What is a Generation in the Bible?

The Meaning of “Generation”

The term “generation” usually means a period of 20 to 100 years. With reference to a specific usage of the word “generation,” I direct your attention to the Bible passage: Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (Matthew 24:34). In the interpretation of the usage of the word “generation,” Dr. W. A. Criswell in the Criswell Study Bible gives the following three possible interpretations on page 1147:

  1. Generation (genea, Greek) refers to Israel as a nation and guarantees her perpetuity until the end of times;
  2. Generation may mean “age” or “time period” and therefore be a reference to the dispensation of grace;
  3. Finally, genea may carry its usual meaning of 30 years. If the latter is the case, then Jesus was stating [in His prophecy] that one generation would not have passed until all these signs begin to be fulfilled.

The Liberty Bible Commentary in reference to the Matthew 24:34 passage gives the following comments on page 83:

Thus, the generation that shall not pass is the generation in whose lifetime all these signs occur and it is that generation that will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled. While some have attempted to relate ‘generation’ (genea) to the race of the Jews, indicating the survival of their race until Christ’s return, this seems somewhat stretched. Arndt and Gingrich prefer “ag” or “period of time.”

In other words, the previously listed signs will continue to multiply throughout the Church Age and reach their ultimate climax at the end of the age in the generation of those who will live to see the entire matter fulfilled in their lifetime. However no time indication of length is clearly given so that all may anticipate the imminent return of the Master.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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