Q: What did Jesus mean…(Mt. 24:34)?
Q: What did Jesus mean when He said, “This generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Mt. 24:34)?
The key word here is generation (Greek, genea). It can mean race, nation, or age and can also refer to a physical or moral span of time.
Jesus made the statement when discussing the timing of His return, which He illustrated with a lesson “from the fig tree” (v. 32). The fig tree’s new leaves in late spring assured people summer was near. In like manner, Jesus said, “When you see all these things [the signs in Matthew 24:4–30], know that it [Christ’s Second Coming] is near—at the doors!” (emphasis added; v. 33). The “generation” that sees all these signs will know for certain Christ could return at any moment
Some people erroneously believe the word generation refers to the people who would witness the Roman army’s destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. But this view is not possible unless we spiritualize the events of Matthew 24:29: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Jesus said all these things will precede the “Son of Man [Christ] coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (v. 30). These events did not happen in or around AD 70.
Others believe the word generation refers to the Jewish people, who will never pass away “till all these things take place.” Although it is true the Jewish people will never pass away, this fact does not seem to be what Jesus was teaching in the context. We know Jewish people will survive in perpetuity after the events in Matthew 24 are fulfilled (cf. Jer. 31:35–37).
Still others say Christ was teaching that the prophecies in Matthew 24 began to take place in the apostles’ generation. However, this interpretation does not fit the context because Jesus said “all these things” and predicted their fulfillment after His death and resurrection.
So it appears the word generation refers to Jews and Gentiles who will be alive when “all these things” take place. Thus Jesus was saying the generation that witnesses all the Tribulation events will be the generation that also will witness His Second Coming (Mt. 24:4–30; cf. Rev. 6:1—19:21).