Unique Mysteries of Christian Faith: Birth of a Savior


by Laurence Edward Schell

The Christian faith began with a story that has no parallel in any other religion: the story of the birth of a Savior.

As the story goes, Light, coming into the world, confronted darkness, and just as quickly darkness vanished. The Light did not come from the darkness, nor was it of the world; but the One true Light came from the One Creator God.

In this story are animals. And there come a woman and a man. And appear angels, then shepherds and wise men. Opposites. People and beasts; husband and wife; heaven and earth; simple and wise: all gather in the essential place and moment and become signs. And of what are they signs? Of a gathering of extremes—of enemies, of lovers, of all things and all creation gathering safe and unharmed in Christ.

And there blazed a star. There was need of a star; for something had to signify that light poured into the world from somewhere beyond.

But the baffling part, which set this story apart from other stories, was this: the Light, when He came into the world, came as a baby. No one could have imagined such a twist. And so this parable, populated with familiar characters, helped people understand what they could while holding in awe what they could not. For this parable was unlike any parable, this mystery alive. And the actors were real.

A baby in that time was the most familiar and beloved of characters. People welcomed babies. They held them; they handled them. They contemplated the miracle. The personage of a baby was no mere choice. Good people celebrated life. And babies were greeted with gifts. A newborn baby represented life better than anything. How natural, then, that the story used a baby coming into the world to represent life and Light coming into darkness.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

—John 1:4-5,9-10

The sad part of the story is this: knowledge of the Light is for those to whom it is revealed. Except for a few shepherds and wise men, people did not know the Light or where He was from. Their hearts were hardened.

For He was a mystery. Beyond comprehension was the riddle of how the One God, placing His Divinity in a baby, remained the One God. Yet Scripture backs not away from the difficulty: “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

In other ancient religions, gods begot gods; and sometimes men left behind their humble origins and became gods too. But what’s unique about this story is that the Light, coming as He did from a Divine origin, became human: a baby, no less. For pagans the question was: Why? Why would a god become human? There was no problem with a grown man becoming a god.

But a baby? From the beginning? Being Light? That was a story never told… until this story was told.


The Ten Commandments: A Baseline Commitment

Imagine a future in which it is necessary for most counties in the United States to post the Ten Commandments at the county line right under the sign with the county’s name.

WHEN ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF GENERAL GEORGE CASEY expressed fear that diversity in the military would suffer in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting, the public was rightly outraged. It was perfectly obvious that military officials, to avoid appearing to descriminate, had placed diversity above the safety of soldiers.

That a terrorist got inside the gates of a military base and killed illustrates how the false morality of secular society has caused our officials to ignore true morality, which protects people. In the guise of secular values like diversity and separation of Church and state, false morality is a danger not only to our nation, but to local areas as well.

A time may come when Americans no longer can afford such luxuries, when times are too dangerous to trust anyone who does not first submit to a baseline of biblical morality. Civil war has been fought in this country before and could be again. Or chaos may result from a catastrophe.

The answer to public disorders is not giving an amoral government power to declare martial law. Rather, it is to allow an armed and moral citizenry and their local law enforcement officials to defend themselves against violators of public morality and law.

Allow me to pose a hypothetical suggestion here that may seem out of place in modern America. The reason it is out of place is that we have not yet seen circumstances that demand it. But it will not be out of place in a more dangerous and chaotic future.

Some day people living in an area might need to inform people coming in of the need to follow certain basic conduct. Speaking especially of a society with roots in Judeo-Christian culture, I know of no better standard of generally agreed upon conduct than the Ten Commandments.

The Law of Moses commanded the Israelites to write the commandments upon their door posts and gates. Similarly, in a society that must depend on the goodness of its people for the maintenance of  peace, it will promote the public good to write the Ten Commandments at the gateways of our territories and communities. This is as much as to say, if you come here, commit to keeping these rules, or be regarded as a criminal.

