According to Biblical tradition, it is suggested that John the beloved apostle (i.e., Revelator) never died. Instead, he was to remain on earth until the Savior was to come again. The Lord spoke of this to his chosen disciples (i.e., apostles):
But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:27.)
While this is not specific to John, Mark also reported this saying but added more substance to what Luke reported:
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 (Mark 9:1.)
Of course, the kingdom of God had already come in the person of Jesus Christ and he certainly demonstrated power. But he did not come in power. Quite the contrary. He came as a little suckling child . . . in a lowly manger. That’s about as humble an entrance as one could imagine.
However, Jesus’ coming in power would not come until a much later date. This is verified when the Lord spoke to his apostles of his second coming:
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.
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. (Matt. 16:27-28.)
However, the same problem exists in all three verses by the thee different authors and that is the use of the word “some.” “Some” would imply there would be more than one amongst his audience who would not taste of death.
The other problem here is that all the apostles’ deaths are accounted for—all except for John. Of course, both problems would be overcome were there more than the twelve apostles present. But a previous, more intimate conversation earlier in Matthew 16, would indicate Jesus was alone with his chosen twelve.
On the other hand, Mark 8:34 indicates that other people were present during this major pronouncement:
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
There is no indication between this verse and Mark 9:1 that Jesus had separated his disciples from the crowd. However, the passage in Luke, while reporting on the same conversation as in Matthew 16, was very clear that Jesus had separated the twelve and was speaking to them privately.
And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? (Luke 9:18.)
So, when it comes right down to it, we’re left with the same conundrum of the usage of the word “some” in this great, if not shocking, pronouncement regarding the prolonging of death for “some.”
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Greek#5100), the word for “some” in all three of these instances is tis. Strictly speaking, tis means “some or any person or object.”
Therefore, we could easily say that ”some”, in these three instances, means “some person standing here shall not taste of death until . . .”
The translators of the King James Version of the Bible applied any number of different meanings to tis in various places, including, but not limited to, “somebody” and “something.” Therefore, it is my conclusion, for better or for worse, that tis in these three instances, is referring to “some person” rather than “some”, as in many.
On the other hand, we have the problem of the use of “they” in verse 28, referring back to the use of “some” previously. There could be several reasons for this:
- Jesus never did say either “some” or “they”; and the translators just took some liberty.
- The translators were merely matching “they” with their interpretation of tis as “some”.
- There really was more than one person who was not to taste of death until Christ was to come in power.
Regarding option 3, Luke 9:18 would seem to eliminate that prospect. So, we’re left with either option 1 or 2 to consider.
Nevertheless, regardless of what the authors meant, it was up to impetuous Peter to drag a little more information out of Jesus regarding this not-tasting-of-death business.
It seems obvious that something was different about John, or Peter wouldn’t have bothered to ask what he did. And here we find the best evidence yet that it was John who would not taste of death:
Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
This is the disciple [meaning himself; i.e., John] which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. (John 21:20-24.)
The Greek word for “tarry” is mĕnō, meaning “to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). mĕnō has been translated variously as “abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand” (ibid.)—all meaning pretty much the same thing.
Thus we can see that Jesus had in mind that John, in some state of being, would be present, presumably on earth, until such time he would return in glory. And this is not without precedent.