Questions From Readers
Could it be said that the recently updated understanding of the word “generation” at Matthew 24:34 allows for the idea that the end of the system of things could be delayed into the distant future?
That is certainly not the case. On the contrary, the recent improved understanding of this matter should help us to keep in constant expectation of the end. How so?
Well, as The Watchtower of November 1, 1995, explained, Jesus applied the phrase “this generation” to contemporary wicked people. (Matthew 11:7, 16-19; 12:39, 45; 17:14-17; Acts 2:5, 6, 14, 40) It was not, as such, a description of a fixed length of time beginning with a specific date.
In fact, “Questions From Readers” in that same issue of The Watchtower focused on two key points: “A generation of people cannot be viewed as a period having a fixed number of years” and, “The people of a generation live for a relatively brief period.”
We often use “generation” in this way. For example, we might say, ‘The soldiers of Napoléon’s generation knew nothing about airplanes and atom bombs.’ Would we be referring just to soldiers who were born in the very same year as Napoléon was? Would we be referring merely to those French soldiers who died before Napoléon did? Of course not; nor would we by such a use of “generation” be trying to fix a set number of years. We would, though, be referring to a relatively short period, not hundreds of years from Napoléon’s time into the future.
It is similar with our understanding of what Jesus said in his prophecy given on the Mount of Olives. The fulfillment of the different features of that prophecy proves that the end of this system is close. (Matthew 24:32, 33) Remember that according to Revelation 12:9, 10, with the establishment of God’s heavenly Kingdom in 1914, Satan was cast down to the vicinity of the earth. Revelation adds that Satan now has great anger. Why? Because he knows “he has a short period of time.”—Revelation 12:12.
It was thus appropriate that The Watchtower of November 1 carried the subheading “Keep on the Watch!” The following paragraph aptly said: “We do not need to know the exact timing of events. Rather, our focus must be on being watchful, cultivating strong faith, and keeping busy in Jehovah’s service—not on calculating a date.” Then it quoted Jesus’ words: “Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is. But what I say to you I say to all, Keep on the watch.”—Mark 13:33, 37.