However one interprets the first amendment of the Constitution, it’s certainly undeniable that, in America’s beginnings, public displays of the Ten Commandments would not have been prohibited, but encouraged. In fact, in our early history, Puritan laws were based on the Law of Moses, and they often cited it verbatim. God’s Law was certainly an important part of American history and law, and as long as it was, it promoted the public welfare and security. But the modern move to a secular society has led to a loss of public morality.

Posting the commandments at the gateways to our communities would as much as say, when you enter our community, you enter into a covenant with the people to conduct yourself in a given way. There is a baseline of morality here. The Ten Commandments at the county line would say in effect, “Thieves, adulterers, murderers, and worshipers of false gods are not welcome here.” If this was backed up with a commitment to arrest and prosecute violators, people would be safer in times of crisis and chaos.

In our lifetime, we have never been in a position to have to defend our communities. That is not to say that this will always be the case.

In dangerous times, people have to live in covenant with one another on a local and area level, or it is impossible to trust anyone. Apart from this baseline commitment, everyone is a potential enemy.

Times of peace and prosperity enable human beings to insist on such luxuries as “a high wall of separation between Church and State” and diversity. These secular values don’t help people survive in times when we all need to be able to trust our neighbors. Secular values must inevitably give way in times of great danger, because people have a need to live with each other in a covenant and to trust in God. A covenant surrounding the Ten Commandments would necessarily be religious. And these ten laws would ultimately be based on a belief in the one true God of the Bible. Only the worship of the Judeo-Christian God, therefore, would do. And only those who live by His baseline morality would be regarded as safe people to have around.

The secular alternative to this is simply a fantasy. It is impossible that secularists would agree on morality, and we cannot hope to maintain public order through troubled times without a moral baseline. Nor can we fail to inherit a violent world, if we reject “thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery”.

The Judeo-Christian God has given us a moral baseline. This is fodder for skeptics and scoffers until the time when it will be needed. And then no one will be able to deny its effectiveness for promoting public order.

Secularism has thrown open a door to Islam, the practice of which ought to be forbidden in every corner of America, along with any religion that promotes murder as Islam does. The false god of Islam commands his adherents to commit acts of terror. If we therefore reject the God of the Bible while allowing the worship of the false god of Islam, we are rejecting the source of our security. We cannot hope to have peace while worshiping a false deity. It is not as though simply any god may do. Worshiping the one true God is an act of patriotism and self-preservation.

In times of trouble, diversity must be set aside for the good of the people and of the covenant they live by. Those who wish to protect diversity at the expense of covenant will eventually be guilty of creating a society favorable not only to murderers and thieves, but terrorists as well. Indeed, we have this problem in the United States already, where leaders sometimes sacrifice homeland security for diversity.

Instead we must protect the Ten Commandments against making diversity a higher priority; and then we will have safety.

The Effect of Illegal Immigration and Amnesty On Rural Employment

As the US government has enabled illegal aliens to remain in this country and work, White Americans have swelled the ranks of the unemployed and become consumers of entitlements.

OUR FRUITFUL AGRICULTURAL VALLEY IN Eastern Washington got a bus line—more like 16-passenger vans—a few years ago. The line was funded by a voter-approved sales tax increase and matching grants from the state.

At first, the buses were never full, and sometimes mostly empty. Individuals complained and questioned the need of a bus line. But that changed after the economic meltdown of 2008. And lately most mornings somebody is standing, or sitting on the hard back floor, where the wheelchair lift is, as the bus barrels down the highway at 60 mph. There is talk among the passengers of the need for a bigger bus, another sort of entitlement, but no such talk from the bus line’s employees.

What’s interesting to note is that almost 100 percent of the riders are White Americans. An occasional Mexican rides. They are everywhere in this county. But usually a disabled old Mexican and a young girl who works 23 miles down the valley at McD’s are the only ones riding. Most Mexicans drive, because they have cars, some, very nice ones, and they have jobs. The rest of the riders are Whites, and a few Blacks, who were born in America. And almost all are on public assistance.

