Description / Transcription
Our great God, we come to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that You might manifest Yourself to us in Holy Scripture so that we may duly believe in You, yield obedience to you, and enjoy fellowship with You, and walk in Your love and fear. So to come at length to be blessed in Your presence forevermore. We pray in Jesus’ strong name. Amen.
Our reading this morning is from Mark chapter 9. While you’re looking that up, let me just take a moment or you. You’ve got to adjust to my accent, to hearing English spoken the way it’s meant to be spoken, obviously. I didn’t always have this accent. There was a period in my life very early on when I was about 10 years of age when I’d heard Billy Graham preach and I’d wanted to be a preacher and always wanted a model of a preacher and once I heard Billy Graham, I couldn’t help but try and practice to preach like he did, and I did. I would go out to the fields behind our house and practice preaching. Cows came. Best congregation I ever had, I have to tell you. No nasty e-mails. They just mooed at the right points in the sermon. It was great.
But I didn’t realize until I started preaching to people, around about the age of 15, people would come up to me and they would say, “What part of the States are you from?” I didn’t realize I was preaching with an American accent, so I had to wean myself off that back to the language of heaven. Anyway.
I may correct your pastor in one area. We now have 12 grandchildren. It’s very important to say that.
Well, let’s hear the Word of God. It comes from Mark, chapter 9. We’re going to look for a few minutes this morning, that’s probably a lie, but you know, for as long as we take, at this passage. Beginning at verse 1. In fact, let me begin just before verse 1. Jesus says at the end of chapter 9 [sic]: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
“And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We live in a very dull age intellectually. An age where the prevailing ideology is so impoverished that we leave ourselves exposed to a totalitarian kind of existence where our minds have no apparatus with which to think beyond simply what we are told. And of course, we are at the mercy of our social media. And although we know so much about the enormity of the universe in which we live, and we know so much about the human frame, we know far less than our forebears, in the Old and the New Testament, in the medieval world, we know far less about the angels, about incorruptible heavenly bodies, about essences, the divine essence in particular, about transcendental truth, and in particular about ends.
Now what do I mean by ends? I mean, what is the point of our existence? What is the goal of our existence? Is there a destiny? Is there an afterward? We know nothing. We don’t have the details in our minds. We don’t have the categories in our minds for thinking on those things.
One of the great lessons of the transfiguration is, of course, that there is more to life than what we can see. These three disciples are given by God to see with their physical eyes a physical manifestation of things that normally are invisible to us. What did they see? Well, let’s listen to Peter’s account. This is what Peter says in his first, sorry, his second letter, chapter 1:
“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.”
This is the Apostle John who was there. His account: “We beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father. No one has ever seen God. The only begotten Son who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.”
And then coming away from the Bible, here’s John Calvin’s account. He calls the transfiguration a temporary exhibition of Jesus’ glory, which would help the disciples after the resurrection to see for certain that even during the time when He emptied Himself, when Jesus was one of us and amongst us, He continue to retain His divinity entire though it was concealed to them through the veil of His flesh. He appeared to them in the transfiguration to help them “to taste in part what they could not fully comprehend.”
That’s the event about which we are looking this morning.
What I want to do this morning is to take that event and to ask what are the ends towards which it points for you and for me. What is the point of our lives towards which the transfiguration points us?
They’re summarized in these three phrases: The glorious appearing, the resurrection body, and the beatific vision.
Because the transfiguration itself is a theophany. That is, it’s an appearance of God. You’ll know that God appeared to His people down through the ages in various ways. He appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses went up to Mount Sinai, it took him six days to get there. He took three people with him and when he arrived there, he had this vision of God and God’s glory.
You know that Abraham took his son, his only son Isaac whom he loved, and he went into the desert. We’re told that it was for six days and when he arrived there, you remember he was going to kill his son Isaac. The animal was caught in the bush and Jesus says, “Abraham saw my day and rejoiced.” He had an insight, a theophany, a vision of God.
John of Damascus commenting on Jesus’ transfiguration says, “Jesus here was not taking on what He was not, nor being changed into what He was not, but was making who He really was visible, visible to those men on the mountain.”
