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THIS Generation
by David A. DePra
"Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till all
these things are fulfilled." (Matt. 24:34, see also Mark 13:30 and
Luke 21:32)
 
     This verse is found in the three parallel accounts of Matthew,
Mark, and Luke. The passage from which these words are taken
is the passage commonly referred to as Jesus' "Olivet prophecy."
It is a passage which many Christians believe predicts present and
future world events. They say Jesus was telling us about the last
days -- and that WE are living in those last days.
     One of the main reasons the words of Jesus are made to apply
to our time is the phrase "this generation." Those who believe
Jesus is talking about our time interpret the term "this generation"
to mean "the generation of the last days." Thus, when Jesus said,
"Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till all
these things are fulfilled," He was really saying, "All these things
shall be fulfilled within a generation -- the generation which is
alive during the last days."
     From this, some have reasoned that all of the prophecies of the
Bible related to the end-time -- the time immediately prior to the
Second Coming -- must come to pass within a generation, or
about forty-years. Of course, if that is the case, then we must
have an event which signals the beginning of that generation.
Many said that event was the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
But forty, indeed, fifty years have passed. And the end has yet to
come upon us.
     The question is: Is Jesus really referring to a generation which
was to live at least two-thousand years after He spoke those
words? Actually, our choices here are actually limited to only two
possibilities: Either Jesus WAS speaking of a generation two-
thousand years removed from that time, or He was, in fact,
speaking about THAT generation -- the one in which HE lived.
His words must apply to one or the other.
     If we never discover the answer to this question, we will still go
to heaven, and our Christian lives may not suffer for it very much.
But in this day and age, things are getting so terribly carried away
regarding prophecy by those who teach it in the church, that it is
getting to the point where it IS disrupting the church and harming
the spiritual lives of Christians. Y2k was a good example. So it
does behoove us to come to grips with what Jesus meant by the
term "this generation." It's part of the inspired Word of God, and
God put it there to reveal His plan to us, not to hide it from us.
 
Differing Opinions
 
     Much prophecy teaching today takes all of Matthew 24 and 25,
and the parallel accounts in Mark and Luke, and applies them to
our day. They say Jesus was speaking of events which would
occur two thousand years from His time, and which would
immediately preceed His literal return to earth. You can find those
events calaloged, laid out, and precisely arranged on prophecy
charts available at your local Christian book store. This theory,
which gained widespread popularity with the Schofield Bible of
about a century ago, and which was further publicized with the
publication of Hal Lindsey's, "The Late Great Planet Earth" of the
late sixties, is pretty much the most widely accepted one today.
     There are, however, some other theories. Some teachers say
that EVERYTHING Jesus said in these passages happened in the
first century. Included in this is even the Second Coming and
resurrection from the dead. These, they say, happened in that
generation in a spiritual way. This is the "preterist" view of
prophecy. One of the reasons this view has gained acceptance is
that the one mentioned above has yet to pan out. People are
starting to lose interest in it and looking to alternatives.
     Christians today are so totally trained as to how to interpret
prophecy that it is almost impossible to approach it with an open
heart and mind. Read Matthew 24 and 25. Is it possible for you to
do so without immediately linking what you read to certain world
events which you have been told will be the fulfillment of Jesus'
word? Read Revelation. Can you read about the beast, false
prophet, and mark of the beast, without immediately thinking of
the common interpretation of the new world order, etc? Today's
popular prophecy interpretation has become almost doctrine.
Question it and you almost sound like a heretic to some people.
     We must question interpretations, however. It is never wrong to
question such things, because if they are the Truth, we will end up
right back at the same conclusion. But if they are not the Truth,
then the sooner we question them the better.
     Actually, which "generation" Jesus meant by "this generation" is
a vital key to understanding everything He said in the passages of
Matthew 24 and 25. And once we grasp those passages in the
proper context, then they will open up to us the meaning of many
other verses which we may have otherwise been misinterpreted.
 
When?
 
     It is actually quite remarkable that there should be any debate
at all as to what time Jesus' words apply. Jesus made sure there
would be no doubt about it. He told us outright WHEN "these
things" prophecied in Matthew 24 would come to pass. He said,
"Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till all all
these things are fulfilled." (Matt. 24:34)
     If, for a moment, we put aside all of our inclinations to make the
Bible mean more than it says, what would we conclude Jesus
meant by those words? If I said to you, "Before this generation
passes away, such and such will happen," what generation would
you think I meant? Clearly, if you took my words and applied
them to another generation than the one we are in, especially one
two thousand years away, you would be taking a liberty with my
words you had NO right to take. It would be irrational and without
sense to make my words mean something I did not intend.
     Yet this is precisely what we do with the words of Christ.
Because we already have prophecy "all figured out," we make the
words of Christ fit our interpretation. We make them fit into our
prophetic schemes and charts.
     So let's look at what Jesus really said. And in doing so, let us
also keep in mind those things which He did NOT say. Such an
honest and open examination should prove enlightening.
Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass
away till all these things are fulfilled."
     First, notice the word, "verily." This is a strong word. It means,
"I am certain about what I am saying. And you need to listen to it
and be just as certain."
     "Verily" is a also affirmative word. So when Jesus tells His
disciples that "THIS generation shall not pass away till all these
things are fulfilled," He was not being vague. He was making sure
that there would be no misunderstanding as to WHEN He was
talking about.
     So there is no question about WHEN Jesus said "these things"
would come to pass. He clearly told us when. He said that "this
generation" would not pass away until "all these things" were
fulfilled.
     So WHEN will "these things" be fulfilled? Before "this generation
passes away."
 
WHAT generation?
 
