MATTHEW 24 PART 4 – “THIS GENERATION” THE BUDDING OF THE FIG TREE AND GOD’S NEW EXODUS
BY: MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN
In Matthew 24:34 the disciples are told that the signs, the coming of Jesus, and the end of the age—the subject matter that the disciples previously asked about (“all these things”), would be fulfilled within their “this generation.” I will begin our study of Matthew 24:34 by quoting various translations that have correctly understood its meaning and from there we will examine accurate definitions from various Bible dictionaries and weigh the lexical evidence. While examining if there is any warrant to interpreting genea in any other way than the contemporaries of Jesus, we will also be examining false interpretations of genea which allegedly teach: 1) that Jesus meant that the entire Jewish race would not pass away until all things were fulfilled. 2) Our contemporary generation which saw Israel become a nation in 1948 is the end time generation. 3) Jesus uses the phrase “this generation” to be referring to a future generation that is alive to witnesses these signs whenever they begin to be fulfilled. And the last interpretation that will be considered is 4) Jesus is simply describing an evil generation or class and mindset of evil or faithful people in the last days before He returns. We will also be looking at key texts in the NT to see how the word “generation” (Gk. genea) is used to give us an even clearer and more definitive interpretation of Matthew 24:34. And lastly, we will examine Matthew 24:34 as the anti-type or the projected terminal “last days” generation of Deuteronomy 32:5, 20. I will argue that Jesus’ use of “this generation” along with Paul’s and Peter’s (Philippians 2:15; Acts 2:40), needs to be seen in the overall context of the new exodus motif in which the Jews expected their Messiah to recapitulate another 40 year New Covenant redemption for Israel and in-gathering of the Gentiles.
“Remember that all these things will happen before the people now living have all died.” (Mt. 24:34 GNT)
“Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for all of you. This age continues until all these things take place.” (Mt. 24:34 The Message)
“I tell you the truth, all these things will happen while the people of this time are still living.” (Mt. 24:34 NCV)
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Mt. 24:34 KJV)
Definitions and the Lexical Evidence:
The Thayer Greek-English Lexicon and Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines genea here in Matthew 24:34 (and in the other relevant passages), as Jesus addressing His Jewish contemporary generation (AD 30-70) and therefore is the subject of the prophetic pronouncement,
“the whole multitude of men living at the same time: Mt.xxiv. 34; Mk. xiii. 30; Lk. i. 48; xxi. 32; Phil. ii. 15; used esp. of the Jewish race living at one and the same period: Mt. xi. 16; xii. 39, 41 sq. 45; xvi. 4; xxiii.36; Mk. Viii. 12, 38; Lk. Xi. 29 sq. 32, 50 sq.; xvii. 36; Heb. iii. 10…” “…who can describe the wickedness of the present generation, Acts viii. 33 (fr. Is. Liii. 8 Sept.).”
“…of the whole multitude of men living at the same time, Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 1:48; 21:32; Phil. 2:15, and especially of those of the Jewish people to the time in which they lived, the world came to mean age, i.e., a period ordinarily occupied by each successive generation, say, of thirty or forty years, Acts 14:16; 15:21; Eph. 3:5; Col. 1:26; see also, e.g., Gen. 15:16.”
Although somewhat inconsistent, the most impressive Greek work and interpretation I have come across thus far comes from Collin Brown,
“In Matt. it has the sense of this generation, and according to the first evangelist, Jesus expected the end of this age (àTime, art. aion) to occur in connection with the judgment on Jerusalem at the end of that first generation (see Mk. 9:1 and Matt. 16:28).”
“But if these events were expected within the first generation of Christians (and “generation” is the most probable translation of genea), either Jesus or the evangelists were mistaken…” “…However, there is an alternative interpretation of the passage which points out that insufficient attention has been paid to the prophetic language of the passage as a whole.
The imagery of cosmic phenomena is used in the OT to describe this-worldly events and, in particular, historical acts of judgment. The following passages are significant, not least because of their affinities with the present context: Isa. 13:10 (predicting doom on Babylon); Isa. 34:4 (referring to “all the nations”, but especially to Edom); Ezek. 32:7 (concerning Egypt); Amos 8:9 (the Northern Kingdom of Israel); Joel 2:10 (Judah). The cosmic imagery draws attention to the divine dimension of the event in which the judgment of God is enacted. The use of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:15-21 provides an instance of the way in which such prophetic cosmic imagery is applied to historical events in the present (cf. also Lk. 10:18; Jn. 12:31; 1 Thess. 4:16; 2 Pet. 3:10ff.; Rev. 6:12-17; 18:1). Other OT passages relevant to the interpretation of the present context are Isa. 19:1; 27:13; Dn. 7:13; Deut. 30:4; Zech. 2:6; 12:10-14; Mal. 3:1. In view of this, Mk. 13:24-30 may be interpreted as a prophecy of judgment on Israel in which theà Son of man will be vindicated. Such a judgment took place with the destruction of Jerusalem, the desecration of the à Temple and the scattering of Israel – all of which happened within the lifetime of “this generation.” “…Such an interpretation fits the preceding discourse and the introductory remarks of the disciples (Mk. 13:1ff. par.).” (Brown, Ibid., 38-39, bold emphasis added).
Brown is on the right track here with this interpretive suggestion since it fits with the obvious meaning of genea throughout the NT and allows the OT to interpret these in time–historical judgments, in an apocalyptic/metamorphic/symbolic way which is consistent with the language of the prophets! In other words he is allowing the Bible to interpret itself. Unfortunately, Brown was inconsistent in interpreting some of these NT texts in a preterist way throughout the rest of his work.
False interpretations of “this generation” considered
1) “This race” will not pass a way
Of the 27 translations I looked at for genea, only one (WUESTNT) sought to translate it with having no regard to the context and with a futurist bias, “This nation shall by no means pass away until all these things take place.” And although the reader may find some documentation somewhere giving genea a meaning of “nation, stock, or race,” even those sources will or should admit that the predominant meaning is, “The whole multitude of men living at the same time” or “a period of “30 – 40 years.” It is difficult to understand how so many can be led astray in translating or interpreting genea as “race” when even the KJV and Strong’s Concordance admits that the word is used 42 times with the predominant translation being “generation,” - 37 times as “generation,” 2 times as “time,” 2 times as “age,” and only 1 time as “nation.”
This particular interpretation and translation has been popularized by the Dispensationalist Scofield Study Bible and commentators such as Adam Clarke. Not only have Dispensationalists embraced this false definition of “this generation,” but even Amillennialists such as Anthony Hoekema. Hoekema quoting F. Buchsel states,
“It should be noted that the word “generation (genea), as commonly used in the Synoptic Gospels, may have a qualitative meaning as well as a temporal one: ‘This generation is to be understood temporally, but there is always a qualifying criticism. Thus we read of an ‘adulterous’generation (Mark 8:38), or an ‘evil’ generation (Matt. 12:45; Luke 11:29), or an ‘evil and adulterous’ generation (Matt. 12:39; 16:4), or an ‘unbelieving and perverse’ generation (Matt. 17:17; cf. Luke 9:41; Mark 9:9).’” “By ‘this generation,’ then, Jesus means the rebellious, apostate, unbelieving Jewish people, as they have revealed themselves in the past, are revealing themselves in the present, and will continue to reveal themselves in the future.”
Just because there is an adjective describing how sinful Jesus’ contemporary generation is because of their rejection of Him does not in the slightest bit change the “temporal” meaning of genea to a 2000 + years and counting “qualitative” one!
Adam Clarke seeking to defend this interpretation writes of Matthew 24:34,
“…this race; i.e. the Jews shall not cease from being a distinct people, till all the counsels of God relative to them and the Gentiles be fulfilled.” “…till all the nations of the world should receive the Gospel of Christ, after which the Jews themselves should be converted unto God, #Ro 11:25…”
But what I find extremely puzzling in Clarke’s comments is that he doesn’t interpret genea outside of the Olivet Discourse this way and even concedes that a preterist interpretation can be the “true” one since it fits not only the context, but corresponds nicely with Jesus’ teaching elsewhere,
“But still it is literally true in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. John probably lived to see these things come to pass; compare #Mt 16:28, with # Joh 21:22; and there were some rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these words who lived till the city was destroyed, viz.Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city; R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, who outlived it; R. Zadoch, R. Ismael, and others.” (Adam Clarke, Ibid.).
Clarke believes “race” should be the novel interpretation here because the Great Commission wasn’t fulfilled to the nations of the world and yet he oddly believed the Great Commission of Matthew 24:14 and Romans 10:28 was fulfilled prior to AD 70,
“Perhaps no more is meant here than the Roman empire; for it is beyond controversy that pasan thn oikoumenhn, # Lu 2:1, means no more than the whole Roman empire: as a decree for taxation or enrolment from Augustus Caesar could have no influence but in the Roman dominions; but see on # Lu 2:1. Tacitus informs us, Annal. l. xv., that, as early as the reign of Nero, the Christians were grown so numerous at Rome as to excite the jealousy of the government; and in other parts they were in proportion. However, we are under no necessity to restrain the phrase to the Roman empire, as, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem, the Gospel was not only preached in the lesser Asia, and Greece, and Italy, the greatest theatres of action then in the world; but was likewise propagated as far north as SCYTHIA; as far south as ETHIOPIA; as far east as PARTHIA and INDIA; and as far west as SPAIN and BRITAIN. On this point, Bishop Newton goes on to say, That there is some probability that the Gospel was preached in the British nations by St. Simon the apostle; that there is much greater probability that it was preached here by St. Paul; and that there is an absolute certainty that it was planted here in the times of the apostles, before the destruction of Jerusalem. See his proofs. Dissert. vol. ii. p. 235, 236. edit. 1758. St. Paul himself speaks, # Col 1:6, 23, of the Gospel’s being come into ALL THE WORLD, and preached TO EVERY CREATURE under heaven. And in his Epistle to the Romans, #Ro 10:18, he very elegantly applies to the lights of the Church, what the psalmist said of the lights of heaven. Their sound went into ALL THE EARTH, and their words unto the END of the WORLD. What but the wisdom of God could foretell this? And what but the power of God could accomplish it?
Then shall the end come. When this general publication of the Gospel shall have taken place, then a period shall be put to the whole Jewish economy, by the utter destruction of their city and temple.” (Adam Clarke, Ibid.).
Since Clarke failed to interpret genea from its immediate context and sought to run to Romans 11 for his support, we should briefly turn our attention to this important eschatological passage.
There is of course great debate between Amillennialists, Premillennialists and Postmillennialists on the salvation of “all Israel” in Romans 11:25-26. Postmillennialists such as Gentry and Mathison argue that “all Israel” being saved refers to a mass conversion of ethnic Jews before Christ comes in our future. Amillennialists understand “all Israel” being saved to refer to the salvation of the church as the new Israel of God.
As for the view that “all Israel” refers to ethnic Jews in our future, we can immediately know that this view is incorrect. With the passing of the old covenant in AD 70, there is no covenantal Israel other than the united Jew-Gentile church. So the covenant promises in Romans 11 cannot refer to the modern nation of Israel or to the modern Jewish race or community. The only “Israel” in the New Testament that was to be cleansed from sin is the church, the body of Israel’s Messiah. This is the “Israel” (“all” of it) that entered into the Holiest of Holies in AD 70 (Heb. 9:8). Let us briefly summarize Paul’s argument in Romans 11.
Even though God’s old covenant people in their last generation were being hardened and excluded from the coming inheritance, that did not mean that God had rejected old covenant Israel (Rom. 11:1-2). Although it may have looked like Israel was being utterly cut off in her last generation, the truth was that old covenant Israel was being saved in her last days. God was actually saving “all Israel” —fulfilling His promises to “the fathers”— partly by means of the hardening of its last generation. Here is how:
1. By means of old covenant Israel’s transgression/failure and rejection in her last days, riches and reconciliation (through the gospel) were coming to the gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:18). As Paul said, “They are enemies for your sakes” (Rom. 11:28).
2. The salvation of the gentiles was making last-days Israel “jealous,” so that a remnant was becoming zealous for righteousness and being saved (Rom. 11:2-10,11,13,14).
3. The hardening, or reprobation, of old covenant Israel in her last generation was to continue until the fullness of the gentiles came in, i.e., came into Israel (Rom. 11:25).
4. In this manner, or by this process, all of the saints of historic, old-covenant Israel were going to be saved (resurrected) along with the last-days remnant and the believing gentiles who had been grafted into historic Israel. The consummation of this process took place in the Parousia of Christ in A. D. 70, according to the promises made to the fathers (Rom. 11:26).
This is when Israel died, was resurrected, and made new. This is when all of the elect (the Old Testament saints, the last-days Jewish remnant, and the believing gentiles) were consummately united in Christ and became the fulfilled “Israel of God.” It was at Christ’s return to close the Old Covenant age in AD 70 that all Israel was saved.
If Jesus wanted to give the meaning of “Jewish race,” here in Matthew 24:34, He would have used the Greek word genos which means,
“1) kindred 1a) offspring 1b) family 1c) stock, tribe, nation 1c1) i.e. nationality or descent from a particular people 1d) the aggregate of many individuals of the same nature, kind, sort.”
Although interpreting genea as “race” has no solid contextual or lexical evidence, this interpretation does not necessarily contradict ours in that Jesus is addressing the Jewish race, to be for sure, but it is clearly His contemporary Jewish audience which He is holding responsible for the blood guilt of the nation of Israel and therefore she will see her nations house/temple destroyed and her Old Covenant age brought to an end (cf. Mt. 23:30-24:34). And of course we agree that the Jewish race did pass away with the destruction of the temple. Pastor David Curtis sites several impressive sources which demonstrate that the Jews as a “race” today indeed did pass away in AD 70,
“But for those who attempt to translate it as “this race of Jews will not pass, till all these things are fulfilled,” it must be understood that THERE IS NO JEWISH RACE TODAY.
Many people today still consider the Jewish people as a race. Numerous verses identify Israel, in New Testament prophecy, in terms of their tribal associations; however, these associations do not extend beyond the first century. One example of this is Matthew 24:30, which we looked at last week, where Christ declares that “the tribes of the (land) shall mourn.”
