Sunday, June 4th, 2023
Contending for the Faith Contending for the Faith
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 16". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ ctf/ matthew-16.html. 1993-2022.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 16". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/
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The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven.
The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came: It seems unlikely that the Pharisees and Sadducees are waiting on the shore when Jesus and the disciples arrive at Magadala. It does not take long for word to spread that Jesus has come, however, and soon two of the most powerful of all the Jewish sects approach the Master. Plummer makes the interesting observation that the appearance of the Pharisees and Sadducees proves Magadan and Dalmanutha are on the west side of the lake (221). Had these cities been in the eastern Decapolis area, these leaders likely would not have traveled there, for that was considered semi-heathen territory.
The solidarity of these two parties is uncharacteristic. The Pharisees and Sadducees typically hate one another. The Pharisees are traditionalists. Sadducees, however, have little respect or concern for tradition. In this respect they are similar to Jesus. But beyond this one point, Jesus has little in common with them. Theologically, the Sadducees are grossly in error. They do not believe in angels, a resurrection, or an afterlife. They are aristocratic, high-class skeptics whose political interests take precedence. MacArthur notes that many of them amass fortunes operating the lucrative Temple concessions of money changing and selling sacrificial animals (Vol. 3, p. 3). Their head is the high priest whose connection is with a kind of priestly-political nobility that is both rich and powerful (Lenski 608).
and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven: In order to discredit Jesus, these two groups will have to spring an extraordinary trap. Earlier the Pharisees asked for a sign and, except for an allusion to Jonah, have been denied (12:38). Now, with renewed devilish intent, the sects unite to test Him. They ask for a sign from heaven: something really big and exciting.
Moses delivered bread from heaven. Joshua made the sun stand still. Elijah called down fire from the sky. What can Jesus do? Alexander notes that some people of the day think that the advent of the Messiah will be announced by strange celestial phenomena (428). In reality, this occurred with the miraculous star at His birth. The Pharisees should not need more proof. They see Jesus’ miracles, healings, and exorcisms. Their assessment, however, is that He has a demon. They attribute these signs to hell. Thus they will not believe if Jesus hands them the moon.
He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
Scholars question the textual validity of these verses. External evidence for Jesus’ reply is scant in the earliest manuscripts and among the "Fathers" (Vatican, Sinaitic, Origen, etc.). Jerome says that it is not found in the majority of copies (Broadus 348). Because of this, many scholars assume the passage to be an insertion by copyists taken perhaps from Luke 12:54-56, with modification of the signs. Fowler and Lenski, however, intensely refute this notion. Fowler demonstrates that the Greek is not sufficiently parallel between the accounts to warrant such a conclusion. Furthermore, Fowler, Morison, and others suggest the passages might have been omitted by copyists in climates where these "signs" do not hold true (such as Egypt). Lenski believes the omission from so many manuscripts is "due to an effort to bring Matthew’s record of the present incident into conformity with that of Mark 8:11-13" (611). Regardless of one’s stance regarding the textual validity of these verses, no doctrinal issue is affected, and these verses certainly and beautifully fit the Palestinian context of Matthew’s gospel. These signs would be recognized as true by the Jews.
It will be fair weather: for the sky is red: A red sky in the evening means that the next day will be fair. In Israel, storms typically come from the west, across the Mediterranean Sea. The setting sun’s red reflection indicates that the west is clear.
And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring: If the morning sky is red with threatening clouds, the Jews know that a storm has blown in and the weather will be foul.
O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?: The only thing these leaders really understand is the weather. The obvious workings of the physical realm are clear to them, but when it comes to spiritual things, they are blind (15:14). Ironically, they ask for a sign from heaven, and Jesus uses their request to prove their ignorance.
A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
With stern rebuke, Jesus again gives the true assessment of His own people. They are wicked and adulterous. They have left that relationship with God that would have brought them eternal blessing. Rather than accept God’s Son as the Messiah, they scorn His miracles, scoff His power, and clamor for a side-show. Jesus refuses to cater to such evil minds. They ask for a sign from heaven, but the only one He will offer is from the heart of the earth—the tomb. The prophet Jonah will be their sign. See notes on 12:38-42. Not wasting another word on these evil men, Jesus now leaves them.
And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
It will not be long until Peter’s great confession near the region of Caesarea Philippi and Jesus’ transfiguration on the mount. Toward that goal, Jesus now leaves the area of Magdala and crosses to the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Mark also mentions the area of Bethsaida-Julias. See notes on 14:13. This is the last time Jesus withdraws from His Galilean ministry. No doubt this is the most important of all His retreats because of Peter’s confession and the transfiguration.
Probably due to the suddenness of Jesus’ departure, the disciples have forgotten to take bread. Mark, in characteristic detail, says they do not have more than one loaf with them in the boat (8:14). This is significant because they are now headed toward the less populated eastern shore where bread will be harder to find.
Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
In the account of 16:1, the apostles witnessed the pervasive and ever-spreading Pharisaic evil which Jesus now calls "leaven." Although Jesus is clear about the kind of "leaven" to avoid, the apostle’s carnal minds misunderstand. They assume Jesus’ warning is connected with their lack of food provisions.
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread
The apostles miss the point and take the term "leaven" in a literal since. This misunderstanding might arise because the Jews have so many rules about making bread and from whom leaven can be purchased. Leaven must come from a kosher source. Possibly these disciples assume that Jesus is instructing them to no longer purchase bread from the Pharisees or Sadducees. If they must be so scrupulous about buying bread, however, how will they supply their need? Will they have to go without?
Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
Here Jesus begins a series of four questions that runs through verse 11. The first question addresses the root of the problem: their weak faith. This weak faith demonstrates itself in two ways.
