Jesus taught that the generation that saw the fig tree shoot forth would not pass until ALL these things, including the tribulation, the second advent, and the destruction of heaven and earth be fulfilled. Scripture uses the word generation frequently but does not give a direct statement regarding its length.
Numbers 32:13 says, "And the Lordís anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the Lord, was consumed."
Psa. 95:10 says, "Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, it is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways."
Heb. 3:9-10 says, "when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generationÖ"
These are the only verses in scripture that give a specific time period in connection with the word generation and the time period given is forty years, not thirty, fifty, seventy, or one hundred. All three verses refer to the forty years that Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the promised land.
In Gen. 6:3 we find this statement: "And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." It is generally thought that in this verse God is giving Noah one hundred and twenty years to build the ark.
Let's do a little Bible arithmetic. Gen 5:32 says, "And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth." Gen 7:11 "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." Gen 11:10 "These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:"
So we see that the one hundred and twenty years stated in Gen. 6:3 is not the time given to Noah to build the ark, it is the time span given by God for his spirit to strive with man until the final judgment which occurs at the end of the "little season" which in turn occurs at the end of the millennium. So the question becomes, which years make up the one hundred and twenty years. In order for the prophecy to make sense, they have to be identifiable. I have not been able to identify a period of one hundred and twenty years in the Bible, but from our vantage point in history we can identify three periods of forty years each which will make up the one hundred and twenty years given to man and will end with the final judgment. I believe that just as Daniel's prophecy had a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth years, this one hundred and twenty also has gaps between its periods of fulfillment.
I believe the first generation was the forty years spent in the wilderness. Further, that forty years was divided into two periods of two and thirty-eight years (Deu. 2:14). The statement was made by God after the spies came back from Canaan. This was two years into the wandering in the wilderness, i.e. they had already been out there for two years but another thirty-eight years would pass before they entered the promised land.
In Matt. 23:23-39 Jesus made several references to a wicked generation. In verse 35 he pronounced the judgment of God upon Jerusalem for their rejection of Godís prophets, and ultimately, Godís son. In verse 36 Jesus said judgment would fall upon the generation he was addressing, and in verse 38 he said, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." This was followed by the disciples comments regarding the temple and the prophecy of its destruction.
As previously stated, Luke 21 is a prophecy with a dual fulfillment: the first during the church age and the second during the tribulation. In verse 6 Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple. The disciples immediately asked him, "Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?"
In verse 20 Jesus answered both questions: the sign would be Jerusalem compassed with armies; when this happened its desolation would be near. As confirmed by Matt. 23:36, this would happen in the generation Jesus was addressing. In 68 A.D. the Roman general Titus laid siege to Jerusalem and in 70 A.D. the city fell and the temple was destroyed.
The first fulfillment occurred forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus. This is evidence that a generation equals forty years and we see another further division: this time thirty-eight (until the siege) and two years until the destruction under the Roman general Titus.
In 30 A.D. the fig tree, Israel, was cursed and at the end of that generation stopped existing as a nation in its own land. In Luke 21:24 Jesus prophesied the diaspora and that it would end when Jerusalem was once again under Jewish control. When this happened the fig tree would shoot forth. He referred to a tree, not a sapling. While Israel was planted in 1948, the tree sprouted in 1967.
However, as prophesied, Israel is still (and will continue) in unbelief until the middle of the tribulation. On June 6, 2005 we passed the thirty-eight year mark of the third generation of Israelís unbelief. (June 7, 1967 fell on Iyar 28 in the Jewish calendar, so we convert Iyar 28 to the Gregorian calendar to identify the actual anniversary date. The anniversary dates are: June 6, 2005, May 26, 2006, May 16, 2007 and June 2, 2008.) The Bible fact that those first two periods of forty years were each referred to as generations is evidence that this last generation will also involve a period of forty years.