After the destruction of Jerusalem, however, the nation of Israel, after the flesh, was scattered throughout the earth, and lost all tribal relations. This scattering was made immutable due to the fact that all tribal genealogical records were destroyed with the Temple in A.D. 70. The simple fact is that there is no existing Jewish race.
The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1973)
“The Jews As A Race: The findings of physical anthropology show that, contrary to the popular view, there is no Jewish race. Anthropornetric measurements of Jewish groups in many parts of the world indicate that they differ greatly from one another with respect to all the important physical characteristics.” (vol. 12, page 1054)
Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem (1971)
“It is a common assumption, and one that sometimes seems ineradicable even in the face of evidence to the contrary, that the Jews of today constitute a race, a homogeneous entity easily recognizable. From the preceding discussion of the origin and early history of the Jews, it should be clear that in the course of their formation as a people and a nation they had already assimilated a variety of racial strains from people moving into the general area they occupied. This had taken place by interbreeding and then by conversion to Judaism of a considerable number of communities. . . .”
“Thus, the diversity of the racial and genetic attributes of various Jewish colonies of today renders any unified racial classification of them a contradiction in terms. Despite this, many people readily accept the notion that they are a distinct race. This is probably reinforced by the fact that some Jews are recognizably different in appearance from the surrounding population. That many cannot be easily identified is overlooked and the stereotype for some is extended to all – a not uncommon phenomenon” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem, 1971, vol. 3, p. 50).
Encyclopedia Americana (1986)
“Racial and Ethnic Considerations. Some theorists have considered the Jews a distinct race, although this has no factual basis. In every country in which the Jews lived for a considerable time, their physical traits came to approximate those of the indigenous people. Hence the Jews belong to several distinct racial types, ranging, for example, from fair to dark. Among the reasons for this phenomenon are voluntary or involuntary miscegenation and the conversion of Gentiles to Judaism” (Encyclopedia Americana, 1986, vol. 16, p. 71).
Collier’s Encyclopedia (1977)
“A common error and persistent modern myth is the designation of the Jews as a ‘race! This is scientifically fallacious, from the standpoint of both physical and historical tradition. Investigations by anthropologists have shown that Jews are by no means uniform in physical character and that they nearly always reflect the physical and mental characteristics of the people among whom they live” (Collier’s Encyclopedia, 1977, vol. 13, p. 573).
Today, being a Jew simply means that one is of the Judaistic religion or a convert to it, or else in a “brotherhood” of those who are. Therefore, being a Jew has nothing to do with race. We are familiar with a number of notable figures, such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, and Tom Arnold, in fact, who became Jews by conversion to the religion of Judaism.
John Bray said, “Many Christians do not know that the vast majority of so-called Jews in the world today are the Ashkenazim Jews, while the remainder of them are the Sephardim Jews. The Ashkenazim Jews have as their background not the nation of Israel but a country called Khazaria, which country at one time was the largest country in Europe. The settlers of Khazaria were Turks and Huns. In A.D. 740 King Bulan of Khazaria decided to adopt the Judaistic religion for his country. A number of Jews were already living there. So he converted to Judaism, along with all his officials, and whole nation ended up being known as a nation of Jews. In 970 Russia came in and dominated the situation, and the Khazars were scattered, many of them going down into Poland and Lithuania. Where at the dawn of our modern civilization the largest concentration of Jews were found. Today, the largest percentage of so-called Jews in the world have as their background this group of people.” (This information is fully documented in detail in John Bray’s book, Israel in Bible Prophecy)
Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia (1970)
“In 1970 the Israeli Knesset adopted legislation defining a Jew as one born of a Jewish mother or a convert.” (vol. 14, p. 214)
“There can be little doubt that the scattered Phoenicians in Spain and Africa and throughout the Mediterranean, speaking as they did a language closely akin to Hebrew and being deprived of their authentic political rights, became proselytes to Judaism. For phases of vigorous proselytism alternated with phases of exclusive jealousy in Jewish history. On one occasion the Idumeans, being conquered, were all forcibly made Jews. There were Arab tribes who were Jews in the time of Muhammad, and a Turkish people who were mainly Jews in South Russia in the ninth century. Judaism is indeed the reconstructed political ideal of many shattered peoples – mainly Semitic…. The main part of Jewry never was in Judea and had never come out of Judea” (The Outline of History,p. 505).
Therefore, we can clearly and confidently assert that there is no such thing as a Jewish race, nor ever can there be.
These facts are devastating to Dispensationalism. Obviously, if the nation that they call the heir of Israel is shown to have no relationship to the pre-desolation nation, there is no credibility to that system. There are no twelve tribes today, there is no Jewish race today.
We know that there is no possibility that this passage of the Olivet Discourse has any relation to a future Jewish race, since there is no such thing. Since the fall of Jerusalem, and the scattering of the nation of Israel in the first century, the nation calling itself Israel has consisted of a collection of people from nearly every nation in the world, with no relation to the twelve tribes of the historical nation known as Israel. Any attempts to state that there is, or will ever again be, a race of Israelites are proven to be futile and of no force. There is no Jewish race. So, as you can see, to try to translate the word genea as race, does not fly.”
Let’s now move on to some more erroneous interpretations of “this generation.”
2) “Our generation which saw Israel become a nation 1948 will witness Christ’s return.”
Hal Lindsey, an alleged “prophecy expert” who, based on current events and not the Bible claimed,
“WE are the generation that will see the end times… and return of Christ.” And “unmistakably… this generation is the one that will see the end of the present world and the return of Christ”
And then this view was fueled from the pulpit from the mega church Pastors s such as Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel movement:
“…that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).”
“From my understanding of biblical prophecies, I’m convinced that the Lord is coming for His Church before the end of 1981.”
Having attended Pastor Chuck Smith’s church–Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, CA as a very young boy till about the age of 22, I was indirectly and directly influenced by this false interpretation. As a boy crossing the intersection of Sunflower and Fairview everyday for school I would read the words, “Jesus is coming soon. God keeps His promises” painted on the back wall of the Chapel Store (the church book store). After the Lord saved me at the age of 18, I would then attend and graduate from Calvary Chapel Bible College and had more direct interaction with Lindsey’s and Smith’s false newspaper eschatology. For Smith and Lindsey, Christ’s announcement that He is coming “soon” only “truly” meant His was coming “soon” for our generation because it was said that only our generation witnessed the “super sign” of Israel becoming a nation in 1948.
Another popular Calvary Chapel Pastor and author Jon Courson, instead of confronting Lindsey and Smith sought to manipulate his following as well and tried to ignite the dulling faith of those failed predictions of Smith and Lindsey,
“The fig tree is the symbol of Israel nationally, historically, and scripturally. On May 14, 1948, the fig tree blossomed once again when the land of Israel was returned to the Jews. Jesus said the generation that sees that event take place will not pass away. Who is that generation? We are.”
“Written by a then-unknown author named Hal Lindsay, The Late Great Planet Earth exposed an entire generation to the concepts of the Rapture of the church and the return of Jesus Christ. It was foundational to the Jesus Movement of the 70s, which started on the West Coast, spread across the country, and eventually circled the globe. Lindsay and other teachers of prophecy during that time stressed this teaching in Matthew 24. The parable of the fig tree enflamed the hearts of an entire generation for Jesus said the budding of the fig tree signaled His impending return.
What is the budding of the fig tree? Scripture interprets Scripture. Thus, Jeremiah, Joel, Hosea, and others identify the fig tree as the nation Israel. For centuries, Israel seemed to be a dead tree. In the year A.D. 70, the Romans marched into Jerusalem, destroyed the city, and took over the country. The Jews scattered every direction in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:64-67. But in addition to saying the Jews would be scattered throughout the world, God also said, But The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land (Jeremiah 23:8).” (Courson, ibid,)
“So it was that on May 14, 1948, Israel became a nation again. The fig tree that had appeared to be dead and hopeless suddenly sprang back to life and blossomed just as Jesus prophesied. And, according to Matthew 24:34, the generation that saw that happen would be the final generation.
What constitutes a generation? Hal Lindsay and others taught that a Biblical generation could be a thirty-eight to forty-year time period.
And the Lords anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed. Numbers 32:13
And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the LORD sware unto them. Deuteronomy 2:14
Thus, anticipation grew. Excitement and expectancy filled the hearts of many, for if you add forty years to 1948 and if you believe the rapture of the Church takes place seven years before the return of Jesus, the Rapture would take place in 1980 or 1981. Truly the time was near! T-shirts, bumper stickers, and posters were printed. Maranatha Come quickly, Lord became the watchword of believers. 1981 came. So did 1982, 83, 84, 85, and 86. And then something began to happen. A whole bunch of radical Christians began to cool off, saying, Maybe were here for a while after all. Maybe we shouldn’t be so committed to this kingdom thing. Oh, they didn’t say it in those exact words, but that’s what they were thinking. And a dulling of expectancy swept over our generation.
What went wrong? Perhaps forty years is not the figure we should work with when looking at a Biblical generation. Take a look at Genesis 15
And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again. Genesis 15:13, 14, 16
Here in Genesis 15, God refers to the four-hundred-year period the Jews were in Egypt as four generations. Therefore, in this model, a generation is not forty years but one hundred years. If a generation is one hundred years, am I suggesting that the Rapture will take place in 2048 one hundred years after the rebirth of the nation of Israel? No. I suggest it will be before then. You see, there is a principle in Bible interpretation called the Principle of First Mention that says foundational understanding about any given subject is usually found in the first place it is mentioned in Scripture. Where is the Greek term, generation first mentioned? In Matthew 1:17 we read: So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
Sharpen your pencils and think with me: Christian and Jewish theologians alike agree that, based on Biblical genealogies, Abraham was called by God in the year 2085 B.C. Genesis 2 tells us he was seventy-five years old at that time, which means Abraham was born in 2160 B.C. Matthew 1:17 tells us there were forty-two generations (14×3) from Abraham to Christ. So, if you divide 2160 the year of Abrahams birth by 42, you get 51.4. Thus, scripturally, there is validity for a Biblical generation to be 51.4 years”
“I believe you who are in your teens and early twenties are very possibly the last generation. Set your heart on things above. Live for heaven. Seek first the kingdom, and you will be happy presently, rewarded eternally, and grateful constantly.
You who are older, continue setting an example for us who are younger. Continue to make the Lord top priority in your life. Were looking to you in a very real sense. Please keep the fire hot.
Fellow baby boomers, we need to realize that Jesus Christ is coming soon. We don’t have time to play around. We don’t have time to chase worldly pursuits any longer. We need to return to ministry and service, worship and prayer, Bible study and street witnessing. Whatever it was you used to do when you were fired up about Jesus in the 70s, do it again. Maranatha!” (Courson, ibid)
Well, 1999 like 1981, came and went too! And just like the last days cults of Mormonism and the Watchtower of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, when Jesus doesn’t come back in the lifetime and 40 year generation of their “Holy Spirit led,” “prophets” and “prophecy expert” teachers, they just keep stretching out the meaning of “this generation” from 40 to 50, 60, 70 – 100 years and manipulating and trying to get people “fired up” with new newspaper eschatological schemes and scenarios that allegedly teach that our generation is the one that will witness the “rapture.” This is how these last days cults, TBN and such mega churches as the Calvary Chapel’s “Jesus movement” have grown!
Well, I’m 41 now, so I guess according to Jon Courson I am somewhere between the younger generation that is going to see Christ’s return and the baby boomers who’s faith have become cold and dull due to the false date setting of men like Lindsey, Smith and Courson. So I (and I hope you will too) accept John’s exhortation and challenge to: 1) Set my heart on things above, 2) Live for heaven, 3) Seek first the kingdom, 4) I won’t play around, and 5) return to ministry, service, worship, prayer, Bible study, and witnessing. In doing these things however I will need to refute Jon’s false interpretation of “this generation.”
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees” (Luke 21:29)
As we have seen Dispensationalists usually interpret the fig tree in Matthew 24:32 as the Nation of Israel coming back into the land in 1948. And usually Amillennialists, Postmillennialists and Preterists counter with Luke 21:29 and ask, “Well, if Israel is the fig tree beginning to get tender in 1948, then what about “all the trees” or nations? What happen to them in 1948?!?” It is then pointed out that the next verse equates the signs with the leaves beginning to get tender and the kingdoms arrival with Christ’s return as “summer.” Well, why not combine the two concepts? I don’t have a problem in the least seeing Israel as the “fig tree” and the rest of “all the trees” as the Gentile nations in this passage. Other than the abomination of desolation, the other major sign that marked “the end” is the Great Commission. The gospel was bearing fruit throughout the land of Israel and among the Gentile nations within the Roman Empire or world as they knew it (cf. Colossians 1:5-6, 23; Isaiah 27:6).
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Greek oikumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14)
“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Greek oikumene)” (Romans 10:18)
“And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek ethnos)”
“…My gospel… has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations (Greek ethnos)…” (Romans 16:25-26)
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world(Greek kosmos) and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15)
“…of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world(Greek kosmos), as is bringing forth fruit…,” (Colossians 1:5-6).
And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Greek kitisis) ” (Mark 16:15)
“…from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature (Greek kitisis) under heaven, of which I, Paul became a minister” (Colossians 1:23)
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Greek ge)” (Acts 1:8).
“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth (Greek ge), and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18)
The Great Commission and bearing forth fruit here is the fulfillment of Genesis 1:28 and paradise is being restored and about to come into its fullness at Christ’s imminent return. Although not a preterist, G.K. Beale at least makes the parallels:
Colossians 1:6, 10
‘increase [auxano] and multiply and fill the earth…and rule over all the earth’.
‘in all the world also it [‘the word of truth, the gospel’] is bearing fruit and increasing [auxano] (v.6); ‘in every good work bearing fruit and increasing [auxano]…’ (v.10).
“Several commentators have noticed that verse 6 and 10 are an allusion to Genesis 1:28 (and perhaps 1:22). It appears that the Hebrew text may be the focus, since the Greek Old Testament renders the Hebrew para (‘bear fruit’) by auxano (‘increase’) and raba (‘to multiply’) by plethuno (‘to multiply’).”
There is a new Adam—Christ, and He is exercising dominion through His seed and progeny–the Church. Through the Holy Spirit, His light was shinning through them and transforming them as God’s New Covenant Creation (verse 3; cf. 2 Corinthians 3-5:17).