When I first came to this valley in 1980, a lot of the Whites worked in the fruit orchards, which gave them a low income for six to nine months out of the year. The work used to be done by fruit tramps—some called them winos—and it’s true that many of them did drink, but they also worked for a living and paid for their lifestyle out of their own pockets, not from a monthly government check. In the 70s, the hippies came in and bought cheap land in the hills. They were mostly lazy orchard workers, and the farmers didn’t like them. But in the late 70s, farmers began importing illegal aliens to harvest their crops and prune their trees.

The farmers claimed that the Mexicans were willing to do work that Whites didn’t want, but that was a bit of a distortion. The truth was: prices for their crops had fallen, and they were going into increasing debt, so farmers had no choice but to suppress the wages. Illegal aliens were less trouble than Whites, because they didn’t complain if they knew they were getting a bad deal. And they were willing to settle for whatever the farmer could pay.

The federal government allowed this situation to continue, and granted amnesty (and green cards) to the illegals at least twice that I am aware of. Around 1980, when I came to this valley, some farmers who wouldn’t say so, but they discriminated against Whites in hiring. At that time, the packing sheds were still bastions of White employment, but it was starting to get harder to find work in the orchards if your skin was white.

All that changed with the issuing of green cards to illegals. Today, in Brewster, Washington, which has become largely Hispanic, Mexican food and clothing stores have popped up on the main street in town. And when the shift changes at the two large packing sheds out on the highway, a swarm of Mexicans crosses to and from the parking lot across the road. The sheds also have busses coming in from points as far as 60 miles south, loaded with green card holders. If you want a job there, a Hispanic person makes the decision about hiring. And, of course, we all know that only White people discriminate in hiring decisions. (One of these sheds was busted for hiring illegals just this year.)

The job situation in other industries has also changed. Go into the local social services offices today, and you are likely to find Hispanics among the few Blacks and the Whites that are applying for benefits, and Hispanic workers at some of the windows. There are enough Hispanic consumers of social services that, when you see an add for a job with the county or the state, it always says “bilingual preferred”. Some local businesses also ask for and get bilingual applicants. Most Whites, for practical purposes, are automatically excluded from these jobs because they are not native Spanish speakers. It seems that our governments have recognized some sort of right to have a translator present at taxpayer expense in government offices, when, in fact, most Hispanics could furnish a family member to do this.

We live in a conservative area of a liberal state. Most of the people in the state live on the west side of the mountains around Puget Sound. They vote mostly Democrat, and are environmentalist in their sympathies. Democrats dominate politics in this state, and they make decisions for Eastern Washington that aren’t good for Eastern Washingtonians, especially poor ones who want to be self-reliant. Save the trees. No more gold mining. Stop this or that. Recycle. Between them and the activism of the hippies that moved in here in the 70s, forestry and mining have largely shut down in our neck of the woods. And efforts to bring in new natural resource based employment have been largely thwarted by people who don’t even live here.

The official unemployment rate in our county sits in the low teens. But the real story is that Mexican unemployment is hardly a blip in that figure, and White unemployment is far higher than the Hispanic rate.

There are still strong, self-reliant people here, who would never take a handout from the government. But I have watched some dip into their social security at the earliest possible moment, just to survive and then try to stretch it without applying for food stamps. Meanwhile their mortgage is being foreclosed.

And the people on the bus? Most of them don’t have much pride left. Many of them seem stupid. Ever hear of brain drain? That’s where smart people leave for better opportunities in the city and leave behind the less gifted and less skilled to scrap for the low-wage jobs. Most of them would be happier working in a packing shed for minimum wage.