     We have stated that when Jesus said, "Verily, I say unto you,
THIS GENERATION shall not pass away till all these things
are fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34), that He was referring to the generation
in which He lived -- that of 30 A.D.. Now we must proceed to prove
this is so -- for we can scarcely expect to understand Matthew 24
otherwise.
     As mentioned, most modern prophecy teachers would disagree
with this statement. They claim the term "this generation" refers to
the generation living in the last days. In other words, US. They say
that when Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall
not pass away till all these things are fulfilled," that He was not
talking to the people standing in front of Him -- not referring to
those had asked Him WHEN "these things" would happen. He
was talking about a generation two thousand years hence.
     Is that possible? Picture it. Here were the disciples of Jesus,
asking Him about an extremely important issue. They asked, "Tell
us, when shall THESE THINGS be? And what shall be the sign of
Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matt. 24:3) Jesus'
answer meant everything to them. All their hopes and dreams
were hanging in the balance. They were depending on Jesus to
level with them. Imagine yourself as one of them. You are there,
one of those asking the question -- the disciples to whom this
issue was terribly important and vital. In response, Jesus Christ
launches into this incredible narrative. He speaks of all kinds of
terrible tribulation and destruction. And in conclusion, He says,
"Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till ALL
THESE THINGS are fulfilled." Then He finishes His prophecy. A
week later, Jesus dies and is raised from the dead. He ascends
into heaven. You continue on, preaching the gospel. You live out
your life and die. But nothing Jesus said comes to pass. Not a
word of it. "These things" did not come to pass. They were not
fulfilled in your generation.
     Now project yourself into the after life. You stand before Jesus
Christ. You see Him again. You get to ask Him any question you
desire. So you ask, "Lord, you said that "this generation" would
not pass away until all these things were fulfilled. But none of
"these things" happened in our generation. None of them. So
what did You mean?"
     Jesus answers, "Oh, you thought I meant YOUR generation?
You thought when I said 'THIS generation' I meant YOU? I really
meant the generation living two thousand years later. That's what
I meant by 'THIS generation.' I probably shouldn't have used so
many personal pronouns. When I used the word 'you,' I didn't
really mean 'you.' I meant people reading the Bible two thousand
years from the time I spoke."
     You answer, "But Lord. WE were the ones asking you the
question. It was important for us to know the answer. How could
you mislead us that way? All you had to do was tell us outright
that Your words did not apply to our generation. You could have
told us You were referring to a yet future generation."
     Jesus answers, "Well, you have to understand that when I use
certain words they have secret meanings. I really never MEAN
what I say. When I said 'THIS generation,' I didn't mean 'THIS
generation.' I meant one two-thousand years later, in the last
days. Sorry that you misunderstood Me. But I'm God and I talk in
riddles. I tease people instead of leveling with them. Much of
what I say has a meaning only the experts can figure out."
     Such a conversation would be nonsense. God does not use
words He doesn't mean. All of His words are true and certain, and
MORE true than we can possibly imagine. What Jesus spoke, as
recorded by the gospels, is the Word of God. Jesus meant exactly
what He said.
     Jesus Christ was the Son of God. He was not a false prophet.
So when He says, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not
pass away till all these things are fulfilled," we can be sure that His
words are certain. "These things" were certain to come to pass in
"that generation." -- which to them would be "THEIR generation."
There was never any double talk with Jesus.
 
Biblical Interpretation
 
     There were many things which Jesus spoke which He intended
to be taken spiritually. Once He said, "The words I speak to you,
they are spirit and they are life." (see John 6:63) He said this to
tell His listeners that what He was teaching was NOT literal, but
symbolic. He also used parables throughout His ministry. Yet
there were many other times when Jesus spoke literally. So how
are we to know which is which?
     The general rule of Biblical interpretation is that we are to take
the passage in the sense it is intended. The sense intended is
usually indicated by either the context, or by other parts of the
Bible. Admittedly, sometimes there is still a question about the
sense. But this general rule does work with the majority of
passages.
     Thus, when we read that Jesus is speaking a parable, we have
no business taking His words literally. Or, as in Revelation 1,
where we read that John was "in the spirit" (Rev. 1:10), we must
take the revelation he saw in a spiritual sense, not literal. When
there are no indications that we should take scripture in a spiritual
or symbolic sense, we should be hesitant to take it spiritually.
Failure to hold to this method of Biblical interpretation opens us up
to some rather fantastic and irrational results.
     Now, don't misunderstand. The Holy Spirit can use the Word
of God to speak to us on many levels. God can take portions of
scripture which are obviously intended by God in a literal,
historical way, and reveal a spiritual principle. But this is a far cry
from taking the literal and historical intent of a specific passage
and applying it to the WRONG literal and historical period of time.
     There are many spiritual principles in Matthew 24 which go
beyond historical significance. But we cannot take the historical
and prophetic intent of the passage and apply it to the wrong time,
namely, the time in which WE live.
     In Matthew 24, the disciples ask Jesus a simple, direct
question. And He gives them a simple, direct answer. There
seems little reason to take His answer in any other way than is
clearly indicated by the passage: Jesus is talking about THEIR
generation. He is not talking about OURS.
 
The Context of Matthew 24
 
     In order to prove this right out of the Bible, we need to read
Jesus' words in context. We'll use the account in Matthew. The
context really begins in Matthew 23. There Jesus pronounces a
terrible judgment upon the Scribes and Pharisees. (Matt.
23:1-35) In fact, upon the entire nation. They had rejected every
prophet God ever sent to them. Now they were rejecting the very
Messiah of God. Jesus ends His rebuke with these words:
 
Verily I say unto you, ALL THESE THINGS shall come upon THIS
GENERATION. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the
prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often
would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen
gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you,
ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that
cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus went out, and
departed from the temple: (Matt. 23:36-24:1)
 
     Note again the words, "Verily I say unto you, all THESE THINGS
shall come upon THIS generation." This is Matthew 23, not yet
Matthew 24. Now we can see what prompted the disciples
question. They asked Him, "Tell us, when shall THESE THINGS
be?" They were were referring to the SAME THINGS Jesus had
just pronounced upon Jerusalem in His statement, "Verily I say
unto you, ALL THESE THINGS shall come upon THIS generation."
They wanted to know WHEN "all these things" would happen.
They wanted to know because they understood He was talking
about them -- about THEIR generation.
     Now note: The term "all these things" cannot mean one thing at
the end of Matthew 23, and then another, moments later, in Matthew
24. Likewise, the term "this generation" cannot mean one thing at
the end of Matthew 23, and another, moments later, in Matthew 24.
The terms maintain the same meanings throughout the passages.
The disciples were asking Jesus about the very same "things" and
about the very same "generation" as they had just heard Him
speak in Matthew 23. And in Matthew 24, Jesus goes on to answer
them about these same "things" and about that same "generation."
     So we have this progression: We have Jesus saying in Matt.
23:36, "Verily I say unto you, All THESE THINGS shall come upon
THIS GENERATION." He was talking about the fall of Jerusalem.
And then we have the disciples anxiously asking, "Tell us, when
shall THESE THINGS be?" (Matt. 24:3) And then we have Jesus
launching into an answer, climaxing with the words, "Verily I say
unto you, THIS GENERATION shall not pass away till ALL THESE
THINGS are fulfilled." (Matt. 24:34) All three of these occurences
are part of the same event, on the same day, and are actually part
of the same conversation and teaching. Consequently, the terms
use do not change meaning.
     And what do those terms, "all these things, " and "this generation,":
mean? We have already seen. "All these things refers to the
judgment of God upon Jerusalem, indeed upon all Israel. This
ended that "age." And "this generation" refers to THAT generation
in which that judgment DID happen.
     This meaning is not only clear from the context of the passage,
but we know that is what Jesus meant because IT HAPPENED.
Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. by Titus. This is a historical
fact, beyond dispute. Therefore, we do not need to try to figure
out WHAT GENERATION "all these things" were to come upon.
"All these things CAME upon THAT generation, exactly as Jesus
said. That "age" ended. And a new one began.
 
