The Glorious Mount

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: The brightest manmade light on earth emanates from the top of the Luxor hotel, a giant pyramid structure, in Las Vegas, Nevada. A total of 45 xenon lights, each one as big as a washing machine and with the brightest bulb available, shoots a powerful blast of radiant light straight up into the sky. The light beaming from the top of this artificial mountain is so bright, astronauts can see it as they fly overhead. Airline pilots are cautioned to avoid the area, as the beam of light can blind them temporarily if they fly through it. Sadly, this light is totally wasted--it's not illuminating anything as it blazes into empty space.

Did you know there is a story in the Bible that tells of a mountaintop blazing with heavenly light? Even though it is seldom addressed, this event, called the Mount of Transfiguration, or sometimes the Glorious Mount, is one of the most pivotal moments in the New Testament. This monumental experience found in the Gospels of Matthew 16, Mark 9, and Luke 9 is full of profound meaning for Christians, and it helps illuminate many other amazing Bible truths.

Ascending to the Light
After a long day of teaching and ministering to the multitudes, Christ and His disciples separate from the clamoring crowds. Jesus then says something very unusual: "There are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power" (Mark 9:1 NKJV). It probably seemed to His disciples that Jesus was predicting something really big. But what?

Then, six days after Jesus makes this cryptic announcement, they reach the foot of a "high mountain." There He handpicks His own trusted "trinity" of apostles - Peter, James, and John - and with them in tow, He leaves the others in the valley and begins the long climb up the steep hill. As the sun is setting, they finally stumble wearily onto the summit. Jesus immediately kneels and begins to pray, and at first the disciples attempt to join Him, but exhausted, they soon drift into a deep sleep.

Then something extraordinary happens! Combining the testimony of Luke and Mark, we're told, "As He prayed, He was transformed before them. The appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. Exceeding white, like snow such as no launderer on earth can whiten them." (See the full account in Luke 9:29-31 and Mark 9:2-9.)

The Reason for the Revelation 
Suddenly awakened by the cosmic event, the disciples see Christ shining with a heavenly light radiating from within. He is not just the humble son of Joseph and Mary, but with unveiled glory, He now appears as the majestic Creator of the universe.

In the classic book The Desire of Ages, the author helps us better understand Jesus' primary reason for this heavenly visitation. In His prayer, "He pleads that they may witness a manifestation of His divinity that will comfort them in the hour of His supreme agony, with the knowledge that He is ... the Son of God and that His shameful death is a part of the plan of redemption."

The loving Father grants them this brief glimpse of His Son's glory, because He knows the disciples were soon to see their master completely humiliated. Their teacher was about to be naked, beaten, and bleeding - appearing very helpless and very mortal. So in the same way a little tree stores sap during the warm, bright spring to sustain it during the cold, dark winter, Jesus knows His disciples' faith needs a bright boost on the mountain to see them through the approaching dark day of Calvary.

The disciples also needed this event because they continued to confuse the purpose of the Messiah's mission with the popular Jewish fables of national glory. Jesus knew it was going to be devastating for them to see their hopes for earthly glory punctured by Roman nails, so the Father granted this vision to remind them Christ's kingdom was heavenly and not of this earth.

Why Moses and Elijah? 
Along with the glorious light of heaven, the brightest ever seen on earth, two of the greatest celebrities of Scripture appeared at the side of Christ. "And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus" (Mark 9:4 NKJV).

Someone might ask, why these two individuals? God had also taken Enoch to heaven; why didn't he come along for this special visit? Very simply, the two prominent individuals who did come were living symbols of the Word of God. Moses represents the law, and Elijah represents the prophets. Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to [fulfill]." Moses is the great lawgiver, and Elijah is the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.

Throughout the Bible, the Word of God is often portrayed with a dual image. The Ten Commandments were written on two tables of stone. The Word of God is also portrayed as a sword with two edges. Two lamps and two olive trees portray the two sacred divisions of the Bible. But the ultimate testimony of God's Word is Jesus: "In the volume of the book it is written of me" (Hebrews 10:7). The volume of the Book, the Bible, all points to Jesus, who is the combination of two natures, the human and the divine. Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14).

In Luke 16:31, Jesus concludes His parable of the rich man and Lazarus, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." Here Jesus places a very high priority on God's Word, and we shouldn't miss it. No matter what miracles you witness, even someone rising from the dead, you should still place the plain Word of God on higher ground.

