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Matthew 24:34 says "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.".

I am a Christian, and it is my duty to seek out truth, not plainly accept what I hear or what other people say it is. So I've read this verse, and it really had me confused. Taking it by word and its plain meaning. I can read this as:

  • 'this generation' = people He was talking to
  • 'these things' = judgement day/end times

It's clearly obvious that 'this generation' have already passed away, his disciples/followers/people at that time are already dead by now, and the world hasn't come to an end yet. What does this verse really mean?

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I think this is related and good to read as a reference, but not the same question at all: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/24577/… –  The Freemason Mar 25 '14 at 12:09
    
Related question, based on parallel passage (Mark 13): here. –  user16825 Nov 28 '14 at 15:35
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Do you want to look at it from a historical or a theological point of view? If you consider it from a purely historical perspective, then it's pretty clear that it means just what it sounds like--Jesus is going to come back before that generation of people all died. This is clear from the fact that many, perhaps most early Christians expected the return of Jesus within their own lifetimes (see, for instance, 1Thes 4:13-18 and 2Pet 3:3-7). On the other hand, if you want a theological interpretation, you have many choices, a few of which are given in the various answers below. –  anonymous Jun 10 at 18:11

11 Answers 11

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The word "generation" there in Greek is γενεα (genea), which can also refer to a family, stock, nation. (Strongs, definition 2b) The NASB also has a footnote here next to "generation" saying "Or race". I've always interpreted it, therefore, as meaning that the Jewish people will continue to exist until the second coming.

Another form of the same word, γενος, is used in 1 Peter 2:9 where the KJV says "But ye are a chosen generation..." and the NASB, NRSV, ESV, pretty much all the modern translations, say "But you are a chosen race..."

Some people object to this interpretation because of the other verses that are clearly talking about the people of that time not dying until they see the kingdom come.

Matthew 16:28 "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom."

Mark 9:1 "And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."

Luke 9:27 "But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God."

But I maintain that these are about the coming of the kingdom in the form of the establishment of the church on Pentecost, whereas Matthew 24:34 is about the end of the world. And so I believe they are speaking about different groups of people. You will notice also that these other verses don't use the word "generation."

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Interestingly the note I refer to in the NASB is found on biblegateway.com but not in my hard copy of the NASB. However, both online and my hard copy of the NLT has a similar note "Or this age, or this nation." –  david brainerd Mar 25 '14 at 3:57
    
So do you see somewhere in Matt. 24 about the church and Pentecost? I just don't see it, because He's answering the question of when the temple will be torn down. –  Steve Sep 15 '14 at 0:06
    
Good answer, it can be also be interrupted that some of them saw the kingdom of God when Peter, James and John were at the mont of transfiguration. The kingdom of God as seen with Jesus in full glory, with Moses representing the righteous dead and Enoch the righteous living. –  Beestocks Mar 31 at 0:41

It refers to the fall of Jerusalem in AD70, when the Kingdom was taken away from the Jews and given to a nation (the Church of God, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles) bringing forth its fruits; and the Jewish dispensation was shaken out as it had been shaken in, but we receive(d) a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

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This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. On this site, we're not looking for personal interpretation, but rather focusing on what various Christian groups teach. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Apr 1 '14 at 4:40

See the verse in sequence with the previous verses to place it in its plainest context:

In verses 29-31, Jesus is talking about the tribulation of those days, the stars falling, His return, and the angels. This is to answer the portion of disciple's question in Matt. 24:3, "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" In verses 29-31, Jesus gave the events that signal His coming.

In the next two verses, Jesus mentioned that when you see the fig leaves grow it's a sign that summer is near; likewise when you see these end-time signs, you know that His coming is near.

Matthew 24:33-34

so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

In other words, Jesus is just continuing what He was talking about, that when the signs happen, the generation that sees the signs will see all of them; they will all occur within one generation; that generation will remain alive, will not pass away, and see all the signs and the Lord's coming because they will happen near in time to each other.

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Matt 24 is answering 2 questions - so the clue is knowing when Jesus is talking about which thing.

The key in greek is the start of verse 36 with the use of the words "peri de" which means in simplified english - "now the other".

Up to verse 36 its all about the destruction of Jerusalem including much figurative language similar to old testament prophecies about the destruction of bablylone, edom, egypt etc. It does sound like the end of the world, but its not - its the end of the age of Judaism. Its the end of old covenant dealings. The greek word is aeon which means age, and not cosmos (world)

From verse 36 on its answering the second question about Jesus return - of which there is very little he knew to share.... its pretty much a mystery. He did say when he returns that people would not be expecting him. Which is pretty much the opposite of now, where everyone seems to think he will return any moment.

