Q.

Please explain Luke 9:27, which says that some will not taste death until they have seen the kingdom of God. Is that those who are destined for Hell?

A.
I am not sure what you mean by your last question, but I should point out that there are several views on this passage of Scripture before I explain what the passage most likely means.

Some have thought the passage means that the disciples, to whom Jesus was speaking, would not die when Jesus died (at the cross) but would continue to do the work He had commissioned them to do. Others have thought that Jesus was referring to Pentecost. Although the disciples would see Pentecost (except for Judas Iscariot), it is unwise to mix this event with the Kingdom. Still others believe that Jesus was speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This and the other views, however, just don’t harmonize with the teaching and significance of the coming Kingdom.

We can obtain the best view of this passage through the context. Incidentally, we find corresponding passages in Matthew 16:28—17:13 and Mark 9:1. Verse 27 of Luke 9 reads, “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.”

Who did Jesus refer to when He said “some”? It should be obvious that He referred to some of His disciples standing there with Him that moment. That is what Luke 9:27 says. Now note what happens next, about eight days later (v. 28). (The other two Gospel writers record “after six days,” which is another way to say “about eight days”; the records do not contradict each other. Perhaps Luke, unlike the other two, included the days Jesus taught as well as the actual day of Transfiguration.) The Transfiguration was a pictorial preview of the glory Jesus would manifest in His promised future Kingdom reign! Note, too, that not all the disciples went up into the high mountain to witness this experience. Only Peter, James, and John went; they are the “some” Jesus referred to in Luke 9:27.

So what Jesus had said before the event was that these three men would not die until they had seen the kingdom of God coming with power. These men have been dead for centuries. They would have had to see this Kingdom in its glory before they died. They saw it up on the mountain at the Transfiguration.

Another significant word in verse 27 is the word “see.” Because these three disciples had this mountaintop experience, they could see the millennial Kingdom without being in it. The actual millennial Kingdom and reign of Christ would be centuries away; it is still a future time to us living today. But they saw the Kingdom because they witnessed the Transfiguration.

The apostle Peter, in fact, wrote in his second epistle about this opportunity to have a foretaste of the future kingdom. Concerning the Transfiguration, he wrote:

For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. . . . For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we [Peter, James and John] made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount (2 Pet. 1:11, 16–18).

Indeed, Peter, James, and John saw in Jesus Christ the very glory He will have as He reigns during the Millennium in His coming Kingdom. Peter assured the readers that this event was truth, not fables. He and the other disciples with him were eyewitnesses to the event, and they had also heard the voice of God. Peter shared this heavenly experience out of the great desire he had to get his readers to see that Christ will come with the same majesty and power He displayed on the mountain at the Transfiguration.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (December 1992).
© 1992 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.