THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS
Matthew 16:27-28; 17:1-8
This event in the ministry of Jesus was a special teaching
aid for Peter, James and John and through them to the entire church after
His resurrection. It occurred in the final year of His 3 1/2 year ministry,
which extended from 26 to 30 AD. This then would be 29 AD and probably
after April (Hebrew, Abib). This scenario follows the time scheme of 30
AD as the date of the crucifixion.
Jesus had just finished teaching the multitude about the
issue of salvation relationship being a life changing decision that involved
an initial dedication to the claim of God upon their life (Matthew 16:24-27;
Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26).
At Mat. 16:27, Jesus says,
"For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory
of His Father with His angels,
and will then recompense every man according to his deeds."
This statement correlated with all that has been taught
to God's people up until this time, refers to the Day of the Lord return
of the Messiah. It is during this time period known as the Day of the Lord,
that He will - -
1. Deliver His elect from their affliction: Matthew 10:21-23;
2 Thessalonians 1:6-10
2. Evaluate their deeds. Matthew 16:27
3. Administrate divine justice on those left in the world.
4.Establish his earthly reign. Daniel 7:14, 22
5. And render the last judgment on unbelieving humanity
after His earthly reign. Revelation 20:11-15
Jesus taught about one and only one second coming, and
there is nothing explicit or implicit that suggests He ever had anything
but one second coming in view. He then tells the disciples a very strange
thing at verse 28.
"There are some standing here who will not taste
of (physical) death
until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
The term, "coming in His kingdom," refers to
the second advent presence of Jesus in resurrection glory along with His
Holy, mighty angels, when He comes to establish His kingdom on the earth.
Luke records it as, "see the kingdom of God," and Mark records
it as, "see the kingdom of God after it has come with power."
These are not contradictions, but all refer to the glorious revelation
of Jesus at the Day of the Lord.
This strange prediction is fulfilled 6 days later when
He takes Peter, James and John up onto a mountain and appears to them in
the manner He will appear at His second coming. This is recorded at Matthew
17:1-8; Mark 9:1-13 and Luke 9:27-36. When Luke records this, he says ABOUT
8 days after these words instead of 6 days as with Matthew and Mark. However,
Luke is probably viewing the whole period of time, counting the actual
day of the message and the day of the event with 6 days in between to equal
8. Furthermore, his intent is certainly not to be chronologically precise
as he uses the word "about" (hosei) to indicate approximation.
We know that this fulfills the words of Jesus at Matthew
16:28 because Peter tells us so at 2 Peter 1:16-18.
"For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when
we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but
we were eyewitnesses of His majesty."
We learn from Luke, that Jesus went up to the mountain
to pray and while doing so, the disciples fell asleep. It was then while
the disciples were asleep that Jesus underwent a transformation. He appeared
the way He will look in his resurrection glory which is called, "the
body of His glory," at Philip. 3:21.
Then Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, "in glory,"
according to Luke 9:31. "In glory," refers to their radiance
in association with Christ's glory. Neither Moses or Elijah have a resurrection
body (1 Corinthians 15:23), so that is not in view. But they did not appear
in their "old" bodies either. There are two possibilities for
this phenomenon. It could be that the soul has a visible appearance that
resembles the "image" of the physical body that was its "house"
while on earth (Luke 16:23; 1 Samuel 28:10-14). Or there is an interim
body that the soul resides in while it awaits resurrection (Luke 16:23-24).
When the disciples awake, they see the trio standing and
talking and hear the content of the conversation (Luke 9:31).
How the disciples knew it was Moses and Elijah is not
indicated and there is no point in trying to figure it out. Obviously,
there was a valid identification made.
The conversation with Jesus was about "His departure
which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31)." That departure
refers to His physical death on the cross and the subsequent resurrection
and exit from the earth via His ascension 40 days after the resurrection.
The conversation also probably entailed everything that would result from
that death and looked forward to His return at the Day of the Lord which
God "will make known at His own time (1 Tim. 6:15)."
Shortly, Moses and Elijah move away from the Lord. Luke
9:33 reads, "And it came about as they were departing from Him."
This prompted Peter to suggest to Jesus that they stay
a little bit longer and in fact build three tents for them and Him. This
of course, was a foolish suggestion, but Peter was still half asleep and
not mentally focused. The Scripture reads about Peter, "not realizing
what he was saying." We also have here perhaps one of the greatest
understatements in Scripture when Peter says, "It is good for us to
Jesus did not address this suggestion from Peter, and
Moses and Elijah continued moving away and a cloud descended upon them.
Luke tells us, "and they were afraid as they entered the cloud."