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Matthew 24 is dedicated to end time events. Continuing to verse 35, But the day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. These verses are referring to the generation that sees the signs of his coming. The generation that witnesses these signs will be the last generation.

Isaiah 13;9-11 Behold the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity: and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.

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How does this answer the question? –  Scott Severance Mar 28 '14 at 0:05
    
I should have been clearer. I will edit the piece. –  V. Rollins Mar 28 '14 at 18:11

This verse could be understood in two ways, either of which is correct:

  1. As the living word of God, this applies to the unfaithful, sinful and yet unrepentant among the generation that sees the last days.
  2. This applies to that generation, i.e. the generation that was hearing the sermon; it's only to us that death seems to be the end, but Jesus Christ showed us that death is only a temporary phenomenon. So indeed, the unfaithful, sinful and yet unrepentant among the generation that Jesus Christ was speaking to, would not pass away permanently until these things happened; they would certainly wake up, face the judgement, and face the second death, which is the real and permanent death.
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I wrote a similar answer to this similar question.


This is my understanding of Matthew 24 (as well as Mark 13 & Luke 21).

'These things' in Mt24.34 refers to the 'these things' of v1-3, namely, the destruction of the then visible buildings. 'That day' refers to the second coming.

Two questions are raised, when will Jerusalem be destroyed, as they have been discussing, and when will the end of the world be. "When will these things be?" In Matt 24 refers to what is seen, the buildings. This happened in 70ad, but the second coming, that day, the end of the world, did not.

In v4-22, Jesus describes the 70ad destruction of Jerusalem. In v23-28, He contrasts this with his second coming. And, in v29-31, he He describes His yet-future second coming. The use of the word 'immediately' in Mt24.29 appears to be an imprecise translation of the Greek word Eutheos, based on other NT witnesses, and should be render simply 'next'. See my answer here for further details on the translation here.

V34 & 36 then make perfect sense. Together, omitting the aside in v35, we read...

All 'these things' (the destruction of the 2nd temple, 70ad, v4-22) will happen within one generation ... but of that day (the end of the world, v29-31) no one knows

Thus, we see it fulfilled perfectly. The things they were discussing happened within 40 years, and the other topic of conversation is yet to come in the church.

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I believe "this generation" refers to the generation that witnessed the beginning of the end times. I think the end times began with the formation of the Jewish nation in 1948. That generation will not pass away until the things Jesus spoke of come to pass.

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This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. Remember that "I believe it means..." isn't an acceptable answer, since this site isn't about personal interpretation. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  Mr. Bultitude Mar 26 at 16:58

Matt 24:24- Amen I say to you, this generation shall NOT pass away until these things have been done.

Generation is understood to be 40 years in Jewish tradition. Jesus was in 3rd year of his ministry putting this at about 30AD- 40 years will put this at 70AD when Nero was persecuting Christians and the Romans destroy the temple in Jerusalem.

Matt 24:15-16 “So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains;

Luke writes something similar:

Luke 21:20- When you see Jerusalem encircled by armies know that desolation is near and flee to the mountains.

While these verses point to destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, it ALSO points to what is to come during the 2nd coming of Christ

The judgment on the temple in Jerusalem is a ‘type’ of what is to come. There will be a general judgment when the temple on heaven will be the temple on earth.

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Matthew 24 is best viewed as a response to chapter 23. Jesus is, of course, the purpose of the Jewish Nation and the Old Testament (Galatians 3:24). Jesus pronounces 7 "woes" on the Jewish establishment in Matthew 23:13-33:

1.Shut up the kingdom of heaven against men (13)

2.Devour widows' houses, pretense make long prayers (14)

3.Make proselytes twice as much a son of hell as themselves (15)

4.Only keep oath sworn by gold of Temple (16-22)

5.Neglected justice and mercy and faith (23)

6.Full of extortion and self-indulgence (24-28)

7.Sons of those who murdered the Prophets (29-33)

He then tells them that He "wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" - Matthew 23:37 After this statement about their unwillingness to come to Him He declares that their "House" will be left "desolate". It is beyond doubt as to what "House" He was speaking of, because His Apostles then began to show Him the buildings of the Temple (Matthew 24:1). In response to this He tells them that "not one stone will be left upon another that will not be thrown down" - 24:2. He is telling them that the Temple and all its buildings would be completely destroyed. Their questions reflect this, "When will these things be?". They also asked, "What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?". In His response He answers all of these questions.
Matthew 24:4-44 is easily divided into 2 sections and we must be careful of the language that He uses. 4-35 speaks regarding the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 while 36-66 speaks of the very end of time. Verse 34 is a valuable "key" in understanding the passage which will help immensely in understanding the passage if we will simply interpret the passage and not seek to fit the passage into our paradigm. Such a thing causes us to try to make Jesus say "this generation" does not mean this generation. Jesus was very clear and, how else would He have needed to say this if He was meaning that generation that was on the earth at that time? The people that He was among at that time, the very ones which He spoke the 7 woes to, would "not pass away until all thee things had taken place".

