Does generation really refer to race? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
One possible way that some people look at Matthew 24:34 and explain it is by saying that generation refers to a specific people and race, namely the Jewish people. It’s saying that the Jewish people will not pass away until all of these things take place. This might possibly avoid the timing aspect as you can say that things started in the first century and will continue until things predicted in the later verses of the passage covered happen in a literalistic way. That can sound plausible, but it doesn’t really work.
For one thing, if you do a word search of the word genea which is translated as generation, every time it is used in the New Testament it refers to people of a specific time. If anything, just doing that will show how important it was to not be a part of this generation. This doesn’t mean in the sense of a people group, but of a mindset. After all, consider what Peter says in Acts to the Jews from all over the world in attendance. Let’s look at 2:40.
And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
Is Peter telling them to cease being a part of the Jewish race? Not at all. Peter is telling them to separate from the wickedness of the people of the time. We could say he’s telling them to be part of the remnant well-known from the time of Elijah, a righteous minority that has always existed in Israel.
Further, if this generation will not pass away until all these things happen, does that mean that this generation, the Jewish race, could pass away after that? If so, then that presents a problem for Jews being there at the end of the millennium and any possibility that the covenant could come to an end.
But let’s return to the remnant. Consider near the end of Matthew 23.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
The “you” here is quite pointed. Jesus is pointing to the Pharisees and scribes and others. They are the ones who will be judged. If you make it a race, then someone is saying that Jews of all time are guilty of the death of the Messiah and all Jews are going to be receiving this judgment.
There is an easy way to avoid this. Just simply embrace Orthodox Preterism and accept that Jesus is talking about the generation that He was with.