Friday, April 22, 2011

Episode 39: This Generation Shall Not Pass

Episode 39 of the Theopologetics Podcast is now available! In Matthew 24:34 Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." The meaning of Jesus' statement seem obvious, but most Christians in America today think He was saying something else. How is the phrase, "this generation," used by Jesus and others in the Bible? And what impact does that have on Jesus' words in the Olivet Discourse?


  1. Well done, sir! This is an important subject for me, and I found your study very convincing. I would love to hear a rebuttal, but at least I feel better about what I already believed about that passage.

    If I were to try to address this in a conversation, there's no way I could remember everything you talked about here. I was wondering if there is one or a few particular points that you would want to touch upon if you were approaching this subject in a casual conversation? If someone asked you for the most important reason(s) to think that Jesus was talking about the current generation at that time, how would you condense your study into just a few talking points in a few minutes?

    Thank you for your great and important work here!

  2. Hi, Scott. Thanks so much for the kind words!

    Yeah, I know it was like drinking water from a firehose, and not even I could remember it all if I got into a casual discussion :)

    I would boil it down to the following:

    1) Had Jesus intended to mean "race" or "kind" (biologically or in terms of disposition), He would have used genos, not genea, and it's very questionable that genea EVER means "race" or "kind," even though lexicons and translations suggest it can. I'm currently working on a paper in which I hope to be able to demonstrate that it doesn't.
    2) Many, many times leading up to the Olivet Discourse--including at the end of the immediately preceding chapter--He uses the phrase "this generation" to describe His contemporary, apostate Jews who rejected Him, and pronounced judgment upon them using the phrase, saying in the lead-in to the Olivet Discourse that their house would be left to them desolate.
    3) Picking up on that, the beginning of the Olivet Discourse opens with His disciples asking Him when that house that He said would be left to them desolate would be torn down, as He emphatically says it would. His lengthy prophetic response likely answered their questions, rather than avoiding them or answering some question they didn't ask.

    I think that simply puts the argument, though of course it could be lengthier and more detailed.

    I may or may not ask someone to appear on my show to rebut my argument. The problem is, it's my opinion that any such rebuttal would not truly address my argument, but would instead try and argue that "this generation" simply can't mean what I say it is for other reasons, including the seeming impossibility that the events Jesus foretold could have happened in the first century--something Dee Dee Warren, R.C. Sproul and many others have responded to at great length, demonstrating that they very well could have, and did. In other words, I don't really think a critic of my argument will be able to compellingly make the case that genea is used anywhere in Scripture to refer to a "race" or "kind," or that "this generation" ever refers to something other than the present generation. So they'll have to say that Jesus uses the phrase in a way which is very unique in Scripture, even very different from how He uses it a mere chapter before.

    What I will acknowledge, however, is that in working on my paper I'm coming across uses of genea in pre-Septuagint Greek literature that SEEM like references to "race" or "kind," and perhaps that's what a critic of my argument might point to. However, I'm still investigating that, and am as of yet convinced otherwise.

  3. Good point. You've already talked through any rebuttal they could come up with, as far as I can tell, so there wouldn't be much of anything new. But having these talking points is very helpful for having my own conversations, should the Lord allow me to broach this topic with another believer. Thanks again!

  4. You're quite welcome, and thanks so much for listening! I highly recommend you listen to Dee Dee Warren's podcast if you don't already.

  5. Thanks for the recommendation. I subscribed to it months ago, actually, but she hasn't had a new episode since then! I did hear the conversation you had with her a while back, though. That's when I started listening to your podcast! You can thank her for having me as a listener. I've been listening to you for a little while now. I really admire how thorough and thoughtful your studies are.

  6. Yeah, she's had a busy life these days. However, the episodes she's done in the past, going through her commentary on the Olivet Discourse, are excellent for understanding how the events Jesus prophesies are not only compatible with preterism, but are more consistent with the rest of the Bible when understood within a preterist framework. So if you haven't listened to her whole series, I definitely recommend you do so.

    If you have, don't worry, both she and I are working on upcoming episodes of the Preterist Podcast, so you shouldn't have to wait long :)

    And thanks so much for your compliment. I try to be as thorough and thoughtful as possible :)

  7. I woke up this morning thinking of how there are so very many great theologians and exegetes who for some reason when the get to Matt 24:34 seem to abandon their normal methodology for something else. Bizzare indeed. You would think that since the resounding chime of the scoffer often includes an accusation that our Lord is a false prophet these folks might think again about embracing such unnatural interpretations.

