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Mystery of the Transfiguration Revealed

The beginning of the Transfiguration event started one week earlier when Jesus led His disciples to the city of Caesarea Philippi located 30 miles North of the Sea of Galilee. This city is directly adjacent to Mount Hermon and features a 130 foot sheer stone cliff wall with an enormous cave 70 feet wide and 50 feet tall at its base. From this cave issues a large flow of spring water which cascades down into a series of man-made water channels which serve to support a large lush palace garden. The water then flows South and empties into the Jordan River. This mountain is part of a range that has peaks over 9,000 feet high. Because the Mount Hermon cave has a constant large flow of water and lush vegetation, the site has been seen since ancient times, as a place of fertility sacred to the pagan gods. But the area, mountain and the cave complex all had obtained a well-deserved dark, mysterious and sorted history by the time Jesus arrived.

The cave was believed to be bottomless and therefore it was also thought to be the entrance, or gate into Hades; the place where the gods were purported to live. The cave site had served as a very ancient pagan worship center starting with its first inhabitants the Canaanites. Later, Alexander the Great built a worship site there as a countryside shrine to the Greek god Pan and called the place Paneas. In the 3rd century B.C., Herod the Great built a city and palace there to honor Caesar and named it Caesarea. Herod’s son Philip enlarged the palace and rename the site Caesarea Philippi.

The first inhabitants of the area were the Canaanites. They were descended from Cain by way of his great, great grandson Canaan. Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve and the world’s first murderer. He initiated the worship of false gods and his race was eventually selected by Satan to produce a hybrid race of men known in Hebrew as Nephilim or giants. According to the Book of Genesis and the Book of Enoch, this race was started before the flood of Noah when a group of what is believed to be guardian angels, decided to band together and rebel against God (Genesis 6:1-4). The Book of Enoch, an ancient commentary to the Old Testament, states that 200 angels descended from heaven down to Mount Hermon where the Canaanites worshiped the pagan god Baal (Book of Enoch 6:1-6). The Jews are very familiar with this book and Peter even cites it in one of his epistles (II Peter 2:4-5). The angels were said to have mated with Canaanite women and produced ill-tempered hybrid monsters approximately 9 to 10 feet tall with 6 fingers, six toes (I Samuel 17:4; II Samuel 21:16-22; 1 Chronicles 20:6-8). This event was an attempt by Satan to corrupt the human genome so that, the “Seed of the woman” or Jesus, could not be genetically produced and thus “crush the head of the serpent” or Satan (Genesis 3:15). This gene abnormality quickly spread throughout mankind and forced God to send a flood to destroy all the infected offspring of Cain and the satanically created Nephilim. Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives all survived the flood because of the ark they constructed over the course of 85 years. But scripture tells us that Cain’s race and some of the Nephilim survived the flood (Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33). This may have occurred because at the time of the flood, Noah was married to a woman named Naamah who was the great granddaughter of Cain (Genesis 4:22). Thus, she carried the Cain-Nephilim gene pool through the flood event. She then given birth to a son she named Canaan who some Bible scholars believe was fathered by Ham, Noah’s son by a previous wife. This is why when Noah discovered what Ham had done, he placed a curse on his grandson Canaan (Genesis 9:20-27).

After the flood, Canaan inspired by Satan, went west from the Land of Noah and resettled in a land that would later be promised to the children of Abraham. It was here Canaan founded the tribe of the Canaanites. Noah’s son Ham was the father of all people of color who explored the entire earth establishing great civilizations. Noah’s son Shem received the spiritual blessing of God and was the father of the tribe of the Shemite known today as Semites. This is the tribe of the Jewish race. To be anti-Jewish is to be anti-semitic. Noah’s third son was Japheth who was the father of the European race known for the arts and sciences. Around 3,000 B.C. the Canaanites interbred with an immigrating tribe known as the Phoenicians later to be known as the Philistines. They continued to live in the area of Caesarea and worship the Canaanite god Baal who required, among other things, the sacrifice of children (Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 18:9-10). Even the Israelites would again and again succumb to the enticing worship of Baal (Isaiah 65:1-5).

In Biblical times the mountain was called Mount Baal-Hermon (Judges 3:3; I Chronicles 5:23). The word Hermon is derived from the Hebrew word herem which means, a thing devoted or set apart by God destined for destruction. The Nephilim or giants were congregated by Satan into this land in anticipation of it being eventually settled by God’s chosen people the Israelites during the exodus. This word herem is no doubt directly related to the command that God gave to Joshua and the returning Israelites. He told them to utterly destroy the Canaanites (Joshua 11:21; Deuteronomy 7:1-4; Deuteronomy 20:16-18).

