The Meaning of Matthew 10:23 Explained

Matthew 10:23

KJV: But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

YLT: 'And whenever they may persecute you in this city, flee to the other, for verily I say to you, ye may not have completed the cities of Israel till the Son of Man may come.

Darby: But when they persecute you in this city, flee to the other; for verily I say to you, Ye shall not have completed the cities of Israel until the Son of man be come.

ASV: But when they persecute you in this city, flee into the next: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone through the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

What does Matthew 10:23 Mean?

Study Notes

Son of man
(See Scofield " Ezekiel 2:1 ") . Our Lord thus designates Himself about eighty times. It is His racial name as the representative Man, in the sense of 1 Corinthians 15:45-47 as Son of David is distinctly his Jewish name, and Son of God His divine name. Our Lord constantly uses this term as implying that his mission (e.g.); Matthew 11:19 ; Luke 19:10 . His death and resurrection (e.g.); Matthew 12:40 ; Matthew 20:18 ; Matthew 26:2 and His second coming (e.g.); Matthew 24:37-44 ; Luke 12:40 transcended in scope and result all merely Jewish imitations. When Nathanael confesses him as "King of Israel," our Lord's answer is, "Thou shalt see greater things.. . the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." When His messengers are cast out by the Jews, His thought leaps forward to the time when the Son of man shall come, not then to Israel only but to the race; Matthew 10:5 ; Matthew 10:6 ; Matthew 8:23 . It is in this name, also, that universal judgment is committed to Him John 5:22 ; John 5:27 . It is also a name indicating that in Him is fulfilled the O.T. foreview of blessing through a coming man. See Scofield " Genesis 1:26 "; Genesis 3:15 ; Genesis 12:3 ; Psalms 8:4 ; Psalms 80:17 ; Isaiah 7:14 ; Isaiah 9:6 ; Isaiah 9:7 ; Isaiah 32:2 ; Zechariah 13:7 ; Isaiah 32:2 ; Zechariah 13:7 .

Verse Meaning

Jesus promised that He would return for His disciples before they had finished preaching the kingdom throughout the cities of Israel. If Israel had accepted Jesus as her Messiah, this would have happened at the end of seven years of persecution following Jesus" death, resurrection, and ascension. Since Israel rejected her Messiah, it will happen at the end of the Tribulation yet future from our perspective in history ( Daniel 7:13). Obviously it did not happen after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D70.
Commentators have offered many other explanations of this verse. There is great diversity of opinion concerning what Jesus meant mainly because there is failure to take Jesus" offer of Himself and the messianic kingdom literally. Some interpreters believe Jesus meant He would return to the Twelve before they completed the mission He sent them on here. The problem with this view is that there is no indication in the text that that happened. Others interpret the Son of Man coming as a reference to the public identification of Jesus as the Messiah. However that is not what Jesus said, and it is not what happened. Some believe Jesus made a mistake, and what He predicted did not happen. Obviously this view reflects a low view of Jesus" person. Still others believe what Jesus was predicting was the destruction of Jerusalem, but this hardly fits the Old Testament prophecies or the context of this verse. Carson summarized seven views and preferred one that equates the coming of the Son of Man with the coming of the kingdom. He viewed "the end" as the destruction of Jerusalem. [1]
"What was proclaimed here was more fully demonstrated in the apostles" lives after the day of Pentecost ( Acts 2) in the spread of the gospel in the church (e.g, Acts 4:1-13; Acts 5:17-18; Acts 5:40; Acts 7:54-60). But these words will find their fullest manifestation in the days of the Tribulation when the gospel will be carried throughout the entire world before Jesus Christ returns in power and glory to establish His kingdom on the earth ( Matthew 24:14)." [2]

Context Summary

Matthew 10:16-23 - Steadfast Under Persecution
The way of the servants and heralds of Christ will never be easy. From the first, it has been lined with jagged flints. On the one hand, they are assailed by the rulers and potentates of this world; and on the other, by the members of their own homes. See Acts 4:25. But all these experiences are permitted in order to secure an entrance for their message into the most unlikely places, 2 Timothy 4:17. The fact of the disciples being driven from city to city brought the gospel within the reach of a much wider audience than if they had remained in peace in one center. See Acts 11:19.
But when we are persecuted for the Lord's sake, the Father bends over us with tender pity and helpfulness, John 12:26. And we are supplied, from the Eternal Light and Love, with a wisdom of speech and an unfailing patience of love that cannot be gainsaid. [source]

Chapter Summary: Matthew 10

1  Jesus sends out his apostles, enabling them with power to do miracles;
5  giving them their charge, teaches them;
16  comforts them against persecutions;
40  and promises a blessing to those who receive them

