What Does Jesus Mean In Matthew 23 When He Says “This Generation”?

Today we want to consider the scribes and Pharisees as actually representing the entire nation of Jews who believes their teachings, and are led by their religious rulers on a slippery slide into Hell. The sins of the religious rulers are imitated and propagated by those who believe their false gospel. And thus, when the Lord Jesus refers to “This Generation” He actually does not point only to the religious rulers, but to the entire nation of Jews who follow them. Therefore I chose for the title of this sermon, “This Generation”. Let us now begin to read from Matthew 23:32-39,

“Wherefore, Behold” (Matthew 23:32-39)

Matthew 23:32
Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

Matthew 23:33
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

Matthew 23:34
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues and persecute them from city to city:

Matthew 23:35
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

Matthew 23:36
Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

Matthew 23:37
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Matthew 23:38
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

Matthew 23:39
For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

We want to begin with verse 34, which says, “Wherefore, behold”.

What is the wherefore therefore?

It indicates that the passage that follows ties into the previous two verses, which read, “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers”.

Fill ye up then the cup of the wrath of God upon yourselves, because He is visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him. And then the Lord Jesus calls them serpents, and a generation of vipers who are unable to escape the damnation of Hell. “Wherefore, behold”. Look and see what I have done and what you have done. I have sent to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes who have brought you the true Gospel, but you shall kill them, and crucify them, and scourge them in your synagogues, and you shall persecute them from city to city. And even though I have designed such persecution on my servants the prophets, even though I designed that their blood will be shed, woe unto those men by whom this iniquity is committed. Wherefore, behold, look and see what the nature is of my wrath that shall come upon you and your house. Look and see what I am going to do with this entire nation of Jews who are slavishly following the false teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. Look and see what I am going to do with this great city that you adore which is called Jerusalem. This is the content of the passage at hand. And so, let us consider:

Behold, I Send Unto You Prophets (Matthew 23:34, 10:16-17, Colossians 4:6, John 16:2)

Matthew 23:34
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

When God sends to us prophets and teachers, He sends them as wise men who are bringing the true Gospel, for they have been taught of God. But their wisdom does not come out of themselves, for it is God who gives them the words to speak, for all the glory of conversion must be to God’s honor and glory. But God is also bringing them as defenseless sheep, for God must receive the honor of being their Defender and their Avenger.

In Matthew 10:16 we read the instructions that the Lord gave to His 12 disciples when He sent them out two by two to evangelize the nation of Israel. This was just a practice run for the 12. But this is not just a piece of history. The Lord put these words in the Bible to give the church, or better to give us, instructions how to evangelize the world. We are sent into the world as wise men to teach people the true Gospel. We have that privilege, and we should humbly accept this task with gratitude, for it is a great honor to be sent by the Lord Jesus as His ambassador. This is not a burden, but a delightful assignment. We read in Matthew 10:16-17,

Matthew 10:16-17
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;

Beware, for we are sent as defenseless sheep in the midst of wolves. We must be wise as serpents in this task, which actually means that we must outwit Satan and his demons, who are those serpents. But instead of being harmful as serpents we must be harmless as doves. That we must not be harmful in our speech does not mean that we must avoid speaking about Hell.

Quite the opposite!

We must not be harmful by leaving out some essential ingredients of the Gospel, but we should not be afraid to present the whole counsel of God. Let us not be afraid to bring with us the salt of the Gospel, which represents the judgment of God on sin. Let us remember the words of Colossians 4:6, which says, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man”.

And let us remember that the prophet Jonah did not leave out God’s judgment on sin, and it pleased the Lord to save many through the hearing of that message. And so our message will be an offense to most people, for we do not aim to please men, who would like to hear that God loves them in spite of their sinful life, but we aim to please God by urging people to repent. This is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He preached like John the Baptist preached, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. That is why we read in John 16:2, “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whoso-ever killeth you will think that he doeth God service”.

Yes, this was the response to the messages of the Old Testament prophets, and we should not be surprised if we also meet with opposition from the Devil and all his messengers. The Devil and all his human messengers are in full agreement that the furtherance of the true Gospel must be stopped.

From where shall we experience this persecution?

Is it from the heathen outside the church?

