Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!
This Generation Shall Not Pass, Till
All These Things be Fulfilled
by Tony Warren
atthew chapter twenty-four has been a difficult chapter for many Reformed Christians to understand, as even seasoned theologians seem to stumble when exegeting this passage. Consequently, we thought that a frequently asked question page concerning this issue should be written. When Christ declared that this generation would not pass until all the things that He spoke about would be fulfilled, the question most frequently asked is, "how could all those things that Christ had spoken about be fulfilled before that generation had passed?"
Most Reformed Christians understand that this Chapter is speaking about later day occurrences, and so they are puzzled as to how the phrase "this generation" fits into the context. The confusion exists because so many Christians are unaware that there are several ways that this Greek word [genea], that is often translated generation, is used in the Bible. This in contrast to extra-Biblical or secular dictionary definitions. First of all, this word is from the root [genos], meaning kin or family, and by extension it is used in the Scriptures in four very distinct, and yet intimately related ways.
- "So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
- Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."
1. Through family, it denotes a physical family life span (generation) or time period.
2. Through family, it denotes a physical family's ancestry, posterity, lineage or genealogy.
3. Through family, it denotes a spiritual family ancestry, a kindred of Satan or evil.
4. Through family, it denotes the spiritual family ancestry, a kindred of Christ or righteousness.
These are four related, yet very distinct and Biblically justifiable applications of this word. The word translated generation is unambiguously used in the Bible in all these contexts. Even most of those holding to a Praeterit Eschatology will not deny this fact.
Another point that is worthy of note is that Scripture has always dated itself by Patriarch or founding father figures. Even to this day we date this way (probably without even giving it much thought). Whenever someone says that this is the year 1999, they are dating (though not accurately) by our Patriarch reference, Christ. In other words, we are saying that we are living 1,999 years after the birth of Christ (AD, anno domini, or the year of our Lord). He is the Patriarch reference by which most of the civilized world dates today. This is a biblical historical practice that dates back to the very beginning, and is explained in depth in my paper on the "The Biblical Timeline of Creation." The point here being, the year we use is really a Patriarch Family reference.
There are actually three words that are translated "generation" in the New Testament. They are [gennema], [genos] and [genea]. The root of all three refer to family or kindred, and by extension it can also mean the period of a family line, or even a Patriarch's offspring. For example, if we were to declare that something occurred in the 4th generation, we would be telling you that it happened in the family period of the 4th Patriarch child. So it would be illustrating a particular family relationship removed by three from the original Patriarch reference. Understanding this principle, we can see how God unambiguously uses the word genea or generation in Scripture to signify not only the Spiritual family of God, but also the spiritual family of His adversary, the Devil. These are two families, people of two contrasting and distinct seeds. Even as God Himself spoke of them in the Garden of Eden and the enmity between them. The children of God and children of the Devil are two diverse and distinct generations or families from these two seeds. The family of God extends all the way back to the beginning. And likewise, the family of Satan extends to the same period, illustrated in the episode of Abel and Cain. The way that the Word of God uses the phrase, the Generation of evil, makes it synonymous with the children (or family) of the Devil. It does not refer only to an immediate present day family group. The Generation of evil refers to all the seed of the Serpent throughout time, who are of that family by their Patriarchal relationship to the spirit of Satan. Just as the children of God refer to the whole family of God, which are a chosen generation, [genos] or family (1st Peter 2:9) extending throughout time. It's not just people who happen to be living at the time in which the phrase was written. God uses these family relationships to illustrate those who are of the same spiritual kinship. e.g.:
Once again we see that Christ is clearly explaining the divine truth that they were the kindred, seed or children of the Devil. They were part of a particular spiritual family group relationship and that is why Christ identifies their father as the Devil. So we see that Satan is the spiritual Patriarch reference for this generation or family of evil. Indeed, Satan has had many children throughout time, not merely these whom Christ was speaking to in the immediate context. All those under Satan's spiritual control are the generation or family of evil which has existed from the beginning. In Biblical terms, they are the spiritual offspring (generation) of their Patriarch reference, which is that old Serpent the Devil and Satan. Just as when Christ speaks of the generation of vipers, He is identifying that seed, these children, that family group who serve their father Satan. He is not talking about everyone in that physical generation or time period. Nor were all living in that physical (generation) time span that generation Christ spoke of. Nor could they be, since they all were not children of Satan or evil.
