by Mark E. Mountjoy
For the last forty-five or so years Full Preterists have been using and explaining the expression 'this generation' as a term meaning a neat and exact span of forty years, encompassing a period stretching from A.D.30 to A.D.70. But we believe this interpretation of this expression is too narrow and artificial and wish to weigh in on the discussion with an alternative solution.
Now, acording to the Bible, a generation is not just forty years. Even the texts that Preterists heavily depend on can be turned around to say more than they want them to say. For example, a generation may equal a cycle of time between approximately one hundred and one hundred and forty years long. This means it would include the parents AND their children living within that general time-frame.
Note the references below . . .
"As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and lo, a dread, fell upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, I know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation they will serve, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; and shall be buried in a good old age. AND THEY SHALL COME BACK HERE IN THE FOURTH GENERATION; for the iniquities of the Amorites is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:12-16 RSV).
"Thus David, the son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. And the time that he reigned over Israel was forty years: seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem" (1 Chronicles 29:26-27).
"For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption . . .'(Acts 13:36).
". . .when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Where I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. But to whom was grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?" (Hebrews 3:9-10, 17).
From Genesis 15:12-16 it is clear that the generation living at the time of the Exodus was born up to one hundred years BEFORE crossing the Red Sea.1
All but two of the original escapees lived forty years beyond their liberation from slavery--a total of one hundred and forty years! Furthermore, since even the generation David reigned over was not born the very year he took the throne in Hebron, but rather were people of varying ages from before his inauguration, it cannot be said that David's generation only began when he sat on his throne.
Similarly, in the New Testament era, "this generation" of Jesus' ministry cannot be said to have been born in A.D.30, but like Jesus himself (and millions of others) were of varying ages, some older and some younger.
Therefore, the expression "this generation" encompasses a period and cycle of time that could reach up to one hundred and forty years in length.
In fact, Jesus, in the Parable of the Wicked Spirit (Matthew 12:43-45) describes the conditions that would obtain when the generation that saw his ministry had reached its "last state."
"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation (Matthew 12:43-45).
The Parable of the Wicked Spirit and the realities of Judaea in the forty years leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple do not allow the conditions of the parable to be understood as fulfilled at any time or anywhere in the country BEFORE A.D.70.
Only by allowing for a wider scope and fuller interpretation of the expression 'this generation' can a sense of the parable be made to make sense or come to terms with anything that happened between the time Jesus preached till the Jewish state disappeared from the stage of history and early Roman antiquity in A.D.136.
Now, we also know from Stephen that Moses was forty years old when he killed the Egyptian (see Acts 7:22-29). Stephen says,
"And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. 23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel."
Stephen further explains that Moses was eighty when he saw the burning bush,
"Moses was 80 years old and Aaron was 83 when they spoke to Pharaoh..." (Exodus 7:7).
Moses and his brother and their contemporaries were not from multiple generations, but from a single one that had within it a forty year sojourn because of sin.
The Wilderness Journey
Moses and Aaron and the generation of the Wilderness of Sin (Hebrews 3:9) did not have a lifetime that neatly fit inside a forty year window; neither did King David or those living before, during, and after his reign (Acts 13:36). David reigned over the people of his time, but neither he nor they lived a neat forty years and then passed away!
Did David start reigning when he was born and then die at the age of forty? Of course not!
Therefore, from these observations and considerations the Full Preterist interpretation and definition of the expression 'this generation' is limiting, arbitrary and artificial. It causes them to conflate enormous Jewish history events that came after A.D.70 into A.D.70 (and pre-70 history). They do this at the peril of their own theory, though! When they insist what they say is correct they automatically leave themselves without having a way to explain key events and realities in any logical way, shape or form.
It causes them to frantically start capitulating events—Satan's binding, the cleanliness of the nation, the rise of the Sea Beast, the first resurrection—back into the Apostolic pre-A.D.70 period. They are literally forced to stick to their story in order to preserve a uniform and unilateral end in 70.
