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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Meaning of "This Generation" in Matthew 24:34

The meaning of "this generation" in Matthew 24:34 bothers preterists often. They think that it has to be about that specific generation in that time or else Jesus is a liar and did not come back in 70 AD and all of the Bible is false. This needs not be the case though. Genea can mean

  1. fathered, birth, nativity
  2. that which has been begotten, men of the same stock, a family
    1. the several ranks of natural descent, the successive members of a genealogy
    2. metaph. a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character
      1. esp. in a bad sense, a perverse nation
  3. the whole multitude of men living at the same time
  4. an age (i.e. the time ordinarily occupied be each successive generation), a space of 30 - 33 years

The best translation may not be the most woodenly literal one to take here as preterist are prone to do and when you go look at how the Early Church looked at this word, it becomes clear that they did not see it to have to mean a 40 year generation as preterists contend. Matter of fact, "genea" does not have to be referring to a 40 year generation period of people. If one goes and studies patristics and how they viewed the Scriptures, you will find that Saints Chrysostom, Jerome, and some various others teach that it doesn't actually mean that and that its meaning is more in line with the words for "race" or "nation" which are interconnected as if you were part of a nation you were part of that nation's "race". We in our modern age get a little weirded out about hearing the word "race" thinking it has to do with something such as racism, but back then it was seen that if you were for example, a member of Christianity you were part of the Christian race. The same is true of Judaism and well... Jews still exist today contrary to some full preterists' claims to the contrary. Matter of fact, by 80 AD the Great Sanhedrin had already reformed and rebuilt itself. Matthew 24:34 can thus be translated: "This people or this nation or this race (the Jews) will not pass away until all things are fulfilled."

I used to be so very bothered by this with my such woodenly literal translation but after talking with Greeks who speak the language and doing more overall studying I have to say that I definitely agree with the likes of someone like Apostolos Makrakis who got this view largely from juggernauts of the faith like St. John Chrysostom and Jerome. AD 70 was seen by the Church to be a judgment on Jerusalem. There is no doubt about this. It was not the end of it all however. It was not the 2nd Coming etiher nor the resurrection of the dead. That is in the future.


“By generation Christ means the unbelieving race of the Jews. The unbelieving race of the Jews will exist upon the earth until all of the prophecies are fulfilled form the days of Christ until His second appearance and coming to the earth when even the unbelieving race of the Jews will say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Heaven and earth shall pass away because they shall be renewed and we shall see new heavens and a new earth, but the words of Christ shall not pass away before they are fulfilled. ” Interpretation of the Gospel of Matthew-

-George Leo Haydock-
This generation; i.e. the nation of the Jews shall not cease to exist, until all these things shall be accomplished: thus we see the nation of the Jews still continue, and will certainly continue to the end of the world. (Tirinus) Then the cross, which has been a scandal to the Jew, and a stumbling-block to the Gentile, shall appear in the heavens, for the consolation of the good Christian. Hoc signum crucis erit in coelo, cum Dominus ad judicandum venerit. If it be to be understood of the destruction of Jerusalem, the sense may be, this race of men now living; if of the last day of judgment, this generation of the faithful, saith Theophylactus, shall be continued: i.e. the Church of Christ, to the end of the world. (Witham) This race, I tell you in very truth, shall not pass away till all this be finally accomplished in the ruin of Jerusalem, the most express figure of the destruction and end of the world. (Bible de Vence) By generation, our Saviour does not mean the people that were in existence at that time, but the faithful of his Church; thus says the psalmist: this is the generation of them that seek the Lord. (Psalm xxiii, ver. 6.) (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxvii.)

-St. John Chrysostom-

“Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place.” All these things. What things? Those about Jerusalem, those about the wars, about the famines, about the pestilences, about the earthquakes, about the false Christs, about the false prophets, about the sowing of the gospel everywhere, the seditions, the tumults, and all the other things which we said were to occur until his coming. What does he refer to when he says “this generation”? He is speaking not of the generation then living but of the age of believers. For he is prone to distinguish a generation not by times only but also by the mode of their religious service and practice, as when he says, “Such is the generation of those that seek him.” He said “all these things will take place,” and yet “the gospel will be preached.” These two are not inconsistent. The generation of the faithful shall remain through all things that will surely come to pass. The faithful will not be cut off by any of the things that have been mentioned. For both Jerusalem shall be destroyed and a large part of the Jews shall be decimated, but over this generation—the faithful—shall nothing prevail, not famine, not pestilence, not earthquake, not the tumults of wars, not false Christs, not false prophets, not deceivers, not traitors, not those that cause to offend, not the false brothers, nor any other such temptation whatever. -The Gospel of Matthew, Homily-

Couple this understanding of Mt 24:34 with Luke 21 and specifically 21:24

"And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."

Then Romans 11:25-27 and Matt 24:31 and it makes perfect sense along with John 6 regarding the Last Day of Judgment.

"25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt 24:31)

This will not work otherwise if we are honest with the text as the Scriptures teach a literal bodily return of Christ and do teach a real resurrection of the dead and an ushering in of a new exalted reality when Christ truly returns in the 2nd Coming and changes the cosmos transfiguring it into a new exalted reality that ends the problem of evil, gets rid of sin, evil, and all that is wrong with the world and a full deep communion with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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