Transfiguration (Red Letters #41)

Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash

After rebuking Peter for saying that Christ need not go to Calvary, Jesus told His disciples that Calvary was only necessary for Him, but it is necessary for THEM. Just as Jesus would die on Calvary to make payment for our sins, we who would follow Jesus must die on Calvary, surrendering our lives to God. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:24-26 If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Jesus denied Himself – His position as Son of God and His power as God the Son – in order that we be saved. To receive the salvation that Jesus has given to us we MUST also go to a Calvary.

We must, like Jesus, deny our self, take up the Cross, and follow the Master. To those who refuse to go to Calvary, they shall lose their birthright, eternal life from Christ. To those who cling to this world and to the old self there shall never be a change. You can gain the whole world, but in return you lose your own soul. You must surrender to the Lord, trusting Him, believing Him as Lord and Savior. This is non-negotiable. If you do not, you have no hope for life afterward. Jesus told His disciples,

Just as I surrendered to the Cross for You,
You must surrender to the Cross for Me.

Jesus said in verse 27:

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and
then he shall reward every man according to his works.”

The Messiah will one day return, and reward every person according to their works. I can hear you now. You have been told by many preachers that salvation is a gift of God, not of works, lest any person should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Human works will not secure salvation for anyone. There is no good that you can do that will impress God, causing Him to save you. But there is ONE WORK that you must do. Do you know what it is? When crowds followed Jesus to Capernaum right after He miraculously fed the 5000+ men, women, and children, many asked:

John 6:28 What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

Jesus’ answer was simple. He said: This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom {God the Father} hath sent.” (John 6:30). You are to believe Jesus. All judgment is given into Jesus hands (John 3:35; 5:22). There is coming a judgment day where the Son will judge every person according to their works. Have you followed Christ, denying yourself, resting in Him? If not, you will not be blessed, nor are you saved.

Right after Jesus speaks of His judgment on us all, He says:

Matthew 16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Jesus Transfigured Is Jesus In His Kingdom

As this is the last verse of Matthew chapter 16, this verse has confused many commentators and Bible Scholars over the years. The reality is the original scriptures had no chapter and verse divisions. These were put in place by men, and men are fallible. Verse 28 of chapter 16 actually should be verse 1 of chapter 17. We know this because of a little word AND. Read with me:

Matthew 17:1-3 AND after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Mark and Luke there is no chapter break between Jesus’ statement and the incident at the Mount of Transfiguration. For instance:

Mark 9:1-4 And {Jesus} said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. 2 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. 3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. 4 And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.

Jesus had a reason for everything He said and did. He told His disciples He had to go to Calvary for them, and they had to go to Calvary for Him. Then Jesus said, “Some of you will not see death, till you have seen Me in the Kingdom of God”. The Mount of Transfiguration is a fulfillment of what Jesus promised to His disciples.

Prayer And Revelation

Matthew 17:1 …. Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

Luke tells us:

Luke 9:28 … {Jesus} took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

Jesus took Peter, James and John apart from the other Apostles. He had something He wanted these three men to see. As leaders, they needed to see the power of prayer. These men would be very important in the beginning of the early Church. Peter is the Chief Apostle, the leader of the missionaries that will go out for Him after Jesus ascends into Heaven. John will be the longest lived Apostle, a man who teaches us all how to love the Messiah. And James will be the Pastor of the Church in Jerusalem, the most dangerous place in the world to have a Church.

As these men pray, God allows these men to see the Kingdom of God come with power. The central figure of the Kingdom is our Lord Jesus Christ. We read:

Matthew 17:2 and {Jesus} was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

Word Study The word translated TRANSFIGURED is the Greek μεταμορφόω metamorphoō, which means “to change or be transformed from one state to another”. When Jesus walked this earth, He was God the Son, veiled in human flesh. The Father said to Jesus:

Hebrews 1:8 … Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom.

God became Man and dwelt among us. Jesus would one day tell John, exiled on Patmos, that:

Revelation 1:8 I {Jesus} am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of how the Old Covenant sacrifices and the Holy of Holies were shadows of the Coming Messiah. In Hebrews 10 we are told the Law of Sacrifice in the Old Covenant was but a shadow of good things to come. The animal sacrifices spoke of the need for the covering of sin. Yet these sacrifices were but temporary until God made a permanent way (Hebrews 10:1-4). For “it is NOT POSSIBLE that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins”. This is why Jesus came into the world. Under the old Covenant the Priest took the Blood into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people. A veil covered that holiest of places.

That veil represented the flesh of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:19-20 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

As the Apostles prayed, God drew back the veil from the Holy of Holies. He exposed the wonderful Being of our Lord Jesus Christ. His Godness shined through, a Godness that had not been seen to that point. Mark says:

Mark 9:2-3 {Jesus} was transfigured before them. 3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.

