Jesus said that some of those in one of his audiences would “not taste of death” until they see him coming in his kingdom with his angels; and then he would judge every man according to his works:
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Fatherwith 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.” — Mat 16:25-28 KJV
He warned the same audience to not be ashamed of him and his words, or he would be ashamed of them when he returned:
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” — Mar 8:38, 9:1 KJV
“For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. 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.” — Luk 9:26-27 KJV
That seems straightforward enough. But many, if not most biblical scholars reject a literal interpretation of “not taste of death”. Some explain it away as a reference to the upcoming transfiguration (a week later), even though there is no mention of angels nor of judgment (Matt 16:25) at the transfiguration. To get around that inconsistency, many will claim the two verses are separate prophecies, even though there is nothing grammatical to warrant such a claim.
This article will examine supporting scripture for a literal interpretation.
Judgment According to Works
The necessity of doing good works is mentioned many times. For example, David said the Lord would judge every man according to his works:
“and mercy is thine, O Lord; for thou wilt recompense every one according to his works.” — Ps 62:12 LXX
Jesus confirmed in his Revelation that he would “come quickly” and judge every man according to their works:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works . . . And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” — Rev 20:12, 22:12 KJV
In the Gospel of John, Jesus rebuked the works of unfaithful Jews in the harshest manner, labeling them as children of the devil:
“They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham . . . Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” — John 8:39,44 KJV
Jesus was not very pleased with his generation of Israelites, calling them a “perverse generation”.
“Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.” — Mat 17:17 KJV
Moses foretold a perverse generation that would arise in the latter days:
“”For I know that after my death ye will utterly transgress, and turn aside out of the way which I have commanded you; and evils shall come upon you in the latter days, because ye will do evil before the Lord, to provoke him to anger by the works of your hands . . . They have sinned, not pleasing him; spotted children, a froward and perverse generation.” — Deu 31:29, 32:5 LXX
Until the arrival of Jesus, that term – perverse generation – was used only by Moses.
Blood of Servants
Moses also said that in those “latter days” the Lord would avenge the blood of his sons [MT: blood of servants]:
“Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.” — Deu 32:43 LXX
Jesus said the blood of the prophets (which includes his and his disciples’ blood) would be avenged on his own wicked generation. He also declared that a prophet could not perish out of Jerusalem:
“Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation . . . Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” — Luk 11:48-51, 13:33 KJV
Jesus also said in his Revelation that the blood of prophets, saints, apostles, and servants would be avenged on Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots:
“And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration . . . Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her . . . And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth . . . For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.” — Rev 17:5-6, 18:20,24, 19:2 KJV
The commonality of the blood of prophets, along with the requirement that a prophet cannot perish out of Jerusalem, makes it virtually impossible that Babylon the Great was any city other than first century Jerusalem.
The Olivet Discourse
Jesus told four of his disciples they would be killed, and he told all his disciples that they would not have gone over the cities of Israel before he returned:
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled . . . And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” — Mar 13:3-4,13 KJV
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake . . . And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” — Mat 24:9, 10:22-23 KJV
He also told the disciples they would be killed before the current generation was finished:
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” — Mat 24:34 KJV
Coming In Clouds
Jesus said he would come in the clouds of heaven, and send his angels to gather his elect, before his generation and the generation of his disciples was fulfilled:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other . . . Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” — Mat 24:29-31,34 KJV
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven . . . Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.” — Mar 13:24-27,30 KJV
During that same generation, Jesus said Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies:
“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people . . . And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh . . . So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” — Luk 21:20-23, 27-28, 31-32 KJV
That was fulfilled in A.D. 66 when the Roman armies of Cestius Gallus surrounded Jerusalem, before departing for unknown reasons, giving Christians time to flee Judaea:
“There may another very important, and very providential, reason be here assigned for this strange and foolish retreat of Cestius; which, if Josephus had been now a Christian, he might probably have taken notice of also; and that is, the affording the Jewish Christians in the city an opportunity of calling to mind the prediction and caution given them by Christ about thirty-three years and a half before, that ‘when they should see the abomination of desolation’ [the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns, ready to lay Jerusalem desolate] ‘stand where it ought not;’ or, ‘in the holy place;’ or, ‘when they should see Jerusalem any one instance of a more unpolitic, but more providential, compassed with armies;’ they should then ‘flee to the mound conduct than this retreat of Cestius visible during this whole rains.’ By complying with which those Jewish Christians fled the siege of Jerusalem; which yet was providentially such a ‘great to the mountains of Perea, and escaped this destruction. See tribulation, as had not been from the beginning of the world to that time; no, Lit. Accompl. of Proph. p. 69, 70. Nor was there, perhaps, nor ever should be ” [Josephus, Flavius, “The Complete Works: Wars of the Jews.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1934, Book II.19.6, fn704, pp.1270-71]
The presence of Roman armies on Judean soil was considered an abomination to the point that at an earlier date a Roman general, Vitellius, redirected his armies around Judaea, rather than through it:
“So Vitellius prepared to make war with Aretas, having with him two legions of armed men; he also took with him all those of light armature, and of the horsemen which belonged to them, and were drawn out of those kingdoms which were under the Romans, and made haste for Petra, and came to Ptolemais. But as [Vitellius] was marching very busily, and leading his army through Judea, the principal [Jews] met him, and desired that he would not thus march through their land; for that the laws of their country would not permit them to overlook those images [eagles] which were brought into it, of which there were a great many in their ensigns; so he was persuaded by what they said, and changed that resolution of his which he had before taken in this matter. Whereupon he ordered the army to march along the great plain, while he himself, with Herod the tetrarch and his friends, went up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, an ancient festival of the Jews being then just approaching;” [William Whiston, Antiquities of the Jews, “The Works of Flavius Josephus Vol 3.” George Bell& Sons, 1889, Book XVIII.5.3, Mat 24:15, pp.284-85]
Therefore this . . .
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:” — Mat 24:15-16 KJV
Equals this . . .
“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains” — Luk 21:20-21 KJV
Daniel wrote of the abomination of desolation, here:
“And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.” — Dan 12:11 KJV
The daily sacrifice was taken away in 66 AD, a few months prior to the arrival of the armies of Cestius, and approximately 3 1/2 years before Titus arrived with his troops in February 70 AD:
“And at this time it was that some of those that principally excited the people to go to war made an assault upon a certain fortress called Masada. They took it by treachery, and slew the Romans that were there, and put others of their own party to keep it. At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account; and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon.” [Flavius Josephus, “The Complete Works.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1934, Book II.17.2, p.1257]
The abomination of desolation was also mentioned in this passage (annotated) which points to Christ using the armies of Titus to destroy the city and sanctuary:
“And after the sixty-two weeks, the anointed one [Christ] shall be destroyed [cut-off, crucified], and there is no judgment in him: and he [Christ] shall destroy the city [Jerusalem] and the sanctuary [Temple] with the prince [Titus] that is coming: they [the city and temple] shall be cut off with a flood [of Roman soldiers], and to the end of the war which is rapidly completed he [Christ] shall appoint the city to desolations [even the country side was stripped of its trees]. And he [Christ] shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he[Christ] shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he [Christ] shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” — Dan 9:26-27 LXX
What about the so-called Rapture?
For those who believe the gathering of the elect in the Olivet Discourse is separate from the “rapture” of 1 Thessalonians 4, please make note that Paul was using personal pronouns:
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” — 1Th 4:15-17 KJV
The grammar indicates Paul was not writing about us, but about himself and the first-century Thessalonians.
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