Let's notice a few things on each side of verse 34:

4-34: Identifiable signs of the events, events of "those days", time of unusual events, advance warnings given, escapable local judgment, example is of a fig tree which put out leaves as a sign of ripening.

36-44: No identifiable signs of event, event is referred to as "that Day", a time of normal events, no advance warning given, inescapable universal judgment, example is of a thief in the night which has no prior warning.

Some view verses 27-31 as speaking of final judgment because of the language used, but this is an unnecessary interpretation.

Verse 27, "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." He is instructing them not to listen to the false prophets (v. 23-26), because His coming in judgment on Jerusalem will be sudden and obvious, like lightning.

Verse 28, "For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together". This type of language had been used many times throughout the Old Testament to refer to judgments of God on a nation. For example: Judah (Dt. 28:26; Jer. 7:32-34; 12:9; 16:3-4, 9; 19:7-8; 34:20; Hab. 1:8); Israel (Hos. 8:1); Moab (Jer. 48:40); Edom (Jer. 49:22); Egypt (Ezek. 29:5; 32:3-6). Also, the standard of roam was the eagle, hence destruction of Jerusalem by that Nation.

Verse 29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken." Once again, grand language, but also common in the Old Testament to talk about God's judgment on an earthly nation. Consider: Judgment on Babylon (Isa. 13:10, 13), Edom (Isa. 34:4-5), Judah (Jer. 4:23-24, 27-28), Egypt (Ezek. 32:7-8), Judah (Joel 2:10, 31), Israel (Amos 8:9). This is simply apocalyptic language, meant to draw attention as if to say, "Listen to this!".

Verse 30, "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." This type of language is used throughout the Old Testament a well, depicting God as coming on the clouds to do certain things: Judgment on Egypt (Isa. 19:1, 4; cf. Ezek. 30:1-5, 18-19; 32:7), Judah (Joel 2:1-2; Zeph. 1:14-16), Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (Jer. 4:11-13; Ezek. 34:12-13), Israel and Judah (Mic. 1:2-7).

Verse 31, "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Here, the language is definitely suggestive of the 2nd coming, but the language does not demand it. There is mentioned Angels, trumpets, and the gathering of the elect. "Angels" simply means "messengers" and the context must dictate whether it refers to "Heavenly messengers"(Jn. 1:51; Rom. 8:38; Heb. 12:28) or "Human messengers" (Mt. 11:10; Mk. 1:2; Lk. 7:24, 27; 9:52; Jas. 2:25). "Trumpets" were associated with the return of the remnant from Babylonian Captivity (Isa. 27:12-13). "Gathering" is the OT language of blessing (Dt. 30:3-4; Isa. 43:5-6; Jer. 32:37; Ezek. 34:13; 36:24; Hos. 1:11). "Four winds" denotes universality (Dt. 30:4; Psa. 22:27; Isa. 11:11-12; 27:12-13; 45:22; 56:8; Jer. 49:36; Ezek. 37:9; Zech. 2:6; Rev. 7:1). Notice how it is put in the parallel passage Luke 21:27, "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

Certainly, the second part, verse 36-44, speaks of final judgment, but the first part speaks of a limited, temporal, escapable judgment that is precluded by signs and is escapable. Hope this helps.

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Welcome to the site. I happen to know a David Wheeler. Does FCA mean anything to you? –  fredsbend Jun 10 at 17:47
    
No. I live in TN and am originally from Tuscaloosa, AL. –  David Wheeler Jun 10 at 19:56
    
I guess you're not him. Nice to meet you, though. –  fredsbend Jun 10 at 20:58

You were first born into Your generation. When you were born again You were born into Jesus generation which still exists today, When he comes back his generation will still be alive and well all though it will contain completely different people than it first had when he said this. Jesus was the first born into the Jesus generation and it is his generation that will do all of Gods will and are the people who will full all the Prophecies. Therefore this is how and why this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

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Can you please provide scriptural proof for your analysis, especially that Jesus has a generation? –  Steve Sep 14 '14 at 14:36

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