Brethren Archive

The Transfiguration.

by Leonard Strong

Thoughts upon it, as described severally by Matthew, Mark and Luke;
in a letter to a friend.

YOUR welcome letter was received last evening, and I was much amused at your appeal to me on the subject of the transfiguration.  Truly, if you have dreamt what you have propounded, you have had a most pleasant dream, which I deem to be plainly borne out by the Scriptures of God.
In the first place, the transfiguration is a foreshadowing of the kingdom of the Son of man, the Son of God, and the kingdom of God to come.  In Matthew's Gospel, the Lord is mentioned as saying, that some of them standing there should see "the Son of man coming in His kingdom."  And after six days, (denoting the seventh day as the kingdom, the millennium period, the Sabbath or rest promised to the people of God), Peter, James, and John, are taken apart into a mountain, where Himself, the Son of man, (Dan. vii.) Himself the seed of Abraham, and Son of David, the subject of Matthew's Gospel, (see Matt. i. 1.) was transfigured before them.  How?  "His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light."
Here He is unveiled as one properly connected with this earth, and the dispensations proper to it, i.e., His earthly relationship as the seed of Abraham, and King of Israel!—the light of the earth, the Sun of Righteousness, Who will rise upon it with healing in His wings—the Jehovah's Christ, and Lord of the Sabbath of the earth.
Moses and Elias are seen talking with Him, as those who had foreseen and foreshewn that day of the kingdom, and their thoughts in fellowship with it.  They might also, in their persons and former office, prefigure the fiery purifying judgments that will certainly usher in the kingdom as mentioned in Malachi and Zechariah, the prophets, as also by the apostle, (2 Thess. 1.) while Moses, in connection with Israel, was their deliverer, lawgiver, prophet, mediator, &c.
The disciples under the cloud, foreshadowed the Jewish remnant waking up at the revealed glory of their Messiah, and the voice out of the cloud commanding them to hear and shelter themselves forever under the beloved Son of God in Whom He is well pleased!
In Mark ix., the Lord is mentioned as saying, "Until they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."  This also is after six days, pointing to the seventh day as the time.
The gospel of Mark is the setting forth of the Son of God as acting in power upon the earth, and in Israel in healing and restoring mercies!  The minister of gracious power to His poor suffering creatures, a service of power availing over every form of evil that Satan and sin had brought into the world.  Divine power acting in holy grace.  In Matthew's Gospel, honour is thrown upon His person and office, "His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment, was white as the light;" while in Mark, the fashion of His person is not alluded to, only the robes in which He serves are noticed!  Most blessed indeed is the character of His service of grace in power!  Garments of praise on Him, Who once wore the spirit of heaviness—Who wept and groaned among the sorrows and tears He removed and wiped away in His services of love and power when upon earth.  In this scene, His raiment became shining, exceeding white, so as no fuller upon earth can whiten them.  So will He come then, the Healer and Restorer, when the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf be unstopped, the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing, in such heavenly purity, not cleansed purity, but His original purity; so will He then come in power; yes, the glory of God's Son,—His righteous servant is heavenly white.
Here also the disciples speak and are overshadowed with the cloud, and again told to hear the beloved Son of God only.
Now we come to Luke, who gives a full personal portrait of our dear Lord, as the Son of man and Son of God.  The new man—the second man—the Lord from Heaven, born of a woman, by the power of the Holy Ghost.  "The holy thing born of thee shall be called the Son of God," said the angel Gabriel, and He was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from among the dead; in which power He ascended above the heavens, and became the last Adam and Head of the new created human race, as well as new creation.
Thus, while in Matthew's Gospel, they were told to expect a view of the Son of man coming in His kingdom; in Mark, to "see the kingdom of God come with power;" in Luke, the Lord told them they would "see the kingdom of God!  Him in Whom the kingdom of God was!  Yes; to see the Lord in glory would be to see the kingdom of God!  He was then speaking as the Son of man.
Now let us seriously mark the distinction here from the other gospels.  First in the days.  In Matthew and Mark, it is "after six days;" in Luke, "about eight days after."  This is a definite distinction marking dispensation.  Things that belong to the present Heaven and earth are included in the seventh day.  All things that are written in the books of Moses, Psalms, and prophets must be fulfilled before this heaven and earth pass away, (Matt. v. 12, 18.)  All things must be put under His feet.  The last enemy destroyed is death.  "Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him Who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all."  The day of the Lord is the seventh day, and has an end; the day of God, {on account of which (see 2 Peter iii. 12, Greek) the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, &c.} is the eighth day, the new creation, new heavens and earth, where God tabernacles with man, and God is all in all.
