THE WONDER OF THE TRANSFIGURATION
It is worthy of note, in connection with this wonderful subject to see what the Master said in Matthew 16:28; “There are some standing here who shall not taste death till (or before) they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom”.
We know that they died, and that they will be resurrected when Christ comes into his kingdom, so that, what they witnessed upon the mount was in miniature.
It is very significant that it was after six days, which is typical of six thousand years since the creation, to be followed by “… a rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4:9).
He took Peter, James and John. These three occur together seven times. He “led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them” (Mark. 9:2). The word “transfigured” is the Greek mortamorphoo, from which comes our word metamorphosis. It refers to when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly—the word is used four times, twice “transfiguration”, twice “transformed,” (Rom. 12:2, 2 Cor. 3:18). “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). This is exactly what happened to Christ on the mount. Luke tells us that he went into the mountain to pray (9:28-29). It was then that His remarkable change came: “the appearance of his face was altered, and his robe became white and glistening”. “His face shone like the sun, (Mat. 17:2) – like, we might add, the face of Moses, and even his clothing was “white as the light”. We are reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:6: “God … has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”.
Matthew records “Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with him” (17:3). Mark and Luke tell us the same, but Luke also tells us what they were talking about: they “spoke of his decease” which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (9:31). The word “decease” is in the Greek “exodus”, which means “departure”, as in Hebrews 11:22. So Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus of his forthcoming death, and his Exodus from the grave.
John referred to this wonderful event: 1:4: “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”. In 1 Peter 1:16-17 we read that “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory when such a voice came to him from the Excellent Glory: this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”. The two words used by Peter, “honour” and “glory” are used in the Septuagint in Exodus 28:2 of the High Priest’s garments, which therefore represent the glory of Immortality. Paul uses the same two words in Hebrews 2 when quoting from Psalm 8 and referring to Christ, “you have made him a little lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honour and set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under His feet”. So that he is now, what he was for that short period upon the mount. This is of course beyond our comprehension, but it enabled Yahshua “to be able to taste the joy set before him, endured the stake, despising the shame”. Peter was anxious to keep Moses and Elijah, so asked, “Let us make three tabernacles: one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah,” … while he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them … and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “this is my beloved Son. Hear Him!”. The voice of the Almighty made them afraid as it did with Israel and even Moses. Christ then told them to fear not and in 17:8, “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only,” which clearly shows that they did see Moses and Elijah, and not an apparition.
Many think it was only a vision, which assumes that Jesus was talking to an apparition, which would not have done much for Christ or his disciples. But was it a vision as such? We read in verse 9, “tell the vision to no man”. The Greek word for “vision” is horama, a spectacle, – a thing seen, which can mean a vision, or something literal. This word is used in Acts 7:31 “the sight” which was certainly not a vision: the angel was literally in the bush. So Moses and Elijah were there, on the mount with Jesus: it was a representation of Jesus coming in his kingdom (Mat. 16:28).
For Moses to be there entailed his resurrection, for we know that Moses died and was buried. Moses represented the Law—the Law that could not give life. It was a temporary addition to the Abrahamic covenant because of sin, says Paul in Galations 3:19. So Moses could not lead Israel into the land of promise, he had to die, so the resurrection of Moses, represents the resurrection of the dead, when the Son of Man comes into his kingdom, whilst Elijah whose death is not recorded, represents those who are “alive and remain” (1 Thes. 4:17).
So we see that the Transfiguration was in fact a wonderful prophecy. It was then, when Peter James and John saw his Glory as recorded in John 1:14: “we beheld his glory” – also 2 Peter 1:16-17:
“for we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God that Father honour and glory when such a voice came to him from the Excellent Glory: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”