The Church or God’s New Israel (comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles) was the fig tree or the “seed” that was “being sown” and “being raised” (the present tense is used in 1 Corinthians 15:37-44) through the gospel and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. This process would reach its resurrection fullness and maturity at Christ’s return. His return would usher in an “end” to the Old Covenant “the law” of the Adamic and Mosaic body of sin and death for His people (Rom. 5-8; 1 Cor. 15). Without God attending to Israel as His olive tree, vine, or seed, her vineyard could not bring forth resurrection life/fruit, and there could be no salvation/resurrection/harvest for the Gentiles or the rest of “all the trees” (Luke 21:29-31/Rom. 11:15ff.).
Combined, Reformed theologians such as Peter Leithart and James Jordan understand the resurrection and harvest of Daniel 12:2-3 and Matthew 13 as an evangelistic/resurrection process for Israel, that ended at the end of her Old Covenant age in A.D. 70. The wheat and the tares were in the process of growing together as they each responded to the gospel. I understand the presence of the Holy Spirit as a glorious light reflecting the glory of Jesus Christ raising and changing God’s elect from the Old Covenant mode of existence to the New. Between A.D. 66-70 Christ as the “Sun of Righteousness” came from the East to the West (cf. Matthew 24:27 – I translate astrape as the rays of light from the sun and not the lightning) bringing the final maturity and ripeness to the fruit and gathered it into His barn while burning up the chaff, tares and grass (Matthew 3:2-12; Matthew 13; 1 Corinthians 15-“first fruits” harvest motif., Revelation 7, 14; James 1:11; 5:1-9).
I may be wrong, but to me (and my reading of Isaiah and the OT prophets), the putting forth of the fig tree’s leaves and their blossoming (the Restored New Covenant Israel) along with all the trees (the time for the fullness of the Gentiles to be gathered and engrafted/redeemed into the Kingdom), seems to embrace the substance and fulfilling of the sign of the Great Commission in relation to Christ’s return in AD 70. Through the sign of the Great Commission being fulfilled and the power of the gospel, people/trees were about to blossom and become a well watered garden of God in His restored kingdom/paradise placed within the Land (Isaiah 27:6; 35; 44:1-5; 61:11). The Jew understood his Temple, City/Jerusalem and Promised Land to be the “heavens and earth” or a heaven on the earth of light in which the beasts/gentiles needed to come out of the darkness of their lands and enter in order to be saved. This is what we see in the book of Revelation with paradise being restored and the nations coming to the New Jerusalem for life (cf. Revelation 21-22:6-7, 10-12, 17, 20).
It always amazed me how Pastor Chuck Smith wanted to get people excited about how much agriculture and flowers he saw over in Israel the last time he was visiting there. He used this as an alleged “sign” along with Israel becoming a nation in 1948 and her making plans to re-build the temple again, that we were indeed living in the generation that would witness Christ’s return – yadee yadee – you know the story I’m sure. But this isn’t the kind of fruit and blossoming the book of Isaiah or Jesus is concerned with! The Bible is always interested in the heart and it is “within” and “in” this realm where the kingdom of God/heaven would come in Jesus’ “this generation” (Lk. 17:20-37; Lk. 21:31-32).
As I have sought to use the “this nation will not pass until all these things are fulfilled” interpretation against the dispensationalists by teaching that indeed the Old Covenant nation of Israel did indeed pass away in AD 70; so too I will use the Israel=fig tree argument against them here by offering a much better explanation as to how the remnant of Israel (the fig tree) and the nations (“and all the trees”) began to bud and blossom through the sign of the Great Commission being fulfilled before Christ’s imminent return in AD 70.
Since the alleged “re-gathering” of Israel in 1948 is supposed to be the “supersign” that we are living in the last days generation predicted by Jesus, we should give some attention to this imaginative interpretation. Instead of rebuking Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith’s false interpretation and predictions arising from this text, Calvary Chapel Pastor and Evangelist Greg Laurie still teaches this, and quoting from Mark 13:28-29 he writes,
“Jesus said the rebirth of Israel will be a supersign of the last days…” “Of course we know this prophecy was fulfilled not that long ago. On May 14, 1948…”
In this section I want to analyze the various “proof texts” that Dispensationalists use to support that 1948 was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. I will focus mainly on the writings of John Hagee and Thomas Ice. We also examine the empty claims of Dispensationalists that OT prophetic material made to Israel cannot be applied or fulfilled in the Church age.
Now days most Dispensationalists are either abandoning the system or going further into it by embracing the “Christian Zionist Movement.” This movement seeks to try and persuade Jews from around the world to move back to Israel in order to usher in the Great Tribulation period and hasten the pre-tribulation “rapture” of the Church. Newspaper prophetic sensation John Hagee has built a foreign policy advocacy organization called Christians United for Israel (CUFI) around this false doctrine and false interpretation of Scripture. He is pushing for a pre-emptive war with Iran to quicken the “rapture.” In 2006 while lobbying in Washington Hagee was clear in his agenda, “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West,” he said. This was supposed to be a step in the right direction as allegedly mapped out in the Bible, “a biblically prophesied End Time confrontation…which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation…and the Second Coming of Christ.” Hagee not only uses guilt manipulation techniques on the members of his church and T.V. audiences to tithe to his “ministries” through his false “prosperity gospel,” but also uses guilt manipulation to push his false Dispensational Zionism doctrine. Hagee clearly insists that if you are not on board with him and his alleged Holy Spirit led agenda of believing 1948 was a fulfillment of prophecy, and that God has a literal real estate “forever” in the literal city of Jerusalem today, any other view for a Christian to embrace “sin.” It is sad that this false doctrinal system/gospel of Hagee’s is tolerated among Evangelicals and it is more scary when he is allowed to lecture and manipulate our politicians and give them “altar calls” while pushing this agenda as part of his “gospel” of redemption etc…
In Deuteronomy 4:25-31; 28 – 29; and Leviticus 26, God lays forth His covenant with Israel of blessings and cursings. If Israel obeyed God they would be blessed in the land and if they disobeyed, they would be “scattered” among the Nations. The condition for their re-gathering back into the land was repentance and faith. Even though this is clearly laid out in the texts above, Dispensational Premillennialists such as Tim LaHaye, Thomas Ice, and Arnold Fruchtenbaum assert (in order to defend their system that 1948 was a prophetic gathering), that Scripture actually addresses two re-gatherings of Israel in the land: 1) in un-belief, and 2) another re-gathering in belief. Thomas Ice quoting his favorite dispensationalist theologian states,
“The re-establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 has not only thrown a wrench in amillennial thinking, but it has also thrown a chink in much of the premillennial thinking. Amazingly, some premillennialists have concluded that the present state of Israel has nothing to do with the fulfillment of prophecy. For some reason the present state somehow does not fit their scheme of things, and so the present state becomes merely an accident of history. On what grounds is the present state of Israel so dismissed? The issue that bothers so many premillennialists is the fact that not only have the Jews returned in unbelief with regard to Jesus, but the majority of the ones who have returned are not even Orthodox Jews. In fact the majority are atheists or agnostics. Certainly, then, Israel does not fit in with all those passages dealing with the return. For it is a regenerated nation that the Bible speaks of, and the present state of Israel hardly fits that picture. So on these grounds, the present state is dismissed as not being a fulfillment of prophecy.
However, the real problem is the failure to see that the prophets spoke of two international returns. First there was to be a regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment, namely the judgment of the Tribulation. This was to be followed by a second worldwide regathering in faith in preparation for blessing, namely the blessings of the messianic age. Once it is recognized that the Bible speaks of two such regatherings, it is easy to see how the present state of Israel fits into prophecy.”
Ice then seeks to give us some proof texts for this position,
“In 1948 when the modern state of Israel was born, it not only became an important stage-setting development but began an actual fulfillment of specific Bible prophecies about an international regathering of the Jews in unbelief before the judgment of the Tribulation. Such a prediction is found in the following Old Testament passages: Ezekiel 20:33-38; 22:17-22; 36:22-24; 38-39; Isaiah 11:11-12; Zephaniah 2:1-2 presupposes such a setting.” (Ice, Ibid.).
Scripture simply does not teach a prophetic “re-gathering in unbelief” and that is why other dispensationalists are struggling with this position! Let’s briefly address some of these passages that Dispensationalists use as their “proof texts”:
The context of this passage is dealing with the Babylonian captivity and has nothing to do with Israel being re-gathered back into the land in 1948! The context is that Israel was being unfaithful to God and wanted to be like the heathen nations around them. Therefore, God would take Israel out of her land in the wilderness (symbolic of the Babylonian captivity) and “purge” the wicked there so that the unbelievers would perish as God had purged the unbelieving generation under Moses in the wilderness. So this text actually teaches the opposite of what Dispensationalists say, because it would be the unbelievers who would be purged and die outside the land and not enter it. How is this passage teaching us that unbelievers would be re-gathered in the land of Israel in 1948 “in unbelief” is baffling to say the least!
Paul combines and applies both Isaiah 52:11 and Ezekiel 20:34 to the Church age in 2 Corinthians 6:17 which Dispensationalists claim cannot be done in any way.
Again, the context is the “near” (vs.3-4) judgment of Israel by means of the Babylonians in B.C. 586 for their sins of spilling innocent blood and idolatry. The unbelievers are “dross” and would “melt.” This prophecy has nothing to do with God gathering Israel in the land in 1948 as a covenant gathered blessing, and it definitely does not teach a gathering of Israel in unbelief in 1948 either!
The immediate context of this chapter is describing Israel’s sins of idolatry and her sins of blood guilt. For these reasons she was scattered into the Gentile nations and made slaves. As slaves they remained unfaithful to God and were thus a poor witness of Jehovah to the nations in which they were scattered. But God for His own great name sake would cleanse them from their sins and call them back into their land to rebuild the waste places. In type form, this prophecy (and chapter 37) was fulfilled under the restoration of Nehemiah and Ezra when the people came back into the land in repentance and began re-building the waste places of Jerusalem. There is NO contextual evidence whatsoever that there was a “re-gathering” of Israel in “unbelief” let alone any suggestion whatsoever that 1948 is the focus of this prophecy!
Ezekiel 37, 40-48
John Hagee writes of this chapter,
“MORE THAN 2,600 years ago the prophet Ezekiel prophesied the resurrection of Israel from the Gentile graves in the lands to which she had been scattered, predicting the rebirth of Israel, which took place May 14, 1948.”
“I want to make it clear that I do not believe that Ezekiel’s vision has anything to do with the resurrection of the dead saints of the church.” (Ibid.).
“The dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision represent the nation of Israel during the Dispora, beginning in A.D. 70 (Ezkek. 37:11). Gradually the bones came together, and the sinews and flesh came upon them.” (ibid. 130-131).
And popular Calvary Chapel Pastor and Evangelist Greg Laurie has sought to get his piece of this sensationalistic money making pie as well,
“On more than one occasion in Scripture, Israel is compared to a fig tree (see Judg. 9:11; Hos. 9:10; Joel 1:7-8). I believe that Mark 13:28-29, along with many other Scripture passages, such as Ezekiel 37-39, speak of the rebirth of Israel—the regathering of God’s people. When the nation of Israel comes back into the existence, Jesus was stating prophetically, it is a supersign that His coming is near.”
Of course some Dispensationalists disagree with Lindsey, LaHaye, Smith, Laurie, Courson, Ice, etc., that Ezekiel 37 has anything to do with 1948,
“The Israelites residing in Palestine today are not the fulfillment of this prophecy.”
Everyone agrees that the resurrection depicted in Ezekiel 37 is a “national” resurrection. In other words Israel experienced national and covenantal “death” when she was scattered from her land and experiences a “resurrection” when she is restored back into the land. Again, like chapter 36, this prophecy was partially fulfilled through typology when the two houses of Israel came back into the land under the restoration and leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. However, both chapters contain elements of Messiah’s work of salvation (the anti-type) with the coming Messianic New Covenant.
Ezekiel 37:22-28 discusses the coming New Covenant King/Shepherd who would cause: 1) His people to possess the land, 2) establish an everlasting covenant of peace with them, 3) multiply them, and 4) “sanctify” them by establishing His “sanctuary” and “tabernacle” in their midst forever.
Are OT prophecies fulfilled in the Church? IN CHRIST OR IN THE LAND?
Dispensationalism makes the bizarre claim that OT prophecies made to Israel cannot be fulfilled “in any sense” to the Church. Keith Mathison provides a helpful list of quotes from some of Dispensationalism’s leading theologians on this point:
Lewis Sperry Chafer. “That the Christian now inherits the distinctive Jewish promises is not taught in Scripture.”
J. Dwight Pentecost. “…it would be impossible for the church to fulfill God’s promises made to Israel.”
Charles C. Ryrie. “The church is not fulfilling in any sense the promises to Israel.”
They believe that OT prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel in such passages as Isaiah 11, 35, 43, 44, 61; Ezekiel 11, 28, 34, 37; Jeremiah 16, 18, were made exclusively to Israel and therefore cannot be fulfilled in and through the Church “in any sense.” Dispensational Zionist John Hagee believes these passages motivate the Church to get Jews around the world to re-inhabit Israel today in order to hasten the “rapture” of the Church and usher in the last days World War III event. However, the context of these passages and how they are understood by the NT authors, make it clear that these “gathering in the land” promises were fulfilled 70 years after the Babylonian captivity under the restoration ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah (in type or partial fulfillment form), which pointed to them being ultimately fulfilled in Christ and through the Church (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Dispensationalism argues that Israel under the Abrahamic covenant has not yet inherited all of the land promised by God, in spite of God clearly saying otherwise (Genesis 15:18; 1 Kings 4:20-21; Joshua 11:23; 21:41-45; Nehemiah 9:21-25). The objection from Dispensationalists is that Israel has not inherited the land “forever.” Sometimes in Scripture “forever” means forever and other times it simply means a long time. In the passages listed above, God’s promises made to Israel concerning the land had not failed to come to pass. Indeed in type and shadow form, through the 40 year reigns of David and in particularly Solomon, Israel received peace in all the land that God had promised to give Israel. All the blessings under the Old Covenant were realized “in the land.” However, in the NT we discover that the anti-type and “true” fulfillments of the Abrahamic promise is found in the gradual 40 year “this generation” pre-parousia reign of Jesus and the reception of a “heavenly country” that was “about to come” in the first century (Hebrews 11:13-16; 13:14YLT). The writer to Hebrews (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) applies the New Covenant Promised Land, City, Tabernacle/Temple, Mount Zion, Sabbath/Rest/Inheritance and Kingdom promises made to Old Covenant Israel to the Church with the reception of these promises to be fulfilled at Christ’s “in a very little while” coming in which He would “not tarry” (Heb. 1-10:37). The NT emphasis is not “in the land” but rather in a person – “in Christ” through faith. For “in Christ” and through the Church, are all the OT promises of God realized and fulfilled (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).
