Matthew 16:28: The Promise Of Not Tasting Spiritual Death Before The Parousia -- By: J. Edward Dallas
TRINJ 30:1 (Spring 2009) p. 81
Matthew 16:28: The Promise Of Not Tasting Spiritual Death Before The Parousia
J. Edward Dallas is the youth and college pastor at University Bible Church in Los Angeles, California.
Matthew 16:28 has posed a challenge to scholars for nearly two millennia, yielding various interpretations.
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.1
ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι εἰσίν τινες τῶν ὧδε ἑστώτων οἵτινες οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρωπου ἐρχόμενον ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ.
The natural understanding of the verse is that Jesus is making an ultimately failed prophecy regarding the timing of his return, yet it is doubtful that he is making such a prediction given his refusal to set dates for the Parousia and his stated ignorance of when it will occur (Matt 24:36).2 Accordingly, much of Matthean scholarship holds that Jesus was not referring to the Parousia but to an alternate manifestation of the kingdom that did occur within the lifetime of those first disciples.
An interpretation dating back to Saint Ambrose, yet largely neglected today, proposes that Jesus is speaking of spiritual death; therefore, there is no need to look for the fulfillment of the Son of Man coming in his kingdom within the lifetime of those who heard the discourse. According to this view, Jesus is making a promise that the “some” who answer the call to true discipleship and risk their physical lives by taking up their crosses and following him will be kept from tasting spiritual death before getting to see and take part in the Parousia. This reading has received little attention in modern scholarship due to two main factors. In this verse and in Mark 9:1, the seemingly pliable “kingdom” language has been the focal point
TRINJ 30:1 (Spring 2009) p. 82
of interpretation. In conjunction with this is the chief objection given by C. E. B. Cranfield who briefly laid out the case for a spiritual death understanding, but then posed an important question, “But for this interpretation ἕως is difficult—would it be implied that after they have seen, they will ‘taste death’?”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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