Transfiguration Of Jesus (KJV) Top
Transfiguration by, Raphael
By James L. Thornton Friday, February 23, 2018
The transfiguration of our Lord was without doubt the greatest sight that was ever witnessed by human eyesight. The record of it is found in several places in the new Testament (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36; John 1; 2 Peter 2:16-18), which we will be referring to in this study, each adding their own little details and descriptions.
Raphael's last and greatest painting (above) is on the things portrayed in the chapters in which the transfiguration takes place in the Gospels.
A Mountain is the setting. At the foot of the Mountain, there is a Jewish father, with agony depicted in every line and feature of his face. Lying close by a maniac boy, with such countenance and such eyes that, once seen they can never be forgotten.
Standing near by, are nine of the Disciples, surrounded by an astonished multitude, all absolutely helpless in the presence of the spirit by whom the demoniac child is possessed.
Darkness is settling on the scene. Looking up into the darkness there is a Celestial splendor illuminating the upper part of the Mountain. There on the edge of the light, are three Disciples on the grass, heavy with sleep. Above them, held in the air by some mysterious power, are three shinning ones engaged in Holy Conversation, a blaze of Heavenly Glory is around each, and especially bright around the central figure.
It is, indeed, a terrible contrast between the scenes below of a demon possessed boy and the helpless disciples, and the scene of Moses and Elijah joining Jesus in glorious light.
1. The setting and purpose of the transfiguration.
2. A period of intense depression for the disciples.
3. Jesus reveals to them the things concerning His death.
4. The doctrine of the cross.
5. Their Messianic hopes were dashed.
6. On the mountain with Jesus.
7. Three representatives from earth.
8. Jesus was transfigured before them.
9. The transfiguration, what it means to us.
10. The transfiguration, for Jesus’ own sake.
11. Two representatives from heaven.
12. Five great truths presented here.
13. The subject of the conversation on the Holy Mountain.
14. The voice from heaven.
15. The Shekinah appears on the Mountain.
16. The three disciples fall on their faces from fear and reverence.
17. Jesus Only.
18. Another Mountain looms in the distance.
19. The debtor’s sanctuary.
1. THE SETTING AND THE PURPOSE OF THE TRANSFIGURATION:
Matthew 17:1 "And after six days…"
Mark 9: 2 "And after six days…"
Luke 9:28 "About an eight days…"
There is no gloss or discrepancy of time in these scriptures. We do not know the reference point they used. We say, concerning a period of time, "6 or 8 days," or "a week or 10 days," and we have no problem with that.
These accounts were written 30 or more years after the event took place.
Matthew was there and gives a detailed account of things that were transpiring. Peter was also there and no doubt told Mark what took place.
Luke was not there and got his story from others who may have been there or had heard it from a reliable source.
There is nothing written about what transpired during these six days. There is no account of traveling or anything. Of those six days, the Bible is silent. So we must suppose that the transfiguration took place in the same general area.
2. A PERIOD OF INTENSE DEPRESSION FOR THE DISCIPLES:
We must suppose these six days was a period of intense depression for the company of disciples for the following reasons.
The Lord's ministry was almost over, in a few weeks He would be nailed to a cross. He had enjoyed three years of great popularity. He had visited almost every town and village in the Holy Land, healing the sick, feeding the thousands, and giving words of comfort and hope to multitudes. However, now His popularity was waning because of great opposition by the religious leaders of His own nation.
Powerful enemies were gathering closer and closer and were determined to crush him
(Matthew 12:14; Luke 11:54). They had tried to stone him in Jerusalem
(John 8:54-59). Some in His own city of Nazareth had tried to push him off a cliff. (Luke 4:16-30).
Matthew 16:13 tells us that Jesus, to get away for a little while, had led his Disciples up to the northern most part of Israel to the coasts of Caesarea Philippi.
Probably they were following the Jordan River up to very near its source, the Mountains of Lebanon. The transfiguration most likely took place on Mount Hermon. There He asked His Disciples,
"Whom do men say that I the Son of Man Am?" (Matthew 16:13b)
"What is the world's opinion of Me?"
"And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias (Elijah); and others one of the Prophets." (Mark 9:27)
They had judged Him by the great miracles, and the terrible sermons of judgment and mercy.
