WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE
OF THE TRANSFIGURATION?
Why did Jesus meet with Moses who had died and gone to paradise, and with Elijah who was still alive and probably also in paradise, just days before the crucifixion? Why did Jesus take Peter, James, and John along up that tall mountain to hear their conversation?
The saints that were waiting for the crucifixion of Jesus in paradise were anxious for information on how long until they could be taken from paradise to heaven, so the information that they carried back to paradise from that conversation with Jesus would greatly encourage and excite all of them. Jesus, while His body lay in a tomb for three days, was in His spirit body in paradise, not only with the newly saved thief from the cross, but with the rejoicing saints in paradise. Jesus took them on to heaven, and the excitement that the paradise saints were able to feel once the report of the transfiguration discussion with Jesus was able to give, was certainly indescribable.
Yet, why had Jesus taken Peter, James, and John along to that meeting on the mountain? They fell asleep and missed most of the conversation. The only fact they were awake enough to understand, is that the discussion of Jesus with the other two, was about ‘things to come’.
Jesus had a reason to take them, but the weakness of human flesh, the failure of mankind to take advantage of God’s provisions for our mental peace, is too often overwhelming.
The disciples were there for a reason, but that reason was frustrated by their weakness of flesh, and they slept through an event that could have transformed how they faced the next events of the time. Imagine if they had tuned in to hear what Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were saying! How more prepared they would have been at the events of passion week! Yet, their opportunity to be more prepared was negated by human weakness, lack of awareness of their great opportunity. The other disciples were negated their opportunity to hear what would have been a glowing report from these three sleepy, uncaring of spiritual revelation, disciples!
There are many occasions we could be tempted to give up, to let tiredness, life’s troubles, and spiritual laziness hinder our reception of revelations and help from our Lord, as did the disciples.
When seeking blessings, we could be tempted to fall asleep as they did. Life can be very difficult. In the battle against the devil, the Lord will often keep His best saints waiting a long time for the mountain peak experience. The evil spirits hinder, and instead of winning the battle over them, many give up waiting for the blessings for which we once asked.
"My soul fainteth for Thy salvation, but I hope in Thy Word."
When in trial or sorrow, and the burdens seem too heavy to carry, we may seek to surrender from the battle. The weaknesses that the evil spirits are trying to exploit, and are trying to make us give up, are often yielded to, and the victory in the battle is forfeited by our unwillingness to battle. The trial, the sorrow may make us all think of giving up, however, we should keep ourselves strong and push those thoughts of fainting out of our minds.
"If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small."
Whenever sinners, or so-called "saints" attack us, we may feel like giving up. However, if we consider what persecution our Lord endured. The rejection by His own people and even the betrayal of one of His own, must have been agonizing to Jesus. He can and will help us through similar events.
"For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your mind."
While we await the seeing of success in our own ministries, we may be tempted to give up. As we serve in ministry, the battle is sometimes long, and the victory may seem so far away. We must not give up, and we must not succumb to the idea that it is all in vain. Jesus took three disciples up that tall mountain, and the journey was certainly wearying, but His purpose was to enlighten them of the events of the passion week, so they could be victorious instead of ashamed of their reactions to those events. Yet, their failure at the mountain top led to worse failures during that week of the crucifixion.
"And let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not."
When we need to stay in persistent prayer, and there seems nothing else to do, but pray, the idea of just giving up is present. Often saints do give up, as these three sleepy disciples did, and sleep missing the most awesome of revelations that would have blessed them to escape being failures at the crucifixion time.
"Men ought always to pray and not to faint (give up)."
When the devil himself, or some of his evil cohorts seem to come in vicious attack, many a saint has failed due to not having listened while on their mountaintop time. We can be overwhelmed by trials we should have overcome, due to spiritual sleepiness at a time when the Lord wanted to prepare us for that trial.
"For the enemy persecuted my soul, he hath smitten my life down to the ground... therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me."
We need to examine what things must be done to keep ourselves strong enough to remain in the fight.
We need to get a sufficient amount of spiritual food to keep ourselves strong. Seeing Jesus transfigured in His glory, hearing the conversation of Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, should have fed them the spiritual food needed to pass the test of passion week. Some do not feed their spirit, and the spirit gets weaker and weaker. When a weak, underfed spirit comes before the temptation to surrender, it often will. We need to feed the spirit an overly adequate amount of Bible study, prayer, and Christian fellowship. We need to expect, allow, and pay attention at the spiritual blessings the Lord tries to give us.
We need to not doubt the faithfulness of God in times of possible fainting. Jesus counseled the disciples and us to remember that even a ‘mustard seed’ of faith can bring mountain moving victories. Too many forget how good God is, and forget that all things will work together for good, and forget that God is going to finally give us the victory.
