Q: I have a question about Mark 13:30 and also Matthew 24:34. Is there a different meaning for generation than what we commonly believe? Could it be more of a group of people or race? The footnote in my Bible says “or race”. Could you clear this up for me, some people seem to think this is proof of unfulfilled prophesy. How do you answer that?
A: I am going to answer your question briefly. It is true that the Greek word can mean “race”, and if that is the meaning of the passage it is simply teaching that the Jewish race cannot disappear and will still be here at the time of the Second Coming.
However, the majority of times the term is used it has the same meaning as in the English, as the basic meaning of “contemporaries”. Thus when I talk about my generation as over against my father's generation I do not necessarily mean that there was forty years between us (there was actually twenty-two years between us), but the point I am making is a contrast between his contemporaries and my contemporaries. That is the most likely meaning of this passage in the Olivet Discourse.
So in that context what it means is that the same Jewish generation that sees the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15), and also sees the inauguration of the last attempt to annihilate the Jews once and for all, is still going to be here when Jesus returns, literally three and one-half years after that event. What that then shows is that the Satanic goal in the second half of the Tribulation, that of Jewish annihilation, is doomed to failure.
The generation he is dealing with in the passage is the Jewish generation living in the Tribulation, and sees the Abomination of Desolation, an event that will occur at the half-way point of the Tribulation. From Daniel's prophecies they could then see that from the Abomination to the Second Coming will be three and one half years. The point of that verse is to give a word of comfort that Satan will not succeed in Jewish annihilation, which is what he will try to do in the second-half of the Tribulation, which in turn is inaugurated by the act of the Abomination of Desolation.
NOTE: For more details on this issue see our Messianic Bible Study MBS-028 entitled The Olivet Discourse, and also it is dealt with in the appendix of The Footsteps Of The Messiah: A Study Of The Sequence Of Prophetic Events.