Generation Or Race? One More Time

Q. I have a question for you that was brought up during a study I had with my brother last night. We were reviewing Matthew 24. The “big” verse obviously, that a lot of your interpretations of the end times are structured around is the “This generation shall not pass away…” verse in 24:34. Here is the question. Upon further review in the Greek and several commentaries, there seems to be a contingent who believe that the more accurate translation should be “race” or “nation”. Was Jesus referring simply to the enduring longevity of the Jewish nation and people even until the end of the age and beyond?

A. When reading the Oliver Discourse it’s important to remember that the Lord was responding to the disciples’ request for signs of His 2nd coming and the end of the age. In Matt. 24:4-14 He gave a general overview of the future for Israel and the world. Then, beginning in Matt 24:15 He got specific. He identified the event that will begin the Great Tribulation, and followed with a vivid description of what it will be like. And in Matt. 24:30-31 He described the 2nd Coming, again in specific detail. In verses 32-33 He used the parable of the fig tree to illustrate the fact that when they begin seeing all the things He had been describing it would be a sign that the end is very near. Then He made His statement about this generation not passing until all these things have happened.

Some say “this generation” refers to the people alive when he was speaking. But that can’t be right because the events He had just described have not happened yet. There is no way to reconcile the signs He gave with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD without indulging in a massive re-interpretation of their meaning.

Others give the explanation you’ve cited, that the word for generation should be translated race or nation. The Greek word in question here is genea. In 42 appearances it’s translated generation 37 times. It’s only translated nation once (Phil 2:15) where it refers to gentiles. But I ask you, if this is the correct interpretation how could the fact that the Jews will not become extinct be viewed as a sign of the 2nd Coming? In a discussion prompted by a request for signs and filled with specific signs it would simply be a vague reassurance that there would still be Jews around at the end. That interpretation does not fit the context.

The one that does fit the context is to interpret His statement to mean that many of those alive at the time of the first sign of the End of the Age (the rebirth of Israel) would still be alive when He returns. It fits the preceding parable of the fig tree and it fits the overall context of the discussion.

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