Covenant Of Sovereign Grace Reflected At Christ's Transfiguration
L. Phillip Schmidt, Evangel Gospel Minister, D.D., Pastoral Counselor and
Esther Grace Schmidt, Evangel Gospel Minister


Many Bible teachers say the words of Christ in Matthew 16:28 referred to His Transfiguration and the appearance of Elijah and Moses talking with Him. However, Christ meant just what He said: "There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His Kingdom." At another time, Christ said: "Verily [truly] I say unto you, This generation shall not pass; till all these things be fulfilled." Matthew 24:34 (lps).

His words assured both the disciples and us today that He fulfilled all the prophecies referring to Himself by AD 70 while some of the disciples were still living. The purpose of this study is to highlight the lessons we can learn from the life and ministry of Elijah and Moses who appeared with Him at His Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8); and how their lives pointed forward to the ministry and fulfilled prophecies of Christ.

Elijah

The Prophet Elijah was used by God in a mighty way during Old Testament times - calling men and women to repentance, and performing many miracles. When the angel announced to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptizer, that his wife would bear him a son, the angel said: "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God: and he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah], to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:15-17 (lps).

When the disciples asked Jesus about Elijah's return, He replied: "Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed [wished/wanted]. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist." Matthew 17:12-13. John the Baptizer was prophesied in Malachi 4:5-6: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." John baptized with water, but Christ baptized with the Quickening Spirit Of God!

Moses

Moses was called to lead God's people out of Egyptian bondage. He was also the one God gave His Written Ten Commandments and other ritual laws through and to His Chosen People, the Israelites. So Moses' appearance with Christ at the Transfiguration represented the Law and all the other rituals which pointed forward towards Christ. Christ came and fulfilled the Law which men and women cannot keep and at the same time redeem humankind from its penalty through His Gracious Sacrifice: "And of His Fulness have all we received, and Grace for Grace. For the law was given by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ." John 1:16-17. The Old Covenant was glorious; but the New Covenant is More Glorious!!

When Christ was questioned by a lawyer which command-ment was the greatest, Christ answered: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matthew 22:37-40. Isn't that More Glorious?

He also said, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:34.

New Covenant Replaced Old Covenant Of Types/Symbols/ Rituals

Peter describes the Old Covenant of rituals which came to an end at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements1 shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness. Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we,2 according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.3 Wherefore, beloved,4 seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless." 2 Peter 3:10-14.

We quote only a few verses mentioning The Day Of The Lord from the Old Testament which meant the destruction of a nation by the power of God working through human armies: "For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low" (Isaiah 2:12). "Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty." Isaiah 13:6. "Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it." Isaiah 13:9. See also Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1;15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:20; Obadiah 1:15.

Heavens And Earth Shaken

The Jewish people were familiar with the symbolic meaning of heaven and earth. "For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land." Haggai 2:6.

