Questions From Readers
● What did Jesus mean when he told his apostles that some of them would see him coming in his kingdom before they died?
Today, in the northernmost part of the Golan Heights is the village of Baniyas. That is the location of ancient Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus was when he made a comment that evidently referred to the transfiguration, occurring some days later.
Jesus said: “Truly I say to you that there are some of those standing here that will not taste death at all until first they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”—Matt. 16:28.
Fulfillment of Bible prophecy in our day indicates that Jesus’ presence in Kingdom power began in 1914 C.E. (Matt. 24:3-14; 25:31-33) Obviously, Matthew 16:28 could not refer to this event, for Jesus there spoke of something that would take place before the apostles all died. Then what could that have been?
The Hebrew Scriptures had foretold that the Messiah was to be an everlasting king. (Gen. 49:10; 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Isa. 9:6, 7) Daniel’s vision in particular gave Jews reason to expect the Messiah’s reign to be glorious, powerful, magnificent. (Dan. 2:44; 7:13, 14) But just who was to be this Messianic king, and would he rule from an earthly throne? Even Jesus’ disciples who accepted him as the Messiah could benefit from assurance that he would reign from heaven with power and glory.—Matt. 16:16-22; Acts 1:6.
Accordingly, less than a year before he died Jesus explained that some of the apostles would “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” or, as Mark phrased it, “see the kingdom of God already come in power.” (Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1) After Jesus was no longer among them, the disciples would be able to draw strength from their having been eyewitnesses of his future heavenly presence in Kingdom power.
But how were Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:25 fulfilled? Often the meaning of a verse is suggested by its context. In this case, all three Gospel accounts of Jesus’ promise about seeing him in his kingdom lead immediately into the record of the transfiguration.
About a week after saying what he did at Matthew 16:28, Jesus took “some of” the apostles (Peter, James and John) up on a lofty mountain, likely Mount Hermon. There he was transfigured to appear in a vision with Moses and Elijah. And God said: “This is my Son, the one that has been chosen. Listen to him.”—Luke 9:28-35; Matt. 17:1-5; Mark 9:2-6.
The transfiguration was a vision of Jesus in Kingdom power and heavenly glory, as Peter later confirmed. Referring to the transfiguration, Peter explained that they had thus “become eyewitnesses of his magnificence.” He added that in the transfiguration Jesus had “received from God the Father honor and glory.” (2 Pet. 1:16-18) So, it appears that when Jesus said that before they died some of the apostles would see him in his kingdom, he was referring to the transfiguration scene that some of them witnessed shortly afterward.