It puts the Judaea Capta period beyond the threshold of interest, importance, inspection or interpretation; it makes their interpretation of Revelation 20's significance superficial, awkward and pointless.
It also makes an Jewish insurrection numbering "as the sand of the sea" necessary but also impossible to superimpose on any known military attempt that took place from A.D.66-70—or at any time in the first century.
In the final analysis Full Preterist exegetes have to ignore the Final Jewish Revolt (Judaea's biggest insurrection). Or else they have to disregard it as totally
inconsequential to Bible prophcy and the overall epic portrayed in the Book of Revelation drama.2
But, issues such as this are not inconsequential; they have a major impact on comprehension, interpretation and communication of the flow and sense of events that lead to the spectacular and unlikely triumph of Christians in the A.N.E.
It also impacts the willingness of similarly-minded Christian to collaborite and cooperate both locally, nationally and internationally to empower, protect and chart strategic steps believers can walk to exemplify Christ in our lives and congregational belonging, zeal and ideological stability.
The ability to listen demonstrates a level of humility or willfullness that ultimately could spell the success or failure of talks around these important issues. In the end it remains to be seen if there is a willingness to dialogue, connect, collaborate and fellowship.
Indeed, the expression 'this generation' is a litmus test of sorts and carries a lot of weight and meaning for many in Preterist circles. Naturally we should want to speak the same thing; naturally we want what we say to line up with God's Word. We also want to be able to look at the alleged situation and make sense of how things played out and see if better interpretations, definitions and parallels can be invisioned.3
Now, since the Jewish nation was declared to be an unclean place right up through the ministries of the Apostles (Acts 5:16; 19:13-17; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 1 Thessalonians 2:18 and Revelation 2:24 and 18:2) only the Second Coming; only the destruction of Jerusalem; only the binding of Satan caused Judaea to have a 'clean house.' Nothing that ever happened before that made that generation conform to any kind of garnishing. cleanliness or restitution (Acts 3:20-21).
And so, a discussion that tries to argue or aver that Satan was both cast out AND abiding (bound and at the same time loosed) is basic double talk, cognitive dissonance and indicative of serious ideological confusion birthed and nurtured in ill-defined ideas.
A truer picture emerges when a panoramic account of Jewish salvation history (the ancient state, from the time of the Maccabees to the downfall of Bar Kokhba under Hadrian) is allowed to inform the texts.
The Atavist focus on Jewish salvation history displaces Roman or secular history, and, in this reckoning, the timeline and unfortunate fate of the Jewish State and the emergence of the kingdom of God/Christian church mountain, is the real story to be told here.
With this view of the expression "this generation," the difficulties encountered in the forced and snaking Pretetist view resolve themselves genuinely and history itself becomes a testament to the truth of the Gospel of God's Son and his victory over his Zealot foes: his own misguided country-men.
In the final analysis, the generation that witnessed the ministry of Jesus--the parents and their children--lived long enough to see the Jewish state disappear from the theater of history one hundred years after the Son of God harolded God's verdict against their aspirations.
1 Moses himself was born eighty years BEFORE crossing the Red Sea, (Aaron, eighty three, Ex. 7:7) and, while (obviously some were younger) there is no reason to believe Israelites may not have been his same age or even older.
2 According to Yadin, refugees and survivors AND MILITANTS from the A.D.70 Destruction flooded the Diaspora. (Yigael Yadin, Bar Kokhba p. 17, Random House 1982). In the Gospel According to Luke, Jesus says as much, "They will fall by the sword AND WILL BE TAKEN PRISONERS to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24). These Jewish militant prisoners, working in Roman munitions factories, made poor quality weapons years in advance in careful preparation of the final Jewish war (ibid. p. 20).
3 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
Pictures above, Aelia Capitolina, a fresco of Palestine's new city, the Emperor Hadrian, and a coin depicting oxen who plowed the city in fulfillment of Micah 3:12, "Therefore, on account of you Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest."