terrible times they would face (Luke 23:28).

Conclusion

In the Olivet discourse of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the generation named by Jesus can only mean the generation of people Jesus was addressing.

We can see that this is consistent with the other numerous references of his using the phrase this generation.

There is no logical or hermeneutical reason why we should not believe and accept that Jesus spoke literally about “all these things will come upon this generation.” (Mat 24:34).

The letters in the New Testament frequently reflect the expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

Your Greatest Days Are Before You

DARE TO BELIEVE! By Veronika West August 24, 2022

Dare to believe!

by Veronika West August 26, 2022

“Why so down cast, My Beloved? As if a dark cloud of Unbelief and Fear has descended upon you.

Behold, I AM not a God who is distant or unapproachable, uninterested, or too busy to give you My full Attention.

No! I AM not deaf to your cries or blind to your needs. I AM a Loving Father who is near to those who draw near to Me.

Look! I have unlimited resources available for all My Children. I know no limitation or lack.

The Righteous will never beg for bread, but will always have more than enough. Super-abundance, awaits those who wait expectantly on Me.

See! In the midst of darkness, I AM Light! In War and Conflict, I AM Peace. In a world full of hatred and evil doers, I AM Love and I AM Good, full of tender Mercy and Loving Kindness.

In times of grief, I AM Comfort and Strength. In loneliness and isolation, My Radiant Presence is all that you need.

Beloved, My watchful Eye is always upon you, for I have hidden you from your enemies and shielded you from their vicious attacks.

Under the Shadow of My Wing, you are protected from the heat of the noonday sun and preserved from every danger that lurks in darkness.

So Lift up your head that hangs low, and look only to Me. Lean on Me, and I will be an ever-present Helper.

Even My Angels stand ready to go forth to War for you; to prepare a way for you; to level the Mountains and fill in the valleys.

Let your heart Rejoice, for the Battle is already Won and the Victory is assured!

Ha! Yes, I laugh at your enemies. Come up higher, and you will laugh at your enemies too.

You will see that those who think they are winning, are actually losing, and the gallows they have built for another, shall become the place for their own demise and destruction.

Watch! Soon and very soon, they will have enough rope for their own hanging. Who do they think they are, as if the breathe in their lungs were given to them by man?

My Heart is grieved, for the hearts of men are truly wicked, all day long. Yet in My great Mercy, I AM still mindful of them, waiting for their hearts to turn in true Repentance for their wicked deeds.

tipping point

But surely I tell you, the Bowls of their Iniquity are now at a Divine Tipping Point. My patience will soon run out, and My Justice and Judgments will not be restrained forever.

Suddenly, swiftly and quickly, as if a light switch was flicked on, I shall come with My Vengeance and with My Glory, and The Spirit of The Fear of The LORD shall grip their wicked hearts, and their stiff necks shall be broken, and many will fall as dead men in their tracks.

I shall not be mocked!

Therefore Warriors, do not grow weary in your Prayers and Petitions, day and night, for My Courts are now in Session and I sit as a Righteous Judge over The Nations.

Watch! For have I not said, that in these last days I shall perform the same Miracle that I did at first?

Yes! Water shall be turned to Wine, for I AM not governed by time.

hourglass graphic

Look! A Kairos Time, for now the Archangel with the Hourglass in his hand stands before you, and The Nations of the Earth, holding the Sands of Time.

Watch and Listen, as a Divine Acceleration, Acceleration, Acceleration, begins to take place!

Watch! As I take you back to your future, Divine Reversals, as Generational Curses shall be reversed and Covenant Blessings shall be released

Nations that have been held captive shall be let go — for surely, I stand over My Word to perform it!

As I send it out, it always, always produces fruit — and fruit that shall remain.

Yes! It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

Oh Beloved, if only you had a greater understanding of My Ways and My Thoughts, then you would be at Peace and great expectation would fill your hearts.

You would walk in such Power and Authority, nothing would weigh you down or distract you from the purposes for which I created you.

What time is wasted by worry and anxiety, as if the spirit of fear can change anything!

My Beloved, you need a deeper Revelation of the Perfect and Complete Love that I have for you, then, and only then, will you become unstoppable, a True Warrior who strikes fear in the heart of the enemy, and a real and present danger to the kingdom of darkness, and you will become as the Violent, who will take the kingdom by force.

Beloved, I have fashioned you for War, and made you a weapon in My great Arsenal.

As you position yourself in Me, and place your life in My Hands, fully yielded and surrendered to My Way and Will, you will live in the fullest of blessing and My highest purpose!

Will you dare to believe, that surely I have kept the best for last, and that your greatest days are before you?”

Paul, the Thessalonians and the Coming of Jesus

The apostle Paul, writing about 51 AD to believing Christians living in the Roman city of Thessalonica, expected with them, an imminent, soon return of the Lord. How can I say this?

