Jesus was speaking, but the generation "that sees all of these things"—the signs Jesus gave. Since these signs have not yet occurred, according to the premillennial views, "this generation" has not yet passed. I, myself, took this position in Before God's Wrath. But is this an over-simplification?

Preterists, on the other hand, view the fulfillment of this entire passage as occurring in the first century. In the preterist understanding, "the end" does not refer to the second coming and a global judgment. Rather, preterists see this as a judgment coming of Christ, much as the judgment comings of God against Babylon and Egypt, against Israel and Jerusalem. As part of this judgment, God destroys the temple and the Levitical priesthood and puts an end to the Old Covenant and the entire Levitical system as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31.

In Matthew 24:34 ("this generation"), Jesus used what is called the near demonstrative "this." If Jesus had meant a future generation, preterists argue, He would have used the far demonstrative "that."

They also point out, in every other use of this phrase in the Gospels, the word "generation" and the phrase "this generation" specifically refer to the generation to which Jesus was speaking:

"A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." (Matthew 16:4)

"The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here." (Matthew 12:41)

Thus, the preterist argument continues, the combination of the near demonstrative with the fact that the use of this phrase elsewhere in the Gospels refers to the existing generation, a natural reading of the scriptures would demand that in this case, too, Jesus was speaking to the generation to whom He was speaking. Thus, in Matthew 24, when Jesus says "you," He means you—those to whom I am speaking and only those to whom I am speaking.

This would demand a first-century fulfillment of these prophecies in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as God's judgment against Israel and ending of the Old Covenant system.

This is also consistent, preterists argue, with Jesus' warnings throughout Revelation that He is coming "quickly" and "soon" (Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20).

More . . .

April 2009

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Preterism Vs. Prewrath: "This Generation Shall Not Pass"

One of the end-times views that has been on the rise lately is preterism. It is an old view that has gained recent visibility by high-profile apologists like R. C. Spoul and Hank Hanegraff converting to this position.

No end-times view holds together with perfect cohesion, not even prewrath. All views have their challenges. For this reason, I think it's important for prewrath believers to understand other views in order to maintain a measure of respect and grace. As I've written about before, it's so easy to slip into arrogance that "our view is the literal, common-sense view" and begin to look down on our brothers and sisters in Christ who hold different positions, especially when those positions are very different and unfamiliar from our own.

For this reason, I want to spend just a little time in the next few issues introducing some of the basic arguments of other views. To reiterate, this is not to "rock" the foundations of prewrathers, but as an encouragement and exhortation to grace and a hedge against arrogance that so easily ensnares all of us.

This month, I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room for all premillennialists—Matthew 24:28. This chapter opens with the disciples pointing out to Jesus the glory of the temple buildings, to which Jesus replied, "Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." Stunned, the disciples ask, "When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

In response, Jesus gives a list of signs, including the rise of earthquakes, famines, and other natural disasters, followed by the revelation of the Antichrist and the ensuing great tribulation. This will be followed by His coming. After this terrifying description, Jesus stuns the disciples yet again by saying, "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (v. 34).

For prewrathers (and all premillennialists), this presents a difficulty. The visible, magnificent coming of Jesus Christ did not occur in the first century. Thus, prewrathers separate the destruction of the temple from the end of the age and read into this either Jesus' answer to the second part of the question only or a dual fulfillment, with a partial fulfillment in the first century, with the destruction of the temple, and a complete fulfillment at the end of the age with His visible return.

Prewrath thus explains "this generation," not as the generation to which

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