Then Jesus directed his query directly to His Disciples. "But whom say ye that I Am? (Mark 9:29)
Simon Peter spoke for all of them; at least they all were all half-convinced.
"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." (Matthew 16:16)
Jesus' response, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 16:17)
Jesus also made Peter the spokesperson for the Disciples, giving him the authority to open the door to the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter was not the founder of the Church, or neither the head of the Church, nor the overseer of the Church, these offices were retained by Jesus Himself- "My Church," "I will build."
Peter you are the spokesperson. The people will want to know what to do to be saved--you will have the authority to tell them what they should do. What you say will be recorded in heaven.
Without doubt this confession marked the high point of the Apostles faith. Never afterwards, till after the Resurrection, did it reach so high. Nay, what followed this seems rather retrogression from it. Beginning with their un-willingness to receive the announcement of His Decease, and ending with their un-readiness to share His sufferings or to believe in His Resurrection.
Simon Peter may have been exalted in himself at these sayings concerning him, but what happened next brought him back to reality.
3. JESUS REVEALS TO THEM THE THINGS CONCERNING HIS DEATH:
Matthew 16:21 "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day."
This was more than Peter could stand.
Simon Peter missed the last phrase.
"Be raised again the third day."
By divine revelation, Peter understood Him to be the Christ, the Messiah.
Only a higher revelation could teach him the doctrine of the cross.
Each of us has to discover this law for ourselves.
"To be resurrected a new creature."
We are asked to "Die Daily," To take up our cross daily."
Simon Peter could not take any more.
Matthew 16:22 " Then Peter took him (probably taking hold of Him as to bring Him back to His senses), and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
However, in an unguarded moment the Apostle had let the Tempter into his heart, and become the tool of Satan. One moment exalted, the next debased. One moment inspired by God, the next inspired by Satan. And this was Simon Peter, the man Jesus had just given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. How much more should we be on guard at every moment. Especially in the things we say. Satan is ever looking for an opportunity to use us in his foul work.
Jesus recognized the source of Peter's words. Jesus recognized them as a stumbling-block laid in His path by Satan. The words chimed in with the cravings of his human nature--Jesus did not want to die. Jesus prayed later and asked "if it be possible let this cup pass from me." (Matthew 26:39)
He was quick to rebuke the words and the spirit behind the words. Jesus was harsh with the spirit; they were not directed to Simon Peter himself.
Matthew 16:23 "But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not (do not understand) the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (You do not yet understand the doctrine of the cross.)
4. THE DOCTRINE OF THE CROSS:
1. "Let him deny himself." (Matthew 16:24)
If a man follows Jesus, it must be by his own free will, and he must voluntarily renounce everything that might hinder his discipleship. The Apostle Paul gives us his example.
Philippians 3:7 "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
2. "Take up his cross daily." (Luke 9:23)
He must resign to bear what is brought upon him--suffering, shame, and death, which he cannot escape, and be eager to endure it--be glad that he is counted worthy of it.
3. "Follow me." (Luke 9:23)
With all zeal tracking his Master's footsteps, this sometimes leads on the way of sorrows. Yet be comforted, you are not called to a task as yet untried--Christ has gone before and in His strength, you may be strong.
The foregoing is what had transpired just before the six days we read about. Now let us think what must have been in their thought during those six days
(Matthew 17:1) of which the Bible is silent.
5. THEIR MESSIANIC HOPES WERE DASHED:
The thing that bothered them the most was the thought of His death. In their mind, the Messiah was not supposed to die. He was coming to restore the kingdom of Israel and sit on the throne of David. They were, no doubt, confused and worried in mind and heart.
Jesus had also mentioned the Son of Man rising from the dead, Mark 9:9-10 "And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean."
Did it refer to the general resurrection? Was the Son of Man to be the first to rise from the dead, and then awaken other sleepers--or was it a figurative expression? They knew as yet nothing of Jesus' Personal Resurrection as separate from others, and on the third day after his death. What did it all mean? Among themselves, then many times afterwards, in secret converse, they questioned what the rising from the dead should mean.
Six days of wondering,
Six days of questioning,
Six days of doubt,
Six days of unbelief,
Six days of intense depression.
