What is meant by "Son of man coming in his Kingdom"
Matthew is known as the "kingdom" gospel, since βασιλεία ("kingdom") appears 56 times in Matthew, about 35% of all appearances in the NT. I can't outline all the usages here, but we can summarize them as follows:
- Referencing the nations: Matt 4.8, 24.7
- Kingdom of Satan: Matthew 12.26
- Abstract Kingdom: Matthew 12.25 "How shall one kingdom stand against itself"
The remaining 52 references are to the Kingdom of God/Heaven, which is a major theme of Mathew, and this includes the reference in 16.28 to the "kingdom of the Son of man", as can be seen from the following:
For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:11 KJV
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. Revelation 11:15 KJV (A description of the elevation of Christ)
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. Colossians 1:13 KJV
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Timothy 4:1 KJV
"Son of man" is a hebraicism that refers to group membership - has the nature of a man - and so is a reference to Christ after the incarnation, and it can refer to "Son of man" during his earthly ministry or after he has been elevated (after his resurrection and ascension to Heaven) as per Colossians 1.18-19. After this elevation, all authority was given to him (See the quote from Rev 11.15), and we start reading of "Kingdom of Christ" or "Kingdom of the Son", whereas before, it was only "Kingdom of Heaven/God".
This elevation refers to the Father putting all things except himself under the Son after his death on the cross:
Matthew 28:18 (KJV 1900)
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto
me in heaven and in earth.
1 Corinthians 15:27–28 (KJV 1900)
For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all
things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which
did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued
unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put
all things under him, that God may be all in all.
So there is a three step process being described:
(Time of the Gospels) Christ humbles himself, takes on the form of a man, and performs his earthly ministry with no power of his own except whatever the Father gives him. Here he preaches that the "kingdom of Heaven" or "the Kingdom of God" is near. It is attainable. The Kingdom of God always existed, but on earth it was kept behind veils and accessible only to the high priest. Now it has come near. He is obedient unto death of the cross.
(We are here). The Father sees this obedience, and elevates Christ, putting him at the head of his Kingdom. It is now the Kingdom of his dear Son - the Kingdom of the Son of man. This happens when Christ ascends to Heaven. It remains the Kingdom of the Son until his return. Christ is reigning right now.
(End of the old World) Christ returns in power at the end of the world, creation is destroyed and the fallen flesh/enemies of God burn while rewards are given to the faithful. Christ is then subject to the Father, so that "God is all in all" and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
Kingdom of Heaven
Therefore the Kingdom of the Son of man is just the Kingdom of God and is not something that is "established" as it exists whenever God exists, but rather is something that the Son receives as a reward for his obedience and exists now. But how can Christ be reigning over the Kingdom of God (which itself reigns over all earthly kingdoms - Romans 13.1-2) if the world is so messed up and there are so many forces that appear to oppose him, and even our own flesh opposes the spirit?
That is exactly what Jesus' parables were about.
Let's look at two parables:
The Enemy Sower
Matthew 13:36–43 (KJV 1900)
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable
of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He
that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the
world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares
are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is
the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are
the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the
fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man
shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom
all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall
cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing
of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the
kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Notice that it says "the Son of man shall send angels to gather out of his kingdom. That is, the kingdom of the Son of man. But after the tares are burned and the world is destroyed, the "righteous" shall shine forth in the kingdom of the Father. It is the Father's Kingdom again after the Judgment Day. Before the judgment day, it is the Son of man's kingdom.
Notice also that the son allows the tares to remain, those are the things that "give offense". The tares serve a purpose, which is to complete the bride (Col 1:24, 1 Peter 1:7). Like Pharoah, the tares think they are challenging the Kingdom but really they are the instruments of the Son.
We are in stage 2 now, where there are things that give offense coexisting with the "children of the light" in the Kingdom. This is mentioned elsewhere:
But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. Rev 11.2 KJV
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Matt 11.12 KJV
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Gal 4.17 KJV
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Gal 5.17 KJV
Right now, there is opposition. There is this battle between the flesh and spirit, but this battle serves a purpose, which is the perfection of the body. When the body is complete, there is no more purpose for the opposition and the Son will return in glory to end the world and burn the flesh.
When will this happen, and can we see the kingdom now? The second parable:
The Parable of the Hard Master
And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable,
because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the
kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A
certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a
kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and
delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying,
We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass,
that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he
commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given
the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by
trading. [..]26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which
hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath
shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would
not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before
Notice a few things:
People were expecting the kingdom to appear right away, but Christ makes clear that it will only be visible at the end of the world.
The master receives his kingdom when he is gone. He returns with the kingdom and dispenses rewards and punishments.
While he is away, again there is the opposition -- the evil citizens who are killed when the master returns.
So from the above, it should be clear the Son is going to return a second time, with power, at the end of the world. Not in the middle to "establish" a kingdom, but at the end. So the time of reign is now, except the flesh cannot see the reign, just as it cannot see the kingdom. Only the spirit can see the kingdom.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 1 Cor 15.50 KJV
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. Mark 4:11–12 KJV
But there will come a time when flesh does see the Son return in glory, and his brightness (as well as his word) will destroy the flesh:
- And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming 2 Thessalonians 2:8 KJV
Until such time as the flesh is burned, we can only see the Son of man, who is now glorified, in the spirit via a theophany. There were several theophanies recorded in scripture, the most famous being John's revelation, but a theophany was also promised to Nathanael in John 1.51
- And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. John 1:51 KJV
Another was seen by Stephen:
- And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:56 KJV
And the most famous by John:
Revelation 1:12–18 (KJV 1900)
... And being turned,
I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven
candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down
to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head
and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes
were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if
they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went
a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in
his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And
he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the
first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold,
I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
According to scripture, all believers see Jesus in some form:
Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that
he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put
under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we
see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the
suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the
grace of God should taste death for every man.
Some may see him coming on the clouds, some may see him seated in glory, some may seem him as a suffering lamb, and John saw all of the above. Matt 16.28 is just the promise of a theophany. We can speculate, but do not know, when it was fulfilled -- as with most promises in scripture. But it doesn't matter as the timing of a theophany has nothing to do with when the Son of man returns and destroys the flesh with his brightness.
The son is reigning right now, over all powers in Heaven and Earth, but only the spirit can see this.
- Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. John 14.17 KJV
The flesh cannot see it as doing so would destroy the flesh, but the flesh is being preserved - temporarily - so that the spirit is given an opportunity to mature through opposition to the flesh - until the bride is complete. Only at the end will the Son of man return and be revealed to the flesh, and so burn it up.