Stanley D. Touusaint discusses the four major views of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25. The first view is called the critical interpretation. This view does not even believe that Jesus taught this sermon but rather the early church produced the Olivet Discourse. This is a liberal view with no regard for inspiration.
Another view is the age-long fulfillment view which sees the prophecy as fulfilled through the inter-advent period. This is an amellinnial view.
Then there is premillennial posttribulationalism held to by men like Payne, Ladd, Wayne Grudem and dispensationalists Robert Gundry. But the view of our concern is what Touusaint calls the past fulfillment view which sees Matthew 24 already fulfilled in A.D. 79
The past fulfillment view is the view of postmillinnialists J. Marcellus Kik. Important to Kik’s partial preterism is Matthew 24:34 about which he writes: “If the literal and well-defined meaning of this verse is accepted, it will be seen that this verse divides the chapter into two sections. Section One speaks of events which were to occur to the generation living at the time that Christ spoke these words. Section Two speaks of events to occur at the Second Coming of the Lord. Verse 34 is the division point of the two sections” (Matthew Twenty-four, An Exposition, page 9).
About Matthew 24:34, Thomas Ice writes, “The Bible verse most widely used by preterists in their attempt to establish their thesis concerning Bible prophecy is Matthew 24:34” (The End Time Controversy, page 90).
Partial preterists Gary DeMar draws attention to the single word in Matthew 24:34 that preterists must misinterpret to support their view. “Every time ‘this generation’ is used in the New Testament, it means, without exception, the generation to whom Jesus was speaking” (End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology, page 68).
Is this statement by DeMar biblically accurate? It is not! For example, the generation referred to in Hebrews 3:10 was the generation in the wilderness wanderings: “Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their hearts; and they have not known my ways.” The context of each use of “generation” must determine if the generation is contemporary or not. The context of “generation” in Hebrew 3:10 obviously is not contemporary.
Christ in Matthew 24:34 said the generation that sees all of the signs of 24:4-31 will not pass away. Did the generation of Christ’s day see fulfilled all of the signs predicted in A.D. 70 as the preterists insist? Did they see Matthew 24:29 fulfilled? Matthew 24:29 says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” Did Jesus’ generation see these signs? Not literally and that is the reason for allegorizing of J. Marcellus Kik and R. C. Sproul.
To hold to the preterist’s view that every sign given by Christ that preceded Matthew 24:34 was fulfilled in A.D.70 takes serious allegorizing. Kik’s interpretation of Matthew 24:29 is an example. “If the sun, moon, and stars refer to the Jewish nation and its prerogatives, then we have seen the fulfillment of this prophecy. The Jewish nation has been darkened and no longer shines for God. This has been true ever since the tribulation of those days….The Sun of Judaism has been darkened; as the moon it no longer reflects the Light of God; bright stars, as were the prophets, no longer shine in the Israel of the flesh” (Matthew Twenty-four, An Exposition, page 9).
Are these cosmic disturbances to be interpreted literally or must they be spiritualized? Were signs given in the Bible to be literally interpreted? The answer is found in Genesis 1:14 when God informed us as to why He created the sun, moon, and stars. “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” At least one of the purposes of the stellar heavens is for signs. Therefore, the signs in Matthew 24:29 must be interpreted literally and did not happen in A.D. 70.
If there was a literal darkness at the death of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 27:45 for three hours why can not there be a literal darkness at his second coming according to Matthew 24:29?
The preterists say that “all these things” in Matthew 24:29 “refer to the non-bodily, non-personal coming of Christ through the Roman army in the first century” (The End Time Controversy, page 94). The prophecy of Christ in Matthew 24:29-31 and its parallel in Luke 21:25-28 is that at the Second Coming of Christ Israel, would be rescued from the horrors of the antichrist. Christ in Luke 21:28 said, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws nigh.”
The preterists say these verses were fulfilled in A.D. 70. When was the nation of Israel rescued in A.D. 70? According the Josephus, the Jewish historian, Israel was not rescued; Israel was massacred. Josephus says that 1.1 million Jews were killed and 97,000 were taken captive during the destruction of Jerusalem.
Both Toussaint and Walvoord in their commentaries give the divergent views concerning the meaning of “generation” in Matthew 24:29. Both refer to the view that says Christ was in error when he made this statement because the present generation did not live to see the signs fulfilled. This was the view of M’Neile. This view attacks and denies the sinlessness of Christ.
“Generation” means the Jewish People in the Tribulation
Both mention the view that “generation” has the Jewish people of Israel in mind. This is the view of Arno C. Gaebelein. According to this view the nation of Israel will live to see the Second Coming of Christ when they see the signs of Matthew 24:4-31. Even though antichrist will seek to exterminate the nation of Israel, they will survive to see Christ’s return. “This is a legitimate interpretation since genea can mean ‘race, stock, or lineage’ (Toussaint, Behold the King, page 279).
“Generation” means the generation living at the Second Coming
Walvoord gives his preference for the view that takes “generation” in its normal sense of meaning a “period of thirty to one hundred years, and refers to the particular generation that will see the specific signs, that is, the signs of the great. In other words, the same generation that will experience the great tribulation will also witness the second coming of Christ” (Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come, page 193).
This is the view preferred by Toussaint also over the Jewish interpretation. “Although it is true that the Jewish race will continue until the end, the context does not support this view as well as the other. These words were spoken with the word ‘near’ in view (verse thirty-two). When the tree is tender and it puts forth leaves, then the summer is known to be near. Thus the first sign of the Son of Man’s coming indicate its proximity. It is so close that the generation that is alive when the first sign appears will live to see the coming of Christ” (pages 279-280).