In the Fulness of Time/Part 110

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2008
Dr. Figart examines the contextual evidence – Peter’s denial and Jesus’ response, His teachings on discipleship and rewards, and the promises regarding the kingdom – and concludes that the Transfiguration was given to show the glory of Christ as it will be manifested at His return to earth.

Previous Article

A Kaleidoscope of the Millennial Kingdom Matthew 16:28-17:13

The Connection between Matthew 16:27 and 16:28-17:13 – 16:28

Mt. 16:28 “Verily I say unto you, there are some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Carson gives no less than seven possible interpretations of Matthew 16:28, and concludes that it is a general reference: “not simply referring to the Resurrection, to Pentecost, or the like, but to the manifestation of Christ’s kingly reign exhibited after Pentecost in a host of ways… the rapid multiplication of disciples and the mission to the Gentiles.” Carson rather grudgingly, it seems, adds: “Sections that stress the sufferings and the Cross (16:21-28; 17:9-13) envelop the Transfiguration and bracket this clearest manifestation of divine glory by suffering” (Carson, Donald A. “Matthew.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984, Vol. 8, pp. 380-382). However, this does not take into account a number of things:

The Sequence of events in Matthew 16

Peter tried to deny the death and resurrection of Christ (16:21-12); however, the Lord rebuked Peter and gave instructions concerning discipleship (16:23-26) with the promise of reward at His return, (16:27). Immediately after this He promised that some standing there would actually see what He will be like in His kingdom and glory (16:28: Luke 9:26-28). With no break in thought, the story continued, describing His Transfiguration (17:1). This contextual evidence leads to the conclusion that the Transfiguration was given to show the glory of Christ as it will be manifested at His return to earth.

The way the chapters were divided in Mark and Luke

While it is true that chapter and verse divisions were manmade, still, it is significant that the same thought sequence was recognized by those who translated both Mark and Luke. Mark 8:38 ends with the prophecy of His return. Mark 9 opens with the connective kai (and): “And I say unto you” and then gives the same promise that some standing there would see the kingdom come with power. Immediately 9:2 refers to the Transfiguration after six days. Luke’s Gospel is even more remarkable. In Luke 9:26 Jesus gives the promise of His return; 9:27 begins with the adversative words: “But I say” (lego de) which is a strong connective thought, namely: “the Son of man . . . shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, There are some standing here who shall not taste of death until they shall see the kingdom of God” (Luke 16:26-27). Again, right after this, the account of the Transfiguration is given. There is no reason to interpret this literal experience of the glory of Christ as referring to so far-reaching events of the spread of the Gospel.

The Evidence from the writings of Peter and John

The theme of 1 Peter is “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11; 4:13; 5:11). Peter definitely claims that he was “a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1).

In 2 Peter 1:16-18 Peter says: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but 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. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”

The apostle John says: “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” (John 1:14).

The Description of the Transfiguration. Matthew 17:1-9

The Glorification of Christ. Matthew 17:1-2

Mt. 17:1-2 “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John, his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain privately, and was transfigured before them; and his face did shine like the sun, and his raiment was as white as the light.”

The Time: 17:1a

Matthew and Mark uses “after six days” but Luke says “about eight days after these things.” However, these are simply two different ways indicating that a week had passed after His messages concerning the future building of the Church and the dedication of the disciples.

The People: 17:1b

Only the three disciples of the inner circle were taken up on the mount with Jesus. They only were permitted to go with Jesus into the home of Jairus (Mark 5:37) and later (Matthew 26:37) into the Garden of Gethsemane (Both here and in Gethsemane these disciples fell asleep!).

The Place: 17:1c

The “high mountain” is difficult to place, as many commentators note. Some say it was Mount Tabor, but this would be too far out of the way. Others claim it was Mount Hermon, but though this was near, it was more than 9,000 feet high so that it was too cold for them to spend the night there (Luke 9:37). There are other, more suitable mountains within the area of Galilee near Capernaum (cf. 17:24) where the Transfiguration could have taken place.

The Alteration of His Appearance: 17:2a

Matthew and Mark use “transfigured before them” from metamorpho-o which signifies “another form,” while Luke has it that “his countenance was altered” from heteros, which means “other.” Yet, only Matthew actually describes the change: “And his face did shine as the sun.” This is clearly a revelation of the deity of Jesus Christ. The fact that He did not always appear outwardly in this fashion corresponds with the doctrine of Kenosis, voluntarily emptying Himself of the outward manifestation of the glory of the Godhead. Had He not done so, all men would have observed the glory, and no doubt would have had to shield themselves from such brightness. Nor would He have been approachable, as 1 Timothy 6:16 affirms: “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.” All the medieval paintings on an enhaloed Jesus, are, to say the least, misleading! But here, these disciples had a glimpse of the glory which Jesus had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5).

The Glistening of His Garments: 17:2b

Though Matthew describes the raiment of Jesus as: “white as the light” it is Mark who gives the longer account in this case: “And his raiment became shining, exceedingly white like snow, as no fuller on earth can whiten them” (Mark 9:3). In a word, it was beyond human origin or description; the best that human ability can produce by a whitening process is a poor analogy to the change in His clothing.

When all similes and adjectives are considered, including likeness to the sun, light, snow, whiteness, shining, transfigured, or altered, it can truly be expected that all of these, and vastly more will be seen, in the fulness of time, when He returns to earth “with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

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