That’s easy: Paul wrote that these Thessalonian believers had ‘turned from idols to serve the living God and to wait for his son from heaven(see 1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Please read that again. Paul believed they (and Paul himself) were waiting for Jesus to come from heaven. Let the implications of that sink in. Yair I know. That’s a challenge.

As we read this letter today, bear in mind we are reading mail written to believers living 2000 years ago.

We must resist the temptation to think we are being addressed by Paul or by the Holy Spirit.

This was not about us!

Let me ask you, who still await Jesus’ coming, a very important question.

Do you really, seriously, logically imagine that those same real believers who eagerly read Paul’s words, were then terribly disappointed because as they continued to notice others of their community, one by one, passing away while Jesus still had not come, as Paul said!

If Jesus still had not come then–which is what many modern believers seem to hold—and when the last one of those original Thessalonian believers would have passed away, can you imagine the consternation, the feelings of utter despair and loss of trust in God that would have followed?

Today, some 2000+ years have passed since those original Thessalonian believers were alive. So if you hold the view that Jesus is yet to appear a second time, then their faith must have been totally in vain.

Totally in vain.

Come on. Think about it for a minute: If Jesus’ coming was near for these believers, it cannot be near for us, can it? And if Jesus’ coming is still coming near for us today, you must conclude Paul was in gross error.

Do you see the problem? Your problem?

Ask yourself this question: if those Thessalonians were wrong by expecting Jesus to come within their lifetime, why didn’t Paul correct them? Why didn’t he write ‘no, you’ve got it wrong, Jesus won’t be coming for a long, long, time!’

But Paul did not correct them, instead he continued to encourage them as he wrote this letter to encourage them and then followed it with another letter, which we call Second Thessalonians, with further encouragements.

Can you see the dilemma for you today if you are still expecting Jesus to return?

That is logically impossible if you trust Paul’s letters are the word of God.

‘This Generation’ or That?

Jesus said:

‘Assuredly I say to you, THIS generation will not pass away until all these things take place’.

Jesus spoke those unbelievable, riveting, unforgettable words directly to some of his disciples on the Mount of Olives, (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:30).

In these passages, the context demands that he was speaking to his disciples during the week before his death and resurrection. He was not speaking to us today. That is important.

So which generation did Jesus mean? Taking the plain meaning of the text, Jesus was referring to his own generation—the generation of those he was addressing right there on the Mount of Olives.

When we read in the gospels Jesus’ words, we are committed to accepting those words as true, right?

But some scholars teach that Jesus must have meant some future generation—surely he could not have been referring to his own generation!

Thus, irrationally and against all sound hermeneutical principles, they insist he meant an unknown, vague, future generation, and they change Jesus’ word from THIS to THAT!

Why this strange interpretation? This departure from standard grammatical understanding.

Why? Of course, they have to avoid the obvious meaning because they are dogmatically committed to a future return of Jesus. They cannot bear to believe he spoke of the relative closeness of his coming.

Jesus prophesied to those disciples on the Mount of Olives, several things would have to happen before His hearers’ generation had passed away. These events included the fall of the Jerusalem temple –an astounding event, impossible for Jews to accept—but also that He would return.

Yet many of the same scholars and teachers have no problem in accepting that Jesus spoke literally about the coming fall of the Jerusalem temple. They accept that as an historical fact. Seems like they feel they have the authority to change Jesus’ words to suit their doctrine!

Think about that for a minute.

If Jesus meant to say “that generation”, indicating a future generation, the writers would have used either the Greek word ekeinos or tote, and not the Greek hoytos. But they used the Greek word hoytos.

Let’s look at these words more closely.  

The Greek word ekeinos is overwhelmingly translated as that (99x) or those (40x) — i.e., a future generation. Also in the vast majority of cases the Greek tote is translated as then (149x) or that time (4x)— i.e., a future generation.

Thus at Mat 24:10 Jesus says “And at that time (Grk tote) many will fall away, and they will betray one . . . .” And at Mat 24:30, he said “And then (Grk tote)  the sign of the Son of Man will appear in . . .” future!

BUT the word hoytos is translated most texts by this (157x) or these (59x)—i.e., the present generation. For example, “This (hoytos) gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world . . . .” (Mat 24:14)

So then, there is no logical reason to exclude the plain fact that Jesus spoke of his soon coming.

Further, there is no doubt the disciples took Jesus’ words “this generation” to mean soon, at the door, at hand. They knew His coming was imminent, perhaps even in their lifetime. We see it in all their writings.

Their letters in the N.T. frequently reflect their expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

Now let’s look at some instances of Jesus’ phrase this generation in the gospels, paying close attention to the context of each. You will see they consistently refer to the people alive then as Jesus spoke: See Matthew 12:41-42, 12:45, 17:17, Mat 23:35-36, Mark 8:12, 31:30, Luke 17:25, 21:30. That’s just a few.

Mat 24:34f, Mk 13:30f, Lu 21:30f. NKJV. Assuredly, I say to you, this (Grk hoytos) generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

In all three synoptic gospels! And all three carry the word assuredly! (Grk amen) and the affirmation that though heaven and earth could pass away, his words stand forever!

