Matthew 24:34 is not dealing with the same set of events as in chapter 16:28. Note the context of Matthew 24 and 25. In verse 3 of the 24th chapter, the disciples of Christ asked him the following: ” ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age.’ ” Christ then goes on to answer them by pointing out events that literally span the entire church age, but He deals primarily with those events that signal His imminent return to the earth.
In verse 34, Christ says, ” ‘Assuredly I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.’ ” From the broader context, we understand that in this verse Christ is speaking about that generation that is alive when the dramatic intervention of God in human affairs actually occurs.
In Matthew 16:28, Christ is here quoted as follows: “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Does this verse imply that some of the disciples would live over two thousand years? No, not at all. The explanation can be found quite clearly by reading on into chapter 17 of Matthew.
In verses 1 through 13, we find the account of Peter, James and John being with Christ when He was transfigured before them. In this vision both Moses and Elijah appear as if glorified with Christ–verse 9 shows that Christ identified what had happened as a vision. You can get even more details of this event in the parallel accounts found in Mark 9:1-13 and Luke 9:27-36.
To show how easily some of these things are misunderstood, look at the statement that Christ made about John in the book of John, chapter 21 and verse 22: “Jesus said to him (Peter), ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me.’ ” Verse 23 shows that some of the brethren later believed that John would not die, but it is further explained that Christ was merely using figurative speech to make His point with Peter. In fact, John did die–being, by historical tradition, the last of the original Apostles to do so.
The account in Matthew 24 deals with prophetic events and the generation of mankind alive when Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God. Matthew 16 is dealing with the promise by Jesus Christ that some among His disciples would–in vision–see the Kingdom of God. To read more about the generation of the time of Christ’s return, please refer to CEG’s update number 60 (dated September 13, 2002) and note the Editorial entitled, “We Are Closer Than We May Think!” Also, please consult pages 14 and 15 of our booklet, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God,” for further details on the vision described in Matthew 16.