Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Matthew chapter twenty-four has been a difficult chapter for many Christians to understand, even for seasoned theologians. A frequently asked question concerning this chapter is Christ's declaration that a generation should not pass until all the things (which He had talked about) would be fulfilled. The question I hear a lot is, "how could all those things that Christ had spoken about, be fulfilled before that generation had passed?"
"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."
The problem is, many people understand that this Chapter is speaking about later day occurrences, and so they are puzzled as to how the phrase, "this generation," fits the context. The confusion exists because the average Christian is unaware that there are several ways that this Greek word [genea], translated generation, is used in scripture. This is in contrast to extra-biblical or secular dictionary definitions. First of all it is from the root word [genos] meaning kindred or family. In conjunction with that, it is used three distinct ways within scripture.
1. It can be used to denote a physical family generation or bloodline.
2. It can be used to denote the spiritual family or generation of evil.
3. And it can be used to denote the spiritual family or generation of Christ.
These are three very distinct and Biblically justifiable applications of this word. The word generation is unambiguously used in the Bible in all three of these contexts, so that even those of Praeterit Eschatology will not deny this fact.
Another point that is worthy of note is that scripture has always dated itself by "Patriarchs" 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 and historical practice that dates back to the beginning, and is explained in depth in my paper on the "The Biblical Timeline of Creation." The point being, the year we use is really a Patriarch Family reference.
There are three words translated "generation" in the New Testament. They are [gennema], [genos] and [genea]. And the root of all three refer to family or kin. By extension or by implication it can also mean a period of a family line, or even a Patriarch's offspring. For example, if someone declared that something occurred in the 4th generation, they would be telling us that it happened in the family period of the 4th child born. So it would be illustrating a "particular family relationship" removed by three from the Patriarch reference. Understanding this principle, we can see how God unambiguously uses the word generation in scripture to signify not only the Spiritual family of God, but also the spiritual family of His adversary Satan. These are of two contrasting and distinct seeds. Even as God Himself spoke of them in the garden as having enmity. The children of God and children of the Devil are two diverse and distinct generations or families from those two seeds. The family of God extends all the way back to Abel. And likewise, the family of Satan extends all the way back to Cain. Clearly, the way 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 family group. The Generation of evil refers to all the seed of the Serpent, throughout time, who are in that generation by their patriarchal relationship. Just as the children of God refer to the whole family of God, which is "a chosen generation" or family, that has existed throughout time. It's not just people who happen to be living at the time in which the phrase was written. God uses family relationships to illustrate those who are of the same spiritual kinship. e.g.
"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."
Jesus is clearly elucidating the truths that they were part of a particular spiritual family group, and He identifies their father as the Devil. So we see that Satan is the spiritual Patriarch reference for this generation or family. And he has many children, not just these whom Christ was immediately speaking to. All those under Satan's spiritual control are the generation or kindred of evil, which existed from the beginning. In Biblical terms, they are the spiritual offspring or generation of their Patriarch reference, that old Serpent, Satan. When Christ speaks of the "generation of vipers," He is identifying that seed or family group who serve their father Satan. He is not talking about everyone in that physical time period. Or all living in that physical generation timespan.
"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."
How can a family of vipers, the children of the serpent, speek good things, when they speak from the heart, which is full of evil. This generation [gennema] (meaning offspring or kindred) that Christ references is the seed of the serpent, the children of vipers. And that clearly cannot be the Apostles, John the Baptist, Mary, Elizabeth, or any of the true Church of that time. They cannot commit the unforgivable sin. Of necessity it has to be only the unregenerate 'family' of evil, who cannot escape the damnation of Hell. Not a generation, which would mean all those in that particular time frame. Therefore, when Christ calls them the generation of vipers, he is not referring to all those people of that time (as people often understand generation today), 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. And Satan their spiritual Patriarch father.
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:"
It is self evident that if this word means that all this generation (as many understand the word to mean) was all a bunch of vipers, children of their fathers who couldn't escape the damnation of hell, then it would mean the Apostles also. Because the Apostles were of that generation "if" the word Generation really meant what Praeterits believe it means. But obviously, Christ is not talking about all that physical generation, He is talking about those who are a generation (family) of vipers.
"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."
The adder is a viper, and this generation of vipers is the family of evil and wicked men. Men who, out of the evil in their hearts, bring forth wicked things. And so we see that there is not only precedence for the word generation not to be understood to mean the present time, but many times the context itself "demands" that it not be understood that way. Generation of vipers did not mean everyone there, so it could not mean that literal or physical time period generation. It is speaking about a spiritually wicked family [gennema], not what many believe to be that whole present generation that lived at this time.
