Skip to comments.Letting the Bible Speak for Itself—The Literal Meaning of “This Generation”
Posted on 07/19/2005 7:07:09 AM PDT by topcat54
From Gary DeMar's multi-part response to Ed Hindson's article in the May 2005 issue of the National Liberty Journal on the topic of "The New Last Days Scoffers".
When Jesus answered His disciples' questions about "when these things" related to the temple's destruction would be and what signs would indicate His coming, He said, "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32). "This generation," therefore, is the timing key. If we can know what the Bible means by "this generation," we can determine the timing of the events Jesus describes. Every time "this generation" is used in the Gospels, it always refers to the generation of people who were alive when Jesus spoke. "This generation" never means a future generation. Thomas Ice, an associate professor of Religion at Liberty University and the Liberty Theological Seminary, in a radio debate with me, admitted that each use of "this generation" in the Gospels, except the one used in Matthew 24:34, refers to the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. In his written debate with Kenneth L. Gentry, Ice writes: "It is true that every other use of 'this generation' in Matthew (11:16; 12:41-42, 45; 23:36) refers to Christ's contemporaries, but that is determined by observation from each of their contexts, not from the phrase itself." This means that seventeen times it means Jesus' contemporaries, and one time it means a future generation. William Lane disagrees:
"[T]his generation" clearly designates the contemporaries of Jesus (see on Chs. 8:12, 38; 9:19) and there is no consideration from the context which lends support to any other proposal. Jesus solemnly affirms that the generation contemporary with his disciples will witness the fulfillment of his prophetic word, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the dismantling of the Temple.
Like he does with Acts 2:16, Ice must add words to Matthew 24:34 to get it to say what he needs it to say. For example, in Charting the End Times, Ice and LaHaye reconstruct Matthew 24:34 to read this way: "The generation that 'sees' these things will not pass away till all is fulfilled." In the LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, of which Ed Hindson is one of the editors, the verse is given this treatment: "[T]he future generation that will live to see all the signs listed in the previous verses fulfilled in their lifetime" will not pass away until all is fulfilled. The near demonstrative "this" is removed, and from 5 to 19 words are added to make the verse refer to a future generation. And this is interpreting the Bible literally? Hindson writes the following in the Liberty Bible Commentary:
[T]he previously listed signs will continue to multiply throughout the Church Age and reach their ultimate climax at the end of the age in the generation of those who will live to see the entire matter fulfilled in their lifetime.
There is nothing in the entire context of the Olivet Discourse that says anything like this. Dr. Hindson is reading his dispensationalism into the chapter. William Sanford LaSor writes, "If 'this generation' is taken literally, all of the predictions were to take place within the life-span of those living at that time." D.A. Carson takes a similar position: "[This generation] can only with the greatest difficulty be made to mean anything other than the generation living when Jesus spoke. . . . [T]o make 'this generation' refer to . . . the generation of believers alive when eschatological events start to happen, is highly artificial." There you have it. If Matthew 24:34 is interpreted literally, it refers to the generation to whom Jesus was speaking.
Matthew 24:33 tells us as much: "even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door" (Matt. 24:33). The first use of "you" certainly refers to Jesus' first-century audience. So why wouldn't the second use of "you" refer to the same audience? Hindson comments that this verse "has caused some to speculate that these predicted events only relate to the coming destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, within the disciples' lifetime." He doesn't explain why this is not what it means except to reference commentaries by John Walvoord and R.C.H. Lenski whose explanations are convoluted and do not deal with the way "this generation" is used elsewhere in the Gospels.
You will notice that Matthew 24:34 expressly states that it's "this generation" that will not pass away until all the things listed in the previous verses take place. How significant is the use of "this" rather than the non-specific definite article "the" that is substituted by Hindson, LaHaye, and Ice? The use of "this" in the NT tells us that what's being identified is near either in time or distance. By changing "this" to "the," the entire meaning of the verse changes. Instead of a specific generation, it now reads as if it could be any generation. "This" is a near demonstrative, and as the name suggests points "to someone or something 'near,' in close proximity." Near demonstratives "appear as the singular word 'this' and its plural 'these.' The distant demonstratives, as their name suggests, appear as 'that' (singular), or 'those' (plural)." The near demonstrative "this" is used nearly 950 times in the NT, and it always refers "to something comparatively near at hand, just as ekeinos [that] refers to something comparatively farther away."