Three years before they had left everything, homes, jobs, and family, to follow this man whom they were attracted to, and who seemed to be the one that had been looked for to restore their nation to it’s former glory. They were convinced that He was the Messiah, but now doubts and wondering about Him after He had told them of His impending death. The Messiah can’t die without first restoring the national glory. All this was pressing on their minds.
Doubts and wondering led to depression. Have we been mistaken?
So to raise their fainting spirits, to inspire their confidence, we have the transfiguration.
6. ON THE MOUNTAIN WITH JESUS:
Luke 9:28 “And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.”
7. THREE REPRESENTATIVES FROM EARTH:
Peter, James & Jiohn
No one on earth ever needed to pray less—yet, there are so many of His prayer sessions mentioned in scripture, many times all night sessions. Jesus chose Peter, James and John because they were leaders amongst the Disciples. Paul would later describe them as “pillars” in the Church (Galatians 2:9). These three would also, later, inspire the rest of the Disciples after the ascension of Jesus, concerning what they experienced. These three whom He chose to witness His glory on the Mountain, would also witness His passion in the Garden.
On “The Holy Mount” (2 Peter 1:18) Jesus showed to them His “Glory” (John 1:14), because He intended also to show them afterwards His bitter agony in the Garden.
The magnificent splendor—this “excellent glory” (2 Peter 1:17), as Peter describes it, together with the Voice of the Father, “This is My Beloved Son” (2 Peter 1: 12-18), would assure them that Jesus was truly God, but that His essential Deity was hidden by the veil of flesh. And that although He was about to be crucified and slain, yet His Godhead could not die.
Peter’s reference to the transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-18) shows what a deep and abiding impression it made on his mind. John also who, having seen the Glory of the Son of God, recorded his impression.
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
James, was also there on the Mountain, and was among the first to die for Christ’s sake (Acts 12:1-2), would also have left his testimony of the Transfiguration had he had the opportunity to do so.
Of these three, only eternity will reveal how much the world owes to them, and how their testimony and writings have promoted the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How eminent were their labors in the early Church. Another, and possibly the most important reason they were there, that there should be an authentic record of what was transpiring.
Only one name is worthy to stand alongside of the “Favorite Three,” a name which taking them singly, overshadows them all, the great Apostle Paul, who had his own version of the Transfiguration on the road to Damascus (Act 9:3-8).
8. JESUS WAS TRANSFIGURED BEFORE THEM:
Matthew 17:2 “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.”
Mark 9:3 “And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.”
Luke 9:29 “And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.”
The word “Transfigured” means “Transformation,” or changed in appearance or character, as in the case of our Lord, an alteration of His outward appearance, or countenance. “The fashion of his countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29). “And his face did shine as the sun” Matthew 17:2. This was bodily change. This bright light shone from within, and not only did His face and body shine, it was so bright that His “raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:2).
Here we are to notice, in the first place, the Glory of His Person. From eternity He had been in the ‘form’ of God (Philippians 2:6). This had been His original form, but in the fullness of time He took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7). Now for a while on the mountain He resumes the form which He had laid aside. The glory of the Godhead broke through and like a sudden sunburst from behind the clouds; there was a glorious outburst of Divine effulgence.
In my mind He illuminated like a bright fluorescent light bulb.
For a space of time His Essential Glory irradiated and illuminated the form of a servant He wore.
Perhaps, as an old writer puts it, that “the Transfiguration was less a new miracle than the temporary cessation of a habitual miracle.”
In other words, here was the Light Of The World enclosed in a human body, and the real miracle was not allowing that tremendous light to illuminate His body at all times. Here was all the Light in the universe enclosed in a human body. Is it any wonder that the Apostle John said, “And we beheld His Glory?”
This illumination, or transfiguration, came while He was in prayer. A change comes over everyone who enters into intense communication with God. A change came over Jacob at Jabbok and he was made a Prince with God, over Moses when given the law.
9. THE TRANSFIGURATION, WHAT IT MEANS TO US:
That transfigured body of our Lord is the model and pattern of all the glorified saints. Paul says, “As we have born the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Corinthians 15:49)
Here and now our bodies though “Fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14), are subject to humiliations. They are subject to many infirmities, liable to painful and loathsome diseases, and doomed to dissolution in a few years at most.
Worst of all they contain the seed of sin. Every child that is born, even though its parents may be Holy and Sanctified, is born in sin, having the seed of Adam’s sin passed unchecked into its own body.