And we should also not lose sight of the fact that, in order for the "All" to be fulfilled in that generation (which Christ spoke about in Matthew chapter 24), the time He refers to must be at the end of the world/age. And when we study the context of Matthew chapter 24, it becomes abundantly clear that "this end time period" is what God is referring to in the chapter.
"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?"
Of course we are well aware of some of the claims that the end of the age was in 70 AD, but that is a Biblically untenable position. The proponents of this theory come to this conclusion by selectively interpreting age/world [aion], and then arbitrarily making the supposition that there was an end of the age in 70 AD. This, despite the fact that there is absolutely no Biblical warrant for declaring 70 AD as the end of an age. Not one single scripture makes that claim. And while they insist Matthew 24 (the end of the world) is a mistranslation of the word [aion] meaning age, they are still unable to coherently explain verses such as Luke chapter 18:
"Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting."
This is the exact same Greek word [aion], meaning world/age. If that present time Jesus spoke in, was before 70 AD when they received manifold more, and the age to come was eternal life for them, then obviously 70 AD being the next age (according to their theory), must have been the age of eternal life Jesus spoke of. Did eternal life come after 70 AD? Did life everlasting start after 70 AD? No, not at all, it started at the cross, and is consummated at the end of the world/age. So this theory is truly bankrupt and void of any solid scriptural foundation. Jesus is obviously speaking not about an alleged coming age in 70 AD, but about the end of the world/age when He would return, and "all" would be fulfilled. That is the world/age to come, when we would receive the everlasting life. That is what the Disciples asked in Matthew 24. When would this timing be?
The fact is, this 70 AD doctrine is convoluted on many fronts, because there was never any Biblical foundation for making a prophecy of a new age established in 70 AD in the first place. Biblical Theology must be established on biblical foundations, not on inconsistent and contradictory supposition and theory. Of necessity these theologians would have to place another age between the cross and the end of the world for this theory to be true. In effect, splitting the New Testament period into diverse ages. The New Testament age before 70 AD that was established by Christ's cross, and another age after 70 AD, because their position on 70 AD is untenable without it. However, it is also quite unbiblical with it!
But the question remains, what is Matthew chapter 24 really saying? Look at the context circumspectly. The overview of this chapter is that God is not only warning the disciples about false teachers, persecutions and, false Christs, but the Churches throughout time as well. The Bible isn't just written for those to whom any epistle or letter is addressed. It is for all the Church to consider. That is a basic and fundamental truth in understanding scripture. i.e., the book of Thessalonians is addressed to the Thessalonians, but is 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 Jesus 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 hermeneutical precepts essential for sound exegesis. Likewise, when Jesus 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 generation or family of evil," as the context shows. And true to His word, it has not passed. We will always have false prophets, we will always have wars, we will always have the wicked, because we will always have the generation of evil,until all is fulfilled!
So let's review the context of Matthew 24 for our answer to the question of how to understand how the 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 all these things must first be fulfilled. E.g., false Prophets, nation against nation, famines, pestilence and earthquakes in divers places. Things like these people delivering you up to be afflicted, and killed, and when you are hated of "all nations" for Christ's name's sake. Things like the abomination of desolation, the gospel preached to the entire world for a witness. Things like 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. The only generation that shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled is "The Generation of Vipers," the family of evil. A physical generation will pass and indeed has passed, and we still have all these things. But the generation of evil is the generation that produces the false Christs. Clearly, the generation of evil is a family relationship that runs from Adam and Eve's son Cain, until the time of Judgment (when all shall be fulfilled). This generation comprises the span of the history of the world. As long as there is the seed of the Serpent, there is this Generation. This Family.
"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."
Preserve them from what generation [dowr], posterity or family? The people of David's day? No, not at all. From the generation Christ spoke of that shall not pass until all be fulfilled. Preserved for ever from the generation which is stigmatized as a generation of snakes and of evil. This generation will be on this earth until Christ returns on the clouds of Glory, and all is finally fulfilled. And it is "this generation" of evil that will be the family that shall be Judged of God. God spoke of this generation in Luke chapter 11.
"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.
