Did 1948 Begin the Last Generation?

From a comment on a YouTube video:

David I have a question: I recently heard a Pastor make the assertion that Jesus himself said (no scripture quoted) that the generation that sees Israel become a nation again (in 1948) will not die out before all end time events have unfolded. Is this biblical? Thanks!

Matthew 24:32-35: Jesus speaks more regarding the timing of these events.

[32] “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. [33] So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near; at the doors! [34] Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. [35] Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

These verses link together two ideas: the [32] fig tree and a [34] generation that will not pass away until all these things take place.

The idea behind the question is that the fig tree represents Israel, and that the generation that see Israel “bud” – come back to life – as in the words, [32] its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves – the generation that sees that will not pass away until Jesus has returned in glory.

  • Pastor Chuck Smith had a specific teaching on this in the 1970s. His idea was that because Israel was restored as a nation in 1948, that restoration fulfilled the idea of the “budding” of the fig tree as described in Matthew 24:32.
  • He started with the year 1948, when Israel was restored as a nation.
  • He calculated that a Biblical generation lasts 40 years.
  • He took the [34] all these things take place to include the battle of Armageddon and the glorious return of Jesus Christ.
  • He calculated that all these things would be completed by 1988 – 40 years from 1948.
  • Because he believed in the pre-tribulation rapture, he thought it possible – even probable – that Jesus would catch away His church on or around 1981.
  • Pastor Chuck Smith taught this – I would say he taught this as an expectation, not as a prediction.
  • He was wrong – the church was not caught away in 1981, and all these things were not completed by 1988.

Where did Pastor Chuck get this wrong? I think in a few places. Of course, it’s always easy to analyze these things in retrospect, so none of this makes me think any less of Pastor Chuck and his remarkable ministry. Look for my video, “Remembering Pastor Chuck Smith” on my YouTube channel.

Here’s where I think he got it wrong on this point:

  1. [32] Learn this parable from the fig tree: The fig tree has a regular pattern. The leaves appear, and then summer follows. When you see the leaves, you know summer is near.
  2. The fig tree was a common fruit tree in Israel. It is mentioned many times in the Old Testament, especially as a description of the abundance of the land. Sometimes figs or fig trees are also used as symbols or pictures. In passages like Jeremiah 24:1-10 and Hosea 9:10, figs or fig trees are used as a representation of Israel.
  3. However, most Old Testament references to the fig tree use it as simply an example of agricultural blessing. It seems that Jesus’ reference here is not so much on the “figness” of the fig tree, but on the way that the fig tree follows reliable growth cycles related to the seasons. This is especially evident when this passage is compared with Luke 21:29-31: Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.
  4. [33] So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near; at the doors! Jesus told us what the all these things were earlier in Matthew 24:
  • The abomination of desolation
  • Followed by great tribulation
  • Followed by signs in the heavens

When all these things happened, His return to the earth would follow. When a fig tree buds, there is an inevitable result – summer is near and fruit is coming. In the same way, when these signs are seen, the coming of Jesus in glory with His church to this world will inevitably follow.

  1. Really, it was just as Daniel prophesied in Daniel 12:11. The end will come 1,290 days after the abomination of desolation. Jesus assures that the agonies of the Great Tribulation will not continue indefinitely; they will have an end.
  2. [34] Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place: This statement of Jesus is one of the central reasons many have looked for all or most of the events of this chapter to be fulfilled in a.d. 70, approximately 40 years after Jesus spoke these words. Yet as previously argued, to assert this is to greatly stretch the most natural interpretation of the abomination of desolation, of the severity of the great tribulation, of the cosmic signs, and of the coming of the Son of Man. It is better to let those passages have their most natural meaning and to fit this promise into that framework.
  3. The generation Jesus meant cannot be the generation of the disciples, because they never saw Jesus return in glory as described in Matthew 24:30. It is undoubtedly the generation that sees these signs. These events and Jesus’ return won’t be on some 1,000-year timetable, but will happen in succession.
  4. It has been suggested that the word [34] generation could also be translated “race,” and is a promise that the Jewish race would not be extinguished and would survive to the end. This would be a valuable promise, but some commentators (such as France) claim this is an embarrassingly wrong translation. Yet others – such as Adam Clarke, who strongly believed the events of this chapter were almost all fulfilled in a.d. 70 – writes, “This race; i.e. the Jews shall not cease from being a distinct people, till all the counsels of God relative to them and the Gentiles be fulfilled.”


