Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Luke 9:27 The kingdom of God

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 8, 2018

27 I tell you the truth: There are some standing here who will certainly not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

Usually the word “taste” refers to the sense we use to experience flavors, like Isaac who had “a taste for wild game” (Genesis 25:28). But there are many examples in the Bible of the word “taste” being used for experiences of other kinds. Examples of this include a wife longing for her husband’s kiss: “His fruit is sweet to my taste,” (Song of Solomon 2:3) and other marital pleasures (Song 4:16). Also, “the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food” (Job 34:3, 12:11). When Job said that he tasted “bitterness of soul” (Job 27:2), he meant a bitterness he had experienced with his life. So when Jesus talks about someone “tasting death,” he means dying in the ordinary sense; someone who experiences what death is like. But there is another side to this colorful expression. Someone who merely tastes a thing does not need to have drunk it down to the dregs. Jesus took a taste of the vinegar offered to him on the cross, but did not drink it (Matthew 27:34). So the “some” standing there who would taste death were comforted: Death does not have a permanent grip on those who trust in Christ.

What does Jesus mean when he says, “Until they see the kingdom of God”? There are a couple different views, and it would be fair to comment on each one of them. We should remember Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “Before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom,” and Mark’s source, Peter, remembered Jesus saying, “Before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” This suggests that the expression Jesus may have used was something like, “Until (or before) they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom, and the kingdom of God coming with power.”

1, The end of the world. This especially unlikely since at this time Jesus was in his state of humiliation, and had set aside his knowledge of the time of the end of the world in particular (Mark 13:32).

2, A physical kingdom or earthly reign of Christ. This was the original misunderstanding of the apostles, and it continues today in a similar form of misunderstanding by Millennialists and American mega-churches. Just before his ascension, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6), but that was not why he had come into the world.

3, The disciples were not truly Christians yet, since they had not received the Holy Spirit. This is another false view of what it means to be a Christian. The thief on the cross was every bit as much a Christian as were believers like Peter, Paul, Mary and Martha, and you yourself. Jesus was not talking about personal faith, but something else.

4, The transfiguration. This idea is sometimes suggested because it begins with the very next verse (Luke 9:28). But Jesus’ display of glory to Peter, James, and John was not the coming of the kingdom.

5, The spread of the kingdom of God in the world. This is the best way to understand Jesus’ words. Throughout the parables, “the kingdom of God” as the description of the way God gathers people into his church, like a man sowing seed (Luke 8:5-8), or a man who planted good seed but who had an enemy sowing weeds (Matthew 13:24-30), or a mustard seed that grew into a huge plant (Matthew 13:31-32). There were disciples present with Jesus who would see the kingdom spread out beyond Judea and Galilee, into Samaria, into Asia, and even into Greece and the rest of Europe. Some, like James, would be put to death before seeing this take place. Judas would abandon his faith before seeing it all happen. But many—most—of those with Jesus at this time would be there.

When we see the kingdom of God at work in our lives—in a new member at church, a baptism, or when someone long absent returns to God’s family—we should remember to praise the Holy Spirit for his work in human hearts. He is the faith-bringer, the doubt-wrangler, the praise-starter, and the Great Tutor of our souls. His victories are all for the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. And he shall reign forever and ever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.