The Disciple's Reaction
 
     Let's look at how the disciples understood the prophecy of
Jesus Christ. It will tell us much about what He meant.
Jesus had just pronounced a stern judgment upon Israel. This
certainly must have shaken the disciples. After all, they did believe
He was the Messiah. But in their thinking, the Messiah was to
reign and rule in the temple of Jerusalem over Israel. He was to
restore Israel to her former glory. What Jesus had spoken before
they left Jerusalem didn't seem to jive with their expectations.
Jesus spoke of the destruction of the temple, not it's glorification.
So they they felt a need to come to Jesus for clarification.
     The disciples, of course, had much at stake in this situation.
They had left everything to follow Jesus -- a fact they continually
reminded Him of. Remember when Peter asked, Behold, we have
forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?"?
(Matt. 19:27) These disciples expected to reign and rule with
Christ. They expected to receive a reward. Yet how could what
Jesus said fit into their plans for the future?
     We must keep this in mind as we approach Matthew 24. The
concept of the "end of the age" which the disciples had was NOT
the one which WE have. To the disciples, the "end of the age" was
not the end of the world. It was the end of Israel's captivity and the
start of the reign of the Messiah. Neither was their concept of "His
coming" similiar to our concept of the Second Coming. To them,
"His coming" was His coming to reign and rule in the temple as
Messiah. So when the disciples asked when "these things" would
be, and what would be the "sign of His coming," it was from that
Jewish perspective that they are asking.
     The disciples were so very human in their reactions. It is easy
to imagine how they all huddled together and tried to sort this
thing out. Perhaps someone like Phillip said, "What do you think
He meant when He said Israel's house was desolate? Did He
really mean that destruction was coming? How could destruction
be coming? The Messiah is supposed to glorify Israel, not destroy
the temple! This just doesn't fit into what we thought was going to
happen. We'd better ask Him about this. We need to find out
where we fit in!"
     So the disciples approached Jesus. But as they did, they were
still in denial. He could not have meant what they thought they
heard. So they showed Him the beautiful buildings of the temple.
It was like they were saying, "Look how beautiful Your future place
of rule is, Lord. You didn't mean the temple was going to be
destroyed, did You?"
     The disciples were looking for an assurance from Jesus that
when He said, "All these things are going to come upon THIS
GENERATION" that He really didn't mean it. They hoped He
meant ANOTHER generation, or that "these things" actually meant
something other than LITERAL destruction. Their anxiousness is
understandable. Everything they knew and understood to be of
God was at stake.
     But notice what Jesus said to them. Notice His clear answer
-- as they pointed out to Him the beauty of the temple buildings:
He said, "See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There
shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be
thrown down." (Matt. 24:2)
     Now ask: Does it sound like Jesus is, at that point, talking
about two thousand years in the future? No. He is talking about
THAT generation. And as mentioned, the temple WAS torn down
less than 40 years from that day. So not only do we have the
context of scripture assuring us that it was THAT generation about
which Jesus was speaking, but we have the undeniable fact that
His words came to pass in THAT generation. Nothing could be
more clear: Jesus meant THAT generation.
 
Use of the Term "This Generation"
 
     It seems important here to further establish the fact that the term
"this generation" means the generation alive at the time of Christ,
and not a generation thousands of years later. Actually, Jesus'
use of the term "this generation" is well documented in the
gospels. There are fifteen times in the gospels where it is
recorded that Jesus used the term "this generation." Some of
these occurences are parallel accounts. Here are some of the
other times Jesus uses the term:
 
But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children
sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying,
We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have
mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came
neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The
Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a
man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and
sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. (Matt. 11:16-19)
 
Conclusion: John the Baptist was of THAT generation. THAT
generation called Jesus a glutton and winebibber. So here Jesus
is using the term to refer to the generation alive at that time.
 
An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there
shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For
as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so
shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of
the earth. 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. (Matt. 12:39-42)
 
Conclusion: Jesus lived on earth during THAT generation. No
other. The Pharisees of THAT generation asked Jesus for a sign.
THAT generation rejected the preaching of Jesus. THAT
generation will rise up in the resurrection with the men of Nineveh,
etc. So again, Jesus used the term to refer to the generation alive
at that time.
 
But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this
generation. (Luke 17:25)
 
Conclusion: Jesus Christ suffered at the hand of THAT
generation. He was rejected by the generation of THAT time.
Thus, Jesus used the term to refer to the generation alive at that
time.
 
     The correct conclusion is impossible to escape. When Jesus
used the term "this generation," He meant exactly that. He meant
the generation living at the time He spoke.
 
