The Preterist’s “This Generation”

For those of you who are following my critique of the Preterist position, here is the next post which gets down to some of the nuts and bolts in the Olivet Discourse. Again, I am only concerning myself with Scot McKnight’s views as posted in his lecture titled, "Catching the Wave, or Facing the Tsunami?"

Scot follows "the Markan text, observing here that the differences with the other Evangelists are minimal and unimportant for what I am arguing." I would respond that there is a huge difference between a version that contains 33 verses and one that contains 94 verses. This is neither minimal nor unimportant. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s just follow Scot on his journey through the Markan text. I will review the Mattheian text at another time.

Scot asserts again that Jesus can only be referring to events revolving around the destruction of the temple. The conclusion you can come to already is that Scot is probably hoping that folks will begin to believe what he is writing if he just says it enough times. After the describing the events contained within the Olivet Discourse, Scot has this comment, "Now if we are looking for a statement of destruction, we have not yet seen it – unless it is symbolically expressed in the abomination of desolation." Scot concedes that Jesus has not spoken of the destruction of the temple, but he hints that there is another possibility that Jesus spoke symbolically. So Jesus did not speak of the destruction of the temple, but we must throw that conclusion out the window.

Next Scot does a slight shift. After previously stating that the Markan text is the closest to the original and that he would be using that text, he substitutes the Mattheian text because in his words, "here from Matthew 24:29-31 because it is more complete: ‘Immediately after the tribulation of those days’ – notice here the word ‘immediately’". Now here is a puzzle if I ever heard one. Scot has set forth that Mark is to be followed being the earliest and most accurate. Yet he has to move to Matthew’s text to prove his point. Could it be that Scot actually agrees that Matthew is the more complete text bringing out numerous points that Mark’s text does not? It would seem in this sentence I’ve quoted that he does. Scot has to have the word "immediately" to prove his point, but only Matthew contains the word he needs.

Now that Scot has the word "immediately" in place, he shifts back to Mark and points out the verse that all Preterists point out, believing that Futurists overlook it. Mark 13:30 "…this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done." Scot comes back to the destruction of the temple with this statement, "We set out to find where Jesus spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem and it may appear he doesn’t." Scot then comes back to the "this generation" statement by Jesus. Here’s the part that may surprise some of you Futurists. I agree with Scot’s statements that it must refer to a specific generation. But I disagree that Jesus used it solely to refer to His generation. Scot rightly eliminates some incorrect interpretations. Jesus had to mean a certain generation with this particular statement. But with Matthew 10:23, 23:36, and Mark 9:1, I disagree with Scot as he tries to put these three statements into the same category as Matthew 24:34 and Mark 13:30. It can’t be done.

Now onto Scot’s next conclusion: "Jesus predicts that all these things will occur within a generation." And by this, Scot means the coming of the Son of Man and the End of the Age (which were only mentioned by the disciples in Matthew’s version), the Great Tribulation, the Gathering of the Elect, the Cosmic Signs, along with the destruction of the temple. But let’s look at another possibility concerning the statement "this generation". Both instances of the verse occur immediately after the parable of the fig tree. Jesus says that it will be just like a fig tree. When the leaves appear, we know that summer is close. In the same way, when we see "all these things", we know that it is near. So if Jesus was referring solely to the destruction of the temple, Scot’s interpretation could be accurate. But if Jesus was referring to the End of the Age, which was never connected by Jesus to the destruction of the temple, then we can interpret "this generation" to be the generation that will see the sign that will signal the End of the Age and be a harbinger for His coming. This generation will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled. The meaning would be that the generation which sees the actual SIGN of His coming and the End of the Age will not pass away until the End of the Age and His coming are completely fulfilled. Too simple? For some!

I have tried to stay focused on the next section of Scot’s thesis. But at the end of my post here, I want to encourage Futurists to concede the clear language that Scot is trying to drive home. "This generation" is a literal generation. The fig tree producing leaves is not Israel back in her homeland still in unbelief. The fig tree producing leaves is a SIGN just before an event. Preterists will point to the destruction of Jerusalem (and so will I); Futurists will point to the End of the Age and the Coming of the Son of Man which occur just after the Great Tribulation. The sign is obviously the abomination of desolation in both Matthew and Mark.

I’ll stop here for now.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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4 Responses to The Preterist’s “This Generation”

  1. Paul Brennan says:

    Hi Darrin, one thing that struck me when I was pondering about the Olivet discourse and “this generation” is the fact that generation has two meanings. One is a timespan, whereas the other is more like a strain, or a lineage. Almost everyone, both preterists and futurists seem to be in complete agreement that the correct definition is that of a timespan. It seems more scriptural, because what comes closest to mind if the 40 year generation wandering around in the desert. However, I think that this conclusion just might be the cause of incredible confusion.

    So let’s start off by decoupling the normal use of the word by which we use it as a delimiter in which to frame the end-time events and instead view the verse in question as if it was an separate event itself. From that perspective, the passing away of the generation is simply the last event in a long chain of events.

    Now, do we have anything else in scripture that speaks of such an event? I think we do. Remember, the Olivet discourse is a “condensed” version of the Book of Revelation. Both seem to parallell each other as far as the “main events” are concerned (wars, famine etc. etc), and, here comes the important thing in this discussion, both lead up to the destruction of the wicked – i.e. the second death. It is the very last event that occurs before the new heavens and new earth come down from heaven.

    So could Jesus have been referring to this event in Matthew 24:34?

    Well, so much for the event. Let’s look at the idea that Jesus may have been referring to a certain strain of people, rather than a physical generation. Doing a quick word search for “generation” in the NT reveals that Jesus always seemed to point out the characteristics of that particular generation – wicked and adulterous, unbelieving and so on. He also pointed out that “this generation” was scheduled to be condemned at the judgement.

    Again, we assume that he is speaking of the generation living at that time, because obviously they were the ones who crucified him, but is there any evidence that “this generation” is not confined within the timespan of a generation? There certainly is.

    Notice when speaking to the pharisees in Matthew 23:35,36 that Jesus speaks about what will happen to them:

    “And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.”

    Notice towards the the end of these verses it speaks about Zechariah “whom you murdered” despite the fact that Zechariah was murdered hundreds of years before the pharasees even existed.

    I rest my case… 🙂

    • Hello there-

      This post is part of a series critiquing Scot McKnight’s version of Preterism. Scot would have no problem with your statements because he believes it was all fulfilled back in 70 AD. The book of Revelation, second death, new heavens and new earth, the final generation upon whom the blood of all the saints came, all fulfilled in 70AD according to his view. So those are good points, but they don’t quite address the error that Scot and others make in a way that shows the contradiction.

      Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

      -The Orange Mailman

      • Paul Brennan says:

        I think you missunderstood my post somewhat. I wasn’t trying to debate you (or Scot). I was just throwing out something that occurred to me, and that seems to make sense, to see if you had any thoughts, or objections, which are also welcome. God bless.

      • Thanks for the comments. I think your idea of a generation being a strain of people is a good one. Quoting Matthew 23 which directly preceded the Olivet Discourse is good evidence as well. So no objections, I was taking your comments and comparing them to the original intent of my post. Thanks again.

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