transfiguration2003_02Mark 9

1.  And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.”

This statement is very difficult for some to handle.  Some would suggest that this was referring to His transfiguration.  If this was the case, then Christ is a poor prophet, for it wouldn’t be sticking your neck out very far to tell twelve people that some of them will be alive six days from now!  Yet what else could this mean, it might be asked?  When did the kingdom of God come with power during the lifetime of these men?

The reason many have a problem with this verse is because they do not understand the parenthesis that is the modern-day dispensation of grace.  The truth of the matter is that the kingdom of God began the moment Christ was raised from the dead, and continued throughout the time of the actions of the apostles until the salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles.  At that point began a parenthesis within the kingdom of God wherein God is working, not through government (as He did and will do in the kingdom,) but rather exclusively through His grace.  This time period was never prophesied, and encompasses all the time since the apostolic period through the present and into the future, when God will return to His kingdom program and take the kingdom up where He left it off, at the end of the night period and the beginning of the day period of the kingdom (Romans 13:12.)

Therefore, since the Kingdom of God began at Christ’s resurrection, those men standing there did live to see it present with power!  That is, all except Judas Iscariot, who died by hanging himself prior to this event, which is the reason Christ didn’t say that they would ALL not taste death until they saw the kingdom of God present.  Thus, eleven of these twelve men were alive and saw the kingdom of God present with power.  Why then do we not see the kingdom present today if it was present in the lifetime of those men?  The reason is not because it did not come and they did not see it.  It did come, but it came only for a short period of time, and then the remainder of it was delayed until a future time.  This, in many ways, is the key to the understanding of the Acts period, and certainly is the key to understanding this difficult verse.

2.  Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.

Six days after the event described in the last verse and the end of chapter eight, the Lord takes these three disciples up on a high mountain apart by themselves.  These three seem to have been the most privileged among the twelve, and received the greatest revelations from the Lord.  Now, they see Him transformed before them.  This Greek word is transform (metamorphoo,) not transfigured, which is another Greek word (metaschematizo.)  The Lord’s form was changed.  How is not said, but we do learn more in the next verse.

3.  His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

Although this verse does not describe to us how the Lord Himself changed, we do learn that His clothes changed as well.  They became white like snow, whiter than any launderer on earth could whiten them.  We can imagine that in the Lord’s day, getting a cloth truly white would have been a difficult task indeed.  Rare was the fabric that was not at least a little off-color to begin with, and once you had an off-white cloth, what could you use to whiten it?  They did not have all the fancy chemical bleaches that we have today.  Yet we could wonder if even today with all our laundering technology if we could possibly whiten anything like the Lord’s clothes were whitened here?  I would tend to doubt it, although we could certainly come closer than they could then.

4.  And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

Now Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets previous to John the Baptist, appear with the Lord.  This would have indeed been a grand sight, the Lord Jesus in all His glory, along with these great men.  Of these men, it is interesting to note that Elijah was translated to heaven, and Moses was buried by God Himself.  Could it be that this has something to do with why these two in particular were chosen for this vision?

5.  Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”–

Peter, often the one to speak without thinking, blurts out a plan for capitalizing on this amazing event.  He suggests the building of three tabernacles: one for the Lord Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.  The word for “tabernacles” here is the Greek word skenas.  The root word for this is skene, from which we get our English word “scene.”  A “scene” is the acting out of a particular event, usually in a play.  Yet we do use scene for the stage on which we act out such events, like we might speak of “this earthly scene.”  Thus, your “scene” is where you act out the events of your life.  The idea behind “tabernacle” is almost what we would call a “base of operations.”  That is really what Peter wanted to build here: a base of operations for each of these three men.

How did Peter and the others know that these men were Moses and Elijah?  He had never seen them before, nor did they have pictures of them back then any more than we do today.  More than likely they mentioned each other’s names in their conversation with Jesus Christ.  At any rate, God wanted Peter, James, and John to know who these men were, and so they knew, however it was communicated to them.

6.  Because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.

We learn here that Peter made his rash statement out of not knowing what else to say.  It seems that Peter was the type who couldn’t keep quiet even if it would have been better to do so.  It certainly would have been better to do so in this case, as what he said was most definitely in error.  His problem was in placing the Lord Jesus in an equal place and an equal position with mere men, even though these men were two of the greatest men of the Old Testament.  The Lord is far superior to any man, and His tabernacle must be above all others, and not equal with any.

