Matthew 10:23 quotes Jesus as saying to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” This appears to be a reference to the second coming of Jesus—and it clearly didn’t happen. So…how do we make sense of that? Theologians offer several theories:

  • Jesus was promising to appear to his disciples after he raised himself from the dead. This interpretation assumes “Jesus was promising that the disciples would witness the eschatological coming of the Son of Man…at his resurrection.”
  • Jesus was promising to return to his disciples as the living presence of his invisible Holy Spirit, a promise which was fulfilled dynamically at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13).
  • Jesus was indicating a “continuing mission” to Israel over the ages, and was offering “comfort to the mission-disciples about their ultimate salvation unto the end…the mission to Israel will not conclude before the Son of Man returns. There will be a continuing mission to Israel alongside the mission to the Gentiles.”
  • Jesus was referencing his future second coming, millennia away, but “he was not saying that the Twelve would personally see this. Rather, he means to instill a sense of urgency in the mission to Israel by stating that it will not be complete by the time of his return.”


Works Cited:

[HAC, 78-79]



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