" Truly I say to
you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." - Matthew 24:34
last few months have been a time in which I have been involved in a couple of
debates with preterists. Preterism teaches that most, if not all, of the Book
of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24- 25; Mark 13; Luke 21) were
fulfilled in conjunction with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in a.d. 70. If this notion is granted,
then almost all of Bible prophecy is not to be anticipated in the future, but
is past history. Their false scheme springs forth from a misinterpretation of
Matthew 24:34 (see also Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32), by which they launch an
upside-down view of eschatology, which does not look to the future but instead
gazes at the past.
Preterist Gary DeMar says, " the generation that was in
existence when Jesus addressed His disciples would not pass away until all the
events that preceded verse 34 came to pass."  In contrast with
fellow preterist, Dr. Kenneth Gentry, DeMar believes that this passage requires
that all of Matthew 24 and 25 must have been fulfilled in some way by a.d. 70 through the Roman invasion and
destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. DeMar says, " 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! " This generation" in Hebrews 3:10
clearly refers to the generation of Israelites that wandered in the wilderness
for 40 years during the Exodus.
Find The Correct View
But how do we know that almost all
of the other New Testament uses of " this generation" refer to Christ' s
contemporaries? We learn this by going and examining how each is used in their
context. For example, Mark 8:12 says, " And sighing deeply in His spirit [Jesus
is speaking], He said, ' Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say
to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.' " 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. Thus, it refers to Christ' s
contemporaries, because of the controlling factor of the immediate context.
When interpreting the
Bible you cannot just say, as DeMar and many preterists do, that because
something means X . . . Y . . . Z in other passages that it has to mean that in
a given verse. NO! You must make your determination
from the passage under discussion and how it is used in that particular
context. Context is the most important factor in determining the exact meaning
or referent under discussion. That is how one is able to realize
that most the other uses of " this generation" refer to Christ' s contemporaries.
23:36 says, " Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this
generation." To whom does " this generation" refer? In this context, " this
generation" refers to Christ' s contemporaries because of contextual support.
" This generation" is governed or controlled grammatically by the phrase " all
these things." All these things refer to the judgments that Christ pronounces
in Matthew 22- 23. So we should be seeing that in each instance of " this
generation," the use is determined by what it modifies in its immediate
context. The scope of use of every occurrence of this generation is determined
in the same way.
The same is true for Hebrews 3:10, which says, " Therefore I was angry with this
generation." " This generation" is governed or controlled grammatically by the
contextual reference to those who wandered in the wilderness for forty years
during the Exodus.
Now why does " this
generation" in Matthew 24:34 (see also Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32), not refer to
Christ' s contemporaries? Because the governing referent to " this generation"
is " all these things." Since Jesus is giving an extended prophetic discourse
of future events, one must first determine the nature of " all these things"
prophesied in verses 4 through 31 to know what generation Christ is referencing.
Since " all these things" did not take place in the first century then the
generation that Christ speaks of must be future. Christ is saying that the
generation that sees " all these things" occur will not cease to exist until all
the events of the future tribulation are literally fulfilled. Frankly, this is
both a literal interpretation and one that was not fulfilled in the first
century. Christ is not ultimately speaking to His contemporaries, but to the
generation to whom the signs of Matthew 24 will become evident. Dr. Darrell
Bock, in commenting on the parallel passage to Matthew 24 in Luke' s Gospel
What Jesus is saying is that the generation that
sees the beginning of the end, also sees its end. When the signs come, they
will proceed quickly; they will not drag on for many generations. It will
happen within a generation. . . . The tradition reflected in Revelation shows
that the consummation comes very quickly once it comes. . . . Nonetheless, in
the discourse's prophetic context, the remark comes after making comments about
the nearness of the end to certain signs. As such it is the issue of the signs that
controls the passage's force, making this view likely. If this view is
correct, Jesus says that when the signs of the beginning of the end come, then
the end will come relatively quickly, within a generation.
The whole preterist
argument goes up in smoke since they have reversed the interpretative process
by declaring first that " this generation" has to refer to Christ' s contemporaries,
thus all these things had to be fulfilled in the first century. When one
points out that various passages in Matthew 24 were not fulfilled, preterists
merely repeat their mantra of " this generation," so that all these things had
to be fulfilled in the first century.
I do not think that any
of the events in Matthew 24:4-31 occurred in the first century. I will now
look at the most significant event in the passage- the Second Coming of Christ
in verses 27 through 31.
