NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
Verse 27: The Son of man will come again with His Father’s glory and with His angels. And He will reward everyone for what they have done.
Our Lord now suddenly goes from what His disciples can expect in the near future to what can be expected in the far future. No doubt He wanted to assure them that any self-denial, suffering, pain, misery, or death they may suffer in this life for His cause, will be amply rewarded in the life to come for everything they gave up to spread the Gospel.
Zechariah tells us what some will do when Messiah’s feet touch down on the Mount of Olives and it splits in two from east to west making a valley that runs north to south: “You will flee through this valley, for it will reach as far as Azal. Yes, you will flee as you did from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all His holy ones with Him.”1 Job, also, was not fooled, he made it plain, “He pays us back for what we have done. He gives us what we deserve.”2 Solomon shows his wisdom when he says, “You cannot say, ‘It’s none of my business.’ The Lord knows everything, and He knows why you do things. He watches you, and He will pay you back for what you do.”3
God tells Isaiah the other side of the story, “Tell the good people who do what is right that good things will happen to them. They will receive a reward for what they do. But it will be very bad for wicked people, because they, too, will get what they deserve. They will get what they did to others.”4 The prophet Jeremiah was given a similar word from God: “But I am the LORD, and I can look into a person’s heart. I can test a person’s mind and decide what each one should have. I can give each person the right payment for what they do.”5 And the Lord was straight foreword with the prophet Ezekiel in this message: “The common people will be very afraid because I will pay them back for what they did. I will decide their punishment, and I will punish them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”6
In his sermon on this text, Chrysostom gives this exhortation: “Do you see how the glory of the Father and of the Son is all one glory? But if the glory is one, it is quite evident that the substance also is one. For if in one substance there be a difference of glory (‘for there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for even the stars differ in glory from one another;’7 although the substance is one), how may the substance of those differ in which the glory is one? For He did not say, ‘In glory such as the Father’s,’ whereby someone might suppose again some variation between the glory of the Father and the Son. Rather, He implies the entire perfection of the one God: ‘In that same glory, He will come,’ for it to be deemed one and the same.”8
Verse 28: Believe me when I say that there are some people standing here who will see the Son of Man taking over His kingdom before they die.
It is quite evident from this verse that Christ did not mean His kingdom during the millennial reign or anytime thereafter. The tone of the statement indicates that those of whom He speaks will eventually die but not until after they have seen Him as the appointed King of His kingdom. Almost 200 years ago one Bible commentator stated: “This appears to refer to the mediatorial kingdom which our Lord was about to set up, by the destruction of the Jewish nation and civil order, and the diffusion of the gospel throughout the world.”9 This would have to take place before the rapture since death will have no power over the redeemed after that. Also, it had to occur before He ascended because the Holy Spirit was coming to temporarily replace Him until He returned again to resurrect the dead, which obviously was going to take quite a bit of time in order for the church to spread His Gospel throughout the world. Consequently, He must have taken claim over His kingdom sometime after this statement, but before His ascension.
There are indications in the scripture that reveal He came into His kingdom after His death. Remember His promise to the thief, “Today you will join Me in Paradise.” Add to this Christ’s own statement, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Therefore, Christ’s kingdom was spiritual. Consequently, He had to become a spiritual being in order for Him to qualify as King of that kingdom. Therefore, it is logical that following His death on the cross, and while His human body lay sealed in the tomb, and after He visited Hades where Abraham and others were waiting, He then ascended in spirit to the Father to receive His crown of victory before going back into His body and for the stone to be rolled away so He could show Himself to His disciples as the risen Savior. No wonder Mary did not recognize Him at first. The last time she saw Him was as a persecuted prophet, beaten, and tragically crucified, then carried to a borrowed grave. Only after He called out her name did she realize she was looking at Majestic Royalty, the Prince of Peace, the King of Glory.
Bishop Hilary gives his summation of what our Lord meant by these words to His disciples. He writes: “Therefore it was necessary by the authority of a real and manifest example that He teach them of the loss of present things and place these in the context of future gains. All of this might seem contrary to the power and perception of current judgment. After he had warned of the cross to be borne and the soul to be ruined and the eternity of life to be exchanged for the loss of the world, He turned toward His disciples and said that some of them would not taste death until they beheld the Son of man in the glory of His own kingdom. Moreover, Jesus Himself tasted death and showed the faithful already a taste of death. And so deeds.”10
Whenever there seems to be some confusion between what our Lord said would happen and the things that were yet to happen, the best guide is to examine the history of the community of faith and see what did or did not yet take place. As of now, we have no record of a mass resurrection of all believers who were then assembled in the sky for their trip into heaven. So we can certainly say that is yet to come. We also have no evidence of the kingdom coming to earth in the form of a New Jerusalem as depicted in John’s revelation, so we still await that glorious day.
But we do know that from the time our Lord gave the commission to His disciples and their endowment of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the assembly of believers has continually grown around the world. So the Kingdom of God is already here in a spiritual sense, awaiting its King in a physical sense. And to that end, all true believers know that in order to gain everlasting life, we must be willing to forfeit our plans for this life by making Him and His mission a priority by the way we live, even to the point of giving up life altogether for His sake if that is what it requires to remain faithful to Him and His cause. The question for all believers is this: Are we ready to do this for the One who loved us so much He gave His only Son to die once so that we might live eternally? Pray that you answer is, “Yes!”
1 Zechariah 14:5
2 Job 34:11; cf. Psalm 62:12
3 Proverbs 24:12
4 Isaiah 3:10-11
5 Jeremiah 17:10; (See 32:19)
6 Ezekiel 7:27
7 1 Corinthians 15:41
8 Chrysostom: Matthew, Homily 55.5
9 Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, loc. cit.
10 Hilary of Poitiers: On Matthew, 17.1