"Truly I say to you, this generation will not
pass away until all these things take place."
- Matthew 24:34
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,
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.
revealed preterist, Hank Hanegraaff takes a similar position in his recent
novel, when his character Caleb says, " I want it remembered that we have all
agreed that the truth of the prophecies of Jesus on the Mount of Olives is
meaningless unless all the events He predicted occur, not just some."  The narrative in the novel subsequently
supports a first century fulfillment of Christ' s prophetic discourse in a
manner commonly espoused by preterists.
" When Jesus says ' this
generation,' He doesn' t mean ' that generation,' . . ." declared Hanegraaff in a
recent interview. " This was the archetypal tribulation and it took place in the
first century." 
Find The Correct View
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.
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.
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.
We should now realize 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.
The Correct View
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 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 concurs:
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.
Preterists 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 events in Matthew 24 were not fulfilled, preterists merely
repeat their mantra of " this generation," saying that all these things had to
be fulfilled in the first century.
In fact, when one compares the use of " this generation" at the beginning
of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 23:36 (which is an undisputed reference to a.d. 70) with the prophetic use in
Matthew 24:34, a contrast seems obvious.
Jesus is contrasting the deliverance for Israel in Matthew 24:34 with the predicted judgment of Matthew 23:36.
I do not think
that any of the events in Matthew 24:4-31 occurred in the first century. I have shown in earlier commentary on
Matthew 24:4- 31 that none of these events took place in the past, thus, this is
still a future time to which our Lord envisions.
It is common for
preterists to speak of what they call " audience relevance." By this, preterists believe that since
the New Testament was written in the first century then it has to relate
directly to the original audience.
" The original audience factor cannot be overlooked; the message of
Revelation must be relevant to them," 
proclaims Dr. Kenneth Gentry.
" With the particularity of the audience emphasized in conjunction with
his message of the imminent expectation of occurrence of the events," continues
Dr. Gentry, " I do not see how preterism of some sort can be escaped."  The same logic is often applied to the
Olivet Discourse. E. B Elliott
rightly notes, " Not a vestige of testimony exists to the fact of such an
understanding."  Such a notion is pure assumption and if
actually true would render it impossible for Scripture to provide a prophetic
statement beyond the generation (40 years) that received the prediction.
I believe that
Jesus uses the phrase " this generation" in Matthew 24:34 as a tool of literary
emphasis. As noted earlier, Jesus
is contrasting the deliverance
for Israel in Matthew 24:34 with the predicted judgment of Matthew 23:36, based upon the varied
responses of two different generations of Israelites. This provides the basis for Christ' s contrast of the two
generations- the first generation unbelieving while the final one is
The future sense of " this generation"
in a judgment context sets a precedence for its interpretation in contexts that
are both judicial and eschatological.
If the desolation experienced by " this generation" in Matthew 23:36 can
be understood as a future fulfillment that came some 40 years later, it should
not be a problem to understood the Tribulation judgment as a future fulfillment
that will come on the generation that will experience it at the end of the
age. However, the difference is
not simply a span of time, but the nature of that time as eschatological. For the " this generation" of Matthew
24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32, " all these things" (Matthew 24:34; Mark
13:30; Luke 21:28) must refer contextually to the events of the " Great
Tribulation," the conclusion of " the times of the Gentiles," the coming of
Christ in glory, and the regathering and redemption of Israel, all of which are
not only declared to be future by Jesus at the time of speaking (Mark 13:23),
but also cast in typical eschatological language (for example, " end of the
age," " such as not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor
ever shall," " powers of the
heavens will be shaken" ).
audience relevance, it important to know the prophetic relevance from which a
prophecy is given. This means that
sometimes a prophetic revelation is spoken from the timeframe of when a
prophecy will take place. Such is
often the case in Revelation (for example 21:9- 10). John is often shown a vision of the future and thus he
speaks from the perspective as if those future events were taking place at the
time in which he is observing them and writing them down. Jesus is speaking in His Olivet
Discourse in verse 34 of Matthew from the timeframe of a still future time and
is saying " this generation."
We see the same
kind of thing going on in Psalm 2:7, where the Father says of the Son, " Thou
art my Son; this day have I
begotten thee." This passage
speaks of the Father' s incarnation of the Son, which interpreters believe
occurred at Christ' s first coming.
Yet David wrote this Psalm a thousand years earlier. An audience relevance assumption would
surely lead to a gross misinterpretation of this prophetic Psalm. Looking at the Psalm as one that is
speaking from a timeframe of the distant future is the only way that it makes
contextual sense. The same is true
of Christ' s statement about " this generation" in His Olivet Discourse. He is speaking from the timeframe of
the distant future. Maranatha!
Continued . . .)
 Gary DeMar, End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left
Behind Theology (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), pp.
 Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999), pp. 198-201.
 DeMar, End Times Fiction, p. 68.
 Hank Hanegraaff and
Sigmund Brouwer, The Last Disciple
(Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), p. 93.
 Hanegraaff and Brouwer, Disciple, pp. 92- 96.
Matthew 24:34 is featured in a two-page layout just following the
acknowledgments connoting a preterist interpretation. Preterism is also clearly communicated in the " Afterword" on
 Hank Hanegraaff on the preterist radio program
" Voice of Reason," (November 21, 2004) on the Internet at
 See D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), p. 65.
 See Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible
Interpretation: A Practical Guide
to Discovering Biblical Truth
(Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1991),
 Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51- 24:53 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), pp. 1691- 92.
 Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., He Shall Have
Dominion: A Postmillennial
Eschatology (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics,
1992), p. 396.
 Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 397.
 E. B. Elliott, Horae Apocalypticae, revised edition, 4 vols. (London: Seeleys, 1851), vol. iv, p. 535.
 J. Randall Price, " Historical Problems with a
First-Century Fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse," in LaHaye and Ice, editors,
End Times Controversy, pp.