First, they misunderstand Jesus’ statement. Their spiritual immaturity (faithlessness) and carnal minds do not grasp the warning about "leaven." But even if Jesus is speaking about literal bread, they are still without excuse. Failure to bring food is of no consequence to One who can turn stones to bread. Even the memory of the two previous feedings, which had occurred only days earlier, has apparently faded from their minds. Thus their concern is nothing less than lack of spiritual faith and focus.
Mark’s account records an extended rebuke that Matthew omits. In Mark’s account, Jesus asks them if they suffer from lack of perception, hard hearts, blind eyes, and dull ears (8:17-18).
Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
Jesus asks the disciples to recall the actual number of baskets that were leftover after the previous feedings in order to impress upon their minds His supreme power. Mark 8:19-20 shows that the disciples actually answer the questions with "twelve" and "seven" respectively.
Once again Jesus maintains the distinction between the twelve baskets (kofinos, v. 9) and the seven baskets (spuris, v. 10). See notes on Matthew 14:20; Matthew 15:37. The former is a smaller basket used by the Jews while the latter refers to large hampers that are more characteristic of Gentiles.
In maintaining this distinction here, Matthew again demonstrates that these are two separate miracles. In addition to the different Greek words for "baskets," the number of people, fish, loaves, and fragments also differ.
How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
Although the previous miracles should be fresh in the disciples’ minds, they should have recognized that Jesus is not talking about literal bread. They should have understood that He is talking about the influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees that spreads like leaven.
Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread,
Once the disciples realize that Jesus is using the term "leaven" in a metaphorical sense, His warning becomes clear. It is the "teaching" or "doctrine" of these leaders that Jesus cautions against.
but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees
The "doctrine" Jesus mentions does not only mean the specific false tenants which these sects teach. The warning is broader. He also has in mind the methods and influences of these various groups. Both doctrines and methods are apt to influence weak members of His kingdom. McGarvey notes the real issue with these groups is the subtle influence of their spirit and example which corrupt without warning, like a concealed grave (Fourfold 408).
The Pharisees have external piety and formalism. The Sadducees are advocates of skepticism and liberalism. Lenski notes that both groups can influence the unwary who are not grounded in the truth (617). The Pharisees’ legalism pushes men toward an empty and outward show of holiness. The Sadducees’ appeal to natural reason leads to rationalism, disbelief, and unbridled living. Both philosophies, says Lenski, act like leaven which silently penetrates the heart and mind and, if not expelled, bring ruin to the soul (618).
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi: Matthew’s record of Peter’s great confession is the most detailed of the synoptic accounts (cf. Mark 8:27-30; Luke 18:20). He describes their location roughly as the region of Caesarea Philippi (to distinguish it from the southern sea coast town of Caesarea). Mark notes that the conversation that follows occurs on one of the roads of this vicinity.
The location of the event is significant. By this time Jesus’ ministry is swiftly drawing to a close. For at least two and a half years His disciples have been with Him, and now opposition against them is mounting. Ellicott says that this retreat to Caesarea Philippi is a continuation of Jesus’ attempt to avoid the populated cities that have previously rejected Him (Ellicott 226). Previously Jesus had retreated to Tyre and Sidon (15:21), had passed southward through the Decapolis (7:21; 15:32), then (16:1-4) returned to the area of Bethsaida (Mark 8:22). From there He and the twelve now travel northward to the foothills of Mt. Hermon. This is a lush area of beauty and serenity where the snows of Mt. Hermon, whose height reaches more than 9,000 feet above sea level, feed the springs and brooks that eventually empty into the Sea of Galilee, some 25 miles to the south. One of the largest springs is nearby at Dan, but Caesarea Philippi also boasts a significant spring and cave. As a boy growing up in Nazareth, Jesus no doubt sees at a distance Hermon’s majestic snow-covered peaks. This represents the northernmost part of His ministry and travels in the Holy Land.
Not more than two and a half miles from Caesarea Philippi is the ancient city of Dan (Judges 18). Essentially, this is the northern limit of Israel (Beersheba being her southern limit, Judges 20:1; 1 Chronicles 21:2). Since this area is the last outpost of Israel, however, it is always susceptible to pagan influence. It was here, during the period of the Judges, that the Canaanites worshiped Baal, and during the divided kingdom, that Jeroboam erected a golden calf (1 Kings 12:25-33). In Jesus’ time, Greek paganism is strong in this region. Some scholars identify Caesarea Philippi with the "Baal Hermon" of Judges 3:3 and 1 Chronicles 5:23.
The heathen city of Caesarea Philippi was originally called "Paneas" (modern name = Banias) because of its cave and spring where, according to mythology, Pan was born. Even today inscriptions and niches, once used for housing idols, can be found carved into the rock face where pagans worshiped their heathen gods (McGarvey, Lands of the Bible 543). The spring that comes from the cave is a chief source for the Jordan River. Josephus calls the place "Panium" and notes that Herod the Great has a "most beautiful temple of whitest stone" near here in honor of Caesar Augustus from whom he received the region as a gift (Josephus: Antiquities X 3,3). Later, when Herod Philip inherited the area, he renamed the town "Caesarea Philippi" in honor of himself and Tiberius Caesar (McGarvey, Lands 543). It is this tetrarch to whom the province belongs during Jesus’ ministry.
he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?: The question that Jesus asks is especially significant in view of the area’s rampant paganism. Who is this "Jesus of Nazareth"? Is He just another prophet? Is He simply an ordinary Rabbi? Is He any more powerful than the pagan deities the people of Caesarea Philippi worship? The real issue is authority. What authority does Jesus have and from whence comes His authority?
Soon, with the help of Peter’s confession, the answer will be clear. Soon the disciples will all confess and realize that Jesus is the Son of God who alone provides victory over paganism. To demonstrate this magnificent truth, Jesus sets forth a contrast. He does not initially elicit from them a confession about His identity and authority but rather asks about those opinions floating among the people. "Who do men say that I am?" By adding "Son of Man," His real identity is inferred but not distinctly affirmed.