The Ultimate Endorsement Around election time, politicians begin to campaign and jostle for the support of voters. One common way for them to achieve this is by getting endorsements from as many popular and credible leaders as possible. The Glorious Mount experience is really the ultimate endorsement.

Ever since the time of Abraham, every Jew had been looking for the coming Messiah. Several counterfeit Christs had appeared on the landscape of Hebrew history. Now as a symbol of supreme support, Jesus stands glorified, flanked on the right and left by the two greatest heroes of ancient Israel. Moses and Elijah surround Jesus to give us a very vivid picture that the Word of God points to and authenticates Jesus as the Messiah.

This endorsement from Moses and Elijah represents the sanction of the law and the prophets, God's Word, that Jesus is the "coming one" (Matthew 11:3). No other individuals could have offered greater validation for Jesus' ministry than these two giants of Scripture.

The transfiguration is also a direct fulfillment of prophecy. Malachi foretold, "Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (4:4, 5). One reason the Word of God is so wonderful is because it is so precise. Both Moses and Elijah did appear in the New Testament prior to Jesus' sacrifice to encourage and champion Him.

A Divine Discussion When I first read this passage, I wondered, "How did they know it was Moses and Elijah?" They had no journalistic photographs or archive video footage with which to compare these beings! Then I realized they probably overheard some of the conversation and heard Jesus address them by name.

Fortunately, the Gospel of Luke gives us a little insight regarding what these great men discussed. It says, "Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem" (9:30, 31 NKJV). Of course, "decease" refers to His sacrifice on Mount Calvary.

I cannot imagine any other two individuals who would be better qualified to encourage Jesus to go forward with His sacrifice. Both Moses and Elijah understood the sting of persecution and rejection by their own people. Keep in mind, both Moses and Elijah had been

in heaven for hundreds of years, not because of their good works, but because they were enjoying an advance payment on the sacrifice that Jesus was about to make. In other words, if Jesus did not go through with the plan to die for mankind, Moses and Elijah had no right to remain in heaven. They were obviously very motivated to encourage and inspire Jesus to proceed. Ultimately, their purpose was to be witnesses to Christ and to support Jesus in His coming trial and sacrifice.

The Final Word
The Glorious Mount rings with divine authority. Mark 9:7 says, "And a cloud came and overshadowed them" (NKJV). This cloud is actually veiling the glory of the Father, who declares, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" God the Father comes to sanction His Son who receives His total approval.

This is so important for us to understand. At the beginning of Jesus' ministry, God the Father speaks personally at Christ's baptism in the low Jordan valley, and identifies Jesus as His Son. He says, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," announcing that the Jewish nation no longer needs to look for anyone else as the Messiah (Matthew 3:17 NKJV). Anyone who came before Him was a fraud, and anyone else coming after is a counterfeit. Jesus is the one!

Then at the end of Jesus' ministry, God the Father again identifies His divine Son on the mountain, commanding something very simple. "Hear Him." That's a complete sentence, easy to understand. But "hear" means more than just hearing the audible sounds. It really means "listening with undivided attention and doing." Jesus says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church" (Revelation 2:17). God the Father, in person, is commanding you and me to listen to Jesus' word and to do it.

There have been a lot of counterfeits, frauds, imposters, and cult leaders trying to impersonate Christ. But God the Father says about Jesus in the Bible, "Hear Him." He is the true Word! That's something very powerful to contemplate.

Suddenly
As the last echoes of God's thundering voice resonate from the mountain, the trembling disciples cower in fear. Mark 9:8 says, "Suddenly" it all ended. Just as quickly as the light flashed on, it went off. "When they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves." As the glory evaporates and their eyes become adjusted to the darkness, Moses and Elijah and the Father and the cloud are all gone; all they can see is Jesus. He promised, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).

It's easy to have our vision obscured by the kaleidoscope of images that we see in the Bible. And it's easy to have our minds clouded with the collage of images we see in modern life. But after it all fades, and we're at the base of the mountain again, what really matters? I think God is telling us to hear only Jesus, to see only Jesus. He was the only one left with them; everyone else might forsake you, but Jesus says, "I will be with you till the end" (Matthew 28:20). Always remember that Jesus is still there for you even after the glory disappears.

