August 18, 2017. Updated 10/5/2017 Steve Sabz
Red button with word reset on black background (Vector by creatOR76)

Red button with word reset on black background (Vector by creatOR76)

How long is a Biblical generation? When trying to interpret prophetic passages in Scripture, it's important to first establish the correct timeframe reference and historical context. Fortunately, this is revealed in the Bible by the Lord himself:

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Jesus Christ to his disciples in Mark 13:30 (circa 50s or 60s AD)

In the passage above, Jesus clearly stated that his contemporaries (see also Matthew 12:39, 23:35-36, 24:34, Luke 11:50-51, 21:32, Acts 2:40) would not pass away until all of the events described in verses 2 through 30 have taken place. Since we are now about 1,987 years removed from the time that Jesus spoke these words, the logical conclusion would be to investigate past events in order to falsify or confirm Jesus' prophecy. However, for the sake of argument and the purpose of this article, let us assume that past events do not confirm the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy, even though they actually do.

This article will reveal how Futurism's Premillennialist belief about the length of a Biblical generation has flip-flopped many times over the past 100 years and must be reset in order to appear credible to those unfamiliar with past history (i.e., in the 1st-century AD when in fact Jesus' prophecy was both historically and Biblically reported and fulfilled). Before we examine the Premillennialist's inconsistency in the regard to the length of a generation, let us first answer the question: "How long is a generation [genea ] in the Bible?"

A simple calculation will show that a Biblical generation equals approximately 40 years. For example, according to Matthew's genealogy, there were "fourteen generations [genea] in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah" (Matthew 1:17). Knowing the dates of these three events, we find that an average generation from Abraham (1813 BC)  to David (1040 BC)  was about 55 years; the average generation from David (1040 BC) to the exile to Babylon (586 BC)  was about 32 years; and the average generation from the exile (586 BC) to the Messiah (1 AD)  was about 41 years:

 1,813 - 1,040 = 773 / 14 generations = 55 years
 1,040 - 586 = 454 / 14 generations = 32 years
 586 - 1 = 585 / 14 generations = 41 years
 TOTAL: 128 / 3 = 42.7

The average of the three time periods equals 42.7 years. And, since Jesus' first-century audience was proximal to the third group (i.e., "from the exile to the Messiah"), it would be prudent to infer that Jesus also considered a generation to be about 40 years. This is consistent with Numbers 32:13 where the Hebrew term, "dowr" , for generation is explicitly described as a forty year time period. The unknown author of the letter to the Hebrews corroborates this view when he refers to Numbers 32:13 in his comparison of Jesus and Moses (Cf. Psalm 95:9-10)

...where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation... Unknown author in Hebrews 3:9-10 (circa 60-70 AD)

The Book of Job also provides a reference for the number of years contained within a generation:

And after this [the latter days of Job] Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days. Unknown author in Job 42:16-17 (circa 1500-500 BC)

Here, the author writes that Job lived through four generations during which "the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning" (Job 42:12). If we divide the 140 years that Job lived after his trial by four generations we find that a single generation equals 35 years.

According to the aforementioned Scripture and calculation, a total of 48 generations have passed since Jesus' prophecy in 30 AD. This clearly renders Futurist's supposition for "this generation" to refer to those alive 1,987 years afterward contextually false. Nonetheless, as we shall see, Premillennialists continue to argue otherwise to this day.

Let us first dispel a common myth that is perpetrated by Dispensational Premillennialists and their Zionist parters. That is, the belief that the modern, secular State of Israel is a so-called prophetic "timeclock" by which God aligns world events leading up to the end of the world. Just like their many other false assertions, this is rooted in a misinterpretation of Scripture and an ignorance of history. Their first mistake is claiming that the current nation of Israel was "born in one day" according to Isaiah 66:8-10. This passage has nothing to do with modern Israel since the promise was already fulfilled when exiled Jews returned from captivity by the decrees of King Cyrus and King Artaxerxes.

The second mistake is their false claim that the current Israeli nation was literally "born in one day" according to the same prophecy in Isaiah 66:8-10. The fact of the matter is, the idea of having an independent country for Jewish people took 51 years (or 18,615 days) to become a reality. The Zionist vision first began with Theodor Herzl,  when he established The World Zionist Organization in 1897. He died in 1904 without the creation of a Jewish State. Then came Arthur James Balfour, author of the self-titled Balfour Declaration   drafted in 1917. Mr. Balfour, just like Theodor Herzl before him, died without a reconstituted Palestine as the Jewish national homeland. It was not until 18 years (or 6,570 days) after Balfour's death, and the massacre of 6 million European Jews, that the non-theocratic nation of Israel was finally born in 1948.