Although there are a variety of opinions about what exactly is going on
with whom, I suggest that it is easy to determine that only Moses and Elijah
go into the cloud, and that the disciples are afraid when they see them
enter. Jesus remains outside and the disciples remain outside. After this,
the voice of the Father came out of the cloud and addressed the three disciples
telling them, "this is My Son, My chosen one, Listen to Him."
The voice is referring to Jesus who is outside the cloud
in the sight of the disciples, and it is addressed to the disciples who
are outside the cloud.
It seems that this exhortation from the Father serves
as a mild rebuke to Peter who was a little bit out of focus concerning
what was of spiritual value. He wanted to prolong a physical experience,
but the more important issue was the content of Jesus' message and adherence
to that content.
This voice from the Father reminds us of the other time
that He brought such unique attention to the Son, which was at the baptism
of Jesus, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,"
(Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22).
Based on the appearance of these two men here with Jesus
in a foreshadowing of His second coming, we can conclude that Moses is
also a herald of that coming. There is no prediction of this for Moses
as there is for Elijah, but because of the association presented here,
it seems best to conclude that the two of them function together in the
capacity spoken of in reference to Elijah at Malachi 4:6, "And he
will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts
of the children to their fathers."
But how can either of these men come back and minister
on the earth?
First, it is no trick for God to bring back to life one
who has died. Abraham's understanding of this is quoted for us at Hebrews
11:19, "having concluded that God is able to raise up even the dead."
And Lazarus is a prime example of this (John 11:17-44). But of course,
Lazarus was only four days dead and we are speaking of those who have been
dead for many centuries.
Actually, this is no problem if God has preserved and
protected the physical bodies of those involved. There would be no problem
even if the bodies had been incinerated, but we do have specific information
that the body of Moses was protected (Jude 9). It is quite interesting
that only three people in the entire history of Mankind went through physical
death apart from the normal mechanics; Enoch (Heb. 11:5), Moses (Deuteronomy
34:5-7), and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11-12).
Furthermore we have specific information concerning the
protection of the body of Moses after his soul left. Jude verse 9 tells
us that Michael the Archangel was given the responsibility to place the
body of Moses in a place for safe keeping and preservation to await its
role in the last days. The soul of course, went to paradise in hades (Luke
16:22) as did all Old Testament believers at death, including Enoch and
Elijah. None of these men received a resurrection body either, nor ascended
Jesus is the only one to have received a resurrection
body and no one else will until the Day of the Lord return of Jesus (1
Corinthians 15:20-23). In addition, no one had ascended into heaven prior
to the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (John 3:13), at which time He
took to heaven all Old Testament believers who resided in hades (Eph. 4:8-9).
In view of God's preservation of the body of Moses, it
is easy to see the same preservation assigned to Elijah's body. Thus, it
is totally possible for these two men to be resuscitated at the end time
to fulfill the ministry foreshadowed at the Mount of Transfiguration; the
ministry of Elijah prophesied to occur prior to the coming of the Day of
the Lord as recorded at Malachi 4:5-6. There is no need for the body of
Enoch to be protected and preserved since there is not even a hint of a
future role for him. It is suggested that his body was simply "buried"
by God to await resurrection at the Day of the Lord return of Jesus.
It is the view of this writer that the two heralds of
the second coming are the two witnesses of Revelation 11:1-13. For a more
detailed discussion of this, see the article, The
After Moses and Elijah leave the scene, the disciples
inquire about the Old Testament prophecy that Elijah is to come first.
At Matthew 17:10-11, they ask, "Why then do the scribes
say that Elijah must come first?"
And Jesus answered, "Elijah is coming and will restore
This answer recognizes the fact that there will yet be
a future visit from Elijah just prior to the Day of the Lord return of
Jesus, as predicted by Malachi. However, Jesus also says, "Elijah
already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they
Matthew 17:13 tells us that the disciples understood that
He had spoken to them about John the Baptizer. We learn elsewhere that
John the Baptizer had come "in the spirit and the power of Elijah,"
which indicates similarity in purpose and in message. The job of them both
was to announce the presence of the kingdom of God. John's message would
allow individuals of Israel to escape the judgment on the nation in 70
AD. Elijah's message will allow individuals to escape the Day of the Lord
judgments that will come upon the world immediately after His return.
When Peter writes about this event at 2 Peter 1:16-18
he has in mind the second coming of the Lord which is the hope and expectation
of the church. He describes this second coming later in chapter 3:10-14,
as the Day of the Lord and the Day of God, AND as an event that the church
should be expectantly anticipating and promoting. There is nothing in Peter's
letter about the church being removed at some time prior to this visible
and glorious return of Jesus at the Day of the Lord.
The apostles always understood the teachings of Jesus
as referring to one second coming which initiate a chain of events culminating
in the renovation of the universe and the last judgment.
Questions and comments
are always welcome
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