- "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
How can a [gennema] (meaning offspring or family) of vipers, the children of the serpent, speak good things, when they speak from their heart, which is full of evil. This family (translated generation) that Christ references is the seed of the serpent, children of vipers. That clearly cannot be the physical generation alive at that time, which consists of the Apostles, John the Baptist, Mary, Elizabeth, or any of the true church of that period. They cannot commit the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Ghost. Of necessity it has to be only the unregenerate 'family' of the Viper Satan. Not the whole generation living at that time, but He spoke of the family of Satan who cannot escape the damnation of Hell. Therefore, when Christ calls them the [gennema] of vipers, he is not referring to all those people of that time (as many often understand generation to to mean), but he is speaking only of the seed of the serpent, Satan. It is a family (generation) of evil that cannot escape the damnation of Hell. Satan was their spiritual Patriarch father.
- "And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
- Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
- O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
- A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."
The well oiled myth that the phrase this generation always refers to a span of the contemporary time, is clearly not the case. Here Christ references the previous people who lived before who killed and persecuted the prophets and includes them as this same generation (or family) of vipers and snakes. That proves it's not referring to his contemporaries. Because it is self evident that if this word meant that all this generation (the way many understand the word) at that time were a bunch of snakes who couldn't escape the damnation of hell, then it would mean the Jews who came before them and killed the prophets and the Apostles were in that generation also. The Apostles were of that physical generation if the word Generation really meant what the Praeterits (preterists) believe that it means. But obviously, Christ is not talking about that local contemporary physical generation, He is talking about those who are a family [gennema] of vipers.
- Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
- Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
- Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:"
The adder is a type of viper or snake representing Satan, and these people are of that family of evil. Men who, out of the evil in their hearts, bring forth wicked fruit. In this we see that there is not only precedence for the word generation not used in reference to the present time, but many times the context itself demands that it not be understood that way. A generation of vipers are a evil family [gennema], kindred spirits with the Devil.
- "Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man;
- Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.
- They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah."
And we should also not lose sight of the fact that in order for All to be fulfilled in that physical generation (which Christ declared in Matthew chapter 24), the time He refers to must have all those things fulfilled. Not some, but all. So it must be at the end of the world/age. When we study the context of Matthew chapter 24, it becomes abundantly clear that this end time period is what God is referring to when all will be fulfilled.
We are all well aware of the claims that the end of the age took place in 70 AD, but that is a Biblically untenable position for several reasons. First, the end of the age if it referred to the Old Testament dispensation came when Christ died and was resurrected (approximately 33 AD), not almost 40 years later in A.D. 70. Second, His coming is declared to be as it was in the days of Noah and that didn't happen in A.D 70. The proponents of this theory come to this disjointed conclusion by selectively interpreting age/world [aion], and then arbitrarily making the supposition that there was an end of the age/world in A.D. 70. This despite the fact that there is absolutely no Biblical warrant for declaring 70 AD as the time of an end of an age. Not one single Scripture makes that claim. So while they insist that Matthew 24's declaration of the end of the world is a mis-translation of the word [aion] meaning age, they are still unable to coherently explain verses such as found in Luke chapter 18:
- "And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"
This is the exact same Greek word [aion], meaning world/age. If that present time when Christ spoke was before 70 AD when He says they receive manifold more, and the age to come brought eternal life for them, then obviously 70 AD being the next age (according to their theory) must have been the age when eternal life was instituted. Did eternal life come in 70 AD? Did life everlasting only start after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans? No, not at all. The New dispensation started at the death and resurrection of Christ, and is consummated at the end of the world/age when Christ returns. So this theory is quite bankrupt and void of any solid scriptural foundation. Jesus is obviously speaking not about an alleged beginning of an age in 70 AD, but about the end of the world/age at His second coming. This is when all would be fulfilled, and this is when this Generation of evil would pass. Not a second before. Indeed, that is the answer to the very question that the Disciples asked in Matthew 24 of when the timing of the end and His second coming would be.
