This Generation

Posted in: 2003
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 12, 2008 - 7:10:34 AM

July 30, 2003


"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”(Matt.24:34)

The context is always essential to the interpretation of words found in the Scripture. The
order of the words is as perfect as the truth revealed in them. This order is Divine and is nothing less than a crime for any human hand to subvert that order, either by ignoring it or changing it.

Beware of any teacher to whom the context is not manifestly essential. Beware of any teaching that is not based upon it.

Some passages of Scripture derive their chief importance from some remarkable word or words employed; others derive their chief importance from some wonderful truth revealed; while others derive their chief importance from the place where we find them. Every passage has its own importance in this last respect. When we find a passage or a word in its own particular place, there is a Divine reason why it is there, and why it is not in any other place. This is particularly true with the passage of Matthew 24:34 and the word “generation.”

It is critical to our understanding of the "words" to find out why they are where we find them. It is essential to our enjoyment of the words that we should discover not only what they mean, but why they are not in any other passage. If we would find the words and the Word of God to be a delight to us, instead of a perplexing jumble, we must give a special regard to the Context.

If this is disregarded, then a word, a sentence, or a verse may be taken out of context and interpreted of something quite foreign to its original intent.

Every sentence, every verse, and every word has something going before it and something following it. This is called the context. How often do we hear of public speakers or politicians complain that only part of what they said was quoted; hence what they said was taken out of context.

If this be so important where man is concerned, how much more essential it must be when we remember that, in the case we are considering, it is God's context, not man's.

How great must be the presumption if we disregard or disturb the context. Yet this is constantly done in order to prop up man's tradition.

Let us note the context of Matthew 24:34 and observe how error results in the disregard of a wonderful truth the Lord Jesus is making known. [Comments on CONTEXT are from Bullinger's “How To Enjoy The Bible”].

Keep in mind the Dispensation of the Mystery was still unrevealed and remained “hid in God,” therefore the apostles, who were conversing with the Lord Jesus on the Mt. Olives, knew nothing of the Sacred Secret to be revealed later.

As we go through this study we must recognized that the apostles were asking questions about a coming future “age” which they were anticipating, not the end of the world (kosmos). As workmen we should study the concordance and notice that the word “aion” is used 125 times in the New Testament and the word “kosmos” occurs 189 times. They don’t mean the same thing. A correct distinction should be made between the two.
In Matthew 24 notice the following:

Verse 3: As the Lord Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, His disciples came to Him and asked Him when shall the Temple be destroyed and what shall be the sign “of Thy Coming” (Thy Parousia) and the end of the world (i.e. the consummation of the age to come). The apostles knew the Parousia of Christ was to be at the “end” (or conclusion; consummation) of the next “aion” (age). The expression “the end of the world” according to five other translations should be “the end of the age (aion).”

Verses 4-8: Jesus began to answer them by warning them that "no man deceive" them. Many shall come in His Name and deceive many. They will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Nations shall rise against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms. There shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. However, He says these are only “the beginning of sorrows.”

He was foretelling what was to come to pass as the next age or dispensation draws to a close; that is to say, as His rule from Heaven is about to be consummated. Christ is speaking about future events. The truth He was generating was truth that will come to pass when the twelve apostles are raised from the dead and are sitting on the Thrones of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Christ continues His discourse on future events: Verses 9-14: The disciples will be persecuted. Many Israelites will become offended and betray one another. False prophets will arise and deceive many. Iniquity will abound. Those who endure until the end (“telos,” i.e., the actual end of the age: not “sunteleia” of verse 5) of the age shall be saved. The Gospel of the Kingdom shall be proclaimed throughout the world and will be a witness against the nations. Then shall the end (“telos”) come.

Verses 15-26: The abomination of desolation shall be seen. Then there are warnings concerning the Great Tribulation.

Verses 27-31: Immediately after the Tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and “so shall also, the coming (Parousia) of the Son of man be.” The tribes of the earth shall mourn and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. His angels shall be sent to gather the elect from one end of heaven to the other.

Verses 32-33: Christ now tells His disciples a parable about the fig tree. When a fig tree's branches are tender, and puts forth leaves, they should know that summer is nigh. Likewise, when the resurrected disciples see all the things that the Lord told them would come to pass, they should know that the end (or the consummation of the age) is near, even at the doors.

The Lord Jesus Christ, in answer to the disciples, prophesied in great detail what was to take place prior to His return to put down the anti-christ’s rebellion. In this discourse the Lord generated many profound truths.

Now comes the wonderful truth we should learn, by observing the context, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (v.34). But first, the standard orthodox interpretation of verse 24 disregards the context and results in error. Orthodoxy teaches that the word “generation” means the people who were alive at the time should not die before all the prophecies generated by Christ be fulfilled. Yes, most often the Biblical word "generation" refers to people born and living during the same period of time. Historically, we know that the people or disciples alive at the time Christ generated these truths did not live to see the fulfillment take place.

But, let us interpret the word “generation” in its context. The word “generation” comes from the root word “generate.” A generator generates or produces something. The “ion” is a suffix which is the result of the generator. An electric generator generates or produces electricity. The electricity produced by the generator can be called “a generation.” Hence, that which a generator generates is a “generation.” In the context, “this generation” is the body of truth that Christ generated in His Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. The body of truth thus generated will not pass away.

In the near context, Matthew 24:35, we read, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” This should be clear that: This generation (v.34) and My words (v.35) mean the same thing!

In plainer words, the Lord Jesus Christ was the Great Generator of the Truth generated in Matthew 24. This brings to mind a very puzzling passage in a remote context. Isaiah states in 53:8, “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken.” This prophecy is a clear reference to our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah is not asking who shall "declare" or make formally known the people born and living during Christ's earthly life time. In fact, that doesn't even make sense. But rather, in view of the remote context, Isaiah is asking, "Who shall declare the body of truth that Christ is to generate in the future?" We are not told who shall make this declaration. The answer to Isaiah's question is not found in the Old Testament. It is found in the New Testament. Not until our Lord Himself delivers “this generation” of truth in the New Testament do we have the answer to Isaiah's question.

In a nearer context to Matthew 24 we find in Acts 8:32-33 Phillip reading to the Ethiopian prince out of the Book of Isaiah, “The place of the Scripture which is read was this, 'He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? for his life is taken from the earth.’”

Some commentaries even state that, "Who shall declare his generation?" means that He would have no posterity or successors. In light of the context, this explanation is preposterous.

In order to be true to the Divine order of the context, it is incumbent upon us to interpret the word generation “not in the words which men's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor.2:13).

To further emphasize the fact that Truth of Scripture is something that was produced or generated, note, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”(2 Pet.1:21). Prophecy of old did not come into being by the will of the prophets, but rather it was generated by the Holy Ghost. So the prophets spoke and wrote under inspiration as the Holy Ghost generated truth to them.

Therefore, it can be said that the Book of Isaiah is a generation, the Book of Jeremiah is a generation, the Book of Ezekiel is a generation and etc.

As stated at the outset, the order of the words is as perfect as the truth revealed in them. The order is Divine and it is nothing less than a crime for any human to subvert that order, either by ignoring it or changing it.

Tom L. Ballinger