Question: Jesus said, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Mt 24:34). How long is a generation? Was that the “generation” that saw Israel restored to her land in 1948? If so, how much more time do we have before the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy? Aren’t we running out of time?
Response: God told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves for “four hundred years” and would enter Canaan “in the fourth generation” (Gn 15:13-16). Was a “generation” 100 years, and thus we have until 2048? Moses said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten” (Ps:90:10), so had a generation gotten shorter, and we only have to wait until 2018?
There is no basis for thinking that Christ meant the “generation” which would see Israel restored to her land. Furthermore, Israel hasn’t been fully restored yet. We know He didn’t mean the generation then alive, for that would have been a false prophecy. Preterists say Nero was the Antichrist, and that “all these things” prophesied by Christ in Matthew:24:1-33 came to pass in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem, and that Israel no longer has any place in the prophetic scheme. Preterism is easily disproved.
Christ said a tribulation was coming that would be worse than anything before or after (Mt 24:21). The tribulation of A.D. 67-70 was nothing compared to Hitler’s slaughter of 6 million Jews. Verse 22 says, “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.” Surely there was no danger that the weapons available in A.D. 70 might wipe out all flesh, nor was the tribulation cut short on that account. Verses 29-31 mention signs in the heavens, including everyone visibly seeing “the Son of man coming...with power and great glory” and the angels “with a great sound of a trumpet...gather[ing] together his elect...from one end of the heaven to the other”—none of which occurred in A.D. 70. The “generation” alive in Christ’s time did not see the fulfillment.
Both John the Baptist and Christ referred to Israel in a special way as a “generation”: “generation of vipers” (Mt 3:7; 23:33); “an evil and adulterous generation” (Mt 12:39); “this wicked generation” (12:45); “wicked and adulterous generation” (16:4); “faithless and perverse generation” (17:17); “evil generation” (Lk 11:29), etc. That generation—Israel as a whole in unbelief and rebellion against God and His Word—will continue until all is fulfilled. That will be when “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him...” (Zec:12:10).
Surely this is the Second Coming with Christ visibly returning to earth in power and great glory at the end of the greatest tribulation the world will have ever seen, at a time when atomic and other modern weapons could wipe out all flesh. He intervenes to rescue Israel and to stop the carnage, and “a fountain [is] opened to the house of David...for sin and for unclean- ness” (Zec:13:1). God says, “I will make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more....So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day and forward....Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel...” (Ezk 39:7, 22, 29). “So all Israel shall be saved” (Rom:11:26) and that “generation” of unbelief and rebellion will have passed away with the fulfillment of the Matthew 24 prophecies.