When did Jesus say His coming would take place? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Here we have come to one of the key verses for Orthodox Preterism. When did Jesus say His coming would take place? Note that this is not talking about the return of Christ. For the orthodox Preterist, this is talking about the coming of Jesus to His throne. The return of Christ and the bodily resurrection with it are future events.
Let’s look at the verse.
“Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
This part is multi-faceted, so in this section I am going to only talk about the positive case for my position. I will be dealing with other interpretations in future posts. Let’s start with seeing how Matthew uses this generation in the rest of the Gospel.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,”
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”
Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Now if you go and check all of these references, you’ll find that this generation in each case is the present generation that Jesus is talking with. The last one in Matthew 23 is especially fitting. In this one, Jesus is talking about the evil that the generation He is with has done and He says at the end that all the judgment He has spoken of will come upon this generation.
Notice also that Jesus says “This generation.” He does not say “That generation.” What is being said by those denying this interpretation is that a future generation will be punished for killing the Messiah when it was the generation at the time of Jesus that was guilty of that crime. Only the generation of Jesus could be justly accused of personally rejecting the Messiah in His ministry.
Jesus also told Caiaphas at the time of his trial that he would see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Father and coming on the clouds of glory. This fits entirely with this happening in the lifetime of Caiaphas. It’s a stretch to say that Caiaphas would see this in death.
Before the transfiguration, Jesus tells the people that some of them will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God coming in power. This is usually thought to refer to the transfiguration since that event occurs always right after that. The problem is that it’s not much of a stretch to say something like that. Even with this virus going around, I could post on the Facebook group of my apartment complex and say “Many of you will still be alive eight days from now.” If I come back correct and say, “You should all accept me as a prophet now” I will probably be thought to be crazy.
Not only that, the transfiguration was not a public event. It involved only three other people who saw Jesus. How could these people be seeing the transfiguration and thinking that that is the kingdom of God coming in power? (Note also that this does not say they will see Jesus return. It says they will see the Kingdom of God come with power.)
Also, historically, we know that the destruction of the temple happened in 70 A.D. That would be a sign that God had abandoned that temple and the people had abandoned the covenant. Jesus died between 29-33 A.D. 70 A.D. would easily fit within a generation. God is giving them as much time as possible to repent.
For these reasons, I consider it best to interpret Matthew 24:34 in a very straightforward sense. It’s hard to think of a way Jesus could have been more clear about time. Matthew has used this generation consistently to refer to the generation of judgment and this is the great granddaddy of judgment. This is the judgment Matthew thinks Jesus is saying will come on the nation of Israel that rejected Him.
Next time we cover this topic, we will look at other possible interpretations.