The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
"Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom" (Matt. 16:28). Many have read this last verse of chapter sixteen, and have closed the book, wondering as to the meaning of it. It is said that His coming refers to the destruction of Jerusalem; that may be so, in part. It is said that in the preaching of the Gospel and the power of the resurrection life His claims were substantiated; there is truth in that belief. But the clearest and truest interpretation is surely found in the record of the first five verses of chapter seventeen.
Matt. 17:1, 2
"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" (Matt. 16:28). "And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them" (Matt. 17:1-2). "There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom." Here, Peter and James and John saw the Lord in His glory. In later years Peter wrote: "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses 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. We have also the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scriptures is of its own interpretation, for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:16-21). For centuries the Old Testament prophets had spoken of the coming of the Lord Jesus in power and glory. "These are not cunningly devised fables," said Peter, "for the Word of prophecy is made more sure by what we, James, John and I, have seen. Prophecy is not by the will of man: but the Holy Spirit speaks through man. But to make it doubly sure that these promises are true about the power and glory of our Lord, we have been eye witnesses of His majesty. For when He received honour and glory from God the Father on the mount of Transfiguration, we heard the Voice from Heaven, God's Voice, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.'"
Surely that is what our Lord meant, that these three should not die until they should see this preview of the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.
He "was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as light, and behold there appeared unto Him Moses and Elias talking with Him" (vs. 2, 3). The transfiguration scene is a foreshadowing of that which shall be when our Lord comes in Glory: (1) He appeared in His body of glory; (2) There was Moses, typical of the saints who have died in Christ and whom He shall bring with Him; (3) There was Elijah, typical of those believers who will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air before He comes in glory, whom He shall bring with Him; (4) There were Peter, James, and John, typifying the remnant of Israel who shall look up and see Him coming; (5) There were the multitudes at the foot of the mountain, the nations who are to be brought into the Kingdom after it is established.
Then Peter, who had made that wonderfully truthful confession shortly before: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," suggested the building of three tabernacles. It was the natural man's desire for the Kingdom, without the Cross. As if to rebuke him for daring to put Moses and Elijah on the same plane with our Lord, "while he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold, a Voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." Do not look at these others; they are but men. Moses was the representative of the Law; Elijah, the representative of the Prophets, the Lord Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Peter was trying to do what the Modernists are doing today, classifying the Lord Jesus with men. Moses and Elijah were not on the same level with our Lord, nor can we by any words or theories of ours place a Gandhi or a Confucius on an equality with the Lord Jesus. This, the Lord Jesus, is My beloved Son; hear ye Him. It makes no difference what men say, hear Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; hear Him. "And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces ... and when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man save Jesus only." We will reach the full measure of our Christian growth when we see Him, and Him alone. He was transfigured before them: the word translated transfigured is used again in the New Testament, in Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians, and it is used in speaking of believers: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed (transfigured) into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). Let us hear no man save Jesus only; let us see no man save Jesus only.
"And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of Man be risen again from the dead. And His disciples asked Him, Why, then, say the scribes that Elias must first come?" (Matt. 17:9, 10). Even the disciples did not realize the significance of His coming death. They knew from the Old Testament prophets that Elijah should be the forerunner of the Lord Jesus upon His coming. They had seen Elijah, and the Lord in glory; now they were told to say nothing of what they had seen. Why did the scribes say that Elias must first come? Here they had seen him, and they were not to tell! "And Jesus answered, and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that He spoke of John the Baptist" (Matt. 17:11-13). John had come in the power and spirit of Elijah; he was rejected and slain. His rejection and cruel death was a picture of that which should happen to Messiah. Elijah will still come, before the Lord returns with His own in glory, and on this occasion his testimony will be received gladly by some.
We can only touch upon this portion. Coming down from the mount of transfiguration they found that Satan had been active during the Lord's absence. There was brought to the Lord one who was demon-possessed. The teaching here is dispensational, as is the whole Gospel of Matthew. This experience is typical of the Lord's return in glory. Satan has been very active during the Lord's bodily absence. When He returns then, He will find multitudes waiting for Him, but He will find many possessed of Satan's handiwork. The remnant, typified by the disciples, will be preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, with power to heal, but they will be helpless because of unbelief. Only the Lord Himself can cast out the devil from this world, and upon His coming again He shall do so.
Is it not a wonderful promise that we have? "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you" (Matt. 17:20). These promises are given to the disciples, heirs of the Kingdom, but we as believers are joint-heirs with Christ, and all these blessings are ours. "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." Prayer is communion with the Lord, fasting is self-denial, the death of the flesh. Only by unbroken fellowship with the Lord and a life entirely yielded to Him may these promises be wholly appropriated.
Finally, the Lord again spoke of His approaching death. "And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall be raised again" (Matt. 17:22, 23). The disciples at last began to understand, "And they were exceedingly sorry."
The miracle of the tribute money taken from the mouth of the fish was another demonstration of the Lord Jesus' coming in humility and subjecting Himself as man to the ordinances of the world in which He dwelt but of which He was never a part, and of His power and might as God in having dominion not only of the great seas and winds, but of the course of a small fish.
Truly this is the Son of God. Nothing is impossible with Him. Why do we not trust Him fully?