What do the words of Jesus mean?
27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
NAS Matthew 16:28 "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
BGT Matthew 16:28 Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι εἰσίν τινες τῶν ὧδε ἑστώτων οἵτινες οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐρχόμενον ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ.
Below we shall see the parallelism between the Matthean text and that of Daniel.
NAS Daniel 7:13 "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.
BGT Daniel 7:13 ἐθεώρουν ἐν ὁράματι τῆς νυκτὸς καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ἤρχετο καὶ ὡς παλαιὸς ἡμερῶν παρῆν καὶ οἱ παρεστηκότες παρῆσαν αὐτῷ
NAS Daniel 7:14 "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.
BGT Daniel 7:14 καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ἐξουσία καὶ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τῆς γῆς κατὰ γένη καὶ πᾶσα δόξα αὐτῷ λατρεύουσα καὶ ἡ ἐξουσία αὐτοῦ ἐξουσία αἰώνιος ἥτις οὐ μὴ ἀρθῇ καὶ ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ ἥτις οὐ μὴ φθαρῇ
Here it is apparent that Christ is hearkening to Daniel 7’s 13th and 14th verse, which speak of
“One like a Son of Man”
Whose reign would never end and “his kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.”
So it becomes clear that those that would not “taste death”, would witness Christ fulfilling the promise of him receiving the kingdom from his Heavenly Father. Frequently this passage is misunderstood as a promise of life until the Second Coming of Christ. Atheists and some Muslims have pointed to this text to suggest that Christ was either a liar, or there was extreme corruption in the text that has been passed down through the ages. But the very words themselves don’t mean that Christ was telling his followers that they would live until his return, and the end of the world. Rather, if we compare what the parallel passages found in the Marcan and Lucan gospels say, we get a much clearer picture of what Jesus really meant.
NJB Mark 9:1 And he said to them, 'In truth I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.' (Mk. 9:1 NJB)
DRA Luke 9:27 But I tell you of a truth: There are some standing here that shall not taste death, till they see the kingdom of God. (Lk. 9:27 DRA)
Matthew tells us that some will not taste death till they see the coming of the Son of Man. Mark and Luke each say they will live until they see the Kingdom of God. So, which one is it? As the text indicates, and as the Church Fathers show, the particular reference of the coming of the Son of Man here and the coming of Kingdom of God mean the exact same thing! In fact, Mark and Luke’s account line up with what Daniel 7:14 says. The Son of Man will be given “..a kingdom”:
καὶ ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ ἥτις οὐ μὴ φθαρῇ
Mark 9:1 reads: τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ (Mk. 9:1 BGT)
Luke 9:27 reads: τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεου (Lk. 9:27
The “Kingdom”( βασιλεία***) in Daniel, is that of the Son of Man, presented as Almighty God. The Early Church Fathers were unanimous on the interpretation of seeing Christ being the clear figure mentioned in the passages in Daniel that are being referenced. Mark and Luke, hearkening to Daniel, mention the “kingdom of God”. Ok, but what did Christ mean when he spoke of the coming kingdom?
***Danker, Greek NT Lexicon
‘act of ruling’, kingship, royal power/rule/reign
Friberg, Analytical Greek Lexicon
[Fri] βασιλεία, ας, ἡ (1) abstractly, the power exercised by a king kingship, royal rule, reign (AC 1.6); (2) concretely, the territory ruled by a king kingdom, realm (MT 4.8); (3) predominately in the NT of the rule of God as promised, prophesied, and fulfilled through the spiritual rule of God in the hearts of people now (RO 14.17) and ultimately to be fulfilled in the messianic reign of Christ on earth reign, kingdom (LU 1.33)
βασιλεία N-NF-S βασιλεία
βασιλείαν N-AF-S βασιλεία
The Early Church speaks:
He was about to reveal mysteries to them. We must also understand by transfiguration not the change of His features, but that, whilst His features remained as before, there was added unto Him a certain ineffable brightness. 1
*The kingdom of the Son is the very same as the kingdom of the Father: “Verily, I say unto you that there be some of those which stand around us, who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God coming in power.” 2
*The good Master then, lest any man should be broken down by despair or weariness, straightway promises that He will be seen by the faithful, in these words, But I say unto you, There are some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God.
*How, then, can he not have in His power that which he gives, saying: "To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
*Or, by the kingdom of God in this place, is meant the present Church; and some of His disciples were to live in the body up to that time, when they should behold the Church of God built and raised up against the glory of the world. 3
Leo the Great
*And, therefore, rightly and significantly, had He promised that certain of the disciples standing by should not taste death till they saw “the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom,” that is, in the kingly brilliance which, as specially belonging to the nature of His assumed Manhood, He wished to be conspicuous to these three men. 4
Hilary of Poitiers
*He turned toward his disciples and said that some of them would not taste death until they beheld the Son of man in the glory of his own kingdom. Moreover, Jesus himself tasted death and showed the faithful already a taste of death. 5
So what DID Jesus mean?
The receiving of the Kingdom of God most definitely encompassed many things. As Gregory the Great showed, the Kingdom was the Church that Christ had established. In Hilary, he noted how death didn’t come for any until they were able to realize that our Incarnate God had returned to glory in his Kingdom. Christ tasted death and the Church was able to see the fulfillment of the words found in Daniel 7. Theophylact, Leo the Great, and Ambrose believed that the faithful would not pass on to their reward until they had seen Christ transfigured, which was part of the receiving of the Kingdom, due to the incredible glory and power shone. “He will be seen by the faithful..” as the German stalwart noted. Ambrose was referring to the glory that was witnessed in the Transfiguration of Christ, of which the power was foretold in Mark 9:1. None of the Fathers, those great pillars of the faith, believed that Christ meant that those present to hear Christ’s words would live until Christ would return in his Second Coming.
1. Aqui. (1843). C.Aurea:St.Luke
2. Works and Letters of Saint Ambrose Sec.92-102
3. Hom. 32. in Ev.
4. Leo the Great, “Sermons,” in Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Charles Lett Feltoe, vol. 12a, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1895)
5. On Matt. 17.1