1914—The Generation That Will Not Pass Away
“THIS generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur,” said Jesus. (Matthew 24:34) But what is meant by the word “generation”?
In his book The Generation of 1914, professor of history Robert Wohl presents an unusual definition when he states: “A historical generation is not defined by its chronological limits or its borders. It is not a zone of dates . . . It is more like a magnetic field at the center of which lies an experience or a series of experiences. . . . What is essential to the formation of a generational consciousness is some common frame of reference that provides a sense of rupture with the past . . . This frame of reference is always derived from great historical events like wars, revolutions, plagues, famines, and economic crises.”
From that point of view, the Great War of 1914-18 and its aftermath certainly formed a “frame of reference” to mark a generation. As professor Wohl comments: World War I created “an overwhelming sense of rupture with the past. Those who lived through the war could never rid themselves of the belief that one world had ended and another begun in August 1914.”
Jesus used the word “generation” many times in different settings and with various meanings. But what did he mean when he spoke of a ‘generation that would not pass away’? Some have interpreted “generation” to mean a period of 30, 40, 70 or even 120 years. However, a generation is really related to people and events, rather than to a fixed number of years.
The Greek word rendered “generation” in the Bible has been defined as, “Those born at the same time . . . Associated with this is the meaning: the body of one’s contemporaries, an age.” (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology) “The sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time generation, contemporaries.” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament from Walter Bauer’s Fifth Edition, 1958) These definitions embrace both those born around the time of a historic event and all those alive at that time.
If Jesus used “generation” in that sense and we apply it to 1914, then the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older. And others alive in 1914 are in their 80’s or 90’s, a few even having reached a hundred. There are still many millions of that generation alive. Some of them “will by no means pass away until all things occur.”—Luke 21:32.
Since 1914 we have already lived through two world wars and many other major conflicts, along with famines, earthquakes, pestilences and the like. (Luke 21:10, 11) Yet Jesus said: “This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” (Matthew 24:34) Therefore, you might ask: What other major events remain to be seen by the generation of 1914? And can these actually take place in the time period that remains for that generation?
What Happens Next?
Especially since 1919 have Jehovah’s Witnesses been fulfilling on a remarkable scale and against earth-wide opposition Jesus’ prophecy: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Yes, this is the work that has to be completed to Jehovah’s satisfaction before the end comes.
What other events must take place in the period left for the generation of 1914? The Bible clearly points to certain major developments that will lead into and form a part of the “great tribulation” that culminates in Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 16:14, 16) It is urgent that you know what these developments are and that you take necessary protective action before it is too late.—Zephaniah 2:3.
One of these developments was prophesied by the apostle Paul when he stated: “You yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.” This prophecy makes it clear that, just prior to the end of this system of things, “peace and security” will be declared in some exceptional way, whether by the United Nations or independently by political and religious leaders. What will follow that declaration? Paul said: “Then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.”—1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3.
Does Your Religion Matter?
Could that destruction affect you? Well, do you belong to one of the world’s many religions? Do you know how God views those religions? What is their future?
Under the symbol of a “great harlot” named “Babylon the Great,” the inspired apostle John described a system that has benefited for centuries from intimate association with “the kings of the earth” who wield political power. This “harlot” has also benefited from dealings with “the traveling merchants,” that is, the world’s commercial element. What system is this that has also lorded it over the “peoples and crowds and nations and tongues”? It is false religion! Yes, all religions that are false from Jehovah God’s standpoint constitute this “great harlot,” who is actually a world empire. But what does the immediate future hold for her?—Revelation 17:1-8, 15; 18:15-17.
Revelation 17:16 indicates that radical political elements within the United Nations (the “scarlet-colored wild beast”) will hate the religious harlot and devastate her. Already, powerful atheistic and antireligious elements in the UN have taken steps to stamp out religion within their domain. But more drastic action is expected in the near future when these political elements devastate not only Christendom but also the other great religious systems. Logically, the anti-God forces will also attack Jehovah’s Witnesses who faithfully proclaim God’s Kingdom. This will be tantamount to attacking God himself and will provoke retaliation—God’s war of Armageddon!—Revelation 17:3, 12-16; 16:14-16; Ezekiel 38:10-12, 18-23; Zechariah 2:8.
Is There Enough Time?
From a purely human viewpoint, it could appear that these developments could hardly take place before the generation of 1914 disappears from the scene. But fulfillment of all the foretold events affecting the generation of 1914 does not depend on comparatively slow human action. Jehovah’s prophetic word through Christ Jesus is: “This generation [of 1914] will by no means pass away until all things occur.” (Luke 21:32) And Jehovah, who is the source of inspired and unfailing prophecy, will bring about the fulfillment of his Son’s words in a relatively short time.—Isaiah 46:9, 10; 55:10, 11.
Are there any past examples of Bible prophecies’ being fulfilled in the face of human disbelief and skepticism? Yes, and we can briefly examine one of these. In the year 33 C.E., Jesus foretold regarding Jerusalem and its temple: “As for these things that you are beholding, the days will come in which not a stone upon a stone will be left here and not be thrown down. Furthermore, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near.”—Luke 21:6, 20.
Thirty-three years later, the Roman army, under Cestius Gallus, attacked Jerusalem and was at the point of victory. Inexplicably, however, General Gallus ordered his troops to retreat. As a consequence, some of the Jews must have thought that their sacred city would not suffer destruction. But such a thought was short-lived. Four years later, the Roman armies under Titus came back and destroyed Jerusalem and its temple.
Thus Jesus’ prophecy came true right down to fine detail. As G. A. Williamson said in his introduction to Josephus’ The Jewish War: “Had we no other sources of information than the gospels we should be tempted to suspect that the warnings of Jesus were couched in hyperbolical [exaggerated] language . . . Was it possible that of that mighty Temple not one stone should be left upon another, that should not be cast down? It was indeed possible; it is historical fact. The destruction was utter and complete . . . The whole tragic story had been foretold with startling accuracy.”
Just as Jesus’ prophecies regarding Jerusalem were fulfilled within the life span of the generation of the year 33 C.E., so his prophecies regarding “the time of the end” will be fulfilled within the life span of the generation of 1914. (Daniel 12:4) This means that marvelous prospects lie before not only that generation but all those living today. Why? Because Jesus also said regarding the significant events affecting that generation: “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.”—Luke 21:28, 31.
The nearness of God’s Kingdom today spells the end of the present divisive political, religious and commercial systems. It means the ushering in of a righteous new government for all obedient mankind. You can choose everlasting life under this arrangement of “new heavens and a new earth.” (2 Peter 3:13; John 17:3) Yes, you may live to see this promised New Order, along with survivors of the generation of 1914—the generation that will not pass away.
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“One world had ended and another begun in August 1914”
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‘When they say “Peace and security!” sudden destruction will be upon them’
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You, along with survivors of the generation of 1914, may live to see a New Order