August 21, 2022 The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration
August 21, 2022

Read Matthew 16:28 – 17:13.
What did Jesus mean when he said that some would see him coming in his kingdom? Some have understood this to mean his second coming to the earth. Since he still has not returned, his words are explained as either failing (Jesus was mistaken) or that at least one of the disciples never died and is actually still alive today. Since the first is impossible and the second is too bizarre, Jesus was not referring to his second coming.
When Jesus, or any NT author, refers to the “coming” of the Lord it can have more than one meaning. It can also mean his coming in judgment as in Isaiah 19:1-2.  With this meaning, Jesus came in judgment upon unfaithful Israel in 70 AD when Titus destroyed Jerusalem. This is a possible understanding since it would have been about 38 years after Jesus’ words here and John would have been alive at that time.
The other meaning is in reference to his enthronement as the Son of Man in Daniel 7:13-14. In fact, since Jesus is using the self-designation, “Son of Man,” he likely expects his listeners to understand this. “In Daniel 7:13-14 this ‘son of man’ comes before God to be enthroned as king. There is nothing in the imagery of Daniel to suggest a coming to earth, as Christian interpretation has traditionally found in these passages; he comes in the clouds of heaven to God.”  This meaning of “coming,” then, is simply a revealing of who he is: the Messianic figure of Daniel 7.

When did he “come” in this respect? When was he revealed as the glorious Son of Man in Daniel 7? To the world at large this became known at his resurrection. However, three of the disciples would see it beforehand. That is, they would see Jesus as the Son of Man in glory before his resurrection. Note that immediately following verse 28 is 17:1 which reveals the Transfiguration. There were no chapter divisions in any of the original manuscripts. But, it could just be a coincidence that the account of the Transfiguration immediately follows Jesus’ statement about them seeing him coming in his kingdom. If it were only In Matthew it might well be just a coincidence. But each synoptic writer has the Transfiguration immediately follow Jesus’ promise.

To have all three synoptic authors record the Transfiguration following Jesus’ promise makes it clear that the Transfiguration was the “coming” of the Son of Man. That is, he becomes known to the three disciples who were present as the Son of Man in Daniel. His rulership, his kingdom, is made known to them.

The Lord’s transfiguration is one of the most amazing passages of Scripture. What those three disciples saw that day is the stuff of science fiction movies or fantasy novels. Only it really happened!

If we saw this happen today we would be astounded and fearful. We can barely imagine how those simple fishermen felt as they gazed in amazement upon the glory of the Lord Jesus! They were fearful and we can understand why! Our Lord’s face became as bright as the sun! Have you ever tried to look at the sun on a cloudless day? It hurts your eyes. Don’t even try it for more than a second or two because it’s brightness can damage your eyes. Even the clothes of our Lord became shining as light itself.

When our Lord was transfigured he was glorified. What does it mean to be glorified? Christ is most unique. He is a Person possessing both divinity and humanity. But his divinity was hidden within his humanity. Outwardly, he was a man; but inwardly he was (and is) the very God. God was concealed within a man!

Glory is God expressed. When God begins to be expressed, glory is manifested. The transfiguration was the glory of God being made known to those three blessed disciples. Before the transfiguration the glory of God was hidden within him. All that was seen was the moral glory of the Lord and his power to do miracles, which was the glory of his might. But his visible glory was hidden…until the Transfiguration.

And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.  
The disciples saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Two questions may come to mind when we read this short sentence. What were these two OT saints talking to Jesus about? Matthew does not tell us. However, Luke informs us that they spoke about Jesus’ departure, meaning his leaving this earth. He says no more than this. However, Peter in his first letter, chapter one, tells us that the prophets who, although they accurately predicted Christ’s sufferings and glories to follow, asked questions about them (to the Lord). This indicates that they prophesied things that they themselves did not fully understand. Peter adds that even the angels didn’t know these things. Therefore, it seems as if Moses and Elijah are here asking Jesus what will happen. Jesus would tell them about how he will depart the earth (that would be by ascending into the air in front of witnesses; Acts 1:9-11).

The second question that may come to mind is how did the disciples know that these two men were Moses and Elijah? There were no videos, no photographs, not even paintings that would depict what Moses and Elijah looked like. So how did the disciples know who they were? The most likely explanation is that they heard the conversation and that Jesus addressed them. This makes the most sense, but it is only speculation. Matthew only tells us that they knew who they were.

Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets. The law and the prophets both find their fulfillment in Christ. In the same way that Moses and Elijah came to Christ for answers, when we read the law and the prophets we will find the answers to our questions in the Person of Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord explained the writings of the OT to his hearers. Christ is still explaining. Are we still asking? Do not stop looking! Never think that you are too simple or that you do not have the capacity to understand the Bible. It is through Christ, both his words in the NT and through his indwelling in our spirit, that the words of God will be unfolded to you. Then the promise of God will come to you!