The Canaanites believed that the Nephilim or Rephaim were mighty in life and in death. They believed they were the dead spirits of ancient kings and great men (Jewish Virtual Library, Rephaim; (Genesis 6:4). This has produced a popular modern theory by Biblical scholars that demons are the spirits of the dead Rephaim. The thought being that because this race was only part human, at death their spirits were not allowed into Sheol with other human spirits but instead forced to roam the earth seeking living bodies to indwell. It also appears that part of Jesus’ ministry was to hunt down and remove the vast majority of demonic spirits from the earth (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 9:25-29; Luke 11:14-23). They are now currently imprisoned in Sheol also known as the Abyss or the Pit but will be released and used by God during the Great Tribulation period as agents to drive the unrighteous people of the earth to repent and accept the salvation plan of God though Christ, or die in their sins (Revelation 9:1-11).

East of the Mediterranean coast and bordering Mount Hermon was a large territory known as the Land of Bashan. The name Bashan means fertile serpent. The territory was known as “the place of the serpent” (Heiser, The unseen Realm, Pg.198). It was ruled by a descendant of the Nephilim called King Og. He was a giant from the tribe of the Amorites and thought to have been originally from the city of Babylon (Joshua 12:4-6). The people of Bashan were called Rephaim as they were also the descendants of the Nephilim. King Og was killed and his territory conquered by Moses during the exodus circa 1,500 B.C. (Joshua 12:1-6). When the Israelite army searched his palace, they found his bed which measured 13’ long and 6’ wide. The Israelites put it on public display in the city of Rabbah (Deuteronomy 3:1-11). Remarkably, the dimensions of his bed were also found engraved on the ziggurat that is considered by modern archeologists to be the Tower of Babel in the ancient city of Babylon. His land was given to the tribe of Manasseh descendants of Joseph. Caesarea Philippi is located in the ancient territory of Bashan, the place of the serpent.

With all this in mind, the disciples no doubt thought it strange that Jesus, a revered Rabbi, would intentionally bring them to a gentile pagan worship center. But Jesus always had a reason for everything He said and did. There, near the cave site surrounded by pagan sacrificial alters, He asked them a question, “Who do people say I am?” (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27; Luke 9:18-20) The disciples replied giving names of various noted personalities from the Old Testament. Then Jesus asked them the most important question of all and one that every person must answer at some point in their lives. “… who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15) There was an embarrassing silence as the disciples did not know for certain who exactly He was. He was certainly a charismatic rabbi, healer and prophet but they had only suspected that He might be the Messiah. Peter finally broke the silence by saying, “… You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus congratulated Peter on His powers of perception and that his conclusion was aided by the Holy Spirit of God (Matthew 16:17). He then commanded His disciples to not disclose this truth to anyone until after His resurrection from the dead (Matthew 16:20).

Jesus then told the disciples that this understanding of Him as the Messiah or the Anointed One of God would serve as a fundamental truth on which He would build His Church (Matthew 16:18). The title Messiah when it refers to a king of Israel is in all lower case. But the title when it refers to Christ is capitalized as it is referring to God incarnate. Jesus also stated that His Church, built on the rock of who He was, would be a fatal blow to all the false religions of the world because only His Church could guarantee eternal life. And that even death, the greatest power of Satan and the mighty defensive gates of Sheol, Hades or Hell where the spirits of the righteous were at that time temporarily held, would be unable to withstand His ability to enter at will, preach the good news of the Gospels and lead the righteous up into heaven (Matthew 16:18). Having made this statement with the supposed gates of Hell as a backdrop, the impression He made on the disciples must have been profound.

Peter had rightly referred to Jesus as the Messiah. However, in first century Israel, this title was limited primarily to the King of Israel. Peter and the other disciples now thought that Jesus was announcing that He was in fact destined to be crowned King. And now it was only a matter of time when He would defeat the Roman occupiers and raise Israel, the nation of God, to the status of the greatest nation in the world. The disciples probably thought that the Church He referred to would be a new sect of the Jewish religion that would bring about a reconstituted Temple system free from its current state of self-aggrandizement and rampant corruption. In fact, the Romans thought that those that believed in Jesus as the Messiah was simply another sect within the Jewish religion.

