Jesus made a claim in Matthew 16:27-28 that he would come in the glory of the Father with the angels of heaven and sit in judgment over mankind. However, he didn’t stop with that statement. He went on to say that he would come in the Father’s glory and some of the folks, listening to him on that day, would live to see that event. Wow! What a statement! Many Christians scholars are embarrassed by Jesus’ words in this scripture and attempt to modify the power of his statement by redefining the words to mean what **they** presume Jesus said. It is amazing to see how some folks will stretch sola scriptura so out of whack, that clear speech becomes unintelligible without informed explanations.
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28)
Paul made an interesting claim about the ministry of Jesus in his letter to the Romans. In chapter fifteen he said that Jesus purpose in becoming man was to keep the promises God made to Old Covenant Israel:
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:(Romans 15:8)
In other words, Jesus came to confirm the promises made to the fathers. Biblical Eschatology is all about the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. It is about what the Old Testament prophets said God would do. Therefore, we could say that Matthew 16:27-28 is nothing more than a scripture repeating an Old Testament promise God made to the children of Israel, and it concerns the coming of the Lord in the Kingdom of God. It is also important to realize that every statement in the New Testament that refers to the end or the time of the end or the end of the age etc., are simply a repetition of something God told Old Covenant Israel he would do, and each one of those New Testament statements refer to the ‘end’ of Israel’s age, or the ‘end’ of the Old Covenant. The Bible NEVER speaks about the end of time.
So, if, indeed, Matthew 16:27-28 is nothing more than Old Testament scripture repeating itself in the New Testament, what scripture passage did the Lord have in mind when he told his listeners that he would come in the glory of his Father before some of his listeners died? Notice what the prophet Isaiah says:
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40:1-5)
Isaiah foretold the coming of John the Baptist (cf. Matthew 3:1-3), so Isaiah’s words were for Jesus’ day. John predicted judgment (Matthew 3:3) and warned that the Messiah was about to come and would baptize all with the Holy Spirit and fire, that his winnowing fork was in his hand (harvest) and he will gather the wheat into his barn and the chaff he’ll burn with fire (Matthew 3:10-12). Isaiah went on to say:
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withers, the flower fades,: because the spirit of the LORD blows upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. O Zion, that brings good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that brings good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. (Isaiah 40:6-10)
The grass represents the people of Israel. In the beginning of their history they flourished, but now (i.e. in John’s and Jesus’ day) they were withered and their flower (glory) had faded, and they were about to be cut down (judged – cf. Isaiah 40:6-8). However, it is also a time of Israel’s restoration (verse-9), because the Lord will come with a strong arm in his Kingdom and rule (verse-10).
Notice how this fits the context of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:27 – “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” The glory of his Father is another way of saying the Kingdom of his Father (cf. Matthew 20:21 & Mark 10:37), So, Jesus is coming in the Kingdom of his Father, which agrees with 40:9-10, which calls for a restored kingdom. Jesus said he was coming to judge his people (Matthew 16:27, which agree with Isaiah 40:6-8, 10, but his reward (for his servants) is with him. All this occurred when Jesus returned in 70 AD through the Roman army that destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple (cf. Daniel 9:26), and established his Kingdom with his disciples (Daniels 2:44), so that they, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-3), would be his representatives to the nations, and some who stood before Jesus listening to him lived to see that day (Matthew 16:28).