7.  And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son.  Hear Him!”

Peter’s rash statement brings an end to the vision.  A cloud comes and covers them, and they hear a miraculous voice.  Some would say that this is the “voice of God.”  Yet God does not have a human form, as we do, except for that of Jesus Christ, and of course this was not Him talking here.   God does not have vocal cords, and does not speak naturally as we speak.  This voice, though it did come from God, did not come out of God’s mouth or through God’s vocal cords, but rather as a result of a miraculous creation of a voice by God.  We might call this “the miracle of the voice,” for so it must be for God to speak, if He does not speak through the mouth of Jesus Christ.  God speaks through this voice, and confirms to them the superiority of the Son over even the great lawgiver and the great prophet.

8.  Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves.

Now, the cloud suddenly clears away, and looking around they see that no one but Jesus is with them.  It would be good if we too would come to the place where all the other things we might place up beside Him would clear away and we too would see Jesus only.

9.  Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Once again Jesus demonstrates that He did not want Himself preached as the Messiah until after His resurrection.  Thus, those who claim that “the Jews” rejected their Messiah by hanging Him on a cross are found to be in error, for these people were never even positively told that this WAS their Messiah.  God’s plan was that this should not be announced to them until after His death and resurrection was accomplished.

10.  So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.

The disciples obeyed His words, questioning only among themselves what the rising from the dead means.  Therefore, they had faith in the Lord’s words and obeyed them, unlike some of those whom He healed who ignored what He said and told about Him anyway.  These disciples had faith, when some of those who were healed by Him had little.  Therefore it is clear that great faith was not necessary to be healed by Jesus.  Many today seem to think this was the case, but it clearly was not, as many of those healed did not even have enough faith to keep their mouths shut when the Lord told them to do so.  Yet these three disciples had such faith, and we can commend them for it.  Of course, once His resurrection was accomplished, they could and did tell about this event, and thus it came to be in the Word of God.

11.  And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

The disciples question Jesus about the saying of the scribes that Elijah must come first.  Since Jesus was already there with them, they were wondering when Elijah would come.

12.  Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things.  And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt?

The Lord Jesus confirms that what the scribes said was right, as this is plainly stated in Malachi 4:5-6.

5.  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet

Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

6.  And he will turn

The hearts of the fathers to the children,

And the hearts of the children to their fathers,

Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

The Lord confirms that this will happen, and reveals that not only will Elijah do this, but will also restore all things.  Restoring all things here means in Greek putting them back to the way they were before, or even better.  In other words, Elijah will restore Israel to all the glory it had during its most prosperous years, or even better!  But after revealing this, the Lord asks them a question, one which points out the error they had made that caused them to question why Elijah had not come yet.  He asked them why it was written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be treated with contempt.  If they had known the correct answer, they would have known that the second coming of Elijah will proceed the second coming of Christ, even though it did not proceed the first.  His suffering and death was the key to their mystery, but they could not understand that yet.

13.  “But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.”

Of course, the Lord Jesus spoke of John the Baptist here.  Some would indicate that this means that the prophecy of Malachi 4 was fulfilled by John the Baptist.  Yet could this be what Christ meant when He said that Elijah has come, when He just said back in verse 12 that he is coming (and thus has not come yet)?  This explanation, although it saves those who propose it from having to fit a second coming of Elijah into their prophetic schemes, does not really answer what is said here.

I believe that the explanation to this is that John worked for the Lord’s first coming much the same office that Elijah will work for His second, that is, the job of preparing the way.  However, we must make note that John the Baptist not only did not restore all things to their former glory, but he in fact did not restore anything to its former glory.  Nor did he turn the hearts of the children to their fathers or the hearts of the fathers to their children, as far as we can tell.  And even if he did, this was all almost two thousand years ago.  How then could what he did then keep the Lord from striking the earth with a curse when He comes the second time?  Could what John did back then possibly affect a still future event in such a staggering way?  I cannot believe so.  All John did was prepare the way for Christ in the hearts of the people.  He in no wise fulfilled the prophecy concerning Elijah.  Moreover, John himself confirmed that he was not Elijah in John 1:21.  And finally, Elijah was a grown man when he was translated to heaven (II Kings 2,) and is still alive there as far as we can tell.  How then could he be born as a baby like John was?  Surely we do not believe in reincarnation?

No, John was not Elijah, he only acted in the same office.  As I said, those who claim that John fulfilled that prophecy fail to note that Jesus in the previous verses said that Elijah must come first, confirming that he had not come yet.  The reason he had not come was that Christ had to suffer and die before he could make his appearance.  But Elijah will still come, and will work a similar work to that of John in preparing the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ.