Significance of Matthew 10:23
I am Jessie Mills, Ph.D.
Child & Adult Clinical Psychology - Mills

Significance of Matthew 10:23


By Jim Hopkins and Jessie Mills




I. That Mt. 10:23 cannot be separated from Mt. 16:28 is quite evident.


A. Mt. 10:23 speaks openly of Christ’s return even before the Apostles finished preaching in all the cities of Israel.

B. Mt. 16:28 speaks plainly of Christ’s return with the kingdom, and that before all those whom he addressed were to die.

C. That one can study Mt. 10:23 without considering the kingdom is totally impossible, since both were to occur at the same event.

D. The delineation of what Jesus taught about the kingdom is a strictly scriptural task.  We should never come to the gospels with preliminary assumptions about what we are willing to accept.  We must sit down patiently before the evidence and let Jesus speak to us from the scriptures.  But that is never the end of the matter for a Christian believer.  He must go on to ask the theological question:  What is the significance of this for me and for faith?

E. It is clear at the outset that the form in which Jesus presented his message of the second appearing included also the kingdom, and cannot be held by us today in the same way.  Nineteen centuries have passed and no such catastrophic event as he had predicted has taken place.  We have no biblical authority to transfer that imminence to our own time.  When the New Testament writers said “soon” they meant “soon,” in relation to their time.


II. Perhaps a modification of the present view is warranted after the following language study.


A. The value and significance of Mt. 10:23 lies in the two verbs, “may” and “complete.”

B. “And whenever they may persecute you in this city”

1. And - Coordinating conjunction.  A particle denoting addition.

2. Whenever - Subordinating conjunction at the appointed time.

3. They - pronoun used in place of a noun.  “They” refers to those who persecute the Apostles.

4. May -  Helper verb.  Expresses action, or helps to make a statement.  In this passage, it expresses action in progress of being fulfilled.  The word, “may” helps to make a statement, a progressive fact, by being used three times in this passage.

5. Persecute - Transitive verb.  To pursue.  To injure or inflict.  To put to death on account of religious belief.

6. You - Pronoun.  Meaning all being addressed, or one being drawn out.

7. In - A preposition.  Word used to show relationship of a noun or pronoun to some other word used in the sentence.  The relationship is to the next city the Apostles were to flee to.

8. This - Adjective.  Used to modify a noun or pronoun.  In grammar, to qualify the meaning of subject, or to restrict or limit.  The limitation of this passage is that before the Apostles finished going through the cities of Israel, He the Lord would have appeared the second time.

9. City - Noun.  A proper noun because it is “this city,” the city in which they were presently teaching in.

C. “Flee to the other, for verily I say to you.”

1. Flee - verb.  Expresses action, or movement.

2. To - Preposition.  To show relationship of a noun or pronoun to other words.  When rejected in this place, move to another.

3. The - Adjective.  Used to modify a noun or pronoun.  The word “the” in this passage describes a place less hostile.

4. Other - Second; or noting the remaining number of things.  In this case, cities.

5. For - Preposition.  Shows relationship of nouns, or pronouns.  Because of, by reason of, in order to affect, to attain a goal.

6. Verily - Adverb.  In truth, assuredly, certainly

7. I - Noun.  Personal.  In this case, Jesus himself.

8. Say - verb. To utter a decision, or one in progress

9. To - Preposition.  Shows relationship of nouns and pronouns.  In this case, it shows where the persecution would be, and to whom the persecution would be directed.  That the Messiah would return to revenge the Apostles cannot be denied, and that before they all should die.

10. You - Pronoun.  Here relates to those Christ personally addressed in his own time period.

D. “Ye may not have completed the cities of Israel till the Son of Man may come.”

1. Ye - Pronoun.  In this case, ye meaning the Apostles spoken to by Christ.

2. May - Action verb.  Showing action on the part of the pronoun “ye” which represents the Apostles.

3. Not - Adverb.  A word used to modify the above verb “may.”  In grammar, to qualify the meaning of, by limiting or negating.

4. Have - Verb.  To modify, qualify, or limit.

5. Completed - Verb transitively.  To make complete.  Finished.  Fulfilled.  End.

6. The - Adjective.  Designates specific cities of Israel the Apostles would go through in their preaching. Definite Article. 

7. Cities - Noun.  Plural.  Denotes the kind of places to be visited by the Apostles.

8. Of - Preposition.  This preposition cannot but show the relationship between “this city” and the cities passed through by the Apostles.

9. Israel - Noun.  The nation by which the preceding “cities” represents.

10. Till - Preposition.  “Till” shows the relationship between the “ye,” the Apostles, and what they were to accomplish before (the nouns) “Son” of “Man” be come.

11. The - Adjective.  Describes who was to come.

12. Son - Personal noun.  It names the one who was to come.

13. Of - Preposition.  This one shows the relationship between the “Son” of “Man” or “Father.”

14. Man - Personal noun.  Here represents Christ the Messiah.

15. May - Helping verb or action Verb.  It shows action on the part of the “Son of Man,” after the Apostles had finished their course.