- "Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting."
I must say with all due respect, this 70 AD doctrine is convoluted on many different levels, because there was never any Biblical foundation for making a prophecy of a new age established in 70 AD in the first place. Reformed or Biblical Theology must be established on Biblical foundations, not on inconsistent and contradictory suppositions, or upon the spurious writings of the non Christian Josephus, or upon theory that is solely based upon speculation. Of necessity these theologians would have to place another age between the cross and the end of the world in order for this theory to be true. In effect, splitting the New Testament period into diverse ages. That would be the New Testament age after the cross but before 70 AD that was clearly established by Christ's work, then and another new age that came after 70 AD, and then a third age where eternal life is instituted. Because their position on 70 AD is untenable without it, and yet it is also quite unbiblical with it.
But the question remains, what is Matthew chapter 24 really saying? When we look at the context circumspectly, we see that the overview is that God is not only warning the disciples about prophets, persecutions and false Christs, but the churches throughout time as well. The Bible isn't written just for those to whom any epistle or letter is addressed. It is for the universal church to consider. The book of Thessalonians is addressed to the Thessalonians, but it was written to the Universal church throughout time. The Book of Romans is written to the Romans, but is for all the church throughout time. When Christ told the disciples to do this in remembrance of Him (Communion), He was not merely giving them a commandment, but instituting this practice for the whole church throughout time. This is just basic sound hermeneutics essential for correct understanding and sound exegesis. Likewise, when Christ said, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled, He was talking to all of the church throughout time. He was talking about the [genea] or family of evil, as the very context illustrates. And true to His Word, that evil [genea] has not passed. We will always have wickedness, rebellion and false prophets. We will always have wars, tribulations and abominations, because we will have the generation of evil on this earth until all is fulfilled. Selah.
Let's review the context of Matthew 24 for our answer of how to understand that generation should not pass. Jesus is warning the disciples (and all of us) about the coming wickedness (and particularly, those who call themselves of Christ), and how they will thrive as wolves in sheep's clothing, as false prophets, as false Christ's, with all the signs and deception. He speaks of a deception so clever that it would deceive even the elect (chosen) if that were possible. He tells the Apostles (and us) to watch, for these are the signs that will alert us of His soon second coming. Supporting this He says, this generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled. Note carefully that He doesn't say some things might be fulfilled, but that all these things must first be fulfilled. In other words, the false prophets, nation against nation, famines, pestilence and earthquakes in divers places. Things like these people delivering Christ's servants up to be afflicted and killed and hated of all nations for Christ's sake. Things like the abomination of desolation and the gospel having been preached to the entire world for a witness. The great tribulation, the sun being darkened and the moon not giving light. Things like the stars falling from heaven, the powers of heaven being shaken, and the Son of man coming on the clouds of Glory, etc., etc. All this must be fulfilled before that generation will pass. The only generation that shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled is the Generation of Vipers who are the family of evil. A physical seed or generation will pass and indeed has passed, and we still have all these things. But the generation of evil is the generation that has not passed. Like the word seed is used in the Bible, the word generation is used to describe a lineage or family. For example, consider Godís promises to Abraham and his descendants as declared in the book of Genesis:
This is a prophesy of the Seed (Christ - Galatians 3:16) instituting a covenant family, the generation of the everlasting possession that can only be fulfilled in Him. This family of God, these sons of God, these children of God, are a generation in the Seed, which is Christ. Believers are the generation of the Seed because they are in Christ (thee Seed), a family of God.
- "And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
- And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
- And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
- And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations."
We are all the generation associated with the Seed Christ, through his atoning work in reconciling us to God as His sons or children.
- "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
- They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this."
The wicked cannot help but perceive that God watches over His family, and thus they fear Him. The truth is, the evil generation persecutes Christ when they persecute His generation or His family. Because the communion of God's children with Him is a father and children relationship. Likewise, the generation of evil has this same family or seed relationship that runs from Cain, until the time of Judgment when that generation shall pass. This evil generation spans all of the history of the world. As long as there is the seed of the Serpent, there is this Generation or family that shall not pass until all is fulfilled. So then, it is clear that the word generation refers to a kindred marked by an evil moral character. e.g.:
- "There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous."
