27 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
1901 ASV Translation:
27 But I tell you of a truth, There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
I. Jesus' Declaration of a Restricted Manifestation of the Kingdom of God.
A. He said that "some" would not taste of death until they should see the Kingdom of God.
1. That they were to "taste of death" at some point remains. The "Gospel" is not a promise of deliverance from certain of the consequences of Sin's presence in humanity. It is a promise of an ultimate reversal of the large picture of those consequences. Physical death will be reversed by resurrection to immortality. But, it will only be reversed after the fact and the fact is, apparently, not going to be erased from memory ("the smoke of their torment ascends for ever and ever..." - Revelation 14:11). By the same token, the biblical revelation declares "judgment" upon every man with the consequence being that each of us will experience eternity under the reality of what we have done in this world. Thus, the total impact of Sin will never be undone.
2. The declaration is that "some" will see the Kingdom of God. This "Kingdom" has been the topic of biblical revelation from the beginning and is the essence of all "faith, hope, and love". As such, the "sight" of it will have some kind of impact, even if it is not readily apparent for some time.
B. The larger question involves a couple of matters: why some should "see" such a manifestation; and, why He would say such a thing in this setting. This second matter is made even the more mysterious in light of the declared fact that they did not tell anyone "any of those things which they had seen." And the mystery deepens even further when we read the accounts by Matthew and Mark. They both record that the reason no one told anyone is that He "commanded/charged" them to keep silent about it until after the resurrection of the Son of Man. And, the three immediately latched on to the statement about "risen from the dead" and got sidetracked.
1. The record immediately following this declaration is of Jesus taking Peter, James, and John up on a mountain while leaving the other nine in the place of their departure. Their experience of seeing Jesus transformed was, apparently, the fulfillment of Jesus' words. The "seeing" of the Kingdom of God was a "seeing" of Jesus transformed by brightness and attended by Moses and Elijah, who spoke of His coming death in Jerusalem. This strongly implies that "the Kingdom of God" is contained in Jesus when His "veiling" is lifted to some degree. To see the King is to see His Kingdom.
2. Peter, in 2 Peter 1:16-18, wrote of this experience and used it to claim that his message is "Truth". This tells us at least one of the reasons for the "experience", but it does not seem to answer the second question: why would Jesus say this to the group at the time of His summons to whole-hearted discipleship?
a. The facts are these:
a) The "sight" did not substantially alter the disciples' inner character in the short term; they all fled in the darkness the night Jesus was betrayed.
b) The un-favored "nine" (with the exception of Iscariot) ended up carrying the Gospel to "the uttermost parts" (if historical tradition gives us any truth about that) even without this special favor.
c) Peter, James, and John did, eventually, bubble to the top of those who carried great weight in the doctrine and function of the Church.
d) Peter pulled a stunt of such hypocrisy as one of those "leading lights" that Paul had to confront him publicly and denounce him (Galatians 2:11-21), and this action of his was well after, not only this vision of the glory, but also the resurrection and a host of other highly spiritual experiences.
b. Thus, the question is this: to what point did Jesus make this statement?
a) One thing such a statement does do: it puts Jesus on record as telling His disciples that His summons to self-denial, cross-bearing, and pursuit of His love and truth is being made in the light of some extremely critical issues that, if actually true, make being one of His disciples an enormously high privilege and a status that is worthy of any level of self-denial, cross-bearing, and pursuit.
b) The caveat is that little phrase above: "if actually true". Anyone can make any kind of claims. Jesus was not the first to claim to "be someone".
c) Given the volatility of man's "faith", that Jesus had demonstrated His "power" is of little use over the long haul and even "claims" that are secretly validated have about the same level of impact. However, the biblical record has always made a "big deal" out of God's "particular" choices and actions in respect to individuals and the outworking of His Grand Plan. Paul was given the enormous privilege of being caught up to the third heaven and given revelations that he could not reveal on earth. This did make a significant impression upon him as an individual with a God-given impact to make in this world.
d) The bottom line is this: Jesus made the statement and that declaration makes all who reject Him inexcusable. The statement is "out there" and can be investigated and cannot be rejected with impunity.