Was Jesus wrong in Matthew 24:34? One of the many pieces of evidence that shows Jesus is divine is He correctly predicting future events, such as the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem. If Jesus was in fact God, then he would naturally share the attributes of God.
One of the key attributes of God is His omniscience, the ability to know all that was is or ever will occur. If this is true, then Jesus should not make any errors about future predictions. How then can we explain the alleged error made by Jesus in Matthew 24:34?
Jesus has just made several statements about His second coming. He winds up the rather lengthy list of signs by making a prediction. Let’s look at the passage in question:
34 Assuredly, I say to you, jthis generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 kHeaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. Matthew 24:34–35 (NKJV)
How Do We Interpret This?
This seems like a straightforward statement. And the Disciples clearly believed that Jesus would return in their lifetime and that all the events he listed would also occur. It was only after they began to be martyred and die that they started writing the New Testament documents to ensure the message of Jesus would be preserved. So how did everyone get this so wrong?
Jesus is mentioning several things that will occur in the future. One of which is the destruction of the Temple. He also predicted that the Disciples would be taken before rulers and questioned and killed. All these things clearly happened within the “Lifetime” of those listening. Again, Jesus uses the term “Generation” to describe the crowd. So, the prediction was not to occur within a certain individual’s lifetime, but that of a Generation, which easily encompasses the timeframe of those events.
There Is More, Right?
But this does not account for all the predictions listed. It’s clear that Jesus did not return within that generation. And many of the signs he listed did not occur for the original Disciples. So, was Jesus wrong with His prediction?
I think we can safely say that this list needs to be split into two parts. The parts that were fulfilled within the life of the Disciples, and those that were not. The disciples had an expectation that was not met. So, it seems there are two separate sets of events being discussed here. The events surrounding the destruction of the temple, and those around the second coming of Jesus.
It’s easy to see why Jesus would speak of these events in the same breath. The destruction of Jerusalem and slaughter of the inhabitants of the city by the Romans would have seemed like an apocalyptic event. It was an allusion to the true horror that will proceed with the return of the Son of Man.
j [Matt. 10:23; 16:28; 23:36]
k Ps. 102:25, 26; Is. 51:6; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; [1 Pet. 1:23–25; 2 Pet. 3:10]