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: Jewish opinions of Jesus’ identity vary. Some, including the superstitious Herod Antipas, imagine Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead (14:1-2). One can understand why some might associate Jesus with John. Their ministries overlap, and their themes are similar. By this time, however, John is dead. Furthermore, John had predicted that Jesus’ ministry would continue after his own had ended.
some, Elias: Malachi 4:5 predicts that before the coming of the Messiah, the prophet Elijah will return. Some think that Jesus is not the Messiah but is Elijah who will usher in the Messiah. Jesus has already explained, however, that the coming Elijah is fulfilled in John the Baptist’s ministry (Matthew 11:14; Mark 9:11-13).
and others, Jeremias: Still others identify Jesus with Jeremias (Jeremiah), the weeping prophet of the Old Testament whom the Jews greatly venerate. Certainly there are similarities between the two men. Like Jeremiah, Jesus expresses genuine sorrow over His people. According to legend, Jeremiah had also appeared in a vision to Judas Maccabeus, handing him a golden sword to encourage him in his fight against the Greeks (2 Maccabees 15:12-16). The apocryphal literature further states that before the first temple is destroyed by the Babylonians, the prophet will hide the Ark of the Covenant and the altar of incense in a cave on Mt. Nebo in order to preserve them (2 Maccabees 2:4-8). Before the Messiah comes, Jeremiah is supposed to return to earth and restore these sacred objects to their proper place (Broadus 353).
or one of the prophets: Finally there are those who are uncommitted. They know Jesus is someone from God because they have seen His miracles, but they do not know exactly who He is. The Jews allow for a series of precursory prophets before the actual "Coming One." For a time, even John the Baptist apparently harbors this thought (11:3). Thus, the logical question is which one is Jesus? Broadus notes that "now that belief in a resurrection had become vivid, the idea of some former revered prophet re-appearing was more natural and credible than that of a new prophet" (353).
The disciples’ assessment of who the people think Jesus is shows that many of their society do not regard Him as the Messiah. Broadus says, "How could they, when in their view Messiah was to be a splendid conqueror and king?" (353). Jesus, in an earthly fashion, was neither of these.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
The most important question is not what the masses say about Jesus, but what His students think. Misunderstanding among the populace is to be expected, but the apostles have listened to the Master for three years. They have seen His miracles and heard His superb teaching. In a few weeks He will die, rise again, and ascend to the Father. The commission to spread the message will be theirs (Matthew 28:18-20). How can they be successful if they do not recognize His identity and authority?
Jesus’ question is exceedingly emphatic: "But you, who say ye that I am?"
The question is as alive today as ever. All who encounter the Master must identify Him. Who is Jesus? To the atheist, He is merely a man. To the Muslim, He is merely a prophet in the loosest sense of the term. To the secularist, He is just another philosopher. But to the true disciple, Jesus is the Son of the Living God. He is the Christ. He is the authority over their lives.
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Simon Peter answered and said: Characteristically, Peter blurts forth the answer without hesitation. The other eleven no doubt concur: "You are the Christ the Son of the living God."
Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God: The confession is not a new one. Peter had previously made such a statement in John 6:69 as many of Jesus’ disciples left to follow Him no more. Others hadalso confessed similar truths (John 1:49; John 4:25-41; John 11:27; Matthew 9:27; Matthew 12:23; Matthew 14:33; Matthew 15:22; and Acts 8:37). The statement here, however, is made more meaningful by the surroundings.
The confession is multifaceted and emphatic: "THOU art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
1. It first acknowledges that Jesus is the "Christ" (Hebrew, Messiah). The term in both Greek and Hebrew means "the anointed one." Jesus is the anointed one of God and stands to fill the Messianic office of Prophet, Priest, and King (Matthew 3:16; Acts 10:37-38). By using the definite article (the), Peter indicates that there is only "one" Messiah! Peter’s confession acknowledges Jesus as the long-awaited redeemer of Israel. Other people (v. 14) do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but Peter and the eleven do.
2. It attests to Jesus’ divine nature. He is the Son of God. (John 1:1; 1 John 1:1; Hebrews 1:1-2). Others may regard Jesus as only a human Messiah, but Peter’s confession shows that the twelve believe He is the Son of God.
3. It sets Jesus and His Father apart from all other "gods" (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). Over the years, Caesaerea Philippi and the surrounding area have been beset by pagan gods. These are lifeless, dead idols (Jeremiah 10:6-10; Acts 14; Acts 15). The true God of Israel, from whom Jesus has come, is alive and active (John 6:57; Romans 9:26).
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
And Jesus answered and said unto him: Jesus seems elated at Peter’s response. His words are warm and generous. The twelve have indeed grasped, at least to some degree, the essence of His divine nature.
Blessed art thou: The term "blessed" (makarios) is the same as in 5:1-12. Robertson notes that this is a personal beatitude for Peter (130). All who receive Jesus as the Christ are likewise blessed personally.
Simon Barjona: Peter is identified as "Simon Bar-Jonah." The Aramaic "Bar" mean "son." "Jonah" means "John." Thus Jesus calls Peter by his full patronymic name. He is "Simon son of John." Here Jesus contrasts Peter’s humanness to His own deity. Peter is the "son of John," but Jesus is the "Son of God." This fact gives Jesus the right to build His church and challenges the Roman Catholic notion that Christ’s church is built on Peter.
for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven: This statement also sets a contrast. The faith of Peter’s statement does not stem from human philosophy, popular opinion, or myth like the paganism of the area. The divine truth he expresses is from heaven. Peter has learned this divine truth by observing the words, works, and miracles of Jesus. God does not suddenly inspire Peter, causing him to confess; but rather, Peter’s statement is based on the evidence of the last two years (John 5:17-36; John 8:28; John 10:25; John 14:10). Peter, along with the other eleven, has observed God working through His Son. The magnificent truth of Peter’s statement reflects this.