Now, if you’re a conservative, I applaud you for your self-reliant American values and your practical good sense. I also agree that our country simply can’t go on supporting people like those that ride the bus. But we need to address immigration, and put a stop to handing over all their jobs in places like this to people who weren’t born in this country. We can handle a few who immigrate legally. We can’t handle a flood of them who immigrate illegally. Allowing such a situation inevitably creates some fallout, which leads to dependency upon the government for both immigrants and Americans.

Bring Back the Victory Gardens

If Americans wait to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, it may be too late. We need to get closer to the earth now, so that the earth can nourish us; and so that we can rediscover the things that matter most.

WHEN WE MOVED IN NEXT TO A SWEET OLD WOMAN in a rural area three and a half years ago, there was a horse in her corral. By the end of 2008, the horse was gone. And, in the Spring of 2009, the corral was planted fencepost to fencepost with vegetables, more than the little old lady could possibly care for, keep, or eat. But her kids came every week or two and worked in the garden.

My guess is: It was her idea. After the economic meltdown of 2008 she knew what to do, and prevailed upon her children to put in a garden, and she was thinking more of them than herself when she made them do it. The woman is old enough to remember the Great Depression and the Victory Gardens of World War II.

My mom used to say, “I don’t know what people are ever going to do if there’s another depression. When I was growing up, pretty much everybody had a farm or knew someone who did, and that’s how they ate.”

Ladies and gentlemen, food doesn’t come from grocery stores; especially when one can’t afford it because it is four times as expensive as it was a year or two ago, and definitely not when hyper inflation makes prices rise many times higher than that.

The government will likely be forced to hit the reset button on the economy. That means the value of the dollar will sooner or later go into free fall. If it does, many people will lose their life’s savings, which is something they can survive without. Bank accounts don’t mean much anyway when people can’t eat.

When my neighbor lady planted a garden she was too frail to keep, she was using her native good sense and experience to do what matters. So what if she was maybe a year or two or even three early? Her kids and neighbors got some good produce. Chances are, if she can get them to do it, they will plant again this year, and maybe this year or next year they’ll need it. You don’t want to wait until people are turning hungry and violent to say, “Maybe I should plant a garden next Spring.”

One thing’s sure: on the course the economy is taking, not to mention the government, we are going to need something like the old Victory Gardens of World War II. In those years, the people of the United States ploughed up available spaces and furnished 40 percent of our vegetable supply from non-farm sources. This freed up billions of dollars to fight the war and saved lives. And, of course, people’s health improved from better diet and exercise.

Let me lay out a scenario: Parts of this country now depend on having almost all of their food shipped in. What’s a person to do when food prices go so high that people can’t afford them? First, people must start breaking in and looting. Then, they must start using guns. When they are done raiding the neighborhood grocery store, they must begin ranging farther afield.

Fine, we all buy guns and defend what’s ours, especially our gardens. What happens then? You shoot a hungry looter. You feel terrible about it. But the next time, the looters show up in a gang, only they don’t tell you. You think there’s only one and walk right into an ambush. They take your food and leave you for the ambulance to pick up. Or maybe just one shows up, but he’s carrying an Uzzi. They are going to make sure you are out-gunned.

Really, that is no solution. What we need to do is take personal responsibility for growing as much of our own food as possible. But let’s not get so hung up on the issue of responsibility that we let other people go hungry who can’t plant a garden of their own. Growing our own food will relieve pressure on the food supply and keep prices down. Then we need to think about neighbors and family. It’s time to learn what it is to be a community again.

But we shouldn’t stop there. We ought actually to be shipping food to food outlets in the cities. Too much work? Hey, we are in a crisis; and it will get a lot worse if we don’t do what needs to be done. My elderly neighbor understands that; but it’s time for a younger generation to figure it out.

So let’s do this thing. Let’s have Victory Gardens with the idea that it’s us, We the People, and not the government mandating it. And the victory that we’re fighting for is a victory over our circumstances and over the tyranny of a government that wants to, but can’t, pick up the pieces. Only we can do that.