The New Covenant promises
Since the gathering back into the land and New Covenant prophecies of Jeremiah 30-31parallel much of the same historical re-gathering and New Covenant material found in Ezekiel 37, we should probably examine the blatantly unbiblical comments of dispensationalists who claim that the New Covenant promises made to Israel are not being fulfilled in the Church. Dwight Pentecost writes,
“the Church cannot be presently fulfilling the New Covenant.” John Walvoord agrees, saying that “the New Covenant is with Israel and awaits the second coming of Christ for its fulfillment.” (Mathison, Ibid. 28)
Pentecost concedes that if the Church has been redeemed with the blood of Christ under the New Covenant, then the other covenants must also be applied to the Church and that would mean that the Bible does not teach an earthly millennium,
“The whole covenant takes on importance, in addition, for amillennialism attempts to show that the church is fulfilling Israel’s covenants because the church today is redeemed by the blood. If the church fulfills this covenant, she may also fulfill the other covenants made with Israel and there is no need for an earthly millennium.”
Charles Ryrie claims that the Bible condemns Dispensatinalism if the New Covenant is being fulfilled by the Church,
“If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned.”
These are obviously startling statements to say the very least. How can any Christian claim that he or she has not been redeemed by the blood of Christ’s blood under the New Covenant when the Scriptures are so clear that we are? The answer is that these men have become so engrossed in defending their eschatological system, that this has forced them into rejecting foundational elements to the gospel and indeed the Christian faith.
Jesus began fulfilling the Davidic Covenant or “One King” prophecies of (Ezek. 37:22; Jer. 30:9) at His ascension (Heb. 1-2). Every element that is required for a King to reign is given to Christ through the Church. He was seated on a throne and rules through a City and Nation—that is the Church (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 12; Gals. 4). The sending of the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Davidic and New Covenant is the focus of attention in (37:24ff.).
One Shepherd with one flock
Jesus would be Israel’s “one shepherd” who’s sheep would walk in His judgments and observe His teachings and do them (Ezk. 37:24). This prophecy is clearly fulfilled in the words of Jesus in John 10 and 17. Obviously OT promises made to Israel are being applied to the Church–the New Covenant fold of God! In the striking and sacrifice of the True Shepherd, the everlasting New Covenant (v. 25) seals the sheep’s/Churches salvation (Mark 14:27; Mt. 26:28; Heb. 8, 12:24, 13:20).
A New Covenant Temple, Peace and Sacrifices
The New Covenant of peace and temple motif began with Christ sending the Holy Spirit within His people. It would be competed and matured when He returned in AD 70 for them. At this time God placed His glory and everlasting peace “within” the Church who is the ultimate New Covenant fulfillment of the Temple promises (Hag. 2:9/Jn. 14). Christ and the Church are the fulfillment of Israel’s New Covenant Tabernacle/Sanctuary/Temple promises with Christ being the chief corner stone (Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 118:22-23/“the builders rejected”/Acts 4 “YOU rejected”/Mt. 21:33-45/1Pet. 2:4 -10; Ezk. 37:27/2 Cor. 6:16; Ephs. 2:19-20; Amos 9:11-12/Acts 15:7-19). God’s New Covenant/Temple/Kingdom plans for Israel were not postponed because of Jesus’ rejection and sacrifice (per Dispensationalism), but rather this rejection of the nation and belief of the remnant and the Gentiles established and began fulfilling God’s Kingdom promises made to Israel with Christ’s return in AD 70 bringing them to full maturity. While here in Ezekiel 37 and on the temple motif alone, we see Paul quoting Ezekiel 37:27 in 2 Corinthians 6:16 and applying this prophecy to the Church! But Dispensationalists seem oblivious to the hermeneutics of Paul and remain adamant that this is somehow a prophetic description of a “literal” rebuilt temple in the millennial age,
“These promises anticipate the detailed plans for God’s new sanctuary (chaps. 40-43). This literal structure will serve as a visual object lesson to Israel and the nations of God’s presence in the midst of His people.” (Walvoord & Zuck, Ibid., 1299).
BUT Paul claims that the Church is the fulfillment of these temple/millennial promises and says nothing about a literal “rebuilt” temple in order to fulfill Israel’s millennial promises thousands of years off in the future!
One of the most disturbing elements within Dispensationalism’s “literal hermeneutic,” is that within this literal rebuilt temple, animal sacrifices will be re-instituted. Some Dispensationalists such as Scofield gave the farm away by claiming that it is possible that the sacrifices in Ezekiel’s temple prophecy are not to be interpreted literally,
“The references to sacrifices is not to be taken literally, in view of the putting away of such offerings, but is rather to be regarded as a presentation of the worship of redeemed Israel, in her own land and in the millennial temple, using the terms with which the Jews were familiar in Ezekiel’s day”
But obviously if the sacrifices are not to be interpreted literally, then neither should the altar or the entire temple structure itself be so interpreted.
The vision of the Temple structure is completely symbolic as James Jordan points out,
“The things Ezekiel describes in these chapters could never have been built. The Temple, City, and Land are entirely visionary and symbolic. The Kingdom of God in the Restoration was going to be so powerful and glorious that it simply could not be pictured in any architectural model that could be built. Only a vision would do.”
Unfortunately, most Dispensationalists seek to defend that these are literal animal sacrifices taking place after Christ has returned to Jerusalem and sits on his literal throne,
“However no difficulty exists if one understands the proper function of these sacrifices. First, animal sacrifices never took away human sin; only the sacrifice of Christ can do that (Heb. 10:1-4, 10). In Old Testament times Israelites were saved by grace through faith, and the sacrifices helped restore a believer’s fellowship with God. Second, even after the church began, Jewish believers did not hesitate to take part in the temple worship (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:42) and even to offer sacrifices (Acts 21:26). They could do this because they viewed the sacrifices as memorials of Christ’s death.” (Walvoord & Zuck, Ibid., 1305).
First of all, the writer of this statement (Charles H. Dyer) fails to acknowledge that the writer to the Hebrews applies the sacrifice of Christ’s blood of the New Covenant to the Church thus “condemning” (Ryrie’s term) Dispensationalism altogether (Heb. 7-10, 12).
Secondly, I appreciate the admission by Mr. Dyer, that Jewish Christians were obeying the Old Covenant Mosaic Law, because this is what Jesus clearly taught they should do in Matthew 5:17-19 before He fulfilled it all. Here Jesus instructs that ALL the jots and tittles of the Mosaic Old Covenant Law are to be obeyed UNTIL: 1) heaven and earth passes away, which is equivalent to the time period of when 2) all the Law would be fulfilled. Dispensationalist Thomas Ice seems oblivious to what this text says and actually cites it to claim that the Mosaic Law was fulfilled in Christ’s first coming,
“The Mosaic Covenant…” “…was fulfilled through the ministry of Jesus Christ during His first advent (Matthew 5:17). (Ice, Charting the End Times, Ibid., 79).
But clearly the Old Covenant Law was not all fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, but was binding and should be obeyed until heaven and earth passes away or it is all fulfilled. But since the futurist interprets “heaven and earth” here as the planet having not yet vanished, this necessitates that the Church today should be obeying all of the Mosaic Law—including the animal sacrifices. However, the truth is that the Christian Jews did participate in temple worship and animal sacrifices during a particularly unique period (“this generation” roughly AD 30-70) in which the Old Covenant was still being fulfilled by Jesus and the New was reaching its full maturity. According to the writer to the Hebrews, the Old Covenant Law was still in the process of “aging” and would “soon vanish” at Christ’s “in a very little while” return in which the “about to” reception of the New Jerusalem/Creation would take place (Heb. 8:13-10:37-13:14YLT). This all took place “soon” when the Old Covenant Mosaic Temple was destroyed at Christ’s return in AD 70. Dispensationalists (and most futurists) concede that “soon” in (Hebrews 8:13) is a literal time statement that most likely applies to AD 70,
“…the author’s words suggest that he recalled the prophecy of Jesus that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed (Matt. 24:1-2). Probably this prophecy was fulfilled soon after Hebrews was written. If so, it was a dramatic confirmation of the writer’s thesis about the Old Covenant.”
But unfortunately once in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, the abomination and desolation of this same first century temple Jesus and the disciples are looking at and discussing, becomes an alleged rebuilt one thousands of years removed from them. How you might ask? Apparently all it takes is a wave from the eisegetical wand of Dispensational theology. And although the literally “soon” vanishing of the Old Covenant in (Hebrews 8:13) applies to the temple being destroyed in AD 70, Christ’s coming in a “very little while” in which He would “not delay” in (Hebrews 10:37) is spiritualized away by these “literalists” and finds no contextual harmony with their literal interpretation of “soon” in (Hebrews 8:13)!
Once the Mosaic Law was all fulfilled and it “soon vanished” at Christ’s imminent return in AD 70, there is no Scriptural support for the statement that “The Old Covenant Is Not Dead.” (Hagee, In Defense, Ibid., 158). God indeed has kept His vows and has not altered His covenant promises, sending Jesus in a literally “some standing here,” “this generation,” “soon,” “in a very little while” time period in order to fulfill all of Israel’s promises by AD 70. For Dispensationalism to claim otherwise and return to the prophecies contained in the prophets and Old Covenant Law for support of another re-built temple with animal sacrifices, is a complete reversal of what the book of Hebrews teaches. The writer instructs us that redemption moves from physical Old Covenant types and shadows to their spiritual New Covenant substances and “true” fulfillments in Christ and through the Church. The writer says nothing about all of the Old Covenant Law being fulfilled in Christ’s earthly ministry, and neither does he teach that it is “not dead” and will somehow come back to life again thousands of years off in the future with another re-built temple for Israel! These concepts are literally READ INTO THE PAGES OF THE NT with millions of evangelical Christians asleep and refusing to be Bereans and hold these men accountable!
Dispensationalists claim that other OT passages such as Isaiah 66:20-23 teach the literal temple and sacrifice motif to take place in our future. And yet Paul references this passage in Romans 15:16 to demonstrate that he was a priest (in the temple predicted by Isaiah) offering up as a sacrifice the Gentiles (not literal animals). The prophecies in Isaiah that Dispensationalists reference as “proof texts” concerning the Jews and Gentiles coming to the “last days” Holy Mountain/Mount Zion/Temple, Jesus and the NT authors identify as being spiritual and fulfilled in the Church (John 4; Hebrews 12; Ephesians 2; 1 Peter 2).
The unity of Ezekiel’s visions of the heavenly Temple
Most Dispensationalists have not been exposed to other historical views of the Church other than their “literal” interpretations coming from their local church or TV “prophecy experts.” Therefore I would like to expose the reader to some excellent exegetical comments of the Ezekiel Temple from a few Reformed theologians and then I will put these concepts together and place them in their proper NT preterist paradigm.
Following the lead of Block, G.K. Beale points out the unity of the visions in Ezekiel and that this heavenly/spiritual Temple is not a literal structure but is rather intimately connected with God’s presence among His people during the exile period,
“…chapter 40 begins where chapter 11 left off describing God’s heavenly presence that had departed from the physical temple and had taken up invisible residence with the remnant of Israel in exile (11:16, 23-25). It is, therefore, quite viable that Ezekiel’s final vision of the temple describes the heavenly sanctuary to which the remnant on earth are related (Tuell 1996). The formal and thematic parallels between chapters 1, 8 – 11 and 40 – 48 ‘require that the same hermeneutical principles [of symbolism] employed in the interpretation of the previous prophecies apply here, and that one interpret this block [chs. 40 – 48] in the light of the previous visions of God’ (Block 1998: 496-497).” 
But how would Jews worship in the midst of exile without a temple? The answer as Beale points out lies within God’s promise to be their Temple and in analyzing the Qumran community who considered themselves as being the last days Temple Ezekiel prophesied. The Jew during a time in which the current temple was defiled with an apostate priesthood or was destroyed by Gentile invaders taught that the renewal of the covenant and atonement could come through ones own repentance, obedience and commitment to the Word of God,
“This spiritualization of the altar in the temple was based on analogy with the temple altar in Ezekiel 41:22. To engage continually in the study of the Law was equivalent to building the temple prophesied in Ezekiel 40 – 47 (Midrash Rabbah Leviticus 7:3). Repentance could be ‘accounted unto a person as if he had … built the Temple and the altar, and offered theeron all the sacrifices’ (Midrash Rabbah Leviticus 7:2). Part of the precedent for Qumran and John conceptualizing Ezekiel’s temple in a non-structural manner and applying it to a remnant of Israel or to the church may have been given by the prophet Ezekiel himself!” (Beale, Ibid., 318).
Another Reformed view taken from James Jordan sees the descent of the heavenly temple in Ezekiel 40 – 48 being more applicable during the reformation and rebuilt temple under Ezra. He emphasizes its fulfillment during the post exilic era before then applying it to the New Covenant Temple or age of the Church under Messiah,
“This time Ezekiel was given a vision and blueprint for the post-exilic Temple, but it was a temple so vast and huge that it could never be built. Ezekiel’s visionary Temple symbolized both the nature and the glory of the restoration establishment, but the Temple actually built by Ezra was a small affair. Ezra’s Temple symbolized the nature, but not the glory, of the new restoration covenant.” (Jordan, Ibid., 242).
