In my debate with Dr. Michael Brown on February 17, 2022, I made the point that the Great Tribulation mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:21 took place during the time of that generation since Jesus said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (24:34). “This generation” always means the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. It does not mean “this kind of generation,” any generation except the generation Jesus was addressing, a future generation that would see the signs described by Jesus because Jesus identified the generation that would see the signs (24:33), or a future generation of Jews (the Jewish race will not pass away until all these things take place) because genos means “race” while genea means “generation.”
In volume four of his book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Dr. Brown argues that genea “normally means generation” but “can sometimes mean race,” although he does not offer any examples to support his claim. In a footnote, he admits that “this argument … should not be pressed too strongly since the nuance of ‘race’ would have been much clearer had the Greek word genos, as opposed to genea, been used here.”[i] In the end, Dr. Brown admits that the best translation of genea is “generation” and not “race.” This is why most Bible commentators abandoned the “race” translation.
The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation
Since the national reestablishment of Israel in 1948, countless books and pamphlets have been written defending the doctrine assuring readers that it could happen at any moment. Some prophecy writers claimed the ‘rapture’ would take place before 1988. We are far removed from that date. Where are we in God’s prophetic timetable?Buy Now
Genea is used throughout the gospels and refers to those living at the same time (Mt. 1:17; 11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:36; 24:34; Mk. 8:12, 38; 9:19; 13:30; Lk. 1:48, 50; 7:31; 9:41; 11:29, 30, 32, 50, 51; 16:8; 17:25; 21:32). The use of the near demonstrative “this” describes what generation Jesus is referencing. “This” refers to them: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them” (Matt. 21:45). Matthew uses “this” throughout his gospel to identify things that are near: “this day” (6:11); “this man” (8:9); “this city” (10:23); “this place” (12:6); “this people” (15:8); “this rock” (15:18); “this little child (18:4); “this mountain” (21:21); “this stone” (21:44); “this image” (22:20); “this gospel” (24:14); “this woman” (26:13); “this night” (26:31), etc. Why not “this generation,” meaning their generation?
Dr. Brown does not accept the fact that the generation to whom Jesus was speaking was the only generation that would be impacted by the greatest tribulation ever. It was the greatest tribulation because it was the judgment on the only nation that had a special covenant relationship with God that would descend into Him pouring out His wrath (1 Thess. 1:10, 14–19). Even so, God issued a way to escape (Matt. 24:16–20; Luke 21:20).
Because Dr. Brown believes in “double fulfillments” in Matthew 24, if there was one destruction of the temple (24:1–3), then there could be another one but worldwide. Consider the following:
A modern second fulfillment is usually presented as a worldwide catastrophe, but notice verse 20: “pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.” What relevance would this have today? Outside modern-day Israel, relatively few people in the world keep the Sabbath. And what if they do? In ancient times, the gates of Jerusalem were shut on the Sabbath preventing escape (Neh. 13:19, 22; Jer. 17:21, 24). However, this is not a problem for anyone today. Most Christians probably live out their entire lives without ever praying their “flight” will not take place on the Sabbath. Mark’s account adds this: “be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues” (Mark 13:9). How could this be fulfilled worldwide in our time? Today’s Sanhedrin has no jurisdiction outside Israel. There are likely very few Christians in the world, if any, who worry about being “flogged in the synagogues.” (Source)
Double fulfillment makes no sense. In fact, it turns the Bible into Silly Putty.
Yes, a million Jews were killed by the Romans, but that wasn’t the greatest tribulation. There was the holocaust where six million Jews were murdered. But that wasn’t the greatest tribulation. According to Dr. Brown, there must be another massive slaughter of Jews that goes beyond Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution for Matthew 24:21 to be fulfilled.
There are numerous statements by several prominent premillennialists who describe what they claim will happen to Jews that will result in another great or greater tribulation during a future seven-year period:
1. Charles Ryrie argues that restored future Israel will experience “The worst bloodbath in Jewish history.”[ii] This quotation is taken from his book The Best is Yet to Come. Not if you’re a Jew!
2. John Walvoord writes that “Israel is destined to have a particular time of suffering which will eclipse anything that it has known in the past…. [T]he people of Israel … are placing themselves within the vortex of this future whirlwind which will destroy the majority of those living in the land of Palestine.”[iii]
3. Arnold Fruchtenbaum: During the Great Tribulation “Israel will suffer tremendous persecution (Matthew 24:15–28; Revelation 12:1–17). As a result of this persecution of the Jewish people, two-thirds are going to be killed.”[iv]
4. Eugene Merrill: “[T]he redemption of Israel will be accomplished on the ruins of her own suffering and those of the malevolent powers of this world that, in the last day, will consolidate themselves against her and seek to interdict forever any possibility of her success. The nations of the whole earth will come against Jerusalem, and, having defeated her, will divide up their spoils of war in her very midst.”[v]
5. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.: “One of the earth’s most devastating disasters will take place in the end times. ‘Two thirds in [the land of Israel] shall be cut off and die’ (v. 8a). Israel’s present population is somewhere around five million. What it will swell to by the time this text is fulfilled we do not know, but God has promised to lead in a restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. When that takes place there may be some eight to twelve million people in Israel. Think of it: ‘two-thirds’ of whatever the population is in that day will be killed.”[vi]
6. Jack Van Impe: “Anti-Semitism will flourish, and Israel will experience her final holocaust.”[vii]
7. Sid Roth, host of “Messianic Vision”: “two-thirds of the Jewish people [living in Israel] will be exterminated.”[viii]
8. Dave Hunt writes that “Two-thirds of all Jews on earth will be killed under Antichrist (Zechariah 13:8–9); but the church will not be on earth at that time, having been raptured to Heaven and then married to Christ (Revelation 19:7, 8).”