And we need to plant some signs next to our gardens too, saying:

Victory Gardens:
From Your Friends and Neighbors, Not Your Uncle Sam

Islam Martyrs Nigerian Christians Because They Have No Guns

Many countries in the world ban guns. The result is often not greater safety from violence. But Muslim extremists can buy them on the black market or make them themselves to use against the “infidels”.

MUSLIM GANGS ATTACKED AND BURNED three villages near Jos a few days ago. It took me a few days to become aware of this latest Muslim atrocity here, where our media mostly ignore foreign news and call things like this “sectarian violence”. Not so in British papers. (Read here.)

Jos sits in a border zone between Islamic and Christian regions, where Christians and Muslims compete for fertile farm land. So the attack was partly about stealing land. The Christian victims—some accounts say as many as 528, including many children—were mostly hacked to death with machetes, burned, and a few shot.

That’s because Nigerians can’t legally own guns. That doesn’t stop thugs and Muslim fanatics, a few, from hiding them. And a black market does a brisk business in home-made weapons and AK-47s. (Article here.)

When God said, “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not murder,” He gave every human being the unalienable right to own and defend both life and property, even, if necessary, to take the life of an attacker. Laws that take away arms cannot take away God-given rights, nor does government dole them out.

The Christians in the villages near Jos had a right to defend themselves, but the government took their weapons. Taking away guns doesn’t stop bloodshed; it encourages it. The attackers just relied on machetes and fire instead. But some also shot their victims, proving that Muslims, some of them, can be trusted to break  the law in order to keep their weapons. Obviously the slain Christians did not keep guns.

This reminds me of a story from the book of Esther in the Bible. A wicked man had horn-swoggled the king into making an unwise decree that, on a certain day, the people of the Babylonian Empire could rise up against the Jews, killing and plundering them. Since the king himself under their laws could not rescind a royal decree, the king published an edict allowing Jews to kill and plunder any attackers. The result was the occasion of much rejoicing among the Jews, and one of their festivals is celebrated today in honor of this victory. If you protect the right of people to defend themselves and their property, the result will either be peace or at least a chance of victory for the innocent.

Advocates of gun control in the United States believe that taking away people’s rights will deter violence. What happened in Nigeria the other day proves otherwise. The same thing has born out in recent American statistics. In 2009, fearing the Democrats and Obama would push through gun control, Americans bought a record number of firearms. With the economy down, the so-called experts predicted a rise in violent crimes. Instead they went down to a significant degree. This was partly due to tougher law enforcement in our nation’s larger cities. But the real story is the drop in murder. This was a direct result of more guns. Killers were stopped before they could kill.

Rest assured, world-wide Islam would like nothing better than to see private Americans and Europeans disarmed. Issuing more concealed and open carry permits would discourage terrorism in public places. It would tell them, “You don’t get to do what you want to do here.”

Moral Law Existed Before God Created Anything

Moral law exists as an objective and eternal reality no matter what I may think of it.

ULTIMATELY THINGS ARE RIGHT or wrong in the nature of things.

People often argue that morality varies from culture to culture. This ignores the universals that all people understand.

For example, every culture regards it as wrong for a soldier to run away in battle. Bravery is lauded and cowardice condemned, and this is universal. It’s in the nature of things. And in this case the nature of things is that life is a right that needs protecting.

While societies differ about how marriage and sexuality ought to be regulated, they all agree that it must be regulated in some way. The modern notion that people should be allowed to do whatever feels good is an aberration. It cuts across the grain of virtually every culture. No culture can long thrive that removes all restraints in the area of sexuality. It’s in the nature of things.

Modern Christians sometimes insist that God’s laws have been reduced to only two: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Has the law been reduced? Or was it only summed up in two commandments?