But then these bodies of humiliation shall be fashioned like unto Christ’s Glorious Body.
These bodies, now so frail, shall be endued with immortal health and vigor.
Here and Now the beauty of the fairest face soon fades.
But Then the plainest face shall become beautiful, and that beauty shall never fade.
The features Now saddened by sorrow, or marred by accident, disease or war, or disfigured by age—
Shall become bright “as the sun when he goeth forth in his might” (Judges 5:31), bright as Moses’ face when he came down from his meeting with God (Exodus 34:29), bright as the Savior’s on the Mount Of Transfiguration, as bright as it always appears to the Saints in Glory.
Every blemish Shall Be blotted out, every wrinkle Shall Be smoothed, every disease expelled, for ever removed.
Then, on the sightless eyeballs of the blind shall shine the light of an endless day.
Then, the ear of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then, the tongue of the dumb shall sing with joy unspeakable.
Then, the lame man shall forever lay aside his crutches and his lameness gone, and shall leap as the heart.
Moreover, the richest raiment of earth will be but rags when compared with those robes of righteousness which the ransomed in heaven will wear.
10. FOR JESUS’ OWN SAKE, TRANSFIGURATION TOOK PLACE:
It went far to comfort Immanuel Himself in the near prospect of His agony and bloody sweat of passion, and of His cross. This short period of time, coming amid the wearisome struggles and strivings of earthly life, would cheer Him onward towards the end. This foretaste of former glory, pointed towards the coming glory that would crown everlastingly the brief sorrows of the present, and would sustain Him in his approaching sufferings.
These witnesses, Moses and Elijah, who came to be with Him, representative of “ten thousand times ten thousand,” were intensely interested in the Redeemers work and intensely looking on, would encourage the human spirit of the Savior—so that braced with new willingness, He would hold on the course appointed and pass through the baptism of blood.
For our sake the “Cloud of Witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) that surrounds the Christian in his walk serves as a motive to urge him on, so that, “laying aside every weight,” he “runs with patience the race set before him.”
11. TWO REPRESENTATIVES FROM HEAVEN:
Matthew 17:3 “And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.”
Mark 9:4 “And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.”
Luke 9:30 “And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:
31. Who appeared in glory,”
It has been asked—how did the disciples know the names of the two men who appeared. Three answers are at least probable.
(1) They may have heard Jesus address them by their old earthly names.
(2) In later conversations the Lord may have disclosed them to the three.
(3) And, is it not a very thinkable thought that the blessed departed ones bear upon their spirit-forms their old individuality transfigured and glorified? Were such a vision granted to us, should we not in a moment recognize a Peter, a Mary, and a Paul?
We could also ask the question, “Why were these two chosen out of the thousands, yea, possibly millions, who had passed the test and entered into Glory in Old Testament Days?” Now, had all the choirs of heaven been subjected to the most ridged scrutiny, two fitter companions for the Son Of God, on the present occasion, could never have been found.
There are many striking similarities between Moses and Elijah.
Both of them had extraordinary calls and experiences with God (Exodus 3:2-6; 1 Kings 19:9-15).
Both of them were messengers to kings—Moses to Pharaoh, Elijah to Ahab.
Both of them had been admitted to conferences in Horeb—Moses at the giving of the law, Elijah at the scene of the hurricane, earthquake, and fire.
Both of them had parted the waters, been types of Christ, and fasted forty days.
Both of them had left the world in a very unique manner—Elijah by a direct translation (2 Kings 2:11); and Moses died in Moab, had angels for pallbearers (Jude 9), and laid in the grave by God’s own hand (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).
Thus, having left earth in a very unique manner, Moses and Elijah, now return in a manner more unique still.
Luke tells us that they “appeared in glory,” or in a glorified body. No doubt their bodies did shine with the same light as our Lord’s.
Moses the giver, Elijah the restorer of the Law. Moses the representative of the Mosaic, Elijah the representative of the Prophetic Dispensation; Moses the meek but resolute judge, Elijah the stern, unshrinking seer—the law on the one hand, the ‘prophets’ on the other, and He who came to ‘fulfill’ both, the glistening figure between.
We could regard Moses as the type of all God’s people who have fallen asleep. But at the sound of the last trump, shall come forth from their graves. Elijah let us regard as the type of all those who, when that trumpet shall sound, shall be found alive on earth, and with the mysterious refining passing over their bodies, shall be taken home to glory without tasting death.