Greek Commentary for Matthew 10:23

Till the Son of man be come [εως ελτηι ο υιος του αντρωπου]
Moffatt puts it “before the Son of man arrives” as if Jesus referred to this special tour of Galilee. Jesus could overtake them. Possibly so, but it is by no means clear. Some refer it to the Transfiguration, others to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, others to the Second Coming. Some hold that Matthew has put the saying in the wrong context. Others bluntly say that Jesus was mistaken, a very serious charge to make in his instructions to these preachers. The use of εως — heōs with aorist subjunctive for a future event is a good Greek idiom. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Matthew 10:23

John 1:51 Son of man []
See on Luke 6:22. Notice the titles successively applied to our Lord in this chapter: the greater Successor of the Baptist, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Israel. These were all given by others. The title Son of man He applies to Himself. In John's Gospel, as in the Synoptists, this phrase is used only by Christ in speaking of Himself; and elsewhere only in Acts 7:56, where the name is applied to Him by Stephen. It occurs less frequently in John than in the Synoptists, being found in Matthew thirty times, in Mark thirteen, and in John twelve. -DIVIDER-
Jesus' use of the term here is explained in two ways. -DIVIDER-
I. That He borrows the title from the Old Testament to designate Himself either: (a ) as a prophet, as in Ezekiel 2:1-3; Ezekiel 3:1, etc.; or (b ) as the Messiah, as prefigured in Daniel 7:13. This prophecy of Daniel had obtained such wide currency that the Messiah was called Anani, or the man of the clouds. -DIVIDER-
(a.) This is untenable, because in Ezekiel, as everywhere in the Old Testament, the phrase Son of man, or Sons of men, is used to describe man under his human limitations, as weak, fallible, and incompetent by himself to be a divine agent. -DIVIDER-
(b.) The allusion to Daniel's prophecy is admitted; but Jesus does not mean to say, “I am the Messiah who is prefigured by Daniel.” A political meaning attached in popular conception to the term Messiah; and it is noticeable throughout John's Gospel that Jesus carefully avoids using that term before the people, but expresses the thing itself by circumlocution, in order to avoid the complication which the popular understanding would have introduced into his work. See John 8:24, John 8:25; John 10:24, John 10:25. -DIVIDER-
Moreover, the phrase Son of man was not generally applied to the Messiah. On the contrary, John 5:27and John 12:34show that it was set off against that term. Compare Matthew 16:13, Matthew 16:15. Son of God is the Messianic title, which, with one exception, appears in confessions (John 1:34, John 1:49; John 11:27; John 20:31). -DIVIDER-
In Daniel the reference is exclusively to the final stage of human affairs. The point is the final establishment of the divine kingdom. Moreover, Daniel does not say “the Son of man,” but “one like a Son of man.” Compare Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14, where also the article is omitted. -DIVIDER-
II. The second, and correct explanation is that the phrase Son of man is the expression of Christ's self-consciousness as being related to humanity as a whole: denoting His real participation in human nature, and designating Himself as the representative man. It thus corresponds with the passage in Daniel, where the earthly kingdoms are represented by beasts, but the divine kingdom by a Son of man. Hence, too, the word ἄνθρωπος is purposely used (see on a man, John 1:30, and compare John 8:40). -DIVIDER-
While the human element was thus emphasized in the phrase, the consciousness of Jesus, as thus expressed, did not exclude His divine nature and claims, but rather regarded these through the medium of His humanity. He showed Himself divine in being thus profoundly human. Hence two aspects of the phrase appear in John, as in the Synoptists. The one regards His earthly life and work, and involves His being despised; His accommodation to the conditions of human life; the partial veiling of His divine nature; the loving character of His mission; His liability to misinterpretation; and His outlook upon a consummation of agony. On the other hand, He is possessed of supreme authority; He is about His Father's work; He reveals glimpses of His divine nature through His humanity; His presence and mission entail serious responsibility upon those to whom He appeals; and He foresees a consummation of glory no less than of agony. See Matthew 8:20; Matthew 11:19; Matthew 12:8, Matthew 12:32; Matthew 13:37; Matthew 16:13; Matthew 20:18; Matthew 26:64; Mark 8:31, Mark 8:38; Mark 14:21; Luke 9:26, Luke 9:58; Luke 12:8; Luke 17:22; Luke 19:10; Luke 22:69. -DIVIDER-
The other aspect is related to the future. He has visions of another life of glory and dominion; though present in the flesh, His coming is still future, and will be followed by a judgment which is committed to Him, and by the final glory of His redeemed in His heavenly kingdom. See Matthew 10:23; Matthew 13:40sqq.; Matthew 16:27sqq.; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:37, Matthew 24:44; Matthew 25:31sqq.; Mark 13:26; Luke 6:22; Luke 17:24, Luke 17:30; Luke 18:8; Luke 21:27. -DIVIDER-

