For the sake of time and space, the question as stated above comes from someone who would discredit the Bible based on Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27 simply because we have no knowledge of 2,000 year old men walking the earth today. I certainly don't know of any. However, the people who usually ask this question begin to make all kinds of assumptions without any basis, and then wildly false conclusions based on those assumptions that eventually lead to holding Christianity responsible for every bad thing that ever happened on the face of the earth.
It is not ignorance on their part, for ignorance can be rectified with a rational discussion. What they demonstrate is a "hands over ears and eyes closed" childish game of willful ignorance where they accept no answer, no matter how rational, and refuse to answer any intelligently posed question while asking multiple "gotcha" questions that have been answered time and time again. I quite imagine that they would hold their breath in an effort to turn blue if they thought it would help, but that would mean they couldn't whine so I guess that really isn't an option for them. Too bad.
Allow me to set up the question in rational form. OF the three verses, Matthew 16:28 gives the most detailed and specific information:
1. There are "some" - meaning at least two or more, maybe even three or more
2. "standing here" - present at the time the words were spoken
3. "which shall not taste of death" - will not die
4. "till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." - the second coming of Christ
Lest anyone say that Jesus is talking about the Transfiguration, simply look at verse 27 which puts verse 28 into context and see if that holds true. Verse 27 is clearly talking about the second coming as it references rewarding every man according to his works. The Transfiguration also does not hold up to the 4th point. Jesus has not left yet, how can He return unless He leaves?
This website has an answer that also dismisses the Transfiguration: "Contradictions" however, I still disagree with even his answer because I simply believe verse 27 makes it clear that Jesus is talking about the second coming. So, the question remains: where are all the 2,000 year old men?
First, answer these questions:
1. Is there a precedent of anyone in the Bible who never died?
2. Is there a record of any of those people being present, identified, and viewed by anyone in the New Testament during the time of Jesus on earth?
3. Is there any record of anyone else after the Ascension of Christ who should have died because of present circumstances but did not at that moment die?
To answer question 1: Genesis 5:24 "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." lest you think that does not mean he did not die, the Bible again mentions Enoch in Hebrews 11:5 "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Also we have II Kings 2:1 and 2:11 which mentions that Elijah was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind.
To answer question 2: Matthew 17:3 tells us of the actual sighting of Elijah in the New Testament alongside Moses. So, we know that Elijah was at least present in the New Testament.
Steve Yothment wrote me through email and also noted those same Scriptures, and gave the following answer: "I've heard that John Hagee has claimed that Elijah and Enoch are the Two Witnesses of the Book of Revelation. (Rev 11:3) As I recall, Tertullian, Irenaeus and Hippolytus also thought that Elijah and Enoch are the Two Witnesses. Anyway, is it Elijah and Enoch who were standing there when Jesus spoke "There be some standing here who shall not taste of death . . ."? - Steve Yothment"
To be honest, it is not the answer I had in mind, but I can find nothing wrong with his answer. It is entirely possible that they could have both been present because Christ never names anyone. We also know that they did not die and were both taken to heaven, but that Elijah at the very least made an appearance in front of the disciples. It also answers the question, "Where are all the 2,000 year old men?" in that we know both Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven.
As we have no record of who Christ was talking about, we also have no record of anyone else being taken to heaven. The bigger question is question 3: "Is there any record of anyone else after the Ascension of Christ who should have died because of present circumstances but did not at that moment die?"
In the book of Acts, Paul was tasked by God with the specific duty of testifying in Rome (Acts 23:11) and in the very next verses, we see more than 40 Jews taking a death oath saying they will neither eat nor drink until Paul is dead. Verse 14 makes it clear they were not speaking generally, but were perfectly clear to either die by not drinking or eating, or see Paul killed. Yet, we know Paul escapes out of their murderous intent - no word on whether or not they kept to their oath. Next, Paul is set on a voyage that seems as though it will kill everyone, but God reaffirms Paul's mission to Rome and that all will be spared in the ship (Acts 27:24). However, just in case anyone doubts that Paul should have died in either the acts of men or the acts of nature, there is the last act of the snake which bites Paul, an obviously venomous snake such of the kind that the men who witnessed it fully expected to see Paul fall dead. (Acts 28: 3-6) Yet, Paul does not die. Why? Because his life has a mission to fulfill.
That there would be "some standing here" when Christ spoke those words meant that there were some being given a special mission, who would not taste of death, until the second coming of Christ. I cannot say that at least two of them were not Enoch and Elijah, we simply do not know from the text. However, we do know that Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven, and there we have one of two possible answers.
There is nothing in the passage that says the people standing there who would not taste of death would be walking the earth for the next 2,000 years, yet on the other hand, we have evidence that if that is exactly what Christ meant, then there is nothing that would stop it from happening. Next week, I will delve into one other person (not Enoch or Elijah) who was standing there who may have been one of the people Christ was talking to directly. I'll give you a hint: he was also given a very specific mission just like Paul.
Now, let the petty ramblings of the willful ignorance of the atheists with an agenda come forth!! For everyone else, if you have a sincere question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I may feature your question in a future article.