Here we go again. If Hal Lindsey, Edgar Whisenant, and Harold Camping were not enough to teach the lesson that making predictions is pure folly, there’s a newcomer who claims that Jesus will return “sometime between 2018 and 2028, or 70 to 80 years after 1948,” the year Israel was re-established as a nation.
Hal Lindsey made a similar prediction in his 1970 blockbuster The Late Great Planet Earth by predicting that Jesus would return within 40 years of 1948.
“Now, World Bible Society President F. Kenton ‘Doc’ Beshore argues Lindsey’s interpretation of the passage was correct, but he was wrong about the length of a biblical generation.” The passage that Lindsey and Beshore use to make their calculations is found in Matthew 24:34: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
The generation that Jesus was referring to was the generation of His own day not some distant future generation. You can see how “this generation” is used elsewhere by Jesus in the gospels (Matt. 11:16; 12:41, 45; 23:36; Mark 8:12 (twice), 38; 13:30; Luke 7:31; 11:29, 30, 31, 32, 50, 51, 17:25; 21:32). The Greek word genea does not mean “race” (genos) (as in the “Jewish race”). Jesus was predicting what was going to happen to that existing generation symbolized by the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2). Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 when the Roman armies sacked the city of Jerusalem, burned the temple, and exiled what was left of the Jewish nation living in Jerusalem.
In addition to redefining the meaning of “this generation” by making it a distant future generation, “Beshore says a biblical generation is actually 70–80 years, basing this on Psalm 90:10: ‘The days of our life are 70 years; and if by reason of strength they are 80 years.’” This would mean that the Second Coming would “occur sometime between 2018 and 2028, or 70 to 80 years after 1948.”
A study of the Bible shows that a generation is more or less 40 years. This can be calculated by the 42 generations listed by Matthew in the first chapter of his gospel (Matt 1:17). The genealogy begins with Abraham who lived around the year 1950 BC. This gives us a generation of around 46 years (1950 ÷ 42 = 46.428 years). Let’s round it off at 46 years: 1948 + 46 = 1994.
In addition, there are passages that indicate that a generation is rounded to a 40-year period. For example, “So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the Lord was destroyed” (Num. 32:13). There are additional passages that teach a similar 40-year generational length (14:33–34; Heb. 3:10; Ps. 95:10; Acts 7:36; 13:18).
What about the fig tree reference? While there are people who believe that the fig tree represents Israel, nothing is said about it in the context of Matthew 24. The parallel passage in Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse says “the fig tree and all the trees” (Luke 21:29).
Mark Hitchcock, pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Okla., and author of 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World and The Late Great United States, takes issue with the often used argument that the fig tree in Matthew 24:32 describes the reinstitution of the nation of Israel, a point he makes in his book The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy. In an interview about Mr. Beshore’s interpretation, Hitchcock states, “It just says the fig tree will blossom and this generation won’t pass away until all those things are fulfilled.”1
Like so many before him, Dr. Beshore is incorrect in his analysis of what Jesus is saying in Matthew 24:32. Of course, he’s not the first. There is a long history of false prophecy.
Why is this topic important for what’s going on politically? There are too many Christians who believe that nothing can be fixed this side of the Second Coming. It’s one of the reasons millions of Christians are disengaged when it comes to politics.
- Troy Anderson, “Bible Scholar Predicts New Date of Christ’s Second Coming,” Charisma News (December 6, 2012). [↩]