It says that his face shone like the sun. John was to see this in the book of Revelation when on the Lord’s day he saw the Lord and his face shone like the sun in its strength, shone with the glory of God, shone with that light that belongs to God Himself, that light that is eternally generated from that true immaterial light that God is. He is the light of the world. Jesus is light. From light we say in our creeds, the shining forth of His glory. God is light.
And on the mountain they saw Jesus. And they saw beyond His humanity that was familiar to them, they saw Him appear the way He had been before He took on our humanity. They saw Him shine with divine glory.
So let’s look at these three elements then that I’ve talked about, the three ends of the Christian life.
The first is the glorious appearing. In many ways, this is at the foreground of our text. If you have your Bible open before you, where Jesus speaks with the discipleship, He talks about their confessing Him before men, and remember what they’re confessing. Peter puts it like this in Matthew’s account, he said that he said, “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” This is our confession.
Jesus says to them, “Whoever’s ashamed of Me and My words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of Him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father with His holy angels.”
Jesus is urging His people to follow Him and His words during our lives here, no matter how unpopular it is or dangerous that course of action may be, Jesus and His words go together. We cannot have Jesus and ignore or deny or edit His words. Especially the words of the cross, that is, the message of the Gospel which is the way of salvation.
The Son of God became the Son of Man, thereby He took on our mortality, in that mortality He died, and by His death and resurrection He was glorified and this glory, which is His native sphere, will be fully revealed when the Son of Man who is the Son of God comes in the clouds of glory.
The prophet Daniel talked about this. When it talks about the Son of Man predicting Jesus, “To Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him, His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away, and His kingdom one that will not be destroyed.”
When is that going to happen? It’s going to happen at the end of days. Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory and all His holy angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne, He will separate all the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” When Jesus comes again, it will be the end of history as we know it. The next item on God’s calendar, if you will, is the coming again of Jesus Christ. There will be judgment and there will be salvation. That makes it something everybody in this room should therefore be concerned about.
Salvation – you look forward to it. Judgment – you must prepare for that, by finding your salvation in Jesus Christ. That event will be public. It will be viewed by every human being that has ever lived. It says in Revelation, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds and every eye shall see him and every one of those who pierced Him and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him.”
So here’s where the transfiguration helps us this morning. First of all, Jesus speaks of coming in the glory of His Father. Secondly, Jesus adds in reference to this, “Truly I say to you, there are some of you standing here that will not taste death before you see the kingdom of God come with power.” In other words, there are going to be those present among the disciples in general who are actually going to see an anticipation of the second coming of Jesus. Then thirdly, after six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John up a high mountain, apart, by themselves. You notice the redundant repetition of that to enforce His earlier words, “Some standing here,” and He was transfigured before them.
Transfiguration, then, is in Mark’s Gospel the first clear reference to the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ. The transfiguration is necessary in order to give the New Testament authors and us a category with which we can understand what the second coming will be like. It’s only after the transfiguration that we read in chapter 13 of Mark, Jesus speaking, “But in those days, after that Tribulation, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will be falling from heaven, the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds and with great power and glory.”
So the transfiguration is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise and a foretaste of the day of Christ’s return. This is the One who will come. This is the One clothed in majesty, shining with the light of His own glory, self-generated as the sun’s glory is self-generated. This is the One who will appear whom every eye will see on that glorious day.
No wonder the Christian authors of our Scripture are adjust to be sober and upright and godly as we live in this world, looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. The glorious appearing.
And linked with the glorious appearing is the bodily resurrection. The resurrection of the body is linked, in other words, to the revelation of the Lord and His appearing. The bodily resurrection of Jesus became the permanent Revelation of His glory. What they saw briefly, those in glory today see permanently. They see the King in His glory. At this moment they partake, if you will, of a kind of eternal moment. They are, if you will, moved to see what happens and is happening right now in eternity. That which is permanently enjoyed by the saints there. Jesus in His glory, His glory and His divinity shining through His human nature.
His human nature is a created thing. Here they see that nature irradiated, irradiated with His glory.
You know, this age in which we live is an age of grace. This is the good news of the Gospel comes freely to us. If you want to become a Christian today, if your heart is for God and you ask Him, and you humble yourself under His mighty hand, you’ll receive grace, gratis and for nothing. You will receive Christ as your Savior.