Preserve them from what vile generation [dowr], meaning posterity or family? Only the people of David's day? No, not at all. It is from the generation Christ spoke of that shall not pass until all is fulfilled. Preserved for ever from the generation which is stigmatized as a generation of vipers, a family of evil.
- "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
- Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
- The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted."
The children of men have forsaken their creator where they are as orphans, and have become a perverse or corrupt generation that is estranged from their God as cain was by the blood of Abel. God spoke of this generation again in Luke chapter 11.
- "They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation."
Were all those people who were standing there (the contemporary generation, or people of that time) guilty of the blood of all the Prophets from Abel to Zacarias and would be judged for those murders? God Forbid! The sons are not responsible for the sins of the father. The Apostles and the rest of those who believe who stood there won't have the blood of the Prophets required of them. But those who are part of that family/generation sure would. God declares that every man is responsible only for his own sins, not the sins of his fathers or others (Deuteronomy 24:16). So how is the blood of Abel and all of these Prophets who lived long ago required of that generation that Christ spoke of? It can only be because those who killed the Prophets, though they lived hundreds of years before Christ, were still all a part of that generation or family that Jesus condemned. All who are of the family of Satan are part of the generation that killed Abel.
- "That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;"
- From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation."
The two seeds speak of two distinct families. The seed or family that springs forth of Christ, and the seed or family that springs forth of the Serpent. Two distinct posterities or families. That is why Christ spoke of the wicked as the generation [gennema] of vipers. That Greek word conveys or indicates offspring or progeny. Christ was very literally calling them the spiritual children of the serpent. When Christ said that the blood of all the prophets that was shed from the foundation of the world will be required of this generation, it cannot logically, rationally or Biblically mean this particular generation of people standing there at the time. So what it does mean should be self-evident. It refers only to the generation or kin of Satan. Those of the lineage or family of Satan, whom Christ called the seed or children of the Devil. Moreover, let's be clear that this phrase I use (generation of evil) is not something that I privately dreamed up to support my personal view of a generation, it is a phrase that was divinely inspired and inerrant in its usage.
- "And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
- And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
This Greek word [genea] is the exact same word from the root meaning kin. It is the same word found in Matthew chapter 24 translated generation. Was Christ saying there would no sign given to the wise men, the Apostles, or the 70 disciples that He sent out to witness two by two? Of course not. Yet they were physically part of the literal span of time of that day. But they were not part of generation that Christ was speaking of. The evil and adulterous generation (family) of the Serpent shall not receive a sign except for that of His crucifixion, as Jonas the prophet (the Scripture record) illustrated spending three days and nights in a fish. While the generation or family of Christ indeed have seen the signs (Mark 16:20, Hebrews 2:4) of their deliverance. This generation defines a continuing moral classification of people, as illustrated by many Scriptures. That should be proof enough for any logical thinking person that this generation was not referring to men of one specific time period. If we only understand the word generation to mean those living there at the time (as some insist we must), then none of the Apostles, nor anyone else in that day or that generation could escape the damnation of hell. The truth is a lot less complicated, and in total agreement will the whole of Scripture. Not one jot or tittle of it shall fail until all be fulfilled.
- "And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet."
Again, this word translated generation is [genea], same as it is in Matthew 24 often used to express family relationship or posterity. This definition is also clearly demonstrated in the Septuagint, where in passages like Genesis 43:7 declaring, "The man asked us straitly of our kindred," the word kindred is [genea]. Or in Numbers 10:30, "I will depart to my own kindred." Again, Kindred is the word [genea]. Likewise in Leviticus 20:18, "Both shall be cut off from their people." Here, the word people is [genea]. I quote the Septuagint only to demonstrate that clearly, the meaning of this word was clearly known of old, and used to denote a family relationship. Thus it cannot be scholastically alleged that it must mean the short term generation of a manís life.
- "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
- Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
- And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares."
