The Transfiguration: A Preview of Coming Attractions (2)
In the previous article we looked at the meaning of the transfiguration of Jesus. Today I want us to ask, “So what?” What practical difference does it make for us living 2,000 years later? Continue reading . . .
In the previous article we looked at the meaning of the transfiguration of Jesus. Today I want us to ask, “So what?” What practical difference does it make for us living 2,000 years later? The answer is at least partly found in vv. 11-13 of Mark 9.
And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him” (Mark 9:11-13).
Note four things.
First, the majesty and glory displayed in the transfiguration are designed to encourage us as we willingly deny ourselves and take up our cross and embrace every sacrifice in following Christ. Whatever we endure in following him is more than worth it.
What will sustain you in following Jesus and giving up all for him is the knowledge and assurance that he is not some politician who comes up for re-election every four years; he is not some philosophical or theological genius whose ideas captivate your mind. Whatever sacrifice you endure, whatever you give up for his sake, a glory and splendor await you beyond all comprehension.
Second, the majesty and glory displayed in the transfiguration are designed to remind us that in Jesus we have a reliable guide in life (“hear him; listen to him”; he can be trusted). Pay heed to his teachings! Study his habits, listen to his voice, embrace his lifestyle and values and make them your own.
Third, the majesty and glory displayed in the transfiguration are designed to remind us that he is God! Yes, he is human. Yes, he suffers at the hands of other humans. Yes, he will be arrested and beaten and crucified in weakness. But this display was designed to remind the disciples and us that he is also God. The God-man!
Fourth, and most important of all, the majesty, glory, and power displayed in the transfiguration are designed to provide us with a glimpse at what will happen at Christ’s second coming and to intensify our expectation and our joyful anticipation of that coming of Christ in glory and power.
Why do I say this? Where is there in the transfiguration story any reference to the second coming? It isn’t explicitly stated in the gospels, but it is made perfectly clear in 2 Peter 1:16-21,
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21).
When Peter speaks of the “power and coming” of Christ he means the “powerful coming” of Christ, a reference to his second coming at the close of history. Evidently the false teachers were attacking and seeking to undermine Christian truth, especially the hope we have of Christ’s return, referring to it as a fable.
This is not a secondary doctrine tacked on at the end; it is essential. Christ has all power and authority, and he is coming. One of the marks of a living evangelical faith is that we reckon seriously, earnestly, and joyfully with the personal, visible return of the God-man Jesus Christ. The second coming is at the heart of our faith, and our confidence in it should be the faith of our heart. We should long for it.
Peter tells us that our confidence in that coming is based not on cleverly devised myths, it is not an old wives tale, it is not a fable or religious fiction; rather we know it to be true because of the eyewitness experience of the disciples who were with Jesus on the holy mountain!
Peter’s words cannot be mistaken: The eyewitness experience of Jesus' transfiguration was a preview of the glory of the second coming of Christ.
So, why was Jesus transfigured on the mountain? Why did he ask Peter, James, and John to bear witness to this event? Simply in order that they might in turn tell us of the absolutely inviolable certainty of the second coming of Christ in glory. At his first coming his glory was veiled. He came in weakness and humility and was subject to scorn and rejection and eventually crucifixion. But not the second coming!
Don’t be discouraged by the corruption in our world. Don’t ever think that pagan society and sexual immorality and atheistic arrogance and poverty will have the final word. Don’t put your trust in a political party or person with the idea that he/she/it will make all things right. A day is coming, says Peter, and we have seen the preview, we have witnessed with our own eyes, in advance, what that day will be like, and I assure you, says Peter, that:
When he comes it will not be with a white flag declaring a truce, but with a sharp, two-edged sword to destroy his enemies.
When he comes a second time it will not be with overtures of peace and reconciliation to those who have rejected him and mocked his name but in flaming fire dealing our eternal retribution.
When he comes a second time it will not be with the fanfare of new hope for mankind, but in righteousness displayed for his people, for believers, and wrath for those who do not bow the knee in submission to his Lordship.
When he comes a second time it will not be to discuss or debate concerning what is right and wrong. He is coming to judge and eradicate evil from the new earth on which he and we will dwell forever!
That, dear friend, is what the Transfiguration is all about. It is, to use the words of the film industry, a preview of coming attractions!