But one day grace will give way to glory for the believer. That is the ultimate note that is being sounded here. When we look at this mountain and we see Jesus here in the glory of God displayed in His resurrected and glorified body, we see our future here.
A friend of mine, Mike Allen, who’s at RTS Orlando, has helped me to understand this, drawing our attention, the escalation that goes on here, drawing my attention to 1 Corinthians chapter 15. In that chapter the resurrection of Jesus is described as a first fruits of a harvest. He is the first to be resurrected and we shall be resurrected in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It was Christ who was raised bodily. The human body of Jesus, as our human bodies, is value in itself. Our human bodies as we see as we look at Jesus’ human body in this transfiguration, our human bodies, too, have the potential for being fitted for eternal life, just as a ship is sometimes taken in and is re-fitted. Perhaps it was a cargo ship and it’s brought it and it’s refitted to be a luxury liner. Our bodies can be refitted for living in glory.
So no truly human life and no fully human intimacy with God can be enjoyed in the absence of a bodily expression. When we die our souls, of course, live to God, and in the bliss of heaven we enjoy God. No doubt about that. It’s far better to be with Christ, even to be absent from the body and be with Christ.
But that isn’t the goal for which we were made. That isn’t the end for which we were made. The end is that we will be resurrected on that final day, not only be incorruptible but fitted for the enjoyment of God forever. There for the first time will we actually do what we’re supposed to do here, glorify God in our body.
Now 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle contrasts the earthly and the heavenly body, that is the resurrected body. It says this: “There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one kind and the glory of the earthly is of another kind.”
This is open for viewing. Star differs from star in glory, so it is with the resurrection of the dead. And he goes on to draw it out. He says, “What is now sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown in natural body, raised a spiritual body.” A spiritual resurrection body will outstrip the perfection even of the pre-fall body that Adam and Eve had in the garden of Eden.
This contrast is pressed in 1 Corinthians 15: “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit… The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” Then Paul delivers the punchline: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust,” that is, in these bodies that came from dust and to dust will return, “we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
So what that is all saying to us this morning is that our future is a transfiguration of sorts. Our future is to experience what they saw when they saw Jesus transfigured before them. This was the same Jesus they’d walked up the mountain with, the same Jesus they’d been walking around Palestinian streets with. This is the same physical Lord Jesus that they are now seeing irradiated by the glory of God, whose glory, by the way, they see Moses and Elijah in the glory, sharing the glory, participating in the glory, just as one day we will participate in that glory as we are promised.
This perishable body must put on imperishable, the mortal body must put on immortality. You see, our citizenship is in heaven. We look to heaven to our Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our lowly body and make it like His glorious body.
So God has a future for your body, there’s an end for your physical existence.
Then to cap it all, we have the beatific vision. This is the crowing gift of God to His people. Only three apostles saw Jesus there and were granted a sight of the transfiguration. The Apostle Paul was granted a sight of the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, and yet what he said was, “We,” you and I, “Walk by faith and not by sight.”
Now seeing, seeing is important to us. Let me tell you this story of our firstborn, whose firstborn became 21 on Thursday, and second-born was 18 on Friday, just in case they watch, now they know that I know that. But I remember we lived in northern Ireland at the time, things there were prehistoric at that point, and when it came for Christine to go into hospital to have the baby, we had to go to a little cottage hospital that was run by a matron. A matron is a kind of blend of sergeant major and Attila the Hun. And I went in with her, with Christine, thinking that I could stay. My mother-in-law was at home looking, oh, no, she wasn’t. That was for the second one. There were no others. She was the firstborn. So I have to get my story right here.
Anyway, so I went with Christine only to be met by this matron who was a large individual, and she said, “Oh, no, you can’t come in here.” I said, “Well, this is my wife. We’re having a baby.” “Oh, no. No, no. You don’t get to stay here. You have to go home. And we’ll call you tomorrow.” That was the rule. So I went home. I have no idea what happened there, but in the morning I got a phone call that I could come and visit my wife. So I went to visit Christine and I saw her in the ward. I said, “Did you know I got a baby?” And she’s like, “Oh, I got a baby” and she told me about the baby, but there was no baby. There was Christine but no baby. So I said to the nurse, “Can I see the baby? She’s my baby, too.”
