The Three Who Saw

Yeshua said that some of his disciples would not die before they saw the kingdom arrive. Which ones? And when did that happen?

1855 painting of Mount Tabor, the traditional site of the Transfiguration. (See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Somewhere in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, the Master asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am.” Simon Peter, speaking on behalf of the others, declared, “You are the Messiah.” That confession marked a watershed moment. The Master immediately began to predict His coming suffering and death in Jerusalem.

The disciples did not want to hear about it. They had finally reached the point where they felt confident that their rabbi must be the Messiah who would bring about the Messianic Era, and He began to speak about suffering and dying. His gloomy predictions defied their messianic expectations and shook their faith in Him.

The Master assured His disciples that their expectations had merit. He told them that the Son of Man will come in glory, with His Father’s angels, and usher in the kingdom on a revealed level. He told them emphatically, “Amen, I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1). With these words, Yeshua predicted that the kingdom would arrive within the generation.

Which disciples did He mean? The gospels of Matthew and Mark deliberately link the Master’s cryptic promise with the narrative that follows by reporting that, six days later, He took aside three disciples: Simon Peter and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. He brought them up on a high mountain.

He transfigured before them, and Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. In the context of the story, the transfiguration functions as a heavenly witness to confirm Simon Peter’s declaration, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” It also offers a partial fulfillment to the Master’s promise that some would not taste death before they saw the kingdom of God, i.e., the king in his glory.

The transfiguration did not fulfill the Master’s promise. He would not have spoken about an incident that was to occur so soon in such language. He could not have meant, “Some will not taste death until they see something that is going to happen six days from now.” Nor can the transfiguration be considered a legitimate substitute for “the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” It may have been a preview of the glory of the Son of Man in the Messianic Era, but that is not the same as the actual arrival of kingdom, an event for which we are still waiting in faith. Even though the transfiguration cannot satisfy Yeshua’s prediction in Mark 9:1, the sequence is not accidental. The transfiguration story records an experience shared only by “some” of those who stood there in Mark 9:1. At the very least, the transfiguration should be considered a revelation of Yeshua as King Messiah, the agent of the coming kingdom, vouchsafed to three select disciples. The disciple Peter later recalled, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty … when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16).

On the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. (Deuteronomy 19:15)

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This coming year Torah Clubs are studying the Gospels from a Messianic Jewish perspective. Club members will encounter Yeshua of Nazareth in his Jewish context. Discover the historical and cultural backdrops of the gospels and be amazed as the teachings of Yeshua snap into focus and clarity. Unravel his difficult words and parables; study Jewish parallels to his teachings; and ultimately know Jesus better.



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