They will not taste death

Matthew 16:28


Jesus said some of his disciples would live forever and wander the earth as ageless immortals. No, wait. Did he really?

It sounds like the plot of an Indiana Jones movie but the truth is no less exciting. Here is what Jesus actually said:

Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see…

– the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:28)
– the kingdom of God after it has come with power. (Mark 9:1)
– until they see the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:27)

Each version is different but the same. Since the kingdom is nothing without the king, these verses are all about Jesus.

But what’s this business about Jesus coming into his kingdom? When did that happen, and why did only some of the disciples see it?

The short answer is Jesus is talking about his exaltation. Jesus came to earth as a servant, but he returned to heaven as a king. In other words, Jesus is speaking of his resurrection and ascension…

when (God) raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:20-21)

Look up the “won’t-taste-death” scriptures above and you will find each one leads into the story of the Mount of Transfiguration. The transfiguration is the trailer, but the ascension is the feature movie. The transfiguration gave the disciples a glimpse of what was to come, while the ascension left them looking heavenward in slack-jawed awe.

Eyewitnesses of his majesty

One of the disciples who saw Jesus transfigured was Peter.

We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to him by the majestic glory, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased” – and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-17)

Put yourself in Peter’s shoes. You have seen Jesus heal the sick and cast out demons, but the prophets healed the sick too. Perhaps Jesus was just another prophet. Then Peter heard the voice of God, and he saw Jesus shine brighter than the sun. Nope, Jesus is no mere prophet. Peter just became an eyewitness to majesty.

Perhaps Peter wanted to tell others what he saw. “Jesus is the King!” But Jesus told him to say nothing until after the resurrection (Mark 9:9).

Peter was like one of those journalists who get to see movies before their official release. He’s got a big secret, a spoiler. He knows Jesus is the King. But he can’t talk about it until after the premiere.


The premier

Ever notice how Jesus spoke differently after he was resurrected? He said stuff like this:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18)

These are the words of a king. They are not the words of a prophet or servant.

Later Peter and the disciples followed Jesus up another hill where there was another cloud. It was déjà vu all over again, except this time Jesus didn’t come back down with them but ascended to heaven. Seeing Jesus rise up into the clouds was a sight the disciples never forgot.

The disciples saw the Son of Man leave, but Daniel saw him arrive:

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 nations and peoples 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)

The coming of Jesus to the Ancient of Days is one of the five great comings of the Lord. It’s also the coming many Christians don’t know about. Or if they do, they think of it as a going (Jesus went) instead of a coming (Jesus came). But every going implies a coming and this was Christ’s most glorious coming to date.

They will not taste death

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

Jesus promised the disciples they would see it and they did. But only some of them, not all of them, for by the time of the ascension Judas had died.

On the Mount of Transfiguration three disciples got a glimpse of Christ’s kingly glory, then on the Mount of Olives the others saw the Son of Man ascending, and coming into his kingdom.

And those who saw it became eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Adapted from Paul Ellis’s new book AD70 and the End of the World.


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27 Comments on They will not taste death

  1. Brandon Petrowski // December 8, 2016 at 1:27 am // Reply

    Good word, this is how I thought it was intended but was never really sure. Good to have confirmation.

  2. Rinitha Rachel // December 8, 2016 at 2:11 am // Reply

    All the disciples saw the ascension of Jesus.. Then why it is mentioned ‘some of you’.. As in matthew 16 Jesus was only speaking to his 12 disciples.

    Plus I m not believing the concept tht they r still alive :).. Wats ur view abt immortality?? Pls share.

  3. Leopoldo Solid // December 8, 2016 at 3:03 am // Reply

    What an eye opener! Every going implies a coming. Many are missing this truth.

  4. Good job explaining this one… =
    Laus Deo (Praise The Lord), Faye Stiles

  5. Let’s look at the scripture in more context. “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matthew 16:27‭-‬28 NKJV Jesus was talking about his second coming…

    Similar language is found in Matthew 23:36, 24:34 & Luke 21:32. In context Jesus is predicting judgement and places that event in their lifetime, their generation. When did this judgment happen? 70AD when Rome concurred Jerusalem and destroyed the temple just like Jesus said would happen exactly 40 years (1 generation) after Jesus died on the cross. It happened in their generation.

  6. Just in time for my Sunday school lesson this coming week. Now I would like to know why some but not all of the disciples were witness of the transfiguration (also a Sunday school question for this coming Sunday). .

  7. That makes a lot of sense. Also, to answer some objections about all saw it. He was talking about all His followers not just the twelve. Judas didn’t see it, but during His arrest and crucifixion many left and ran for fear. Some of them may not have seen it either.

  8. Anita Sheridan // December 13, 2016 at 3:11 am // Reply

    I’m not sure how it happened, but a while back I tried to stop comment notifications on one post, and have not gotten another E2R email. Can you help me fix this please? (Maybe I just did, at the end, by checking notify me of new posts via email?) Thanks!!
    Anita Sheridan

  9. Holly Meadows // December 17, 2016 at 4:37 am // Reply

    I’m really looking forward to your book AD 70 and the End of the World!

  10. How can I get the free Ebooks? Am new here,I need direction on how to get them download. thank you.

  11. I figured the same myself, but what about this verse: Matthew 10:23: When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

    I figured him “coming” was referring to his ressurection,when he also something like a preview of his full glorious incorruptible kingly body. It would be a great verse to talk a bout

    • The coming is the same coming as mentioned above, namely the Son of Man coming to the Ancient of Days in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. The apostles had not finished going through the towns of Israel before Jesus ascended.

  12. Erm..

    Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who WILL NOT TASTE DEATH UNTIL they see the Son of Man COMING in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:28)

    Pretty straight forward if you ask me..

    Yup, they are still alive..

    Looking forward to meeting them 🙂

    • So you don’t think Jesus has come into his kingdom? Is he not a king?

      • Ayo Martins // December 29, 2016 at 7:04 am //

        Naa , i dont think whether or not He has been glorified as King is the issue here..

        The issue is whether Jesus was, or wasn’t referring to His second coming in that passage.

        The ascension seems more like a ‘GOING INTO’ than a ‘COMING IN’ don’t you think?

      • Well he’s talking about coming into his kingdom and since that already happened and every one of the disciples died a long time ago, I don’t see how there can be any other interpretation. The ascension seems like a going to us, but Jesus described it as a coming on numerous occasions (eg: John 17:11). The Son was coming home to be crowned.

  13. Serge kulapa // January 2, 2017 at 12:49 am // Reply

    Looking forward to reading the upcoming book ‘AD70 and the end of the world’. When is it coming out, Paul? Can I already pre-order it?

    • I haven’t finished writing it. If all goes to plan – and these things seldom do – and ebook version will be available at Easter with a paperback to follow.

  14. Paul, thanks for this commentary. Bob Enyart wrote book called “the plot” where he does an exhaustive study on such seemingly confusing verses. He states Jesus was planning on coming back in their lifetimes but when they didn’t follow through with the commission he changed gears and focused on the apostle Paul (Jer 18) to reach the Gentiles since they were focused only on the Jews only for salvation until Acts 15. This teaching known as hyper dispensationalism has caused division because I could not buy two different gospels and his explanations based on Plato who supposively corrupted church doctrine.
    Thank you for making sense of this verse.
    Have you heard of Bob Enyart? If so what is your take? Jeff

  15. Ismael Olivera // January 16, 2017 at 6:53 pm // Reply

    Thank you.

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