Interpreting Matthew 24
 
     Now, having established the meaning of the terms used to
introduce the "Olivet prophecy," it is now important to see
something else: The question which the disciples asked Jesus is
actually a question of two parts. And likewise the answer Jesus
gives to them -- the Olivet prophecy itself -- is in two parts.
The disciples asked, "Tell us, when shall these things be?"
     That's Part I of their question. But then they went on to ask
something else: And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of
the end of world." That's Part II.
      Now, the disciples undoubtedly thought of these events as one.
Their concept of the coming of the Messiah to reign and rule could
allow for nothing else. Their question to Jesus was a plea for
verification. They had heard Him say "all these things" would come
upon that generation. Having heard that, they wanted an
assurance that what they thought was going to happen was, in
light of Jesus' words, still going to happen as they expected.
     Herein we find the key to Matthew 24 and 25, as well as the
parallel gospels. We must understand in what sense the disciples
were asking their question. Only then will we understand the sense
in which Jesus answered.
     The disciples expected the end to Roman rule over Israel. They
expected the end to THAT age. They thought of "Jesus' coming"
as His overthrow of Rome, and the establishment of Himself as
God's Messiah in the temple in Jerusalem. When they heard
Jesus talk about "all these things" it disturbed this notion. So they
asked, "WHEN will all these things happen? WHEN will You come
to reign and rule like we expect?
     Now we can see what Jesus was speaking to in His answer to
these perplexed disciples. He was trying to show them that their
concept of the kingdom was wrong. That age WOULD end. But
it would be the age of the temple which would end -- not the age of
Roman rule. Jerusalem would be destroyed. And as far as the
establishment of the kingdom of God -- this would happen. But it
would not be the kind of kingdom they expected. It would first be
a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men. Only after a great period
of time passed would Jesus come to reign and rule like they
expected Him to.
     Now here is the key: "All these things" would occur before THAT
generation passed away. THAT age would end. But "His
coming" would NOT happen before that generation passed away.
Much of the answer Jesus gives them is intended to show them
this very thing.
     At the heart of modern error regarding these prophecies is the
mistake of thinking that the disciples idea of the kingdom is like our
idea. We think they were asking the same question we ask today:
When is Jesus coming back? But they are not. Indeed, they never
expected Him to leave. When the disciples spoke of "His coming,"
they were expecting that Jesus was going to end that age of
Roman rule, and establish Israel to her former glory as Messiah.
And they thought ALL of it was to happen during their generation.
Jesus was giving them the disappointing news: Only "all these
things" were going to come upon that generation. "His coming"
was yet far off. He would first spend over two-thousand years
establishing His kingdom in the hearts and lives of men.
     Thus, in Matthew 24, we have a two-part prophecy. We have
Jesus predicting the things which would come upon "this
generation" -- which was THAT generation. Those things DID
happen, climaxing in 70 A.D. That was the END of the old age.
But then we have the ushering in of the NEW age -- the "coming"
or "parousia" of Jesus Christ. This begins with Jesus' "coming" in
the hearts of His people. It climaxes with His literal return FOR
them.
 
The Parousia
 
     Jesus continually tried to make His disciples understand that
the kingdom of God was more than the physical kingdom they
expected. This is a great theme in the Bible. For instance, Jesus
told Nicodemus that , "Except a man be born of water and of the
Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5) The
context of the passage affirms that Jesus was speaking of a
spiritual birth. Paul also tells the Corinthians that "flesh and blood
cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (I Cor. 15:50) So despite any
physical or material fulfillments yet to happen regarding Jesus'
reign and rule over the kingdom, there is this spiritual aspect of the
kingdom. Jesus must first reign and rule in the hearts of men.
     We see this again in Luke:
 
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom
of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of
God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here!
or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke
17:21)
 
     Ask: What KIND of kingdom was Jesus talking about? Not a
physical kingdom. Yet He said it would come. He said it was
within us.
     This is the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ -- in the hearts
and lives of His people. It is the kingdom into which we are born
by faith. That kingdom -- the spiritual -- is the one over which
Jesus reigns and rules NOW.
     THIS is the kingdom Jesus told His disciples was "at hand."
It is the ONLY kingdom Jesus had to offer them in their generation.
When Jesus spoke of "His coming," that is the kingdom He was
talking about.
     Jesus was saying, "You asked Me WHEN I would come to
reign and rule. But your need is not to know WHEN. Your need is
for a new concept of the kingdom altogether. The kingdom of God
does not come in a way you will be able to observe with your eyes.
The kingdom of God -- the one in which I am coming -- is within
YOU."
     Don't misunderstand. Jesus' spiritual kingdom in our hearts is
not the literal Second Coming. No. That is YET to come. But the
kingdom within is first. That is the kingdom in which Jesus has been
'"coming" for two-thousand years.
 
When is the End?
 
     Now, if all of this is true -- that Jesus was talking about the end
of THAT age upon THAT generation -- and that there would be a
long period of time where Jesus would rule spiritually before He
would rule physically, then what about all the other things Jesus
said in the passages of Matthew 24 and 25? Actually, once we
understand that this is the context of the passages, the rest of what
Jesus said lines up perfectly with it. It all begins to find meaning.
     Let's start with Matthew 24:4:
 
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man
deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am
Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and
rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for ALL THESE
THINGS must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation
shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there
shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers
places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matt. 24:4-8)
 
     What is Jesus talking about here? He is answering the first part
of their question: "When will all these things be?" That is clear. So
in these verses Jesus is elaborating upon "all these things." He
is talking about the end of THAT age.
     But wait. We must remember something else. If Jesus is talking
about the end of that age, then He is NOT talking about His Second
Coming. He can't be. Why? Because as we have seen, the end
of that age, and His Second Coming, are separated by at least
two-thousand years.
     We MUST get this. Matthew 24:4-34 are NOT talking about
events leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. That are
NOT. Jesus isn't even on that part of the disciples question. He is
in those verses addressing the end of that age. He is describing
to them "all these things."
     The issue of His Coming is addressed later, after Matthew 24:34,
and mostly in chapter 25. But even then, Jesus doesn't mainly
address His literal coming. He talks there of His spiritual coming.
So this passage of Matthew 24:4-8 is speaking of events which
are a part of "all these things" -- event which came upon THAT
generation. But notice something. Those events were NOT an
indication that the end of even THAT generation was near -- let
alone the erroneous notion that those events signal the end of
OUR generation. Jesus said, "be not troubled, for all these things
must come to pass, but the end is NOT yet." He then added, "All
these are the BEGINNING (not the end) of sorrows."
    It would be nice if we would just listen to Jesus. Even if we
make the mistake of applying His words to our generation, He still
tells us that those things in the above passage are NO indication
that the end is near: False prophets, wars, famines, disease,
earthquakes, and the like. Yet prophecy preachers across the
board will quote those verses and find them fulfilled in the daily
newspaper and say, "Here is another indication that the return of
Christ is near."
     But no. These things are NOT an indication of the end. Jesus'
whole point of mentioning them is to warn us that they AREN'T.
But we ignore what He says. And not only do we ignore it, but we
also ignore the fact that what Jesus was describing was for THAT
generation and not ours.
     Jesus goes on:
 
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you:
and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then
shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall
hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall
deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of
many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the
same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be
preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then
shall the end come. (Matt. 24:9-14)
 