12. FIVE GREAT TRUTHS ARE PRESENTED HERE:
To gather into focus the truth presented here, let us say, that we see in this presence of Moses and Elijah indisputable proof of five great Bible doctrines.
(1.) The first truth is the immortality of the human soul. Moses and Elijah once lived. The one died, the other was translated. Yet neither Moses nor Elijah suffered annihilation. Does not science teach us that no particle ceases to exist? But both, Moses and Elijah, were spiritualized, and transformed into a higher and holier state. Paul Says, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body”
(1 Corinthians 15:44).
I feel that God sent them back to let mortals know that our life continues even after death. Let the infidel, if he pleases, die like a dog; Moses and Elijah, on the “holy mount,” teach a very different end indeed.
(2.) The second truth is, a general resurrection. If this is not so, then where did Moses come from? Even in nature itself, life comes after death. The worm weaves its shroud or cocoon and dies; but emerges from death brighter and more beautiful that before. The seed sown in the ground dies, it bringeth forth much fruit
(John 12:24). The resurrection of the dead is a fundamental Bible Doctrine.
1 Corinthians 15:51. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, (sleep is the Bible’s description of the death of a saint) but we shall all be changed,
52. 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.
It must be as easy for God to create a second time (2 Peter 3:13), as to create a first; as easy for him to raise an innumerable number from the dead, as to raise Moses, Or Lazarus. For further proof from Jesus’ on lips, speaking to Martha, “Thy brother shall rise again” (John 11:23).
(3.) The third truth is, the glorious embodied state of all the saints. Luke tells us there talked to Him “two men” Luke 9:30), not two spirits. The two shining presences are spoken of as invested with the properties of life. “Two men, which were Moses and Elias.”
Scripture tells us of two bodies; “there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44).
The latter was that of Moses and Elijah.
It may resemble the present in form—‘two men’—but it will differ in being independent of food, unconscious of fatigue, free from decay, and possessing an undying existence.
Moses and Elijah, therefore, are but a specimen, in this respect, of the great family of heaven in the future. Paul tells us, “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (2 Corinthians 5:4).
(4.) The fourth truth is a beautiful argument in favor of the recognition, by each other, of God’s people in heaven, however remote, like Moses and Elijah, may have been their periods of existence in this lower world.
There were nearly six-hundred years between the death of Moses and the translation of Elijah, and yet the two saints were mutually acquainted. While side by side, or rather, as we have seen, on each side, one, and Jesus in the midst—ever His true position—they took up their places in this brilliant scene. Let the lesson be read. The children of God shall all know each other in the better world.
Frequently, in the same town, even the same church they are not nearly so well acquainted as they ought to be. But in the home of Moses and Elijah they “shall know even as also they are known;” and hold communion, conversation and fellowship, with those from every land, and every age, who, “through faith and patience, inherit the promise.”
Jesus promised that many would come from the East and from the West and “sit down in the Kingdom Of God with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Families sometimes get widely scattered here. They play around the same fireside, they sit and eat at the same table, and they kneel in prayer at the same mother’s knee. But one dies on a foreign battlefield, another marries and moves across the country, and of a third nothing is ever heard at all, the last account being a letter some twenty years ago.
And yet, if they have the born-again experience, they shall all meet above in the Father’s House, where things will be better even than the old family hearth. That shall be one long meeting—sunshine without sunset, a summer’s day without a close, a home-coming without any home-leaving.
“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of water; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 21; & 22)
(5.) The fifth truth is a possible affiliation between Saints on earth and Saints in glory. Moses and Elijah seemed to know, and have great interest in, what was taking place on earth. Could it be possible that the writer of Hebrews gave us another clue to this when he said, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1)? We know little about the world of the dead, about the possibilities of inter-communication—they with us, we with them. There is a feeling, widely diffused, that there is some kind of intercourse. Throughout human history, everywhere, in every human culture, the human heart is found asking, speculating over the question, “Is there no bridge between the living and the dead? Is all speech, all fellowship, forever broken?”
May not this, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, who for long generations had been removed from this earthly scene, who were yet profoundly interested in events to be transacted on this globe of ours upon which depended the salvation of the world. May not this be a glimpse into the hidden method of God's government of and activity within the world?
