Since the death in about AD 130 (at the very latest) of the last person who could possibly have heard Jesus say it, Christians both small and great have struggled mightily with Christ’s statement (Matthew 16:28) that some of his audience would not taste of death before they saw him coming in his Kingdom. From a normal, worldly point of view, Jesus was just wrong about this. I mean, as I look around me, what I see does *not* seem like Paradise. Right? And this is a huge scandal to faith, for it seems to indicate that Jesus erred in his knowledge, which would be an odd thing to happen to God Almighty, even despite his having humbled himself in taking up our humanity.
How many Christians have lost their faith, or resorted to Christological heresies (or to desperate cadges such as that Jesus was referring only to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70) on account of this statement?
Fortunately, there’s no great mystery to it. Sub specie aeternitatis, the eschaton, and the advent of the New Heaven and the New Earth, were already underway that day at Caesarea Philippi. What God does and knows in time, he does and knows eternally, for all times are one in him. That he is incarnate in Jesus now means that he is incarnate in Jesus always (this being how he could walk in Eden in the cool of the day – or rather, from his point of view, walks right now in Eden in the cool of the day). The New Jerusalem, then, with the Incarnation and the Atonement, are procedures that are now taking place prior to all moments of all worlds; they are aspects of the very possibility of worlds, and so therefore of the motion of creation.
A world cannot be a world unless it is coherently ordered, and because God is the source of all order, this cannot occur unless it be infused ab initio, and at each of its occasions, with the Logos. If you’ve got a world, you’ve got a mansion in God’s House, and God reigns over it as Lord. Where God does not reign – where would that be, exactly? – there is only chaos, which is nothing at all; so that it is nowhere. Thus the Kingdom is here, now; this is the moment of our resurrection to everlasting life, as surely as Earth is always completely part of the sky.
Climbing back down to Earth, it is basic doctrine, established by Jesus himself, that Christ has been coming here in his glorious resurrection Body pretty much continuously since the First Supper after the Last Supper, both in the Real Presence of his Body in the consecrated Host (Luke 22:19), and in the gatherings wherein such consecrations occur, which are thereby themselves also constituted as his Body (Matthew 18:20). The Church and the Host are participations in the Resurrection Body of Jesus; and, by virtue of our participation in the Church and in her Eucharist, so are we Christians, our bodies each a Tabernacle.
Now none of this should be taken to imply that there will not come a time in Earth’s history when Jesus comes in the clouds at the head of the Host of Heaven to destroy his enemies and establish a mundane Kingdom, wherein every knee shall bow to him, and the dead shall rise from their graves. It should be taken only to mean that his scouts and secret agents are already in theater, gathering intelligence and designating targets. Where they go, he goes; for the angels, too, are members of the House of the Lord, and so of his Body. Look, right beside you – there they are!*
Beware, then. Even though no trumpets seem yet to be sounding, the Last Battle is already begun. Indeed, it has been raging, in countless obscure scrimmages and in earth-shaking wars of total destruction, ever since our genesis. The least we can do, now, is muster the last remnant of the Men of the West, and gird our loins for one final terrible charge.
* A wretched aetymological sally: para, “by, for, beside” + ousia, “being, essence.”