Was Jesus wrong when He told the disciples that some of them would 'not taste death until they see the kingdom of God' (Luke 9:27; Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1)?
In Luke 9:27 Jesus said, "But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God" (also in Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1). Did this take place? Did some of the disciples see the kingdom of God during their lifetime?
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The following verses in Luke (as well as in Matthew and Mark) include the account of the transfiguration. During this event, Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John on top of a mountain during which Elijah and Moses met with Him. These disciples saw Jesus in His full splendor and fell on their faces (Matthew 17:6).
This context reveals that the prediction given by Jesus was fulfilled in the words to follow. In other words, the transfiguration, experienced by "some" (Peter, James, and John), was the fulfillment of Jesus' prediction. This is further strengthened by the fact that the word "kingdom" can also mean "royal splendor." Understood this way, the disciples saw the royal splendor of Jesus during their lifetime, just a few days following His prediction.
Another factor that favors this view can be found in Matthew 17:1. Immediately following Jesus' prediction that "some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:28), Matthew wrote, "And after six days…" (also Mark 9:2). This specific connection with the previous events further shows Matthew linked the transfiguration as a fulfillment of what Jesus had previously taught. Luke added "about eight days after these sayings" (Luke 9:28), offering an approximate time (which may have been inclusive of the beginning and end days and would then have been the same as Matthew's six days).
While this is the most likely interpretation, other views have been suggested. One other possibility includes viewing the "kingdom of God" as a reference to Jesus' death and resurrection. Those who hold this view see the resurrection as a more likely fulfillment that also fits the context of the disciples experiencing the kingdom of God before their death. However, the immediate following context as well as the use of "some standing here" prepare the reader for the transfiguration account to follow, making the transfiguration the more likely reference.
Moses served as a representative of the Law. Elijah represented the prophets. Jesus served as a fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament, offering a new covenant and a new kingdom to those who would follow Him.
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