40 Years

Initially, Premillennialists correctly defined a Biblical generation as lasting 40 years. This timespan fit into their Doomsday-Rapture theory because the modern, secular State of Israel had not turned 40 years old yet.

This last generation spoken of above [in Matthew 24:34] started on 14 May 1948, the day Israel became a nation. Israel is the timeclock of God throughout history. Israel is the blooming fig tree (Jeremiah 24:4-8), and the last generation will end 40 wicked Gentile years later on 14 May 1988. Whisenant, E.C. (1988, September 11) 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988, pg. 9. Nashville, TN: World Bible Society 
A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Lindsey, Hal & Carlson, Carole C. (1970) The Late Great Planet Earth, pg. 54. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 
I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981 (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981). Smith, Chuck (1978) End Times: A Report on Future Survival, pg. 35. Maranatha House Publishers 

After the Jewish State celebrated its fortieth birthday in 1988, and the predicted End Time events failed to manifest, some Premillennialists, like Chuck Smith, suggested that 40 years should be counted from the time Israel gained control over all of Jerusalem in 1967.  However, when the year 2007 (i.e., 40 years after 1967) came and went without incident, Premillennialists were forced to recalculate the length of years included within a Biblical generation.

50 Years

Eager to keep Premillennialism alive, Matthew Hagee, son of Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change (2013) author John Hagee of Cornerstone mega-church in Texas, claims, without citing any Biblical support, that a generation equals 50 years. Matthew Hagee seems to be the first Premillennialist to define a generation as 50 years. Could it be that it's because he just released a new book on the topic of Bible prophecy? The sad and conspicuous fact is that, every one of the authors cited in this article has profited from selling Bible prophecy books.

Now in the Bible a generation is 50 years. So when you have 2017 and you take away 1967 when Jerusalem fell back into the hands of Israeli control, you take away 2017 and 1967, you've got 50 left. We are 50 years from the day that Israel came to power in Jerusalem. Hagee, Matthew, (July 23, 2017) How Fast Can the Dominoes Fall? time 1:13:30 [VIDEO] 

In his book, Jerusalem Countdown, Revised and Updated: A Prelude To War (2013, pg. 228), the elder John Hagee announced, "I believe my generation will live to see Him [Jesus Christ of Nazareth] sitting on the throne of King David on the Temple Mount in the city of Jerusalem, bringing the Golden Age of Peace to the world. It's coming much sooner than you think!"  John Hagee was born in 1940 and is currently 77 years of age.

On July 23, 2017 in an interview with CBN News, Hagee said he believes "The world as we have it at this very present time is a powder keg and the fuse is lit..." 

70-80 Years

The following authors reveal just how desperate Premillennialists are in their efforts to keep their Doomsday-Rapture theory in the forefront of Bible eschatology at the expense of sound exegesis.

We may logically inquire next, "How long is a generation?" Psalm 90:10 provides insight into this subject... This does not mean that the final generation is limited to seventy or eighty years; the psalmist is acquainting us with the general length of a generation. LaHaye, Tim F. (1972) The Beginning of the End, pg. 168. Tyndale House Publishers 
The Lord will return before Israel becomes an old man by age 80 in 2028, and 7 years earlier to rapture the Church (Psalm 90:10). Beshore, F. Kenton, Keller, William (2011) When?: When Will the Rapture Take Place? pg. 179. Costa Mesa, CA: World Bible Society 

Their prooftext for a 70 to 80 year long generation actually refers to an individual's lifespan, not a generation. Holy Scripture clearly differentiates between a lifespan and a generation. LaHaye and Beshore somehow completely ignore this fact. Here's the passage which they believe supports a 70 to 80 year generation:

The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty. A prayer of Moses in Psalm 90:10 (circa fifteenth century BC)

The Hebrew word for "life" in the above passage is shaneh. Conversely, the Hebrew word for "generation" in Numbers 32:13 is dowr. The two terms are never used interchangeably in Scripture. A simple LexiConc search will show that the word "generation" is never translated from the Hebrew shaneh ("life"). In addition, the word "life" is never translated from the Hebrew down ("generation").

The length of a Biblical generation is not the only End Time component that Premillennialists have had to reinvent over the years. I'm sure they will find new ways to interpret any passage of Scripture in order to fit their Doomsday-Rapture theory into current world events.

Sabz, S. (2017, August 18). This generation. Retrieved from

Steve Sabz

Steve Sabz

Steve Sabz is the author and founder of Science and Bible Research. He is a professional educator with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology from William Paterson University,  where he also completed graduate level courses in Human Physiology and Endocrinology. Currently, Steve is pursuing a Master of Arts in Systematic Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.  Steve is also the author of Evolution's Complexity Problem: See How Evolution Falls Apart At Its Beginning and End Time Rewind: An Exploration In Bible Prophecy And The Fate Of The World.