Luke 9:27 “some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God”
Many assume that Jesus was referring to the faithful (his disciples and possibly some of his followers) who would be the ones to “see” (enter in) the kingdom of God in this passage (Luke 9:27), however, if this was the case it would not had been a true statement (at least not literally) because the people that were there listening did die (literally), and the kingdom of God has not yet appeared.
Since we know Jesus always told the “truth” (John 14:6, 1 Pt 2:22) we must see under what circumstance this passage (Luke 9:27) remains true.
So what does “till they see the kingdom of God” mean? To understanding this passage we need to first address both the “kingdom” and the ability to “see” the kingdom aspect of this passage.
The terms “Kingdom of God” (found 70 times) and “Kingdom of Heaven” (found 33 times) are used interchangeably and both terminologies are only contained in the New Testament portion of the Bible (Mark 1:15, Luke 21:31, Matt. 3:2, 4:17, 10:7). This also let’s us know that the Old Testament saints had no prior knowledge of ever inheriting this kingdom of God or any expectation of a resurrection that would be made available through Christ unto eternal life (Colossians 1:26-27).
In addition, these terminologies are at times used differently. At times this phrase is used spiritually and other times literally, which is the mysteries Jesus speaks about, made known to some and others it is spoken as parables (Luke 8:10, 13:18-21)
1. In one statement (Luke 17:20-21 – “the kingdom of God is within you.” ), Jesus was declaring a spiritual truth that Israel did not see. He clearly was not declaring that a physical kingdom, with its Capital City (Jerusalem) on this Earth (Jeremiah 23:5, Psalms 48:2, Rev 21:2, 10), would be within the physical body of every believer.
(Literal or Physical)
2. In several other passages (in reference to Luke 9:27) we are given clear indications that the kingdom of God (at this time) is a place outside the body of man and up in heaven (Heb 12:22-24, Rev 3:12, 12:10, 21:2, 21:10) waiting to come down.
There are also two other factors to consider on this matter concerning “seeing” the kingdom of God.
A Vision or Revelation
1. One factor to consider is the documented experience of the apostle John. John had a vision (or revelation – the ability to view or perceive something) of things to come (Rev 1:1-3), one of which clearly appears to indicate he “saw” (Rev 1:1, “shew unto his servants“) the kingdom of our God (Rev 12:10) while he was yet alive in exile on the isle of Patmos (Rev 1:9).
In Hebrew (H7200) and in Greek (G3708) the words translated “see” can also mean “to discern or to perceive.” The Hebrew word ra’a is used of both seeing with the eyes and knowing something, or perceiving it (Gen. 16:4; Exod. 32:1; Num. 20:29). Similarly, the Greek word horao, translated “see” in John 1:18, 6:46; and 3 John 1:11, can mean “to see with the eyes” or “to see with the mind, to perceive, know.” Even in English, one of the definitions for “see” is “to know or understand.” For example, when two people are discussing something, one might say to the other, “I see what you mean.”
However, this is probably not the best understanding to adhere to for several reasons;
a. God’s Kingdom is not part of nor within this “sinful” earth realm (not of this world) but away in a place called heaven.
b. God’s dwelling place is “up” in heaven (caught up)
2. However, Jesus’ words were not necessarily concerning those who would attain the Kingdom of God, but more likely it was meant to be a warning to some present who would not attain the Kingdom of God.
In other words, there were some who were standing there (in attendance) who took no heed to do what Jesus had taught and it is those who will see him at his second coming after they are raised, but will be condemned. Up to that point, none of them (nor you and I) will not have “tasted” true death, because although their current lives came to an end, they, as Jesus says in other places, will be just “sleeping” awaiting the resurrection (Acts 24:15). The taste of real death is the second death (Rev 20:11-14), and they won’t experience it until they have seen Jesus as judge in his kingdom of God (Acts 17:31, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 (NLT)).
Note: If this were not the case, why does Jesus say they will see him and then “taste death?” Who attains the kingdom of God and then dies? It is only in this setting that this could occur.
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