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What is a Generation?

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Google defines the word generation as follows:

1) All of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively. The average period, generally considered to be about thirty years, during which children are born and grow up, become adults, and begin to have children of their own.

  • A set of members of a family regarded as a single step or stage in descent.

  • A single stage in the development of a type of product.

2) The production of something.

  • The propagation of living organisms; procreation.

The word itself is not by any measure complicated or difficult to understand. So why is the CCJW (Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses) confused about the usage of this word?

Do you recall the doctrine as presented in David Splane's video? Please take a few minutes to rewatch the video.

Did the explanations and conclusions he put forth make sense? Are you conscientiously making an effort to apply our Father's admonition to “call out for understanding, and raise your voice for discernment.” in respect to this teaching? (Proverbs 2:3) Or are you satisfied with the explanation presented to us as 'truth' in that video? Many of us consider the conclusions he put forth in that video to be nonsensical. Still some say it's best to leave this doctrine "as something Jehovah will 'clarify' in his own due time." Is that wise?

At one point in his discourse he asks us the question: 'Can you think of a verse in the Bible to help explain the meaning of a generation'? He then pauses so we can to come up with a verse... most of us possessing accurate knowledge on this subject can list many. Perhaps one of the most direct answers to his question is Matthew 1:17. Verses 2-16 of Matthew chapter one give us a detailed breakdown of Jesus lineage, and it is all summed up in verse 17 where we read: “All the generations, then, from Abraham until David were 14 generations; from David until the deportation to Babylon, 14 generations; from the deportation to Babylon until the Christ, 14 generations.

So some easy questions to answer are as follows:

Were Abraham and Isaac part of the same generation? No.

Were Isaac and Jacob part of the same generation? No.

Were David and Solomon the same generation?

No again, each son was a new generation, as the word implies by its definition.

Try this: go to your JW app, and open the Bible. Type in the search box “this generation”. If you click on the top option “all verses” it will put the search results in order as they appear in the Bible. You can easily scroll through the book of Matthew, enabling you to see how Jesus used this exact expression on other occasions to different individuals. Perhaps some of these verses stand out to you.

Try taking a closer look at Matthew 23:36 were Jesus said “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” Who was Jesus talking to? Look up at the preceding verses and you will clearly see he was addressing the scribes and Pharisees who were then representing Jehovah's people and Jerusalem. When did the judgment Jesus referred to come upon the generation before him that he was specifically addressing? In less than four decades Jerusalem was completely besieged and destroyed by Roman armies. Most if not all of the men to whom Jesus was speaking lived to see the destruction of their beloved city. Go ahead and try this for yourself with any other verse. Invariably you'll see that every time Jesus used this expression he was addressing those present and listening to him.

Now take a closer look at Matthew 24:34. (Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32) This is the Scripture where Jesus makes the prophetic statement: “Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things happen.” (Matthew 24:34) As all of Jesus disciples know he was discussing, in the 24th chapter of Matthew and the other parallel accounts, the details of his future presence and the establishment of the heavenly kingdom, over which he will rule as king. The point of his expression in verse 34 was to narrow down a period of time for the occurrence of 'all the things' he had just described. The inarguable fact is that he said, from the beginning of his presence, to the final gathering of his chosen ones in heaven to prepare for the final battle of Armageddon, and all the events he detailed in-between would occur within the span of one “generation”. Would it not make perfect sense that Jesus was here stating that 'all these things would definitely happen' in less than a span of approximately four decades? Why would we ever conceivably imagine he meant something else? Why is the common sense definition of the word generation not applied here by David Splane?

All members of the CCJW know the answer to that question. The Watchtower has boldly proclaimed since the 1930s that Jesus presence began in 1914. This proclamation was an adjustment from the previous doctrine that Jesus presence began in 1874 and would culminate in the battle of Armageddon in 1914. So if we were to apply the simple and obvious definition of the word generation to the proclamation that Christs presence began in 1914 then the clock would have started ticking from that year. In the beginning, explanations of the “generation” had common sense applied to the equation. As time passed by, and the year 1914 slipped further and further into the past, one of two choices had to be made by the governing body.

  • Option One- Reconsider the validity of the doctrine that Christs presence began in the year 1914

  • Option Two- Come up with a preposterously tangled explanation of what the word 'generation' actually means so they would not have to acknowledge they were in error when proclaiming Jesus presence has already begun.

Sadly, we live in a world where those dictating doctrine to the CCJW have chosen option two.

To clarify what David Splane was promulgating to us, he said that Fred Franz was among the last of those who were anointed by the year 1914. At the time of Fred's death in 1992 any who would by this zany definition constitute the generation of 1914 would need to have been baptized and anointed by the year 1992. In case you were wondering the number of those partaking in 1992 was 8,683 people. If they were anointed at the young age of 20 the youngest person from this generation would now be well past middle age. Let's soak this all in for a moment. Was Fred Franz an anointed Christian at the age of 21 in the year 1914? Possibly, who of us could reasonably judge if he was or not? If he was, he was certainly among the youngest of God's anointed at that time, and at the age of 99 he was certainly one of the last alive who were anointed and witnessing the events of the year 1914. If we truly want to accept the thought David is putting forth a question must be answered. According to his explanation has the “generation” by any means passed away?

