A weekly Bible reading for Bridge Builders
Reading – In His Royal Dignity (Matthew 16:28)
At the end of chapter 16 of Matthew’s gospel Jesus makes a puzzling statement.
“Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”
This is not a reference to the Second Coming, the date of which is known only to the Father (Mt.24:36) and therefore couldn’t be indicated by Jesus. It is believed by some to refer to the Transfiguration that happened witnessed by Peter, James and John six days later, while some believe it refers to the events of Pentecost. The word translated “kingdom” in our Bibles can mean “kingship”, “royal reign”, or “royal dignity” and the passage could be translated as referring to “the Son of Man coming in his royal dignity.”
In his prayer in John 17 Jesus prayed, “Now Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (Jn.17:4) and in Philippians we read of Jesus that:
“God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philip.29-10)
By the time Paul was writing (circa AD 62) the picture Christians had of Jesus was of his having taken his throne and reigning among his people by his Spirit. Given this is it possible that the picture of Jesus coming into his royal reign, kingship and dignity is not one event? Could the words of Jesus be understood as a “prophetic foreshortening” in which a number of prophetic/historical events merge so as to be seen as one? This is what William Hendriksen suggests in his commentary on Matthew where he writes that Jesus was referring to the unfolding of events starting with the Transfiguration, including the Resurrection and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There!’ for behold the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk.17:21 ESV, NB the NIV translates “within you” but in this instance this cannot be right since Jesus was addressing unbelieving Pharisees and the kingdom was not within them).
Beginning on the Mount of Transfiguration, continuing with the exercise of God’s great power in conquering death and raising Jesus from the dead, going on to the sending of the Sprit at Pentecost and resulting in bitter complaints that, “These men have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) the coming of Jesus into his kingly reign or dignity was witnessed by many who stood with him that day and by many more.
This is important as we witness because we have a special message to those who attempt to restore, rebuild or otherwise reinvent “what God originally intended”. The kingdom of God is not identified by borders, territories, organisations or a special people group as are earthly kingdoms but by a demonstration of the rule of God among his people in the world; among you, or in the midst of you. It will see its final consummation at his Second Coming but then he will come to judge, which is why we continue to invite people to put their trust in him so that until that day they too can see something of Jesus in his kingly dignity and on that day they can stand confidently before the throne of God because of Jesus whose kingly reign may be witnessed in their lives.