Jehovah`s Witness/What JW's promised and the Generation
When I was a boy, 40-50 years ago, the Witnesses as they would come around; talking about the end and all the sighns that were present said: that all these things would happen in this generation. That was the last generation, before 2000 rolled around. Now we are in a new generation and still nothing has happened. What makes you so sure now, that this is the marked generation? I'm not trying to be a smart a--, I really would like to know what your thinking is on this?
Thank you for inquiring with All Experts. When we use the term “generation” is used with reference to the people living at a particular time, the exact length of that time cannot be stated, except that the time would fall within reasonable limits. These limits would be determined by the life span of the people of that time or of that population. The life span of the ten generations from Adam to Noah averaged more than 850 years each. (Genesis 5:5-31; 9:29)
But after Noah, man’s life span dropped off sharply. Abraham, for example, lived only 175 years. (Genesis 25:7) Today, much as it was in the time of Moses, people living under favorable conditions may reach 70 or 80 years of age. Moses wrote: “In themselves the days of our years are seventy years; and if because of special mightiness they are eighty years, yet their insistence is on trouble and hurtful things; for it must quickly pass by, and away we fly.” (Psalm 90:10) Some few may live longer, but Moses stated the general rule. Moses himself, who lived 120 years, was an exception, as were his brother Aaron (123 years), Joshua (110 years), and some others whose strength and vitality were unusual.—De 34:7; Nu 33:39; Jos 24:29.
When Bible prophecy speaks of “this generation,” it is necessary to consider the context to determine what generation is meant. Jesus Christ, when denouncing the Jewish religious leaders, concluded by saying: “Truly I say to you, All these things will come upon this generation.” History recounts that about 37 years later (in 70 C.E.) that contemporary generation personally experienced the destruction of Jerusalem, as foretold.—Matthew 23:36.
Later that same day, Jesus again used practically the same words, saying: “Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” (Matthew 24:34) In this instance, Jesus was answering a question regarding the desolation of Jerusalem and its temple as well as regarding the sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things. Before his reference to “this generation,” however, he had focused his remarks specifically on his “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” and the nearness of the Kingdom of God. Immediately afterward, he continued with references to his “presence.” (Matthew 24:30, 37, 39; Luke 21:27, 31) Jesus was using the word “generation” with reference to humans whose lives would in some way be associated with the foretold events. Matthew 24.
The people of this 20th-century generation living since 1914 have experienced these many terrifying events concurrently and in concentrated measure—international wars, great earthquakes, terrible pestilences, widespread famine, persecution of Christians, and other conditions that Jesus outlined in Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21.
Almost a hundred years ago, Charles T. Russell, first president of the Watch Tower Society, made this clear, writing: “Although the words ‘generation’ and ‘race’ may be said to come from a common root or starting point, yet they are not the same; and in Scriptural usage the two words are quite distinct. . . . In the three different records of this prophecy our Lord is credited with using a wholly different Greek word (genea) which does not mean race, but has the same significance as our English word generation. Other uses of this Greek word (genea) prove that it is not used with the significance of race, but in reference to people living contemporaneously.”—The Day of Vengeance, pages 602-3.
More recently, A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew (1988), designed for Bible translators, said: “[The New International Version] translates this generation literally but follows with a footnote, ‘Or race.’ And one New Testament scholar believes that ‘Matthew means not just the first generation after Jesus but all the generations of Judaism that reject him.’ However, there is no linguistic evidence to substantiate either of these conclusions, and they must be brushed aside as attempts to avoid the obvious meaning. In its original setting the reference was solely to Jesus’ own contemporaries.”
Jesus condemned the generation of Jews of his time, his contemporaries who rejected him. (Luke 9:41; 11:32; 17:25) He often used qualifiers such as “wicked and adulterous,” “faithless and twisted,” and “adulterous and sinful” in describing that generation. (Matthew 12:39; 17:17; Mark 8:38) When Jesus used “generation” for the last time, he was on the Mount of Olives with four apostles. (Mark 13:3) Those men, who were not yet anointed with spirit nor part of a Christian congregation, certainly did not constitute either a “generation” or a race of people. They were, though, very familiar with Jesus’ use of the term “generation” in referring to his contemporaries. So they logically would understand what he had in mind when he mentioned “this generation” for the last time. The apostle Peter, who was present, thereafter urged Jews: “Get saved from this crooked generation.”—Acts 2:40.
We have often published evidence that many things Jesus foretold in this same discourse (such as wars, earthquakes, and famines) were fulfilled between his uttering the prophecy and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Many, but not all. There is no evidence, for example, that after the Romans attacked Jerusalem (66-70 C.E.) “the sign of the Son of man” appeared, causing “all the tribes of the earth” to beat themselves. (Matthew 24:30) Hence, that fulfillment between 33 C.E. and 70 C.E. must have been merely an initial one, not the full or large-scale fulfillment to which Jesus was also pointing.
In the introduction to his translation of Josephus’ work The Jewish War, G. A. Williamson writes: “The disciples, Matthew tells us, had asked [Jesus] a double question—about the destruction of the Temple and about His own final coming—and He gave them a double answer, the first part of which most vividly foretold the occurrences destined to be so fully described by Josephus.”
Yes, in the initial fulfillment, “this generation” evidently meant the same as it did at other times—the contemporaneous generation of unbelieving Jews. That “generation” would not pass away without experiencing what Jesus foretold. As Williamson commented, this proved true in the decades leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction, as an eyewitness historian, Josephus, described.
In the second or larger fulfillment, “this generation” would logically also be the contemporaneous people. We need not conclude that Jesus was referring to a set number of years making up a “generation.”
On the contrary, two key things can be said about any time implied by “generation.” (1) A generation of people cannot be viewed as a period having a fixed number of years, as is the case with time designations meaning a set number of years (decade or century). (2) The people of a generation live for a relatively brief period, not one of great length.
Consequently, when the apostles heard Jesus refer to “this generation,” what would they think? While we, with the benefit of hindsight, know that Jerusalem’s destruction in the “great tribulation” came 37 years later, the apostles hearing Jesus could not know that. Rather, his mention of “generation” would have conveyed to them, not the idea of a period of great length, but the people living over a relatively limited period of time. The same is true in our case. How fitting, then, are Jesus’ follow-up words: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. . . . On this account you too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Matthew 24:36, 44.
For example, consider our understanding of those who make up “this generation” mentioned by Jesus. (Read Matthew 24:32-34.) To what generation did Jesus refer? Its explained that Jesus was referring, not to the wicked, but to his disciples, who were soon to be anointed with holy spirit. Jesus’ anointed followers, both in the first century and in our day, would be the ones who would not only see the sign but also discern its meaning—that Jesus “is near at the doors.”
What does this explanation mean to us? Although we cannot measure the exact length of “this generation,” we do well to keep in mind several things about the word “generation”: It usually refers to people of varying ages whose lives overlap during a particular time period; it is not excessively long; and it has an end. (Ex. 1:6) How, then, are we to understand Jesus’ words about “this generation”? He evidently meant that the lives of the anointed who were on hand when the sign began to become evident in 1914 would overlap with the lives of other anointed ones who would see the start of the great tribulation. That generation had a beginning, and it surely will have an end. The fulfillment of the various features of the sign clearly indicate that the tribulation must be near.
Much of this explanation is derived from various books and various scholastic sources. But, it all entails that present generation is a working alongside with the previous generation when Jesus was enthroned as king in 1914. As stated before, we are now entering into the cusp of the Great Tribulation where Jesus will come and this present generation will see it. If you need any more information, please let me know.