NO!

If the heathen outside the church do not show an interest, they will simply turn a deaf ear. But we should expect persecution from within the church, or from other churches, for it is the worldwide church that is in favor of a watered down gospel, a gospel of good works and love from a god who smiles on all wicked mankind, a gospel that is pleasing to all denominations, a gospel that treats all denominations as brothers and sisters in Christ. And so, when we preach the true Gospel, and we deny that God loves everyone in the whole world, and we deny that Christ suffered and died for everyone in the whole world, we can expect the scorn of the worldwide church, and we can expect their efforts in this age of minimal bloodshed to silence us by any civilized means possible. For throughout the centuries persecution of the true prophets of the Lord has always come from within the church. For example, the prophet Jeremiah was not persecuted by the king of Babylon, but by his own countrymen. Thus, it is this apostate fraction of the church, which is a very large fraction, which is held accountable for persecution and death of the true prophets of the Lord. Only then can we understand the words of the Lord Jesus spoken in the next verse. Please turn again to Matthew 23:35. The Lord Jesus tells us there something very interesting. He speaks there of the blood of Abel, and the blood of all the righteous prophets.

All the Righteous Blood (Matthew 23:35, Numbers 35:33, Romans 8:3, Revelation 18:24, 12:1, Luke 11:51)

Matthew 23:35
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

The Lord Jesus blames the nation of the Jews of all the righteous blood that was shed upon the earth.

Why was this accusation right?

Well, the nation of the Jews was the church of those days. And it was the church who was responsible for shedding all the righteous people who have been killed. Even righteous Abel was killed by someone from his own church.

Do we realize that Cain and Abel were of the same church?

O Yes!

Cain and Abel were under the same instructions from their parents concerning the worship of God, and they were both verbally addressed by the same God. Abel represented the saved fraction of that church, and Cain represented the unsaved fraction of that church. Abel’s blood not only cried against Cain, but continues today to cry against all that walk in the way of Cain, and hate and persecute others in the church because their works are righteous.

Since man was created in the image of God, God jealously guards the blood of man, for his blood resembles the blood of Christ of which God is very jealous. Therefore, when man is violently killed, God requires that his killing be avenged. We read in:

Numbers 35:33
So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.

There are mainly two principles which God brings forth in this verse.

#1. When someone has been murdered, his blood defiles the earth, and God demands that this defilement be cleansed from off the earth.

#2. The only way the earth can be cleansed of the guilt of this murder, is by the execution of the murderer who committed this murder.

In Old Testament times it was the nearest kinsman of the victim who had the task to avenge the murder of his relative.

Can we see that in our country this law has not been obeyed for many years?

Murderers are set free after a few years in jail. Thus the land has been defiled for many years, and God will not leave this sin of the ruling authorities unpunished. However, we also have to see the spiritual side of this rule of law that God gave in Old Testament days.

The word “Kinsman” is identical to the word “Redeemer”. When God sent His only begotten Son into the world He made Him in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). This is how God made Him our nearest Kinsman, our Redeemer. And when the Devil spiritually murdered us in the Garden of Eden, for we all came into the world dead in trespasses and sins, Christ came as our Redeemer to take vengeance on Satan and all his hosts, including all of Satan’s messengers in human form. Christ will demand their blood, which is another way of saying that He will demand that they must endure the second death, which means to suffer the penalty of forever “dying thou shalt die”.

Historically, in the year 587 BC the Old Testament church was overrun by Babylon, because the Old Testament church had become apostate. The Old Testament church was swallowed up by Babylon. But then the church grew in Babylon and eventually the church was identified with Babylon. Something similar is occurring in New Testament time. The New Testament church is overrun by the Charismatic Movement, which, like Babylon, is a nation of tongue speakers whose tongue they do not understand. And in the process of time this apostacy leads God to compare the apostate church with Babylon. This is the situation God speaks about in Revelation 17 and 18. And then we read something very interesting in Revelation 18:24, where God says, “And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth”.

Can you see that this statement is very similar to what God says in Matthew 23:35?

