Did Jesus get his return wrong in Matthew 10:23? How should we understand Jesus’ meaning? What does “the coming of the Son of Man” mean? Here, Matthew 10:23, Daniel 7 and Matthew 28 are explained.
In Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 10, Jesus tells his disciples that they will not finish going throughout the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. Now, some people look at that and say this is clearly an evidence of where Jesus was wrong. He has not come back yet and the gospel has been preached throughout much of the whole world. But that reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the context of this passage. In order to understand what Jesus means, you have to understand what’s going on both in the Gospel of Matthew and also where the term, “the Son of Man” comes from.
First, what’s going on in the Gospel of Matthew? Well, Jesus tells His disciples to go out into the towns of Israel and to proclaim the coming of the kingdom, to proclaim what Christ is doing. But He tells them to not go to the Samaritans and to not go to the Gentiles. That’s very important to remember as we try to figure out why He tells them that. Still, what does it mean, this term “the Son of Man”?
Well, the term, “the Son of Man” comes from Daniel 7. There the prophet Daniel gives this vision of these four great beasts who rise up. These four great beasts represent different kingdoms of men that God eventually smites down and brings to nothing. Then there’s this vision of God sitting upon His throne in all His glory and one “like a son of man” comes to God the Father, and He has given all authority over the nations. So the “coming of the Son of Man” is not Him coming back to the earth, but it’s Him coming to the Father and being anointed with glory and honor and power and authority over the nations.
It’s the same thing that’s going on then in Matthew with that “Son of Man” term. Jesus says, “The Son of Man will not come until,” or “He will come before the gospel has gone out to all the nations” meaning all the towns of Israel. So what does that mean? Well, it means that the Son of Man is going to come to the Father and receive authority over the nations (per Daniel 7) before the gospel has been preached in all the towns of Israel.
And that’s exactly what happens in the Gospel of Matthew.
In Matthew 28, after the resurrection, Jesus tells His disciples that this prophecy has been fulfilled because He has been given all authority in Heaven and Earth. He tells His disciples not to just preach to the towns of Israel, but to go into preach to all nations. So the prophecy of the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 10 is fulfilled in Matthew 28 as Jesus–through His death and resurrection–is given all authority in Heaven and Earth and He has commissioned His church to go out now and to preach–not just to the Jews–but to every nation.