Acts 14:6 Fled [κατεπυγον]
Second aorist (effective) active indicative of καταπευγω — katapheugō old verb, but in the N.T. only here and Hebrews 6:18. Paul and Barnabas had no idea of remaining to be stoned (lynched) by this mob. It is a wise preacher who always knows when to stand his ground and when to leave for the glory of God. Paul and Barnabas were following the directions of the Lord Jesus given to the twelve on their special tour of Galilee (Matthew 10:23). Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia (still part of the Province of Galatia, though in another Regio), not far from the base of the Black Mountain. Professor Sterrett has apparently identified Lystra by an inscription about six hours (18 miles) south-southwest from Iconium near the village Khatyn Serai and Derbe probably near the village Losta or Zosta though its location is really not known. Lystra had been made a colony in b.c. 6 and Derbe was the frontier city of the Roman empire in the southeast. These are the only cities mentioned, but they were of importance and show that Paul kept to his plan of going to centres of influence. The new imperial road from Antioch and Iconium reached these cities. The region round about (την περιχωρον — tēn perichōron) was “a high table land, ill-watered, bleak, but suited for sheep pasture” (Page). [source]
1 Corinthians 4:11 We have no certain dwelling-place [ἀστατοῦμεν]
From ἄστατος unstablestrolling about. Only here in the New Testament. Compare Matthew 8:20; Matthew 10:23; Hebrews 11:37. Wyc., we ben unstable. [source]
James 2:5 As to the world [τωι κοσμωι]
The ethical dative of interest, as the world looks at it as in Acts 7:20; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 10:4; James 4:4. By the use of the article (the poor) James does not affirm that God chose all the poor, but only that he did choose poor people (Matthew 10:23-26; 1 Corinthians 1:26-28).Rich in faith (πλουσιους εν πιστει — plousious en pistei). Rich because of their faith. As he has shown in James 1:9.Which he promised Genitive of the accusative relative ην — hēn attracted to the case of the antecedent βασιλειας — basileias (the Messianic kingdom), the same verb and idea already in James 1:12 Cf. the beatitude of Jesus in Matthew 5:3 for the poor in spirit. [source]
Revelation 12:13 He persecuted [εδιωχεν]
First aorist active participle of διωκω — diōkō to pursue, to chase, hostile pursuit here as in Matthew 5:10.; Matthew 10:23, etc. John now, after the “voice” in Revelation 12:10-13, returns to the narrative in Revelation 12:9. The child was caught away in Revelation 12:5, and now the woman (the true Israel on earth) is given deadly persecution. Perhaps events since a.d. 64 (burning of Rome by Nero) amply illustrated this vision, and they still do so. [source]

What do the individual words in Matthew 10:23 mean?

Whenever then they persecute you in the city one flee to the next Truly for I say to you no not shall you have completed the cities of Israel until - be come the Son Man
Ὅταν δὲ διώκωσιν ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ φεύγετε εἰς τὴν ἑτέραν ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν οὐ μὴ τελέσητε τὰς πόλεις τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ ἕως ‹ἂν› ἔλθῃ Υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου

Ὅταν  Whenever 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ὅταν  
Sense: when, whenever, as long as, as soon as.
διώκωσιν  they  persecute 
Parse: Verb, Present Subjunctive Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: διώκω  
Sense: to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away.
πόλει  city 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: πόλις  
Sense: a city.
ταύτῃ  one 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.
φεύγετε  flee 
Parse: Verb, Present Imperative Active, 2nd Person Plural
Root: φεύγω  
Sense: to flee away, seek safety by flight.
ἑτέραν  next 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: ἀλλοιόω 
Sense: the other, another, other.
ἀμὴν  Truly 
Parse: Hebrew Word
Root: ἀμήν  
Sense: firm.
λέγω  I  say 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: λέγω 
Sense: to say, to speak.
ὑμῖν  to  you 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative 2nd Person Plural
Root: σύ  
Sense: you.
οὐ  no 
Parse: Adverb
Root: οὐ  
Sense: no, not; in direct questions expecting an affirmative answer.
τελέσητε  shall  you  have  completed 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Active, 2nd Person Plural
Root: τελέω  
Sense: to bring to a close, to finish, to end.
πόλεις  cities 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Plural
Root: πόλις  
Sense: a city.
Ἰσραὴλ  Israel 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰσραήλ  
Sense: the name given to the patriarch Jacob (and borne by him in addition to his former name).
ἕως  until 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ἕως  
Sense: till, until.
‹ἂν›  - 
Parse: Particle
Root: ἄν  
Sense: has no exact English equivalent, see definitions under AV.
ἔλθῃ  be  come 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἔρχομαι  
Sense: to come.
Υἱὸς  Son 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: υἱός  
Sense: a son.
ἀνθρώπου  Man 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: ἄνθρωπος  
Sense: a human being, whether male or female.