Jesus was speaking, but the generation "that sees all of these things"—the signs Jesus gave. Since these signs have not yet occurred, according to the premillennial views, "this generation" has not yet passed. I, myself, took this position in Before God's Wrath. But is this an over-simplification?
Preterists, on the other hand, view the fulfillment of this entire passage as occurring in the first century. In the preterist understanding, "the end" does not refer to the second coming and a global judgment. Rather, preterists see this as a judgment coming of Christ, much as the judgment comings of God against Babylon and Egypt, against Israel and Jerusalem. As part of this judgment, God destroys the temple and the Levitical priesthood and puts an end to the Old Covenant and the entire Levitical system as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31.
In Matthew 24:34 ("this generation"), Jesus used what is called the near demonstrative "this." If Jesus had meant a future generation, preterists argue, He would have used the far demonstrative "that."
They also point out, in every other use of this phrase in the Gospels, the word "generation" and the phrase "this generation" specifically refer to the generation to which Jesus was speaking:
"A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." (Matthew 16:4)
"The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here." (Matthew 12:41)
Thus, the preterist argument continues, the combination of the near demonstrative with the fact that the use of this phrase elsewhere in the Gospels refers to the existing generation, a natural reading of the scriptures would demand that in this case, too, Jesus was speaking to the generation to whom He was speaking. Thus, in Matthew 24, when Jesus says "you," He means you—those to whom I am speaking and only those to whom I am speaking.
This would demand a first-century fulfillment of these prophecies in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as God's judgment against Israel and ending of the Old Covenant system.
This is also consistent, preterists argue, with Jesus' warnings throughout Revelation that He is coming "quickly" and "soon" (Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20).
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