God repeated this statement of Matthew 23:35 in Luke 11:51, where we read,

Luke 11:50
That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;

But since God used almost the same language of condemnation for the church in Jesus’ days as well as for the church in the end times, it proves that it is not only the New Testament church that is labeled Babylon, but the entire faithless church of both Old Testament and New Testament is Babylon the harlot, just as the whole church is “The Woman” in Revelation 12:1.

All the righteous blood that was shed is required of this woman, the church, and Christ is going to be the executioner of the guilty. Then as we continue to read in verse 36, Christ says:

“Verily I Say Unto You” (Matthew 23:34-36)

The Lord Jesus is saying unto the entire nation of the Jews in Matthew 23:36,

Matthew 23:36
Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

“All these things”, refers to all these sins listed in verse 34, and all these curses listed in verse 35, shall come upon this generation. The Lord assures us this by the expression that He has used so often: “Verily, verily, I say unto you”; truly, truly, I say unto you; most assuredly I say unto you; most certainly I say unto you that all these sins and all these curses shall come upon this generation.

Is He speaking about the generation of Jews in His days?

Certainly the Lord imputes the sin of their fathers to them, because they imitated it.

Was God waiting because “the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full”?

That is possible, but it is not very likely that this is the meaning of the certainty that the Lord Jesus speaks about.

What is the meaning of “all these things”?

#1. It refers to all these sins listed in verse 34. But all these sins were not committed in the timeframe of one generation. Part of verse 34 is in the future tense. Some of them they shall kill. This could possibly refer to the persecution headed by Saul of Tarsus. But some of them they shall crucify, and we do not read of these crucifixions anywhere in the Bible. Some of them they shall scourge in their synagogues. This could again refer to the persecution headed by Saul of Tarsus. But some of them they shall persecute from city to city. The only one of whom we read that this was done to him was the apostle Paul. Thus we are drawn to believe that this particular generation did not commit all these sins that are listed in verse 34.

#2. All these things refers to all the judgments that will come upon “this generation” for all the righteous blood that was shed upon the earth. We know that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. But this fact is not even recorded in the Bible.

And could the destruction of Jerusalem be the penalty for committing all these murders?

NO!

For the penalty must fit the crime, and the destruction of Jerusalem was far too lenient a penalty for the murders that were imputed to them. We need to understand that physical death, or physical destruction of a city, or physical destruction of a nation, is a far lesser penalty than eternal damnation in Hell. And the penalty for all these murders was certainly damnation in Hell for the majority of them, except for the remnant chosen by grace. But this sentence has not been carried out yet. From Revelation 20 we understand that the Lake of Fire will be populated only after all the unsaved have been arraigned and all their sins have been declared to them, even sins as small as uttering an idle word. Our God is a righteous God, who will not cast anyone into Hell before they have been sentenced.

#3. Since God uses almost the same language of condemnation in Matthew 23:35 and in Revelation 18:24, addressing both the Old Testament church and the New Testament church, we are drawn to believe that the sentence of Matthew 23:35-36 is still in progress. And so, we see that both verse 34 and verse 35 in Matthew 23 are still in progress. God is showing us that the expression “this generation” does not represent one generation, but must be understood differently. Now when we search the Bible we find the expression, “this generation” exactly 20 times in 19 verses. We do not have time to go through all 19 references today. But it is remarkable that all 19 verses point to a coherent understanding of the expression “this generation” that cannot be missed. Let us now look at:

“This Generation” (Genesis 7:1, Psalm 95:10, Matthew 12:41-42, 23:36, 24:34, Luke 11:30, 50-51, 17:25)

Let us now turn our attention to Genesis 7:1. We have here the story of Noah and all those who went with Noah into the ark that he and his sons built. God called Noah righteous, for Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. And when 120 years were past for the building of the ark, God commanded Noah to come into the ark, for the time was at hand that God would send a flood that would cover the whole earth. And then we read in Genesis 7:1,

Genesis 7:1
And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.

What was the reason why God was destroying all mankind with a flood?

Genesis 6:5 says that God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth. And so, what then is the meaning of the words “this generation”? It means “this evil generation”. Noah was called righteous, but all the rest of the known world was populated with wicked people.
We will now turn now to the Psalms, Psalm 95:10. The second half of this Psalm is quoted in Hebrews 3. We remember this chapter in Hebrews, for it deals with the stubborn hardening of the hearts of the children of Israel. God ends this Psalm with the words, “Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest”. Together with Hebrews 3 we understand that they were condemned, because they remained in unbelief. We read in Psalm 95:10,

Psalm 95:10
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:

What do we find is the meaning of the words, “this generation”?