When Jesus called His disciples, He did not tell them He was the Messiah. Over time their faith has grown, however, and they have come to recognize Him as such. Here at Caesarea Philippi is "graduation" for Jesus’ students. What Peter is oft slow to learn now comes bubbling forth as freely as the nearby Panium spring. The water, however, honors false gods of stone. What gushes from Peter’s heart about "The Water of Life" honors the true and living God.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Perhaps no verse in all of Scripture has elicited more controversy than this one. What does Jesus mean by His statement? What "rock" does He have in mind?
The difficulty arises in the obvious word play that is found in Jesus’ choice of words. "Peter" is the Greek word petros while "rock" is the Greek word petra. The former is a masculine proper noun, while the latter is a feminine common noun. Thus although there is a distinction between the two words, there is obviously a connection that must be considered.
Almost all linguistic scholars agree that, in general, the masculine petros (taken as a common noun) denotes a detached rock or boulder while petra depicts a ledge, cliff, or shelf of rock. The former is moveable, the latter is solid and stationary (Lenski 625, Fowler 502, Robertson 131, and Thayer 507). Nevertheless, as scholars like Fowler and Broadus indicate, the Greeks sometimes used the terms interchangeably (Fowler 503, Broadus 355). Furthermore, in this case Jesus is not simply using petros as a common noun but uses it in reference to Peter’s proper name. Thus, it is perhaps too simplistic to build one’s exegesis solely on the definition of the common noun without considering that Peter, a real-life person, stands behind the pun. We shall consider this in the following section.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter: In John 1:42 Jesus changed Peter’s name from "Simon" to "Cephas." Cephas is the Aramaic equivalent for the Greek name "Petros" (Peter). Both names mean "rock." Since Jesus also uses another word that means "rock" (petra), however, the difficulty is in discerning the distinction between the "rocks" of Jesus’ statement.
"Thou art Petros" is a compliment by Jesus. Whatever positive quality Jesus previously saw in Peter that led to a name change now manifests itself in his confession. Therefore, if Jesus is making a contrast between "little rock" (Peter) and "big rock" (petra) it is for the purpose of showing the strength of His kingdom not the weaknesses of Peter. Peter previously complimented Jesus (v. 16), and now Jesus returns the favor.
and upon this rock: While a plethora of opinions exist about the "rock," historically three basic positions have gained prominence. The case for each is far too complex to exhaust in this commentary, but a brief overview of each is appropriate.
A. Christ is the Rock: This view makes the account a contrast between Peter and Jesus. "You are Peter, a pebble, but upon Myself, The Rock, I will build My Church." While the Scriptures do indeed picture Christ as the Rock or Foundation of the Church (1 Corinthians 3:11), we must be careful not to artificially affix definitions to metaphors without considering context. "Seed," for instance, denotes the "Word of God" in Luke 8:11 and 1 Peter 1:23 but something quite different in Galatians 3:16.
One problem with seeing Jesus as the "Rock" in the passage is that it makes the Architect (Jesus) one and the same as the foundation. To some degree this might be valid, but it seems unlikely and unnatural here because it would make Him two different things within the same metaphor. Another difficulty with this view is that Peter himself in 1 Peter 2:8 calls Jesus "the stone (lithos) of stumbling and the rock (petra) of offense. But men usually stumble over rocks of smaller size not massive mountains of rock (Fowler 499). Thus, when referring to people, petra does not necessarily denote a massive foundational outcropping. Furthermore, Peter refers to Jesus as the chief cornerstone in 1 Peter 2:6 and Acts 4:11 rather than the foundation.
B. Peter is the Rock: Proponents of this view generally conclude that because both Petros and petra mean "rock," Jesus is promising to build His church on Peter. They contend that this is the most natural explanation and is in keeping with the word play of the passage. They argue that there is little distinction between Petros and petra except gender. Obviously a masculine form would have to be used in addressing Peter. This argument is supposedly further bolstered by the assertion that while Matthew’s gospel comes to us in Greek, Jesus’ words at Caesaerea Philippi are spoken in the native Aramaic where no distinction occurs between "Peter" and "rock." Therefore, in Aramaic the statement would read, "Thou art Kepha, and on this kepha I will build my church." This argument, however, is weak because there is no definitive proof that Aramaic lies behind the Greek text. What text we do have comes to us via the Holy Spirit. Matthew’s Greek word choice is inspired. Furthermore, Fowler points out that in either language there is a change from the second person ("You are") to the third person ("upon this"). Thus, two separate things are under consideration. He explains, "The pun shows the intimate link while the change of person shows the distinction" (504). Note again that the Greek has a gender change which strengthens the argument against this view. It seems unlikely that whatever Jesus has in mind is Peter, the man.
Although the view that Peter is the "rock" is popular, it receives varying degrees of acceptance. At one end of the spectrum are those scholars who connect Petros to petra on the basis of linguistics but who do not ultimately accept the Catholic doctrine of Papal Supremacy. Broadus, for example, takes this position but aptly shows that Peter, while a major leader of the early church, was not Christ’s Vicar on earth. He argues that Matthew 16:18 is essentially saying that the church is to be built on all the apostles (Ephesians 2:20), but Peter is singled out because of the ready word pun and because of the role he will play later in Acts 2 and Acts 10 (Broadus 355-359). The position, as Broadus presents it, is worthy of consideration. A variant of this view will be presented at the end of 3 below.
At the other end of the spectrum is the untenable Catholic doctrine of Papal Supremacy. This doctrine exalts the primacy of Christ in heaven and on earth but holds that this primacy requires human expression on earth during Christ’s physical absence. Because these papal representatives need proper credentials by which to identify them, religious leaders use Matthew 16:18 as the first link in the Papal chain. Peter is Christ’s vicar, and his successors "the lineal self-projection of Christ Himself in the world …the bishop of Rome is the lineal successor to the Chair of Peter" (Fowler 505-506).