But Jesus was not finished with His pronouncements. He then stated that some of His disciples would actually see the Kingdom of God coming in glory before they died (Matthew 16:27-28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9: 26-27).  This statement was in fact referring to two separate events. One was literal and one was prophetic. Peter, James and John would actually witness Jesus’ change His physical form or transfigure revealing the glory He once had while on His throne in the heavenly Kingdom of God. The second event would take place 60 years later when the apostle John, the last living disciple, would have a vision of Jesus’ Second Coming to earth to rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Matt 24:30; 26:64).

The Gospels of Matthew and Mark say that Jesus then traveled with His disciples for 6 days while the Gospel of Luke says that He traveled for 8 days. The difference in the number of days has to do with different ways different cultures reckoned time. One way was inclusive and the other was exclusive. The Jews were inclusive in that they literally counted each day as a full day concerning an event. The Romans counted days exclusively not including partial days as part of an event. For example, if a person started on a journey on Sunday and arrived on the following Sunday, the Jews would count the Sunday that the person left and the Sunday that they arrived as days of travel. Thus, the trip took 8 days. However, the Romans counted time in much the same way we do today. They would not count Sunday, the day a person started the trip as a day but instead, start counting with Monday. And, when the person arrived on Sunday, they would also not count Sunday as a travel day but as an arrival day. Thus, the trip took 6 days of travel to complete. Today, we would split the difference and not count the day a person left, but we would count the day they arrived so the trip took 7 days. The Jews also considered a partial year that a king ruled as a full year even though they would start the reign of the new king on that same year. This would be seen as confusing by modern standards but the ancients were not as focused on the minutia of time as we are today.

Jesus now either spends the following week preaching and healing throughout the area, or He travels away from Caesarea Philippi to a mountain where He would be transfigured. The Bible does not tell us the name of this mountain, but it does give us enough clues that with a little common sense, we can reach a satisfying conclusion.

First of all, this mountain must either be located at Caesarea Philippi or it is at most a week’s walk from there. Bible scholars believe that a healthy first century person could walk approximately 17 miles a day. So, a 7-day walk could cover as much as 120 miles. A radius of this magnitude from Mount Hermon would create dozens of mountains to be considered. Second, Jesus conducted His second and last meeting with the Triune Godhead at the location; therefore, the mountain would most probably be located in the holy country of Israel. Third, according to Matthew, Jesus, “… led them up a high mountain …” (Matthew 17:1). The mountain must have been unusually high and not a foothill. Forth, Matthew writes that the site allowed Jesus to be with His disciples, “… by themselves,” or removed from prying eyes so as to provide privacy for the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1). Fifth, it should be associated with at least one Old Testament event because Peter states, “when we were with Him in the holy mountain.” (II Peter 1:17-18) And sixth, the mountain must have been at least somewhat removed from the southern and central Galilee region because scripture says that after the event, “When they came and gathered together there in Galilee…”. This implies that the group had to have traveled some distance from the mountain to return to their final destination which scripture tells us was the city of Capernaum (Matthew 17:24).

While commentators have suggested a number of mountains as being the possible site, there is only one mountain that qualifies as the most probable and it is Mount Hermon. Now, that sounds a little too easy and very anticlimactic, but this mountain satisfies all the clues we are given concerning the location of the transfiguration. First, Mount Hermon is located directly adjacent to the city of Caesarea Philippi. Second, it is located in the country of Israel. Third, Mount Hermon reaches a height of 7,336 feet making it the highest mountain in Israel. The mountain range’s highest peak is north of Israel and stands 9,232 feet high. Forth, because it was known as a pagan worship site, few Jews wanted to live and be associated with the immediate area; thus it was sparsely populated. Fifth, biblically speaking the mountain has an ancient history involving the offspring of Cain, fallen angels, the great flood, Noah’s grandson Canaan, the first ancestral home of the Nephilim and a visit by Moses during the exodus. And sixth, it is approximately 45 miles or a 3 day walk to the site located at the far northern border of the Galilee region. This fact is important because again scripture tells us that, “When they came and gathered together there in Galilee…”. This implies that the group had to travel back or south from the location of the transfiguration event in order to reach Capernaum. It is a 3 day walk from the far northern border of Galilee where Mount Herman is located south to Capernaum. So, they obviously would have been required to camp for at least 2 nights. Thus, the sentence could be rendered, ‘when the group traveled back from the far north of the Galilee, they gathered together there in central Galilee to camp with their ultimate destination being the city of Capernaum’ (Matthew 17:22, 24; Mark 9:30,33).