Itís very interesting to consider that the first generation began with Israelís refusal to enter the promised land (Num. 14). The spies came back with their report and the people were afraid of the Ďgiantsí in the land: they failed to appreciate that God would be involved in their conquest. They could have entered the land right then if only they had believed. Instead, God pronounced his judgment and said it would continue for forty years, one year for each day the spies were in Canaan. He said that all of those from the age of twenty and older would die in the wilderness during the next forty years. Except for Joshua and Caleb, all those who would later enter the promised land were born during the final nineteen years of the captivity in Egypt or during the forty years in the wilderness.
The second generation began with Israelís rejection of her Messiah in 30 A.D. Again, the kingdom could have begun right then if only Israel had believed. Instead, thirty-eight years later Rome laid siege to the city and finally took it on September 26, 70 A.D. Observe, like the first period of forty years, this period also was divided into thirty-eight and two.
The judgment of the first generation involved postponement of their receipt of the land. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years. The judgment of the second generation involved the destruction of their city after another forty year wait followed by their return to the wilderness. Both judgments had to do with the land of Israel, the Promised Land.
In 1948 the United Nations partitioned Palestine and gave Israel to the Jews. At that point they were back in the land. Nineteen years later the Jews recaptured Jerusalem. Luke 21:24 is fulfilled: the Jewish people were scattered throughout the world starting in 70 A.D. and have now, after almost nineteen hundred years, regained first the land, then the city. They went out and they came back in. The two recent events were separated by nineteen years, the maximum age at the exodus of those who would be allowed to enter Canaan. Perhaps God was illustrating that the final generation would begin after another period of nineteen years. There is no doubt that all three generations involve the actual land of Israel.
Inserted in this third and final generation, Israel and the whole world will face the most severe crisis of history. Jesus said it would be a time like no other, before or after, and it would be so terrible that if the days werenít shortened no flesh would survive. At the end of the tribulation Jesus will return and establish his kingdom. During the millennium, Israel, and the whole world, will finally dwell in total safety and God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, will be present and dwelling with man on earth.
The third generation began on June 7, 1967 during a war that was started by Israelís ancient enemy, Egypt. As in old time, God fought for Israel, but she still did not recognize her Messiah. Considering the current Jewish calendar discrepancy of 7.61 days (more to come later), it is most interesting that the recapture of Jerusalem occurred just eight days before Pentecost (currently observed - incorrectly - on Sivan 6), the anniversary of the two times when God called out a holy covenant people: the Jews in Exodus 19 and the Church in Acts 2. In the very timing of this major prophetic event God again asked his people Israel to see the connection and receive the Messiah Jesus. While unprecedented numbers of Jews have been saved since that time, as a nation, Israel is still in unbelief and is now nearing the beginning of her final crisis: the time of Jacobís trouble.
Again, In Gen. 6:3 God said this: "My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." He then told Noah to build the ark, and he then destroyed the world by flood. He later told Noah that he would never again destroy all life by flood, and he wonít: the next and final destruction will be by fire (II Pet. 3:10).
These one hundred twenty years do not refer to a shortened life span for man. While the life span did begin to be shortened at that time, Gen. 11:32 directly states that Tereh, the eighth generation after Shem, lived two hundred and five years.
Godís spirit is still striving with man. In fact, in Luke 17:26-27 Jesus said the time of his coming would be like the days of Noah. I think itís reasonable that the one hundred twenty years stated in Genesis are the same as the three wicked generations of forty years each, and further, that at the end of those one hundred twenty years, God himself will destroy the earth by fire.
In the context of the second half of the tribulation, Jesus said that if those days werenít shortened no flesh would survive. I absolutely believe that the days referenced are the twelve hundred and sixty days of the last half of the tribulation.
At the commencement of the first generation (Num. 14:34), God pronounced one year in the wilderness for each day that the spies were in Canaan. In Eze. 4:4-6 he had the prophet lay on his left side three hundred and ninety days and on his right side forty days, each day to represent a year of judgment. From these two passages we get the precedent of a day for a year and a year for a day.
