Christian Universe ™
An Evil Generation
May 17 2009
The generation to which Jesus and the apostles preached was an evil generation. They rejected the Son of God, called Him the Prince of Devils, denied His doctrine, and turned Him over to the Roman governor for crucifixion. As a result, their great city and beloved nation were destroyed.
An Evil Generation
a sermon by Bernie Parsons
presented to the Globe church of Christ on 05/17/2009
Many times, as we study the scriptures, we speak of them as “talking to us” or “telling us” things. At other times, we simply say, “The Bible says” or “The Bible tells us”. Some preachers and other church members even speak of those words as if God were speaking directly to us. They will say things like, “God says” or “The Lord is telling us”.
We preachers and teachers don’t do a good job of explaining that these were written in a different time, different place, and to a different people. What we can do is learn from those lessons that were given to others in order to serve God acceptably in our lives.
For instance, here is where Jesus was answering and reprimanding the scribes—those who were able to read and write—and the spiritual leaders, the Pharisees. In this discourse, Jesus describes that generation to which He was speaking as “evil and adulterous”.
Matthew 12:38: “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
39: But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
40: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
41: The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
42: The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”
Many argue that the word generation does not mean generation. They say that, because they are afraid that if we teach that something was given to a specific generation, then many men will reason that we do not have to follow that same teaching. But generation means generation. It comes from the Greek word genea, which means “the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time. Contemporaries.” (William F. Arndt and Wilber Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature.)
Matthew 11:12: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
13: For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
14: And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
15: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
16: But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
17: And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
18: For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
19: The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
20: Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
21: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22: But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
23: And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”
We begin to now understand what Jesus is talking about. What sets that one generation apart from all others on the earth, before or after? Tyre and Sidon were ancient cities that were destroyed by God for their wickedness. (Isaiah 23, Joel 3) But the cities of Jesus’ day were doomed compared to those cities. Why? Had those wicked cities witnessed the things that the contemporary cities had witnessed, they would have repented of their wickedness, whereas Chorazin and Bethsaida had not repented at the works of Jesus. We know that Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality, but that city would have repented if they had witnessed the things that Capernaum had—yet Capernaum would not repent! And, as we read earlier, the wicked city of Nineveh repented when Jonah preached to them. And Jonah was not nearly as important as Jesus, the son of God.
John the Baptist has said this about that generation of Jewish religious leaders.
Matthew 3:7: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8: Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10: And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”
Jesus also called them a generation of poisonous snakes.
“Matthew 12:34: “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
35: A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”
Matthew 16:1: “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
2: He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3: And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
4: A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.”
This is a similar statement to that which we read earlier from Matthew 12:39.
Matthew 17:17: “Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.”
Matthew 23:29: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
30: And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
31: Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
32: Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
33: Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
34: Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
35: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
36: Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
37: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
38: Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”
Why would all of the blood of all of the slain prophets through the ages be required of that generation? Because God sent His son to them, and they rejected Him, calling Him a fraud, the prince of Devils, and saw that He was crucified.
“John 1: 10: He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11: He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”
Acts 2:22: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
23: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”
God sent His very son to that generation, and after rejecting His call to repentance, they wickedly took Him, and crucified Him.
John 15:18: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19: If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20: Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21: But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
22: If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
23: He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
24: If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
25: But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.”
Truly that was a cursed generation.
Eusebius, the Christian historian from the late third century, wrote, "The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan called Pella. Here, those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea; the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and his apostles, finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of these evildoers from the earth...these facts, as well as the whole tenor of the war, and each particular of its progress, when finally the abomination of desolation, according to the prophetic declaration, stood in the very temple of God, so celebrated of old, but which now was approaching its total downfall and final destruction by fire; all this, I say any one that wishes may see accurately stated in the history written by Josephus." (Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Ch. 5)