The doctrine is indeed reprehensible, and a plethora of reasons make the Catholic assertion impossible. Note below some brief arguments against this view.
Jesus did not say, "You are Peter and upon you I will build my church." He could have said this easily enough had this been His meaning.
1. Matthew alone records Jesus’ words about Petros and petra. Mark and Luke record His question and Peter’s response but omit the details of the Lord’s statement in Matthew 16:17-19. Had Mark and Luke omitted the entire Caesarea Philippi incident, we might not infer any specific meaning. But since they record part of the event, it seems strange that they would omit such an important detail as Jesus making Peter the head of His church.
2. The apostolic dispute which occurs two chapters later (Matthew 18:1-5, see also Luke 9:46) shows that Peter has no supremacy. Had Jesus pronounced upon Peter a title like "Vicar," the issue would have been settled. Furthermore, Jesus shows that humility and service are the desired attributes in His kingdom.
3. It is clear that the church would find its foundation in all the apostles, not just Peter. Acts 2:42 does not say the early church continued in "Peter’s doctrine." Also Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2:20 that all the apostles make up the foundation of the church.
4. The Holy Spirit was breathed to all the apostles not just Peter (John 20:22; Acts 2:3).
5. Paul’s rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2:11 shows that Peter is fallible. This is a fact that Papal Supremacy must logically deny if Peter is the first Pope.
6. In Acts 15 Peter does not act separately but in accord with the other apostles and elders. While a spokesperson, he was not a unilateral "lawmaker." Nowhere does the text indicate that Peter is the supreme head of Christ’s church in Jerusalem or anywhere else.
7. Even if Peter received some special status or mission from Jesus, it must be proved this "office" can be transmitted to others. Scripture records nothing of papal succession. Peter, like all of the other apostles, was a servant of Jesus while on earth (2 Peter 1:1). He was certainly a natural-born leader, and God used that talent. Beyond this, however, Peter was like the rest
8. The beliefs of papal supremacy, linear succession, and Peter as the foundation of the church all work together to negate the importance of revelation as found in the completed canon of Scripture. If "that which is perfect" (1 Corinthians 13:10; James 1:25) culminated in the completed text of the New Testament, then there remains no need for a living representative of Christ on earth. Together, the apostles were to be guided into "ALL TRUTH" (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13). If this is true, what "truth" is left today for Popes to reveal?
C. Peter’s confession is the rock: Peter’s confession is not simply an outburst of euphoria. He is certainly doing more than expressing the current state of his subjective human experience. This is the expression of a faith rooted in objective truth: "Jesus is God’s Son."
If Jesus promises to build His church on a subjective emotional outburst, then its foundation is uncertain and insecure. Many men have great faith, but human commitment waxes and wanes. Peter, himself, discovers this as he walks on the Sea of Galilee. Would Jesus promise to build such a lofty and sublime institution on such unstable ground as this?
If, on the other hand, Jesus promises to build on the objective truth encapsulated within Peter’s great statement, then we have an entirely different picture. Remember that the entire context of the confession is the question "Who do men say that I am?" In other words, "What authority do I have?" Peter replies, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of God." This is authority sufficient! This alone stands solid enough to support the weight of a divine church. If Jesus is not God’s Son, every facet of Christianity, including the kingdom concept, crashes to the ground.
The view that Peter’s confession is the "rock" also fits with the topography and culture of Caesarea Philippi. As noted earlier, the city sits at the base of the Lebanon mountain chain next to cliffs where pagans worship the god "Pan." The conversation between Jesus and Peter succeeds in establishing Jesus as triumphant over paganism. Perhaps the setting is only coincidental, but one should consider McGarvey’s description of the area:
"About one mile east of the town the mountain spur culminates in a precipitous rock at least 1000 feet above the town. Its top completely covered by an old castle…built on a naked and imperishable mass of rock…and frowns so defiantly upon all who would attempt to assail it that it might well suggest the majestic imagery of the ever memorable and precious words, "On this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it." (Lands 544-545).
When compared with the other two interpretations, this one seems to present the most homogeneous picture of the passage at hand. Jesus is the builder. The foundation of Jesus’ church is the bedrock of His divine Sonship, and the key holder is Peter. All of the pieces fit nicely and are easily harmonized with other scriptures.
As with the other views, however, this one is not without certain difficulties. We have mentioned that Jesus’ use of two words (Petros and petra) proves that two separate things are in mind (see above on #2). We have also seen, however, that the nouns are not always as distinct as many scholars assert. That some words overlap in meaning seems not only possible but, in this case, likely. Could it be then that the pun Jesus uses carries a nuance of meaning which, while not nullifying or even substantially changing the above view, includes Peter as a person? This seems likely. If so, then those parts of #2 above which do not digress into Catholic heresy may be more valid than originally imagined. Broadus asserts that had the Papists not abused the issue that the "rock" was "Peter," then "no other interpretation would probably at the present day be attempted" (355). His statement is debatable, yet consider the following:
As in many controversies, truth often lies somewhere in the middle of extremes. In fervor to combat what is patently false at one end, there is oft a tendency to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. Here, too, the answer may not require the exegete to militantly side with the "Peter only position" or "the confession only position."
Peter as a man cannot be the foundation of Christ’s church. Catholics are unequivocally wrong in their Papal theology. But to say that the pun of Matthew 16:18 ONLY reaches back to the objective truth of verse 16 without somehow including Peter the person may overstate the case. Even Jesus’ own words allude to the possibility that Peter is somehow intimately involved in the "petra" promise.
Careful analysis of the text shows that Peter’s confession occurs in verse 16. It is not until two verses later that the "petra" statement is made and not until Jesus has blessed Peter, stated the source of the confession, and reemphasized the meaning of the apostle’s name. Therefore, if "THIS" ("on THIS rock") refers solely to Peter’s confession, it must reach a considerable distance back in the context to find its antecedent. One might ask why Jesus does not rather say, "Upon THAT rock (that is, what Peter said sometime back) I will build my church"? By using "this" so closely to "Petros," does Jesus imply some intimate link between the two objects? Perhaps!
