“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Matthew 24:34
These are the words of Jesus concerning His Second Coming given to his apostles. This has commonly been called the Olivet Discourse as His teachings were conducted on the Mount of Olives. However this part of the Olivet Discourse has caused much discussion and we will take a look at the passage in greater detail. First, a little background.
Figure 1Mount of Olives, BiblePlaces.com
The Mount of Olives is located east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. The apostles have come to Jesus with three questions:
And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3
Jesus teaches them in vv. 4-28 about the signs of the end of age answering their last question first. This teaching is broken down into two parts, vv. 4-14 concern the first half of the tribulation, vv. 15-28 concern the second half of the tribulation or what is known as the Great Tribulation. Each half will have a duration of 3 ½ years for a total of 7 years (Daniel 9:24-27).
Now Jesus turns to the second question, “…what will be the sign of Your coming…”. Matthew 24:29-31 furnishes the answer for the apostles of what will surround the coming of the Lord. Each verse gives us the Old Testament passage that for any Jew would confirm what they were seeing had been predicted long ago. In v.31 Jesus will send forth His angels to gather His brethren from the entire world and to prepare them to enter His Kingdom reign. There is more to these verses, much more, that we will hopefully examine in the future.
The first question is not answered in Matthew’s recording.
Then we come to a very puzzling verse that has perplexed interpreters for centuries:
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Matthew 24:34
We will take each part of this verse, examine it, and attempt to draw a conclusion as to who Jesus was speaking of.
However, we must remember the audience the Messiah is talking to. He is speaking to Jews, the passage here is Jewish, the future recipients are Jews. There is in no place or mention of the church or gentiles. Christ is given directions, instructions, admonitions for the Jewish people when they see such events happening to act on His words because His appearance is near. While the church can learn principles and be admonished to action by the words of Christ, these words are not for us. They are for the Jewish people. Louis A Barbieri, Jr. writes concerning this passage:
“They have nothing to do with the church, which Jesus said He would build (16:18). The church is not present in any sense in chapters 24 and 25. The disciples’ questions related to Jerusalem, Israel and the Lord’s second coming in glory to establish His kingdom.”
Since the church is not in mind in this passage, we can forgo any thoughts concerning the rapture, the Bema Seat Judgment, or the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Our minds are to be exclusively on Jewish thoughts and interpreting this passage in light of Old Testament passages concerning the Jewish people and their role in the end times.
Let’s begin our breakdown of this passage:
“Truly- “PAY ATTENTION”, “this is of extreme importance”, “I am not talking to you to hear Myself speak, this is an extremely important lesson that you need to hear.”
I find it interesting that we only have one Truly in this passage. Typically, we see it repeated twice which demonstrates the mega importance of the teaching from Jesus. Possibly Jesus had given them so much information beforehand, 28 verses, that He was concerned with overloading them. This information was important but maybe more important was listening and working out what He was saying.
I say to you, - Direct teaching from Jesus Christ. I think we often overlook the fact when we read this the teaching is coming from the mouth of God. Many today lament that “if only God would talk to them, tell them what to do”. We have had God talk to us. Through the Bible, both Old and New Testament,we have His recorded words and the words of His Son, who is also God in the flesh. When we rationalize it out God has been speaking to us since the beginning of Creation as He walked and had communion with Adam.
this generation- Wow. These two words have caused an immense amount of problems for interpreters. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what this means. I will list several of the more popular opinions concerning this phrase but this is not an exhaustive list. This appears to capture the more “popular” opinions of writers. Numbers 1-6 have problems, though they may contain a kernel of truth. Number 7 seems to contain what Jesus is truly teaching in this passage.
1. The Jewish race. While this has been a very popular viewpoint this is lacking in support. While the Greek word genea can be employed to mean “race”, this would be the only place in the New Testament utilizing such an interpretation. Also, an examination of secular Greek writers does not uncover a use of this Greek word in any of their writings to indicate “race”. To top it off it is only used once in the Septuagint.
2. Creation. In all my research on this passage and the Olivet Discourse as a whole I have never seen any support of this position.
3. The human race. This is only slightly true. It is people who will experience this, but the passage is not written for the entire human race. It is written for the Jewish people.
