Six days after prophesying that there were some then living who would not taste of death until the Son of man came in His kingdom, Jesus ascended a high mountain along with His three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John.  While on the mountain, apart from the view of the rest of the world, the Lord Jesus was transfigured, and given, as I suppose, a manifestation of the future glory He would enjoy at the Father’s right hand after His resurrection and ascension back into heavenly glory.  The splendid glory then arraying Him we can scarcely imagine with the mind’s eye.  His face shone with the radiance of the sun, and His raiment was “white as the light.”  This was the true glory of God which for a brief time clothed the Son during this period of His humiliation.  Surely this was done, at least in part, to confirm for all time that the Father is well pleased with the Son.

Adding to the glory was the fact that God sent Moses and Elijah, perhaps the two most famous prophets of the Old Testament, to converse with the Lord in His glory.  I suppose that these two men also were arrayed with heavenly glory, for I am strongly convinced that the Old Testament saints passed into heavenly bliss upon death just as we expect to do.  As Asaph wrote hopefully in Psalm 73:24, “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and after receive me to glory.”  I cannot conceive that Moses and Elijah rose out of some dungeon in the lower parts of the earth to have this conference with Jesus.

The disciples were understandably overwhelmed by this beatific vision.  Perhaps John had some reference to this when he wrote, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”  Peter was so entranced with the splendid vision that he recommended making three tabernacles, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.  Though he spoke this out of an overwhelmed confusion, yet we can readily understand why the good man should think so.  What better company could a mortal man wish to have than Jesus Himself, as well as two of God’s great prophets from ancient times?  It was indeed good for them to be there, and I have no doubt that the three disciples remembered every detail of this signal event the remainder of their lives.

But it was not God’s purpose for this to be a permanent resting place, either for the sainted prophets or for Christ.  His period of humiliation was not yet at an end.  He must yet suffer at the hands of men before receiving the great exaltation He so richly deserved.  While Peter was speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, this cloud no doubt hearkening back to that which followed the camp of Israel during its wilderness sojourn.  From that cloud, the voice of divine authority spoke: “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”  Moses and Elijah were great men, but never does God honor them as He does His Son.  Unquestionably, part of the purpose of this grand event was to confirm the superiority of Christ to the prophets.  God the Father would have all men to know for all times that He is supremely pleased with Jesus Christ, His well beloved and only begotten Son.  The only way by which we can be pleasing to this holy God is being united to Christ by faith, so that our sins may be forgiven, and we can be made the righteousness of God in Him. 

Like Israel of old, as they witnessed the spectacle of God’s glory and heard His voice at Mount Sinai, the disciples were terrified.  We should have nothing for disdain for those who claim to have been caught up into heaven to converse familiarly with God, on such near terms as if He were nothing greater than a fishing buddy.  The greatest saints in both Old and New Testaments were overwhelmed when confronted with the glory and the voice of God.  This is because nothing brings home to our minds and hearts more forcefully the pollution of our entire being by sin than does a view of the glory of God.  This terrifies the mind, knowing that a just God could at any moment, and without any fault, dash us into hell.  It is only those who have risen by faith to a comforting knowledge of the forgiveness of sins who can give thanks at the remembrance of God’s holiness.  But even justified men, when overwhelmed by a sense of the glory and holiness of God, cannot but be sore afraid, even as these disciples were.

But as the glory of God departed, along with Moses and Elijah, the three terrified men were comforted by their Master.  Returned now to His normal condition, Jesus touched them, and said, “Arise, and be not afraid.”  The terrible vision of God’s glory was now past, and, truth be told, these men had no need to be in terror of God, for they were justified by virtue of their union with the Saviour.  The disciples then arose, and descended the mountain with the Lord Jesus, Who warned them to keep the vision secret until after He was risen from the dead.  Again, it is difficult to assign the precise reason why the Lord wished to keep this a secret.  Perhaps He knew it would merit only scoffs from the unbelievers, but would be more readily received by His people with faith after He had risen in glory from the tomb.

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