Don't Mention It 
Christ again says something very unusual to the dazed disciples. You and I can barely imagine how these three apostles are feeling "as they came down from the mountain" (Mark 9:9). That incredible event must have been life-changing, and they were probably in spiritual shock, even more than when Christ calmed the storm or walked on water. They might even have been glowing with the lingering residue of light still dissipating from their faces, like Moses was glowing after speaking with God. What doubts about Jesus could they possibly have now? They were probably ready to die for Jesus that very moment.

But then Jesus commands them not to tell anyone of the things they had seen. I imagine that might have been one of the most difficult mandates they ever received from their Lord. They have just witnessed a glimpse of heaven. They've seen Moses, and they've seen Elijah. Like ancient Israel, they've heard the commanding voice of God reverberating from a mountain, and now they are told not to make any comments regarding this remarkable event. Don't mention it. Keep in mind He is asking three fishermen not to comment on the most exciting experience of their lives. I don't know if I could have done it.

Timing to Tell
Fortunately, they were not asked to "never mention it." More precisely, Jesus asked, "That they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead" (Mark 9:9).

Why would Jesus make this request knowing their hearts had been so profoundly touched through this event? I believe He wanted them to store this experience in reserve for when they would really need it. Peter, James, and John were chosen to be the leaders of the early church, and when all seemed lost, and when things got hard, they could say, "Don't be discouraged. We want to tell you about something we saw that night with Jesus on the mountain." But sadly, it appears just when they needed it the most, they didn't remember this experience - when their Lord went to the cross, they forgot who He was.

Has God given you a mountaintop experience? Maybe He has answered prayers and worked miracles that right when they're happening, you say, "Wow, praise the Lord!" But then when the glory fades, you ended up in a valley with the devil crowding you. And the memory of what happened on the mountain has all but evaporated.

It's just like when God had told the children of Israel not to make idols, and they heard the voice of God, and they felt the ground shake, and they saw fire consume a mountain. They glibly promised the Lord they would obey. Yet a few days later, they worshipped a golden calf.

The devil is a master at inducing mountaintop amnesia. If you give him just five minutes of your attention, he can make you forget a whole lifetime of miracles. If you entertain his suggestions, if you embrace his discouragement and his doubts, all those mountaintop memories can dissipate just when you need them the most.

Last-Day Significance 
The experience on the Glorious Mount is especially important for the end-times; that's why after His resurrection Jesus returned to teach on this. "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets [here are Moses and Elijah again!], he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).

Revelation 12:17 says, "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." The woman represents the church, and the dragon, the devil, wants to destroy her. The church in these last days has two outstanding characteristics: They "keep the commandments of God, and they have the testimony of Jesus." What is the testimony of Jesus? Revelation 19:10 explains, "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." So the members of the last-day church are identified as a people who will keep the law (the commandments) and have the prophets (the spirit of prophecy).

Isaiah 8:16 commands, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples." Moses, before he died, exhorted the children of Israel to keep the law. He repeats the Ten Commandments to them in Deuteronomy 5 and says, "Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes" (Deuteronomy 11:18). So the law and the words of the prophets are sealed by the Holy Spirit in the mind and hearts of God's people. "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).

We must saturate ourselves with the law and the prophets, with the Word of God, for a special purpose in these last days. Mark 9:3 says, "His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them" (NKJV). Mark is really struggling here for words to describe the bright aura of light the disciples saw around this heavenly assembly. The garments of Christ were radiant white, just like new snow, and glowing like the sun. Of course, the robe that Jesus wore is a symbol of His purity. It is what He is wearing in heaven. Wonderfully, you and I are offered this same clothing purified by His blood, if we stay true to His Word. "These ... washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14). "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love"(1 Peter 1:22 NKJV).

A Type of the Second Advent 
To make a full circle, let's go back a brief moment to where we began. One of the most important lessons from the Mount of Transfiguration is that it represents a miniature picture of the second coming of Jesus.

Harkening back to this experience, Peter identifies the event as a sample of Jesus' coming. "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 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" (2 Peter 1:16, 17).

Remember that Jesus said some of His disciples would not experience death before they saw the kingdom of God coming with power. Of course, we know that these disciples died long ago, but they were given an advance peek of what it will be like when Christ returns.

