"They shall not tasted death till they see the kingdom of God"
27: For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
28: 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.
Matthew 16: 27,28
These verses has always been a difficult one for Christians. It is often said that the early Church expected Christ to come in their time and as such we sense the urgency in Paul's letters and throughout the New Testament. This notion of Christians not seeing death before the completion of the "these things" comes out also in I Thessalonians 4 where Paul speaks of the Rapture.
Many theologians and Scripture Scholars have concluded that, (Lord, not my words, don't strike me!) Jesus was not wrong when he predicted the end, but he was mistaken. It grates me to even think the thought.
The Rapture folks are greatly dependent on this verse because they've been assured that the generation that sees these things happening, i.e, the restoration of Israel and the temple and all that stuff, will see the Rapture. Of course, if God presses the pause button on the Rapture, there's is going to be a major crises of faith for a whole bunch of Christians.
I bring all this up because I ran into the following statement by John Henry Newman:
He said to His Apostles, "I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Kingdom of God." Then, "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. And as He prayed the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistening. And His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light ... And behold there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias, who appeared in glory ... But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were awake, they saw His glory."
For Newman, the Transfiguration fufilled Jesus' prophecy that some shall not see death till the they see the Kingdom of God. I like it. It fits better, it makes much more sense. (I'm not interested in the interpretation that the Church is the Kingdom of God, that sense of Kingdom of God is to prosaic to match the force of Christ's words.)