     WHEN will "the end" come? When the gospel is preached in all
the world for a witness. That's WHEN. And again -- this applies
to THAT generation.
     How can this be? The gospel was not preached to all the
world. Only NOW is this possible -- certainly not then. Right?
This reasoning leads many to believe that Jesus had to mean
OUR generation now. Only NOW is that kind of widespread
communication possible.
     We are putting the emphasis on the wrong thing in this verse.
The verse does NOT say that the gospel will be preached TO all
nations. No. It says it will be preached in the world AS A WITNESS
to all nations. There is a big difference between the two.
How so? Well, "as a witness unto all nations" means that the
gospel would be preached -- and that the IMPACT would be felt
by all nations. It would be as a witness unto all nations! This is
much different than saying that the gospel had to be preached TO,
in the sense of being preached IN, all nations.
     Do you see that? The emphasis is upon the preaching being a
witness to all nations, not upon the preaching actually occurring IN
all nations. And what Jesus said has come to pass. That first
preaching WAS a witness to the whole world. Down to this day,
we are living under the impact of that first witness. It has lasted for
almost two-thousand years.
     If you read the Bible you will find phrases like "all the world,"
"in all Israel," or "all Jerusalem" quite often. To say "all" was an
expression for emphasis and an idiom of that culture. This is
easily proven by noting some other instances where the phrase
is used.
 
The truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the
world; and bringeth forth fruit. (Col. 1:6)
 
And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by
the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the
world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. (Acts
11:28)
 
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree
from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (Luke
2:1)
 
     In not one of the above quotes could the English expression,
"in all the world" really mean that literally. The phrase is clearly
referring to "all the known, civilized world." It was a common
means of expression during that time, and in fact, during our time.
 
Pentecost
 
     Jesus continued his answer to the disciples about "these
things.". He reinterates much of what He just said about
Jerusalem. But then He begins to tell them more about which of
"these things" will come to pass in that generation. Verses 24:15-
33, rather than describe events, for the most part give admonition
as to what to do about the events. It talks about "great tribulation."
     But again, it is not THE "great tribulation" most of us have heard is
yet to come. It is a great tribulation which came upon Jerusalem
in 70 A.D.. This tribulation was part of "all these things" which
Jesus said were to come to pass before that generation passed
away.
     It does not agree with modern prophecy interpretation to say
that the great tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24:21 and 24:29 has
already occurred. But it has. Not only did that great tribulation
happen during that generation, but much happened AFTER that
tribulation. Jesus said so:
 
Immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days shall the sun be
darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall
fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: then
shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of
man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and
they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one
end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree;
When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know
that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these
things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto
you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
(Matt. 24:29-34)
 
     Note that Jesus says, "Immediately AFTER the tribulation of
those days, etc.," and then He describes some events in some
spiritual sounding language. Then He ends that part of the
narrative with the words, "Verily I say unto you, this generation
shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." It is therefore without
argument that the great tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24 came
upon THAT generation.
     But what are these strange events Jesus is describing here,
including what seems to be a description of Himself coming back
on the clouds of heaven? Aren't these yet future events, proving
that He is speaking not of THAT generation, but of OURS?
To answer, let's ask: Are there other places in the Bible where
events are described in such language? Yes. And in those
places, is any indication given as to the meaning of them? Yes.
One place to start is in the book of Joel:
 
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit
upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see
visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in
those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will show wonders in the
heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,
before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it
shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the
LORD shall be delivered: (Joel 2:28-32)
 
     The prophecy of Joel sounds much like that of Jesus. Some of
the very same terms are used to describe these events. We can
therefore conclude that whatever it was that Joel was prophecying,
that it is pretty much the same thing which Jesus is prophecying.
However -- there really isn't anything in Joel to interpret to us
it's meaning or fulfillment. For that, we must turn to Acts 2. There the
disciples had just been baptised by the Holy Spirit. Peter was
trying to assure the crowd that they were not drunk. Rather, he
proclaimed, what had happened was a fulfillment of prophecy.
      Peter said,
 
But THIS (the Baptism of the Holy Spirit) IS that which was spoken
by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in THE LAST DAYS,
saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons
and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see
visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my
servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of
my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in
heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and
vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the
moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord
come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the
name of the Lord shall be saved.
 
     Now read again what Peter is saying about the relationship
between what happened on Pentecost and the prophecy we read
in Joel:
 

But THIS IS that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.

 
     Could anything be more clear?   Pentecost, and the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. And since
the prophecy of Joel and the words of Jesus from Matt. 24:29-34
are so similiar, we can conclude that Jesus is talking about some
very similiar events. He is using symbolic language to describe
spiritual events.
     Thus, we arrive at this conclusion: Pentecost fulfilled Joel's
prophecy. That was about 30 A.D.. And even though Jesus'
prophecy was for "after the tribulation of those days," i.e., about
70 A.D., we can be reasonably sure that He was talking about
much the same thing.
     This makes sense when you consider that the fall of Jerusalem
in 70 A.D. was no small event. Perhaps to world history it was, but
not to God. That event ended forever an age and a unique
relationship God had with Israel. The end of it certainly must have
shook the heavens in a spiritual way. And when the temple was
destroyed -- a place Jesus Himself said was His Father's house
-- there would have come a great shifting in the spiritual realm.
     But how about the coming of the Son of Man Jesus predicts will
happen "after the tribulation of those days?"
     Well, those who hold the preterist view of end-time prophecy
claim that this event of 70 A.D. WAS the second coming. And we
really cannot expect any other second coming. But this doesn't
hold water because if Jesus literally came in 70 A.D., then where is
He? This would mean Jesus came in virtual obscurity, and has
remained there ever since. Not much of a King, I'd say.
     This cannot be true. When Jesus spoke of that "coming" of
70 A.D., He was speaking of it in relationship to the "tribulation of
those days," which ended that age. He was speaking of Himself
as a coming King in the SPIRITUAL kingdom -- which would
replace the old system. He would gather up all His elect from the
four winds -- from that day forward. These would be those who
would be His people -- not only the Jews -- and spend eternity
with Him. This would be the lasting effect of the preaching of the
gospel, and the day of Pentecost.
     The baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost began,
according to Peter, the "last days." That was in 30 A.D.. Therefore,
we can never say that WE, and we alone, are living in "the last
days." The "last days" began a long time ago.
     Get that. Pentecost began "the last days." c.a. 30 A.D. "The
last days" is not merely OUR time. Neither are "the last days" a
time yet to come. Rather "the last days," in the eyes of God, began
at Pentecost, and will continue until Jesus literally returns.
     For final proof of this, see Heb. 1:2. Paul said HE was living in the
last days:
 
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time
past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in THESE last days
spoken unto us by his Son. (Heb. 1:1-2)
 
     The "last days" is a period of time in which God works out His
final purpose through Jesus Christ. They began with the day of
Pentecost, and continue on until today. The "last days" can
therefore NOT be limited to the generation in which WE live.
 