Were the Apostles the men of this generation? If we are to understand generation the way Praeterists do, Absolutely! But they are not who Christ is talking about because He is speaking of a generation or family of evil, the children or seed of Satan. God's word boldly declares that Christians are a chosen generation. So ask yourself a simple question. How can the people living at the time of Christ be both called of God a chosen generation, and yet also be a generation that cannot escape the damnation of hell? The obvious answer is that they can't. For they are two separate generations or families that Christ spoke about. Would we say that "everyone" living there at the time must be part of the chosen generation just because someone arrogantly insists the word generation demands it? Not if we use common sense. The chosen generation is the elect family of God. It's not everyone living in that physical time period, nor was it only designating people of that time period.
- But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
- And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like
- They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
- For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
- The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
- But wisdom is justified of all her children."
1st Peter 2:9
Here we see the truth of the matter. Only the true believers are the [eklektos genos] or chosen generation. Not everyone at the time that this was written, but everyone throughout time who were Predestinated to be of the family of God (Galatians 3:26-29; 1st John 3:9-10). Because we have two distinct generations coexisting in this world. A generation of evil that cannot escape the damnation of hell, and a chosen generation of God that will inherit an everlasting possession that was purchased by Christ. Both these generations or families spans eons of time.
- "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:"
You may not have know it but that Greek word that is translated nation, is the exact same Greek word [genea] that is translated generation in Matthew 24. It is clearly illustrating the crooked and perverse people who are the family or children of evil. This is that very same [genea] that shall not pass until all be fulfilled, and the same family the saints must live in the midst of until the end. Note that here in Philippians it is contrasted with "the sons of God," the children who shine as lights among them. The classic illustration of this contrast is found in the book of Luke, chapter 16:
- "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"
Again, this is the exact same word [genea] that is found in Matthew chapter 24. It speaks of the wicked in their generation or family being wiser than the children of light. In other words, it's illustrating that in certain ways, the seed or children of God are not as smart as the seed or children of the Devil. So it's impossible that this word [genea] as used here, refers to a literal person's life span or generation as the word is understood by many. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, it would be ludicrous for anyone to insist that the word generation always meant a present or contemporary generation of people in these passages, considering all the pertinent Scriptures that use the word. Yet there are many that choose to make such untenable arguments. Nevertheless:
- "And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."
Number one: While some make the claim that the end of the age was in 70 AD, there is not one single Scripture that supports that conclusion, and many Scriptures that preclude it. There was instituted a new dispensation (age) when Christ died, was resurrected, and sent His holy Spirit that the church go forth to witness with power. But there was no new dispensation or age instituted years later in 70 AD.
Number two: There is nothing in Scripture that declares that the word translated generation must always be understood to mean the contemporary people or their time period, and plenty of Scriptures that precludes it (as I've clearly shown).
Number three: There is abundant proof texts in Scripture that the entire New Testament period was (and still is) the end times, the last days, and the last age, indicating that there would not be any other age following this one. Except of course, "the age to come," which is Christ's return and consummation of eternal life. That is when all will be fulfilled as required by Matthew 24, and indeed by all of Scripture. That is when this evil generation shall finally pass away and when the kingdom will be delivered up to the father. This will occur at 'The last Day.'
When will all be fulfilled? It is when this evil generation is no longer ruling with their prince. In other words, when Christ returns. For there is this age, the age to come, and no age in between. That's the whole purpose of God using the term "last days" to signify that there are no more days after these New Testament days. There are no more dispensations. It is self evident that contrary to interpretive license, the age of the last days was instituted by the death and resurrection of Christ, not in 70 AD. No matter what any theologian (Reformed or otherwise) may postulate, Scripture must interpret Scripture. And the age to come is at the end of this age when Christ returns. The generation that will not pass till all be fulfilled is the generation that the entire chapter of Matthew 24 so vividly warned the church against. In context, it was the coming false prophets, false teachers, deceivers, false Christs, abominations, great tribulation, and all that this evil family would bring forth against Christ. Though it will not pass until Christ's return, yet the kingdom ultimately triumphs. It is then, and only then, that 'all' will be fulfilled as required by Christ's prophesy. Then and only then will this evil and adulterous generation/family pass. Selah!
- "And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."
Copyright 2000 Tony Warren
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