“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34).
Jesus, in talking about the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1,2), and the end time signs (v. 3-31), declared that this generation will not pass till all these things will take place. Bible Commentators, generally, have believed that the word “generation” refers to the generation of the disciples. This is shown from Matthew 23:36 “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” In fact, Jesus repeatedly used the expression “this generation” in this sense (Matthew 11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17).
Fall of Jerusalem
Clearly, Christ’s predictions about the collapse of Jerusalem, which took place in A.D. 70 (Matthew 24:1,2), did, literally, get fulfilled within the lifetime of many of the apostles then living. The historian Josephus (War vi. 4. 5–8 [249–270]) wrote about the destruction of the Temple in detail. The outstanding building of the temple appeared indestructible and the city of Jerusalem seemed, invincible. But all got destroyed just as Jesus predicted.
The second coming
However, the words “this generation” in v. 34 are in the context of vs. 27–51 fully point to the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. The “signs” are in the heavens and on the earth (Luke 21:25). These signs will be fulfilled near to the second coming of our Lord, so much so that Christ stated that the “generation” that views the last of these signs, shall not pass before “all these things [Christ’s coming and the end of the world] be fulfilled.”
The Lord didn’t propose that His believers should know the precise time for His coming. The signs predicted would merely affirm to the closeness of His coming. And He stated, that the “day and hour” of that His coming “knoweth no man” (Matt. 24:36). It is the duty of believers to watch for the signs of His return, and to know when His coming is near (v. 33).
Therefore, to use the expression, “this generation,” as a foundation for calculating out the time of the second coming would oppose Christ’s words. Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming“ (Matthew 24:42). In His teachings Jesus emphasized the necessity of watching and prayer as seen in His parables: the Porter (Mark 13:34–37; Matt. 24:42), the Master of the House (vs. 43, 44), the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants (vs. 45–51), the Ten Virgins (ch. 25:1–13), the Talents (vs. 14–30), and the Sheep and the Goats (vs. 31–46). Believers should be ready at all times.
In His service,