And it’s not just Israel that will suffer this bloodbath. Hal Lindsey writes that during the “Great Tribulation” there will be “death on a massive scale. It staggers the imagination,” he writes, “to realize that one-fourth of the world’s population will be destroyed within a matter of days. According to projected census figures this will amount to nearly one billion people!”[ix] In his 1994 book Planet Earth 2000 AD, Lindsey offers this forecast for Israel: “only a tiny fraction of the world’s population will be left. Only a remnant will have survived. Many of the Jews would have been killed.”[x] In The Final Battle, first published in 1995, Lindsey claims that the Bible teaches that Israel “is in for a very rough time. The Jewish State will be brought to the brink of destruction.”[xi] No matter. The Church will be raptured and won’t be involved in the global bloodletting.
Why is all of this important? At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Mark Alan Siegel, who served as the chairman of Florida’s Palm Beach County Democratic Party, told an interviewer the following about what he thought of Christian and Jewish relationships:
The Christians just want us to be there so we can be slaughtered and converted and bring on the second coming of Jesus Christ. The worst possible allies for the Jewish state are the fundamentalist Christians who want Jews to die and convert so they can bring on the second coming of their Lord. It is a false friendship. They are seeking their own ends and not ours. I don’t believe the fundamentalists urging a greater Israel are friends of the Jewish state.
It wasn’t too long before the video of the interview went viral, and Mr. Siegel was forced out of his position. Where did Mr. Siegel get such crazy ideas? It’s a prevalent view among dispensational prophecy writers. “[T]he period of great tribulation between the two phases of Jesus’ Second Coming is portrayed by dispensationalists as a time of horrific suffering and destruction of the Jewish people.”[xii]
Like Dr. Brown, Thomas Ice believes “that Old Testament promises made to national Israel will literally be fulfilled in the future. This means the Bible teaches that God will return the Jews to their land before the tribulation begins (Isa. 11:11–12:6; Ezek. 20:33–44; 22:17–22; Zeph. 2:1–3). This has been accomplished and the stage is set as a result of the current existence of the modern state of Israel.” Then he goes on to write the following:
The Bible also indicates that before Israel enters into her time of national blessing she must first pass through the fire of the tribulation (Deut. 4:30; Jer. 30:5–9; Dan. 12:1; Zeph. 1:14–18). Even though the horrors of the Holocaust under Hitler were of an unimaginable magnitude, the Bible teaches that a time of even greater trial awaits Israel during the tribulation. Anti-Semitism will reach new heights, this time global in scope, in which two-thirds of world Jewry will be killed (Zech. 13:7–9; Rev. 12). Through this time God will protect His remnant so that before His second advent “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:36).
In his book Blow the Trumpet in Zion, published by the same company that published Dr. Brown’s book Our Hands Are Stained with Blood, Richard Booker writes:
What is this terrible tribulation that awaits the Jews? Moses said it would take place in the “latter days.” It is the last seven years of this age just prior to the coming of Messiah Jesus to earth. The Bible says this will be a time of suffering such as the world has never known.
The Antichrist will march his troops into Israel and for a short period of time will occupy Jerusalem. Every nation will support his retaliation against Israel for their disturbing world peace. The Antichrist will kill two-thirds of all the Jews. This could mean that up to ten million Jews could be killed. The Antichrist will plunder the beloved city of Jerusalem, and one-half of the citizens will be forced into exile.[xiii]
Dr. Paige Patterson, a premillennialist, who served as the fifth president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the following during our radio debate in May of 1991:
The present state of Israel is not the final form. The present state of Israel will be lost, eventually, and Israel will be run out of the land again, only to return when they accept the Messiah as Savior.[xiv]
This means the double fulfillment hermeneutic demands that there will be another Jewish holocaust based.
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The topic is simply a springboard for discussion of the dispute between two general modern positions: one which sees important Old Testament promises as pertaining specially and only to ethnic Israel, and another in which those promises to all believers—the church.Buy Now
[i]Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: New Testament Objections, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 154 and 321, note 277.
[ii]Charles C. Ryrie, The Best is Yet to Come (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1981), 86.
[iii]John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962), 107, 113. Emphasis added.
[iv]Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “The Little Apocalypse of Zechariah,” The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack, eds. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2003), 262.
[v]Eugene H. Merrill, An Exegetical Commentary: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994), 342.
[vi]The Communicator’s Commentary: Micah-Malachi (Dallas, TX: Word, 1992), 413.
[vii]Jack Van Impe with Roger F. Campbell, Israel’s Final Holocaust (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1979), 128.
[viii]Broadcast on the September 18, 1991, edition of the “700 Club.”
[ix]Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming (New York: Bantam Books,  1984), 90. Emphasis in original.
[x]Hal Lindsey, Planet Earth 2000 AD (Palos Verdes, CA: Western Front, 1994), 264.
[xi]Hal Lindsey, The Final Battle (Palos Verdes, CA: Western Front, 1995), 184.
[xii]Stephen R. Haynes, Reluctant Witnesses: Jews and the Christian Imagination (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 162.
[xiii]Richard Booker, Blow the Trumpet in Zion (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 1985), 112, 118.
[xiv]Stated on Dallas, Texas, radio program (KCBI) in a debate with me May 15, 1991.