Was there ever a time when what is right or wrong now was not right or wrong? Will ever be a time when right or wrong cease to exist. Not if right and wrong are in the very nature of things.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” In saying this, He showed that the right way to live is not just pointed out by Christ, it is based in His own being. The way is only the way, because it is the nature of God. The truth is not simply a matter of being right or wrong, correct or incorrect. The truth is the truth because it is the nature of God. And even life does not exist independent of Him; for “in Him we live and move and have our being.” Life is “in Him.”

God created man in His own image and likeness. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that something which resonates with the way, the truth, and the life is written in the heart of man. For the way, the truth, and the life is the nature of God, and therefore affects the image of God in man. We ought to find our purpose by living in accordance with that nature.

This is why people all over the world can agree about some things when it comes to right and wrong. You don’t have to be a religious person to agree that murder is wrong. There may be some small differences from one society to another as to what crimes might constitute murder, but we all agree that there is such a thing as murder. Murder is the theft of a life, which is an unalienable, God-given right. A life cannot rightly be taken in our society, nor can one forfeit it, without due process of law.

Morality is in the nature of things as they were created. It has an objective reality. That’s because there is such a thing as good. And it has an objective reality apart from what I may think about it.

But morality also is in the nature of God. Therefore, it is uncreated. Since God existed always, morality existed always too, and always will.

The written Law of God articulates the things that by nature are good or evil. It teaches us to pursue one and avoid the other. The two great commandments did not reduce the moral laws of God to be fewer. Rather they summarized them.

We look over our society today, and we see Christians fighting to keep the ten commandments posted in America’s courthouses and public places. Most Americans do not know how much our civil laws ultimately derive from the Law of God. If they do not exactly replicate the laws of the Bible, our laws at least reflect their influence. For many generations, the Bible informed our public morality and our legislation. Our representative form of government is based on the representative government first found in the Law of Moses.

An amendment that would essentially add the Bible to the Constitution would make sense. Such a change in American law would reaffirm what the founders knew: that American law is based on a common morality derived from God’s word. Such an amendment would allow public schools to teach the Bible as an adjunct to studying American law and government.

If I understand the meaning of many Christians, they are sadly mistaken when they quote that we “are not under Law, but under grace.” We need to consider the effect that such a stance has on the world. It’s like telling the American people that it doesn’t matter what God thinks of our laws or our morality. How that verse may be interpreted implies a denial of the role the Law played in the founding of our government and our morality.

What does “not under Law” even mean? One thing it doesn’t mean is that we are free to live immoral lives.

America badly needs the moral consensus it once had. Ultimately, that means returning to the foundation, a morality rooted in God’s Law. As Christians, we need to accept this as binding upon us. Saying we reject the Law is equivalent to saying to God, “We will not have You reign over us.”

This is not a position that any Christian should take. When Christians understand and accept the application of moral law, it should be no surprise that unbelievers will respond to leadership and accept the moral consensus as well.

But we cannot get there unless we get our story right. So let’s not tell the world that the Law has passed away, nor act as if it were no longer relevent.

What If It Wasn’t 40 Years?

Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. (Matt. 24:34)

THE GREAT CHRISTIAN WRITER AND THINKER C.S. LEWIS called it the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. If most Christians adequately understood the word generation in Matthew 24:34, he reasoned, then Christ was wrong about when the end of the age and the second coming would occur. And first-century Christians were misled to expect Him so soon. Christ was not wrong. Lewis simply didn’t understand what He meant.

The two dominant eschatologies of our day, which are diametrically opposed to each other, nonetheless approach that word generation in much the same way; that is, they both insist that it is straightforward and plain, and means generation, which they define as a period of about 40 years.

I want to address here the use of the word generation in Jesus’s prophecy known as the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Both Preterists and Futurists point to Matthew 24:34 and parallel verses in two other gospels as their proof texts. Bring this one passage up, and it supposedly will end all arguments. Depending on how they interpret it, most Christians believe that generation means a relatively short time frame, somewhere between 30 or 40 years and one lifetime (70 years). A few insist that it is a hundred years based on Genesis 15:13 & 16.