Jesus was transfigured (μεταμορφόω metamorphoō) before them. Mark uses the same word, whereas Luke says “as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering” (Luke 9:29). We speak of scientific metamorphosis, where the caterpillar becomes the butterfly through that miraculous cocoon. The caterpillar looks common, and has none of the beauty that the butterfly has. I think the Scripture used the perfect word to describe what happened to Jesus on that mountain. The Scripture, prophesying of the Christ, said that when He was first on this earth:

Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

When people first saw Christ, He looked like every man. He was no movie star. He was, to most who saw Him, just a carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55). He is a nobody from Nazareth. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3).

And then God the Father drew back the veil!

Dr. Kent Hughes writes in his commentary, “For a brief moment the veil of Jesus’ humanity was lifted, and His true essence was allowed to shine through. The glory which was always in the depths of His being rose to the surface for that one time in His earthly life.”

Suddenly Peter, James, and John see Jesus as He truly is. He is God incarnate. He is the Only means unto Heaven. He is the Only means by which we may have peace with God. He is the Lamb of God, offered but once for the sins of the world. He is the Promised Redeemer. He is the Shekinah Glory of God behind the veil that the frightened priest make sacrifice to. He is the Kingdom of God coming in glory and power!

Oh Beloved, it is prayer that opens the door, and causes the scales to fall from our eyes. It is prayer that lets us see Jesus as He is. Prayer “opens my eyes that I may see wondrous things out of God’s Law” (Psalm 119:18). When Elisha prayed, “Oh Lord, open my servant’s eyes so he may see” (2 Kings 6:17), the servant’s eyes were opened so that he saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. When Peter, James and John prayed, the blinders fell off. They saw Jesus as He is, as He has always been.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. (John 8:12; 9:5)
His Kingdom is a Kingdom of Light.

Those who come to Christ in faith are a transformed people. Daily we give…

Colossians 1:12-14 … thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

Christ, With Elijah And Moses

Matthew 17:3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and {Elijah} talking with {Jesus}.

Our Jesus, Who is shining with the Shekinah Glory of God, is now not praying, but holding a conversation with Moses and Elijah. The first thing I’d like to relate is this: how did they know this was Moses and Elijah? Peter, James, and John had never met either Moses or Elijah. Moses had been dead about 1400 years prior to this wonderful vision. Elijah had been received unto glory around 900 years prior to this time. How could they know who these men were. Beloved, they knew because they were in the Presence of Christ.

I have had people ask me “Will we know our loved ones in Heaven?” This text is proof that, yes, we WILL know our loved ones in Heaven. When we are in the presence of Christ in glory, we shall know what He knows. He knows His Sheep, and we shall know His Sheep. The Apostle Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now (on this earth) we see through a glass, darkly; but then (in Heaven) face to face: now (on this earth) I know in part; but then (in Heaven) shall I know even as also I am known.

Illustrate When I came to the Church this past Tuesday, I saw the cutest thing, something that is actually an illustration of the text I just quoted. On the front steps of our Church building, right at the entry doors, a visitor was knocking on the door. Yes, a visitor! It was a wild turkey! I sat in our driveway, watching from my car, until I realized what the bird was doing. It saw its reflection in the glass of our double doors, and was pecking at it, trying to hit the ghostly image it assumed was another bird. I crept up and tried to get it’s picture, but it saw in the reflection, and took off! But this is so appropriate to our message today.

While we are on this earth we see through a glass, darkly. We don’t see the full picture. But when we enter Heaven because of Christ’s loving sacrifice, we shall know as we are known. No one will have to tell me who Isaiah, Moses, Elijah, Joseph, or any of the other Saints are. When we enter glory and are in the presence of Christ, glorious Christ, all shadows and darkness will be gone. Dr. W.A. Criswell said, “How do you know how to swallow? Did you know to swallow is one of the most complicated anatomical processes in your anatomy? But I never think about it. I just swallow. That is an intuitive knowledge. I was not taught it when I was a baby. I knew it. It is an intuitive knowledge, Moses and Elijah.”

In the Presence of Christ there will be no hidden things. We will know and love one another equally. There is no marriage, nor giving in marriage, but we will be like the angels in Heaven (Matthew 22:30). Praise God, death will be gone forever!

Seeing Moses and Elijah brings out another point. Some people believe that, when you die, your soul sleeps in the ground until the resurrection. Yet this text proves this to be incorrect. Moses died, as I said before, about 1400 years before – and yet here he is talking with Jesus. And Elijah. A chariot of fire took Elijah from this earth some 900 years before (2 Kings 2:11). Elijah was not sleeping somewhere, waiting for the bodily resurrection. No, both Elijah and Moses are with Jesus on the Mount, talking with Jesus. It is this beautiful figure that would give James the courage to pastor the Church at Jerusalem. Though the first martyr of the Church will be the Deacon Stephen (Acts 6:5, 8; 7:59), the first Apostle to be killed will be James (Acts 12:2). Herod will have James killed. But James will meet his fate without fear. What does God tell us who have believed on Him?

