Within a Generation
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (vv. 30–31).- Mark 13:27–31
Figurative, apocalyptic language, we have seen, is sometimes used in the Bible to refer to the fall of an empire and the judgment of God on a particular people in history. In other words, many passages that describe cataclysmic signs in the heavens refer not to the end of the world, but to dramatic, world-transforming events that can signify the change from one era to another (see Isa. 13; Ezek. 32:1–11). This seems to be the best way to interpret Mark 13:24–26. Jesus’ words predict not His coming to consummate His kingdom at the end of history but His coming in judgment on Jerusalem for rejecting Him as the Messiah. With that judgment, one era in the history of God’s dealing with humanity ends, and a new one begins.
Luke 21:20–24, part of a parallel account of the Olivet Discourse, apparently confirms this. Verse 24 speaks of the period after Jerusalem’s fall as “the times of the Gentiles,” which suggests that the period before AD 70 was “the times of the Jews.” Clearly, prior to Rome’s crushing of the Jewish revolt in AD 70, the Lord’s purposes in salvation were worked out mainly among the Jewish people. Some Gentiles, such as Ruth and Rahab, were saved during the times of the Jews, but they were exceptions. But with the advent of Christ, and especially after AD 70, salvation came to the Gentiles. The gospel began to go out across the world, and the elect from the “four winds” started to enter the kingdom of God, just as Jesus said would happen after the fall of Jerusalem (Mark 13:27). The word translated “angels” in verse 27 of today’s passage need not refer to supernatural beings; it may just mean “messengers.” Most likely, verse 27 is talking about human messengers of the gospel going into all the world.
Mark 13:28–31 indicates that Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse so that His disciples would not be caught unaware when Jerusalem fell. He wanted them to be prepared for what would happen within their generation, within their lifetimes. This has to mean that most, if not all of Mark 13, refers to the first century. Thus, in AD 70, Jesus’ predictions were fulfilled, confirming what Jesus said about the surety of His words. Dr. Sproul comments on today’s passage in his commentary Mark: Jesus “was saying that His words are more enduring than creation, more solid, more dependable, more reliable. Truly, if Jesus says something, that settles it, and that was the case with His prophecies regarding the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem.”
Since the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, the gospel has borne most of its fruit among the Gentiles. That does not mean, however, that the Lord has abandoned the Jews. He has His elect people distributed among both Jews and Gentiles, so our missions efforts should be directed to making disciples of both the Jews and the Gentiles. Let us do what we can to support the task of taking the gospel to all peoples.
Passages for Further Study
Matthew 23:29–35; 24:32–35