As previously stated, the land, mountain, and cave all have a long ancient history associated with fallen angels, demonic activity, giants, the gates of Hell and pagan human sacrificial worship. So, what better place than this for Jesus to take His small band of 12 disciples and with the gates of Hell looming in the background, boldly declare the establishment of His Church of truth and declare war on the powers of Satan. He then visited various Jewish cities, towns and villages in the surrounding area proclaiming the Gospel in the heart of enemy territory. At the end of the week, He returned to the mountain. This was the exact same protocol that Moses followed at Mount Sinai. He came to the base of Mount Sinai, but he waited 6 days before he climbed the mountain to receive the tablets of the Law (Exodus 24:15-16). It was then that Jesus climbed to the summit with 3 of His disciples, met with Moses and Elijah, and while radiating the Shekinah Glory of God was joined by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He had in a single stroke literally declared war and victory over the ancient demonic forces associated with the area through the power of His Church. He had figuratively announced that His Church would serve as the earthly God ordained spiritual Kingdom whose power would holdback demonic forces for generations to come (II Thessalonians 2:7). And He had prophetically showed future generations how His physical appearance would look at His second Coming (Revelation 1:14-15).

Jesus arrives back at the base of the mountain after 6 days of preaching and instructs the disciples to wait for His return. He takes with Him Peter, James and John who will serve as witnesses to the coming spectacular transfiguration event. Jewish law requires at least two witnesses to validate an event in court (Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus also selected these same three disciples to witness the raising of Jairus daughter and to be with Him while He prayed and was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 5:37, Mark 14:33). Interestingly, the names of these three disciples form a prophecy. Peter’s name means stone, James’ name means replaces and John’s name means grace. When we string the names together, they read, ‘law of stone is replaced by grace’.

Jesus now leads these 3 disciples up the mountain (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28). There, high in the mountain and alone, Jesus moves a short distance away from the disciples and begins to pray. Jesus prayed often and for many hours at a time. Prayer strengthened Him in body, mind, spirit and power. It was during these times when Jesus communed with God that His disciples would also pray while they rested. And in resting, they sometimes fell asleep which they did at this time (Luke 9:32; Matthew 26:36-46)). On this particular occasion, as Jesus prayed, He began to transfigure or change in a way that His physical body began to glow from within (II Peter 1:16-18; Matthew 17:2). The light grew in intensity until His face shown so bright that it was like the sun and difficult to look at directly (Revelation 1:16). His facial features became almost indistinguishable and His body glowed to the point that the brilliant white light radiated out through His clothing. This caused the cloth to appear supernaturally white or whiter than snow (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2-3; Daniel 7:9). In fact, Luke tells us that His clothing actually glistened as does snow when the light of the sun reflects off the ice crystals (Luke 9:29). This effect is known as snow sparkle. Paul stated that when he saw Christ on the road to Damascus, His body shone so brightly that it blinded him for three days (Acts 9:3-9, Acts 22:6-11). Jesus spoke of His glorified body in the Gospel of John. He said looking up to heaven, “Father…glorify your son so that your Son may glorify You… And, now, Father glorify me at your side with the glory I had with you before the world was created.” (John 17:1-5)

It was this same supernaturally brilliant light of glory that penetrated the eyelids of the disciples and woke them up. At first, they saw only Jesus radiating light. He was in fact briefly exhibiting the Shekinah Glory light that He once radiated when He, as the Word of God, sat on the Throne of God. It has been said that symbolically the disciples went to sleep as in death, but awoke from death to see Jesus in His glory. But this is not an accurate comparison due to numerous reports from people who have had near-death experiences and reported that they never lost consciousness even in death. They always were aware of who they were, where they were, what had happened to them and where they were going. Thus, the soul or spirit of a person never sleeps meaning there is no such thing as soul sleep. A body is said to be resting in peace, or RIP, in the grave because that body will one day be resurrected and reunited with its soul. Therefore, it is not in the truest since dead as in annihilated never to return. As the disciples’ eyes adjusted to Jesus’ radiance, they saw two other men standing by Him (Matthew 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30). Luke tells us that both men also appeared “in glorious splendor” (Luke 9:31). However, their radiance was only caused by their reflecting the light which radiated from Jesus, thus, the phrase basking in the lime light. All three Gospels identify these men as Moses and Elijah. The accounts do not tell us if the Holy Spirit made the identity of these men know to the disciples or if Jesus told them who the they were.