Romans 8:16-18 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Moses is a picture of the Christian who has died, believing in Christ. He is not sleeping in a grave somewhere. He is alive, and with Jesus. Moses died in the service of the Master. Some of us will die in the service of the Master, but we will be souls around the Altar of God in glory (Revelation 6:9; 20:4). Our BODIES will sleep in the ground until the Coming of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 15:52-53 …. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

But until that trumpet sound we, like Moses, will be with our Jesus. But what of Elijah? Elijah never suffered death. He represents those who are on the earth when Jesus returns for His Church.

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 … if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Jesus will come, and receive us who love Him and believe in Him. His Church shall not suffer the wrath of the Great Tribulation, but we, like Elijah, will be caught up to be with the Lord. Praise God for this great truth. Moses and Elijah, those dead and those raptured, bound together in the glorious Kingdom of Christ!

Why did Moses and Elijah meet with Christ on that mountain? We read:

Matthew 17:3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with {Jesus}.

They came to talk to Jesus. What did they discuss? Well the Blessed Physician tells us:

Luke 9:30-31 … there talked with {Jesus} two men, which were Moses and {Elijah}: 31 who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

Moses and Elijah Are Representations

Word Study Moses represents the Law of God. The Bible tells us “the Law was given by Moses” (John 1:17). God gave the Old Testament Law of sacrifice and rituals to Moses. The Law of sacrifice had no power to save. When Moses spoke to Jesus, he spoke of our Lord’s DECEASE which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. When I read that text I thought, “what a strange translation – what does it mean?” So I looked it up. The word translated DECEASE is ἔξοδος éxodos, {pronounced ex’-od-os}. Moses spoke to Jesus about HIS exodus. When God saved Israel from Egypt, He carried His people out of Egypt, protecting them as they went, and called this the “Exodus”. As Moses led Israel in Exodus, Jesus Christ leads His Church in Exodus. When we come to Him, He forgives us our sins. He carries us away from fallen and pagan Egypt, and brings us into His glorious kingdom.

As Moses speaks to Jesus, I can imagine what he must have said. “Jesus, when You gave us the Law on Sinai, every sacrifice, every ritual was just a shadow of something better. The Law said in Leviticus 17:11, “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul”. The Law said in Hebrews 9:22, “without shedding of blood is no remission {of sin}”. Oh Jesus, thank You so much for coming from Heaven to this earth. Thank You for being willing to go to Jerusalem, to become THE Lamb of God that takes away all sin.”

1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

And Elijah, he represents the prophesies of the Messiah, the promises God made through His Prophets. Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. As Elijah spoke to Jesus, I can imagine him saying: “Jesus, we were blessed to foresee Your coming. Lord, thank You for fulfilling the Word of the Lord to us all. Through Isaiah (53:5) You said, ‘he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.’ Lord, You must die if we are to be redeemed,

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

What a glorious moment in time was this Transfiguration! John would later write, “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). Peter would later say, {we} were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1:16-17). James would never speak of this in Scripture, being martyred so soon after Christ’s ascension.

Was Peter Wrong? Let’s Rethink This

As this wondrous Transfiguration is shown, as God rolls back the curtain and let’s us glimpse into the Holy of Holies, Peter speaks up. We read:

Matthew 17:4-8 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for {Elijah}. 5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

I have often thought that Peter misspoke when he suggested that “three Tabernacles” (σκηνή skēnḗ, {pronounced skay-nay’}) be erected on this mountain. Now, I’m not so sure. First of all, Jesus never corrected what Peter said. When the Father spoke and said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him, Peter, James, and John were frightened. Jesus did not chastise Peter like He did when Peter suggested that Jesus not go to Jerusalem. Jesus told him then, “Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offense to Me!” (Matthew 16:23). Now Jesus just goes to these frightened men, touches them, and says “do not be afraid”. No rebuke. Just comfort.

Also, the Father did not rebuke Peter. The Father just clarified the truth when He said, “This is My Beloved Son; hear ye Him”. As Moses represented the Law and Elijah the Prophets, the “Law and the Prophets”, or the Holy Scripture, is what Jesus came to fulfill. Jesus never, ever deleted the Law and the Prophets, but commanded that we follow them. For instance:

Matthew 7:12 all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:38-40 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

God’s Word, His Holy Bible, is to be cherished, for it teaches of the Christ. I believe the Scripture is still valid, still to be honored. Though we no longer perform ritual sacrifices and shadows for the atonement of sin (for Christ has come, and we are no longer under the Law of sacrifice), the Scripture is still God’s Word and is to be honored. But the emphasis as we study the Scripture is ALWAYS CHRIST JESUS. The Law and the Prophets are interpreted through the Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. We are always careful to remember:

Jesus is the Father’s Beloved Son: Hear ye Him!

The Law and the Prophets point to Christ. All of Scripture heralds Christ. Scripture is important, for it speaks of Jesus. Do you know Jesus? Do you know Him? Have you received Him as the Scripture presents Him? Oh, how I pray that you have. You will not be transfigured until you see Him transfigured, and you receive Him transfigured into your life by faith. May God the Holy Spirit lead you, by His Word, to His Son this very day. Amen and Amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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