It means “this evil generation”. Save for a few people of this generation, like Moses and Joshua and Caleb, God calls the majority of this generation an evil generation; a wicked generation.

Now we shall turn to the Gospel According to Matthew, Matthew 12:41, and we have here a passage where the scribes and Pharisees are asking Jesus to perform a sign, so that they can believe that He is the promised Messiah. But the Lord’s answer was that only an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to them. The Lord plainly told them that they were an evil and adulterous generation. Then the Lord says in Matthew 12:41-42,

Matthew 12:41
The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Matthew 12:42
The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

Two times does the Lord condemn this generation, because they did not believe the preaching of the Lord Jesus. But not only did the generation of Jews at the time of Jesus not believe the true Gospel. All the generations that came after them also did not believe the Gospel as described on the pages of the New Testament.

Therefore, what do we find is the meaning of the words “this generation” in this chapter?

It plainly means “this evil generation of Jews”.
We have already seen the evidence that the words “this generation” do not apply to a single generation of Jews, but to many generations of Jews who will commit the sins of verse 34. We read in:

Matthew 23:36
Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

What is the meaning here of the words, “this generation”?

It plainly means “this evil generation of Jews”.

Except for a remnant chosen by grace they are an evil and adulterous generation that stubbornly refuses to believe the prophets and wise men that God sends to them. In Matthew 24 the Lord Jesus was giving prophecies concerning the end of time, which is also known as the Olivet Discourse. And then He says in Matthew 24:34,

Matthew 24:34
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Now here we can clearly see that the words, “this generation” do not refer to one single generation, for since the Lord spoke the words of this passage many generations have passed.

What do we find the words, “this generation” means?

It means “this evil generation of Jews”. Now, this conclusion is of great importance in determining the correct eschatology, for here the Lord Jesus says that the nation of evil unbelieving Jews shall continue until the end of time. There will not be a Jewish age where all the blood descendants of Jacob shall repent and turn to Christ. It shall not come to pass, for we read in John 1:13, “Not of blood”. Those that are to be born from above are not chosen because they are of the right bloodline, for God is not a respecter of persons.

The Lord Jesus was not speaking to the scribes and Pharisees in particular. When the people were gathered together “He began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet”. He called the people He was preaching to an evil generation.

Who were those people?

They were primarily Jews who wanted to hear Him. We read in Luke 11:30,

Luke 11:30
For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.

How do we understand the words “this generation”?

We should read this as “this evil generation of Jews”. Even unto the present day this evil generation of Jews shall not believe, for they are an evil and adulterous generation that seeks for signs. Please drop down to verse 50 in this chapter. There we read

Luke 11:50-51
That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

How should we understand the words “this generation”? We should read this as “this evil generation of Jews” which continues until the present time, for they are the representatives of the Old Testament church.

In Luke 17:25 the Lord Jesus speaks here about end time events. But then He calms their fears. Paraphrased He says, “Those days are not upon us yet, for first must the Son of man be crucified”. We read in Luke 17:25,

Luke 17:25
But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

How do we understand the words “this generation”?

We should read this as “this evil generation of Jews”. Christ must first suffer many things and be rejected of this evil generation of Jews, and be crucified. Only then shall we watch for end time events. And so we have seen in 10 examples of the words “this generation” that, except in the case of Noah, it means “this evil generation of Jews”. If you search for the other 10 cases where the combination “this generation” occurs, you will see that the meaning is always, “this evil generation of Jews”. But let us be clear about one thing: The entire human race can be called “this evil generation”, for this evil nature is not reserved for the Jews only. We all came into the world as messengers of Satan, and we all were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. So, let us not look down our noses to the Jews, for we too before our salvation belonged to that evil generation. It is only by God’s grace that He took some of us out of that predicament of being on a slippery slide into Hell. He saved us by His grace, through the cross of Christ, not by our act of believing, but by giving us the faith to believe the whole Bible.

