Towards the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus had a most glorious experience, which three of his disciples witnessed. He was transfigured and a heavenly glory was all about him. Even the garments that he wore shone with that glory. Then, Moses and Elijah, who had been long gone, appeared talking with him. This passage on the events of mount Transfiguration has profound meaning. The two sublime revelations on that event are what this article brings out.
1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man but Jesus only. (Matthew 17:1-8)
First Meaning: Adoption of a Son
The natural understanding of adoption is taking somebody else’s child to be yours. The spiritual meaning of adoption means bringing God’s own son into a position of authority. Back in the Old Testament, a man placed his child under tutors to train the latter how his father’ economy was run. After the child had proved to be worthy in every way and cared about his father’s business, he was adopted. A public ceremony happened, and the now mature and responsible son was vested with all the fathers’ authority. He could hire and fire without consulting anyone. His signature on any document was good as that of his father.
Jesus went through three years of hard testing from the time the Spirit came upon him in the Jordan. He leaned obedience through hard trials. After these trials, he went up a high mountain for his adoption. In this context, Moses represented the law and Elijah represented the judgment of God, as was true of the other Old Testament prophets. Both law and judgment could not save. The presence of these two prophets signified that the dispensations of law and prophets had faded into Christ. Jesus was God’s grace, which saves humanity; he took over from the insufficiency of the preceding dispensations. God vested all his power and authority in Christ on this occasion.
The three disciples Peter, James, and John represented faith hope and love in that order in this context. First Corinthians 13:13 identifies these three attributes as abiding eternally. These three attributes were in Jesus.
The experience that Jesus underwent showed that other sons of God would attain adoption at the end of the church age dispensation, according to Romans 8:19. Trained, mature sons would have great authority at the end time.
Second Meaning: Order of the Second Coming of Christ
The second revelation from this mount experience is the order of the second coming of Christ. Jesus appeared with the glory that will characterize his second coming. Scripture records in Matthew 24:30 that he will come with power and great glory.
In this context, Moses represented the resurrected saints, while Elijah represented those who will experience translation without dying since he never died himself. The Bible in first Thessalonians 4:16-17 and first Corinthians 15:51-53 talks about both the resurrection and translation. The dead church age saints will rise in glorified bodies, while those saints who will be alive will have their bodies changed into immortality. This whole group will meet Jesus in the air for the marriage supper of the Lamb.
In this second meaning, Peter, James, and John represented the remnants of the Jews who receive salvation after the rapture. After the catching away of the New Testament church, God will save elect Jews.
The event on the mount of transfiguration holds great lessons for Christians. Here we get a glimpse of both an adopted son and the order of the second coming of Christ. In many cases, scripture has compound meaning, and this is one such case.