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Matthew 16:28

Matthew 16-28


“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:28).

Here, Jesus assured the Twelve (disciples) that, before death, some of them would see Him coming in His kingdom. Because all the Twelve have long been dead and Jesus still has not returned after nearly 2,000 years, many people have stumbled over this text. But because Jesus was incapable either of lying or of being mistaken, it should be obvious He was not saying that some of them would not physically die before His actual second coming.(1)

To understand correctly what Jesus meant, it is first of all helpful to know that basileia (kingdom) was often used as a metonym to mean "royal majesty" or "regal splendor" - in much the same way that scepter has long been used figuratively to represent royal power and authority. Used in that way, basileia would refer to a manifestation of Jesus' kingliness rather than to His literal earthly reign. His promise could therefore be translated, "until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingly splendor."(1)

It was not uncommon for Old Testament prophecies to combine a prediction of a far distant event with a prediction of one in the near future, with the earlier even prefiguring the latter. Such prophecies would thereby have near as well as distant fulfillment's. The fulfillment of the near prophecy served to verify the reliability of the distant one. It seems reasonable, therefore, to assume that Jesus verified the reliability of His second coming prophecy by giving a glimpse of His second coming glory to some of the disciples before they would taste death.(1)

In light of that interpretation-and because in all three gospel accounts the promise of seeing His glory is given immediately preceding the account of the transfiguration (see Mark 9:1-8; Luke 9:27-36) and, as mentioned above, basileia can be translated "royal splendor"- it seems that Jesus must here have been referring specifically to His unique and awesome transfiguration before Peter, James, and John only six days later (see 17:1). Those three disciples were the some among the Twelve who would not die until, in a most miraculous preview, they would see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.(1)


Other verses that may be linked to this verse would include Mark 13:30 and Matthew 24:34.


1). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Matthew 16-23 pp.58-60

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