Jesus and His disciples are still on the Mount of Olives. Jesus is also still teaching them about the end of days and what to expect. Today He uses an analogy to describe the signs of His coming. His words are the source of some controversy for us today. What did He really mean? I won’t pretend to have any answers for you, as I am not an expert in end time prophecy. But I will share my opinion, and anything else He puts on my heart today.
The signs that Jesus has been describing to His disciples so far are very disturbing! He has promised earthquakes, famine, wars, torture and death. We see only one two positive signs mentioned in everything He has shared so far. Those two signs outweigh all the negatives, if one is on the right side of them. The positive signs are His gospel being preached to the WHOLE world, and the trumpet of the Lord sounding to bringing His people home. The reward for faithfulness to Him in the midst of all the surrounding trouble is eternal life with Him.
Jesus says today that we are to be watching the signs of the times. Just like watching the fig tree for knowing the seasons, so should we be watching for everything that He said will precede His return.
Have you ever noticed that the trees and the flowers don’t read the actual calendar each year? Some years it seems as if the trees are never going to leaf and other years they are leafing so early that you fear they will be frost damaged. Man made our calendar and placed the beginning dates for each season on a day that usually represents the change from one season to the next. That date doesn’t mean anything to the plants and animals or even the weather itself. It just helps us mark the passage of time.
The plants and animals are what really inform us of when the seasons change. We have many plants in my yard and they tell me the changing of the seasons better than anything else. We have early spring flowers, late spring flowers, trees, summer flowers, and fruits that ripen at different stages of the summer and autumn seasons. Barring the occasional surprise frost, I can usually tell when winter has run its course and spring is here. I can also tell when summer is fading by the lack of blackberries.
Here comes the controversy I warned you about. Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (verse 34). What did Jesus mean by “this generation?” It is certainly not His disciples, as they all were put to death or passed away and we have records of this (except John’s fate). It is not the generation of people living in Jesus’ time, as they too are dead and buried almost two thousand years ago. My bible helps shares a few of the more popular interpretations for this passage. I’m going to share them and let you decide which makes sense to you.
The first school of thought is that Jesus is referring to His disciples when He says “this generation”, and His use of the words “all these things” is talking about the beginning of the process, not its completion. In other words, the disciples witness the start of the process but not the end.
The second option shared is that “all these things” actually refers to incremental fulfillment of prophecy. They propose that Jesus disciples will be witness to the destruction of the temple, which took place in 70 AD and to Jesus’ final return, as the saints will be accompanying Him when He returns. The pieces in between will occur without direct observance by Jesus’ disciples, as they are currently not on the scene.
The third school of thought is that “this generation” refers to a certain characteristic or quality common to the people Jesus is referring to. This could be the generation of believers in Jesus that started with His disciples and will end with the elect as they are called home by the trumpet. It could also be the generation of evil that continues from the garden until Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom.
The next proposed interpretation is that Jesus is referring to the Jewish race. Jesus may be promising that Israel as a people will not be wiped off the face of the earth until He returns. We know from our history that Israel as a nation fell but the people, no matter how hard Satan tried, remained and kept their heritage intact. Their reemergence as a nation happened within my parent’s lifetime.
The final option listed in my bible helps is that “this generation” refers to the people that see the final part of “all these things”, meaning the people alive at the beginning of the great tribulation will be there to see Jesus returning in the clouds.
Jesus’ final words in our reading today leave NO room for debate. Jesus says that Heaven and Earth will pass away but His words WILL be fulfilled. Everything that Jesus has promised will happen. The best part of this is that this promise includes all His other promises, including that He will be with us forever; “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). We can take Jesus at His word at all times.
Father God, I would so love to be part of the generation that takes part in the rapture. My skeptical family would have definitive proof of Your words. My only fear is that some of the more stubborn ones would wind up being part of the weeping people at Jesus’ final return. Please Lord, speak so clearly to them that they are compelled to listen. My desire is for my family to all come to a personal relationship with You.
Thank You too Lord that You tell us what is coming. You prepare us for what is ahead. You also didn’t warn us to scare us, but are preparing us instead. Thank You that You will protect us and be with us in any situation.
Father, I don’t know what everything means that Jesus says, but You do. What I need to know for my walk, You provide that understanding through Your Holy Spirit. I trust that You are in control and work out everything, even what I haven’t a clue. Show me Your truths that I need.