“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.” Luke 21:32
This generation….Jesus uses this phrase multiple times in His teachings.
“This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.” Luke 11:29
“But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” Luke 17:25
If you search the gospels, you will find many places, such as these verses, where Jesus accuses this generation of being wicked to the very point that they will be the ones to reject Him, causing His crucifixion which results in His resurrection (the sign of Jonah). It’s pretty clear that Jesus is talking about the people that are living at that time.
However, this phrase can get a little perplexing when we get to a place like Luke 21. Why? Because Jesus starts talking in apocalyptic language — a language of judgment that many of us are not familiar with. Some of the phrases used can be confused with things that seem to have not taken place even to this day. Phrases like “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” seem to point to Jesus’ second coming. Then we start to ask whether “this generation” is a literal interpretation or not. And yet, if we stay consistent with the context, we can discern that Jesus is being literal just like every other time.
Jesus is talking to His disciples about a future day when the temple will be destroyed, so His disciples ask, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place (Luke 21:7)?”
Two related questions are asked about the same event. When will it happen and what do we need to be looking for to know when?
The disciples are asking for a time frame, and even though Jesus makes it clear that He doesn’t know the exact day, He can assure them that this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. They will see all the signs He describes leading up to the temple’s destruction. In fact, they better be aware of them lest they themselves are destroyed. This generation rejected the Son of Man, and now the Son of Man will be placing His judgment on that wicked and perverse generation. Their temple will be destroyed, and it will mark the end of an age for the Jewish nation. History tells of this event and confirms what Jesus says to be true. All things were fulfilled before that generation passed away when the Romans attacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
In considering all this, my best understanding is that “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” in this context is just a type of apocolyptic language that expresses the judgment that Jesus will be placing on the Jewish nation at that time. The people living then could understand this because they were familiar with similar language that was used in the writings of Daniel and Ezekiel. Does this take away from other places that describe Jesus’ second coming? Of course not. That day will come too and when it does, we better be ready.
The temple has long been destroyed, the signs of the time of its destruction have been fulfilled in the days of the generation of the first century, and now we wait for a future day when our Lord will place His judgment on the whole world. May our generation take heed and work to turn around the wickedness surrounding us lest more and more people fall into a horrific punishment like the Jews who lived before us.
When I read Your word I see many judgments, oh God. Judgments of wicked nations that have neglected Your ways. How much more is the judgment of those who reject the very Son You sent to earth to redeem mankind! Many in the Jewish nation rejected Him, and the Son of Man showed His power and glory by the destruction of their temple and their holy city. He prophesied that it would happen to their generation, and it is evident that it did. Now, we live in a time where we are awaiting His final judgment with His second coming. What a glorious day that will be for all of us who have loved His appearing! Lord, come quickly! Amen!
Truth in love,