May not that which we see in them during this moment of sight into the unseen, be the picture of what is going on even now in the home of the blessed and holy dead? Is not the talk on Hermon an illustration of communion of saints; reminding us that heaven, and earth are nearer than we think, that it is given to us in the words of the poet, “….join hands with those who went before, And greet the blood besprinkled bands On the eternal shore.” The writer of Hebrews tells us, “ye are come …. to the spirits of just men made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:23b)
We all have loved ones in glory that we think of so many times, especially when we are going through a trial or test, and a remembrance of some sermon, some Sunday school lesson, a word of correction or warning from mother or father, comes so forcibly to mind that it seems only yesterday we heard their voice. It seems like a communication from another world, urging us to hold true to the path set before us.
Moses and Elijah came back from the glory world at a time when our Lord needed someone to bolster His earthly tabernacle for the coming conflict at Jerusalem.
13. THE SUBJECT OF THE CONVERSATION ON THE HOLY MOUNT:
Luke 9: 30. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:
31. Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
No greater assembly or conference was ever gathered. The Potsdam Conference (July-August 1945), at which American (Roosevelt), British (Churchill), and Soviet (Stalin) leaders drew up preliminary plans for the postwar administration of Germany and assigned various captured territories to Poland.
There have been other conferences when powerful world leaders have met to draw up boundary lines for nations, but no conference ever played a greater role in human affairs than this one on Mount Hermon.
Six of the greatest representatives of the human race gathered on that Holy Mountain in conference at night.
Three of them, the three disciples, were only listeners and reporters.
Two were representing the departed Saints of Old Testament times, one the Son of God.
And what was the subject of their conversation?
(1.) Was It Political?
Prophetic? Did they talk about the fate of kingdoms?
Did they discuss the Roman rule of Palestine?
Did they talk about how the nations would be divided against one another?
Did they talk about the end of the world and the calamities coming on the world?
(2.) Was the conversation about heaven?
Did they talk about the beauties of heaven compared with Egypt?
Did they talk about the gates of pearl? The streets of gold? Walls of jasper?
Did they discuss the foundation of the city, made of precious stones?
Did they talk of the grandeur of its ministry and melody of songs?
Did they talk about the blessedness of the heavenly state?
Did they talk about the unspeakable kingdom of heaven, the thrones and dominions and powers?
(3.) Did they talk about the greatness of the Lord’s ministry?
The preciousness of His promises?
The purity of His precepts?
The sermons He preached?
The miracles He performed?
But none of that was discussed. Luke alone tells us what they talked about.
And what was the subject of their conversation? Jesus' Death.
The conversation on ‘the Holy Mount’ now falls upon our ears. They ‘spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem,’ or the death of the Son of God. When one is in splendid company or when the soul is enraptured, men never speak of death. Never welcome, perhaps at any time, but now the topic of death would be least likely to be welcome. One is not likely wanting someone to warn them or even talk about their death.
Luke softens the word death by calling it ‘decease.’ We likewise use words like ‘they passed away,’ ‘he went to be with the Lord,’ ‘they are no longer with us.’ Even in circles of religious fellowship, it is not usual, as certainly it is not wise, to be always dwelling on death. The preacher’s words are ‘life,’ not death. And yet the very subject which is carefully excluded from worldly circles, and the very topic we do not like to think on, is precisely the subject selected for conversation by Moses and Elijah, when they meet the glorified Savior on the ‘holy hill.’
Jesus’ death was no baby-like slumber-no gentle falling asleep. It was a death in all its hideousness, in all its bitterness, with cruelly aggregated horrors and fearfully augmented terrors. He drained the bitter cup for others, He underwent the baptism for sins, but not His own, He endured the cross, despising all pain and shame, for others.
His death for which Patriarchs and Pious persons under the Old Testament Dispensation looked and longed for and prophesied of was discussed. His death paid the price for their redemption as well as ours. All these looked on, and cheered, from the portals of glory as the Son of God became the Lamb of God and was sacrificed for the sin of all man kind.
Here on the Mountain were gathered three individuals who could look both ways, into the past and into the future, and reveal all the mysteries of God that have confounded men for many centuries. Moses and Elijah were well acquainted with all the prophecies of Daniel, of Ezekiel, of David, and a score or more of other men, who had written about the end times.
