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Matthew 24:34 - What's A Generation?


Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened". (Matthew 24:34 also in Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32) The word "generation" in this verse has created much interest among students of the Bible.  How should we understand this word?


Over the last 40 years I've heard countless estimations to the length of a generation.  I've heard some say it's 20 years.  Others say it's 40 years.   Still others say it's 60, 70, 100, or even 52.5 years.  On it goes.  Who's right? 


Beyond how many years a generation is, various starting dates have been suggested to when this generation began or will begin.  Some say it began in 1948 while others say 1967.  Those who said this generation began in 1948 and claim a generation lasts 20 years had to recalculate things since the end didn't come in 1968.  As a youth I vividly remember many adults in our church being concerned when the Six Day War broke out in June 1967.   1968 was getting close. 


The Greek word "genea" is translated as "generation" in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32.  Although it may be unknown to many, it's no secret that "genea" doesn't need to be understood in terms of a specific number of years.  "Genea" can easily be translated as "a race of people", as in, "this race of people will not pass away until all these things have happened".  Understanding "genea" to be a race of people instead of a specific period of time puts a whole different slant to the prophetic scenario based on Matthew 24:34.   


Jesus said that "this generation, or, race of people, will not pass away until all these things have happened".  What "things must happen", and, "who is this race of people"?


The "things that must happen" are easy to figure out.  They are the end time events Jesus just spoke about earlier in the passage. 


In Luke 21:29 Jesus gives an analogy that helps explain this race of people.  He says that when the fig tree and all other trees begin to sprout leaves, you know summer is near.  For good reason, the general consensus among prophetic Futurists is that the fig tree refers to Israel.  Figuratively speaking, Israel began to sprout leaves in 1948 when once again she became a nation as the Bible predicted.  The other trees refer to the other nations of the world as they relate to Israel.  Israel has been, and still is, a major point of concern for the nations of the world.  I believe "this generation" refers to the "race of Israelis" that came into existence in 1948. 


Amos 9:15 says, "I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them". This, and other Scriptures like it, are important.  The Old Testament prophets predicted the scattering of Israelis throughout the world in 70 and 135 A.D..  They also predicted their return in 1948.  Amos 9:15 states that once the Jews return to their land, which they have, they would never be removed from their land again.  Therefore, the generation, or race of Israelis, who came into existence in 1948 will never be removed.  They will exist to see all the events that lead to the end of this age, no matter how long it takes.  How long this generation lasts is not the issue.  The rebirth of the Israeli race in their land is the important issue.    


My point is simple. There is no need to drive ourselves crazy attempting to figure out the length of a generation.  Jesus was probably not thinking in those terms.  Sometime in the life span of present day Israel, whether it's 10 years or 100 years, all that Jesus and the prophets predicted concerning the end of this age will take place.                       


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