The Mount Of Transfiguration


I have been studying the 16th verse from the gospel of Matthew that I have heard quoted many times and never quite understood completely the meaning. I, like many, put it in context of Chapter 16 in which it is located and thought it was referring to the second coming of Christ.

My study has led me into a much larger study which is consistent with any study of the word of God. I should not always be so amazed but I always seem to be anyway about how the Bible which was written by so many different authors over thousands of years and yet how each book testifies of the others and everything falls so perfectly in order. I must praise the Lord for opening my eyes and helping me to understand the things He desires me to know.

Let's start with the verse in question before we set the scene and dig into the study.

Matthew 16:28 KJV 28Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.


The problem here is that we know Jesus was talking to His disciples at the time and we know all the apostles/disciples have passed away, how can this be? As we read on into chapter 17 of Matthew we find the story of Christ' transfiguration. This same story is also related in the Gospel of Mark 9:2-13 and Luke 9:28-36.

Matthew 17:1-9 KJV 1And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun and his raiment was white as the light. 3And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. 9And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.


Before we look at this story verse by verse let's set the scene: Jesus and the disciples have come to the coast of Cassarea Philippi near the base of Mount Hermon and as He is talking with the disciples. He asks them, "Who do men say that I the son of man am?" Peter answers: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then Jesus began to teach the disciples how He must go to Jerusalem to suffer, die and be raised the third day to which Peter tried to rebuke Jesus telling Him that cannot happen to Him. Here we see Jesus utter the infamous words - 'Get thee behind me Satan.'

1And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

There are several theories as to why Jesus took just the three, Peter, James and John up to the mountain with Him: One states that Jesus had just told the disciples that 'there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.' Peter, James and John were considered the most spiritual of the disciples and thus the chosen ones to see the fulfillment of Jesus' words and to bring understanding about His death and resurrection. To clear up their present spiritual confusion they needed to have this mountain top experience. Another states that because the Bible is full of types and shadows the transfiguration was a glimpse of the coming kingdom that Christ was referring to and the three disciples are a shadow or picture of the overcoming remnant church that will be caught up at the rapture.

1 John 3:2 2Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 51Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.


Philippians 3:20-21; 20 for our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Here we must note that Christ was transfigured in their sight which could be symbolic of the change the church will experience at the rapture. As for the other disciples who were not taken to the mountain top, let's read on in chapter 17 of Matthews's gospel: 14And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16And I brought him to thy disciples and they could not cure him. 17Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to me. 18And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, why could not we cast him out? 20And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Verse 17 has Jesus saying they are a faithless and perverse generation while verse 20 has Jesus talking directly to the disciples in answer to their question of why they could not cast out the demon. We know from scripture that: 'the just shall live by faith' those who have been called to claim the name of Christ and become the sons and daughters of God must pick up the cross daily and walk by faith.

Hebrews 11:5-6 KJV 5By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.


6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Then there are those who just think it was a coincidence the three came along with Jesus and the others stayed behind, but it has been my experience that there are no coincidences when God is involved.

Matthew 17:1b 17and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart.

Now Jesus and the disciples were at Caesarea Philippi which is near Mount Hermon but church tradition has established Mt. Tabor as the mount of Transfiguration, although Mt. Tabor is a good six days journey from Caesarea Philippi if you don't tarry along the way.



The best explanation I have heard for this discrepancy is from Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa: Now in years to come when they sought to establish the Holy Land as a tourist attraction for Christians from throughout the world, in establishing where the holy sights were, that is where the events actually happened, most of the holy sights were established by the mother of Constantine some three hundred years, plus or minus, after Jesus was crucified. And she established the holy sights by her feelings when she stood in a spot, "oh, this feels like the spot where He must have been born. I feel an interesting sensation. Surely this must be the cave where He was born. Or this must be the place where the angel announced to Mary that she was going to conceive and have a child. This must be the place where He lived." And she went around the country establishing these holy sights, and they began to build churches on these holy sights to commemorate these places where Jesus supposedly did these various things.

In her establishing of the holy sights it's obvious that she wasn't too familiar with the scriptures. And it's also obvious that they wanted to make it convenient for tourists. So they established the sight of the transfiguration on Mount Tabor, which is sort of in the middle of the land near the Sea of Galilee, and in the area of the Valley of Megiddo. They said that's where Jesus was transfigured, so they would have an excuse to build a huge church on the top of Mount Tabor. And after all, how many tourists are going to journey all the way up to Mount Hermon to see the place where He was transfigured.

2And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun and his raiment was white as the light.

The word transfigured comes from the verb 'metamorphoo'. We get the English word Metamorphosis from it. I remember in school watching a film of a caterpillar building a cocoon and through the magic of time lapse photography seeing a beautiful butterfly emerge. It has gone through a metamorphosis, a complete change of form. By using this word the writers are making the point that Jesus didn't just change superficially but made a substantial transformation of His whole being.


Luke 9:29 KJV 29and as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.

What the disciples were seeing was His true divine nature as God revealed it through his human nature. He didn't just take on a glow on the outside but changed from the inside out.

2 Peter 1:16 Peter says in best: 16For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

3And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

Now we have more scripture being fulfilled in the sight of Peter, James and John. Standing in front of them is Moses the lawgiver who has been dead for 1451 years and Elijah the greatest prophet, who has been gone for 896 years. Here they stand talking with the Saviour who had said he would not pass away until all the law and the prophets were fulfilled. Most believe that Moses represents the 'dead in Christ' and Elijah represents the 'raptured saints' since Elijah never tasted death but was raptured or translated to heaven.


1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 KJV 15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

We are not told the whole conversation that took place there on the mountain with the Lord, Moses and Elijah but in Luke's gospel we are given the essential of what the conversation was: Luke 9:31 KJV 'Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

4Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here:
if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

I think the fact that the disciples knew immediately who Moses and Elijah were, although both had been gone for a very long time, proves we will know and be known in heaven even by those we have never seen.

In verse four we find Peter being Peter, like a lot of us saying something just to say something without first stopping to think which brings about a very unexpected and unlooked for response --- 5While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

This is no ordinary cloud, this is the Shekinah glory cloud that has marked the presence of God throughout the ages, we find it in Exodus 24, 34, 40, Numbers 10, and Kings 8 to name some scriptures and out of it comes the voice of God. There is no doubt in any mind who God is talking about and giving authority to and approval of the plan to go to Jerusalem, but don't miss the command of the last three words: 'hear ye Him' - it is Christ who is to be heard and obeyed!

Peter later referred to the event in 2 Peter 1:18 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor 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.

What a glorious experience the three disciples had on that mountain top! Mountain top experiences are what each and every child of God should strive for as they learn to develop their faith and walk with the Saviour. Don't be led astray by the world but come boldly before the throne of grace and tell your Father the mountain top experience is the only experience you will be satisfied with, you have come to serve and bring glory to your Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

Bob Goulding © September 2006

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