  8. Michael, I have that same thought about theologians and exegetes when some of them get to Acts 2 as well, especially when using the logic of how many times a word is used a majority of the time in other places, but not the same way in only a select few that don't agree with the theology. Interesting...

  9. The eis response is only one of several ways to understand Acts 2 in a way that's compatible with the rest of Scripture, which yours can't do anyway. As it is, I no longer think the eis response is the best one, and think there's a better way to understand Acts 2 and still maintain the clear biblical teaching that salvation is by faith alone.

  10. When did it become a good idea to interpret a verse in such a way that it becomes contradictory to a multiplicity of other clear texts?

    BTW,the verb for "be baptized" in Acts 2:38 (baptizo) is in the singular, whereas the word for "repent" (metanoeo) is in the plural. The manor in which the text goes from a plural ("repent") to a singular ("be baptized") to plural ("your") strongly suggests that "the forgiveness of sins" is a result of repentance and not baptism.

  11. I am not going to argue, just wanted to point out the logic usage that I noticed. Thanks for the input though. I don't interpret it any way beyond what it plainly says. Same as the Olivet Discourse and the whole of Scripture. I think it is quite clear that there is no need to explain away the importance of obedience on the whole. It's quite simple, we are to do what Scripture says. No arguments necessary, no explanation needed, no theology required. READ it and DO it. Sorry, kinda rambled on there a bit but the idea is clear I think.

  12. Aaron, have you obeyed Acts 2:38? That is, have you been baptized in Jesus name for the remission of sins? Recognizing the kind of literature a text is in is essentially to being obedient to Scripture. Acts is a historical narrative. It is not didactic literature like that of the epistles. While we can apply principles and teaching we find in narratives, we cannot apply a "READ it and DO it" method to the whole of Scripture.

  13. There are certain things we are instructed to do, however, and many people choose (through free will) to not follow the instruction. I am guilty as well, in many of them. But in the things that are essential, I have been obedient. Thank you for all the input. I appreciate it.

  14. Aaron, what text was most instrumental in convincing you that baptism is a requirement of salvation?

  15. What text? Well there is not a specific text in particular, only the clear resounding message of the entire new Testament. What is the most instrumental text in convincing you that baptism is not a requirement for salvation?

    I don't think we can put God into a box and say that salvation is based on one sole verse, or specific duty. To do so invites Satan to Gods table, and we all know that the table cannot be shared by I AM and sin.

  16. Here is a question, if someone decides to NEVER be baptized, knowing what baptism is, can you ensure with scripture that they are absolutely positively, without a doubt saved?

  17. To answer your 2nd question, if someone who professed faith in the person and work of the Son of God and rejected the biblical prescription to be baptized, I would say that the faith they possess is spurious. However, what you suggest is the "clear resounding message of the entire New Testament" is something I and the entirety of Evangelicalism reject as a false gospel. To answer your 1st question, the bible presents a dochotomy between that which is faith and that which is baptism. The Scripture also teaches explicitly that it is faith that is the sole instrumental means of salvation. The most instrumental texts in convincing me that baptism is not salvithic is Romans 3:27-4:12 and John 3:1-21. There are a multitude of others, but these suffice.

  18. Fair enough, as I said in the beginning, I'm not going to argue, as I have already begun to do. I merely wanted to point out that there is a logic being used in this theology that is inconsistently used here. I just find it interesting.

  19. And just to be clear, no such inconsistency has been demonstrated.

  20. incorrect, the inconsistency is that the use of a majority of the translations of 'this generation' mean that it must mean 'this generation'. The opposite view is applied when reading Acts 2:38.

  21. Yes, but neither Michael nor myself has here made the argument that eis means something other than what you think. I have in the past, but in this thread explicitly said I've changed my mind, and Mike and I have given other reasons for understanding Acts 2:38 differently from you. So no, you are incorrect: you have shown no inconsistency on our parts.

  22. I simply find the use of the logic interesting. Thank you for your continued interest in the subject.

  23. Certainly the use of logic when it comes to "this generation" or any other passage--which isn't being done inconsistently by Mike or I with Acts 2:38--is interesting, considering that many professing Christians today don't think logically through these issues, which is unfortunate.