  • I don’t believe that the “fig tree” in Matthew 24:32 is specifically Israel
  • While we do have many reasons to believe that the coming of Jesus is soon – including the restoration of Israel as a nation in 1948 – I do not believe that the “this generation” promise of Matthew 24:34 is connected to the generation that sees Israel restored as a nation.
  • I do believe Jesus told us that the great tribulation and the cosmic signs described in Matthew 24 and elsewhere are of limited duration – they won’t go on forever, and that is the purpose of the “this generation” promise in Matthew 24:34.
  • We need to watch and be ready for the return of Jesus Christ!

What does it mean in Matthew 18:17 that believers should treat those who are under church disciplines as if they are unbelievers?

Matthew 18:17 says,

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Jesus is speaking of the authority of the church to put people outside the congregation. You could call that excommunication if you want to. Excommunication is not necessarily assigning a person’s soul to hell, but excluding them from the congregation and treating them as if they are an unbeliever.

What does it mean for the people in the church to treat them as unbelievers? I would say it simply means that they love them, they pray for them, they’re gracious to them. They tell the truth about them. They don’t spread any lies about them. However, they don’t pretend that they’re believers. They don’t pretend or presume that they are believers because they are under church discipline and placed outside of the community of believers.

How can the judgment of Edom be in the past if Obadiah 1:21 says the kingdom will come after their judgment?

Obadiah 1:21 says that after Edom gets destroyed the Lord’s Kingdom will be set up. How could Edom be done away with already?

Obadiah 1:21 says,

Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion

To judge the mountains of Esau,

And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.

I believe that the judgment announced upon Edom has already taken place. I know that people disagree with that, but I believe that it has already happened. It does not say on the same day, or in the same week, or in the same month. It just simply says after.

I believe that God’s judgment upon Edom, as a specific genetic people, has already happened. I believe that God’s judgment on Edom, as a representative of those who are against the people of God and even treacherous against the people of God, has already been poured out on literal, genetic Edom. I believe that it is ongoing and yet to be completely filled out on what Edom represents.

Because we believe that someone or something like the Edomites can and do have a symbolic sense, it does not take away from the fact that they also have a literal sense. Both things can be true.

So, God’s judgment has been poured out upon the edomites, and we know this from history. We also believe, in a spiritual sense, His judgment is still to come and will be completely fulfilled upon those who put themselves against God’s people.

Why did Jesus seem to change His mind about turning water into wine in John 2?

This is a great passage where Jesus has this wonderful interaction with his mother about turning the water into wine. Mary, the mother of Jesus, made this request of her son, Jesus, to save a couple getting married from everlasting disgrace in the community by not being able to properly entertain people on the most important day of their life, their wedding day.

Jesus wanted to make sure in His response to His mother, that it was clear to her and to anybody else, He wasn’t taking orders from her. Jesus took His orders from God the Father, not even from His own mother. Now, when Jesus was a boy under the authority of His mother, He obeyed her in every way. He always honored His mother.

I would put it this way. The Bible says that we should honor our father and mother. That’s an ongoing command that doesn’t change when you’re an adult. Now, into our adulthood we don’t always have to obey our father and mother. You’re your own man. You’re your own woman. You answer primarily before God. Even if you don’t obey your father and mother as an adult, you are still obligated to honor them.

I think what’s going on here is that Jesus was establishing some separation between Him and His mother. Some people speculate that Mary is being something of the classic Jewish mother. A little bit overbearing and dominating, even over her adult children. It’s a stereotype, but sometimes stereotypes have at least some connection to reality.

Jesus was establishing distance between Himself and His mother, respectfully. He addressed his mother and said, woman, what does your concern have to do with me? He didn’t call her mom or mother. He called her woman, which was a respectful title, but it wasn’t mom. I don’t think Jesus is contradicting himself. I don’t think He really changed his mind. His early words were simply meant to emphasize that very important point.

Now, there is church tradition, and I can’t say it’s completely true, that in Mary’s elderly age she was cared for by the apostle John. We know at the cross Jesus entrusts Mary to the care of John, and people think this was fulfilled, especially in Mary’s old age. I’m delighted by the idea that Mary shared this story with John and had a big smile on her face when she described how her son Jesus spoke to her in this situation.

How can I follow my pastor if I don’t fully trust him?

There’s a lot to that question that kind of has some nuance here. Let me explain. First of all, I would want to go deeper on what you say you don’t fully trust him.