Hiding the Truth at Liberty
Meet the Real Last Days Scoffers
When All Else Fails, Use the A WordAnti-Semitism!
The Dark Side of Dispensational Theology The Future Jewish Holocaust
Making the Bible Say Its OppositeTaking a Closer Look at the Time Texts
Letting the Bible Speak for ItselfThe Literal Meaning of This Generation
If anyone wishes to be placed on a Reformed Eschatology ping list, please drop me a note.
Of course, Dick was somewhat unbalanced. And a Gnostic.
What? You mean men such as LaHaye and Lindsey are just trying to sell books? I'm floored! /sarcasm
Thank you for the ping - this is sure to make some on this forum grumble.
Thessalonians - Chapter 2
2Th 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him,
2Th 2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
2Th 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2Th 2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
2Th 2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
2Th 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
2Th 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way.
2Th 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
2Th 2:9 [Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
2Th 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
2Th 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
2Th 2:12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
1Th 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
1Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
1Th 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1Th 4:17 Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1Th 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians - Chapter 5
1Th 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
1Th 5:2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
1Th 5:3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
1Th 5:4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
1Th 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
1Th 5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as [do] others; but let us watch and be sober.
1Th 5:7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
1Th 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
1Th 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
1Th 5:10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
1Th 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
Please place me on the Reformed Eschatology ping list if I'm not already there. You've certainly have made me a "believer".
Please include my name on the Reformed Eschatology ping list. Many times I have looked for and enjoyed reading your posts. I appreciate your scholarship and the patience you have exhibited.
It's also pretty obvious that someone is seeking to vitiate the concept of the "end times". Why? For the same reason someone is trying to eliminate the concept that Jesus was a real person, homosexuality is wrong, and a host of other departures from the plain words and meaning of the Scriptures.
Mat 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Mat 24:16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Mat 24:17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
Mat 24:18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
Revelation - Chapter 21
Rev 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a NEW earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were PASSED AWAY; and there was no more sea.
Rev 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Rev 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God.
Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Rev 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
Rev 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
It is not so obvious. What is "obvious" to you could merely be a hung up on a presupposition about how you interpret the things found in Matt. 24, etc.
What is obvious is that such a definition of "this generation" does not fit with how Jesus used it everywhere else in the gospels.
It's also pretty obvious that someone is seeking to vitiate the concept of the "end times".
Hardly. It's simply an attempt to be honest with the text, and to not jump to unwarranted conclusions about how things ought to be.
BTW, "end times" is not a phrase found in the Bible. The Bible speaks of things like the "last days" and make it plain that the days of Jesus and the apostles were included in the time of the "last days".
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;" (Heb. 1:1,2)
"Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)
"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams." (Acts 2:14-17)
Matt 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Is it your rigid definition of "this generation" that allows you to exclude Matt 24:30 from the "all these things" in verse 33 and 34?
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
i wonder what one would see as the PLAIN MEANING of those texts, that is to say WITHOUT redefining the seven churches as seven different church types...and just where is the warrent for that type of redefinition in the text?
Thanks for the great links, Topcat.
Pinging a couple other seekers to the good news.
You have just accused a fruitful and faithful servant of God of condoning sodomy, denying the Incarnation, and disbelieving the Bible. Simply because he disagrees with your elaborate multi-colored imaginary map to the future.
When the weak point of a theological system is threatened, all the strengths thereof rush to its defense -- and assume that the doubter does not share those same root convictions.
A wise man caught in the act of bearing false witness against his brother repents before God and apologizes to the sinned-against brother.
Attention to this verse: And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
What of that?
This verse: For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Did this come to pass?
Also this: For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
The Son of Man was already there and talking to them, wasn't He?
How about this: Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken
And this:And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Did any of this happen during Jesus' generation?
Obviously, "this generation" means the generation that sees the beginning of these things.
Yep, nothin' but good times ahead. Golden age.
Can you point to all the events that Jesus told His disciples about coming to pass in the generation fo Jesus? Read the passages, then show me in history where those passages happened.
If they did not happen as He said, then He is either a liar, false prophet or speaking of a time in the future. Which is it?