He also points out that there is a de-creation that takes place upon the Land of Israel and the Temple during this period (cf. Jer. 4:23-28, see also Isa. 24-25) and that even the language of a new heavens and earth should be applied to the covenant’s renewal under Ezra and Nehemiah before it is applied to the New Creation’s arrival at Christ’s return,
“The new covenant and the new heavens and earth ultimately point to the coming of Christ, but their first fulfillment is to be found in the restoration of Israel from exile. That restoration was a downpayment, a pledge of God’s faithfulness. After all, each new covenant, being a resurrection in more glorious form of the previous one, pointed to the New Covenant.
It is often overlooked that the restoration establishment was indeed a new covenant, and an advance in glory beyond the Davidic establishment. Whether we call the post-exilic establishment a new covenant or simply a “covenant renewal,” the fact is that there were very great changes involved in the new cosmos, changes equivalent to the changes involved in the previous new covenants.” (Jordan, Ibid., 243-244).
Of the river in Ezekiel 47 Jordan writes,
“This is not a picture first and foremost of the New Testament, but of the spiritual realities present in the Restoration. This is indicated by the context of the prophecy, but there are also clear indications in the text, especially the fact that the river in Chapter 47 only flows in one direction, not four, and only to the edge of the Holy Land, not into the wider world.” (Jordan, Ibid., 246).
Jesus in John 4 and particularly in John 7:37-38 Jesus promises that the coming of the Holy Spirit would be like water welling up within the believer’s heart. Jesus claims that this is in fulfillment of the “Scriptures.” Of what Scriptures is Jesus alluding to? Since the Apostle Paul has already identified the promise of the Ezekiel Temple with the believer and the Church, it only follows that this is so because his Master had taught His disciples the same. John Gill and John Lightfoot are on the right track when Gill writes,
“And here may be an allusion to the waters issuing out of Ezekiel’s temple, #Eze 47:1 Re 22:1 Zec 14:8. Dr. Lightfoot and others tell us it was a custom of the Jews, which they received by tradition, the last day of the feast of tabernacles to have a solemnity, which they called Libatio aquae—The pouring out of water. They fetched a golden vessel of water from the pool of Siloam, brought it into the temple with sound of trumpet and other ceremonies, and, upon the ascent to the altar, poured it out before the Lord with all possible expressions of joy. Some of their writers make the water to signify the law, and refer to #Isa 12:3; #Isa 55:1. Others, the Holy Spirit. And it is thought that our Saviour might here allude to this custom. Believers shall have the comfort, not of a vessel of water fetched from a pool, but of a river flowing from themselves. The joy of the law, and the pouring out of the water, which signified this, are not to be compared with the joy of the gospel in the wells of salvation.”
Again, it is difficult to understand how Dispensationalists can claim that that OT promises made to Israel cannot be fulfilled in and through the Church when Jesus and the NT writers do just that very thing in practically every page of the NT!
In the book of Revelation, Christ’s imminent coming serves to reward and clothe the Church with the New Creation. It is through the power of Christ and the Church that the gospel of the Eternal Life is preached to sinners and this is symbolically described as a river flowing and welcoming the Gentile nations to come through its gates and receiving healing in drinking from its living waters (Rev. 21-22:17).
The measuring of the Temple
A lot of Dispensationalists claim that the Ezekiel Temple must be physical since there is so much detail given to its measurements. But in the OT measuring generally was a symbolic way of decreeing protection for the covenant people and there are obvious elements of symbolism and numerology as well.
In Revelation 11 we see this concept of measuring the Temple once again, but this time it is connected with the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. It is more than difficult to dismiss the parallel subject matter in regard to the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem between Luke 21:24 and Revelation 11:2. Both passages discuss the “trampling” of “Jerusalem” or the “holy city” by the “Gentiles.” In Revelation 11:1-2 the inner sanctuary, the worshippers and the altar are measured. This represents the New Covenant believers. The “outer court” is not to be measured because it’s so called worshippers have become apostate and will not be given God’s protection and given over to the Romans to be trampled and judged. The “outer court” represents the physical structure of the Old Covenant system itself – the destruction of the earthly temple and city and the worshippers who have looked to it for their salvation rather than to Christ and His followers.
Putting the Temple promises of Ezekiel 37, 40 – 48 all together
I would agree with Keith Mathison when he concludes that no matter which view above is the correct one, the heavenly Temple described in Ezekiel 40 – 48 is a non-literal structure,
“If the unique introductory fourmula connects all three visions, then the question is whether the temple vision in chapters 40-48 “refers to the purely heavenly temple dimension that descends in the midst of the faithful saints on earth (as in chapters 1 and 11), or the heavenly dimension in the midst of another (new) earthly temple in the structural form, as in chapters 8-9.” In either case, the emphasis is upon the heavenly dimensions of the temple dwelling in the midst of God’s people. Beale concludes that the vision of Ezekiel 40-48 is “a figurative vision of a real heavenly temple that would descend and be established on earth in a non-structural form in the latter days.”
Ezekiel prophesied of a literal “at hand” or “near” Day of the Lord (Ezekiel 7 & 12) upon Judah for her apostasy. Her temple and city were about to be imminently destroyed by the Babylonians and was depicted as a symbolic and metamorphic de-creation event. In Matthew 24, Jesus is predicting a “this generation” imminent return of Himself upon the clouds to bring an end to the Old Covenant system and age once and for all using the familiar metamorphic and symbolic language of the prophets.
Although the heavens and earth of Israel’s Temple and City would lay desolate through God sending the Babylonians, God assured His faithful remnant that He would function as their sanctuary during their exile and absence of a literal temple. This transition period of a spiritual temple laid the foundation for the NT teaching that the Christ and His disciples was the True New Covenant last days Temple predicted by the prophets.
The other typological picture comes in the form of the restoration period or covenant renewal during the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah. The “gathering” and resurrection of the Jews and their Gentile proselyte converts whom came from among the Gentile nations of slavery and exile (death) back into the Land in faith and repentance (resurrection) to rebuild the temple and city, were typological of the restoration, “gathering” and glory of the New Covenant Temple/Creation that Christ would perform in and through the Church. During the transition period, Christian Jews continued Old Covenant worship in the Temple until Jesus as their High Priest appeared a second time and thus fulfilled all of the promises of that covenant system (Mt. 5:17-19; Heb. 9:6-10, 26-28). During this period the out pouring of the Holy Spirit, obedience to Jesus’ teachings and the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire was the process by which Israel’s “last days” New Covenant Temple was being built up. This was the “already” aspect of Biblical eschatology and the descent of the heavenly last days Temple. The “not yet” to Biblical eschatology in the form of the completion and maturity of the last days Temple is undisputedly tied to Christ’s imminent parousia in AD 70 (Rev. 21-22:6-7, 10-12, 20).
The Jew understood his covenant with Jehovah in the Land and Temple to be a “heaven and earth” filled with the living waters and light of Torah. When Gentile converts came from among the death and darkness of their nations to Jerusalem in faith and repentance, they partook of the cleansing waters of God’s Word and were considered a “new creation.” This is what we see taking place in Revelation 21-22:17.
Multiplying seed promises
The Abrahamic and Davidic covenants of multiplying seed is fulfilled in Christ and those placing their faith in Him (either Jew or Gentile) and thus become the fulfillment of these New Covenant promises (Gen. 9, 12-13, 15, 17,22:17-18àGal. 3:16, 29; Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah 65-66; 2 Sam. 7:12; Psalm 18:50; 89:29). The fulfillment of these Abrahamic “faith,” “seed” and “circumcision” promises that constitute the New Covenant “Jew” had not been postponed thousands of years (per Dispensationalism), but were being fulfilled in Paul’s day through the Church (Rms. 2:28-29; 4).
The NT is very clear that the New Covenant promises made to Israel through Jeremiah apply and are fulfilled in the Church (Luke 22:20; Heb. 7-12 especially 8:6-13; 2 Cor. 3:6).
There is nothing in these two chapters that even remotely suggests that Israel is being “re-gathered” in “unbelief” in 1948 as the fulfillment of this prophecy. It is said that God’s judgment of the wicked will be a witness to the nations of Himself. He also states that He will make Himself holy in the ones He calls back into the land 39:27-29 and this as well is a witness to the nations. Again repentance, faith, cleansing, and restoration in the hearts of Israel are necessary requirements to be gathered from among the nations back into the land. We can understand from the text how FIRST the wicked being judged are a witness to the nations of God’s holy character, but how was 1948’s alleged re-gathering in unbelief a witness of God’s holiness and faithful covenant dealings with Israel? The answer is that it isn’t and simply does not meet the covenantal requirements. And if 1948 is a fulfillment of Israel’s Old Covenant Mosaic Law promises, are Dispensationalists claiming that currently Israel is under the Old Covenant while we are currently living in the Church age?
“We are on a countdown to crisis. The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty. The war of Ezekiel 38-39 could begin before this book gets published (MJS- don’t worry it won’t and it will get “revised” once again!). Israel and America must confront Iran’s nuclear ability and willingness to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons.” (Hagee, Ibid., 53).
“No prophetic scripture is more crystal clear than Ezekiel’s vivid and specific description of the coming massive war in the Middle East that will sweep the world toward Armageddon. Ezekiel’s war as described in chapters 38 and 39 will consist of an Arab coalition of nations led by Russia for the purpose of exterminating the Jews of Israel and controlling the city of Jerusalem.”(Ibid.).
Of the battle of Armageddon as described in Revelation 16, Wal-Mart sensation Tim LaHaye writes of China’s alleged involvement,
“…China is already moving in the political direction that will make it possible for her to do what Revelation indicates she will during the Tribulation: march over the Euphrates River to participate in the Battle of Armageddon. Such an action would have been considered impossible just sixty years ago. Today it is not only feasible, but with her Communist-inspired obsession to take over all of Asia and perhaps even the entire world, it may be feasible. Just another suggestion that “the time is near.”
Revelation 16:16 is simply a historic reference and symbol of war that is directed to a place – the mount of Megiddo or the city of Megiddo where famous battles of Israel had been fought (Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29) and is thus used as we might use the term of someone “Meeting your Waterloo.” Gary DeMar captures the intent of the text well when he writes,
“Israel remembered Megiddo as a place where God vented His divine wrath against rebellion, whether exhibited by Israel or a foreign power. God brought the nations of the world against first-century Jerusalem as he had promised (Matthew 22:7; 24:34). Rome, as an “empire of nations” (Syria, Asia Minor, Palestine, Gaul, Egypt, Britain, and others) representing all the nations of the world (see Luke 2:1),came up against Jerusalem and destroyed her.” “There were those in Israel who actually attempted to fight against this world empire and, met their “Waterloo.” “It no more takes place in Megiddo than Jerusalem is Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon” (MJS – These cities in Revelation describe apostate old-covenant Jerusalem 11:8; 18:24/Matthew 23:31-36).
As John writes towards the end of Jesus’ and his “this generation,” the prophetic last days battle, was to be fulfilled “shortly” not 2,000+ years away.
Like the other eisegetical embarrassing elements to Dispensational Zionism, is the belief that Russia will invade Israel because Ezekiel 38:2 and 39:1 use the Hebrew words rosh (which sounds like Russia) and Meshech (which sounds like Moscow). The other reasons are that Russia has some ancient cities residing in its domain that were ancient cities recorded in Ezekiel. But none of these other cities “sound like” their modern counterparts like Rosh (Russia) and Mesech (Moscow) allegedly do. Obviously this sound alike word game of “hermeneutics” is a “make up the interpretive rules as you go” game that is being plaid fast and loose with God’s Word. Again DeMar writes,
“The most damaging piece of evidence to the theory that Ezekiel 38 and 39 refer to modern Russia’s invasion of Israel during the Great Tribulation is that there is no mention of Gog and Magog or Meshech and Tubal in Revelation 4-19, yet this passage is where dispensationalists tell us the Great Tribulation is described. Revelation 20:8 describes the battle of Gog and Magog as coming after the thousand years. Moreover, its characteristics are quite different from the Ezekiel battle. This means, like “Jezebel” (Revelation 2:20), “Sodom and Egypt” (11:8), and “Babylon” (14:8), the Battle of Gog and Magog is characteristic of an Old Testament event, but it is not the same event! One is past (Ezekiel 38-39); the other is future – after the “thousand years” (Revelation 20:8).” (DeMar, Ibid., 366).
Another problem for Dispensationalists revolves around the question – was the gathering of Israel in 1948 a “super sign” that we are in the “later days” or “last days” of (38:16), or are the “last days” strictly an OT prophecy for Israel separated from the Church? Hard line Dispensationalists claim that we are not in the last days because the OT never predicted the church and the “last days” prophecies only address Israel after the “rapture” of the Church takes place. But others such as Charismatic Dispensationalists teach that the gifts of Acts 2 are continuing in our day (“the last days”), and that 1948 was the “super sign” that God’s time clock for Israel has been activated. In other words it is a sign that the Church is in the last days expecting the imminent “rapture.” But if the distinctions between the Church age and the last days to Israel’s age overlap, this collapses the Dispensational system.
These passages in Ezekiel (cf. also chapters 6 and 12) are referring to the scattering of Israel among the nations in the Babylonian captivity and are not addressing a scattering which took place in AD 70. When does Scripture teach that God would “gather” Israel back into her land from among the nations? Jeremiah tells us that it would be after 70 years were completed (Jer. 29). And this typological scattering and re-gathering under the hands of Cyrus, Ezra and Nehemiah pictured the true fulfillment of the New Covenant promises in Ezekiel 37 and Jeremiah 31under Jesus. This historical slavery and deliverance only typified the slavery of sin of which Jesus through the New Covenant gathering of the Gospel and through His parousia would deliver His people from.
Dispensationalists understand this section of Isaiah 11to be teaching a literal 1,000 year millennial period and Ice sites it as a proof text for a gathering of Israel in unbelief in 1948. This allegedly results to Israel’s millennial period in our imminent future. But again, the text only supports a gathering of the remnant of Israel and the Gentiles into the Kingdom in belief and not unbelief (vv. 11-12)!
Like we saw in 2 Corinthians 6:16/Ezekiel 37:27, Paul once again dismisses the Dispensational theory that Isaiah 11 is dealing with a future millennial period when he quotes Isaiah 11 in Romans 15:8-12. Here Paul makes it crystal clear that God was in the process of fulfilling His covenant promises to Israel because this fulfillment was resulting in the salvation of the Gentiles. Clearly if the “gathering” of Israel is the “in that day” millennial period which results in the salvation of the Gentiles, then Paul is emphatically teaching that this prophecy was being fulfilled and that the Church was in the millennial period. This portion of Isaiah deals with the second exodus theme which I will deal with in more detail towards the end of this article.
