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A Glimpse of Kingdom Glory

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 17:1–8; Mark 9:2–8; Luke 9:28–36

God’s Word assures us that Christ’s kingdom will one day be established on earth. The transfiguration is a brief but glorious preview of that kingdom, when we will serve alongside saints of all the ages in the presence of Jesus Christ.


No matter how far back you study world history, no matter where you travel today, the concept of eternity has been—and still is—a part of every culture in every generation around the world. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 Solomon tells us why, writing that God has put eternity in our hearts. Let me tell you, everybody out there knows there is something more beyond this life.

If I were to ask you to take me to a passage in the Bible to give me a glimpse of what life is like in eternity, where would you turn? Well, you could turn to Matthew, Mark, or Luke, which all record a stunning event we call the transfiguration. This takes place about a week after Peter’s bedrock confession of Jesus being the Son of God. Here is what happens, as describe by Luke’s Gospel:

He took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. (Luke 9:28-29)

It is like the curtain is pulled back for a moment and we can see the Lord’s glory as the King of heaven. Verse 32 indicates the disciples had fallen asleep and are just now beginning to wake up as all this starts to happen. They are rubbing the sleep out of their eyes as this mountaintop lights up.

Over in Matthew 17:2, we read, “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” The word Matthew uses for “transfigured” is metamorphoō, which gives us our word metamorphosis.

You could think of it this way: the glory that was always in Jesus as fully God, though robed in flesh and blood as fully man—well, that glory rose to the surface, so to speak, for this incredible display. Mark 9:3 says, “And his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.”

Evidently Mark has had some trouble getting his T-shirts white—and bleach just will not do the job. He says here that the robe of Jesus was whiter than any bleach could whiten them.

It is more than His clothes, though. There is a brilliant light emitting from the Lord’s body, which is turning everything into blazing, dazzling light. The miracles of Jesus have shown us what He can do; this mountaintop moment shows us who He is.[1] He just lets a little light peek out, and it is nothing less than staggering, brilliant light.

Now let me add here that this is a glimpse into your own eternal glory as a child of God. The apostle John is one of the three men here on this mountaintop, and he writes in 1 John 3:2 that one day when Jesus appears, we shall be like Him.

In fact, your future, beloved, is previewed here in two men who show up on this mountaintop. Luke writes in verse 30 of chapter 9:

And behold, two men were talking with [Jesus], Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [His exodus].

Just as the book of Exodus gives us the account of Israel’s exit from Egypt—that is what Exodus means—so Jesus is talking with Moses and Elijah about His own exit from this earth and back to glory. The conversation undoubtedly would have included everything from His crucifixion to His ascension back to glory.[2] And do not miss this: these events that take place in Jerusalem are not accidents. Jesus is not a victim; He is a willing sacrifice.

But why are Moses and Elijah the ones who are here talking to Jesus? Jesus had preached to the people, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Now on the mountain, He is talking to Moses, who represented the Law, and Elijah, who represented the prophets.

Just think about this: Moses has been dead for 1500 years, and Elijah was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot some 900 years earlier; but here they are, alive and well! This is clear evidence that there is more than just life beyond the grave; there is intelligent life beyond the grave, a glorious and useful life beyond the grave.[3]

Think about the staggering implications of life in eternity. Moses and Elijah are still Moses and Elijah. They did not lose their identity as Moses and Elijah. They even have their same names, and they are still talking and thinking about the future. But now in perfection they are shining in glorious splendor. And they have bodies, by the way; they are not in some soul-sleep limbo awaiting the resurrection. They are communicating with each other. In fact, Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus about real events that will take place on earth; so, they evidently know something about what is happening on earth.

Like I said, there are staggering, exciting implications of eternity in this brief glimpse into glory.

Peter, James, and John are wide awake now. Luke’s narrative continues:

When they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”––not knowing what he said. (verses 32-33)

The three tents Peter suggests are little booths like the Jewish people built during their Feast of Tabernacles, an annual feast remembering their wilderness wandering as well as anticipating the coming kingdom.

As far as Peter is concerned, the kingdom is about to begin. But suddenly, verse 34 says, “As [Peter] was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.”

I bet they were. This is not some low-hanging cloud, by the way. This is the cloud of God’s presence that filled the temple centuries earlier (1 Kings 8).[4]

Luke adds in verse 35: “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’” The wording used by the Father makes it clear in the Greek language that His command is directed to the disciples: “You disciples, listen to Him!”

Beloved, you are going to hear a lot of voices out there in the world; test everything you hear against God’s Word. His Word is the final authority. Do not be led astray. Listen to Him!

Well, the disciples are evidently ready to listen and not talk, because we are told at the end of verse 36, “And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.”

Matthew, in fact, tells us that as they came down the mountain, Jesus told them not to say anything about what they had seen until after His resurrection.

Why not? Because as amazing as this experience was, it was not the foundation for their Christian lives. We do not rely on experiences that come and go, no matter how stunning or sensational they might be. The Word of God is the basis for our daily Christian lives. It never changes.[5]

Peter, James, and John did not spend the rest of their lives running around telling everybody they were on that mountaintop. In fact, outside of one brief mention of it in 2 Peter chapter 1, none of them wrote about it.

You do not build your life on what you have seen or what you have experienced. You build your life on who He is, and the Word of God He has given to you.

Do not forget, one day we will see Him. Like Moses and Elijah, we will live in eternity, surrounded by the glory of God, bearing in our future, immortal bodies the dazzling, brilliant light of our King.

[1] David E. Garland, Luke, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2011), 397.

[2] Ibid., 394.

[3] Ivor Powell, Luke’s Thrilling Gospel (Kregel, 1984), 228.

[4] Bruce B. Barton, Dave Veerman, and Linda K. Taylor, Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke (Tyndale, 1997), 252.

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Compassionate (Victor Books, 1989), 106.

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