So the nurse took me to this area, it was all glass, and behind the glass there were about 100 of these little cribs, and she said to me, “What’s your name again? Yeah, you are three rows back and one, two, three, four cribs in. That’s yours.” And all I could see was a crib. Truly, all I could see was a crib. You couldn’t see any babies in these cribs. They could all be empty as far as I knew. And I’m looking and I’m looking to see if I can see, and I saw something and I jumped up and I saw a little tuft of red, she’ll hate me for saying that, but there was. It was red when she was born, a little tuft of red hair. That’s all I could see.
And then a foot. And the nurse said, “You have to go home now.” So I had to go home. And they kept her in for a week. It was an entire week. Why would you take an entire week? It was to give the mother a rest, apparently. And that was the procedure. Before I got to hold Louise for the first time, and to see her face.
We’ve learned, haven’t we? The hard way what it’s like not to be able to see people’s faces. Because that’s our longing is to see one another.
And when it comes to God, the psalmist says, “When will I behold His face? The face of God.”
In Samuel 11 – the Lord is righteous, He loves righteous deeds. The upright shall behold His face.
This tells us that to see God we must be perfect.
Psalm 24 says, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Who will stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. Such is the generation of those who seek the face of the God of Jacob.”
Now in the sense Jesus and Jesus alone can see the face of God. God doesn’t have a face. God is invisible. He makes Himself visible in Christ, but He’s promised to make Himself visible to us as His people in the beatific vision. Jesus, of course, is the one who alone climbs up the mountain and goes through the gates of the city. He is the Lord of hosts and He is the one who is the Almighty One.
But when we are raised from the dead, when our bodies are raised and reunited with our spirits, we shall be fitted to behold the face of God. The pure in heart, Jesus said, shall see God.
Right now we don’t. Right now we live seeing in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face-to-face.
Now we know in part, but then we shall understand fully even as we are fully understood.
The beatific vision. Christ had it in his human nature throughout His life. He had immediate fellowship with God throughout His life. He is the blessed man whose delight is in the law of the Lord and He is the one who reveals God to us.
So Christ’s experience then is to be ours through our union with Him. Because we are united to Christ, we will be able to see God as He sees God, not as God sees Himself, not even as Jesus sees Himself fully, but as God reveals Himself to us.
You know, we look forward to the kingdom and the rule of God in eternity. But the real promise of eternity is that God will be all in all. I read this recently, “All things shall be in Him, and all shall be related to Him. There will not so much be a rule of God but God. God, our true and perfect blessedness.”
God made us intellectual creatures, and we were made to see God face-to-face by the gift of this beatific vision. It is this vision alone that will ultimately satisfy the human heart and will ultimately satisfy our longing for truth, our longing for undiminished goodness. Jesus prays for us like this: “Father, I desire that they also may be with Me where I am, to behold,” that’s a seeing word, “to behold My glory which You have given Me in your love before the foundation of the world.”
The vision, the sight of God, will answer all of your questions. That vision of God will resolve all your doubts. That vision of God will be reward for all your service. That vision of God will be your supreme passion, delight, joy, throughout all eternity. That’s your destiny. That is the end of the Christian life. At that point we will be fully rooted and grounded in love. At that point we will have power absolutely to comprehend with all the saints, the breadth and length and depth and height, to know Him whose love surpasses knowledge, and we will be filled with all the fullness of God and God will be all in all.
That life after Jesus’ appearing, after our bodily resurrection, when we see that beatific vision of God, that life will be far more real to you than the shadowlands in which we live today. So the Christian longing, your longing and mine, should be oriented to that great end like the psalmist was when he said, “One thing I asked of the Lord, and that will seek after that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon His beauty, the beauty of the Lord.” That should be our longing for that is our destiny.
At the end of Revelation, the throne of God and the Lamb, shall be in that city, His servants shall worship Him, and they will see His face. The face of God and the Lamb. Why? Because the Lord God will be their light.
Beloved, that is our goal. That’s our destiny. That’s the point of living, to see that light, to be in the blaze of His glory and by that light to see light.
Let’s pray together. Lord, we pray that in Your mercy You’d give us through this vision, this revelation given to Peter, James, and John, a vision of our future with Christ, which is by far the best. Amen.