John Hagee appears to believe that Isaiah 35, 43, and 44 are dealing with literal “agricultural accomplishments” fulfilled in 1948 and today,
“If Israel as a nation had not been reborn, if the Jews had not returned to the land, if the cities of Israel had not been rebuilt, if the Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) had not been occupied, if the trees that the Turks cut down had not been replanted, if the agricultural accomplishments of Israel had not been miraculous, there would be a valid reason for every person to doubt that the Word of God is true. But listen to the prophets of God declare his intention for the Jews of the world to reinhabit Israel.” (Hagee, In Defense of ISRAEL, Ibid., 150).
It is indeed true that under the blessings and curses of the Old Covenant Mosaic Law that God would withhold rain (harden the land) or give rain (cause fruitful produce) for Israel in order to picture the state of their hearts. The desert beginning to bloom and blossom is really dealing with the hearts of God’s people turning to Him in faith and repentance under Ezra and Nehemiah, but is ultimately fulfilled in the out pouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jew and Gentile (the Church) in the NT.
Verse 3ff. is quoted in Hebrews 12:12. Within the immediate context, this passage is designed to comfort the fearful among Israel of the invading Gentile Lords. Eventually God would come and deliver them and bring them back into their land through Cyrus, Nehemiah, and Ezra – all types of Christ. Therefore, in type form, this historical coming of the Lord in judgment and salvation would picture the imminent return of Jesus in AD 66-70 – Hebrews 10:37. In Hebrews 12:11-13, the writer interprets the agriculture, the way/path, and healing of Isaiah 35 as a “harvest of righteousness” and “peace” to be realized in the salvation of Jesus. Unfortunately for Hagee and Dispensational theology in general, the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 12 does not teach that Israel’s kingdom promises of salvation and a New Covenant were “postponed” until 1948 (and counting into the “literal” 1,000 years millennial period), but rather that they were being fulfilled and received in the first century by the Church!
Jesus performed literal miracles of deliverance in the Gospels for the “unclean” from their blindness, deafness, not being able to speak, leprosy and being lame (vv. 5-6), because these infirmities pictured the bondage of sin in the heart of man. Jesus would bring the ultimate healing (the forgiveness of sins) through the cross, outpouring of the Holy Spirit and at His parousia in AD 70.
Isaiah’s promises to Israel of a “highway of holiness” and “Way” that the “redeemed” travel on (vv. 8-10), have not been postponed for thousands of years, but are being fulfilled today in the Church age through faith in Christ (cf. John 14:6).
Clearly God did bring His scattered children back into the land from the south, north, east and west from the Assyrian and Babylonian (cf. v.14) captivities through the deliverance of Cyrus and the restoration period of Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. As in Isaiah 11 the “second” or “new” exodus under Messiah is the contextual setting here and was ultimately fulfilled in Christ’s blood and parousia.
God gathered all kinds of His children from the east, west, north, and south into His kingdom through the preaching of the Gospel and at His return in AD 70 (Isaiah 27:13/Mt. 24:14-30-31; Luke 21:22-32). These children included not just the remnant of Israel, but the Gentiles and they were gathered into the kingdom when the Old Covenant Kingdom was judged and taken from the Jews and given to the Church in AD 70 (Mt. 21:33-43; Luke 13:28-30).
Again, Christ and His New Covenant salvation is the “way” and “new thing” (cf. Jeremiah 31:21-22, 31) in the desert which causes men’s hearts to blossom as the very garden of God (43:19-21).
Isaiah 44:24, 26
Here it becomes abundantly clear that the “miraculous” “agricultural accomplishments” that Hagee literalizes, the prophet Isaiah identifies as the water and outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His people. The water is the Holy Spirit and the grass, meadow and poplar trees are God’s people (vv. 1-4).
The time of deliverance here is clearly typified during the time of Cyrus who functioned as God’s shepherd and would, “…accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple, Let its foundations be laid.” (v. 28).
Perhaps there is some application for false prophets such as Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, Jon Courson and John Hagee in verse 25. God clearly has made “foolish” their “Holy Spirit led” false predictions of the 1948 “this generation” scenario–“overthrowing” them, and making them “nonsense” and “fools” in His sight!
The “miraculous” “agricultural accomplishments” or the “planting of the Lord,” according to Isaiah has to do with His people being “oaks” and displaying the sprouting of His righteousness and praise before the nations (vv. 3, 11).
Jesus applies the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2’s “the year of the Lord’s favor” to His personal ministry in Luke 4:16-19. There is nothing in the prophecies of Isaiah or anywhere in the Gospels that even remotely suggests that Jesus’ ministry and Kingdom promises made to Israel got postponed for some 2,000 years and counting.
Amos 9:11-15 is a parallel prophecy to Isaiah 61:4 and the rebuilding and restoration here is clearly identified as the salvation of the remnant of Jews and the Gentiles in Acts 15:16-17. This rebuilding of the ancient ruins was fulfilled in type form during Nehemiah’s ministry and fulfilled in anti-type form through the building up of Christ and His master builders the Apostles and the Church.
This is but yet another prophetic passage that has to do with the Babylonian captivity which was “near” and would hasten “quickly” during the time the prophecy was written (Zeph. 1:7, 14). The context is dealing with a casting out of Judah from the land in judgment because of sin and not a “re-gathering” back into the land in unbelief in 1948! God was calling Judah to gather together in repentance or face their imminent judgment. They refused this exhortation (3:6-8).
Let’s now move on to consider another interpretive error of “this generation” make in hopes to avoid the obvious and clear interpretation.
3) “‘Jesus’ uses the phrase “This generation” to be the generation that is alive when all of these signs and events are near there completion whenever that is.”
Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice write,
“What Jesus is saying is that the generation that sees the beginning of the end, also sees it’s end.” “…Jesus says that when the signs of the beginning of the end come, then the end will come relatively quickly, within a generation.” (LaHaye & Ice ibid. p. 93).
This view is connected to the previous view in most cases. Since 1948 was allegedly the “super sign” for our generation which marked the genuinely “near” return of Christ, there are some questions that need to be addressed.
First, Jesus clearly tells us that it would be the false prophets who would be claiming the end was near when in fact it wasn’t. Jesus said to not listen to them (cf. Mt. 24:4-6). So for someone to claim the end was near before witnessing the specific signs of: 1) the Great Commission, 2) the abomination of desolation, and 3) the alleged “super sign” of 1948 – Israel budding forth; was equivalent to being a false prophet. Well, according to Dispensational theology, this makes Paul, James and Peter false prophets (Romans 13:11-12; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 4:5-7). They clearly predicted that the end was near when in fact the Great Commission had not be preached globally and the abomination of desolation and the “super sign” of Israel becoming a nation again in 1948 wasn’t even remotely near.
I need not spend a lot of time refuting this view since I have already demonstrated that the contemporary generation of Jesus and the first century Church witnessed all of the signs Jesus had discussed prior to verse 34.
4) “This generation” is a description of a faithful or wicked class of people
Although R.C. Sproul is a partial preterist, I believe he does a good job of summarizing this view by quoting Herman Ridderbos and then giving a good refutation of it:
“…they argue that the term generation here refers not to a specific time-frame of forty years, but to a “kind” or “sort” of people. Some of these interpreters see “this generation” as a description of believers, while others see it as a description of the wicked. That is, Jesus may be saying that believers like the disciples will not pass from the earth before Jesus appears in his parousia. This does exclude the original disciples from being numbered among “this generation.” Similarly Jesus could have meant that, no matter how long he tarries before his parousia, there will be present generations of wicked people who will resist the kingdom of Christ.
A fuller study and closer examination of this passage may, however, favor a different view. The great question is, does Jesus mention a particular terminal date, or does he only speak of the certainty of the things he as foretold? The supposition that he means a certain terminal date here remains striking in connection with the fact that a moment later he says, “but of that day and of that hour knoweth no man” [Matt.24:36]. Although we need not speak of a discrepancy (as [W.G.] Kummel does because we might explain the text by saying, “but of the date and the exact point of time no man knows”; the force of this pronouncement would be considerably weakened by this restriction of the fulfillment to the contemporary generation…In this case, we must not attribute a temporal meaning to the words “this generation,” but must conceive of it in the unfavorable sense in which it occurs also elsewhere, viz., the people of this particular disposition and frame of mind who are averse to Jesus and his words.”
Ridderbos sees the phrase “this generation” as referring not to a frame of time but to a frame of mind. He argues that Jesus’ purpose is to underline the certainty of his coming and not the time of it.
One of the chief problems with this interpretation is that Jesus was answering not a question of certainty, but a question regarding chronology. The disciples were not asking if these things would come to pass. They were asking when they would come to pass.”
Milton Terry in his classic work on hermeneutics wrote that we need to adhere to a grammatico-historical hermeneutic and not go off on interpretations that have no exegetical validity,
“The principles of grammatico-historical interpretation require our close attention to the specific time-limitations of this prophecy.” “…On what valid hermeneutical principles, then, can it be fairly claimed that this discourse of Jesus comprehends all futurity? Why should we look for the revelations of far distant ages and millenniums of human history in a prophecy expressly limited to the generation in which it was uttered?” “…To put upon them such meanings as “the human race” (Jerome), or “the Jewish race” (Clarke, Dorner, Auberlen), or “the race of the Christian believers” (Chrysostom, Lange), may reasonably be condemned as a reading whatever suits our purpose into the words of Scripture.”
Terry’s last sentence sums up the four views we have considered –“reading whatever suits our purpose into the words of Scripture.”
I would like to turn our attention back to a correct understanding of what genea means by considering how it is used in the NT.
The usage of genea in the NT
Genea is used 43 times in the NT (primarily in the gospels and in Acts) and it is NEVER used to describe anything but the contemporary first century Jewish audience. Using proper hermeneutics, we want to first examine the passages where the phrase “this generation” is used and then branch out from there.
1) Matthew 11:14-24:
“And if you are willing to receive it, he (John the Baptist) is Elijah who is to come. ”He who has ears to hear, let him hear! ”But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, “and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’ “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: ”Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. ”But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. ”And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. ”But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
This is the same judgment as described by Jesus in the previous chapter where He promised to return in the lifetime of some of His first century audience (Mt. 10:17-23). For some reason futurists are opposed to the teachings of Jesus that John the Baptist was the Elijah that was about to come before the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord predicted in Malachi 3-4. The “way” John came to prepare was leading to an imminent judgment and rewards of which John and Jesus clearly taught would be imminent, so much so that even some standing next to Jesus would live to experience it (Isa. 40/Mt. 3:2-12; Isa. 40/Mt. 16:27-28). In context, it is clear that it is Jesus’ contemporary “this generation” which He is comparing the sins of other “in time” “historical” judgments with. It is that contemporary generation who is rejecting His teachings and miracles.
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. 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. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”
Jesus once again identifies His contemporary “this generation” as being “wicked” because of their rejection of Him and the prophets He will send to them (Mt. 23:30-36). Jesus also teaches that the souls of those in Jonah’s day and in the queen of the south’s day, would rise up to condemn them. No one disagrees that Jesus taught that the judgment/harvest/resurrection of the dead would take place at the end of “this age” (Mt. 13:40-43). But what is commonly missed, is that every first century Jew understood that the end of “this age” was a reference to the end to the Old Covenant age which preceded the in-breaking of Messiah’s New Covenant “age to come.” And within the immediate context of our text, Jesus has already declared that the “age to come” was “about to come.” I will allow the WUESTNT translation to redeem itself here and be the only translations that I consulted that gets it right on this one:
“And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age nor in the one about to come.” (Mt. 12:32 WUESTNT)
Most Christians understand the “age to come” to be the eternal state in which we are all floating around in literal/spiritual glorified bodies on a cloud somewhere in the New Heavens and Earth of Revelation 21-22 where everything is perfect and without sin. However, Jesus paints a different picture. The “age about to come” is one in which it will be possible to commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the gospel is being preached. And this is consistent with what we learn from Isaiah 65-66 and Revelation 22:6-7, 10-12, 17, 20, in that after Christ returns He ushers in the New Creation where there are “sinners” hearing the gospel being preached.
In the book of Revelation (particularly in chapter 9), we read of severe demonic activity overtaking the wicked inhabitants of the Great Harlot City/Babylon, which is Old Covenant Jerusalem where the Lord was crucified (Rev. 11:8). Of this demonic activity in the book of Revelation with Jesus’ parable here in our text, Kenneth Gentry correctly writes,
“Within forty years of Jesus’ warning, the Jewish war erupted.”
“It seems to fulfill Christ’s parable-prophecy on that first century “generation” that denied him (Matt. 12:44). Many of the Jews desired to die but suffered long (Rev. 9:6): “Those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die; and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not lived long enough either to hear or to see such miseries” (Gentry, Ibid., 63, quoting Josephus, Wars 6.3.4).
3) Matthew 23:36
We now approach a passage that is within the immediate context of the “this generation” saying of Jesus in (Mt. 24:34). Indeed, it even lays the context and serves as an introduction to Jesus declaration of their “house/temple” being made desolate with not one stone being laid upon another (Mt. 23:36-38/24:1). Along with this overarching contextual theme, are the themes of persecution/blood guilt, and judgment to be rendered to Jesus’ contemporary generation. Our text even possesses the same phrase of “all these things.” Interesting how exegetes have no problem interpreting “all things” in Matthew 23:36 as being literally all the prophetic material Jesus just got done discussing in regards to holding the Pharisees and that contemporary generation accountable with the judgment of AD 70 when their house would be left desolate. But when exegetes get into Matthew 24:34 they want “all things” to mean “some things” (maybe a sign here and there). And the “house” in Matthew 23 is clearly a reference the first century temple that would be made desolate in AD 70. But the temple in Matthew 24 must have a “double fulfillment” or is referring to another rebuilt one to be destroyed when the “anti-christ” comes whom we all have been conditioned to believe is “alive and well on planet earth” in our generation. They freely admit that “this generation” most definitely means the contemporaries of Jesus everywhere else in the gospels, but then start dancing to another eisegetical tune in Matthew 24:34 when the coming of Christ and the end of the age are the topic of “all these things”!