His "Coming"
 
     In Matthew 24, Jesus' description of "all these things" which were
to bring about the end of THAT age and THAT generation -- the
one in which they lived -- continues up to verse 35. But as we have
seen, the end of that age concerns only the first part of the question.
The end of that age was one thing. Jesus still had to answer them
regarding "His Coming." He begins doing so in Matthew 24:36.
     It is here that we must reinterate a point made earlier. The
disciples did not envision a period of time, nor any kind of
distinction, between the end of that age, and the coming of the
Messiah to reign and rule. The considered it all ONE event. To
them, Jesus would end that age BY coming as Messiah to
physically reign and rule. No other thought occurred to them.
Jesus, however, knew otherwise. This is why He had to answer
the question they asked in two parts. The end of that physical age
and the beginning of a physical kingdom were NOT events which
would occur together. There would be a vast period of time in
between the two physical events.
     That was the first problem: The disciples did not understand that
the physical kingdom was more than two-thousand years away.
     The second problem they had, however, was even more difficult.
They had no aptitude for the KIND of kingdom Jesus was going to
usher in during their lifetime: It was a spiritual kingdom. Despite
the fact that for three and one-half years, again and again, all Jesus
did was speak to them of this spiritual kingdom, they still interpreted
Him on a natural, physical level. In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus is
once again trying to show them the Truth about His kingdom. It is
first spiritual, then later, much later, physical.
     Thus, when we read Matthew 24 and 25, we are reading an
answer from Jesus which is both corrective and informative. Jesus
corrects their notion that He is going to reign and rule from the
temple in Jerusalem during their time. He says, "All these things
are going to come to upon THIS generation. Not one stone which
you see will remain standing. THIS age is going to end."
     How it is possible that Christian teachers can read Matthew 24
and interpret what Jesus says as applying to any other time than
that of 70 A.D. is amazing. Jesus is clearly trying to dispel the
disciples notion of a physical kingdom during THAT generation.
He is clearly telling them that THAT generation will witness, not the
beginning of a new physical kingdom, but the END of the old
physical kingdom and covenant which God had ordained for Israel.
     Jesus, of course, knew what a devastating bit of news this would
be for the disciples -- once the Truth of it began to dawn on them.
But He did not leave them without hope. He assures them that
there WILL be a kingdom. Starting in about verse 36, He begins to
address the second part of their question, regarding "His Coming."
     Yet notice the very first thing He says to them about it. He turns and
says to them -- regarding the physical kingdom they expected --
"No one can know the day or hour." (24:36)
     If you search through the gospels, you won't find many instances
where Jesus tells people they CANNOT know something. Usually,
He focuses on what we can know. What we can't know is simply
not discussed very often. But it is discussed here, with regard to
the Second Coming. Jesus says, "You can't know. Even I don't
know. Only the Father knows. And He isn't going to tell you."
     If only we would believe these words. Jesus Christ told us that
we cannot know when He is coming for a reason. He wanted to
once and for all admonish us to STOP trying to speculate about
this! The question is, have we listened to Him? Walk through any
Christian book store, or turn on any Christian television station. You
will have your answer.
     Jesus not only had to dispel the disciples notion of an immediate
physical kingdom, but He had to replace that notion with the Truth
of His spiritual kingdom. Thus, as we begin to read in Matthew
24:36, we find descriptions and references to a SPIRITUAL
kingdom, rather than a physical one. THIS was the kind of kingdom
the disciples would later, after Pentecost, see that Jesus was to
immediately establish. This was the kingdom in which Jesus was
to "come" at that time.
 
Did Jesus "Come" in 70 A.D.?
 
     The preterist theory of prophecy insists that Jesus did come in
70 A.D.. This is based on the premise that Jesus said He would
"come" during that generation. Those who believe this also say
that Paul and the other apostles clearly expected Jesus to come
during that time -- even after Pentecost. Only if Jesus came, they
insist, do all of these scriptures make sense.
     There is not space here to address all of these issues. That is
not the scope of this article. But there are two things which might be
said about the notion that Jesus did come in 70 A.D.. First, if He
came, in the way the preterist theory insists, then when He came, it
was THE Second Coming. We need not look for any other arrival
of Jesus Christ. This means that for the last two-thousand years
Jesus has been reigning and ruling on this earth. And presumably,
as He brings all things under His rule, we will see the perfect peace
which He promised on this earth come to pass -- even if it takes
another two-thousand years.
     One problem with this is that we cannot find Jesus anywhere on
earth -- physically. Remember -- when Jesus was raised from the
dead He had a physical body. It was the same body in which He
lived as a human being -- howbeit glorified through the victory of
the resurrection. It was likewise in this body that He ascended into
heaven. There is no reason to think that this body was done away
with or replaced with yet again ANOTHER kind of body. So if
Jesus is here today, He is in THAT body. But where is He?
     One preterist theory is that Jesus come and goes in that body
in the same way He did after His resurrection to His disciples. But
when is the last time Jesus appeared to you? The appearances
to the disciples were physical appearances accompanied by
supernatural signs and wonders. Despite all of the crazy claims
going around today, few claim Jesus actually appears to them on
a regular basis. And neither do we find these claims being made
during the last two-thousand years in any writings.
     A second problem with saying Jesus came in the ultimate sense
in 70 A.D. is that if He did, we have a situation where almost no one
believes it. If He came in 70 A.D. then He came in relative
obscurity. There are no historical accounts. No early church
writing records it. This event has come and gone completely
unnoticed.
    What this would leave us with is this: Jesus came. In the ultimate
sense. It's just that no one knows it. We are still waiting for Him to
come. Is that possible?
     Add to that this unlikely fact: Has the resurrection already taken
place? Surely, we ARE raised with Christ in a spiritual sense.
Surely, we DO have an earnest of that which is yet to come. But do
we have the fullness? Do you ever get sick? Do you sin? Is THIS
all there is? Are we to expect NOTHING more -- no further coming
of Jesus Christ, or futher resurrection of the dead?
     This is unacceptable. Rather, what we see today is what we
would see if Jesus were, for the last two-thousand years, setting up
a SPIRITUAL kingdom. Not a physical kingdom. What we have
is a world which is in great need of the fullness of Redemption.
That is YET to come.
 