16. Come - Verb.  Expresses action on the part of the “Son of Man.”  He was to come during the lifetime of at least some of those he addressed.  Mt. 16:28.


III. Mt. 10:23 - Greek Text


A. OTAN       DE DIOKOSIN UMAS       EN      TE

    whenever   But    they may persecute   you         in      the


1. OTAN - Conjunction subordinating.

2. DE - Conjunction coordinating.

3. DIOKOSIN - Verb subjunctive  Present active, 3rd person plural.

4. UMAS - Pronoun accusative, 2nd person plural.

5. EN - Preposition dative.

6. TE - Definite article  dative, feminine singular.



    City     This You flee Into


1. POLEI - Noun  dative  feminine singular.

2. TAUTE - Adjective demonstrative  dative, feminine singular.

3. PHEUGETE - Verb imperative  present active, 2nd person plural.

4. EIS - Preposition accusative.



    The    Other    Truly       For   I say


1. TEN - Definite article accus. feminine singular.

2. ETERAN - Adjective pronominal accusative, feminine singular.

3. AMEN - Particle sentential.

4. GAR - Conjunction subordinating.

5. LEGO - Verb indic.  pres. active, 1st person sing.



    You By no means     You may complete  The


1. UMIN - Pronoun dative 2nd person plural.

2. OU - Adverb.

3. ME - Adverb.

4. TELESETE - Verb subjunctive  aorist active, 2nd person plural.

5. TAS - Definite article accus. feminine plural.



    Cities      The       Of Israel     Until    May come


1. POLEIS - Noun accusative  feminine plural.

2. TOU - Definite article genitive masc. singular.

3. ISRAEL - Noun genitive  masculine singular.

4. EOS - Conjunction subordinating.

5. AN - (Not in Nestle’s Text, but in 3rd ed. of the UBS Greek NT  (1975)) Wigram says:  “Normally not translatable:  generally conveys vagueness or contingency.  (a) Used with subjunctive to indicate contingency in expressed action.  (b) Used with conjunction it indicates vagueness.  Thayer says:  “a particle indicating that something can or could occur on certain conditions.” Words haply and perchance not exact fit.

6. ELTHE - Verb subjunctive aorist active 3rd person singular.



    The Son      The Of man


1. O - Definite article nominative.

2. UIOS - Noun nominative masculine singular.

3. TOU - Definite article  gen. masculine sing.

4. ANTHROPOU - Noun genitive  masculine singular.


Accusative  is the case of the direct object, the object of persecution and place they flee to.


Genitive  is the case of possession or origin.  Of Israel - preposition.  “Of” is added to show possession.


Dative is the case of that to which anything is represented as accruing - designations of time, expressions of causation or instrumentality.  The cities of Israel were causative agents of persecution.


The use of the subjunctive mood:

1. As the principal verb of a sentence:

a. Expresses deliberate interrogation or question.

b. Example:  Jn. 12:27 - “And what shall I say?”

2. In the first person plural:

a. Expresses a suggestive force which is usually classed as an Imperative.  Example:

b. Mark 1:38, “Let us go into the next towns.”

3. The aorist is used as an  imperative with the particles, ME.  Example:  Mt. 6:2  “Do not sound a trumpet before you.”

4. In combination with the particles, OU ME, it forms a preemptory negation.  Example:  John 13:8  “Never shall you wash my feet.”

5. The future indicative is also used in the same construction.

6. In dependent clauses:

a. It is the ordinary mood after EAN, AN used hypothetically, and relative words when AN is joined to them:  As OTAN (OTE AN), OS AN, etc. as also PRIN and EOS with AN joined.

b. It is also the ordinary construction with the particles INA, OS, OPIN, when expressive of design:  As Mt. 2:15, “That it may be fulfilled.”  The case is the same when design may be implied but not expressed directly:  Mk. 14:14 “Where is my room in which I may eat the Passover?”


Wigram, The Analytical Greek Lexicon.  p. xliii.  Subjunctive:  Represents an attitude toward or concern with a denoted act or state not as fact but as something entertained in thought as contingent or possible.


IV. Epilogue –

The genius of Christianity is its universality, and its sole concern is to set men free.  Free from the traditions of the fathers.


A. To track the evidence of this discourse publicly, almost amounts to heresy in our generation.

B. Yet, all evidence points to fact that Christ the Messiah was to appear even before the Apostles finished “going through” all the cities of Israel.  One commentator suggested that this “going through” means the disciples would not run out of cities to flee to before Christ returned. 

C. That Mt. 10:23 speaks of events taking place during the lifetime of at least some of those being addressed, cannot be denied.

D. That the word “may” denotes action in progress in relation to their own time is a practical conclusion.


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© Copyright 2015 by Jessie Mills. All Rights Reserved by the author, Jessie E. Mills, Jr. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior express written permission of the publisher, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or other publications. Such quotations must be used with proper reference to their context and give appropriate credit to their authorship.