Matthew 24:34 -- Fulfilled or Not?

Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matthew 24:34).

The Pretierist points to this verse as the primary argument for his preterism. On the basis of this passage, he determines that all of the events of Matthew 24 including the return of the Son of Man and the gathing of God's elect all took place in their entirety within the lifetime of the apostles. He views the complete and total fulfillment of all of the prophecies in the A.D. 70 fall of Jerusalem.

Bible scholars have suggested other interpretations, but most of them fall flat. One has to view the term "generations" as being a reference to the race of Jews. But this is an unnatural use of the term and inconsistent with the way that Matthew uses it elsewhere in his Gospel. Another suggested interpretation is that Jesus is referring to the generation that is alive when the prophecies begin to be fulfilled, as if to say that once the fulfillments begin to take place they will all culminate in their fulfillments within a single generation. Were this the case, we would expect Jesus to say, THAT generation will not pass away until all these things take place. He does not. He uses a specific term that implies that it is the present generation that is in view.

Royce Gruenler points out that reading this as an ingressive aorist would have us translate it "from the perspective of initiated action" and therefore render it: "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things begin to come to pass" (William Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, pg 193).

The same sort of language is seen when Jesus says, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom" (Matthew 16:28).

What shall we say to these things? I believe that the answer to BOTH passages is seen in the fact that a partial and typological fulfillment took place in that day.

In the case of the Matthew 16:28 passage, we are given the partial fulfillment in the following verses that describe the Transfiguration of Jesus. In the case of Matthew 24, it is true that the destruction of Jerusalem served as a type and a shadow of the future destruction and judgment that face all men.

The early church fathers seem to have understood this point, for their treatment of the events of Matthew 24 was to look for a future culminative fulfillment.

Such an interpretation should not surprise us. We see this take place regularly in Biblical prophecy.


Initial Fulfillment

Ultimate Fulfillment

And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3).

Points to Israel as a blessing

Jesus is the ultimate blessing

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, And a scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth. 18 And Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also shall be a possession, While Israel performs valiantly. 19 One from Jacob shall have dominion, And shall destroy the remnant from the city. (Numbers 24:17-19).

References to Edom and Moab indicate it is fulfilled initially in David

Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment whose coming is announced by a Star

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

Context of the passage points to a child in that day

Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the virgin born child.


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