Were all those people who were standing there (Generation, or all the physical people of that time) guilty of the blood of all the Prophets from Abel to Zacarias that they would be judged of God for those murders? God Forbid! The Apostles and the rest of those who believe who stood there won't have the blood of the Prophets required of them. That is quite obvious to anyone who knows anything about scripture, or of Christianity. So it cannot mean that age or time. God declares that every man is responsible only for his own sins, not the sins of others (Deuteronomy 24:16). So how is the blood of Abel and all of these Prophets required of "this 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 of which Christ spoke. Selah! All who are of the family of Satan "are part of the generation" that killed Abel. i.e., they are the seed of the Serpent.
"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."
The two seeds speak of two distinct families. The seed or family that springs forth of Christ, and the seed of family that springs forth of the Serpent. Two distinct genealogies 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. That is the generation He spoke of. So when Christ said that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world will be required of "this generation," this could not logically, rationally, or Biblically mean everyone physically standing there at the time. So what it does mean should be self-evident. It refers only to the generation or kinship of evil. 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 anyone's generation views, it is a phrase that was divinely inspired and inerrant in its usage.
"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".
This Greek word [genea] is likewise from the root word meaning kindred. It is the same word found in Matthew chapter 24 translated generation. Was Christ saying there would no sign be given to the wise men, the Apostles, or the 70 disciples that He sent out to witness two by two? Of course not. And yet they were physically part of the literal "time" generation of that day. But they were not part of generation that Christ was speaking of here. For Christ is not talking about the physical generation of that time anymore than He was talking about them in Matthew chapter 24. It is the evil and adulterous generation (or family) of the Serpent that shall receives no sign. None except that of Jonas the prophet (the scripture record). But the generation or family of Christ, He indeed has given signs (Mark 16:20, Hebrews 2:4). That should be proof enough for any logical thinking person that this generation was not referring to mmen of a time period. These are two distinct generations. If we're only to 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. Because Christ had said that "that generation" couldn't. But the truth is a lot less complicated, and in total agreement will the whole of scripture. The generation of evil is the one that shall receive no signs, and that cannot escape the damnation of hell, because it is the children or family of Satan. It is the seed of the Serpent.
"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."
Again, this word translated generation is [genea], same as it is in Matthew 24. It is often used to express family relationship or posterity. It is this family of evil that shall not pass away until all is fulfilled. 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 "family." Thus it cannot be scholastically alleged that it must mean the term of man’s life in passages like matthew 24.
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.
Were the Apostles the generation of evil, the children or seed of Satan, the family of the Devil? Most certainly not. 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 family of God, selected by God. It's not everyone living in that physical time period, nor is it only that time period.
1st Peter 2:9
"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:"
Here we see the "truth" of the matter. Only the true believers are the [eklektos genos] or chosen generation. Not everyone at the time 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 heaven. Both these generations, or families, spans eons of time.
"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;"
That Greek word that is translated "nation" is the exact same word [genea] that is translated generation in Matthew 24. It is illustrating the crooked and perverse people who are a "family" or generation of evil. This is that very same [genea] that shall not pass until all be fulfilled. Note that here in Philippians it is contrasted with "the sons of God," or the children of God, who shine as lights among them.
These generations aren't periods of time spanning ones life, they last until all is fulfilled at Christ's return. One generation shall not escape the damnation of Hell, and the other is a special people who shall (by Christ's blood) escape the damnation of Hell. The classic illustration of just this contrast, is found in the book of Luke, chapter 16:
"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."
Again, this is the exact same word [genea] that is found in Matthew chapter 24. It speaks of the wicked in their generation being a family wiser than the "children of Light." i.e., it's illustrating that in this way, the seed or children of God are not as smart as the seed or children of the Devil. And again, it's impossible that this word as used here refers simply to a literal life span.
The generation or children of this world, is the generation that the Lord was warning the Church against in Matthew chapter 24. The family of this world are a generation of evil, and it shall not pass until "all" be fulfilled. Comparing scripture with scripture, it would be ludicrous for anyone to insist that the word generation meant a present day generation in these passages, considering all the pertinent scriptures that use the word. Yet there are many that choose to make such untenable arguments. Nevertheless, we know some things for certain:
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 such a 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 the word translated "generation" must always be understood to mean people physically present at the time, and much of scripture 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 in everlasting 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. Selah! That is when the kingdom will be delivered up to the father. This will occur at 'The last Day.'
"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."
When will all be fulfilled? When this evil generation is no longer ruling with the prince of this world. In other words, when Christ returns. There is this age, and 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. 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 against. In context, the false prophets, false teachers, deceivers, false Christs, abomination, tribulation, and all that this evil generation brings forth, will not pass until Christ's return. Then, and only then, will 'all' be fulfilled. Then and only then will this generation pass. Selah!
Copyright 2000 Tony Warren