Generations And Lifespans
The rebirth of Israel in 1948 was a significant prophetic event. According to scripture the generation that witnesses this event will see the end times. The question becomes what is a generation?
Q. The rebirth of Israel in 1948 was a significant prophetic event. According to scripture the generation that witnesses this event will see the end times. The question becomes what is a generation? According to a few pastors I have spoken with when the Bible refers to a generation it usually is a period of 70 years. Whether or not a generation is literally 70 years, or it is a longer period, how much longer could it be?
A. The dictionary defines a generation as the average period of time between the birth of a man and the birth of his first child. Plotting the generations in Matt. 1 shows the Biblical average to be about 40 years. In Psalm 90:10 a Biblical lifespan is given as being 70-80 years. As you can see, a generation and a lifespan are two different periods of time.
Many students of prophecy used to interpret Matt. 24:34 as saying that all end times prophecy including the 2nd Coming would be fulfilled within a generation after the first ones occurred. They pointed to the rebirth of Israel in 1948 as the first one and added 40 years, predicting the end of the age would come in 1988. That didn’t happen. Then they began to count from 1967 when Jerusalem became a Jewish city again, using Luke 21:24 as their authority, saying that all would be fulfilled by 2007. That won’t happen either.
A careful reading of Matt. 24:34 shows that Jesus never said that everything would happen within a generation of time. What He said was that the generation being born when the first signs appeared would not pass away before all was fulfilled. That means that at least some of the people who were born around 1948 will still be alive when He returns. Lifespans vary around the world, but the Bible gives 70 years as the average with an extra 10 years for the strong.
This doesn’t set any minimum amount of time for all the end times prophecies to be fulfilled, but only says that once their fulfillment begins, no more than a lifespan will pass until all are fulfilled including the 2nd Coming. If you begin with 1948 and use an average lifespan, it means no later than 2018. If you begin with 1967 it means no later than 2037.
As a practical matter, a lot of things have to happen before the Lord returns. The Isaiah 17 and Ezekiel 38 battles have to be fought. The Temple has to be rebuilt, the anti-Christ has to be revealed, and Daniel’s 70th week has to run out. All of this could easily take 10 years minimum, but could still happen by 2018. I’m comfortable using a window of time from 2018 to 2037 within which everything can take place.
But please remember that even though there are things that have to happen before the 2nd Coming, there’s nothing left that has to precede the Rapture. It could literally happen at any moment. The time to be sure you’re ready has come.
More On Average Lifespans. 70 Years Or 80?
Q. Regarding the question of how long is a generation. I’m in agreement with those who favor the 70 yrs…but I’m wondering about the verse in Psalms that says a generation is “…70 years or because of strength, 80″. Strength of what? Strength of individuals?, the economy?, the military?, morals?,….if this verse is saying that a generation may stretch to 80 years, then how is that measured? Frankly, considering the way our country/world is going, 70 seems more likely than 80.
A. Just a word of caution. In trying to estimate the time of the 2nd Coming we’re talking about an average lifespan, not a generation. A generation is only the time between a man’s birth and the birth of his first child. Jesus said the generation being born at the time of the first signs would not pass away (die) until all the signs have happened. (Matt. 24:34) So He was referring to our lifespan, not the birth of the next generation.
Psalm 90:10 gives man’s average lifespan. The word strength appears twice in the English translation. In Hebrew the first one describes one who is strong and mighty. It was often used of hunters or soldiers. The second Hebrew word translated strength is a different one. It means pride or arrogance, warning that our strength can become a source of pride that is proven false because eventually we die anyway. So the extra 10 years of life are attributed to an individual’s physical strength and are an exception to the average, not an extension of it.