So who would dare to change his plain words?

To do so makes Jesus a false prophet or a liar!

Conclusion

In the Olivet discourse of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the generation named by Jesus can only mean the generation of people Jesus was addressing and this is consistent with the other numerous references of his using the phrase this generation.

There is no logical or hermeneutical reason why we should not believe and accept that Jesus spoke literally about “all these things will come upon this generation.” (Mat 24:34).

The letters in the New Testament frequently reflect the expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

Jesus’ Coming Foretold—Acts 1: 6-11

Some teachers use this passage to teach that Jesus’ coming will be seen by eye-witnesses. The apostles saw Him as He ascended, so these people teach He has not yet come because He has not been seen since then.

But His coming will not be physically ‘seen’ but understood. He could never be seen by human, physical eyes in His exalted, glorious, state, “whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16). In this brief article, I argue that there are several other ways that His coming could be compared with His ascension.

Verse 6. So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

  • Their question shows they thought just as the Jews thought –in terms of a Davidic messiah and an earthly kingdom of Israel free of Roman rule. This would soon change with a new covenant in Jesus’ blood.

7. He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;

  • They had already been told in the Olivet discourse (Mat 24:36) that the timing of His coming was unknown and He gently rebuked them and said only the Father determines the times and seasons.

8. but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

  • But: Grk, G23 5alla,contrariwise, emphatic—they will have to think differently—to change their mind
  • His witnesses: They are to receive power and be His witnesses everywhere, starting in Jerusalem.

9. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

  • Cloud Grk. nephelē: He was hidden from their eyes by cloud. Just as He was hidden from their eyes as He went into Heaven, so when he comes He will be hidden to human eyes by the clouds of glory (Mat 24:30).

10. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men (Grk. anēr) in white clothing stood beside them.

  • Sky: Grk. ouranos. Strong’s KJV translates by heaven (268 times), air (10), sky (5); twice in v.11.
  • Two men: Grk anēr, not angeloi: cf Luke 24:4 at the empty tomb. These must be heavenly visitors.
  • Jesus has never been physically seen by human eyes ever since. Talk about a rapture!

11. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven (ouranos) will come in like manner as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

  • why? Was this a rebuke?  In just a few days they will receive the promise of the Father upon them and be empowered to be His witnesses everywhere! Thus, they were dismissed by the heavenly visitors (v12).
  • will come: Grk, erchomai=come. It does not say ‘return’ (Grk strepho, epistrephō or hypostrephō) which would imply He would come in a similar form to that of His first coming, (born of a virgin) and that of his resurrection appearances and ascension. No. He will come hidden to their physical eyes.
  • See also Rev 2:5, 16 & 3:11 where erchomai is used to mean Jesus will come, not ‘return’ or ‘come back’
  • in like manner: (Grk hos). This can’t be taken to mean ‘in every respect’ but rather there are one or more similarities. See Mat 23:37 where Jesus uses the same phrase: “the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings”. Jesus did not mean He was a hen!
  • here are 3 similarities of His coming with that of His going into heaven:
    •  ‘a cloud received Him’– He will come in clouds (of glory-Mt 24:30) ;
    •  ‘out of their sight’– He will come hidden from human eyes as One ascended on high and ‘who lives in light unapproachable, whom no one has seen or can see’ (1 Tim 6:16);
    • implies He went suddenly, unexpectedly and will come suddenly, unexpectedly (see Mt 24:36-42)

Note also Luke 24: 52-52: And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them.

  • This passage in Luke confirms the Acts 1 passage. Luke wrote that it was while He was blessing them that He became patted and thus hidden from them.

Conclusion

The claim by some that this passage shows that Jesus’ coming would be seen with physical eyes cannot be proven. Therefore His coming certainly could have happened within the lifetime of his disciples as He promised it would (Matthew 16:28, 24:34). Let’s rejoice that He has come to dwell among His people, His ekklesia, and to empower us to be His witnesses as He did with the first apostles!

Jesus’ Coming – When?

In this short paper, I present reasons why the Coming of Jesus has already taken place!

1.  When Jesus gave instructions to His disciples preparing them for their mission to Israel (Matthew 10), He told them “whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. (Mat 10:23).

There is an obvious urgency in these instructions because the time they will have among the towns of Israel to proclaim the Kingdom of God before He comes (in judgment on apostate Israel) is short. They will be persecuted, but to waste no time there, but flee to the next town. We see this taking place with the apostles in the book of Acts.