Thomas Ice admits that everywhere the phrase “this generation” is used in the gospel’s it means the contemporary generation of Jesus and the disciples. Why does Ice admit the other occurrences of “this generation” means the contemporaries of Jesus but not (Mt. 24:34)? Well, he gives us two passages to consider –Matthew 23:36 & Mark. 8:12. Of Mark 8:12 he states:
“Why do we conclude that “this generation,” in this passage, refers to Christ’s contemporaries? We know this because the referent in this passage is to Christ’s contemporaries who were seeking for a sign from Jesus.” (Ice, ibid, pp. 93-94).
Uh, were not Jesus’ disciples “contemporaries” and their questions regarding signs? Is not the personal pronoun “you” used throughout the context? So far Ice only makes our case and shows how he violates his own arguments and hermeneutics with “this generation.”
On the second passage in Matthew 23:36 Ice writes,
“In fact, when one compares the use of “this generation” at the beginning of the Olivet discourse in Matthew 23:36 (which is an undisputed reference to A.D. 70) with the prophetic use in Matthew 24:34, a contrast becomes obvious. Jesus is contrasting the deliverance for Israel in Matthew 24:34 with the predicted judgment stated in Matthew 23:36.” (Ice, ibid, p. 93, emphasis MJS)
Of Matthew 23:36 we must ask Mr. Ice at what event does the rest of Scripture teach us that the martyrs (OT and NT saints) would be vindicated? Is it not at the imminent first century second coming (Mt.21:33-46, Mt. 22:1-14, Mt. 24:1-34, 1Thess. 2:14 -16, Rev. 6, 12, 17-18, 20)? All of these texts and there contexts, support our rendering of “this generation” in (Matthew 24:34). Paul in Thessalonians and John in the book of Revelation teach us that God would bring “relief” and “reward” His first century audience by rendering the same trouble (trial tribulation) upon their first century Jewish persecutors at His imminent return. Did Jesus come as promised, to give them “relief” and render tribulation upon their first century persecutors or didn’t He?
Ice tries to make some kind of “contrast” between Matthew 23 and 24 by saying that Matthew 23 speaks of judgment and 24 speaks of deliverance. Matthew 24 speaks both of deliverance for the faithful and judgment upon the unfaithful of that generation. Ice fails to acknowledge that the OT prophets and the NT teach that there are two Jerusalems (ex. Zech. 12-14, Gals. 4, Revelation). Like the process of making gold, the faithful remnant of Israel would be saved and refined through fire (the coming persecutions and coming judgment) as God would purge (judge) the unbelievers from Israel like dross! The time of judgment for the fleshly Old Covenant Jerusalem from below is the same time when the heavenly New Covenant Jerusalem experienced its salvation and redemption.
4) Luke 17:25
“But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.”
The context of this passage begins in verses 20-21 where the Pharisees inquire and challenge Jesus as to “when” the kingdom of God would come. Jesus explains that when it does come, it will not be seen with their physical eyes because His Kingdom will be in the realm of “within” a person and not the nationalistic and world burning one the Pharisees and futurists have imagined the consummation of the Kingdom to look like. The question as to “when” the Kingdom comes is further answered by Jesus in the following verses related to His return.
In the midst of this discourse on His return, He explains that the Kingdom cannot come until He is first rejected by “this generation” (v. 25). So contrary to the Dispenstionalist and the futurist, the Kingdom of God was not “postponed” due to the cross, but was rather a redemptive necessity in order for Him to usher it in, with it being completely matured and established for the Church at His return in that same “this generation” time frame,
“So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:31-32)
Clearly ALL occurrences of “this generation” in the gospels refer to Jesus’ contemporary generation and to no other. It is only a futurist bias that would interpret all occurrences of “this generation” in the gospels (and all occurrences of genea in the NT in general), in any other way than the first century contemporary audience of Jesus. And to make Matthew 24:34 the exception to this rule as some have attempted to do, only lays the burden of proof upon them to prove otherwise and they clearly have not been able to do so.
I will not be going through ever NT passage where genea is used because it would just be pointing out the obvious and become redundant. However, there are a couple of places that should be covered.
5) Philippians 2:15 KJV
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (most translate “generation”), among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
There are only a few translations that render genea here as anything other than a specific perverted or crooked “generation” and they are: 1) the KJV – “nation,” 2) the AV (1873) – “nation,” 3) the GNT – “sinful people,” 4) The Message – “society,” 5) NET “society,” 6) NCV – “people,” 7) NLT – “people.” There is ONLY ONE passage where the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon translates and gives genea the meaning of “nation” and it is here in Philippians 2:15. It is hoped by the desperate futurist that if he can interpret and translate genea as the nation of Israel here, he can then do it in Matthew 24:34.
The phrase “This perverse” or “crooked generation” is also used in Acts 2:40, which like our text here, is taken and quoted from Deuteronomy 32:5, 20. In Deuteronomy 31-32 this perverse or crooked generation is dealing with Israel’s “last days” terminal generation in which Messiah (a prophet greater than Moses) would be revealed and end up judging for it’s rejection of Him and not obeying His instruction (cf. Deut. 18:14-20/Acts 3:17-23). And as noted in Matthew 24:36 and Luke 21:25, it would be the AD 30-70 generation of Jews that would be held accountable for all their sin of blood guilt they had committed against God and His people – reaching as far back as Abel’s blood in Genesis.
Paul’s allusion here in Philippians to “shinning as lights” or “stars” is connected with Daniel’s prophecy of the resurrection, which Jesus identified to take place within His Old Covenant “this age” (cf. Daniel 12:2-3/Matthew 13:43). Like Jesus, Paul is teaching that the fulfillment of the resurrection of Daniel 12 and the terminal “last days” “perverse” or “crooked generation” of Deuteronomy 32 was in the process of taking place in his day and therefore in his generation. For Paul the process of him and the Church dying from the life found in the Old Covenant age (filling up what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ) and rising “attaining” to the resurrection, and being transformed into the image and glory of Christ–was a process that they were undergoing and would be completed at the “at hand” or “near” return of Christ (Phil. 3:7-4:5; Rms. 5-6; Cols. 1:23-27; 2 Cor. 3-4). Commenting on the resurrection of Daniel 12 which Paul was attaining to and the “stars” of our text, James Jordan correctly writes,
“We find at the end of Daniel 12:1 that the elect will all be delivered, as Jesus Himself also said (Matthew 24:21-22). Those who are delivered are “your people,” Daniel’s people, that is, those who are like Daniel in their faith.
We then read in verse 2 why there are people like Daniel. Before the Great Tribulation, Messiah Michael’s ministry will raise Israel from sleeping in the dust of the soil. Daniel was raised from the dust precisely so he could hear the word of God coming from God’s angel. In the same way, Daniel’s people will be raised from the dust by the ministry of Michael so that they can hear His Word. Some will accept that gospel, and others will reject it. It is those who awaken to everlasting life who will be delivered in the Great Tribulation.
Those who awaken to everlasting life will be set on high as rulers, as stars. This is picked up in the New Testament in two ways. First, all the saints are pictured as those who appear as “starlights” (phosteer) in the world (Philippians 2:15). Second, the pastors of the churches are pictured as “stars” (aster) in Revelation 1:16 and 20. Both faithful pastors and faithful saints are those who “turn the many to righteousness like the stars.”
There would be a prophesied remnant that would be raised and made straight in the midst of that “crooked generation” through the last days ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah (“making straight”, “the highway of holiness”, “I Am The Way” etc.). In other words when tied to parallel passages, this can ONLY be speaking of contemporaries living in the terminal generation of (A.D. 30 – A.D. 70) foretold by the prophets. The “gathering” resurrection/harvest foretold by Daniel 12:2-3 was in the process of being fulfilled in the “last days” of Israel’s terminal generation that Moses prophesied of in (Deut. 31-32). It would be completed at the end of the Old Covenant age when the destruction of the temple/Jerusalem (Matthew 13:39-43; Matthew 24:1-34) took place–“when the power of the holy people shall be completely shattered” (Daniel 12:7/Matthew 24:15/Luke 21:20-22,32).
The New Exodus/Redemption Type & Anti-type
“When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.”
Thomas Ice has used this passage oddly to try and make preterists look foolish in our Biblical definition for “this generation” in (Mt. 24:34). Ice writes of Gary DeMar,
“DeMar continues, “Every time ‘this generation’ is used in the New Testament, it means, without exception, the generation to whom Jesus was speaking.” DeMar’s assertion is simply not true! For example, “this generation” in Hebrews 3:10 clearly refers to the generation of Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years during the Exodus.” (Ice, ibid. Controversy, 90)
What Gary no doubt was communicating was that the phrase “this generation” in the gospel’s never means anything other than contemporaries and even in the epistles it has the same meaning for contemporaries. There is really no error here. Hebrews 3:10 is dealing with a 40 year past contemporary generation describing the Old Covenant redemption and inheritance as a type to their anti-type contemporary generation inheriting a “rest” and “heavenly land” at another day at Christ’s imminent return (Heb. 3-10:37-12-13:14YLT). Paul was making the same theologian point of an imminent type and anti-type fulfillment when he wrote, “Nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted Him and were destroyed by serpents. Nor murmur as some of them also murmured and were destroyed by the destroyer. And all these things happened to them as examples; and it is written for OUR warning ON WHOM THE ENDS OF THE WORLD HAVE COME.” (1 Cor. 10:9-11).
Thomas Ice in his debate with Don Preston (which Ice lost) tried to bring this text up as “proof” that Matthew 24:34 was speaking to a distant future or projected generation thousands of years away from Jesus and His first century audience. His point in effect was, “See, Hebrews 3:10 speaks of “this generation” as referring to the wilderness wandering one which was some 1400 – 1500 years in the past. Therefore, if “this generation” in Hebrews 3:10 can be speaking of an event in the far distant past, then why can’t “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 be speaking of a far distant future generation?” Well obviously there are some differences: 1) Hebrews 3:10 is being quoted as a past generation which Matthew 24:34 is not. 2) There are two totally different Greek words being used. In the Hebrews text ekeinos means “that” and in the Matthew text houtos is used which means “this.”
Granted there are various translations of Psalm 95:10 and Hebrews 3:10 that do describe the past wilderness wandering generation as “this generation,” but it doesn’t really prove anything. When I talk to people about the second coming being fulfilled in AD 70 and cite or talk about “this generation” in Matthew 24:34, I sometimes say “this generation” when I am quoting the text in it’s original historical context or I may say “that generation” when I speak of it as a past fulfillment. The same concepts are used here in Psalm 95:10 and Hebrews 3:10. One is addressing a past fulfillment of “that generation” and the other being technical to the original context uses “this generation.” In reality, Ice desperately wants Jesus to be saying and mean that it is a 2,000 + future “that generation” which will see the fulfillment and not the “this” one of Jesus’ day. I have good news and bad news for Mr. Ice. The good news is that I did find a translation that puts “that” in Matthew 24:34, but the bad news is that it makes our point and not his,
“I tell you in solemn truth that the present generation will certainly not pass away without all these things having first taken place WEY (Mt. 24:34).”
A Forty Year Millennium
Many of the Rabbis of Jesus’ and Peter’s day described and saw the millennium as a reign of Messiah that would be a transition period between their Old Covenant “this age” and the Messianic or New Covenant “age to come.” They saw Messiah accomplishing redemption, salvation, and the new temple being built during this millennial period. What is interesting to note is that the millennium was thought of to last 40 years. Their theological reason being – as long as Israel wandered in the dessert was the period in which the remnant of the Messianic generation would see gladness. Speaking of the transition period of Messiah Schoeps says some Rabbi’s considered it a
“… short interval for the interim period, namely, forty years (R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus; Bar. In Sanh. 99a; R. Aqiba: Midr. Teh on Ps. 90:15; Tanch. Eqeb 7b, Pes. Rabb. 4a). The two Tannaites, commenting on Ps. 95:7, derive this time indication from the Messianically understood v. 10 (“forty years I loathed that generation”and from Deut. 8:2 by a parallelization with the forty years in the desert.”
G.K. Beale also points out the same,
“There are numerous Jewish traditions about the nature and length of the future messianic reign. Some speculated that there would be no messianic reign at all, while others proposed periods of an intermediate reign from 40 to 365,000 years.”
“see the surveys of rabbinic views in b. Sanhedrin 97a-b, 99a; Midr. Ps. 90:17; Pesikta Rabbati 1…”
Please note above that one of the texts that Rabbi’s derived a forty-year millennium from was Psalm 90:15-17:
“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. Let the work appear to Your servants, And Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands” (Ps. 90:15-17).
Christ brought the true New Covenant Israel of God “gladness” and peace through the out pouring and fruits of the Holy Spirit. God established the works of the Apostles hands as they laid their hands upon the believers and they received the Spirit – thus building up the Temple/Church/Body and brining it to maturity by AD 70. As the miraculous aid of the Holy Spirit was given in the building up of the Old Covenant Tabernacle in the OT so too was His beauty and presence given to rest upon His people to perform signs and wonders in “establishing the works of their hands” in the building up of His New Covenant Temple/Body. In “a very little while” their “works,” “labor,” and vindication approaching AD 70 would follow them into the very Most Holy of Holies (Hebrews 3-4, 8-10; Revelation 6; 11:18-19; 14:13). The “beauty of the Lord” and His glory would reside “within” His glorious New Jerusalem/New Creation (Luke 17:20-21f./Luke 21; John 14:2-3, 23; Colossians 1:27; Revelation 21-22). This New Covenant Temple/City/Creation according to the book of Revelation would be completed and descend out of heaven to earth in an “at hand” and “soon” time frame – not thousands of years.
In Revelation the figurative and symbolic number of a 1,000 years is given for the millennium. But in Olivet Discourse Jesus gives the literal time frame of “this generation” to describe the same period by which He would fulfill all that the prophets had predicted (Luke 21:22-32).
Recent scholarship has begun developing what Preterists have been for years now and that is, it is becoming undeniable that the OT prophets foretold a recapitulated “new exodus” that would be accomplished by Messiah/Jesus in the first century. This was the understanding of the Jews during Jesus’ ministry.
