What do we do with “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place?” Those who believe that all of the things that Jesus describes here have already happened don’t have a problem with it. The generation didn’t pass away! They saw it all happen with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This understanding assumes that the description of the Son of Man coming on clouds is a description of judgment and that it’s not meant to be taken literally. However, those who believe all of this is still future think that Jesus meant the generation who will be alive when all of these things begin to happen. So it will all happen relatively quickly, especially on the cosmic timetable, and Jesus will literally and visibly return. But most of the time when generation is used the way Jesus uses it here it refers to those who are being addressed, i.e. the generation currently living. If that is the case then the best way to understand it may be that Jesus is answering both when the temple will be destroyed and when the end of the age will happen (Matthew 24:3). The temple and Jerusalem being destroyed and much of the turmoil being described will all happen before that current generation passes away. However, the signs of His coming and the end of the age happen at a later time.
When it comes to passages like these the temptation is to believe that we have the right interpretation, and that anyone who believes differently is wrong and maybe even heretical! But the end times have generally been regarded as something that we can agree to disagree on.
What are the more general takeaways from this passage?
- There will be signs before He returns. Of course these signs are generic enough that every generation has looked for the return of Jesus Christ! And every generation should, because “no one knows” when Jesus is coming back, except the Father. How could Jesus not know? Perhaps the best understanding is that while Jesus was on the earth He lived on the basis of His human knowledge. However, He could, when needed, access the unlimited knowledge that was a part of His divine nature.
- Jesus statement about His Words lasting forever can really be applied to the whole Bible. “The grass dries up, the flowers wither, but the decree of our God is forever reliable” (Isaiah 40:8).
- Being ready and staying alert means doing our jobs until He returns. What are our jobs? Following His commands, fulfilling our gifts, and telling others about Him!
For worship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpO80W5d35o