2. Then Jesus later challenged His disciples with the question ‘who do you say I am?’ as we read in Matthew 16. He followed up Peter’s testimony with a foretelling of His coming death, the cost of following Him and then this stupendous announcement:

For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every person according to his deeds. 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. Mat 16:27-28

Some have interpreted this as referring to the Transfiguration event which follows soon in the narrative. But the subject of the transfiguration was Jesus’ coming death (His exodus) and the effect of this experience of His majesty upon the three disciples was a blinding, dramatic revelation of His messiahship and Lordship. This is not ‘the Son of Man coming in His kingdom’ which, as the narrative unfolds, comes after the resurrection, exultation and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the inauguration of the New Covenant.

 We must take the plain text simply as it comes to us. Jesus’ coming will be ‘seen’ (Grk horao—i.e., understood, experienced) by some of those 12 disciples in their lifetime.

3. Let’s now go to Matthew 24 and the two questions the disciples asked Him after He dropped the bombshell prophesying the destruction of the temple. 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 the end of the age?” (Mat 24:3)

The ‘last days’ in the NT refers to the end of an era, an age, not the end of time or the end of the world! That is a serious error. It is a terrible stumbling block to people reading and understanding the meaning of Jesus’ words. The text is not confusing or unclear about the end of the age. The Jews thought in terms of ‘this age’ and the ‘age to come’ (see Jesus’ words in Mat 12:32).

4. Further in this great discourse we read: And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Mat 24:30)

‘They will see’ cannot be forced to mean to ‘see’ with physical eyes as a visible event but they will understand the staggering, horrifying truth of God’s judgment. His Coming would never be seen optically, as He sits at the right hand of power, masked by dark clouds of glory and “who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16).

Do you see? Do you understand? Many stumble over this, thinking that because He would not seen by human eyes, then He has not yet come. See?

5. Next, Jesus at His trial before the Sanhedrin: the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63-64).

Jesus was referring here to His coming (the Parousia)—‘coming on the clouds of heaven’. The question is when would this coming take place? Or has it already taken place?

If Jesus meant His coming was to take place many centuries in the future, then the text would not make sense to us today, because the high priest would have died long before!

It is incumbent on Futurist teachers and commentators to explain how the high priest could be alive to witness Jesus’ exultation and His coming if the coming is yet to take place.

6. At His coming, those who will ’see’ will also include those who have rejected the Messiah, see Rev 1:7: He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth [i.e., the Jews] will mourn over Him.

The visible destruction of Jerusalem and its temple will be the sign that the Son of Man reigns in heaven having ascended to the Father. His throne and reign is taught by the whole New Testament as heavenly, spiritual, not earthly or fleshly. Natural, fleshly Israel, with its temple worship, sacrificial system, priesthood, will all disappear.

People also saw remarkable, visible phenomena: Josephus, Eusebius, Tacitus and the Talmud describe trumpets and angelic voices being heard and supernatural activity observed in the time leading to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. These things are recorded in many documents. These are historical facts, taking place 2000 years ago.

Conclusion

The above evidence is more than sufficient to demonstrate that our Lord has already come—in dreadful judgment on apostate Israel. We could look also at the dozens of texts in the letters of the New Testament and remark how the writers and apostles saw the Coming of the Lord as imminent, soon.

Thus the ‘great tribulation’ and the destruction of Jerusalem are also in the past. We now freely participate in the Kingdom of God with optimism and joy, till ‘the earth is filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’ He lives! He reigns forever and ever!

The Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24:40—51

We conclude our close look at the amazing account of Jesus answering the questions of His disciples.

Verses 40-41. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. 

  • Here these pairs of people at work with one of each pair taken and the other left, are claimed by some to support a secret rapture, ‘snatched up to heaven’. There is no reason at all to link this scene with a ‘rapture’ and there are many uses of the word taken (Grk. paralambano) in the NT, none of which have the usage suggested by ‘rapture’ teachers.
  • It is unclear for the casual reader who is ‘taken’ and who is ‘left’, but when we look at the whole discourse e.g., v.39, it is much more likely that those ‘taken’ means the wicked.
  • This is confirmed by Jesus’ parable Matthew 13:49: “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous . . . .”  
  • The context here –as we saw in verses 16 and 19–clearly shows this is a Judean agricultural scene that cannot fit with modern times. This proves that dispensational teaching is error.

42-44. Therefore be on alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.For this reason, you also must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. 

  • The parousia of the Son of Man means judgment. Jesus does not use the phrase ‘I will return’ which suggests a visible, physical coming like his first. Rather he consistently declares to the disciples ‘I will come!’—see his warnings of his coming to four of the seven congregations in Rev 2:5,13; 3:3,8.
  • These sentences stress the suddenness of his coming, so alertness is constantly needed.
  • Luke’s parallel account adds that the believers will escape all that is about to happen by watching and praying (Luke 21:36) —and not through any ‘secret rapture’!