At the beginning of our question and answer time today, I talked about a Bible interpretation having to do with Matthew 24 and the fig tree, the reestablishment of Israel, this generation, the end of the age. I quoted a pastor whom I greatly respect, but I disagree with him, or at least with the opinion he had in the 1970s, about the interpretation of Matthew 24:32-34.

If somebody wanted to make a big deal about it they would say, “well, you don’t trust his interpretation on that passage. You don’t trust the pastor’s judgment.” I’d say that I don’t agree with him in a particular area. It doesn’t mean that there’s some fundamental break in my trust. I don’t have to agree with somebody on every single point to trust them in general.

You say you don’t fully trust your pastor. Well, I want to know what the nature of it is. Is it something that’s smaller? Is it something bigger? Do you actually have reason to have a significant breaking or breach of trust with your pastor?

How can you follow a pastor if you have a significant breach of trust? If it is possible for you to find a shepherd that you respect more, then you should look for an appropriate way to transition from the church you’re in right now to the church and the Shepherdly care of the pastor you respect more.

I think what we need to do is find the church that we can most respect and agree with and become a part of that. We’re probably never going to agree with everything in a particular church, but we find the church that we can actually commit to and respect the most.

If there is a significant break in trust between you and the pastor, it’s probably not healthy for you to remain there. You’re not going to trust and respect when he brings you the Word of God, and that’s very important.

What is the difference between a Jew, a Hebrew, and an Israelite?

Jew is a religious designation. In other words, Jew refers to somebody’s religion. It’s often tied up with their ethnicity. There are many people who are Jewish, ethnically, but they don’t have that religion. They’re secular or atheists. Jewish has to do with somebody’s religious belief.

Hebrew has to do with somebody’s ethnic belief. Most people think that the word Hebrew refers to someone who comes from across the river. It was assigned originally to Abraham who came into Canaan, the promised land, from across the Euphrates River. It’s probably the origin of the name Hebrew.

An Israelite is a national designation, having to do with what nation or people they belong to.

However, these words are used interchangeably without making any distinction between them.

Is the catching away of the church (the rapture) the same as the second coming?

I wanted to ask about the catching away of the church. Is it the same as the second coming?

I always want to preface when I talk about eschatology that these are things Christians disagree on. I fully recognize that there are Christians who really love the Lord and are followers of Jesus, yet, they have different opinions than I do when it comes to eschatology.

That being said, here’s my understanding of this. I regard the catching away of the church and the glorious return of Jesus at Armageddon, to be two aspects of the Second Coming. I would say the Second Coming encompasses both events. Commonly we speak only of the glorious return at Armageddon as being the Second Coming. If I really want to be precise, I would say it refers to both the catching away of the church and the glorious return. I would regard those as two aspects of the same appearing of Jesus.

Now, you may have heard me say this before, but I don’t mind saying it again. There are people who mock this idea. I would emphasize that the Second Coming is a term that encompasses two aspects. It encompasses the catching away of the church and the glorious return of Jesus.

The first coming of Jesus embraced many different aspects. I always like to ask this question. When did Jesus come? When did he arrive in His first coming? Wouldn’t you say that it was when He was conceived by a miracle of God the Father by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb? Isn’t that His coming to earth?

He arrived when He was conceived in Mary’s womb. He arrived when He was born in Bethlehem. He arrived when He returned from Egypt, as a boy, coming back to the promised land. He arrived when He started his earthly ministry, and John the Baptist presented Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He arrived at the triumphal entry seven days before His resurrection, and He arrived when He rose from the dead.

The first coming of Jesus encompassed several arrivals. So, to me, it’s no surprise that the second coming of Jesus embraces many aspects.

Are there apostles and prophets today, especially in light of Revelation 18:20?

Are there apostles and prophets on the earth today? Revelation 18:20 says they will rejoice when Babylon the Great is destroyed. Where are they?

Revelation 18:20 says,

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

I don’t believe that this reference in Revelation 18:20 has any relevance to the question. Let me explain to you what I mean. If you notice here, it says that it’s a call to those in the heavens to rejoice. Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her. It very well could be that the apostles and prophets mentioned in Revelation 18:20 are apostles and prophets in heaven. There’s nothing in the verse itself that I could see that specifically says it has to be apostles and prophets on the earth at that time. Now, it doesn’t say that it couldn’t be. I’m just saying that there’s nothing to command that it’s apostles and prophets on earth, and the connection with rejoicing in the heavens actually gives an indication that it could be apostles and prophets who are in heaven.