4. The destruction of Jerusalem. Impossible. When we look at this we see at least one promise that was made by Jesus that had not come to pass, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.” Matthew 24:14. Did this happen before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70? The simple answer is NO. The gospel has barely penetrated into what is now known as Britain, Germany, and Russia. The gospel had not made its way to the Americas in any form. Also the gospel that was being preached by the apostle’s and their converts was what we still preach today, “The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The “gospel of the kingdom” includes this but also adds “And He is coming back soon to set up His Kingdom as promised by the prophets.” The Antichrist will hate this going on a rampage killing all who preach this as they vocally confirm their resistance to him and the empire he has built.
When will Matthew 24:14 be fulfilled:
“And I [John the apostle] saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people: Revelation 14:6
5. The church. No chance as the church has been raptured out before this event. We will not be around to experience any of the tribulation. More on this in future articles.
This position stems from a lack of interpretation principles and is produced only when lax principles of interpretation are employed.
6. The apostles directly. But it is only a promise that they will see it commence but may or may not live to the end. No support can be found for this assertion.
Now that we have looked at erroneous interpretations what do we have left.
7. The people then living. Not the apostles that Jesus taught, but to the Jewish people who have survived during the Tribulation period and will soon be witnesses to the Second Coming of Christ. This is the generation who witnesses all these events and apparently will witness the Second Coming of Christ. This will be the generation of the Jewish people that will fulfill Zechariah:
“And I will [God’s sovereignty, even here He is in control] pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look [spiritually and physically] on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they [the Jewish survivors of the Tribulation} will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born. Zechariah 12:10
As Ryrie states, “At the second coming of Christ, Israel will recognize Jesus as her Messiah, acknowledging with deep contrition that He is the One whom their forefathers pierced.
will not pass away- Why will they not pass away? These are believing Jews who have become Saints during the Tribulation because of their heartfelt sorrow for sin centered around two reasons:
1. Their wholehearted rejection of Jesus Christ during their lives. To think it took this to bring them to a living faith in their Messiah when he had offered His love and acceptance for their entire lives.
2. They realize that the only reason they are able to be accepted by Him is because of the sacrifice He made, “…even those who pierced Him;…” Revelation 1:7. They now understand the price that He paid. They are not listening to stories or looking at man’s vain attempts to display (movies, plays, art) the torments He went through. They are seeing Jesus and seeing the price that their disobedience (and ours) required.
Now that their Messiah has arrived, they have seen Him in the flesh protecting them from their enemies. It is difficult to believe that at this stage He would allow any harm to come to His brethren. These Jewish brethren will enter the Millennial Kingdom and will inherit the Abrahamic Covenant in their fleshly bodies while Old Testament Jewish saints (and Jewish saints who have died in the Tribulation) will inherit the Abrahamic Covenant in their glorified bodies.
until all these things- Everything that is described in vv. 4-28.
take place. - Until all the things described by Jesus in vv. 4-28 occur there will not be a Second Coming.
This is another reason that this is not a Rapture passage. The Rapture is a sign less event. There is nothing, NOTHING, that needs to occur for our Savior to return in the clouds and take us unto Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Rapture can occur at any moment, at any time.
The Second Coming has a multitude of signs. Revelation 4-19 details many of the events that must occur before the Second Coming of Christ.
The chart I have included only gives a small amount of the passages comparing the Rapture and the Second Coming.
I sincerely hope this has cleared up possible misconceptions and misinterpretations on this passage. These verses are magnificent teaching for Jews living during the most anti-Semitic period in human history. Jesus Christ has given to His people a timeline that they can refer to, in an attempt to understand what his happening to them at the hands of the antichrist and his minions. And though it appears very dark and hopeless for the Jewish people [compare the Minor Prophets who use this same formula in their writings] suddenly their Savior appears and delivers them:
They [the apostles] were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men [angels] dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11 | NIV
So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. Matthew 24:44 | NIV
“Look, He is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see Him,
even those who pierced Him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.”
So shall it be! Amen. Revelation 1:7 | NIV
 The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, p 76
 The Second ComingBible, William E. Biederwolf, p 347
 God’s last call of grace to the world before the return of Christ in judgment. Ryrie Study Bible, p 1912
 This is the mourning for sin that will be prompted by the Spirit.
 Ryrie Study Bible, p 1427