Notice James Stuart Russell's explanation in his book, The Parousia, pages 289-290. "The key to the interpretation of this passage is to be found in the prophecy of Haggai. On comparing the prophetic symbols in that book it will be seen that 'shaking heaven and earth' is evidently emblematic of, and synonymous with, 'overthrowing thrones, destroying kingdoms,' and similar social and political revolutions (Haggai ii. 21, 22). Such tropes and metaphors are the very elements of prophetic description, and it would be absurd to insist upon the literal fulfillment of such figures. Prodigies and convulsions in the natural world are constantly used to express great social or moral revolutions. Let those who find it difficult to believe that the abrogation of the Mosaic dispensation could be shadowed forth in language of such awful sublimity consider the magnificence of the language employed by prophets and psalmists in describing its inauguration. (See Ps. 1xviii. 7, 8, 16, 17; exiv. 1-8; Habak. iii. 1-6). What, then, is the great catastrophe symbolically represented as the shaking of the earth and heavens? No doubt it is the overthrow and abolition of the Mosaic dispensation, or old covenant; the destruction of the Jewish church and state, together with all the institutions and ordinances connected therewith. There were 'heavenly things' belonging to that dispensation: the laws, and statues, and ordinances, which were divine in their origin, and might be properly called the 'spiritualia' of Judaism - these were the heavens, which were to be shaken and removed. There were also 'earthly things:' the literal Jerusalem, the material temple, the land of Canaan - these were the earth, which was in like manner to be shaken and removed. The symbols are, in fact, equivalent to those employed by our Lord when predicting the doom of Israel. 'Immediately after the tribulation of those days [the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem] shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken' (Matt. xxiv. 29). Both passages refer to the same catastrophe and employ very similar figures; besides which we have the authority of our Lord for fixing the events and the period of which He speaks within the limits of the generation then in existence; that is to say, the reference can only be to the judgment of the Jewish nation and the abrogation of the Mosaic economy at the Parousia.5 That great event was to clear the way for a new and higher order of things. A kingdom which cannot be moved was to supersede the material and mutable institutions which were imperfect in their nature and temporary in their duration; the material would give place to the spiritual; the temporary to the eternal; and the earthly to the heavenly. This was by far the greatest revolution the world had ever witnessed. It far transcended in importance and grandeur even the giving of the law from Mount Sinai; and as that was accompanied by fearful signs and wonders, physical convulsions, and portentous phenomena, it was fitting that similar, and still more awful, prodigies should attend its abrogation and thus opening of a new era. That such portents did actually precede the destruction of Jerusalem we have no difficulty in believing, first, on the ground of analogy; secondly, from the testimony of Josephus; and, above all, on the authority of our Lord's prophetic discourse." [end of Russell's quotation]

With this understanding, consider these encouraging words of Christ: "Heaven and earth [old covenant] shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away." Matt. 24:35 (lps).

The Transition From The Old Covenant To The New Covenant: AD 30 - AD 70

"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, . . . this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days 6 saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:7 and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved 8 ." Acts 2:14-21.

"But now He [Christ] hath obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah [all those who accept Christ as their Saviour - Galatians 3:29]: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." Hebrews 8:6-13 (lps).

At the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah then disappeared from the disciples' sight while Peter was still talking ... so they could/should/would keep their focus on Christ, and not on anyone or anything else! See Matthew 17:1-8.

Christ said: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation [because it is unseen]: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20-21. He also said: "If a man [woman] love me, he [she] will keep My Words: and My Father will love him [her], and We will come unto him [her], and make our abode with him [her]." John 14:23 (lps).

Because the Spiritual New Covenant (Sovereign Grace) replaced the Physical Old Covenant (works and rituals), could/should/would that be why Christ answered the woman at the well when she asked Him where she should worship? He replied, "Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation [Christ] is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth." John 4:21-24 (lps).

Endnotes

1. Biblical meaning for elements is principles/rudiments/ ordinances. See Galatians 4:-5; 9-10; Colossians 2:8, 20-22; Hebrews 5:12-14.

2. Peter was talking to the Believers in his day, as Christ's disciples (Peter's contemporaries) understood well that their Lord and Master would return to them in their lifetime. This verse does not apply to those of us who are living today, as the Holy Spirit's presence never diminishes Himself throughout all generations from one age to the next, forevermore! See Matthew 16:27; 24:34; Luke 21:22, 32; John 21:22; Acts 17:31; 24:15; 1 Corinthians 7:29, 31; 10:11; Ephesians 1:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7; 5:23; 1 Timothy 4:8; 6:14, 19; James 5:7; 1 Peter 4:7, 17; 5:1; 1 John 2:8, 17-18; Revelation 1:1-3; 3:10-11; 22:6-7, 10, 12, 20. The Holy Spirit was withdrawn in AD 70 from all those whom God destroyed in the then of there.

3. New Covenant Of Sovereign Grace replaced the Old Covenant of works and rituals. See Hebrews 12:22-29.

4. Again, Peter is talking to the Believers of his day, not to us!

5. Dictionary meaning for Parousia is presence/arrival/coming.

6. Last days of the Jewish Age of the Old Covenant of works and rituals.

7. Judgments of God were done upon Jerusalem during AD 66-70. See last statement of #2 above.

8. New Covenant Of Sovereign Grace ... generation after generation ... age after age! Forever!

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:2-4.

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Quotation Credit: All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version, and indicated as (lps) when the authors have inserted explanations within the text.

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