They, no doubt, had looked on as the prophecies were given by inspiration to those men. They, no doubt, had been in attendance in the courts of heaven for many centuries and understood all of the prophecies and their fulfillment.
We have all heard of the meekness of Moses, but of Elijah we see here a different mannerism than we are accustomed to in the Bible concerning him. In the story of his life on earth, we found him all fierceness, fury, and fire in his dealings with Ahab and Jezebel, and Ahaziah. Now in the glimpse we have here of his life in heaven, all the former traits have been exchanged for sympathy, tenderness, and concern.
It is noteworthy that all the New Testament glimpses of Elijah are of a similar character. He appears as the friend of the Sareptan Widow (Luke 4:25-26), the hopes of the Jews (Matthew 17:11-12), the restorer of parental fidelity, and national faith (Luke 1:17). So that “the wild figure, the stern voice, the deeds of blood which stand out in such startling relief from the pages of the old records, are seen by us, all silvered over with white and glistening light of the mountain of Transfiguration” (Smith’s Dictionary).
Yet why dwell on dying at all, in the midst of such a scene? Seems it not strange, to speak of Golgotha in the midst of glory? of the crown of thorns in the midst of the splendor that encircled His brow? Of stripes on His back in the midst of holy Light?
What a proof here first of all, that the Messiah promised to the fathers was to be a dying Messiah. The head of the Mosaic, the head of the prophetic dispensation—men who, thoroughly understood both the prophecies and expectations of their times—are here together with The Christ; and what is the view they have discussed with Him? Is it as coming to reign as a great temporal prince, to confer worldly honors and distinction on His people, to deliver Judea from the Roman yoke? No; but as coming to die for the sins of the world!
What a proof here, again, of the interest taken in heaven in the death of Christ! A bright band of angels came to celebrate His birth. Two glorified men come to speak of His death. How intense must have been the anxiety in the upper world with reference to that event. And how the development of circumstances must have been watched, until in the end the consummation was reached!
That was the one theme heard by Moses and Elijah before the throne; it is their one theme again before the sufferer Himself. What a rebuke to us all! How often is ‘the decease accomplished at Jerusalem’ in our hearts and on our lips? The most matured Christian man will be the first to confess his shortcomings here, and admit that he thinks far too little of that redemptive sacrifice which has purchased for him everlasting glory.
How touching the insight presented here as the felt dependence of justified spirits on the work of the cross, and their solaces and comfort in view of its approach. What were the precise words of Moses and Elijah we are not told? There can be no doubt, however, that it was the in language of gratitude, they spoke of ‘the decease,’ especially as they remembered that, to its prospective power, they owed their seats in heaven.
The blood of Christ was to cover sins both before and after the cross. Old Testament sacrifices only rolled their sins ahead until they came to Calvary.
There is little doubt that Moses and Elijah came to cheer the great soul of Jesus, while looking forward to the ‘bitter cup,’ and pointed Him forward to a ransomed world and a rich reward, pointing Him to the period not too far distant, when, from another mountain, He should ascend to glory, His warfare over, and His work accomplished, to receive homage of cherubim, and seraphim, and see the very ‘travail of His soul, and be abundantly satisfied.’
Taking this view of the matter, it no longer seems strange they should have spoken of dying on the hill of Calvary. No theme was so near the heart of Jesus. No theme was so ready to rise from His lips. His whole soul was absorbed in His unprecedented situation. Calvary and the cross were ever there.
He had tried to converse with his disciples concerning His death (Matthew 16:21-23), but they were not open to the thought. He could not receive solace and encouragement from human sources so heaven sent their own representatives to comfort and encourage Him.
Their conversation ended Moses once again found the path the he had taken 1500 years previously and walked back to the glory world (Deuteronomy 34:1-6). Elijah simply stepped back on the waiting chariot of fire and was whisked back to heaven (2 Kings 2:11).
14. THE VOICE FROM HEAVEN:
Matthew 17:4 “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 Elias.”
Luke 9:32 tells us that the three disciples were heavy with sleep. Awakening to see the glory and hear the conversation and experience the rapture of the occasion, as a Jew, at the presence of the two greatest heroes and leaders of his faith, under some fond delusion, it seemed to Peter that here was to be the commencement of the Messiah’s temporal reign—the rash apostle suggests the building of three tabernacles, where his Master, and Moses, and Elijah may dwell and be worshiped.