45-51. “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect himand at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  • ‘Note ‘not coming for a long time’—even the servant in the story would not be expecting the timing of this advent to be 2000+ years in the future but certainly within his lifetime! This urgent warning confirms the true intent of Jesus’ prophetic word that ‘this generation will not pass away until all these things take place’ (24:34)—it will not be ‘a long time’.
  • To stress further, Jesus again hints that he will come on a day when he does not expect himand at an hour which he does not know, repeating what he said already (in verse 36).
  • The Lord expected His disciples to be active and ‘put in charge’—He had given them authority and urgent work to do amongst the Jews—see Matthew 10:23: ‘But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes’.
  • After He comes at the end of the age, that is the current Mosaic age, His servants who have acted sensibly and faithfully will be blessed and given extra responsibilities (Eph 4:11ff, Rom 12:6ff) in the proclamation of the risen Christ and his kingdom. Life will continue beyond the end of ‘this’ Mosaic age and into the New Covenant age, and is not the end of the world.

Conclusion

It is absurd to think that what was ‘near’ for these disciples can be ‘near’ for us today.

The end which the Jews expected was not the end of the world but the end of an age—they understood that there was ‘this age’ and the ‘age to come’—see Matthew 12:32.

Many believers today vainly suppose that the “last days” refers to the end of the gospel era. Such a belief leads to expecting a future of defeat with many people falling away and an apostate church while Satan’s kingdom triumphs, then leading to a powerless army of God and the disappearance of authentic Christianity as time goes on. Such a view promotes despair and an escape mentality.

Instead, we are called to bear witness to Jesus and his matchless character and power and authority at the right hand of the majesty on high. He is present with us, his new creation, his holy nation, within our lives, at home in our hearts, in a new covenant! We can be glad we do not face what they call ‘the great tribulation’ and that we will not be ‘left behind’. We rejoice at the way that all Jesus’ predictions, all of them, that we read here in the Olivet discourse have come true in amazing detail. Glory to God and to the Lamb forever for He shall reign forever, His kingdom an everlasting kingdom.

Of course, there will be still an ultimate ‘last day’ when Jesus will exercise His royal judgment overall. For Christians, a significant portion of that future judgment will concern what we have done in the meantime, during the messianic age. Instead of wasting our time, waiting for Jesus to ‘return’ and longing for a rapture, we are to be busy about His business, expectant of the Holy Spirit at work in the world through us.

Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24:31-39

Continuing our close look at the amazing account of Jesus answering the questions of His disciples.

 31. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

  • Angelic sending and gathering: there is no time reference given here and it does not have to follow that this gathering of the elect applies only at the time of the events described in v.30. Such angelic activity can continue as God gathers His elect from all places worldwide.
  • Trumpet: See Isa 24:12b-13: ‘you, O Israelites, will be gathered one by one. In that day the great trumpet will sound . . .’
  • Angels gather: a spiritual gathering; Jesus foretold a new ‘nation’ (Mat 21:43, 1 Pet 2:9)

reflected in the heavenly Jerusalem of Heb 12:22ff and Eph 1:20, 2:6 which continues today.

  • Alternatively, the Greek word ‘angelloi’ messengers, could instead mean the apostles and witnesses who spread the gospel everywhere, so gathering the elect—foretold in Isa 11:12.
  • Note John 11:48-52 where high priest Caiaphas prophesied four things: ‘that one man die for the people, that the whole nation not perish, that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and that ‘Jesus would gather together into one (nation) the children of God.’ Extraordinary!

32-33. “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, know that He is near, right at the door. 

  • Fig tree parable: Just as tender branches and the appearance of leaves are two signs that summer is near, so you (these hearers) know (Greek ginoskete usually translates ‘know’), thus to ‘see’ with understanding. He has foretold of several things—all these things.
  • when you see: (Grk ideti) does not necessarily mean ‘see’ with eyesight but ‘know.’ You see?
  • all these things: some say there could be centuries between earlier events and his coming—but the text uses the phrase all these things (Greek, panta tauta) following one after another as we saw; the discourse is a unity as Jesus answers the disciples’ ‘when’ question.
  • Jesus explicitly told them ‘you too, when you will see all these things’. How can that be possible unless they or some of these hearers are still alive when he comes?
  • near, right at the door: The word near, Greek ‘eggus’ and the phrase ‘right at the doors’ strongly implies imminence. It is beyond absurdity to insist on a 2000 plus years gap. An event cannot be near for 2,000 years, nor it can it be near 2,000 years ago and “at hand” today. Let us put ourselves in the disciples’ shoes! It cannot be sincerely held that God’s avenging judgments on the Jews of that generation would be delayed for 2000 years. See Hebrews 8:13:  ‘When He said [Jeremiah 31], “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready [Grk eggus = near, imminent] to disappear’. So when does it totally disappear if when this was written it was still somewhat present? Did not our author think ‘very soon’?

34. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass awayuntil all these things take place.

