IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME
Part 4 & Conclusion (All These Things Shall Come
Upon This Generation)
By Ward Fenley
ALL THESE THINGS SHALL COME UPON THIS
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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