“Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matt. 24: 34).
Hyper-Preterists rely on a special interpretation of the above verse to support their theology that JESUS CHRIST returned in A.D. 70. Unfortunately (for them) their view of the term genea has always been in the minority. When Jesus Christ said that “this generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled,” He was promising that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church.
St. Chrysostom writes: “How then, one may ask, did He say, ‘This generation?’ Speaking not of the generation then living, but of that of the believers. For He is wont to distinguish a generation not by times only, but also by the mode of religious service, and practice; as when He saith, ‘This is the generation of them that seek the Lord’. For what He said above, ‘All these must come to pass,’ and again, ‘The gospel must be preached,’ this He declares here also, saying, All these things shall surely come to pass, and the generation of the faithful shall remain, cut off by none of the things that have been mentioned. For both Jerusalem shall perish, and the more part of the Jews shall be destroyed, but over this generation shall nothing prevail, not famine, not pestilence, not earthquake, nor the tumults of wars, not false Christs, not false prophets, not deceivers, not traitors, not those that cause to offend, not the false brethren, nor any other such like temptation whatever.” (Homilies on Matthew, LXXVII, i).
Although the term genea is sometimes used to denote the totality of men living at a given period, Jesus Christ often employs the phrase when referring to the “children of this age.” In His parable of the unjust steward, He says: “For the children of this age are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16: 8). Likewise, when Jesus rebukes the multitude for their unbelief, He says, “Whereunto shall I liken this generation?” (Matt. 11: 16). And he teaches that “the queen of the south shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it” (Matt. 12: 41). Our Lord is not referring to all men living at that time. Rather, he warns men that the righteous shall condemn the unbelievers in the Day of Judgment.
Jesus Christ’s usage of the phrase “this generation” is in accordance with that of the Old Testament. David writes: “Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Psalm 12: 7). This brings to mind the prophecy of Agur, who wrote: “There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a generation that is pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw-teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men” (Proverbs 30: 11-14).
Contrary to the children of this age (that is, the generation of the wicked), stands the generation of the righteous–those who shall inherit the age to come. David writes: “There they were in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous” (Psalm 14: 5). Also: “A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation” (Psalm 22: 30). And again, “This is the generation of of them that seek Him, that seek thy face, O God of Jacob” (Psalm 24: 6). Thus there are only two generations in this world. One belongs to the city of God, the other to the city of Babylon. (See Augustine for more information).
When our Lord issued His Olivet Discourse, He was not saying that His predictions would be totally fulfilled within forty years, for He explicitly teaches that, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24: 35). Christ was comforting His church against coming tribulations which we must endure.
In painting the picture of His final coming, He used figurative imagery from Psalm 18, in which David praised God for deliverance from the hand of Saul. Christ instructs us, that while the saints must be prepared to suffer adversities and afflictions, they shall ultimately be redeemed from the hand of their persecutors. This vital truth applies to the righteous of all ages, and not just ‘that generation,’ as the Full Preterists maintain. It was played out in the national history of Israel, when God’s people were redeemed from Egypt, and will be repeated on a larger scale when the Lord returns to judge the quick and the dead.
Remember, too, that Christ was only speaking to Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13: 3)–the founders of His church and witnesses of His resurrection. How did Peter understand the Lord’s Olivet discourse? In his first epistle, he writes: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2: 9). Thus Peter is expressly identifying Christ’s body as a “generation,” which stands distinct from the “generation” of unbelievers. I doubt anyone who reads the Bible without knowledge of the events of the Jewish war would ever arrive at the conclusion that “this generation” meant only those people living at the time.
Of course, we are not denying that some of the events in Christ’s Discourse occurred during the lifetime of the apostles. But Christ is talking about “the age” as a whole, which is characterized by moral depravity and offenses. On the sixth day He came to put away sin, and when the sixth day is over He shall reign with His saints over all the nations of the world. This will be the Millennium, or “restitution of all things” (Acts 3: 21) It is also called the “Dispensation of the fullness of times” (Eph. 1: 10) for the seventh day is the fullness of the week.
This final day is also called “The Day of the Lord.” Lactantius writes: “We have often said that lesser things and things of small importance are figures and previous shadowings forth of great things; as this day of ours, which is bounded by the rising and the setting of the sun, is a representation of that great day to which the circuit of a thousand years affixes its limits.” (Divine Institutes, VII. xiv). Since Christ rose on the eighth day, the general resurrection must follow the Millennium. Hyper-Preterism breaks this typology, compressing the Millennium into the limits of the sixth day. This restricts Christ’s kingdom to a 40 year period!
Obviously, their view is false and heretical. And what must they do to amend their system? They must scrap their erroneous concept of the Olivet Discourse. At the present time, Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father, waiting until His enemies be made His footstool. As we serve Him in Spirit and in truth, let us maintain sound doctrine, and stir up the gift of grace within us, that we may produce fruit fit for the Master’s table. If we do so, we shall maintain our rank in the generation of the righteous and the saints of light forever. Amen.