  • Truly: Jesus again uses the word amen, assuredly, as if to say ‘you just won’t believe this’.
  • This generation: To attempt to put the parousia in the future some scholars say Jesus meant ‘that generation’, i.e., an unknown future generation which is meaningless. As we saw above (v.25), Jesus warned the disciples of his generation beforehand so they would be prepared.
  • all these things: There will be some still alive who will ‘see’ (know) what He described take place; this includes His coming and indicated how soon He would come.
  • This phrase all these things (panta tauta) is identical to that in the previous verse.  
  • Many commentators and writers have been unable to accept these words of Jesus and plead many different and fanciful explanations, e.g., “generation” means Jewish race, not contemporaries. This dishonours Jesus’ integrity and causes many to stumble and doubt the veracity of the scriptures. Many people from atheists to Moslems have claimed Jesus was a false prophet because they take his words literally, while many brainwashed Christian teachers today find ways around His plain speech because of set, preconceived doctrine. Some modern scholars, thought Jesus made a mistake. Even C S Lewis misunderstood Jesus’ words, assuming He spoke of the end of the world. See his book of essays, “The World’s Last Night”. Harvest Books; (Nov 4, 2002).  
  • What hermeneutical keys can be validly used to show Jesus’ meant a future “final state”?
  • What meaning naturally, logically, arises from our Lord’s prophetic statement? These disciples took His words literally; they knew he meant what he said and said what he meant.
  • Those who cannot take this literally, also stumble over Matthew 10:23b and Matthew 16:28.
  • Millions who can’t believe Jesus came unseen to the human eye, yet believe in the sure and current presence of the Lord Jesus in their spiritual lives—they ‘see’ his presence by faith!

35. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

  • This sovereign, emphatic declaration emphasises the importance, plainness and certainty of all His words including v.34, where the phrase “pass away” is used and repeated by Jesus here. One day heaven and earth as we know it will pass away but Jesus’ words remain forever and ever just as Psalm 119:160 says of God.
  • The Bible has an eternal perspective—past, present and future. And those who trust and follow Him will find themselves part of the future ages with the Lord forever, incorruptible, not a mere 1000 years on a corruptible, earthly, fleshly, Jewish world as taught by many.

36.But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son but the Father alone. 

  • That day and hour: Jesus could not give the disciples, who had asked ‘when?’ (v.3), the day or hour, but only its certainty. He did not use the plural ‘days’ as if it could be serialised, split up. Nor did he say ‘of that century and year’ as if it was far in the distant future.
  • This is the dramatic climax of ‘all these things’ Heinrich Meyer wrote in his 1832 critical commentary: “That the second advent itself is intended to be included is likewise evident from Mat 24:36, in which the subject of the day and hour of the advent is introduced”.

37-39. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 

  • They did not understand until it was too late and they were the ones taken away in the Noah account—those not believing and watching were taken while just eight were saved.
  • The coming: Greek is ‘parousia’: a better translation is ‘presence’ or ‘visitation’, a period, not an action (verb). This parousia will be a devastating judgment on fleshly Israel and importantly, the confirmation of the New Covenant, a new creation.
  • Jesus likens what is coming on the unbelieving Jews with the enormous wrath upon people of Noah’s day: Heb 10:28-30 makes it clear that for anyone to regard as unclean the blood of the new covenant has insulted the Spirit of grace will bring ‘much severe punishment’ about to come on this evil and unbelieving generation who rejected and killed their Messiah.
  • His coming will be just like the Noah visitation—there was no visible physical presence of God then, nor at any of the other judgment events recorded in the Old Testament.

Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24:20-30

Continuing our close look at the amazing account of Jesus answering the questions of His disciples.

20-21. But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath . For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.  

  • The warning is for the people of the generation he is addressing—it is ‘your flight’. Jesus was not warning people two millennia hence, but to people who observe the Sabbath, Jews.
  • To imagine that Jesus was referring to an event in the distant future is to question the truth of his prophecy which forsaw “yourflight” and observers of the Jewish Sabbath.
  • Jesus does not know the timing of this (see v.36) so he warns these disciples accordingly. The warning applied only to his disciples of his own generation.
  • There will be utter devastation and terrible suffering then. The eyewitness historian Josephus confirmed the terrible depth of horror of the incomparable events of 68-70 AD, having no restraint describing the chaotic, dreadful events in his famous ‘Wars of the Jews’.
  • Jesus’ term nor ever will shows this will not be the end of the world—again, no fleeing then!
  • Luke 23:27-31 shows us that Jesus, on the way to the cross, said to the weeping crowds and women “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.For behold, days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are those who cannot bear, and the wombs that have not given birth, and the breasts that have not nursed.” They must be very concerned for terrible events would happen in their own generation.

22.  Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.  

  • Those days are days of great trouble; they are limited, cut short, and the elect, the obedient believers, who are still living, will escape it in their flight.
  • Again, human life will continue after the days are cut short—it’s not the world’s end!
  • History records several temporary cessations of the assaults by the Roman army when the elect, those who follow Jesus, would have had the opportunity to escape from Judea.
  • Jesus was not prophesying about some event far in the future but much sooner events.
  • This escape has little to do with a ‘rapture’ of 1 Thes 4:17 where Paul there gives absolutely no hint of anyone fleeing anything, but being united with Jesus forever.