70 A.D.
 
     Something did happen in 70 A.D.. For one thing, the end of that
age did come to pass. In 70 A.D., Jerusalem was destroyed. This
was no small event.
     We have little point of reference for what this meant spiritually.
But we must keep in mind that the death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ, and then, 40 years later, the end of that age, ended a
dispensation. It ended a means by which God dealt with man which
had lasted for several thousand years. This would have indeed
shaken the powers of heaven and earth. It would have caused
a tremendous upheaval spiritually. Never before had anything
like this happened.
     Something also BEGAN at that time. God began to dwell in us
in a way which He had never done before. No longer was a
priesthood necessary. Each individual believer had personal
and unhindered access to God.
     Now this WAS a "coming" of Jesus Christ. Not literally or
physically. But a "coming" which was just as REAL. Today we
have lost the significance of what God has done. We either take it
for granted, or don't have the real thing. But in that early church,
such a thing had never been. It was beyond what they could have
hoped or prayed.
     There does, however, remain one problem which none of this
resolves. It is the fact that Paul and the early church -- even after
the day of Pentecost -- continued to expect Jesus to come during
their lifetime. Regarding this we have only two choices. Either they
were mistaken, or Jesus did come as they expected.
     First of all, it is nowhere taught in the New Testament by Paul or
any of the other writers, that Jesus MUST come during their lifetime.
No. There is no prophecy to this effect. Rather, there is an
expectation. A readiness. A waiting. Therefore, there is complete
freedom here to say that the early church expected what we, today,
expect: Jesus was coming back. They just didn't know when.
     Could it be that God had these expectations recorded to show
us the folly of predicting when Jesus would return? Afterall, if the
early church expected Him, and He did not come, who are we?
     There is another possibility. We assume that the spiritual
atmosphere and experience of that early church was the same
before 70 A.D. as it was after. Could it be that during those 40 years
of preaching the gospel as a witness -- a witness that would last
for another two-thousand years -- could it be that what they had was
different than the spiritual life of believers after 70 A.D.? In other
words, when Paul expects an end to that age, and a "coming" of
Jesus during his lifetime, was He expecting something which DID
happen spiritually? We assume nothing changed from Pentecost
until today. But could it be that when the end of that age came
about in 70 A.D., that something DID happen, spiritually, to usher in
in new age, in ADDITION to what happened on Pentecost?
     Jesus did not come in fullness in 70 A.D.. But did something
else happen -- which accounts for the expectation of Paul and the
other early Christians?
     The period of time between the ascension of Jesus, and the
destruction of Jerusalem, was unique in the history of the world. It
was a transition time between the old age and the new. Did
something happen spiritually when this period ended in about
70 A.D.? Did Jesus "come" in a way He had not "come" before?
We cannot know for sure. But regardless, Jesus is here today as
our spiritual King. We can surrender to Him and leave these
theories in His hands.
 
It is Not for You to Know
 
     Back to the Matthew 24 passage. Back to the point where Jesus
begins to tell them about "His Coming." (24:36)
     It is very significant that the first thing Jesus says to them in
response to their question, "When?," is: "It is not for you to know."
It is as if He wants to make sure, right up front, that we don't get
the idea that somewhere in the passage He is giving us "clues"
as to WHEN. No! He is telling us -- point blank -- that we cannot
know. It is not for us to know. Only the Father knows. And He isn't
going to tell us.
     Of course, despite the fact that Jesus made it perfectly clear
that we cannot know when He is coming, Christians for over
two-thousand years have tried to say we can know. Maybe not
the "day nor the hour." But how about the year? Or the "season?"
Afterall, doesn't Matthew 24:32-33 indicate we can know at least
the season, or approximate time of Jesus' coming?
     What does Jesus say in that passage?
 
So when you see ALL THESE THINGS, know that it is near,
even at the doors. (24:32-33)
 
But wait. Then Jesus adds:
 
This generation shall not pass away until ALL THESE THINGS
be fulfilled. (24:34)
 
     What could be plainer? Jesus is still talking about "all these
things" in verses 32-33 -- the SAME "all these things" as He is
talking about in the next verse, verse 34. It is certain that He is
saying that when they see "all these things" they will know the END
of that age is near -- for "all these things" will come to pass before
that generation passes away. There is simply no other sane and
logical way to interpret these verses.
 
What We CAN Know
 
     It is only when we get to Matthew 24:35 that Jesus begins to
leave behind the subject of "all these things," and begins to speak
of "His Coming." Jesus spends the rest of Matthew 24 warning us
to be READY -- "for the Son of Man comes at an hour you do not
expect." (24:44)
     So what CAN we know about the literal Second Coming? Not
when. But to be READY. Jesus is saying, "I am going to come
back. But before that, I am going to establish my spiritual kingdom.
I am going to actively reign and rule -- "come" (parousia) -- in your
heart. And in My Body. So be ready by opening yourself to Me.
For my literal coming will be at an hour you don't expect."
 
The Kingdom of God is Like.....
 
     Starting in Matthew 25, Jesus begins to describe His kingdom.
He talks about how it works and the principles which govern it. But
He is NOT talking about an earthly, physical kingdom. He is talking
about the kingdom into which we are to be born again: The spiritual
kingdom.
     We see this starting with Matthew 25:1. Jesus begins with the
phrase, "THEN shall the kingdom of heaven be likened....".
When? THEN.
     But WHEN is "then?" "Then" is "after all these things" come to
pass in THAT generation. Do you see that? "Then" is after the
end of that age. THEN -- Matthew 25 comes to pass. Matthew 25
is after that generation passes away.
     So what does Matthew 25 say about what happens after "all
these things come to pass," and that age passes away? As we
read it we find out. Jesus says, "THEN the kingdom of God shall
be likened unto......" Jesus says THEN there will be a kingdom to
talk about. But what KIND of kingdom?
     Note carefully the words Jesus uses here. "Likened unto"
indicates that what Jesus is about to describe is NOT literal.
"Likened unto" means that what Jesus is about to describe is
parabolic in nature. It is a picture used to bring out spiritual Truth.
Jesus is talking about His spiritual kingdom. That's the kingdom
which will THEN be established. That's the kingdom which will come
to pass when "all these things" are fullfilled.
 
