I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.Luke 9:27
Remember I told you in the last Gem that there are some “experts” who conclude Jesus was just plain wrong on this one. But hang on a moment if Jesus tell us this is a “truly truly” saying, then surely it is true. If it is not, how can we rely on any sayings of His? If His truly truly sayings are not true, then what does that say about the rest of what He said? This requires investigation. Let’s look in detail at the questions I posed for you yesterday.
Who are the people Jesus is speaking to?
Jesus had been speaking some things specifically to the disciples. But then He addressed the crowd (Mark 8:34), all of them (Luke 9:23) as hearers of what He had to say. Whereas a look at Matthew suggests it was still just the disciples He was addressing. It is possible to talk to disciples but at certain points along the way to include the crowd.
Who are the some or “certain people” (standing there)?
The way Jesus has phrased this appears to be directed to the disciples yet concerning “them”, a plural third party. Namely some of the crowd. Likely as not this refers to those among the crowd who believed as opposed to those who didn’t yet believe or in fact would not believe. But it could equally be some of the disciples as opposed to all of them. Or it could refer to some of the crowd rather than all of them.
Once before Jesus has made a statement similar to this. [See – Gem 129]
Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”
Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.”So the rumour spread among the community of believers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”John 21:21-23
The text of John makes it plain that the assumption the hearers made concerning this statement was in error. That was not what Jesus meant. Jesus was only posing it as a “what if” possibility. This statement we have before us carries much more indicative force. It is not a “what if clause”. It is a strong future statement of factuality. So what does Jesus mean?
What does “taste death” mean?
As we can see for the various version, taste death is a euphemism for dying. The word for taste “geuomai” means “to partake of”, “take part in” or more to the point “experience”. [thanatos] is a word which refers to death but of the second death kind. This death is the kind that takes one down to into hell. It is not referring to dying as such but to the kind that ends in everlasting punishment because of sin. The bitter taste of death without the presence of God.
What does it mean to see the kingdom of God?
The word to see does not only mean to physically “see” but also to perceive, understand, recognize or experience. Some standing there at the time Jesus spoke these words would not experience the second death, eternal separation from God before they perceived or understood the Kingdom of God. They are destined it seems for everlasting life because of faith in Christ. Notice Luke’s shorter account without reference to the power of God’s Kingdom being manifest or the Son of Man coming in power.
The debate that surrounds this verse yields the following interpretations or possible meanings:
- The Transfiguration that was to follow (which of course was a proto-type of the coming of Kingdom of God.
- The Resurrection and the Ascension. The sense of the verb is the seeing of an event that indicates that the kingdom has already been present. The fact that Kingdom of God is already presently manifest in Christ but is waiting its coming fulness.
- The Destruction of Jerusalem – the inference being that there were those who would not die until they had seen this event of judgement when indeed they would die (but not experience the second death). This then would show definitively that the old order had indeed passed away and the new Kingdom which needed new wineskins was ushered in.
- The Second Coming when He would appear in all His glory a point taken up in the following story of the Transfiguration which follows a “glory” theme.
- The Coming of the Kingdom of God equates with presence of Jesus. Since He was standing in front of them at that time then the Kingdom had indeed come. It is a question of having faith in Him in order to see it. The understanding of which will dawn with greater clarity post resurrection when the significance of these events will become even clearer. But the same dawning will come to some who will witness the Transfiguration.
This verse can have several applications all of which are valid. It may even signify a continuum of experience which grows with each succeeding wave of realization of truth.
There is more to follow as we look at the events of the Transfiguration, which will of course include “some of them standing there”, namely the three disciples Peter James and John. More on that next Gem.
Our greatest ignorance is not of what we have yet to learn, but of how little we really know.Bob Gass
No matter how smart we are, our understanding will never catch up with our experience.Ian Vail
God doesn’t judge a man until he is dead, why should you?Anon
God never wastes a hurt if we’ll let Him write His story with our lives.Steve Saint
The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.John Ruskin