The world commonly misrepresents the kingdom and the church, but how and in what way? Numerous churches teach that the kingdom will be established after Christ returns to reign on earth for a thousand years, usually taking their teaching from Revelation chapter 20. A few groups will claim that Christ never intended to establish the church; it was plan B when the Jew rejected the kingdom. The church stands until Christ returns, and then He will establish His true kingdom on earth. All of this, of course, implies that the church and the kingdom are two different institutions, which is the misrepresentation previously mentioned. However, many verses in scripture show that the church and kingdom are synonymous. Nevertheless, Christians still experience evangelists at their doors tell them that they must prepare for the kingdom that is to come!
A few days ago, a man contacted me in response to someone approaching him about the kingdom that will come when Christ returns, a door-knocking encounter. After being motivated to study more on the subject, the individual asked an excellent question, “Please explain Matthew 16:28, what does it mean within context?” Apparently, this man had been looking over the verses in the Bible where the word “kingdom” was recorded. The verse states, “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. 16:28). With any study, one should always start with the Bible, and then consider the context. Verses taken out of context spurns any number of misrepresentations of God’s message.
Matthew 16:21-28 records Christ’s teachings to His apostles detailing His death and the result of His death. In the last two verses, there seem to be two different comings mentioned in the text. The first coming (vs. 27) has reference to Jesus’ Second Coming as He will come in the glory of the Father, and with the holy angels, and will reward all according to their works. The coming in verse twenty-eight has reference to “coming in his kingdom,” or when His kingdom was fully established on earth. Though He should suffer and die and be buried, He would be raised from the dead and, through the Holy Spirit, would come on the Day of Pentecost and would establish His kingdom. Hence, He would come in His kingdom during the lifetime of some of His apostles. Christ says, “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death…” Meaning that at least a few of those who heard Christ in that moment would not die until they saw Jesus establish His kingdom on earth.
This verse explains that the kingdom came during the lifetime of the apostles; the kingdom was established in the 1st century. Despite the obvious contrast in scripture, some believers still teach that the kingdom has yet to be established. These same advocates would interpret verse twenty-eight as the Second Coming of Christ, which is mentioned in verse twenty-seven. The problem with this interpretation is that Christ stated that the coming in verse twenty-eight would come within the lifetime of the apostles. As far as we know, there are no 2,000-year-old people walking around! Therefore, the kingdom that Christ established must already be on earth. Furthermore, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 and 2 Peter 3:10, Christ’s Second Coming will bring about the end of the world and “the works therein will be burned up.” The fact that the world remains proves that verse twenty-eight cannot be referring to Christ’s Second Coming, and the coming of His kingdom is not the same as the Second Coming of Christ.
There is a parallel passage in Mark 9:1, “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.” The kingdom of God came with power when the apostles received the power of the Holy Spirit (the spiritual gifts) on the Day of Pentecost when those that believed were baptized and added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:1-4, 38-47). Paul wrote to the church at Colossi and told them that God “hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). One cannot be translated into something that does not exist, obviously the kingdom of God existed in the first century, and it existed in earthly form so that earthly inhabitants could see it come and be translated into it. Matthew 16:28, explains that the kingdom has been on earth since the apostles received the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
Christ likewise explains what the kingdom is in the context of Matthew 16:28. In the same teachings of Christ to His apostles in Matthew 16, Christ elucidates that the church is the kingdom by using the terms “church” and “kingdom” interchangeably (Mat. 16:18-19). Christ would establish His church and give those faithful apostles, such as Peter (vs. 18), the keys to the “kingdom,” which are the teachings of salvation, how one enters the church (Acts 2:47). The apostles witnessed the establishment of the kingdom on earth in the first century in the form of the church (Acts 2). Matthew 16:28 is Christ’s prophecy of the establishment of the church/kingdom on the Day of Pentecost.