So, I don’t think that Revelation 18:20 has any direct relevance to this question.

Are there apostles and prophets on the earth today? I’ll give you the classic, two handed theologian answer. On the one hand, yes, there are apostles and prophets on the earth today. On the other hand, no, there are not apostles and prophets on the earth today. Let me explain what I mean to you with both answers.

First, I’ll give you the no answer. There are no people on earth today that have the authority of apostles and prophets as was evident in the early church. In other words, they don’t have that foundational role of being apostles and prophets as we have those who gave us the scriptures. Let me read you a passage. Ephesians 2:20 says, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

In other words, there was a foundational role for those first century apostles and prophets who gave to us the scriptures. There’s never going to be an apostle that has apostolic authority, like Peter, John, and Paul. There’s never going to be a modern day Prophet who has the prophetic authority of the first century authors of scriptures such as Luke and Mark. It’s just not going to happen. In that sense, there are no apostles. As some might say, there are no capital A apostles and capital P prophets on the earth today.

Now, there are people who argue, in a lesser sense, that there are apostles and prophets in the church today. There are apostles. The word apostle in the New Testament, the original language of the New Testament, isn’t a translation. It’s just a transliteration. The ancient Greek word is apostolos. If you were to translate the word apostle or apostolos, you’d come up with something like a special ambassador. If you want to argue that God raises up special ambassadors for the church today, I can see that. There are people God raises up to lead and not just congregations but movements as well.

You could say that Martin Luther was a special Ambassador God gave to the church. You could say the same of John Wesley, Billy Graham, and more modern church leaders. You could say, in a lesser sense, there are prophets in the world today, people to whom God has given a unique and powerful message that He wants them to deliver to the church.

I am not in favor of titling people as an apostle or prophet today. I think it makes things weird. It either makes things weird with the person who has the title, or it makes people weird in how they treat that person and how they react to them.

If I went around as apostle David Guzik, people would treat me differently and they shouldn’t. I don’t have apostolic authority over people, and others don’t have apostolic authority over me.

There are people whom I respect and I submit to in the name of Jesus Christ, but I don’t respect or submit to them under apostolic authority. The Bible is what has apostolic authority over me and over the body of Christ today, so I am not in favor of titling people “apostles” or “prophets” in the world today because it makes things weird.

How can you discern if a pastor’s interpretation of the Bible is sound doctrine or just his opinion?

Every person that teaches the Bible will put some of their own opinion in the teaching. Some pastors do it a little. Some pastors or preachers do it a lot, but everybody does it to some degree or another. That’s nothing to be alarmed about.

It’s simply this. You need to go to the bible and see if what they say comes from it or if it is just their own idea. I am not against pastors giving their opinion or speculating on the meaning of a text. It’s just appropriate they recognize that that’s what they are, in fact, doing.

You need to be a berean, as the book of Acts describes. In other words, you go to the Scriptures and see what they say. Every believer is empowered by the Holy Spirit to be able to read the Bible and compare with what the pastor or preacher says to what the Bible says.

How does Isaiah 9:6 support the doctrine of the trinity?

Isaiah 9:6 says,

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I would not say that Isaiah 9:6 teaches us the Trinity, not directly. What Isaiah 9:6 does teach us is of the deity of Jesus Christ. The titles it gives to us of the Messiah in that passage are clearly messianic titles, and when we recognize that, we’re simply recognizing what the Bible itself says about Jesus. These are things that are characteristic of God. These are titles of deity. When we understand the deity of God the Father, the deity of God the Son, and the deity of God, the Holy Spirit, we understand this biblical idea of the Trinity.

I wonder if you’re getting a little bit tripped up on Isaiah 9:6 where it speaks of Jesus, prophetically, as being the Everlasting Father. The better way to understand Everlasting Father is that Jesus is the source or the governor of all eternity. It’s not making Him the same person as God the Father. Many other passages of Scripture make that very clear.

The Trinity is not taught specifically in Isaiah 9:6, but the deity of Jesus is taught and this is one of the building blocks for our understanding of the Trinity in the Bible.

Where does the war described in Ezekiel 38 happen in God’s plan?

I think it is very difficult to place prophetically. If you go to my Bible Commentary and take a look at the section on Ezekiel 38 you will see that I sort of reflect the idea that it is very difficult to understand where to place this battle.

This battle could take place before the Great Tribulation. It could take place during the final seven year period. It could take place during or at the end of the millennium.

The scriptures don’t give us enough information to confidently say this is where it is.