Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 10, 2017
27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” 28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 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. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
— Luke 9:27-36, ESV
Kings and kingdoms are glorious things. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of them. The members of the royal family in England are always in the news. Kings and princes in Saudi Arabian ride in fancy cars, each one more expensive than the gross domestic product of the state of Arkansas. Kings know how to flaunt their kingdoms.
The greatest King and kingdom of all, however, has been historically low key. Most people do not recognize this King or desire to live in His kingdom. Yet both are supremely wonderful and infinitely mysterious, encompassing the past, present, and future. The King is a person who has come, the kingdom is a place where we can presently live, and both are coming together in a promised and perfect future.
When Jesus Christ was born, the kingdom of God came to man. Joseph and Mary saw it, as did Simeon, Anna, and many others. The King and the kingdom of God has come, two thousand years ago.
During his earthly ministry, to those who accepted Him and followed Him, Jesus plainly told them the kingdom of God was at hand and in their midst. The kingdom exists wherever and in whomever Jesus Christ is Lord. The kingdom of God is here, now, where two or more are gathered in His name.
The final arrival of the kingdom of God, however, is often described in one word: glory. Dōxa is the Greek word, from where we get our Doxology. It means the most, literally, the most exalted person and place. This phase of the kingdom has yet to arrive, since Jesus is not yet exalted in all the world. But He will be, at His sure and soon second coming, with which He will usher in a new heaven and new earth that is brilliant, spotless, and full of glory.
In the previous passage in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus promised that his true disciples, those who are not ashamed of Him and of whom He is not ashamed, would see His “glory” (ref. Luke 9:26). Then, He promised that three of them would get an early glimpse. The transfiguration of Jesus Christ that Peter, James, and John witnessed encompasses the glory of the past, present, and future. Thorough the word of God, we can catch a glimpse and sing with the angels about all three realms of glory.
Glory is a glimpse of the saints who have gone to be with the Lord.
Four men went off by themselves to pray. In Luke’s Gospel, every time Jesus prays, something dramatic happens. In this case, Jesus was transformed from the inside out and Paradise was paraded on the mountaintop. What’s more, four men became six.
Moses and Elijah are added to the mix in this glimpse of glory. At the time of the transfiguration, Moses had been dead for 1,400 years and Elijah disappeared without a trace about 900 years earlier. Yet here they were, real men in real time talking with the real God about real things, namely Jesus’ departure, which in the original language is called His exodus. Moses and Elijah are the go to guys on that subject.
“Has anybody seen, my old friend Martin, can you tell me where’s he’s gone? He freed a lot of people but the good they die young. I just looked around and he’s gone.” Dion sang this song in 1968 about the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, good men long gone. Dion didn’t know where they went. Since those four included a life-long agnostic, a lapsed Catholic, a Baptist preacher of the social gospel, and one devout Catholic, I cannot speak for them as a group.
Has anybody seen, our old friends Moses and Elijah? Can you tell me where they’ve gone? They’ve gone to be with the Lord in glory, and in this glimpse they appear with Jesus and are witnessed by Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah were saints, and a saint is any person chosen by God, saved by grace, who persevered throughout life, and is now in the glorious presence of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
This is the first reason for Christ’s transfiguration. It gives us a glimpse of glory. It provides blessed assurance that our loved ones who lived for the Lord Jesus Christ are in a much better place, walking and talking with Jesus, and enjoying the glory of God.
Glory is a glimpse we get now when we walk with the Lord.
Now that we’ve looked at those two from the past, let’s focus on the three in that present moment. Peter, James, and John were Jesus’ inner circle. They were fast friends, true followers, men who walked with the Lord, literally and spiritually. Most of their time with Jesus included dirt roads, cramped houses and synagogues, ire from religious rulers, and the fickleness of the crowds. But for one shining moment, a glimpse of glory is in their view.
Most of a Christian’s time today is spent in mixed company doing the mundane. We are surrounded by unbelievers and a few fellow believers. We live in neighborhoods, work jobs, and enjoy recreation with people of all stripes, striving to enjoy life and bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Once in a while, however, we come into a cloud. The cloud is the pure presence of God. There’s no one in it but God and God’s people. It may be a quiet time with just God, you, and a Bible. It may be a worship hour with a church of people who revere the word of God, observe the sacraments, and discipline themselves to sincerely follow Christ. These are clouds, present tense glimpses of the glory of God.
The key to coming into these cloud moments seems to be an unfettered allegiance to the word of God. God’s word in this moment was an admonition to listen to the pure words of Jesus Christ. Black letters matter, too, according to Simon Peter, who would later write that time spent in the word is preferred to the experience he enjoyed at the transfiguration (ref. 2 Peter 1:16-18). We can get a glimpse of glory, right now, just by reading and heeding the word of God. But the best is still yet to come.
Glory is what we will gaze at when we see the Lord.
The reason Simon Peter valued the word of God over his experience at the transfiguration is that the word is constant, while the transfiguration was instant. The word is ever present, the transfiguration a fading memory. But the day will come when faith in God’s word will give way to the sight of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, coming again in all of His glory. A glimpse of glory will give way to a panoramic view that will never fade away.
Jesus was momentarily radiant on the mount of transfiguration. He will be permanently radiant when we see Him through the veil of death or at His second coming to earth. The disciples were momentarily stunned at the sight of the transfiguration, the glory of the Lord, the appearance of the saints. So will we, but we will just have to get used to it. John, writing many years later, summed it up best when he wrote, “We know that when [Jesus] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (ref. 1 John 3:2). Glory to God, indeed, and glory for all of God’s people.
The only thing bad about the future glory of the King and His kingdom is that we have to wait for it. For now, like Christ and His chosen three, we have to come down from the mountain. We find, as they do in the next narrative in Luke, Satan and sickness and other stuff opposed to God’s glory are all around us. We suffer from past wounds. We struggle with present challenges. So from time to time, we need to keep looking up, up to this mount of transfiguration. In it we catch a glimpse of God’s glory. But one day, we will revel in it, forever and ever. Amen.
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