What is "This Generation"?

The Greek genea, normally translated "generation," occurs about 40 times in the Synoptic Gospels. The word never occurs in any of Johnís writings and only 4 times in Paulís letters. The meaning of this word can be understood by examining these occurrences. It has the general idea of "contemporaries" or that "age" of people alive at a specified time. For example, Hebrews 3:10 uses genea for those Israelites who perished during the 40 years in the Sinai wilderness. On this and similar basis "generation" has been understood to be about 40 years in length. (Matthew 1:17)

In the Synoptic accounts of the disciplesí question regarding "the end" of the Temple and the Arrival of the Son of Man, the Nazarene used this word for "generation" in only one place. It is found in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:3. To what "generation" is Jesus referring? Is it that "generation" of Jews who would live to see "the end" of Jerusalem and her Temple? It does turn out that it was less than 40 years after their question that Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 CE.

Jesus use of "generation" (genea) comes in the context of the foretold celestial darkness, the appearance of the Sign of the Son of Man, and Christís revelation to all the lamenting tribes of the earth. Had Jesus used the word "generation" earlier, in the specific context of the Templeís "end," one would easily understand the Nazarene meant those contemporaries of his would still be alive when the Templeís "end" came. Though this actually turned out to be the case is this what Jesus had in mind?

The context would seem to argue that Jesus was thinking of another "generation" which witnesses the celestial darkness. We believe it fair to say that Luke wrote his account last and may well have had before him copies of Matthew and Mark. So, Luke is almost a commentary on Jesusí use of the word "generation." Luke 21:25-32 uses the word "near" twice, each in the context of certain observable "things." The first mentions "deliverance" and the second "the Kingdom of God." Matthew and Mark do not use the word "deliverance" but mention instead the angelic gathering of the Chosen Ones, or Elect, living at this same moment. (Matthew 24:29-31) Thus, Jesusí use of "generation" would not be referring at all to "the end" of the Temple, but to the same ones Paul calls "we the living" at 1 Thessalonians 4:16 who are on hand at the precise moment the Son of Man returns in glory. (Matthew 25:31)

Therefore, "this generation" would include "all the (lamenting) tribes of the earth" and "the Chosen Ones" alive during the period which witnesses the celestial darkness, the appearance of the Sign of the Son of Man, and the visible return of Christ.

Friends of the Nazarene Publishing

Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

Back to Index to Biblical Articles