The arrival of Moses and Elijah would have been a tremendously fascinating event in and of itself without Jesus’ transfiguring. Two pillars of the Old Testament meeting with the author of the New Testament! Three men with three different jobs. Moses was leader and founder of the Jewish race brought back spiritually from the dead. Elijah was a Jewish spiritual leader and prophet who was raptured alive and had now returned. Jesus was a King Priest in the Order of Melchizedek who was as the Messiah, a national leader, a spiritual leader, a prophet and would be both resurrected from the dead and raptured from the earth. All three of these men had been given ministries that were cut short.

Moses’ ministry ended early because he was impatient with the Children of Israel while Elijah’s ended early because he showed a lack of faith when he ran and hid from Queen Jezebel. Jesus’ mission ended early as prophesied when He was crucified for the sins of mankind and ascended into heaven (Daniel 9:26: Mark 16:19). But He also establish a spiritual Kingdom of God on earth called the Church Age to remain until His second Coming (Matthew 16:18).

“Moses Striking Water From the Rock” by Jacopo Tintoretto

Moses had his ministry cut short His because he did not follow the command of God. Moses was told to bring life giving water from a rock on two separate occasions. This water flowed abundantly and provided this need for the Israelites and their animals during the exodus from Egypt. God instructed Moses the first time to strike the rock with his staff. The second time he was commanded to speak to the rock. These two acts were designed by God to serve as two symbolic gestures concerning the coming Messiah. There are more than 100 verses in scripture referring to God and Christ as The Rock (Exodus 17:6; Deuteronomy 32:4,31; Psalm 18:2,22,31,46: Isaiah 26:4, etc.). Striking the rock was symbolic of Jesus as the Rock of God being struck down through His crucifixion. Speaking to the rock was to have been symbolic of the passing away of the Mosaic Laws and the establishment of a new more perfect Covenant with God based on grace and mercy through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But Moses became enraged at the constant complaining of the people and their lack of faith in God to provide for their needs. So instead of speaking to the rock the second time, he struck the rock. God still brought forth water, but He told Moses that because he had struck the rock ruining the symbolic gesture He had planned, he would not be allowed to enter the promise land (Numbers 20:11-12). Moses would die outside of the land of Israel and be buried by God (Deuteronomy 34:6).

Elijah had his ministry cut short because, although he had power given to him by God to kill all the priests to Baal, when he learned that Jezebel was looking to kill him for what he had done, he lost faith and ran from her hiding in a cave and praying God would kill him (I Kings 18:18, 36-40, I Kings 19:1-4, I Kings 9-11). God spared his life, but abruptly ended his ministry by rapturing him off the earth and down into Sheol to await his liberation by Christ on resurrection Sunday (II Kings 2:1).

So, we know that Moses died and was buried while Elijah was raptured alive off the earth. However, because we know that Jesus was the first fruit of the resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15:20). Moses must have been spiritually, not physically, raised from the dead out of Sheol to attend the meeting. Jesus brought 3 people back to life, but they were not resurrected from the dead thus they all later died of natural causes and were buried. However, a resurrection not only brings a person back to life, but they also become immortal in order to withstand the physiological stresses experienced when a body is physically raptured off the earth and into heaven. In Moses’ case, the disciples must have seen Moses in a spiritual body similar to the one believes receive today at death in order to meet with Christ and recognize friends and relatives in heaven (II Corinthians 5:8, II Corinthians 13:10-12). However, Moses and Elijah may have been two of a few other chosen saints resurrected on Sunday evening after Jesus was resurrected (Matthew 27:51-52). Moses died, was buried and his spirit went to reside temporarily down in the earth in a place known as Sheol (Deuteronomy 31:16). Elijah was taken in a whirlwind up into heaven, or the sky, but because he was a sinner as are all men, he would have also been ultimately deposited in Sheol. The Bible refers to 3 heavens. There is the heaven or atmosphere of the earth. There is the heaven in which the stars and planet exist. And there is the heaven where God dwells along with the angels. No human, no matter how loved they are by God, is without sin. Therefore, no human was allowed to be in the presence of God until after Jesus paid the sin debt of all mankind. Therefore, Elijah would have initially been raptured up into the air but eventually deposited into Sheol to await the time when Jesus lead all the righteous captives held there into heaven at one time (Ephesians 4:7-10).  Again, this occurred on the evening of resurrection Sunday. Therefore, after the meeting with Jesus, both men would have found themselves back in Sheol, or Paradise, awaiting Jesus’ resurrection which would then spiritually free them and all held in Sheol to be spiritually in the presence of God (Luke 23:43).