The end-times teaching of Dispensational Premillennialism suffered a blow when 1988 did not prove to be the year of the rapture (the catching away of the Church before the Great Tribulation). Many, then, switched and reasoned that the generation began ticking from 1967, when Israel regained part of Jerusalem in the Six Days War; but they were again disappointed when 2007 passed without incident. This caused some to revise the length of a generation to 70 or 100 years. But they are still locked into a relatively short and rigid time frame.

What if it isn’t necessary or even wise to add 40 years? Or 70 or whatever?

I want to show here that their definition of the word generation locks them into one of two prevailing views, either preterism or dispensational futurism. And I want to show that there is at least some possibility they have not understood what Jesus said correctly, that there are other reasonable meanings. I also want to show that, if one alters the meaning of what Jesus said, it is possible to arrive at another eschatology that is neither Preterism nor Dispensational Futurism. Finally, I want to show the conditional nature of the statements Jesus actually made about the timing of the end.

I arrived at my understanding of the word generation in Matthew 24:34 by digging. Starting with the assumption that Jesus taught in Hebrew, with which most scholars agree, I dug for a Hebrew word that was translated into Greek as GENEA, from which we derive generation. I then looked for Hebrew words in the Old Testament that were translated into English as generation. I found that the Hebrew word DOR was the most common. And the Septuagint routinely translates it as GENEA, the same word found in Matthew 24:34.

Now let’s look at the meaning of the Hebrew word DOR, which is most likely the word Jesus used, because it will show us what He may have meant. The first, most common definition, is an age, generation, or period of time. DOR is translated generation 133 times in the KJV Old Testament.

Well, that should settle it, right? Not so fast.

Before we assume that DOR means generation, and generation is what Jesus meant, let’s look a little closer. The NASB only translates it as generation 53 times. Other translations include generations (plural, 52), all generations (20), many generations (3), age-old (1), forever (1), and time (2). Of interest here are three categories: definitions indicating a multitude of generations, those indicating an age or very long time, and those indicating an indeterminate length of time. Age-old and forever indicate an age or very long time. A time is a period of indeterminate length. But, of course, one might object that these are the least common definitions. Not so, however, with plural uses of the word DOR—generations, all generations, and many generations.

So let’s try plugging some of these meanings into Matthew 24:34. “These generations will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” Or: “Many generations will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” It starts to sound like a very long time. Try this: “This time will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” Now we don’t know how long it will be. Could be 40 years, could be 40,000, because it is an indeterminate length of time.

How about this? “This age will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” All of these are within the permissible range of meanings for DOR.

Many generations has substantially the same meaning as age. It speaks of a very large number of years, of many lifetimes. An example of this kind of use is found in Joel 2:2: “So there is a great and mighty people; there has never been anything like it, nor will there be again after it to the years of many generations.” (DOR)

Now, where did we read about the age in Matthew 24? That’s right, in v. 3. Jesus was answering a question: “What will be the sign… of the end of the age?” It is reasonable to think that v. 34 is in answer to v. 3. All these prophecies must come to pass before the age passes away.

I believe the word GENEA, based on its history of usage in the Septuagint, was the choice for translating the Hebrew DOR. However, as is often the case in translation, the word chosen in the target language does not reflect the full range of meaning. Given this, it may be a mistake to base our theology too rigidly on one word.

Those who insist on the meaning of generation are locked into only a couple of options in eschatology. Most people define a biblical generation as 40 years. A few, based on Genesis 15:13 & 16, define it as 100 years.

Preterists believe that about 40 years after Christ spoke in the Olivet Discourse, His words were fulfilled when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. A full preterist viewpoint would see this as the point in time when Christ came (invisibly) and judged the Jewish nation and when there was a (spiritual) resurrection of the saints. All the prophecies were fulfilled in that moment. If a generation is 100 years long, then the second coming happened during the second Jewish revolt around 133 A.D. As long as Preterists insist on this meaning of what Jesus said, they are locked into an eschatological timetable of 40 or 100 years from the early third decade of the first century.

