Part 4 & Conclusion (All These Things Shall Come Upon This Generation)
By Ward Fenley


(Within Forty Years)

The word generation was one of the first words that truly made me think that Christ said He was returning in the lifetime of the apostles. I was about thirteen or fourteen years old at the time. I went to my dispensationalist pastor to find the answer. (After all, pastors have all the answers...donít they?) He graduated with a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary with honors in Hebrew and Greek. The answer I received from him regarding the definition of the word generation was, "It means race." He said this with authority.

Back then, I was not familiar with using the Strongís concordance, so I just took his word for it. That was my problem. I took his word for it. I did not find out until years later when confronted by an inconsistent preterist that the word generation does not mean "race." This inconsistent preterist told me it meant exactly what it said and that I should check it with Strongís. I did. He was right! There is a word in the Bible that does mean "race." It is the Greek word genos. (1085. genos, ghen'-os; from G1096; "kin" (abstr. or concr., lit. or fig., indiv. or coll.):--born, country (-man), diversity, generation, kind (-red), nation, offspring, stock). The word for generation is genea. (1074. genea, ghen-eh-ah'; from (a presumed der. of) G1085; a generation; by impl. an age (the period or the persons):--age, generation, nation, time.) Strongsís Exhaustive Concordance. Nevertheless, the inconsistency of this "preterist" in separating the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem from the glorification of saints became very apparent. Needless to say, the great and sovereign God changed my stubborn heart. He even changed my will. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth." Psalms 110:3. For this I praise the reigning King!

Back to generation: It is imperative to understand the Bibleís explicit definition of the word generation. This can be found in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 3:7-10 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. Another passage that defines the word generation is found in Acts 8 where the Ethiopian eunuch is approached by Philip while reading Isaiah 53: Acts 8:33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. Jesus probably did not live more than thirty-three years. "His generation" and "His life" are terms that correlate with each other, signifying the timing of His life and ministry. Also in Acts is the sermon of Paul regarding Christ and His fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant: Acts 13:36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: What happened after David "served his own generation"? He died. His serving his own generation was the period of time that he was king of Israel. How long did David serve his generation, i.e. how long was he king? We find an indisputable passage that defines the generation of which Paul spoke: 1 Kings 2:11 And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem. In light of these clear definitions of generation, let us look at the other passages containing the same word. Matthew 11:16-19 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. Jesus was referring to the Pharisees of His day. This is proven by verse 18 in which He mentions the name of John the Baptist and verse 19 where He mentions Himself. It was particularly their generation that came into contact with John and Jesus, and the Pharisees rejected them both; thus, the words: "But whereunto shall I liken this generation?" Matthew 12:38-42 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, WE would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. Clearly, the Pharisees wanted proof that Jesus was truly the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Therefore, they wanted to observe the lame walk, the blind see, and the deaf hear. It is because of this that Jesus said, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." Jesus was addressing them. Even beyond that, He told them that the Gentiles would rise in the judgment with their generation.

Yet another passage that identifies the specific generation to which Jesus was referring is found in Matthew 17:

Matthew 17:14-17 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is a lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. The generation that had the privilege of seeing the miracles of Christ was continually being reproved for its lack of faith. They actually were able to see the miracles and still doubted the power of God. Christ, accordingly, designated them as a faithless and perverted generation. The question of Christ in regard to their faithlessness is certainly proof of the identity of their generation: "how long shall I be with you?" It is unmistakably clear in this passage that Christ exactly defined his audience.

Peter told the people in his day to "save yourselves from this untoward generation." Acts 2:40. The whole theme of the epistles was to urgently prepare the professing Christians for the Day of the Lord. The Jews of the first-century were warned not to draw back unto the perdition of the condemned Pharisees. Peter compelled the Jews to repent from the dead works of the Pharisees.

In Luke 17, we find a passage pertaining to the second coming that also uses genea:

Luke 17:24-25 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. 25 But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. It is obvious which generation crucified the Lord of glory-the generation by whom He suffered many things. Interestingly, Jesus said, "He must first suffer many things and be rejected of this generation." This definitely gives strong implication that the timing of the two events (Christís suffering and His coming: cf. 1 Peter 1:11) is within the same generation, or forty-year period.

Perhaps the strongest passage (beside Hebrews 3:7-10) that classifies the limit of scope pertaining to those who would be alive at the second coming is found in Matthew chapter 23:

Matthew 23:13-39 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. 21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. 23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Seven times Jesus identifies His audience as "scribes and Pharisees." He labels them as hypocrites, fools, blind guides, full of extortion and excess, whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness, and lastly, generation of vipers. The Greek word used in verse 33 for generation is different from that in verse 36 It is the word gennema which Strongís defines as offspring. If Jesus wanted to clarify that He was referring to the race or offspring in verse 36, He certainly would have used gennema. However, this is not the case. Jesus was ever so explicit in declaring to the scribes and the Pharisees that upon them "would come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation" (Matthew 23:35, 36); in other words, "upon those living now."

Do not begin to think the attributes Jesus used to describe the Pharisees do not apply to the false teachers of our generation. They most definitely do. However, we are not to interpret the Bible based upon our experience but, rather, base our experience upon the Bible. That is, the apostates of our day are not the Pharisees of Christís day. They may do the same things and end up in the same lake of fire, but they are not the same people. In fact, if we carefully analyze our experiences and compare them with Scripture, we will find that what we previously thought were fulfillments of prophecy in our day were actually fulfilled during the lifetime of the apostles.

An extremely lucid passage that unequivocally associates the timing of the first-century generation is in the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 8:38;9:1 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. 9:1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. Finally, we see the word generation used in the Olivet discourse. After describing the signs that would take place before the destruction of the Temple, Jesus uses the same word generation to let the hearers know that He would do "all these things" before their forty-year generation would "pass away." Matthew 24:32-34 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. We have already examined the use of the word eggizo (drawing near) and eggus (at hand), and that the epistles clearly teach that the coming of the Lord was drawing near and at hand. Eggus is the same word used in Matthew 24:32,33. Therefore, Jesus was teaching that the generation to whom He was speaking would experience His parousia.


As we have seen, the very clear time statements of Scripture conveyed with certainty that the coming of the Lord was going to take place during their lifetime. We noted that a first-century recipient of one of the epistles would never assume that an inspired writer of the Bible would be trying to fool his audience. When Paul said "at hand," or James said "draweth nigh," the audience knew what the writers were communicating. There are numerous other passages that would positively lead the hearers to believe that Jesus was coming back during their generation. These passages will not contain such explicit time statements as those we have previously studied. Rather, these passages will expose the grammatically natural assumptions of the audience as they understood the Lord and the inspired apostles.

Ward Fenley