A number of exciting insights can be gleaned from this story. Consider the parallels:

There will be two categories of saints when Jesus returns: the resurrected and the living. Moses, who died and was resurrected (Jude 1:9), is a symbol of the large class of people who will awake from their dusty graves when the Lord descends - "The dead in Christ shall rise." Elijah represents the other class of people who will be alive when Jesus returns. Like Elijah, who was caught up into heaven by a fiery chariot, and Enoch who walked with God and then walked right into heaven, they will be translated with new, glorious bodies without ever tasting death.

During the transfiguration, Jesus, Moses, and Elijah wore white garments, the same kind that the redeemed will wear. Clouds of glory also accompanied them; Jesus left in the clouds and said He would come back in the clouds. And even the voice of the Father in heaven was heard on the Glorious Mount, just as it will be when Christ returns on the right hand of the Father (Matthew 26:64). There may even be some significance to the fact that this all happens six days after Jesus makes the promise. "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8 NKJV).

The Tranquilized Church
It is prudent to keep in mind that the Glorious Mount happened very unexpectedly. The atmosphere surrounding the mountain was quiet and dark - the drowsy disciples were snoozing. Then, BANG! It happened. Christ will come as a thief in the night, when many of His followers are unprepared.

There is a sober warning for us in this experience. At the most pivotal moments of church history, Satan seems to sedate the saints. Just before this revelation of glory, the Scriptures declare the disciples "were heavy with sleep" (Luke 9:32). When Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane, the Bible tells us that He picked the same three disciples to pray with Him. And they again went to sleep. Likewise, in the parable of the 10 virgins, Jesus warns us that just prior to the second coming, "they all slumbered and slept" (Matthew 25:5). It seems that at the most critical moments in Jesus' ministry, the saints are snoring. This is why Jesus warns, "Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming - in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning - lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping" (Mark 13:35, 36 NKJV).

When they should have been kneeling with Him in the garden, remembering the glory they witnessed, they fell asleep. And because Peter, James, and John were asleep on the Mount of Transfiguration, they lost the full potential of their experience. They forgot the Glorious Mount, so they were not ready to follow Christ to Mount Calvary. I wonder if that haunted them for the rest of their lives: that missed opportunity because they slept when they should have prayed?

A More Sure Word
So how do we stay awake? To the powerful weapon of prayer, we can add the witness of Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets. God's Word can prepare you for anything. In 2 Peter 1, Peter refers back to the Glorious Mount, the only time that any of the three disciples write about it. But before Peter's death, he writes passionately, "For [Jesus] received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain" (vs. 17, 18 NKJV).

Yet even after Peter reflects on that defining moment in his life, he adds, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed" (v. 19). Can you imagine saying that after seeing Christ in all His glory sandwiched between the two greatest Old Testament characters, with the voice of God the Father seared forever into your memory? Yet Peter confesses that however great that experience was, he had something more important, more dependable. God's Word is a light that "grows brighter and brighter until the day dawn."

Peter saw Christ glorified; he received a glimpse of heaven. But you and I have something worth more. We have the Bible. Christ tells us through Peter that your Bible is more trustworthy than a vision. If you want a mountaintop experience, you have it within your reach if you reach for your Bible. Nothing is more important than the testimony of Moses and Elijah, the double-edged sword, the law and the prophets, the commandments of God, the testimony of Jesus - it is the most precious thing God has committed to mortals. It is Jesus, the Word who became flesh.

Glowing for God
As a child, I was always fascinated by those pale green illuminating plastic toys you could hold up to a light and watch glow even after the light was turned off. I remember one of those toys was a glow-in-the-dark plastic sword. After exposing it to the light, I could find my way through the dark house just by the glow from my sword.

The Lord has given us a special warning message in the Mount of Transfiguration. There are some very troubling days ahead, and now we must spend time on the mountain gathering light from God's Word to see us through the dark valleys. The message from the mountain tells us that Jesus is the One, and that we too can wear the same robes He, Elijah, and Moses wore that day. He's telling us to listen to the testimony of Jesus and to the law and the prophets. It's a picture of Jesus' imminent second coming, and a warning not to become spiritually sleepy. The mountaintop experience reminds us that even when the glory fades, Jesus is always still with us and that He is the only way to heaven.

Seven individuals appeared on the mountain that day: Three from heaven - Moses, Elijah, and God the Father; three from earth - Peter, James, and John. And then there was Jesus - the Bridge, the Ladder, between heaven and earth.

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