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“In Matthew 16:28 is Jesus telling His disciples that He is going to return in their lifetime or is he saying that they are going to see Him ascend into heaven?” — Devin
In the wider context of this verse, Jesus has revealed some astounding and pivotal aspects of His life and work. He confirmed He was the Messiah (Mt. 16:13-17). He assured His followers that He was going to build His church (16:18-19). He informed them He was destined to die and promised them He would be resurrected on the third day (16:21-23).
These revelations are followed by clear instructions regarding what is required of true followers of His (16:24-26). Finally, Jesus briefly mentioned the second coming of the “Son of Man” (a messianic title commonly used in this Gospel) and the subsequent judgment (16:27). Following the verse 28, the account of the Transfiguration appears (17:1-13).
The presence of these facets in this passage allows several interpretations of verse 28 (which reads, “ … there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”)
One is that they had already seen the Son of Man come in His Kingdom; i.e., His physical presence at that moment. A second is that they would see Him manifested in His Kingdom when His church was established and growing.
A third interpretation is that Jesus was referring to His second coming. The fourth possibility is that He was referring to the Transfiguration. The fifth: they would see Him after He had conquered death.
Each of these interpretations has some merit and could be legitimately argued. The broad sweep of the New Testament would indicate that the last interpretation above is perhaps the most plausible.
In the latter days of His ministry, Jesus repeatedly emphasized His impending passion. In this and parallel passages the announcement that they would see Him “coming in His Kingdom” in their lifetime is tied closely to His prediction of His death and resurrection (Mt. 12:40; 17:9, 22; 20:18; Mk. 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; Lk. 9:22, 27; 18:31-34).