  24. Thankfully I am not one of those, as I have spent a great deal of time in study on these matters, and am certain that what I understand is correct in light of the whole of scripture. Unless I misunderstood you and you are saying that I am a professing Christian who doesn't think logically through biblical issues. I surely don't think that of you however, and appreciate your acknowledgment of the logic usage, whether you feel it to be consistent or not.

  25. You did misunderstand me. That wasn't a statement about you at all, whatever thoughts I might have about you.

    Having demonstrated conclusively that Mike and I are not applying logic inconsistently with this passage, I was merely agreeing with you that the application of logic when it comes to the Scripture is interesting since so few Christians seem to do that, which is unfortunate.

  26. Aaron,

    If I were you, I'd be real sure that I'm not placing faith in my baptism as a means unto salvation. There is no text in Scripture that supports baptismal regeneration. And, I'd bet a good sum that the logic and exegetical methodology you have utilized to believe what you believe is absolutely wrong. Let me take a guess here, do find support for your position in the longer ending of Mark? Does the vast majority of prooftexts you employ come from narrative passages?

  27. Thankfully the only means of salvation is the grace of God. The only logic I was referring to is that the quantity of the use of a word does not equal the relevance or accuracy of the usage.

    Also, "baptismal regeneration" is an incorrectly applied characterization of what I believe. I don't believe that baptism regenerates anything anymore than you believe that grace can be bought. I would never accuse you of wrongful exegetical methodology having no actual visual understanding of such use of a methodology, but thank you for making assumptions. The support for my "position" is found beginning in Matthew 1:1 and ends in Revelation 22:21. I would hope that yours does too, and I think it does.

    The suggestion about prooftexts is still something I don't quite understand completely. Could you explain it in more detail?

    Also, I am unsure this is the appropriate place to continue this discussion, as I am sure Chris doesn't want so much unrelated material to cloud up the comments area. Do you or Chris have any ideas where would be a better place to continue?

  28. I think this is a fine place to have the discussion. However, if you would prefer, we can do it over email.

    As for "baptismal regeneration," as you and I have discussed, while you do not personally appreciate the phrase, it is nevertheless the common phrase used to describe any view which holds that regeneration occurs at baptism, whether it's the baptism itself doing the regenerating, or God's grace. Mike is not doing anything inappropriate in using the term; he is merely following the widely accepted historical terminology.

  29. As Wikipedia puts it, "Baptismal regeneration, the literal meaning of which is 'being generated again' (regeneration) 'through baptism' (baptismal), is the doctrine within some Christian denominations that holds that salvation is dependent upon the act of baptism; in other words, baptismal regenerationists believe that it is absolutely essential for one to be baptized in order to be saved." As puts it, "the doctrine that regeneration and sanctification are received in and through baptism."

    The fact is, the phrase communicates nothing about the cause of regeneration, it merely communicates the means by which regeneration occurs, or the time at which it takes place.

  30. Aaron,

    I didn't wrongfully accuse you of anything, as I briefly viewed the links provided in your blogger description wherein you divulge your position and your exegesis of not a few relevant texts.

    Regarding your request for clarification: Earlier in this discussion you suggested a "READ it and DO it" methodology. With that in mind, do you find the majority of texts that you would point to supporting your position in narrative passages? I am suggesting that you are taking narrative passages in a way that is at the expense of the didactic portions of Scripture, and other narratives too.

    Look, let us be forthright with eachother. I believe the gospel you hold to is no gospel at all. Even though I don't know you personally, I desperately hope that you might come to know the biblical gospel.

  31. I apologize for offending you with my false Gospel, and I sincerely hope that you will be less insulting to the next Christian you speak with

  32. Aaron,

    How might Paul have treat someone who believed and advocated an unbiblical gospel? If the way in which I write insults you, then I apologize. But, if it is the truth of my words that insults you, so be it. I'd rather be a witness to the truth an be accused of being rude then let someone believe in a gospel of baptism.

  33. The Gospel I believe is the same as what Paul believed.

    Romans 6 says " 1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

    5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

    8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

    11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace."

    Is this the false Gospel you think I believe?