Psalms 90 speaks of Godís judgment in relation to time. Verses 14-15 say, "O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil." This Psalm, written by Moses and inspired by God, is a prayer that Godís mercy would come early. I believe it will, by a matter of days ("except those days be shortenedÖ"), and that Israel will be made glad during the one thousand years of the millennium.
But Gen. 6:3 says, "And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." God gave man a total of one hundred twenty years to strive with the Holy Spirit (to be saved). Given what happened during the time of Noah, I think it is safe to conclude that Godís final judgment is going to occur at the end of one hundred and twenty probationary years.
In looking at these generations we have seen God start and stop the one hundred twenty year countdown two times: the forty years in the wilderness and the forty years from the rejection of Jesus until the destruction of Jerusalem, each of those forty years periods being divided into two parts of thirty-eight and two years. It is currently less than two years until the end of the third forty years period beginning with the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967. If the rapture were to occur today, we are still short of the full one hundred twenty years which will end in total destruction, and the tribulation, to be followed by the millennium, has not begun. This does not destroy the imminence of the rapture (which occurs first) because there is a period of time that is held in reserve.
As we have already seen, in Matt. 24:32-33 Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree. In verses 34-35 he said, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." While I absolutely believe that the main message in this statement was that the last generation would begin when the fig tree shot forth, the passage also places the passing away of heaven and earth within the final generation.
Rev. 20:3 says that at the end of the millennium Satan will be released from the abyss for "a little season". The phrase is found twice in the Bible but the length of a little season is not specified in either scripture. However, we can know that it will have a duration of less than 3Ĺ years because the other occurrence of the phrase is found in Rev. 6:11, the fifth seal, concerning the souls under the altar and they are seen during the last half of the tribulation. The souls under the altar cry out for vengeance on those who killed them, and in Rev. 16:7 - the third vial or bowl - a voice from the altar approves the judgments being poured out.
This helps us identify more closely the beginning of the seventieth week. The final generation began on June 7, 1967 (Iyar 28 on the Jewish calendar). Since this was not New Yearís day on the Jewish or Gregorian calendars, and because we are going to count whole and half years using the Jewish date Iyar 28 (May/June, not January) as a starting date, we need to think in terms of years that begin and end in the summer.
I believe the final generation began on June 7, 1967, it must end by June 2, 2008 (the end of the fortieth year) and it must include a time period of not more than 3Ĺ years which are reserved for Satanís little season at the end of the millennium.
If the final generation had to include the tribulation and the maximum length of the little season, we would have to deduct ten and one half years from May 16, 2007, meaning the tribulation would have begun by December 1996 and we would currently be in the millennium. We obviously are not in the millennium.
However, I donít believe the forty years has to include the seven years of tribulation. I believe God will stop the countdown at the beginning of the tribulation (i.e. the rapture) and start it up again when Satan is loosed at the end of the millennium. Which means we are right now in a less than two-year window for the rapture.
Allow me to restate my position. A little season has been reserved for Satanís use at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:3) The expression is also used regarding the souls under the altar in the fifth seal in Rev. 6:11, and they are seen after the mid-point of the tribulation. Because the martyrs are told to wait yet a little season, and because we see them acknowledging the judgment of God in Rev. 16:7 (at which time four judgments remain), we see that the length of a little season is a period of less than three and one-half years. To accurately determine the starting and ending dates of the seven years of tribulation, this little season must be deducted from the total forty years of the last generation because it is a portion of that final generation but is reserved for use at the end of the millennium.
The final seven years will begin at some point during the next two years and at that time the forty years countdown will be stopped for the seven years of the tribulation and the one thousand years of the millennium. After the millennium, the countdown will begin again for the final unknown time period called the "little season" which will end with the destruction of the present heavens and earth in fulfillment of the prophecy to Noah: Gen. 6:3 "And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years". At the end of the one hundred and twenty years the striving will be ended.