The unfolding of your words gives light; 
it imparts understanding to the simple.  

What a marvelous promise this is! Are you simple? This verse promises that you will be given understanding! All you have to do is unfold his words! This means to seek out their meaning. This verse was true when David wrote it over 2000 years ago. But it is even more true now because Christ has come. Christ will help unfold the words for you! When he does you will have understanding!
Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets. They also represent the overcomers of the OT. Remember that it is only the overcomers who will inherit the kingdom. Not all Christians will inherit the kingdom. Only those who overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Remember too, that Jesus said that when the disciples would see his “coming,” meaning the manifestation of his glory as the Son of  Man of Daniel, that there would be the presence of his kingdom at that time. Thus, the transfiguration was the first phase of Christ’s kingdom. The next phase will be at his return to the earth when he sets up his earthly kingdom in its fuller manifestation. The last phase will be the New Jerusalem, which will also be on the earth. Our future is all about the earth, not heaven! Of course, when we die and before the Lord comes back, we will go into heaven to be with the Lord. But that is only temporary. Our future is on this earth with glorified bodies!

To affirm the truth that only the overcomers will inherit the kingdom:

He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; 

He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 

Thus, Moses and Elijah also represent the overcomers of the OT and Peter, James, and John represent the overcomers of the NT era.

You can be an overcomer! Peter, James, and John were ordinary men doing an ordinary job, fishing. Yet, they became overcomers and even the foundation of the church! Nothing is known about the heritage of Elijah. Nothing! His parents are never mentioned. This is unusual for a prophet of God. The father is almost always mentioned for each prophet. The fact that his father’s name is left out probably means that he came from very humble beginnings. Never fret about your family of origin or how you started. If Elijah can become the greatest prophet of all time, then you can be an overcomer!
Moses was a man of weakness, yet he became one of the greatest men of God! You can be an overcomer!

And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 

Peter often said things that were off the mark. This is another example. The effect of Peter’s absurd proposal was to put Moses and Elijah on the same level with Christ, which means to make the law and the prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah, equal to Christ. Christ is far superior to either Moses or Elijah. Christ is above all because he is the Father’s beloved Son.

We should never place anything or anyone at an equal level to Christ.

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 

God speaks directly to the disciples from heaven and tells them to listen to Christ. God is still saying this! He says it to the world. “Listen to my Son!” He says to the church. “Listen to my Son!” He says it to the individual disciple today who is trying to deal with the vicissitudes of life. “Listen to my Son!” This is our great need! We must listen to Jesus! The primary way he speaks is through the New Testament. Therefore, in order to listen to God’s Son we must read the New Testament. If we are not reading or listening to the NT then we are not listening to the Son. Listen to the Son daily!

This doesn’t mean we neglect the OT. Moses and the prophets have much to teach us. But Jesus is the one who explains and reveals what they teach. We are greatly profited by studying the OT because we learn God’s moral laws and we learn how God deals with our failures through the OT. But we listen to Jesus to give us a full understanding of the law and the prophets.

This passage of Scripture ends with Jesus affirming that John the Baptist is Elijah. He is not Elijah as if he is the same person, but he came in the spirit and power of Elijah. We have considered John the Baptist not too long ago in a separate message so we do not need to revisit him. 

I would like to end with an encouraging revelation given by the apostle Paul that is related to the Transfiguration.

We have seen that the Transfiguration was the revealing of glory. The amazing thing is that those who live for Christ in this age will have a similar experience at the time the Lord returns to the earth. That is to say that the overcomers, the faithful ones, will have a transformation of being that is akin to the transfiguration!
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 
Verse 49 of I Corinthians 15 makes it clear that our resurrected bosies will be like that of Jesus:
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.  

This seems too amazing to be true. That we will have a resurrected body that will be glorious! But, the apostle promises this.

So, what ought we to do? We do not want to be those who just fill our heads with knowledge. What we must do is get ready. We get ready by listening the Son. As we listen to him and conform our lives to his words we will discover benefits in this age and in the age to come.
In this age, we will see our hearts protected as we follow the Lord’s will. We will have joy instead of sorrow. We will experience peace instead of pain. And, we will have contentment rather than unsettledness.

Then, when the Lord returns we will receive glory in a new, immortal body! It is a promise!

Let us all, each one, get ready!

Have done with lesser things like your phone, the internet, and the television! Listen to the Son! Read your New Testament and conform your heart to what Jesus says. Get ready!