23-25.  Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if it were possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you in advance.

  • You: Jesus warns these disciples about misreading the timing and nature of His coming. He warns them, his generation, to have such an expectation—not future millions of believers.
  • False prophets’ signs will be so powerful misleading many, but as Albert Barnes commented (1870) “His real friends would be too firmly established in the belief that he was the Christ.”
  • Many rabbis then practised sorcery, e.g., flames seemed to come out of Barcochab’s mouth (John Gill’s Commentary). We read of Simon Magus & Elymas in Acts 8:9-11,13:6. Magic arts practice was widespread.

26. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.

  • He continues to warn them to ignore reported sightings of him; such places like ‘wilderness’ and ‘the inner rooms’ can’t possibly fit any description of a future end of the entire world.
  • His coming will not be observable. Jesus had told the Pharisees, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed . . .  “(Luke 17:20) which reminds us that His coming will not be seen by physical eyes though it will be experienced and understood.

27. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

  • There is no break in Jesus’ warning—when he comes in judgment it will be understood by all and swift like lightning, and be ‘seen’ as widespread (‘from the east to the west’)—not in any inner room or special place. Lightning is sudden, unpredictable, lasts only for milliseconds.
  •  It is limited geographically to a region—as the region of Judea—not the entire planet. The Roman historian Tacitus reported, “sudden lightning from the clouds lit up the Temple.” Histories ch. 5 sect. 13 AD 109 and “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour.”
  • Lightning often shows God’s power in the OT, e.g. Job 37:3 ‘He sends it (his voice) out under the whole sky, and his lightning to the ends of the earth.’ Also Job 26:13, Pss 97:4, 77:18.
  • Coming: The Greek word here is parousia, a noun meaning visitation.
  • Son of Man: When Jesus answered the disciples’ questions he kept referring to himself in the 3rd person and not the 1st, as “the Son of Man” (Mat 24:30, 36, 39; cf. Mat 16:27-28).

28. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 

  • The corpse: the carcass of the Jewish nation, especially Jerusalem.
  • vultures: Josephus described multitudes of corpses piled up in Jerusalem during the Roman invasion—graphic evidence of God’s judgment everywhere. Vultures gather after battles.
  • Birds eating human flesh is a judgment motif in O.T. e.g. Ezek 32:3-4, 39:1-5, Rev 19:21.
  • In Luke’s account, Jesus answers the disciples’ question of those left behind in Judea and killed ‘where to Lord?’ answering ‘where the body is there also will the eagles be gathered’ (Luke 17:36). Again, this is a Judean, Roman conquest context, not the world’s end.

29. “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

  • Immediately: Another time stamp—there is no delay after the tribulation ends and is then closely followed by the ‘appearance’ in v.30, no gap. Cf Mark 13:24 ‘but in those days’.   
  • Stars falling: Collapsing of cosmic entities is a common motif in judgment prophecy, e.g. Isa 13:10, 19:1,24:18-20, 34;8-15, Ezek 32:7–8; Joel 2:28; Nah 1:3; Pss 18, 104:3) and this would be understood by informed Jews familiar with the prophets.

30. And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  

  • And then. Another timestamp—the remarkable number of these shows an unbroken sequence of all the things Jesus foretold, one after another, not split up over millennia.
  • The sign of the Son of Man: It is the sign that appears in heaven, not the Son of Man.
  • Cf.Daniel 7:13: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.”
  • The Son of Man is not seen in the sky but ‘seen’ seated in the heavenlies (Grk. oranaos)! Stephen said to the Sanhedrin, at his trial,I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
  • tribes of the land (Greek, epi tes ges) that is tribes of Israel. These Jews mourn because of the realisation of judgment—a Judean context, so there is no worldwide mourning. For Jews there is only one ‘land’—the land of Israel promised by God to Abraham.
  • Note the change to the 3rd person—‘they’; those who will ’see’ includes the high priest and those who have rejected the Messiah, cf Rev 1:7, Zech 12:10. Second Century Historian Hegesippus wrote that James (Jesus’ brother) proclaimed Jesus to the Pharisees saying: “He himself sits in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.” The Pharisees then killed him.
  • they will see: This cannot be forced to mean to ‘see’ with physical eyes as a visible event but they will understand the staggering, horrifying truth of God’s judgment. Jesus’ second coming could never be seen optically, as He sits at the right hand of power and “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16).
  • Daniel Moraiswrote: Christ was invisible as the brightness of His presence was masked by the Glory Cloud, thick dark storm clouds, as was the case during the coming of the Lord in 2 Sam 22:8-15, Isa 66:15-16, Psalms 18:6-16, 50:3, 97:1-5, 144:5. Also judgment on cities in the past according to the Hebrew prophets—the brightness of his presence seemingly being masked by the thick, dark clouds of the Glory Cloud.
  • The visible destruction of Jerusalem and its temple will be the sign that the Son of Man reigns in heaven having ascended to the Father. His throne and reign is taught by the whole New Testament as heavenly, spiritual, not earthly or fleshly. Natural, fleshly Israel, with its temple worship, sacrificial system, priesthood, all will disappear.
  • Jesus told the high priest at his mock trial: “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mat 26:64). Jesus expected the high priest would be alive and recognise the coming of the Son of Man!
  • Jesus’ coming would be marked not by his visibility, but by much visible phenomenon, e.g. storm clouds hiding his glory, Psalm 18:6-16.  Remarkably, Josephus, Eusebius, Tacitus and the Talmud variously recorded that trumpets and angelic voices were heard and supernatural activity observed around the time of the end of Jerusalem and its temple. See Albert Barnes’ commentary. These are historical facts, taking place 2000 years ago.