The Spiritual Kingdom
 
     Remember what we saw earlier about Biblical interpretation.
We must read the Bible in the sense it intends. And right here, in
Matthew 25, the sense is NOT literal. What Jesus gives are
pictures to which the kingdom of God can "be likened." They are
symbolic stories of how He works in His kingdom, and symbolic of
the possible outcomes of that work in His people.
     All of the pictures to which the kingdom of God can be likened
to, from Matt. 24:35 - 25:46, have to do with what His people are
doing while He is physically absent from the earth. Therefore,
these pictures are describing the "last days" -- the period of time
between Pentecost and the Second Coming. Jesus give the
disciples spiritual pictures which represent His purposes in His
people during that long period of time known as the church age.
He shows them God's purpose, and the outcome of how they
respond to it.
     The reason Jesus used these picture lessons is that He had to
use them. Remember, the disciples expected His Coming and the
end of that age to go hand in hand -- physically and literally.
They had no point of reference for time in between. They did not
know Jesus was to die and be raised. They did not know about
Him calling out a Body of believers over a two-thousand year
period. It was not even in their thinking. Thus, the parabolic
language of Matthew 25 is used so that when these events would
unfold, the disciples -- including US -- would remember what
Jesus said and begin to realize that there was indeed going to be
a period of time between the end of that age, and His literal
Coming.
 
Understanding the Prophecy
 
     Unless we see that the disciples had no concept of a period of
time between "the end of the age" and "His coming," we are going
to misunderstand these chapters -- for the two-part answer Jesus
gives is directed at that blindness. And unless we see that
these same disciples had no concept of a spiritual kingdom, we
will also miss the point -- for Jesus was describing a spiritual
kingdom.
     Jesus basically says to them, "You asked about My Coming.
But presently, your concept of My Coming in My kingdom is
incorrect and limited. You only think about My physical rule as
Messiah. And you think it's going to be from this temple. You
don't understand that everything you know as religion is going to
be dismantled. All this temple worship, indeed, the Old Covenant
itself, is going to be replaced by a spiritual kingdom -- a
kingdom more real than you can imagine. Not one stone will be
left upon another of this temple. All of this will happen to THIS
generation."
     Then Jesus adds, "You also do not understand that there is
going to be a vast amount of time between the end of this age and
my physical coming. During that time, I am going to call out a
body of believers and set up my kingdom in the hearts of men.
Therefore, I must give you some parables which describe that
spiritual kingdom which God will set-up during those last days."
     And regarding His literal Second Coming, Jesus says to them,
in the last admonition He spoke before He ascended,
 
It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father
has put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the
Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me
both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the
uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:7-8)
 
     There we have it. It is not for us to know when He is coming
back. But we are to be busy with something else: Becoming His
witnesses. Again, we are to allow God to make of us living epistles
because we have Jesus reigning and ruling in and through us,
in His spiritual kingdom.
What all of this Means
     To some people, it might seem a bit disappointing to realize that
we cannot know the day, hour, or approximate time of the Second
Coming of Jesus Christ.  Afterall, once we admit that this is exactly
the limit of the understanding God has given us on the event, then
everything else comes into question.  All of a sudden, maybe the
world events we see around us DON'T mean what many say they
mean.  Indeed, maybe the Second Coming of Christ is hundreds of
years away.
     This is NOT impossible.  It is not impossible that Jesus' coming is
yet hundreds of years away.  But it is also not impossible that His
coming will be today, or tomorrow.  And that is the good news.  Once
we put away all of this business of trying to figure out when Jesus
will come, and simply read what the Bible says about it, it becomes
clear that Jesus CAN come today.  And if He does come today,
every prophecy of the Bible will still be true.  Only WE will be proved
wrong in our presumptive interpretations of it.  We will be exposed
as those who were doing what Jesus said we shouldn't do:  Trying to
know what Jesus said we cannot know.
     Jesus told THAT generation that their expectations of the
kingdom was wrong.  He told them that everything they expected and
everything they hoped for could not be realized during their time.
But He did give them an alternative.  He told them to BECOME His
witnesses.  He told them to be in a continual state of READINESS.
We need to ask:  Are we ready for Jesus to come back TODAY?
     Think about this for a moment.  It is something which is as real
and as possible as any of us could imagine.  What if, in the next
ten minutes, Jesus Christ literally came back to earth?  What if the
clouds opened up and the Son of God appeared with His angels?
What if, at that moment, you and I were faced with the realization
that it was really over.  This life was done.  We were going to be
spend eternity with Jesus Christ starting NOW.
     Would we be ready?  I don't mean from the standpoint of wanting
to escape this life.  I donít mean from the standpoint of wanting to
receive some kind of reward from God.  I mean from a spiritual and
moral perspective.  Do we have, inside of us, an affinity for Jesus
Christ? Is there something of God in us which is able to spend all
eternity with Him in harmony and fellowship?
     The answers to these questions are actually much easier to
discover than we might imagine.  All we have to do is examine our
PRESENT life.  Do we walk with God NOW?  Do we believe God
NOW?  Have we unconditionally surrendered to Him NOW?  The
fact is, what we are in Christ NOW is indicative, howbeit on a much
lower level, of what we shall be in Christ THEN.
     The event of death changes no one.  The event of the Second
Coming changes no one.  If anything, these events SEAL who we
are.  What we ARE is what Christ will take.  It is what we have
BECOME in Him that is going to live on.  One of the greatest
deceptions in the church is the idea that what we have "done for
God," in the way of ministry or service, is going to enhance our
eternal place in Him.  It is not.  We must become as little children to
enter His kingdom.  This speaks, not of "doing," but of BECOMING.
     "THIS generation" of which Jesus speaks in Matthew 24 is the
generation in which HE lived.  It was that generation of God's people
which faced the judgment of God, and which went through a great
tribulation which was greater than ever before, or since.  It was THAT
generation which saw the end of THAT age, and the beginning of
the spiritual kingdom of God. 
     And what of OUR generation?  We must BE READY for Jesus.
Not only for His literal Second Coming, but for His many "comings"
and workings in us leading up to that blessed event. *

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