Jesus made a statement about the end times that has puzzled those studying eschatology for decades.
In his discussion of the signs leading to His second coming, Jesus said:
32 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matthew 24:34 NASV)
Most understood this to mean, that when the various end-time signs cited in this passage started to take place, Jesus’ return will occur within that generation.
Because they consider the fig tree as symbolic of Israel, the 1948 restoration of Israel as a nation is a key end-times marker.
So what was a generation?
Many believed that a generation was 40 years and adding that to 1948 meant Jesus would return sometime before 1988. And during the lead up to that date, there was a flurry of end-times speakers and books predicting Jesus’ eminent return.
When it didn’t happen, some speculated that Israel’s 1967 Six Day War when it took Jerusalem was the key year. This would put Christ’s return sometime before 2007.
Of course, it didn’t happen then either.
Then it was suggested a generation was 70 years and again using 1948 this would put Christ’s return sometime before 2018. This may explain why in recent years there has been an outbreak of predictions about Christ’s return.
Some like Harold Camping, then president of Family Radio, provided an exact day stating Christ would return on May 21, 2011 and when it didn’t happen, he adjusted the date to October 21, 2011. Wrong again.
For some reason people like setting exact dates, even though Jesus clearly said we would not know the day of His return:
42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. (Matthew 24:42-44 NASV)
Nevertheless, much of this discussion on Jesus’ return stems on the length of a generation? Is it 40 years or 70 years?
The answer to this question may be found in the recent announcement that at 117 years of age, Violet-Mosse Brown from Duanvale, Trelawny, Jamaica is the oldest person in the world. She was born March 10, 1900.
Brown who is also a born-again Christian credits her long life to faith in God and particularly the fifth commandment that promised a long life to those who honor their parents.
She was water baptized at age 13 and in an interview with CBN, Brown said, “I’ve done nearly everything in the church. I spent all my time in the church.”
She earned the title of the oldest person after the death of an Italian woman who died at 117 on April 15, 2017. She was the last known person born in the 1800s to still be alive.
The ages of both these women highlight a little known second curse that God made on humanity just prior to sending the flood provoked by the marriage of the sons of God to the daughters of men (Genesis 6:1).
In addition to judging the world with a flood, God said:
3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3 NASV)
God limited how long people would live to 120 years. Prior to Noah’s flood men and women lived for hundreds of years and after the flood there was a gradual fall off and by Joseph’s day, life spans were below 120 years and would stay that way.
Does this suggest a generation is 120 years?
If so, using the restoration of Israel as the key marker, it would put Christ’s return closer to 2068.
Oddly, this somewhat fits a date given by famous scientist and Bible scholar Isaac Newton. Writing in the 1700s, Newton adamantly said that the restoration of Israel as a nation needed to take place before Christ came back.
Using Daniel 12:7 as his spring board, Newton predicted that Christ would return sometime around 2060. Again he needed a date to begin his countdown and used the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 AD as the start.
But in all these predictions there are huge ifs and more questions than answers. The only thing we know for sure is that we won’t know the date, but we will see the signs that Christ’s return is near.