Who Would Not Taste Death?

I have been taking a course on the Commands of Jesus and one section dealt with the command to “Be Ready.” One end times passage of Scripture is a part of the eschatological verses of Jesus, found in Mark 13:30, where Jesus said “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

This question had a dramatic influence on Albert Schweitzer when he was studying New Testament theology. Jesus said, “This generation will not pass away until all of these things come to pass… You will not go over all the cities of Israel until all of these things come to pass… Some of you will not taste death until all of these things come to pass.”

Schweitzer looked at those passages, and he thought of them as obvious cases where Jesus blew it, where Jesus expected his return in the first century. Schweitzer saw this expectation of the early return of Jesus in early writings of Paul. Then there was an adjustment in the later writings of the Bible to account for the great disappointment that Jesus didn’t show up in that first generation. That’s been a matter of great consternation for many people.

Jesus didn’t say, “Some of you aren’t going to die until I come back.” He said, “Some of you will not taste death until all of these things come to pass.” The difficulty lies in the structure of the Greek language. The disciples are asking Jesus about the establishment of the kingdom. Jesus talks about two distinct issues.

  1. He talks about what obviously involved the destruction of Jerusalem when he said that the temple would be destroyed.
  2. Then at the end of the Olivet discourse, he talks about his return on clouds of glory.

Some of the best New Testament scholarship that I’ve seen is on the meaning of the Greek words translated “all of these things.” An excellent case can be made that when Jesus used that phrase, “these things” of which he was speaking pertained to the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem. It’s amazing that Jesus of Nazareth clearly and undeniably predicted one of the most important historical events in Jewish history before it took place. This wasn’t just a vague Nostradamus or Oracle of Delphi type of future prediction; Jesus vividly predicted the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, which indeed took place in A.D. 70, while many of his disciples were still alive. It was also before the missionary outreach had reached all of the cities of Israel and before that generation had, in fact, passed away. Those cataclysmic events that Jesus had predicted on the Mount of Olives did, indeed, take place in the first century.

Jesus also says in Mark 9:1, there are “some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” The same could be said here, how would those with Jesus see the kingdom of God come with power? Are we talking about the end times, the rapture, or the millennial kingdom? Look again in context, Mark 9:2-13 is the story of the transfiguration where the three disciples standing with Jesus would indeed experience a glimpse of Jesus in the kingdom, in a shining glorified state.

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The Godly Design for the Future

At the end of Second Peter, there is a chapter concerning the “end of all things.” Paul was a little more upbeat when he mentions Jesus’ second coming and then we will forever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16, 17, 18). Peter is a bit more fiery by saying that when Jesus returns the heavens and the earth will melt with intense heat (2 Peter 3:7, 10). My purpose is not to have an exhaustive study about eschatology, but to look into the chapter with the eyes of application.

  1. Think of a time when you were disappointed in how God answered one of your prayers. Did there come a time when you realized that God’s answer was best for you?
  2. Why is it important for us to know what to expect in the last days? (We must also balance preparing for Christ’s return and investing in life now).
  3. Explain why God is delaying his punishment of the wicked.
  4. How can we be sure that God is in control?
  5. In light of Christ’s imminent return, describe how we should live our lives.
  6. How can believers guard their faith?
  7. In what circumstances is it tempting to give up on God? Consider these who may have been tempted:
    1. Job in his distress
    2. Sarah (Abraham’s wife) in her infertility
    3. Hosea as his wife continued to be unfaithful
    4. King David as he was hunted down by Saul
  8. What are the dangers of unrealistic expectations?
  9. How do the promises in this passage build up your faith and confidence in God?


Peter turned from a negative warning against false teachers to make a positive declaration of the apostles’ message in order to help his readers understand why he wrote this letter. His language had been strong and confrontational, but now he spoke with love and encouragement in gentle and endearing terms.

The Purpose of This Letter (2 Peter 3:1–2)
Peter implied that he wrote this letter soon after an earlier one, probably referring to 1 Peter. His purpose was to refresh his readers’ memories that were unflawed by evil. He gave his readers credit for not having embraced the teaching of the heretics. Again Peter put the teaching of the apostles, which came from Jesus Christ, on a level of authority equal with the writings of the Old Testament prophets.

The Scoffing in the Last Days (2 Peter 3:3–6)
The mockers’ attitude of intellectual superiority and disdain of scriptural revelation led them into immoral conduct. They denied supernaturalism and believed in uniformitarianism, the view that the world continues in the same uninterrupted patterns. In particular, the scoffers denied the promise of the Lord Jesus that He would return (John 14:1–3; Acts 1:11). God intervened in the world in the past. When He spoke, the universe came into existence (Genesis 1:6–8; Hebrews 11:3). God spoke again and the dry land separated from the waters (Genesis 1:9–10), and He spoke again and the earth flooded (Genesis 7).

The Events During the End-Times (2 Peter 3:7–10)
God has indicated that the present heavens and earth will experience another, yet-future judgment. Then God, by His word, will destroy them by fire rather than by water. It does not matter if He gave His promise yesterday or a thousand years ago. He will still remain faithful and fulfill every word. The passage of a thousand years should not lead us to conclude that God will not fulfill what He has promised; He does not forget His promises. God is waiting so people will have time to repent. This ultimate holocaust will take place at the end of the age and will result in the destruction of the universe as we know it (see Revelation 21:1).

Our Living in View of the Future (2 Peter 3:11–16)
An understanding of the future should motivate believers to live holy lives. They are to look forward to the new heavens and new earth, because righteousness will dwell there. Peter again urged his readers to “diligent” action (2 Peter 3:14; see 2 Peter 1:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). He wanted them to be at peace with God, without defect or defilement, and without justifiable cause for reproach.

We should view the apparent delay of the Lord’s return as evidence of His kindness that leads people to repentance and salvation rather than as an indication that He is never coming back. Perhaps Peter had Romans 2:4 in mind when he said Paul wrote the same thing he had just said. Some people misunderstood and in some cases deliberately misrepresented the meaning of Paul’s writings, but this only added to their own guilt before God. Peter apparently regarded Paul’s writings as of equal authority with the Old Testament Scriptures (see 2 Peter 1:12–21; 3:2).

Next time we will begin the study of Jude; since the topics are similar, and besides, how many times have you ever heard a sermon or had a study on this little “post card?”

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