If we allow that Christ’s church has more than just a "theological" basis, then perhaps a deeper richness is derived from the passage. Certainly that which gives the kingdom its spiritual fervor and strength is the solid rock truth that Jesus is God’s Son: the ultimate theological superstructure. This is not the entire meaning, however, for even proponents of position #3 admit that a "personal" component exists. Men called apostles, prophets, and pastors aided in building the church (Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 4:11-12). Also certain historical, social, and economic components were divinely involved.
Obviously it took more than "theology" in the first century. Like seed, theology cannot produce fruit until it finds a fertile human heart. This is why Jesus gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; Acts 8:4). Jesus knew that the church could only exists when correct theology mixed with sincere faith (Matthew 13:18-23). Pentecost proved this (Acts 2). The church did not exist in any practical sense until people (personal) believed and obeyed the truth (theology).
Therefore, when Peter makes the great confession, Jesus sees within Peter that "solid rock" upon which His church will be built. It is not to be founded solely on theology, nor is it to be founded solely on humanity. The church would be founded "upon that fine combination of the two which we call Christians" (Fowler 510). Thus, Fowler concludes, Peter is typical of all those in whom this divine truth is found (509). Perhaps Peter has this in mind when he says, "You also as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5).
The above seems to be the only adequate explanation for the word play of verse 18. By using Petros and petra, Jesus shows the intimate link between the human and divine elements of His church. How beautiful! Furthermore, the pun is strengthened by the fact that the "chunk of rock" (Petros) is in reality made of the same substance as the "larger mass of rock" (petra). The intimate connection is impossible to dismiss.
I will build: As yet the church has not been inaugurated. "I will build" places the event in the future. The kingdom has been promised and was preached first by John and then by the Lord (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Matthew 6:10), but the time has not yet been fulfilled. Jesus must wait until after the cross to build His "assembly," for it is to be comprised of those who are sanctified by His blood.
my church: "My church" denotes ownership. Only Jesus, the Son of God, has the right to build a spiritual body. Jesus alone died for the church and purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He is the head of the church and the savior of the body (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). It is His bride and must wear His name (Ephesians 5:25-27). Any assembly that does not give full allegiance, obedience, and glory to Jesus is not "His church." What a mockery of the divine sacrifice that so-called "Christians" wear the names of men.
The word "church" (ekklesia) comes from two Greek words (ek—out of and kaleo—to call), thus meaning "the called out." Originally among the Greeks the word signified an assembly of citizens gathered to discuss affairs of State (cf. Acts 19:39). In the Septuagint (LXX), however, the word was used to translate the Hebrew word qahal and signified the congregation or assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:30; Judges 20:2; 1 Samuel 17:47; etc.). See also Acts 7:38 and Hebrews 2:12 where the Greek text uses ekklesia in reference to the congregation of ancient Israel. Thus Jesus may have purposely used the word knowing the mental image it would produce in His Jewish audience.
The word ekklesia can have two intimately connected but different meanings, which are determined by context. In this passage, ekklesia refers to the collective body many call "the universal or invisible church." Paul also uses the word this way in Ephesians 1:22 and Colossians 1:18. This type of ekklesia never actually and literally assembles. Peter’s analogy of the "spiritual house" should be interpreted in much the same way (1 Peter 2:5).
On the other hand, in other places ekklesia refers to a local assemblies of believers. For example, the "church at Jerusalem" is mentioned in Acts 8:1, and Paul writes to the "church of God at Corinth" (1 Corinthians 1:2). Therefore, although Jesus built a universal ekklesia, for all practical purposes, this group functions on a local level. When these local units are taken collectively we have what Peter calls the "brotherhood" (1 Peter 2:17).
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: "Hell" (Hades), as the King James Version translates it, denotes the invisible world or the place of the departed dead. In Hebrew it is called Sheol. Originally the English word "hell" meant much the same thing. Broadus notes that it comes from the Anglo-Saxon word helan meaning "to hide" (359). Over time, however, "hell" took on the meaning of "a place of eternal punishment"—a definition still commonly used today. Here again the antiquity of the King James Version has created difficulty. Because the Greek is rendered "Hell" instead of "Hades," much misunderstanding, confusion, and false doctrine have arisen. Whatever else might be said about Jesus’ death, He did not go to "torment" or "Gehenna." Luke 23:43 clearly proves this.
The term hades never distinctively denotes a place of torment but rather is a general term for the after-realm. Luke 16 illustrates this by showing that hades includes both a place called "torment" and a place called "Abraham’s bosom" or "Paradise." There is a great gulf between these two areas. Thus, when Peter says Jesus entered Hades (Acts 2:31), he is not insinuating that Jesus entered "punishment." Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross were, "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23-43).
In order to enter Hades, one had to pass through its gates. In Old Testament literature the expression "gates of Hades" occurs commonly as a synonym for death (Isaiah 38:10; Psalms 9:13; Psalms 107:18; Job 38:17). The metaphor is best understood, however, in light of ancient near-eastern culture.
The gates of oriental cities were significant in several ways. It was here that kings, judges and civic authorities held their deliberations and made decrees (Deuteronomy 16:18; 1 Kings 22:10; 2 Samuel 15:2; Ruth 4:11; Jeremiah 1:15; etc.). But more importantly, gates provided entrance into and protection for the city. Gates also symbolized a city’s power because they were the portal through which her army went forth to battle. McGarvey says, "The gates may be considered as sending them [i.e., the army—JMC] out" (146). If an enemy breached the gate of a city, the city was doomed to be overthrown.
With the above facts in mind, consider various explanations that have been set forth to explain Jesus’ metaphor.
1. Satan decrees against the church like city-kings who decreed from the gate. These diabolical deliberations will come to naught, however, for God has decreed that Christ’s kingdom will never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44).