"I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
We need to cease our gaze upon the enemy and the difficulties in the times we are tempted to give up. The enemy likes to parade his handiwork before the saints. He wants us to stand in awe at the horrible works he is doing. The devil gets pleasure out of our praise of his attacks and persecutions. Let us take our eyes off of his works and put our eyes onto the works of the Lord. During passion week, the disciples were in awe of the devil’s work, instead of being in awe of the revelation of the Lord’s plan they could have heard on the mount of transfiguration.
The disciples had faith in the devil’s power that week of the crucifixion, and lost faith in the Lord’s power to work through them for victory. Had they heard the messages of the transfiguration meeting, they would have had victory that week of Jesus crucifixion.
JESUS’ FOREWARNED, TRIED TO PREPARE, AND HELP THE DISCIPLES. HE FORETOLD OF THE EVENTS TO COME.
"And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, the Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men; And they shall kill Him, and the third day, He shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry."
"...after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed to be crucified."
"...when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto Him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment and poured it on His head as He sat at meat. When His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, Why trouble ye this woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon Me. For ye have the poor always with you - but Me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on My body - she did it for My burial. Verily, I say unto you - Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world - there shall also this that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."
Jesus foretold about His betrayal:
Matthew 20:17-19 (KJV)
And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
Matthew 26:20-25 (KJV)
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
The warnings were plain and clear. Jesus did not make it uncertain. He told of His betrayal, and who would do the betraying. He was not mean, He was not cruel, but He told them what would soon take place. They may have been distracted, or perhaps did not want to hear those kind of warnings, but the mount of transfiguration events should have prepared them in its miraculous awesomeness.
Matthew 17:1-13 (KJV)
1 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.
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.
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.
9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
13 Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist.
Three of the disciples went to the mount of transfiguration, and there saw Moses, Elijah, and Jesus discussing the coming events. This in type showed the saints that had died, the saints of the rapture, and our glorified Lord in preparation for future occurrences. We are called of God now, and are to be educated in what those on the mountain were, or should have been educated, and ready to minister, beginning to do the will of God.
Jesus was ‘transfigured’ before them. This is the Greek word, metamorphoo (G3339), meaning ‘to change the form’.
Moses had a transfiguration.
Exodus 34:29-35 (KJV)
And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
Stephen had a transfigured face at the time of his stoning.
Acts 6:15 (KJV)
And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
The disciples saw Jesus transformed, transfigured, into the glory that He would have restored upon Him following His ascension back to heaven. He is coming back in that same glory, to which He was transfigured there, and that He currently still has in heaven.
The three disciples on the mount, sleeping while the discussion was ongoing, could have become closer to that glory, had they stayed awake, listened to the revelations of the discussion of Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. They slept, missed so much, and thereby, were caught unprepared, unready for the events to take place in ‘passion’ week.
Here, on the mount of transfiguration, Moses had been, evidently, brought up from paradise, where his temporary spirit body awaited the crucifixion of Jesus. Christ had not yet become the first fruits of this transfiguring process, so Moses could not have had a resurrected body.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (KJV)
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Moses, dead in body, but alive in spirit, and in paradise for 1500 years, appeared with Elijah, who was still in a human body and over 1000 years old then. He is still alive in that human body, which shall not be killed until near the end of the tribulation period.
So, we had a ‘spirit body’ person, a human body person, and a transfigured Person of Jesus, standing and talking of things to come. The crucifixion was one of the things they talked of, but what was also a vital topic had to be that there is coming a time for both spirit bodies like Moses had, and human bodies like Elijah had, to be resurrected/raptured, and given a transfigured body and spirit.
At one time Elijah had prayed to die. Yet, he still has not died. God told Elijah in advance that he was to be translated. He, and the sons of the prophets, knew about his rapture. Think of the glory that must have filled Elijah's soul as he walked that final walk to the place God said to go to be raptured. There was a reason for Elijah to be raptured, his work was to be completed at a much later date, and God wanted to take him to heaven to await that day. Elijah still has 3 ½ years of ministry left. We, of this day, await a rapture also. We don't know the day, nor hour, but are excitedly awaiting our rapture. Elijah had an advantage over us, he knew the day, and hour.
Elijah, in his human body, came back with Moses, in his temporary spirit body, to talk with Jesus, in His transfigured body, about the events about to take place in Jerusalem. We think how blessed were the three disciples who accompanied Jesus up to the top of mount Hermon to view this. Yet, remember how great an honor it was for Elijah to be summoned to this great discussion.
Moses and Elijah were in discussion with Jesus, discussing the event that would start the ‘kingdom’, an event where Jesus conquered sin, death, and the devil, and laid claim to what only He has a right, i.e. to be the King of kings to the kingdom of heaven.
Some of what they discussed was the abolition of the law, the fulfillment of prophecies of the sufferings Jesus was to endure, the events of the betrayal, trial, crucifixion, entombment, visitation of the ones in paradise, and return of Jesus at the resurrection. That discussion would have been so helpful for Peter, James, and John to hear. Yet, they missed it. Too many of us are still missing the full impact of this ‘illustrated lesson’ on the mount of transfiguration.
