THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY UNTIL ALL THESE THINGS HAPPEN
Let’s cover a little more on the End Times. Here in my study I have a couple of books that would fit in the category of Preterism. Preterism is the view that some Christians hold that says all the events spoken about by Jesus in these end times chapters were fulfilled in the 1st century.
The books are by R.C. Sproul [not a full Preterist] and Gary Demar [a full Preterist]. Demar's book is called ‘Last Days Madness’ and if you want a full study of this view- that would be the book to get.
Now- am I a Preterist? No. Like I said before- I try real hard to stay in the classical mainstream of Christian thought- and though Preterists make a good case- in the end I think they go too far.
But let’s talk a little about why certain believers have found it necessary to even make a defense like this. In the chapters of the bible that talk about the last days- there are frequent statements made that seem to indicate that the things being discussed would take place ‘quickly’ ‘shortly’ or at least in the lifetime of those hearing the message at the time. Jesus says ‘truly I say to you- this generation will not pass away until ALL these things are fulfilled’. Another time Jesus says ‘some of you standing here will not die until you see the kingdom come’.
So its passages like these that have caused some to make the effort to fit all the end times stuff within the 1st century. You say ‘but how can anyone think that the 2nd coming and the final judgment and all the end times events- how could they think it happened in the 1st century?’ Well before you scoff too much- believe me- these guys make a really thorough case. For instance they will show you verses in the Old Testament that use the same End Times language that Jesus uses about ‘my coming’ and the ‘judge will come to judge the world’ and they will show you that these prophecies were actually fulfilled by certain judgments that took place against the nation of Israel.
And there are Parables of Jesus that speak about his ‘coming’ and in some cases it is speaking about his resurrection and ascension and being seated at Gods right hand- that is ‘the coming’ was more of a view of Jesus ‘coming’ to sit on the right hand of God after he fulfilled his earthly mission. So as you can see, those who make this argument are not totally out in left field.
Okay- how do we answer the critics on the sayings about ‘this generation will not pass until all these things happen’. Like I said in the last post- some say Jesus was talking about a future generation- at least 2 thousand years down the road- who would be alive when the 2nd coming would happen. The problem with this view is in the New Testament you have the Greek language as the original language that you study when looking at these verses [the bible was originally written in Greek] and when you look at this terminology being used in other places- it is always speaking about the generation living at the time of the statement.
So that would make it hard to make the case that Jesus was speaking about some future generation down the road. Others say that ‘this generation’ can refer to a certain ethnic group [the Jewish nation]. While this can apply- yet again this is not the normal way the phrase is used.
So what’s the answer? I do believe that some of the ideas from the Preterists can help here. In the Old Testament there are what you call Dual Prophecies- prophecies that are fulfilled ‘twice’. If you study the events that took place during ‘the generation’ living at the time of these statements- they did indeed see these things happen. I mean you even have reports by 1st century historians [Eusebius- lived in the 3rd or 4th century- was a 1st century historian] that said at the time of the destruction of the temple [A.D. 70] there were accounts of people seeing chariots in the sky and all sorts of signs that Jesus mentioned in the Last Days passages.
Maybe tomorrow I will get a little more into some of the signs- but the fact is you can find just about every element of Jesus Last Times teaching being fulfilled in some way within the actual generation of those who heard him speak at the time.
However Christians decide to come down on these issues- it’s important to see that the prevailing American Evangelical view- that ‘this generation’ is speaking about the generation of people living at the time of the ‘blooming of the fig tree’ which is defined by some as the birth of the nation of Israel in 1948- that this teaching is not to be found in the bible.
While we do not know the time of Jesus return- and the ‘end of the world/age’ [another important distinction] we do know that the signs that Jesus gave us do count for something- it’s not wrong to look at the general signs of increased wars and natural disasters and the like- and to see that his coming is drawing near. Most commentators who have used these verses recently- even in the secular media- have actually been using them in context.
So we should avoid the temptation to date set- try not to add things into the passages that are not there [the fig tree meaning Israel in 1948] and avoid mocking the actual teaching in the bible that Jesus will indeed return some day- the apostle Peter said that in the End Times some would mock and say ‘where is the promise of his coming- we have been hearing it for our whole lives’. So we don’t want to fall into the category of mockers- yet we don’t want to date set either- no man knows the day- not even the Son.