Dispensational futurists, on the other hand, are locked into a timetable of either 40 or 100 years beginning in 1948 or 1967. We know that 1988 and 2007 came and went uneventfully, but they will still be busy with predictions of the second coming prior to 2048 and 2067. And these, too, will be wrong.

What if the time really did begin when Jesus spoke His sermon in Matthew 24? And what if the time frame was one of many generations, or an age? In that case, one is neither forced to be a preterist nor a dispensational futurist. We don’t need to count down a certain number of years from some starting date. The age might pass away hundreds of years after 1948.

How should we then live? That is the question, which I need not answer in this article, except to say we ought to live constructive and full lives, if we can.

Now let me briefly touch on another little secret contained in the Greek of Matthew 24:34—that is, there is something in the Greek that is not easily translated into English. The Greek word AN is not translated into English. AN is “sometimes properly rendered by ‘perhaps’; more commonly not expressed in English by any corresponding particle, but only giving to a proposition or sentence a stamp of uncertainty or mere possibility, and indicating a dependence on circumstances.” (Spiros Zodhiates Th.D., The Complete Word Study Dictionary) AN conveys that idea that something is possible depending on circumstances.

Adding to the uncertainty and mere possibility of this statement is the use of the substantive mood in the Greek verb. Substantive verbs are often preceded by the word may rather than the word shall. It is also sometimes not translated into English.

You won’t find AN translated into English in this verse in most versions of the English Bible; but you will find it in the ungainly Young’s Literal Translation. Young’s says: “Verily I say to you, this generation MAY not pass away till all these MAY come to pass.” [Emphasis mine] Taking the Young’s Literal Translation literally, one might surmise that Jesus was alerting them to the possibility that they might still be alive when all these things would be fulfilled. That’s only might. He wasn’t saying it was a for sure thing.

Preterists often cross-reference this to a couple of other verses in Matthew that they say also support the idea of Christ coming in one 40-year time frame. But, again, in both verses, one finds the Greek particle AN with the substantive verb.

Young renders Matthew 10:23 as follows: “And whenever they MAY persecute you in this city, flee to the other, for verily I say to you, ye MAY not have completed the cities of Israel till the Son of Man MAY come.” [Emphasis mine]

Likewise, he renders Matthew 16:28: “Verily I say to you, there are certain of those standing here who shall not taste of death till they MAY see the Son of Man coming in his reign.” [Emphasis mine]

Clearly Jesus was conveying a sense of uncertainty about the time of the end. In fact, He claimed not to know when the end would be. “Of that day and hour,” He said, “No one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” It makes sense that He spoke in such iffy terms when predicting the end. He was not making promises or telling His disciples to expect it at a certain time.

One last point—in Matthew 24:35, Jesus says: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Here He repeats the words pass away that were also found in v. 34. This is a context clue. Verse 35 functions very much in parallel with v. 34. Jesus speaks in v. 35 of an end-of-age event, which corresponds nicely with the age not passing away in the first part of v. 34. In the second half of v. 35, He speaks of His words not passing away, which corresponds nicely with the idea of fulfilled prophecy in the second half of v. 34. Therefore, taken as a parallelism, v. 35 defines GENEA in this context as meaning an age, as the word means in rare cases.

What should we do with this information? The logical thing is to throw out our attachment to any certain time frame, stop worrying about the future, and get to work. Preterists do not need to insist that everything was fulfilled within 40 years. Futurists do not need to rivet their attention on 40 or 70 or 100 years from the perceived fulfillment of some prophecy. We can all just relax and live. We can live our lives expecting Christ, and yet be prepared for it by living normal productive lives, knowing that it may occur a long time after we die.