In Genesis it can appear as if God was concerned only with the physical descendants of Abraham. But it was God’s plan all along to evangelize the whole world, not just a focus on the nation of Israel. And the gospel according to Matthew is very helpful in making it abundantly clear that God’s emphasis is on the remnant chosen by grace out of all the nations of the world, and not just out of Israel. In fact, it is clear that in the New Testament time God is done with the nation of Israel as a special nation before Him. Let us now continue with Matthew 23:37.

How Often Would I Have Gathered You (Matthew 23:37, 20:16, 22:14, John 6:44, Hebrews 2:2)

Matthew 23:37
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

What are we seeing here?

What picture of God do we get from this verse?

Is He a God who would like to save these people in Jerusalem, but He was not able, because they would not want to listen to the prophets?

Is God not able to do something that He wants to do?

Does this look at all like the God whom we serve?

How does God save people?

Does God wait until we listen to the prophets and then He saves us?

Does God not save through election?

And indeed, the Bible says in many places that the Father draws to Jesus those whom He chose to save. We must always remember the words of John 6:44, “No man CAN come to me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him”.

How then are we to understand the words of Matthew 23:37?

Let us now look at this verse from another angle. The Lord Jesus said, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not”. Let us look at this verse from the point of view of “how often?”

Does God address the whole human race with the Gospel of salvation?

Indeed, God does that, for we read both in Matthew 20:16 and in Matthew 22:14, “Many are called, but few are chosen”. The Gospel call goes out into all the world. To all the people of the world the Lord says, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, but ye would not”.

In fact, there is no one in the whole wide world who would like to come to the Lord Jesus, No Not One. This is the truth that God declares in the Bible. The only reason someone would want to come to the Lord Jesus is because the Father draws him. Our God is sovereign, and our God is not a servant of men. Our God saves whom He will, and the names of the people He intends to save have been selected by the Father and have already been inscribed into the mind of the Second Person of the Triune God before the foundation of the world.

The Father chose a Bride for His Son; what is so bad about that?

And the Son volunteered to cleanse His Bride before He would take her into God’s holy heaven. This He did on the cross of Calvary. To this end God the Holy Spirit made all the arrangements before this event and after. And thus, God has an active part in the lives of all people in the world. But people sin voluntarily. And thus, when we read in Matthew 23:37, “and ye would not” it tells us that people in their arrogant attitude toward God and toward His future judgment have voluntarily chosen to ignore the God of the Bible.

What is the price people pay when they are turning down God’s call to salvation?

They are willingly ignorant of the fact that God has written in Hebrews 2:3, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation”. They shall not escape, for they have sinned voluntarily.

“Behold, Your House Is Made Desolate” (Matthew 23:38-39, Romans 11:25)

Matthew 23:38-39
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Behold, look and see, if you have eyes you can observe it; “your house is left unto you desolate”. To all the unsaved paraphrased the Lord says, “Look and see, your spiritual house is left unto you desolate. Your spiritual life is in ruins. Your desire for the Lord who made you is less and less every day. Your desire for worldly things is growing greater every day. And what shall become of you in your old age when all this material wealth shall be taken away?” And to the nation of the Jews paraphrased the Lord says, “Look and see, your spiritual house is left unto you desolate.Your city Jerusalem has been destroyed, the countryside has been made a waste, your people have been scattered over all the nations of the world, but you have still not returned unto Me. What else can I show that your house is left unto you desolate? And how long shall this desolate condition prevail? Paraphrased God says in Rom 11:25, “until the end of time”. We read in Romans 11:25,

Romans 11:25
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

Until the fullness of the Gentiles have come in does not mean that every Gentile will be saved, but that everyone of the remnant from the Gentiles has been saved.

And when will that be?

It will be when the Last Day has arrived, for when the last of the elect will have been saved, then shall the end come. When this Gospel will have been preached into all the nations of the world, and when a remnant of both Jews and Gentiles shall have been drawn to hear and believe the Gospel, then shall the end come. And what a glorious day that will be when we see Jesus on the clouds of glory, and we shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and we shall be joined to Him in our new glorified body. It is then that we shall say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”.

AMEN.

By Alfred Chompff

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