Matthew 24:10-21

We continue our examination of how Jesus answered the two questions put to Him by the disciples on Mt Olivet.

10. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.

  • Note the change to the 3rd person. All of these things would take place within the lifetimes of the apostles as we read in Acts and many Letters of the NT.

11-12. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

  • many: there would be much apostasy, hatred, false prophets, deception, lawlessness, whereas the ‘one’ of v.13 to be saved from the terrible tribulation about to come.

13. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

  • the end. Jesus did not talk about the end of time. Believers of his generation would endure suffering and were warned to be faithful to an ‘end’ which they could foresee and survive.

14. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. 

  • This gospel: it isthe gospel of the kingdom which was already proclaimed at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as we read in the early chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
  • world: Grkoikomene’= inhabited world—this was accomplished by the apostles before the end, the end of the Mosaic age –see Rom 1:8, 10:18, 15:19, Col 1:6, 1 Thess 1:8.
  • Then the end will come: Jesus answered the disciples’ when-question, so that they would be able to discern ‘the end’. Note what Jesus did not prophesy, not the end of time or the world.
  • Nations: Grk ‘ethne’, here means people groups, not as our modern concept of nations.

15.“Therefore when you see the Abomination of Desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),

  • Abomination of Desolation: Jesus referred to the abomination which Daniel spoke of (Dan 9:27, 11:31, 12:11) –a most critically serious event to be repeated and then at the end.
  • the reader:  The unique and fascinating writer’s note to his readers (bracketed in most translations) underscores the seriousness of the situation and that it is connected to the sign of the end and the deliverance of the faithful from the coming tribulation. This proves Jesus’ words were remembered and recorded and were deliberately intended to be read by believers of that generation and acted upon before the end of the age as we can see from history (AD 66-70) and by them escaping “to the mountains”.
  • It is clear Jesus was not prophesying about some event far in the future but soon events to people of his generation. So let the modern reader understand—history!
  • Here are two more time markers: 1st, when the disciples see this, and 2nd, what they must do.

16. then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 

  • This was the signal to the disciples to flee to escape the coming great tribulation which Jesus will refer to next  (v.17).
  • The geographical description is local, Judean, not global, and cannot support some distant future event. History shows they fled to Pella, a city of the Decapolis in Trans-Jordan.
  • Luke adds that when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, they would know its destruction was near (21:20)—He instructed that “those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.” (21:21) If they don’t flee they will be the ones left behind!—see v.28.
  • Luke further adds “because these are the days of vengeance that all things written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22). It is vengeance against the apostate nation of which Moses forewarned long ago (please see Deuteronomy 28:34-68; 29:22-28).

17-19. Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things that are in his house.  Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.  But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!  

  • For those who hear and understand what Jesus has just said, there will not be time to go back for anything, so serious is the imminent threat of the destruction—they must flee.
  • This warning comes straight after the “abomination” reference allowing time to escape.
  •  The scene is local, rural, Judean and does not fit any end of the world context. Jesus did not prophesy the end of the world—there would be no one ‘fleeing’ anywhere then!

20-21. But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.  

  • The warning is for the people of the generation he is addressing—it is ‘your flight’. Jesus was not warning people two millennia hence, but to people who observe the Sabbath, Jews.
  • To imagine that Jesus was referring to an event in the distant future is to question the truth of his prophecy which forsaw “yourflight” and observers of the Jewish Sabbath.
  • Jesus does not know the timing of this (see v.36) so he warns these disciples accordingly. The warning applied only to his disciples of his own generation.
  • There will be utter devastation and terrible suffering then. The eyewitness historian Josephus confirmed the terrible depth of horror of the incomparable events of 68-70 AD, having no restraint describing the chaotic, dreadful events in his famous ‘Wars of the Jews’.
  • Jesus’ term nor ever will shows this will not be the end of the world—again, no fleeing then!
  • Luke 23:27-31 shows us that Jesus, on the way to the cross, said to the weeping crowds and women “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.For behold, days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are those who cannot bear, and the wombs that have not given birth, and the breasts that have not nursed.” They must be very concerned for terrible events would happen in their own generation.

To be continued . . . . . . .