2. All of the military might that comes from the gates of Satan’s realm will not overthrow Christ’s kingdom. Neither demons, nor death, nor Satan himself will destroy the church. McGarvey comments, "The text is a pledge that the Church would never be tempted into total apostasy, nor be depopulated by the death of all its members" (146).
3. The above explanations are vivid and capture the spirit of the "Victorious Church," but both picture Satan as an aggressor, actively involved in his onslaught against Christ’s kingdom. While it is true that Satan is actively attacking the church, we think another explanation more accurately fits the context of Jesus’ statement here.
When Jesus says that the "gates of Hades" will not prevail against His church, He is essentially predicting His resurrection from the dead. The use of the plural "gates" may be explained by the fact that originally Hades was thought to have a series of gates much like modern prisons (Fowler 520). Once the Hadean realm had been entered, there was no return. But Jesus rose from the dead, thus proving His victory over Satan. His resurrection likewise guarantees that His "church" will be victorious. As the firstfruits of them that slept, Jesus’ resurrection promises a full harvest (1 Corinthians 15:20). Since Christ is the head of the church, it may be said with accuracy that the church entered "Hades" representatively with Him. Therefore, victory not only comes for His followers in the general resurrection in the future, but exists now (1 Corinthains 15:57).
What we have then in verse 18 is not so much a picture of a glorious fortress city kingdom being assailed by Satan as a picture of an offensive church attacking Satan’s ultimate domain of "death." In coming forth from the tomb, Jesus burst the gates of Hades wide open. Matthew 27:53-54 proves the point in saying that many saints arose after His resurrection.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
As "keys" unlock doors, so will Peter first unlock salvation’s door by inviting both Jews and Gentiles to enter into a relationship with the Savior. On Pentecost, Peter preaches to Jews (Acts 2), and the church is inaugurated. In Acts 10 Peter preaches to Gentiles who, for the first time as a class, become God’s people. Thus, through the keys Jesus gives Peter, salvation is granted to those near (Jews) and afar off (Gentiles) (Acts 2:39; Acts 10:34-35; Acts 11:18; Ephesians 2:13). The same key that unlocks the door for Jews also unlocks the door for Gentiles.
Peter is not the only one who holds the keys of the kingdom, however. Each of the apostles is ultimately instructed to take the gospel into the entire world. Each receives power to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Ephesians 3:5). In some sense, all who correctly teach God’s word have kingdom keys.
Keys not only unlock, they also lock. The metaphor might picture a royal steward whose duties consist of providing access or exclusion to the royal chambers of the king (Fowler 522). As Peter and the other apostles preach the gospel, they in essence not only determine who will be granted entrance into the church but who will be shut out. Their doctrine sets forth the rules of entrance, faith, and practice (Acts 2:42).
This explains why Jesus adds the expressions of "binding" and "loosing," which seem to be Jewish rabbinical terms for "forbidding" and "permitting." As Peter preaches by the authority of Christ, he sets forth heaven’s expectation for mankind. But while Jesus specifically addresses Peter, others are also granted the right to "bind" and "loose." During the final hours of His resurrected life on earth, Jesus uses similar language as He "blesses" the apostles with the Holy Spirit saying, "If you forgive sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:22-23). This is parallel with Matthew 16:19, for entrance into the kingdom, exclusion from the kingdom, retention of sins, and forgiveness of sins are all contingent on one’s response to the "law" the apostles preach. Likewise, the church has this "binding" and "loosing" authority in the area of "fellowship" (Matthew 18:18-20). MacArthur says a "duly constituted body of believers has the right to tell an unrepentant brother that he is out of line with God’s Word and has no right to fellowship with God’s people" (33). The case at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5) illustrates the point.
In each case above, however, neither Peter, the apostles, nor the church have any authority apart from that which heaven gives. The entire chain of command in spiritual authority ultimately stems from God through Christ (Matthew 28:18). Before Jesus ascends, He promises the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth and to bring to remembrance all He has said (John 14:26; John 16:13). What they receive thus becomes the standard for any action they or the church take (Acts 2:42; Galatians 1:8, etc.). When authorized by God, the action of the church might be said to be from Heaven itself.
Some scholars take the phrase (shall be bound/loosed) as a future perfect passive (shall have [already] been bound) while others see it as a simple periphrastic future passive (shall be bound) (Lenski 631; Fowler 524). But as Lenski notes, the difference is merely formal (631). Neither Peter nor the other apostles act apart from the inspiration they receive from heaven.
Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
The apostles clearly understand that Jesus is "the Christ." Now, however, is not the time to begin proclaiming this fact. Several reasons seem to be behind Jesus’ order.
1. Many Jews are looking for a political messiah. If the apostles openly declare Jesus as the Messiah, the Jews might try to make Him their King forcibly. This might result in a bloody political uprising. Many Jews would like nothing better than to have an excuse for rebellion against the Romans. Were this to happen, Jesus’ spiritual claims would be lost in the mass confusion. Jesus did not come as a political messiah.
2. Throughout Matthew’s record the Jewish leaders are becoming increasingly antagonistic against Jesus. This seems to be at least one of the reasons Jesus previously retired to the region of Tyre and Sidon and now to the region of Caesarea Philippi. The apostles openly proclaiming Jesus as "Messiah" would likely spark such overriding controversy that His message would be obscured.
3. As yet, the apostles themselves are not ready to take on the task of proclaiming Jesus as "Messiah." Their training is nearing an end, but they are not quite ready to launch forth on their own with such a magnificent claim. Soon, however, after being endowed with the Holy Spirit, the apostles will use the kingship of Jesus as the basis for their universal saving message.