What was the total number of God's anionted servants who observed the events of 1914? Assuming they were all anointed, records indicate there were 5,155 Bible Students that year. So according to the numbers available we know there are at most 13,838 individuals on record as being part of Davids' generation (this is assuming that the 5,155 Bible students from 1914 and 8,683 partakers from 1992 were all in fact truly anointed by holy spirit and remained faithful until the day they died). However the 13,838 does not include anyone who began partaking after 1914 and died before 1992. How many individuals fit into that group? If you possess the time and interest to put forth the effort to dig through the dozens of yearbooks to come up with an educated guess, congratulations. For arguments sake lets say it's about six or seven thousand more people. This would make the total number of people making up the “generation” as defined by David at about 20,000 people. As of 1992 we know this number was down to 8,683 surviving members. Decades later how many of them are still alive? Two or three thousand? No one knows for sure, but there's likely about 10% or less of that group still alive. Meaning that about 90% of that 'generation' has “passed away”. Does this harmonize with what Jesus said? It would if Jesus said “truly I say to you that this generation will mostly pass away”, but he didn't say that did he? He said “this generation will by no means pass away”.

So either Jesus needs to learn how to use words, or we do. Which do you think it is?

At this point enough has been said to properly define a generation, and debunk the explanation given by David Splane. However this teaching has been received and accepted by millions of members of the CCJW today, so more words seem to be necessary. To belabor the topic lets take a closer look at Splane's chosen verse at Exodus 1:6 where it says “Joseph eventually died, and also all his brothers and all that generation.”

Splane here focuses on the expression “that generation”, and proceeds to give us an illustration. He says if a man died ten minutes before Joseph was born he could not be the same generation as Joseph. Then he states that if a baby is born ten minutes after Joseph died he could not be the same generation. Then he proceeds to do something never done before, he takes what we would consider overlapping generations and redefines them as one generation. In doing so he makes a nefarious implication that our Lord Jesus when speaking had a language all his own where he took words from the language he was using and assigned them a new coded meaning that only David Splane could decipher. Apparently words do not matter, and if David Splane is correct than we truly need him to tell us what the Bible says because we use words as defined by lexicographers not the "Governing Body".

If we focus on the expression “that generation” at Exodus 1:6, how can we accurately know its implied definition? The answer is simple. We do what we should be doing if we want to understand anything in God's Word, examine the context. Lets back it up one verse where it says “and all those who were born to Jacob were 70 people”. It is clearly inferred that where verse six says “that generation” Moses was referring to the 70 people born to Jacob mentioned in verse five. These people were the ones who made the move to Egypt, note the verse says, “but Joseph was already in Egypt.” Moses wants us to acknowledge that Joseph was part of that generation even though he was already in Egypt. If we were to condense everything Moses said in Exodus 1:1-6 to the simplest and most concise language it would read as follows: 'Eventually Joseph and all of his family that relocated to the land of Egypt died.'

The 'generation' referred to was not those whose lives overlapped Josephs, but rather it was in reference to those who were alive when Jacobs household made the move to Egypt. Please open your Bible and prayerfully read the verses for yourself. Remember to do this prayerfully, stop, say a prayer to our Father, and ask him to please assist you to accurately understand and truly get the sense of these verses. Jehovah will, through his spirit, help you to clearly discern the simple and clear expression put forth in the verses at Exodus 1:1-7, as it sets the tone for relating Israels exodus from Egypt.

There are clearly two specific ways the word “generation” is used in the Bible. One usage is to describe a group of people who are alive to witness an event. This is the case in Exodus 1:6 where Moses uses the expression “that generation” in relation to those who made the move to Egypt, and demonstrates using it in the past tense. Jesus used it the same way, but in a present tense, as observed at Matthew 23:36 when he said “these things will come upon this generation” addressing the scribes and Pharisees listening to him. Our lord also used the same expression, but applied it in a future and present tense at Matthew 24:34 where he was giving a prophetic statement: “I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away”. He was able to apply it in a present and future tense in that he was giving a prophecy with a minor and major fulfillment. In the present tense it was applied to those observing the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, and in the future tense it applies to those witnessing the events that take place during the future 'great tribulation'. The second usage of the word “generation” in the Bible is used to describe successive 'generations', or children, as can be seen at Job 42:16 where it says that “he saw his children and his grandchildren—four generations”, and as was already referenced at Matthew 1:17.

The only logical conclusion to be reached by those worshiping our Father with truth is that the word “generation” as used in the Bible, is the same word we use today, as we have clearly defined for us by lexicographers. A further examination of any appearance of that word in the Scriptures will only solidify the definition. This can be seen by looking at Numbers 14:29 where it says “the whole number of you from 20 years old and up” and comparing that with chapter 32 verse 13 which says “he made them wander about in the wilderness for 40 years, until all the generation that was doing evil in the eyes of Jehovah came to its end.” So here is a clear Scriptural example of a “generation” defined as a group of adults that were alive at a specific time, and according to our Father's time frame passed away in 40 years. Again right in line with Google’s definition stating “the average period, generally considered to be about thirty years”

So why is there so much confusion when the truth about the word “generation” and it's Scriptural usage is so easily comprehended by anyone who understands words? The simple answer is that those who are seeking to redefine it have an agenda to push. They know that if they do nothing to redefine our perception of what a generation of mankind is we will connect dot one to dot two. The only reason they are doing this is because they refuse to even consider the possibility that they have misinterpreted the events that took place in the year 1914.

To illustrate: if 1914 were a coastal town, the "Governing Body" is so sacredly devoted to their belief in its accuracy that an undeniable hurricane of truth would have to appear and rip their town from it's foundations for them to acknowledge its lack of structural stability. The problem is that when those living by the coast do not acknowledge oncoming storms they are often swept away by them.

Can you see the storm coming?

Total faith in 1914 and the generation doctrines are not preparing true Christians for the storm.
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