The bodies of these two great men of God will be resurrected at the great resurrection and rapture of the Church but, they alone will not receive at that time immortal bodies. Instead, they will be resurrected mortal and pick up where their ministries were disrupted. They will now serve as the two witnesses of Revelation during the final 3.5 years of the Great Tribulation. Their mission from God is to now redeem as many Jews and gentiles as possible. Then they will be publicly executed by the forces of the antichrist 6 days before the end of the tribulation period and the Second Coming of Christ. Their corpses, having been on public display for 3 days, will suddenly be resurrected immortal and raptured into heaven having accomplished their final mission (Revelation 11:3-12). Again, Jesus explained all of this to them during the transfiguration.

So here we have 1,500 years of Jewish history together at a staff meeting with Jesus. Imagine their surprise and delight to learn that the long awaited Messiah had finally appeared and was not just another fallible human King of Israel but a sinless Son of God-man that would one day rule the entire world in righteousness. It would have come as no surprise to Moses to learn from Jesus that the Law was simply impossible for the Israelites to keep, and God would need to create a more perfect covenant of grace and mercy. In fact, God told Moses just before he died that Israel would ultimately fail to keep the Law (Deuteronomy 31:15-18, 27-29). This would also not surprise Elijah in that he was an eye witness to the Israelites worshiping the pagan fertility god Baal (I Kings 18).

The Gospels were written in the Greek Language. This language conveys the idea that these three men had a protracted conversation of perhaps 30 minutes or longer. Mark, who may have received his information from Peter, tells us that at one point they were overheard talking to Jesus concerning His impending death at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). However, Jesus was always aware of His death in Jerusalem and had prophesied it four different times including that fact He would die by crucifixion. So, it would not be the two men telling Jesus about His death at Jerusalem as some commentators have suggested. Instead, it would have been Jesus explaining to Moses and Elijah who He was, the mission of His ministry, and the necessity of His subsequent death, burial and resurrection. And finally, He would have explained to them that they were summoned out of Sheol so that He, as the Word of God, could personally instruct them in detail about the role they would play during the tribulation period. Jesus would explain to them that they had caused God to cut short their missions due to a lack of obedience and faith on their part. But soon, they would have the honor and privilege of fulfilling their ministries and redeeming themselves in the eyes of God by spreading the Gospel of the Messiah, and His imminent return, to the people of Israel. In this way, a remnant of Jews will survive the devastating tribulation period and have the honor of serving in the third Temple at Jerusalem during the millennial reign of Christ (Zechariah 13:8-9, Zechariah 14:2; Ezekiel 20:37, Ezekiel 22:21-22; Jeremiah 30:11,24; Daniel 12:9-10; Hosea 6:1-2).

It is important to remember that even though the Jews repeatedly broke the Mosaic Covenant with God, the Jewish people as a nation did not plot to kill their Messiah. It was the Jewish religious leaders that were responsible for His death. They committed the unforgivable sin and are even now paying a heavy price for their willful rejection of their Messiah (Mark 3:28-29). They saw Jesus as an inconvenient truth that must be destroyed to keep the status quo. The Jewish population has continued to suffer the repercussions of the decision they made on behalf of the nation and have searched for a Safe City for the past 2,000 years. God used the Romans as His instrument to destroy the nation and disperse the Jews into the world. God had used the Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks and many other great empires to chastise His disobedient children. However, even today they are still God’s chosen people. They are currently partially spiritually blind and while the scripture tells us that the tribulation period will kill two thirds of the Jewish population, a remnant of approximately 5 million will ultimately come to believe on Jesus as their Messiah. They will survive and be allowed to live in Israel, some serving in the Third Temple at Jerusalem (Zechariah 13:8; Matthew 24:31; Romans 11:1-10, 25-27).