Elijah, in that earthly body, living longer than any human had before lived, was likely anxious to complete his work for the Lord, and get his transfigured body, eternal, ageless, healthy, and fresh. Yet, the subject in discussion there, is now 2000 years further into its waiting for full fulfillment. We think we are patient in waiting for the rapture/resurrection transfiguration, but think how patient Moses and Elijah have been!
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.
The word for ‘tabernacles’ is the Greek word, skene (G4633), meaning ‘shade, booth, tent’. Peter shows here, he is missing the whole point. He is still weary from the climb up the mountain, and is seeing a spectacular illustrated lesson. Yet, his first thought is ‘let’s stay here, and let others have to come to us, for we are too tired to go down there, and have to make trips again and again, to see these kind of awesome events.’
Many today, when coming to their ministry commencement, too, like Peter, look for easy ways to do what God calls them to do. At that moment, what Jesus wanted from Peter, was not a ‘self made’ plan for how to have the best church in the world, but Jesus wanted Peter to listen, to watch, to learn this great lesson about the kingdom.
bright cloud overshadowed them
God steps in here to correct the misdirection that Peter’s carnal thoughts were taking this illustrated lesson. There is a visible evidence of God's presence to bless this lesson.
a Voice out of the cloud, Which said
God's voice has been heard many times. Usually, we hear it internally, sometimes He speaks through His written Word. Other times, we may hear it literally with our ears. This time, God spoke out loud, a message of ‘re-direction’ of attention to the One Who is the center of notice for this kingdom.
fell on their face, and were sore afraid
It is a normal thing for those who truly witness God, to hear His voice, to fall flat in holy fear and reverence at that revelation.
came down from the mountain
The word for ‘from’ is the Greek: ek (G1537), meaning ‘out from’. We, are sometimes given great revelations, great truths, as we minister or are being prepared to minister. There comes a time though, when we come down ‘from’ those mountain top events. We come down to earth, have to clean the house, wash the dishes, shovel the snow, wash the car, bathe our body, etc. The daily grind goes on and on, and the mountain top experiences need left behind for a time. There will be more mountain top events, some wonderful ones are soon to arrive. Yet, the ‘coming down’ is hard. The revelations we are given by the Lord, about His plans for us, His glory for us, are marvelous. We do need to sometimes come down from the mountain top experiences.
disciples asked... Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? ...Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things
The disciples have questions, and are suddenly aware they witnessed, or sleepily and ignorantly witnessed, an event beyond understanding. They were wondering about the persons, and the meaning of Elijah’s appearance.
Elijah will soon return to this earth to personally confront the Antichrist and the False Prophet. The church will be removed, and the 144,000 missionary Jews of the tribulation will be raptured after their ministry in the first part of the tribulation. About that time Elijah will return with Enoch, and challenge the Antichrist, cause plagues, minister, and prepare the people of the final days of the tribulation for the return of Jesus. He will finally be killed, and lay dead in the street for several days. Then as the enemies of God party about his dead body, he will be resurrected and raptured. (Zechariah 4:2-3, Rev. 11:3-12, Malachi 4:5-6)
This man, Elijah, had a remarkable ministry. He had special gifts, and will receive special rewards. But we too can be Elijah's in our day. We are told that of all the Old Testament prophet's, John the Baptist was the greatest. Yet, we are told that all of God's people should surpass even that ministry. We, of the New Testament period, should have a "double portion" of Elijah's ministry.
John the Baptist came to carry forth a similar ministry to Elijah's. He was a similar prophet, and was a forerunner to Jesus first coming. Elijah will return to turn people from sin, and back to God, and be a forerunner of Jesus second coming. Elisha caught the mantle of Elijah, and carried on Elijah's ministry. We live in a day and age, that needs many Elijah's preaching a message against sin, and warning a sinful world that Jesus is about to return. I want to be one of Jesus' forerunners. Do you? Let's catch the mantle of Elijah, and run with it. The Lord will soon call us home to heaven, and Elijah will take back his ‘mantle’ to finish his, and our, job!
The transfiguration pre-figured the kingdom of heaven, and soon, the kingdom was to be birthed. The pre-figuring of the kingdom of heaven, began with three disciples who were "heavy with sleep" (Luke 9:32). The kingdom of heaven has slowly been unfolding, for much of the church has been spiritually asleep. Those who awake from such sleep, can enjoy the kingdom now.
Some will not enjoy the kingdom until it has fully come. Some will not get very far along in the transformation that is to be ongoing in us. We are in the battle part of the kingdom now, and the devil is fighting our ‘purification’ journey from glory to glory. If we want to please our Lord, we need to, unlike the disciples, stay awake, and learn what the Lord wants us to know.