15, 16. To whom do the words “this generation” refer?
15 When, though, will God’s Kingdom finally come? Jesus did not reveal exactly when that would happen. (Matt. 24:36) But he did say something that should assure us that it is very near indeed. Jesus indicated that the Kingdom would come after “this generation” witnessed the fulfillment of the prophetic sign. (Read Matthew 24:32-34.) To whom does the expression “this generation” refer? Let us take a closer look at Jesus’ words.
16 “This generation.” Did Jesus have in mind unbelievers? No. Consider his audience. Jesus related this prophecy to a few apostles who had “approached him privately.” (Matt. 24:3) The apostles would soon be anointed with holy spirit. Note also the context. Before he spoke about “this generation,” Jesus said: “Now learn this illustration from the fig tree: Just as soon as its young branch grows tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near. Likewise also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near at the doors.” Jesus’ anointed followers—not unbelievers—would see the things he foretold and would discern their significance, namely, that Jesus “is near at the doors.” Therefore, when Jesus spoke of “this generation,” he had in mind his anointed followers.
17. What is the meaning of the expressions “generation” and “all these things”?
17 “Will by no means pass away until all these things happen.” How will those words prove true? To answer that, we need to know two things: the meaning both of “generation” and of “all these things.” The term “generation” often refers to people of varying ages whose lives overlap during a particular period of time. A generation is not overly long, and it comes to an end. (Ex. 1:6) The expression “all these things” includes all the foretold events during Jesus’ presence, from its beginning in 1914 until its culmination at the “great tribulation.”—Matt. 24:21.
18, 19. How may we understand Jesus’ words about “this generation,” and what may we conclude?
18 How, then, may we understand Jesus’ words about “this generation”? The generation consists of two overlapping groups of anointed ones—the first is made up of anointed ones who saw the beginning of the fulfillment of the sign in 1914 and the second, anointed ones who for a time were contemporaries of the first group. At least some of those in the second group will live to see the beginning of the coming tribulation. The two groups form one generation because their lives as anointed Christians overlapped for a time.*
19 What may we conclude? Well, we know that the sign of Jesus’ presence in Kingdom power is clearly evident around the globe. We also see that the anointed ones who are still alive and part of “this generation” are getting on in years; yet, they will not all die off before the great tribulation begins. Therefore, we can conclude that very soon indeed God’s Kingdom will come and exercise its rule over the earth! How thrilling it will be to witness the fulfillment of the prayer that Jesus taught us: “Let your Kingdom come”!