Matthew 16:28-17:8; Mark 9:1-8; Luke 9:27-36
The Transfiguration and the Coming Kingdom
So exactly what does the term, “kingdom of God” mean? It is an important question to answer if we shall properly interpret much of the New Testament; after all, Jesus was constantly speaking about the kingdom of God, or kingdom of heaven, the terms being synonymous. Scholars believe, and I agree, that the kingdom of God refers to God’s reign over His people, made real through his Son’s death, resurrection, and ascension. And as His Son has already done all of this, well then, God’s kingdom is a current reality. Oh, it awaits its complete fulfillment when we shall be with Him forever; but until then, as members of Christ through saving faith who have been raised with him unto new life (Colossians 3:1), we already experience the benefits of living under our Lord’s reign in that kingdom, awaiting our ultimate transformation when he returns. And this is what the last verse of yesterday’s passage refers to: “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” Christ did not mean the full glory of that kingdom when he comes again, but the reality of that kingdom which they would soon experience, which was either his transfiguration, his resurrection and ascension, or the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, or even all three. Through each of these wonderful events, the disciples saw the kingdom’s coming in their lifetime.
As for the rest of the passage (which I take up on the last Sunday before Lent in these devotions), it is crucial to see how the transfiguration connects the two testaments together, our Lord fulfilling the Old and inaugurating the New. Moses and Elijah appear in glory with Jesus, his clothing in dazzling white, and speak with him of “his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Why Moses and Elijah? Moses represents the law, Elijah represents the prophets. Together, these two represent the old covenant God made with Israel under the law, and the prophecies made to Israel about the coming Messiah. Jesus fulfills both the law and the prophets in his role as our Prophet teaching what had not been heard since the foundation of the world (Matthew 13:35, Psalm 78:1-4), our faithful High Priest who lives the sinless life and then offers himself as the spotless lamb of God on our behalf (John 1:29, 36; Hebrews 4:14-16), and our present and future King who comes to rescue and save us (1 Thessalonians 1:10; Revelation 19:16).
Peter, not knowing what to say, makes a silly request. The Father responds: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!” May we hear that command as well.