This Generation will not Pass Away!

“I tell you the truth; this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34).

Which generation ??????

Few verses can have generated more problems for people trying to understand Biblical prophecy than these words of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel!

Preterists take this verse literally and believe that most of Biblical prophecy was fulfilled in the first century AD, especially with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. In some ways, you can understand their thinking, but … well … there are lots of BUTs!

We find fresh light on generations in the first verse of Matthew. He begins with the words: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1). This verse is an echo of several verses in Genesis.

In each case in Genesis the statement looked forward to the descendants of the person concerned. In Matthew conversely we find a list of the ancestors of Jesus, and at first sight nothing about his descendants. And there is another puzzle. Matt 1:17 reads: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ, fourteen generations.” When we actually count the generations from Babylon to Jesus we only find 13. What has happened to the 14th generation?

Jesus never married and he had no physical descendants; but he had a multitude – a generation - of spiritual descendants. Jesus agonised in the garden of Gethsemane. He suffered intensive physical pains on Calvary. When his side was pierced, blood and water flowed. He was giving birth! Not to just one physical child, but to a whole generation of spiritual children who were to be born in his image and likeness. Isaiah appears to have foreseen this. He asks: “who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living” (53:8). Jesus died without physical children. Then as if correcting himself Isaiah adds: “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (53:11). Infinitely better, Jesus had a multitude of spiritual children. So this is Matthew’s missing 14th generation!

The 14 generations were not from Babylon to Jesus, but from Babylon to Christ. Jesus is the head, but Christ is the Christ body, the whole anointed body of his offspring. We are that 14th or 42nd generation! (It’s interesting to note that if 6 is the number of man and 7 is the number of God, then both come together in 42; this generation is God in man; further the word ἐκκλησια (ecclesia - church) has the gematria value 294 which is 7 times 42!)

Now we can see a whole new meaning in the words of Jesus: “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” He was not speaking about the physical human generation standing before him. They all passed away long ago. He could see a vast generation of his spiritual offspring that would span many centuries of human time, and everything that was to take place in his prophecy.

We have read the first verse of Matthew, and now we must look at the last verse: “Look; I am with you all the days, until the end of life / the ages / the world” (choose your translation from Matt 28:20!). These words were not spoken just to those few disciples with him then on that mountain. They only had a few decades left in their mortal bodies. These words were for the whole generation to whom he had given birth, covering every day from that day to this and beyond.

See also The Generation of Jesus Christ by G W North.