However, the two witnesses will not go up against the forces of the antichrist unarmed. They will be reendowed by God with many of the same supernatural powers that they had in life. Moses will once again be able to turn water to blood and Elijah will once again be able to hold back rain. And both will continue to be able to bring down fire from heaven to destroy the wicked (Elijah: I Kings 17-18; 18:30, Moses: Exodus 7:14-25, Two Witnesses: Revelation 11:3-12). So, no wonder scripture states that the conversations between the three took some time to conduct. The disciples were allowed to watch the conversations, but were not privy to the topics of discussion and the information that Jesus relayed to Moses and Elijah. John would be given this information at the very end of his life, and told by Jesus to write it down so that those people on the earth going through the tribulation period would understand why it was happening and how it would end. In many ways, the Book of Revelation is a survival manual for the Jews and gentile believers during the tribulation period (Revelation 1:19). Almost all commentaries erroneously state that Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about His upcoming crucifixion and consoling Him. This is absurd for two reasons. First, Jesus prophesied His crucifixion to the disciples on three separate occasions. Second, Jesus was always encouraging His disciples to remain strong in their faith during His crucifixion ordeal. So, the two prophets were not instructing Jesus. It was Jesus who was instructing them.

Moses and Elijah knew who Jesus was before they met Him on the mountain. We read in Genesis that God would walk through the Garden of Eden talking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening (Genesis 3:8). But we also know from scripture that no one can look at God and live. So, who exactly were Adam and Eve walking with? One hypothesis is that because Adam and Eve had not yet sinned, they, as sin free creations, were allowed to look upon God and not die. But it may also be that they were in fact walking with the Word of God made visible in the form of a preincarnation of Christ also known as a theophany. This would explain who it was that physically molded Adam, cloned Eve, married them, made their clothing, taught them how to sacrifice, and escorted them out of the Garden. This incarnation is also referred to in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. Abraham was a sinner yet he met with this incarnation of God when He arrived at his tent to share with him the reasons He was about to destroy Sodom (Genesis 18:17-20). This incarnation would have been the voice that Moses heard and talked with at the burning bush, and the likeness he met with face to face while on Mount Sinai (Exodus 3:1-16). This would have been the voice that Elijah heard giving him his prophecies to take to Israel. Therefore, the two men immediately knew the authenticity of who Jesus was having heard His voice many times in the past and so had no problem agreeing to His mission for them.

What a revelation it must have been for these two Old Testament icons to ascend from Sheol, learn 1,500 years had passed, meet with the long-awaited Messiah, and know that He had a special plan for them. What a sight it must have been for the three disciples to see these two revered men of the Jewish faith talking with their Rabbi and newly self-confessed King of Israel. And lastly, this meeting with Jesus revealing His Shekinah Glory was an unmistakable sign that Jesus was the Messiah, was now recognized as such by Moses and anointed as such by the Elijah. This could only be the visible fulfillment of what Jesus had prophesied 8 days earlier saying, “… some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). This transfiguration event then, must be the coming of the Son of Man or Jesus in His glory. The reign of Jesus as King, the start of His dynasty, and the raising up of Israel as the nation of God was about to begin!

As the meeting drew to a close, Peter took this opportunity to call out to Jesus and suggest that he, James and John build three booths. One for Him, one for Moses and one for Elijah (Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33, Luke 9:34). Peter probably saw this suggestion as befitting the event for two reasons. First, it may have been the time of the fall Feast of Sukkot or Booths. This is the 7th and last of the annual Jewish feasts. It commemorates the 40 years that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. At this time, the Jews built small temporary shacks in which to sleep, eat and pray during the feast days. The feast also looked forward to a time when God would once again live with man as He did with the Jews for 40 years in the wilderness. And secondly, if the meeting was in fact ending with Jesus being declared the Messiah, by Moses and Elijah, and thus the start of His reign, then surely the area should be memorialized to celebrate the place where the coronation took place and the reign of Jesus as King of Israel began.

Today we know there were a multitude of flaws in Peter’s reasoning. First, Jesus had summoned Moses and Elijah to explain the end of the Mosaic Law, the Jewish Church and to announce the establishment of a new and more perfect Covenant. God had always planned for this transition as the Levitical system was always temporary and to be replaced by the King Priest order of Melchizedek. There are dozens of Old Testament prophecies and references in scripture revealing that this change was coming and that this new order would include not only the Jews but all of mankind. Second, Moses and Elijah were simply given their future missions to begin the next time they were summoned. This event will be the return of Elijah that the Jews are currently waiting for (Isaiah 40: 3-4; Malachi 4:5-6; Mishna Edduyot 8:7; Sotah 9:15). In fact, traditionally at the Passover meal, the Jews set an extra plate for Elijah. Third, the Jewish nation of God in rejecting their Messiah, was now about to enter into a temporary state of spiritual blindness. They will regain full spiritual sight during the harsh tribulation period followed immediately by the Second Coming of their Messiah or Christ (Romans 11:25). Therefore, Peter’s request to uphold Jewish customs by building booths was antiquated and no longer served a purpose. The Jewish religion would continue to exist but was now to be replaced by the Church Age founded on the sacrifice of the Jewish Messiah as prophesied by many prophets including Isaiah and David (Isaiah 52: 13-15, Isaiah 53:1-12; Psalm 22). Fourth, Jesus simply did not want yet another shrine for Jews to venerate and worship. Fifth, the Feast of Sukkot was always only a shadow of the actual event when the Triune Godhead would arrive on earth at the end of the millennial reign of Christ and reside in the New Jerusalem. It was then that God would literally dwell with mankind. In this way, the prayer and prophecy of Christ becomes a reality, “… Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-13; Revelation 21:1-4). Thus, the need for booths was now just one more obsolete and unnecessary Jewish ritual.