“We find the Rabbinic literature repeated references to the Exodus as a model of final redemption.15 There was widespread expectation of a repetition of the signs of the Exodus16 and the expectation of once again being taken into the wilderness to meet with God.17 This would happen on the night of the Passover.18 It was believed that a new Moses would lead the people, a new Moses who was identified with the promised descendant of David.19 It was expected that once again the people would be fed miraculously with manna. Ben-Sira, in his extended prayer for deliverance, prays for a repetition of ‘signs and wonders’ in a final redemption constructed on Exodus categories.”
Mr. Holland cites some OT passages (some we have already addressed) in support of the “New Exodus,”
“…a descendant of David would be raised up (Isa.11:1). He would lead the people from their captivity back to the Promised Land (Isa.11:11). He would be anointed with the Sprit of the Lord for this task (Isa.61:1-2). He would lead the people through the wilderness (Hos.2:14); it would be just like when the Jews left Egypt, for it would be a Second Exodus. The pigrimage through the desert would be under the protection of the Holy Spirit (Isa.44:3), just as the pilgrimage from Egypt had been. There would be miracles (Mic.7:15) like when they came out of Egypt, and the desert would be transformed as nature shared in the re-creation of the nation (Isa.55:13). The returning exiles would return telling of the salvation of God (Isa.52:7-10). There would be a new covenant established which would be centered on the Davidic prince (Isa.9:6-7) and, unlike when the people came out of Egypt when their flesh was circumcised, this time the hearts of the people would be circumcised (Jer.31:31-34). This return from exile would be their return to Eden (Isa.51:3). Once the people arrived back at Jerusalem they would build a magnificent temple that the descendant of David would dedicate (Ezk.44-45). Into this temple all the nations would come to worship Israel’s God (Isa.2:1-5). The Lord would come into his temple (Isa.4:2-6) and, finally, the wedding between God and his people would be celebrated with a great cosmic banquet (Isa.54:1-8).” (Ibid., 21)
The Father at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry states, ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,’ thus the Servant that Isaiah predicted in which salvation or the “New Exodus” would be accomplished (Psalm 2:7; Isaaiah 42:1ff.) has arrived. Jesus is the “True” “Vine,” “Servant,” “Son,” “Witness,” etc. which communicates to the Jew that He is indeed the true Israel of God that could and would not fail as Israel had done under the Old Covenant. He is taken into the wilderness to be tested for forty days as Israel’s spies were tested for 40 days. John the Baptist and Jesus begin their ministries by quoting and appealing to “New Exodus” material in Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3-5/Luke 3:4-6; Isaiah 61:1-2/Luke 4:18-19). When John is confused in prison, Jesus assures him that the miracles of the “New Exodus” that Isaiah predicted were being fulfilled by Him (Luke 17:21-22), therefore He indeed is the Messianic new Moses verifying that a New Covenant redemption was here. At the transfiguration Jesus is speaking to Moses and Elijah about his “exodus” (not “departure” as some translations render it) . This new covenant or “New Exodus” is established by taking His disciples into the upper room at Passover thus identifying Himself as the Paschal offering. Mr. Holland goes on to point out other traditional NT texts that support the “New Exodus” motif (Acts 26:17-18, Gals.1:3, Cols.1:12-14, and Rev.1:5-6). And clearly in the book of Revelation the Old Covenant Harlot City of Jerusalem is described as the enslaving power of Egypt along with other Gentile sinful powers as Babylon. In doing so, God is communicating that through Jesus and the Church, the two main redemptions and restorations of Israel’s history are be recapitulated and will be fulfilled shortly.
Here are parallels of the New Exodus theme:
1) An edict was sent out to kill the male children during the time of Moses (Exodus1:22) and an edict was issued by Herod to kill the male children in hopes of killing Jesus (Matthew 2:16).
2) After killing the Egyptian Moses fled to Midian until the wrath of the king passed (Exodus 2:15) and Joseph and Mary, fled with Jesus to Egypt until the wrath of the king passed (Matthew 2:14).
3) God called Moses back to his country to be his people’s deliverer (Exodus 3:10) just as Jesus was called back to His country (Matthew 2:20) to be their deliverer.
4) God kept Moses 40 days in the wilderness before giving the law on a mountain (Deut. 9:11; Exodus19) and He likewise kept Jesus 40 days in the wilderness before placing Him on a mount to give the New Covenant law and thus the true interpretation of the old (Matthew 4:1-chapter 5). Both received glory on top of a mountain. While being tested by Satan for 40 days Jesus quotes three scriptures found in the Exodus wilderness testing: (Matthew 4:4/Deut. 8:3; Matthew 4:7/Deut. 6:16; Matthew 4:10/Deut. 6:13 & Deut 10:20).
5) God through Moses appointed 70 elders (Numbers 11:16) and Jesus appointed 70 disciples (Luke 10:1). Old Covenant Israel consisted of 12 tribes and Jesus forms the restored Israel with an inner core of 12 disciples.
6) God’s Old Covenant people were delivered from His judgment upon Egypt by the first Passover. This deliverance was substitutional in nature and was brought about through the shedding of a lamb’s blood. God’s New Covenant people were delivered from the wrath (“His blood be upon us and our children”) that would be poured out upon Jerusalem/Egypt/Revelation 11:8 through the New Covenant Passover blood of Jesus (the lamb of God). In the first exodus the death of “first born” of humans and animals were to appease God’s wrath. In the New Covenant exodus Jesus is both the “first born” and the “Lamb.”
7) In God forming Old Covenant Israel during this time it was a creating of the heavens and earth (Isa.51:15-16). Through the cross and parousia of Jesus a New Covenant heavens and earth were being created and would replace the former Old Covenant one “shortly” (Isaiah 65-66; Matthew 5:17-18; Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3; and Revelation 21-22).
8) In the formation of Old Covenant Israel, God was bringing about deliverance from the physical bondage and slavery of Egypt. In the New Covenant transitionary period, God was creating and delivering a remnant of New Covenant Israel out from the spiritual bondage and slavery of the Old Covenant “elements of the world” which was the law.
9) Fifty days after the first Passover and the giving of the law (Exodus 19) 3,000 died for idolatry (Exodus 32:28). Fifty days after the Passover in Jesus’ blood 3,000 are saved and filled with the Spirit (Acts 2).
10) There was a miraculous outpouring of the Spirit’s work in building the Old Covenant tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-11). The AD 30 – 70 generation also saw the miraculous work of God in profound ways. There was a miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s work in the “last days” in which the building and erecting of the spiritual New Covenant tabernacle/temple of God was taking place. The first was a physical building with the hands and the later was a spiritual building by the laying on of hands of the Apostles. The Church was and is clearly the New Covenant kingdom tabernacle or temple that was predicted by the prophets of which Jesus was the corner stone (Acts 15/Amos 9; Mark 12:10-11; Acts 4:11/Psalm118, Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:4-10/Psalm 118, Isaiah 28:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16/Ezekiel 37:26-27). Just as Micah 7:15 predicted miracles would occur in this new exodus under Messiah – so the miracles lasted until He returned to end her age and fulfill Israel’s promises (Mark 16:15-18/Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12).
11) God was grieved with the unbelieving Old Covenant generation and did not allow them to enter the promised land (Heb.3:10). God was grieved with the adulterous and wicked generation of His day and did not allow them to inherit His heavenly rest in His kingdom – “In Christ” (Mark 8:31-9:1, Matthew 23:34-46, Hebrews 3-4).
12) The wilderness wandering generation was baptized into Moses by passing through the red sea whereby they would receive a physical salvation from their persecutors. The water which did not touch them did destroy their enemies (1Corinthians 10:1-2). There likewise was a baptism of fire and persecution in which the first century Church underwent that was separating the gold (true believers) from the wood (professing believers) and would eventually burn up the persecutors (Matthew 3:11; Luke 8:13-14; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 1 Peter 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2- 3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-12). The children or remnant of Moses generation that went through the red sea would enter into the rest and salvation of the Promised Land. Likewise the remnant of spiritual Israel would inherit and enter the Heavenly Country “In Christ” (Hebrews 3-4, 12) with Peter describing the spiritual New Covenant salvation and entrance into the kingdom as the salvation of the “soul” (1 Peter 1:4-12).
Please note Deuteronomy 32:20-22 and the NT fulfillment texts in parenthesis:
“And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end (Matthew 10:22-23, Matthew 24:3, Matthew 13:39-40,) shall be: for they are a very perverse generation (Matthew 23:36, Matthew 24:34, Mark 8:38; Acts 2:40), children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people (Romans 10:19, 11:11); I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation (Mt.21:43; 1 Peter 2:9). For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire (2 Peter 3; Revelation 8:8) the foundations of the mountains.” (Deut. 32:20-22).
Again this “perverse generation” was prophesied in the OT to reject Christ and thus be destroyed by Him at His coming. This is the generation Jesus addresses throughout His ministry and the one the NT authors confronts and comforts in the first century concerning an imminent judgment and salvation.
In examining the teachings of Jesus and that of the NT authors, we have found that the contemporary “this generation” of Jesus in (Matthew 24:34) is the one which witnessed His return and brought to maturity the New Covenant Exodus/Redemption predicted by the prophets. That New Covenant Temple/House/City/Creation was matured with the coming of Jesus in AD 70 and therefore, the Church today invites those who through the Holy Spirit’s work realize they are lost and thirsty sinners needing to come Home. The doors are always open and light is always on, so come home thou weary sinner come home (Revelation 21-22:17).
 Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), 112 (bold emphasis added).
 W.E. Vine (edited by F.F. Bruce), VINE’S Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, 1981), 42 (emphasis added).
 Colin Brown, The Niew International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 2, (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 37-38 (bold emphasis added).
 Anthony Hoekema, The Bible And The Future, (Eerdmans pub., 1979), 116-117, (emphasis added).
 Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary by Gary Gallant, Online Bible Software Version 2.10.06.
 Greek English Online Bible Greek Lexicon, Online Bible Software, Ibid, (emphasis added).
 Hal Lindsey, The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon, back-cover, p.144, New York: Bantam, 1980
 Chuck Smith, End Times, The Word for Today, 1978, 35.
 Francis X. Gumerlock, the Day and the Hour Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World, (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 2000), 290.
 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s APPLICATION COMMENTARY NEW TESTAMENT CD-ROM, Nelson pub.
 G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove, Illinois: INTERVARISTY PRESS, 2004), 264. See also references to Genesis and trees as Nations and people in Ezekiel 31; 47; Revelation 22).
 James B. Jordan, THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007), 619-628. And Leithart sees the harvest at the end of “this age” in Matthew 13 as taking place by A.D. 70, Peter J. Leithart, THE PROMISE OF HIS APPEARING AN EXPOSITION OF SECOND PETER, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004), 94-95.
 Greg Laurie, ARE THESE THE LAST DAYS? HOW TO LIVE EXPECTANTLY IN A WORLD OF UNCERTAINTY, (Ventura, CA: Regal Books From Gospel Light, 2005), 20.
 John Hagee, IN DEFENSE OF ISRAEL THE BIBLE’S MANDATE FOR SUPPORTING THE JEWISH STATE, (Lake Mary, FL: FrontLine, 2007,) 4-5. It is true that Christians are called to continue in doctrine and in the teachings of Jesus and Apostles, but since Hagee’s teaching is not Biblical, his exhortations are purely manipulative.
 Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, CHARTING THE END TIMES A visual Guide to Understanding Bible Prophecy, (Eugene, Oregon, 2001), 86, (emphasis added).
 John Hagee, (REVISED AND UPDATED) JERUSALEM COUNTDOWN A PRELUDE TO WAR, (Lake Mary, FL: Frontline pub, 2007), 129.
 Greg Laurie, Ibid.
 John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty OLD TESTAMENT (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Victor Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), 1298.
 Keith A. Mathison, DISPENSATIONALISM Rightly Dividing the People of God?, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1995), 19 (bold emphasis added).
 Hagee, Jerusalem Countdown, Ibid., 129-135. John Hagee, IN DEFENSE OF ISRAEL THE BIBLE’S MANDATE FOR SUPPORTING THE JEWISH STATE, (Lake Mary, FL: Front Line Pub., 2007), 149-154.
 Dwight Pentecost, THINGS TO COME A Study in Biblical Eschatology, (Findlay, OH: Dunham Publishing Company, 1958)
 Curtis I. Crenshaw and Grover E. Gunn, III, DISPENSATIONALISM TODAY, YESTERDAY, AND TOMORROW, (Memphis, TN: Footstool Publications, 1986), 175.
 C.I. Scofield, The New Scofield Reference Bible, (New York: Oxford, 1967), 888.
 James B. Jordan, THROUGH NEW EYES Developing a Biblical View of the World, (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1988), 246.
 John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures NEW TESTAMENT by Dallas Seminary Faculty (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor COOK COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRIES, 2004), 800.
 G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove: Illinois, 2004), 339.
 John Gill, John Gill’s Expositor, Online Bible CD.
 Beale, Ibid., 314.
 Kenneth L. Gentry (contributing author), FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 65-66.
 Keith A. Mathison, FROM AGE TO AGE THE UNFOLDING OF BIBLICAL ESCHATOLOGY, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 257.
 Tim LaHaye, REVELATION UNVEILED, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan 1999), 256.
 Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness, (Atlanta GA: American Vision, 1999), 318.
 Sproul, R.C., The Last Days According To Jesus, 57-58, (Baker Book House pub. 1998), 57-58, (emphasis added).
 Terry, Milton, Biblical Hermeneutics A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, p.443 cf. footnote, Zondervan pub. 1986
 Kenneth L. Gentry (contributing author), FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 61.
 James B. Jordan, THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision 2007), 621.
 H.J. Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History, pp. 100, The Westminster Press, 1966, emphasis MJS)
 G.K. Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary The Book of Revelation, (Eerdmans pub. 1999), 1018-19, (emphasis added).
 Tom Holland, CONTOURS OF PAULINE THEOLOGY A RADICAL NEW SURVEY OF THE INFLUENCE ON PAUL’S BIBLICALWRITINGS, (Scotland, UK, Mentor Imprint, Christian Focus Publications, 2004), 26.