    How about this question, who in the Bible was a Calvinist? Who did not believe that all believers must be baptized? Why is baptism such a problem for you to accept?

    It is not a work that I do to or for myself, I allow myself to be in full submission to God through baptism into Jesus Christ's name. That is, into Christ's (and therefore God's) possession.

    The Gospel I believe comes from 1 Corinthians 15, "3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

    Is this not the same Gospel that you believe?

  34. Where in Romans 6 do you find it said that baptism is means unto salvation? Do you always ignore the context of texts that touch on baptism (namely chaps 3-5)?

    Paul is not speaking of justification, but sanctification in chapter 6. Hence the phrase, "what shall we say, then? shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" Perhaps an examination of Romans 5,4, and 3 are in order because you seem to think that Rom 6 is an explanation of the gospel.

    Who was a Calvinist in the Scripture? I suppose what you mean to say is "who believed in the doctrines of grace and the total and complete sovereignty of God in Scripture?" Well, because Scripture is where those doctrines are found, I'd say the Lord Jesus and His Apostles believed in those doctrines, among others. You know, the same Lord Jesus who made a habit out of identifying the fact that faith is the sole instrumental means of salvation.

    Baptism is not a problem for me. I love baptism. We heartily welcome and celebrate Christ-confessing repentant sinners to be set apart in Christ in Baptism. We love to see the visible representation of a believers union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection in baptism. Baptismal regeneration is a problem for me because it is a corrupt doctrine that misleads people and perverts the true gospel of faith in Christ.

    You stated, "I allow myself to be in full submission to God through baptism into Jesus Christ's name." Therein you have divulged your error. This salvithic baptism is what *you allow.* That is, your salvation is due in some measure to *your allowance* to submit to God by undergoing the work of baptism. My friend, don't you know that salvation is predicated not on anything you have done (Eph 2:8-9, Rom 4:5-6), or that which you willed to allow to do (John 1:12-13), but what Christ has done in the sted of the sinner: "so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous (Rom 5:19b)"

    You have equivocated your obedience to the command of baptism ("I allow myself to be in full submission to God through baptism")with faith in the person and *work* of Jesus Christ. In some sense, you can thank yourself for your salvation in that you allowed yourself " to be in full submission to God through baptism." You in no uncertain terms believe in a gospel of your own doing and not the gospel of God. For salvation is of the Lord.

    Paul uses someone to demonstrate what it means to be justified (that is, saved) in the New Testament church. Do you know who? And if so, how was that person justified, or rather by what means was that person justified? Was it by baptism?

    And while your considering my questions, also consider how an unregenerate person who *cannot* submit to God, whose mind is hostile to God by nature, suddenly can submit to the Lord's command to be baptized (see Rom 8:7).

    And one last question, have you been baptized in Jesus name only? Or did you use the formula identified in Matt 28:19?

  35. Unfortunately, I do not have the time right now to get into the detail you and I would like to. I am preparing to move out of my apartment in preparation for a bigger move so that I can study God's word in more detail in order to become a preacher of the Gospel. I hope you will understand and allow me to take this time to complete my tasks, as I have already spent too much time away from packing with this conversation. Might I suggest that you go and read through more of the material posted on my blog page in search of some of the answers to your questions. Chris and I have spent a great deal of time in this discussion and I think I have already answered some of those questions. I do thank you and appreciate in advance your humility in allowing me to take care of my family needs.

  36. Michael, you and Chris have the same view of this "baptismal regeneration" which I wholly disagree with also. The regeneration comes from God through the Holy Spirit. Not from the baptism itself. I would like to end this conversation for the sake of the readers because there is nothing that will uplift or edify any reader on either side of the argument. The metaphoric "horse" has been beaten to death over and over again. The argument is circular and therefore non-beneficial. The truth is in the Scripture. We agree on that. All else is theology, and opinion. What I believe, I believe because it is written so, the same as you and Chris. I apologize for wasting so much of your time with a circular argument. I appreciate all the work you have put into this. Thank you. I am praying for you and Chris, and I thank you in advance for any prayers you and Chris say for me. I think that so long as we (being all Christians) are preaching and teaching the lost, we are accomplishing God's will. I hope that you, as I have been, are strengthened by these types of conversations or arguments. I truly thank you.

    In Him,
    Aaron Lincoln