In the Fulness of Time/Part 111
By: Dr. Thomas Figart
|By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2008|
|First, from an historical perspective, Moses and Elijah comprehend the days of the Law and the Prophets. The entire scope of the Old Testament is wrapped up in these two eras. It was the Law and the Prophets which Jesus came to fulfill (Matt. 5:17-20). There is a real sense in which every Old Testament book speaks of Christ; He Himself actually said this later, in Luke 24:25-27.|
The Transfiguration – Part 2. Matthew 17:3-5
Conversation with Moses and Elijah, Matthew 17:3
- Mt. 17:3 “And, behold, there appeared unto them, Moses and Elijah talking with him.”
First, from an historical perspective, Moses and Elijah comprehend the days of the Law and the Prophets. The entire scope of the Old Testament is wrapped up in these two eras. It was the Law and the Prophets which Jesus came to fulfill (Matt. 5:17-20). There is a real sense in which every Old Testament book speaks of Christ; He Himself actually said this later, in Luke 24:25-27 after the resurrection: “Then he said unto them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself.”
A second emphasis comes from their conversation with Jesus. Luke’s account reveals specifically that Moses and Elijah “appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease (exodus) which he should accomplish in Jerusalem.” Prophetically, they spoke concerning the very thing of which the Old Testament saints longed for, namely, the sufferings and glory of the Messiah. Moses and Elijah were no longer in a quandary to explain how these two seemingly contradictory concepts could both be fulfilled. Christ presented Himself as Messiah/King to the Jews; He was rejected (Matthew 12:20-25); He then predicted His death (Matthew 12:38-41) and gave instructions concerning the sowing, growing and reaping of the wheat and the tares Matthew 13). Thus, Moses and Elijah spoke with Him concerning the coming events, which would begin with His death, “which he should accomplish.” The Jews may have thought they were accomplishing His decease, but it was really Jesus Who took charge: “No man taketh my life from me… I have power (authority, exousia) to lay it down and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18).
Did they speak of anything further? We can only speculate or infer; since Elijah is to come right before the return of Christ to the earth, surely they would speak of this! As for Moses, he “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Heb. 11:26). Their conversation would have all centered on what the Messiah should accomplish!
Some have added the aspect of typology to include Moses and Elijah; Moses representing those who have died and are resurrected before they enter the earthly messianic kingdom, and Elijah as the type of the Church saints who will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Three things, however, seem to militate against this. First, there is no evidence that reference to the Rapture appears in the text or anywhere else in the Gospel of Matthew. Second, though every type is an illustration, not every illustration is a type. The safest method is to restrict to those things which are mentioned as such in the New Testament. For example, “Christ our Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7) is a real type, but you cannot say this with regard to every Old Testament event, even though there may be many illustrations which apply to the Christian life. Third, it must be kept in mind that the Lord Jesus said that some of them standing there would not die until they saw the Son of man “coming in his kingdom,” not coming to meet the saints in the air!
Confusion of Peter, Matthew 17:4
- Mt. 17:4 “Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three booths; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
In addition to this account, Mark 9:6 adds that Peter “knew not what to say,” and Luke 9:32-33 tells us that the three disciples were asleep and that they awoke and saw Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah. But it was not until they were from Jesus that Peter made this suggestion. There are several interesting facts here. First, the Transfiguration began to occur while the disciples were asleep; however, they were wide awake when they saw the glory of Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Second, we are not told how they recognized Moses and Elijah. It was probably by divine revelation; Peter even called them by name. Third, the suggestion of Peter was by impulse and confusion; he did no know what to say (Mark 9:6) and even after he blurted it out he did not know what he said (Luke 9:33).
Peter’s entire approach is filled with confusion. We are not sure the disciples actually heard the details of the conversation as reported by Luke. If they did, it is even more confusing that Peter would suggest that three booths be made for them to stay with Christ. What could possibly be the purpose of such an idea? Some have suggested that it was the time of the year for celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles, and that this was Peter’s thinking. Whatever the thinking from Peter’s standpoint, it was foolish, as the attestation from heaven will indicate.
Attestation by the Father from Heaven, Matthew 17:5
- Mt. 17:5 “While he yet spoke, 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.”
Three things are to be noted in this verse; the cloud itself, the voice out of the cloud and the message. The cloud itself is described as “bright” (photeine) by Matthew only. It is quite well known that Jehovah appeared in the pillar of cloud by day and in the pillar of fire by night, in Exodus 13:21-22 and that this continued “throughout all their journeys” (Ex. 40:34-38). Not only is this appearance of the glory of the LORD historical, it is eschatological as well. It can be traced through the prophecy of Ezekiel, beginning in the first chapter in a vision and concluding with Jehovah’s promise: “I will set my glory among the nations” (39:21), and His very presence on His throne (43:7) when the glory of the LORD will fill the house of the LORD in the millennial kingdom (44:4) so that the entire city of Jerusalem shall be called Jehovah-Shammah, “the LORD is there” (48:35).
All of this corresponds with the eschatology of the New Testament which depicts Christ’s return to earth, in the words of Luke 21:27: “And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory.” Since the Transfiguration is to show how they “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” it is appropriate that the bright cloud is part of the demonstration.
Second, the “voice out of the cloud” is identified as that of the Heavenly Father, Who says: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” As noted in the discussion of Matthew 3:17, the voice of the Father is heard at the baptism of Jesus, at His Transfiguration and at the time of His approaching death, in John 12:28.
Third, the message is equally important. It identifies Jesus as the Son of God the Father at the outset of His ministry (3:17), it assured Jesus and His disciples that the Father will glorify His Name through the death and resurrection of His Son (John 12:28), and here at the Transfiguration it is a promise of the return of His Son to set up the
Messianic Kingdom as the Son of David. The message closes with “in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Jesus said, “I always do those things that please him” (John 8:29). But the final words, “Hear ye Him” must have been a rebuke to Peter’s suggestion to put Moses and Elijah on the same plane with Jesus! “In the fulness of time” Christ will be duly honored as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!