August 15, 2017 at 5:02 am #9263
In order to explain away the fact that Jesus promised to return in the first century in Matthew 24:34, futurists sometimes argue that “generation” can refer to the people of Israel beyond the limits of their contemporaries or people of a similar type or kind that transcends generations. Luke 16:8 and Matthew 23:34-36 are sometimes used as evidence of this interpretation. But is the Greek word “genea” meaning “generation” used in these verses and in Matthew 24:34 to refer to a group of people of similar type or kind beyond the first-century generation in which they lived?
Luke 16:8 reads, “And his master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” The NASB translates “genea” or “generation” as “kind.” Does Luke 16:8 imply that “genea” refers to a type of people beyond that generation as is implied by futurists who hold to this view? It is possible that one could say that wicked people are shrewd in dealing with other wicked people of any generation. However, Luke 16:8 should never be used to bolster the view that “genea” can refer to a transgenerational category of people transcending multiple generations since the context makes more sense when limited to people of the same generation. After all are people of one generation expected to have relations of any kind with people who are not their contemporaries? Thus the meaning of “genea” in Luke 16:8 still points to “generation” as it is traditionally understood, people living at the same time. Having addressed Luke 16:8, let us now turn our attention to Matthew 23:34-36:
Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:34-36)
Since Matthew 23:34-36 clearly refers to many generations, does this imply that v. 36’s use of “generation” must transcend a single generation of contemporaries. No. Jesus was telling the wicked scribes and Pharisees of that first-century generation that because they would soon kill the prophets just like their ancestors, they would receive the blame and thus the punishment for the deaths of all the prophets throughout Biblical history. This is why Jesus says that it was that first-century generation that murdered Zechariah at the Temple altar. They are said to have killed Zechariah because they were soon to kill the prophets of their own generation. In Matthew 25:37-40 Jesus says that when the saints did good deeds to fellow Christians, they ultimately did these kind acts to Jesus:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Jesus is not using “generation” in Matthew 23:34-36 to refer to wicked Jews throughout Biblical history as proponents of this view claim Matthew 23:34-36 “explicitly” suggests when it says that, that generation killed the prophet Zechariah. Rather, just like the saints who did good deeds to their brothers in Christ, ultimately did these kind acts to Christ in Matthew 25:37-40, the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ generation who killed the saints of their generation are also said to have killed the saints of old in Christ’s eyes according to Matthew 23:34-36.
It has also been proposed that the “generation” of Matthew 23:34-36 is an allusion to the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32). In Deuteronomy 32 Moses predicts the future with a song intended to be fulfilled in Israel’s last days (Romans 10:19). Some have argued that since this song was fulfilled in Israel’s last days according to Romans 10:19, then the “generation” mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:5 must mean race and not contemporaries living at the same time. Is this true? Let us look at Deuteronomy 32:5-7: “They are corrupt and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation. Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you? Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past.” Notice that Deuteronomy 32:7 mentions the “generations” (plural) of the past. How could generation in v. 5 mean the Jewish race when it is plural in v. 7?
Even in the unlikely event that Jesus used “genea” or “generation” in reference to a transgenerational group of wicked people in Matthew 23:34-36, Jesus’ use of “generation” in Matthew 24:34 is clearly not transgenerational. In Matthew 24:3 the disciples ask Jesus when the Temple would be destroyed and what would be the sign of His coming: “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘“Tell us,” they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’” Jesus finally answers this question in Matthew 24:34: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Are we to believe that Jesus is referring to a transgenerational type of people in Matthew 24:34? If so then proponents of this belief would have us believe that Jesus did not answer His disciples question as to “when” the Temple would be destroyed in this verse. And instead Jesus says a nonsensical thing like the Jewish race would not perish until all these things happened as though that were not already made explicit throughout Matthew 23 and 24. From its context Matthew 24:34 MUST refer to the generation of people alive in Jesus’ day. The context will not sensibly permit it to refer to a race or any other generation.