In Matthew and Mark, the Lord is speaking of Himself in the relationship He came to be owned in by Israel.  He came to His own; but His own received Him not!  In order that He might be owned, and might claim them as His own, He dies for their transgression and their sin of unbelief and rejection, and for all sin; and in His resurrection power of the eighth day, the first day, when He rose from the dead in that power, He will claim, as Lord of all, the dominion and glory that belong to Him after the six days, even the seventh day glory, as Lord of the Sabbath.  The day of the Lord.
In His Own blessed person, He connected man with God, by His perfect faith, His perfect obedience.  He manifested in His person, all that God required in man, and all that love and fellowship which God desired and will have with His creature man.  So here in Luke, the true glory, the eighth-day glory, is revealed in the person of Christ.  He leads them up into a mountain to pray.  He humbles Himself into the form of a servant, and then is highly exalted.  Glory does not occur in Matthew and Mark, where that proper only to the six days after is revealed; but now, the resurrection—the eighth day, the glory is seen.  "They saw His glory."  The divine glory His Father has given Him.  Let us read it.  "And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistening."  Here then we have His moral perfectness as man, and His divine glory incorporated in Himself.
It is only in Luke that we read of Him coming among the people to John's baptism, and that as He prayed, the Heavens opened.  Here then is a portrait of His true glory.  Man, in open fellowship with God!  It is in Luke's Gospel that we have a perfect portrait of the kingdom of God in the personal glory of our Lord.  He is here displayed in the full glory of His Headship!  He has associated with Him two men, Moses and Elias, who appeared with Him in glory, according to that spoken by the apostle, (Col. iii. 4.)  "When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory!"  Again, "The glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them," (John xvii. 22.)  They are personally and visibly like Him.  We are predestined to be conformed to His image.  As servants, these men were good types of our service now as Christians; as sons, good types of our present condition, sons and heirs, then to be manifested as co-heirs!  The dead, as Moses raised in glory—the living, as Elijah changed to glory, shall go up together to meet the Lord, and reign with Him in the glory of His kingdom.  Then their discourse with Him is about His death, which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.  Surely those who now through faith have fellowship with Him in His death, shall have fellowship with Him in His resurrection.  Thus, as you say, we have, in order to make up a perfect illuminated portrait of the kingdom of God, a raised and a changed believer introduced in glory with the Lord.
Moses, a servant of God, died and was buried by God, none knowing of his sepulchre, but Satan.  Elijah, a man of like passions with us, a servant and prophet of God, was translated to Heaven without death.  That Moses was raised, we are told by Jude in his Epistle, where, enjoining upon us not to speak evil of dignities, however wicked, instances as an example, Michael, the archangel, who, when raising the body of Moses, being resisted by Satan, who had power over death until our Lord had died, brought against him no railing accusation; but said, The Lord rebuke thee; and in that name, raised the body of Moses for the especial purpose of association with Elijah in glory at His transfiguration.
It is also in Luke only, that the disciples, who represent personally the Jewish remnant in this prefiguring of the coming kingdom, are mentioned as asleep, and waking up to behold the glory of Christ with His risen saints.  Yes, it will be this manifestation of Christ and the sons of God, that will be for the conversion of Israel in that day.  This is the glory that rises upon Israel in that day, when Christ shall come to be glorified in His saints and admired in them who believe!
That the transfiguration is the prefiguring of the coming kingdom, we have not only the plain words of our Lord Himself to prove; but we are solemnly reminded of it by the Apostle Peter; not Peter as he was when he was himself in the scene, ignorant and sleepy; but as he understood it all after the Lord was gone up, and had shed down the Holy Ghost, the Teacher of all things, showing forth things to come! 2 Peter i.  In that epistle, the apostle emphatically declares unto us, who are waiting for the coming and kingdom of our Lord, that he is not following cunningly devised fables, when he makes known unto us the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; but was an eyewitness of His Majesty.  "For He received from God the Father, honour 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.  We have also the Prophetic Word more sure, whereunto ye do well to take heed in your hearts until the day dawn and the day-star arise!"
This, dear friend, is a brief statement and exposition of the whole subject, as explained by the Scriptures.  May the Lord Himself cause the hope to be sweeter as the day approaches.
Yours in the blessed hope,
Brampton, Torquay.  LEONARD STRONG.
"The Voice Upon The Mountains" 1868

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