Matthew 16:28 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Many have been taught that Jesus is referring here to the Transfiguration, which took place six days later with three of His disciples present. But Jesus didn’t come into His kingdom in the Transfiguration, although those three disciples did see His glory more fully revealed. Others have been taught that this refers to Jesus’ second coming, and point to it as a failed prophecy of Jesus, since all of His original disciples have died, and He has not yet returned.
But there is a much clearer explanation for these words, and it looks back to a vision of the prophet Daniel. Daniel was blessed with several visions that foretold the time between his day and the day of the Messiah; the same days as were foretold in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, when God’s kingdom was seen as a rock that demolished the previous super-powers, and grew to fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:44-45).
In a later vision at night, Daniel was shown a strange sight: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14 NIV)
Some interpret this as Jesus’ second coming. But the words clearly show that this is not a vision of Jesus coming to earth, but being led into the presence of the Ancient of Days in a glorious coronation, to receive glory, sovereign power, and dominion (the kingdom) after the victorious completion of His mission on earth.
The sign to Jesus’ followers that this had all happened, that He had indeed received His kingdom, was the sending of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:5-7), which happened on the day of Pentecost. Peter clearly understood this, as shown by his declaration to the crowd on that day: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36 NIV) The coming of the Holy Spirit showed him conclusively that Jesus had now been made Lord over the kingdom of God.
Jesus’ word was true. Not all who were with Him that day lived to see the proof of Him being made Lord of the kingdom. Judas, who betrayed Him, had already killed himself.
Father, as I read these words, I am flushed with excitement at a new and fresh grasp of the fact that Your kingdom is a here-and-now reality that we get to live in. We get to experience its boundless power today, if only we will. We don’t’ have to wait for Jesus’ return to live and work in it with You. And, as partakers of it, we are destined for victory, as Your kingdom fulfills its potential to fill the whole earth with Your glory. Oh, Lord, make it so! Amen.