Saturday, September 7, 2013

Interesting tidbit - 19

Q:  What exactly does our Lord mean when He uses the word "generation" in Matthew 23:36 and Luke 11:51?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation (Matt 23:29-36).
Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation (Lk 11:47-51).

A:  The word "generation" can have many different meanings.  Its most common meaning refers to those who are born to their parents, of natural lineage, or descendants.  For example, the natural lineage of Jesus Christ is given in Matthew 1:1-17.  He was born from this traceable line of descendants.

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matt 1:1)

In this context the natural lineage is the meaning of the word "generation."  When Jesus Christ spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 and Luke 11, He was speaking to a diverse group of Pharisees. They were not all from the same natural lineage.  Many of them were from different parents. This being the case, the most common definition of the word "generation" does not fit in this context.

Sometimes the word "generation" refers to a group of people who live at the same time, such as the "baby boomer" generation. This meaning cannot apply because God's judgment did not fall on the Pharisees that were in His immediate presence when he talked of "this generation." The Pharisees who were there died without experiencing this judgment.

There is another meaning to the word "generation" which helps us understand how the Lord used it in Matthew 23 and Luke 11. Here the word refers to those who belong to a certain group, who are similar in thought and belief, those who are related by way of actions or faith.

God uses the word "generation" in this way many times in Scripture. For example, He has a "generation" of men of faith, men who have been declared righteous.  All who are in this generation are related one to another because God has declared them righteous. This generation of the righteous is ongoing and added to daily, as men come to Jesus Christ through faith. This generation spans all of time and is not natural but spiritual.

There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous (Ps 14:5).

Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob (Ps 24:6).

His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed (Ps 112:2).

Jesus Christ used this meaning of the word "generation" when He spoke with the Pharisees. During His conversation, Christ talked about all those who make up the generation of Pharisees beginning with Cain, and not just those in his immediate presence. Christ has the whole spiritual lineage in view, all the Pharisees, from the first to the last. This evil generation is described in Proverbs:

There is a generation that curses its father,
And does not bless its mother.
There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes,
Yet is not washed from its filthiness.
There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes!
And their eyelids are lifted up.

There is a generation whose teeth are like swords,
And whose fangs are like knives,
To devour the poor from off the earth,
And the needy from among men (Prov 30:11-14).

It is rebellious and murderous, filled with those who are self-righteous, and puffed up with their own goodness. The description of this generation matches the description of the Pharisees by the Lord Jesus Christ.  This generation is spiritual and continues to grow even through our day.