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things: This is the first of three direct warnings about Jesus’ death (17:22; 20:17-19). Having put His disciples to the test and Peter having correctly identified His authority, Jesus now begins to prepare His disciples for His crucifixion. Prior to this point, the ministry concentrated on parables and teaching the people. Now Jesus focuses on the apostles as He turns their eyes toward His passion that will occur in about six months.
of the elders and chief priests and scribes: Those who know best the Messianic prophecies will be the ones who rally the people against Jesus. These three groups compose the Sanhedrin court.
and be killed, and be raised again the third day: Mark says that Jesus makes these statements "openly" to His disciples. In other words, now is the time to begin to fully reveal His impending passion (8:32). It is interesting, however, that while Jesus speaks both of His death and resurrection, Peter apparently only hears the former and wants no more talk of a dead Messiah.
Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
Peter now takes Jesus, perhaps by the hand, and gently chides and admonishes Him. It is unthinkable that Jesus will die, let alone be crucified. Peter is ready for a triumphant Messiah; he cannot accept the idea of a suffering servant. Here we see the fickleness of Peter’s understanding. The very one who announces with boldness, "You are the Son of God!" now denies the very event that will ultimately prove his confession.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: We should not assume that Peter is literally possessed by Satan or that Peter is Satan personified. Barnes suggests that since Satan simply means "adversary," Jesus uses the term in its general way and reminds Peter that his attitude at this moment is adversarial to God’s plan. In any event, Peter is reminded that there can be no ultimate victory without pain and suffering. As on the mount of temptation (Matthew 4:8), so again Jesus hears the whisper of Satan, "You can have a crown without the cross." Jesus quickly responds.
thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men: Peter was a stellar apostle, but his mind was not always keen to the spiritual plan of God. Though Peter could boldly confess the deity of his Master, he could also be a stumbling block (offence) to Him. If Jesus follows Peter’s suggestion He will fail in the very thing He came to do. In his weakness and spiritual immaturity, Peter does not understand (savor) that which God is about to do.
No doubt Peter’s actions and words stem from concern and friendship. But while Peter’s words may seem an attempt to rescue Jesus, in reality they do Jesus no good. Likewise today it is possible, in our attempt to circumvent pain and consequences for ourselves and others, to miss the opportunity for spiritual growth. The easy path is not always God’s path. How often do parents rescue their child from his own prodigal waywardness, causing the child to never learn to mature and stand on his own? How many times, with good intentions, do we circumvent our own discomfort through which we might grow to maturity?
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
As a part of their sentence, condemned persons were required to carry their own cross to their place of execution–the ultimate shame and disgrace. The timing of this statement is ironic given Jesus’ prediction of crucifixion (v. 21). Jesus, the one who will soon carry and then die on a cross, tells His disciples that, metaphorically, they too must do the same. Notice, however, that Jesus does not restrict such sacrifice to His apostles. Jesus says that if "any man" wants to be His disciple he must make the ultimate sacrifice–his life. The cost of true discipleship is not casual: it is catastrophic. All that one holds dear must be seen as rubbish in light of the gospel. Christianity begins with self-denial and continues with presenting one’s body a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Once again Jesus turns the world’s natural order on its head. It is natural for a person to do everything possible not only to prolong his life but also to make it comfortable and pleasurable. Jesus reminds us, however, that the true meaning of life is not found in its longevity; true living is found in serving God. Obviously Jesus uses the word "life" in two senses. The first has reference to the "physical" life and all that it entails. The second has reference to one’s spiritual affections. To focus on the physical is to lose eternally. To focus on the spiritual is to gain the eternal rewards of heaven.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
The key to this verse is found in two words, namely "profit" and "exchange." The "profit" of which Jesus speaks is not that of worldly treasure but consists of eternal spiritual blessings. Though one might accumulate much physical treasure, God will not be impressed. Better to be a pauper with God than a prince without Him. Man’s eternal soul is his most precious possession. Ironically, while one cannot buy his soul for any amount of money, many gamble their soul away for very little. In eternity, however, there are no second chances. Once one has lost his soul there is nothing he can do in hell to gain it back.
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.
The gospel assures us that Jesus will come. His glorious appearing, however, will be a beautiful sight only for those who are prepared. Each will receive a reward. The righteous will be rewarded with heaven. The unrighteous will be rewarded with hell. Notice that Jesus uses the term "reward," which carries the idea of receiving something one has worked for–something one deserves. Paul says the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). If one goes to hell it will be because he has earned such by living an evil life. Notice also that Jesus says "according to his works." This statement forever puts to rest the notion that mankind has no responsibility or part in his salvation. Works of obedience are required! While salvation in every dispensation of time is by grace through faith, one must obey God in order to be saved. Faith that saves is always obedient! God effected His grace by sending His Son; now man must work out his own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
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.
This verse is parallel to Mark 9:1. Without doubt, Jesus is speaking of the coming kingdom as manifested in the arrival of the church on Pentecost (Acts 2). Here we see a timeframe for the establishment of the church. The church (kingdom) will be established during the lifetime of the apostles. This promise clarifies several misconceptions. First, the kingdom did not come in the days of John the Baptist, for by this time John was dead. Second, it did not come in the 18th or 19th centuries as various cults claim. Finally, it will not appear at the end of time in some kind of millennial reign. The kingdom came at Pentecost, which Peter makes clear when he preaches that Jesus had ascended to the throne of David (Acts 2:29-36).
What we have in verses 27 and 28 is the entire period of the church age, bookmarked in reverse. Naturally the church age begins with the establishment of the church (Acts 2) and will continue until the kingdom is delivered up to God (1 Corinthians 15:24). No doubt the reason for the reverse order is that contextually Jesus is speaking of losing one’s own soul in the final judgment. Thus it is logical to append to such teaching the warning that He will come in that judgment. The other magnificent event that bookends the church age, however, is Pentecost. On Pentecost Jesus comes with power in the sense that God establishes His kingdom. The previous verse (27) explains that Jesus will come in power and judgment to give that kingdom back to God. Both events demonstrate fully the power of God and the beauty of the redemptive scheme.