15. THE SHEKINAH APPEARS ON THE MOUNTAIN:
Matthew 17:5 “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.
Peter’s words have scarcely been uttered when the Shekinah of ancient days came down, and He who called Moses from the burning bush, and aroused the fugitive Elijah at Horeb, pronounces in the hearing of both—the Old Testament representatives of the Jewish Church—and in the hearing of the three disciples—the representatives of the future New Testament Church—the doing away with the old, and the full inauguration of the new.
‘This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him.’ Simon Peter’s tabernacles are not needed. Moses and Elijah have already been heard. Their office is done, their purpose finished, their day of toil forever completed. ‘The law was a schoolmaster until Christ.’ Now, ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ (Revelation 19:10b.)
Moses and Elijah may go back to heaven, for Simon Peter’s Master is the one great teacher now, ‘hear ye Him.’ He is God’s beloved Son. He pleased the Father. He is the hope of all mankind, Israel’s judge and Israel’s seer must both give place to David’s Son and Israel’s King—‘they saw no man save Jesus only.’ (Matthew 17:8b.)
16. THE DISCIPLE FELL ON THEIR FACE UPON REALIZING THEY WERE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD:
Matthew 17:6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
Luke 9:34 “While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.”
The cloud enclosed them all, so that that they could not be seen it was so large and dense, yet so bright and shining. Matthew 17:5 says it was “a bright cloud.” The cloud was a symbol of the grandeur and unapproachable glory of God. A similar cloud had descended upon Mount Sinai when Moses received the law from God (Exodus 24:15-18).
The disciples were admitted within this cloud that they might have a foretaste of future glory, and that they might be witnesses of what took place under the cloud, and especially that they might be able to give evidence throughout all ages of the voice which they heard come out of the cloud from “the excellent glory,” and Peter says “it came from heaven” (2 Peter 1:18).
The cloud was the veil of Deity, of the glory of Deity. The cloud abated and subdued the splendor of God’s appearance, which otherwise the mortal eyes of the disciples could not have borne.
We must also note the reaction of the three apostles, that they fell prostrate on their face as they were admitted into the presence of God Almighty. No man can stand in his presence in every instance I read where great men came into God’s presence they all fell prostrate before him.
Paul informs us that the day will come when “every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
17. JESUS ONLY:
Matthew 17:7 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.”
It is so touching that at the end of the scenes which were taking place, ‘Jesus came and touched them,’ telling them to ‘Arise and be not afraid.’ ‘When they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only,’ All was gone—Moses, Elijah, the cloud, the voice, the glory—all had vanished leaving them alone with Jesus.
18. ANOTHER MOUNTAIN LOOMS IN THE DISTANCE:
Matthew 17:9a. “And as they came down from the mountain,…”
Another mountain is before the Savior now. No Moses or Elijah will go with Him there, nor voice of the heavenly Father will attest His divinity, or argue His claims. Every step He takes brings Calvary nearer, and leaves this hill of wonder farther away. Yet we find “He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51b.) There He would carry out the pledge He made on The Mount Of Transfiguration, while heaven rejoiced and earth trembled.
19. THE DEBTOR’S SANCTUARY:
We will close this study of The Transfiguration with this note of information.
In times past many a person has been incarcerated in what was called ‘A Debtors Prison’ simply because they owed a debt they could not pay. Unless someone paid their debt, or the person they owed had mercy on them, they spent many years, or in some cases the rest of their life, in a dungeon.
I want to tell you about a city, an ancient city, with one long, historic, winding street, and in the midst of this city is a Palace. Near the Palace is a privileged building, named ‘THE DEBTORS SANCTURARY.’ Once across that narrow strand, no law can touch him; in that one sense the ground is sacred, and he can ‘live, and move, and have his being’ free.
Many an exciting scene has been witnessed there, when justice, pursuing her victim, had him within a hairsbreadth; but, the hairsbreadth passed, the victim crossed the narrow strand, and was safe, while justice lost her prey.
JESUS ONLY is the sinner’s sanctuary, where once reached, no law of Moses, nor threat of Elijah, can ever do him harm, and where his debt is not merely in deferral, but has been fully paid.
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By James L. Thornton