When Jesus says “truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” what does He mean? In particular, what generation is He talking about?
Well, to answer that question, it helps to look back to our reading yesterday and the twenty eight verses that precede today’s text. So as I mentioned yesterday, in the first part of Matthew 24, Jesus is weaving together predictions both about the day when the world will be judged as well as the day when Israel will be judged through the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jesus weaves these two days of judgment together because He wants us to see an important connection between them.
Through the destruction of the temple, God was revealing that He had now ended the era of the law of Moses, the era of sacrifices, and temple obligations. He had invited HIs people to come out of the guardianship of the Law and to be His children through faith in Christ. But His people chose the earthly temple over the true temple, thereby making it an idol. And so He was taking their idol away from them and removing His blessing from the religion they had turned into a false one.
And through this destruction, He also showed that He was ushering in a new era that had already arrived in Pentecost, the era of indestructible hope, the era of the church, the era of baptism and holy communion. The earthly temple was no more because the true temple, Jesus Christ, would be with us wherever His name was proclaimed. United through faith in Christ, therefore, the church spans culture and language and space, but it also transcends time, uniting together people who believed in the name of Jesus in 30 AD, those who know Him today, and those who will come to know Him in ten thousand years, if the earth still stands. That’s the generation Jesus is talking about. The generation beyond generations, the generation of believers.
And so, let’s take comfort in these words. “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Truly, Jesus tells us, the church will remain no matter how greatly the world rages against us. No matter how many times the sun is darkened, the light of Christ will shine among us whenever we hear His word of salvation. No matter how many stars fall from heaven, we will not fall from heaven because the King of heaven will keep us safely in His nail pierced, victorious hands. No matter how great the tribulation, no matter how much violence and persecution is aimed at the people of God, Christ conquered this world through he violence and persecution poured out upon Him at Calvary. And because of that, this generation will endure. We will survive. We will not be consumed or snuffed out or torn to rubble. When every kingdom of this earth melts, the generation of believers, the church will stand and we will rejoice at the return of our Lord who delivers us into His promised paradise.