Jesus Return in a.d. 70?
Once again, preterists
argue that it had to happen in the first century because of " this generation."
So preterists use their very active imaginations, with a little help from
Josephus, to try to explain why these passages do not speak about Christ' s second
Verse 29 says, " But immediately
after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will
not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the
heavens will be shaken." Dr. Gentry says, " I will argue that this
passage speaks of the a.d. 70 collapse of geo-political Israel. Let us note
that there is biblical warrant for speaking of national catastrophe in terms of
cosmic destruction." 
If these are literal
signs in the heaven then they have not happened in the past. Are they literal?
YES! First, this was one of the reasons why the sun, moon and stars were
created. Genesis 1:14 says that, on the
fourth day, God created the sun, moon and stars " for
signs, and for seasons, and for days and years." What bigger event than
the second coming of Christ would demand a global sign? In this passage Jesus
is reporting what will actually happen in history. It will be a supernatural
event, yet Dr. Gentry and other preterists want to dumb down this event with
their naturalistic view that this has already happened.
Second, just as the sun
was literally darkened at the crucifixion of Jesus as a sign, so will it be at
His return. Third, the burden of proof is on preterists who do not take this
literally as to why they don' t. They need to come up with something more
convincing than the mantra of " this generation" requires it, because I have
shown that it does not. The point of the passage is that only God can control
His creation and use it as a global sign that He is being announced as the
returning, glorious Lord of all creation, into an environment of unbelief.
Matthew 24:30 says, " and
then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes
of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds
of the sky with power and great glory." Dr. Gentry says, " This verse,
along with all other verses leading up to if from Matthew 24:1, applies to the a.d. 70 destruction of the Temple." 
If this prophecy has something to do with the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, then Dr. Gentry has not been
able to tell us exactly what it is.
agree with Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson, that the sign is the coming of the
Son of Man Himself. The first sentence would be rendered
as follows: " and then will appear the sign, which is the Son of Man in heaven." This is called in
Greek grammar the appositional use of the genitive case. The coming of the
Lord Himself is the sign, which was the very point he made to the high priest
in Matthew 26:64 when He told them that they would see Him " coming on the
clouds of heaven." This is what the angle told Christ' s disciples in Acts 1:11
after watching Jesus being taken up to heaven in a cloud, that " This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven,
will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."
This is why the next time Jesus comes, it will not be some " signless sign" that
did not actually exist in the form of the Roman army, but instead the visible,
bodily, physical return of Christ that mirrors His ascension.
next part of verse 30 says, " then all the tribes of
the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of
the sky with power and great glory." Why will they mourn, because they will
see the undeniable sign of the returning Christ. Dr. Gentry says, that this
merely refers to the Jewish tribes of Israel in a.d.
NO! This is a universal term used of global unbelievers. Every time this
plural phrase is used in the parallel Book of Revelation it clearly refers to
Gentiles. For example in Revelation 13:7 it speaks of " every tribe and people and tongue and nation." Every use in the
Old Testament of " all the tribes of the earth" has a universal meaning in the
Septuagint. The Old Testament uses the term " all the tribes of Israel" (about
25 times) when it wants to refer to the Jewish tribes.
importantly, the verse goes on to say, " they will see
the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory."
It says, " they will see the Son of Man coming on the
clouds of the sky." The text says, " they will see the Son of Man."
This has to be a reference to the visible, bodily, physical return of Jesus
Christ to planet earth! This did not happen in a.d.
70? Josephus does not record it. This cannot refer to a symbolic,
naturalistic interpretation that somehow Jesus returned in conjunction with the
Roman army in the first century. Jesus said, " they will see the Son of Man."
Jesus returns on the clouds, just like Acts 1 said He would. He will return
with power and great glory. The glory refers to His visible, Shechinah Glory
cloud that has been God' s trademark throughout history.
Jesus returned in a.d. 70, as
preterists say, then, on what day did He return? Since this is a past event,
we should be able to know the exact day our Lord supposedly returned and
fulfilled this passage. I have never read in any preterist material, any of
them who can tell me the day and exact manner or event that supposedly was
Christ' s return in a.d. 70. In
fact, this was such a non-event in terms of church history, that it was not
until the seventeenth century that we have an extant record of anyone
suggesting anything like a preterist view that refers Matthew 24:27 and 30 to a.d. 70. Maranatha!