How does Jesus' use of "generation" in Matthew 24:34 fit into end-time prophecy?

Email Received:

When Israel became a nation again in 1948, it was a prophecy time check. Jesus said the "generation that sees these things shall certainly not pass away." Others claim that when Israel annexed all of Jerusalem in 1967, this was the beginning of the "generation" spoken of by Jesus. How long do you think a "generation" is, and how does this fit into end-time prophecy?

Tedís Response:

Decades ago, when I first began studying Bible prophecy, the common belief was that a "generation" was 40 years. Thus, when 1988 (forty years after Israel became a nation) rolled around, many were saying that the 70th Week covenant must be imminent. When it didn't happen, the same people began looking at 1967 as the beginning point of the 40-year "generation." The 40th anniversary of the six-day war in Israel was in June 2007, which came and went without incident or notable significance.

I see two problems with trying to define a "generation" and attempting to decide when the "end of the age" has begun, based on when the end-time generation begins and ends. Firstly, the duration of a "generation" is a very debatable figure. I have heard values of from 40 to 70 years. I have searched the Bible (which should be the final word on this) and have not found any reliable figure, concerning the length of a generation. Thus, trying to pin a specific time period on a "generation," as referenced in Matthew 24:34 and in Luke 21:32, is mere conjecture, at best.

Secondly, and more importantly, let us look more closely at Matthew 24:32-34:

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it [or he] is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. (Matthew 24:32-34)
Indeed, the term "fig tree" by Jesus most likely is a prophetic reference to Israel. In the past several decades, many prophecy buffs have tried to force that to be a modern-day "budding" of Israel in 1948, or of Jerusalem as its official capital in 1967.

Consider, though, that this passage by Jesus, after He had just described many of the occurrences taking place during the 70th Week up through the Rapture event (Matthew 24:3-31), very well may be referring to the ultimate "budding" of Israel (24:32) at the end of the 70th Week. At that time,

Thus, perhaps when we see the events of the 70th Week definitively taking place, we will know that Israel's final deliverance and glorious "budding" is near (24:33).

Also, in many Bible versions, what is seen to be "near" in Matthew 24:33 is "he," referring to Jesus. Of course, this would be an indicator of the end of the 70th Week. Look at Matthew 24:1-3:

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." 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?" (Matthew 24:1-3)

In my opinion, the specific length of a "generation" is irrelevant. What matters is that the generation that sees the events of the 70th Week taking place also will see the return of Christ and the glorious "budding" of Israel. Therefore, I believe that any speculation of the actual length of a "generation," mentioned by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse, is immaterial.

Return to Email Questions and Tedís Responses

Go to Tedís Bible Commentaries and Other Links

View the New International Version of the Bible

Go to Tedís Homepage