I recently started an end-times Bible study on Wednesday nights in my church, and want to throw out a thought about how it will play out. If you want to jump all over me about why it's wrong, go right ahead ...
It has to do with Matthew 24:34, where Jesus says that this generation will not pass away until these things be fulfilled. Now, there are several views of what "generation" could mean here:
1) The Greek word could also be translated "race," so it could clearly state that the Jewish race would still exist when the end time events of Matthew 24 are fulfilled.
2) Another translation is that Jesus was referring to the generation of His listeners. While many of the Jews that heard Jesus' words no doubt saw a foretaste of the Great Tribulation with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (directly predicted by Jesus at the beginning of the chapter; the Christians, who remembered it, successfully escaped the doomed city as a result), the other events obviously were not fulfilled at that time, but were predicted for later in history (preterists, who believe this chapter and Revelation were only about this past event, don't like to hear that).
3) The third view is that Jesus is referring to the future generation that will see the events described; thus, it could be read "that generation" or "this generation (in question)" would see the fulfillment of the prophecies.
If we go with the third viewpoint, then Jesus is saying that the events described in Matthew 24 (and by extension in Revelation and Daniel) will occur within a generation, in rapid succession. Now, what exactly makes up a generation? I've heard it being between 33 and 40 years. Of course, a generation of people could go on a lot longer nowadays (for example, there are many still alive from the World War II "greatest generation", well over 40 years ago). I point this out in wondering about the succession of events. I've always been taught that after the Rapture (which I believe will happen before the seven-year Great Tribulation), the Antichrist would immeduately rise, after which the Tribulation would immediately commence, with Jesus' return coming at the end of the tribulation. In other words, essentially, the Second Coming would occur exactly seven years after the Rapture (and even mid-trib and post-trib views on the Rapture hold strictly to the seven-year time limit). My question is, could there not be more of a leeway in time? How long would the Antichrist be in power before the commencing of the tribulation? For that matter, would there be a few years after the Rapture before the Antichrist appears? Again, all this will happen in a generation's time, however long that is. And yes, it could simply mean that these events will occur within a generation (e.g., if the generation started in 2010, the events could begin in 2015 maybe). I'm just questioning whether we can go strictly by the "seven-year" sequence of events. This is just speculation on my part, and again, feel feel to correct me if you must.
My interest in this may have been piqued by past speculations, especially with regard to the nation of Israel's rebirth in 1948. There was a widespread teaching that the 33-year generation started then, which meant the Rapture would happen in 1981, and Jesus' return in 1988 (by the way, I still have a copy of a book by the man who wrote about the 88 reasons the Rapture would happen in 1988. It was his "sequel" to why it DIDN'T happen, because there is no zero year, the calendar jumps from 1 BC to 1 AD, and so on. Of course, he didn't mind "hedging his bets" with a lot of qualifications; "even if it doesn't happen in 1989..." blah blah blah). When that didn't happen, the beginning of the "last generation" was moved to the 1967 war, which means the Rapture occurs in 2000 and Jesus' return in 2007. Even claiming a generation was 40 years doesn't help these two theories. Now, I believe Israel's rebirth was a significant prophetic event, clearly showing that Jesus' return is near. The question I posed above regards whether everything will play out in exactly seven years, or whether there could be other timeframes in which the events will play out. Maybe the last generation will start at the Rapture. You may write me with your own question, or with your gracious corrections to my wayward speculating. Just something to think about.