In fact, none of the disciples with the possible exception of John ever understood the complete plan of God concerning the salvation of mankind. It would take the brilliant Jewish scholar Saul of Tarsus, or in the Greek called Paul, to reveal the entire plan of God as given to him by Christ (Galatians 1:12). The name Paul actually means to pause. Thus Paul, the devout Jew, taught by the revered Rabi and scholar Gamaliel, was put on pause as a Jew to became Paul the evangelist (Acts 22:3). The Jews were literally put on spiritual pause while the Church of Jesus, spearheaded by Paul, took over God’s desire for a nation of priests to evangelize the world concerning the spreading of the Gospel or the good news of salvation (Exodus 19:6; I Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). Paul was also allowed to look on Christ in His glory while on the road to Damascus. He states that Christ was more brilliant than the noon day sun and that he was temporarily blinded for 3 days from trying to look directly at Him (Acts 9: 8-9). Peter, nearing the time of His crucifixion, wrote to his followers that Paul had a depth of wisdom as revealed in his letters that was hard for even Peter to fully comprehend, but that he was to be trusted (II Peter 3:14-16).

As Peter was voicing his desire to build three booths, a bright cloud overshadowed and then enveloped the disciples. This cloud is referred as the Shekinah Glory that emanates from God the Father when He visits men on earth. He provides this cover as a way to appear to men without causing their deaths. Because man sins, if they were to look upon God, the reaction of sin in juxtaposition to pure righteousness would cause instant physical death. But in the case of Jesus, because He was without sin, His juxtaposition to God caused Him to immediately radiate the pure Glory of God. John would later see Jesus at His Second Coming surrounded once again by the Shekinah Glory of God (Matthew 24:30-31). It was then that a voice came out from the cloud (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). This caused the disciples to become petrified with fear. Thinking their lives were in mortal danger, they immediately collapsed on their faces and did not move.

We now read about the second of only two times in the New Testament that the Triune Godhead are together on earth. The first was at the baptism of Jesus located at the River Jordan 1,260 feet below sea level. This depth of land is second only to the Dead Sea which is 1,414 feet below sea level and the lowest land on earth.  And now a second time atop Mount Hermon 7,336 feet above sea level and the highest mountain in Israel. The Godhead consist of God the Father, God the Word and God the Holy Spirit. Three separate entities yet eternally in complete sublime unison with one another. In both appearances, God the Father is heard but not seen, the physical manifestation of the Word of God or Jesus is present and God the Holy Spirit envelopes Jesus. The voice from the cloud repeats what was said at the baptism event, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased; hear you only Him.” (Matthew 17:5-6; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34-35).

This last unambiguous command from God the Father to “hear you Him” was a prophecy given by Moses. The Jews consider Moses the greatest prophet to have ever lived. Moses said that the Lord would raise up a Jewish Prophet who will be “just like me” and to him you, the Jewish people, “must listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15). God Himself had personally stepped into the transfiguration event in order to clarify to the disciples, and the world, who Jesus was. He was saying to the disciples, and the Nation of Israel, you know and have read about these two men. Now you can see and hear them. You know that Moses was the spokesman for the Jewish nation through the Law, and Elijah was the spokesman for the Jewish nation through the prophets. You have honestly, and with the best of intentions, tried to follow the Law and the words of the prophets. But, because of your sin nature, you and I both know you have always failed. Therefore, I have created a new more perfect covenant. One that relieves you who sin and fail from the responsibility of trying to uphold your part of the Covenant of the Law. Instead, I have now replaced you, an habitual sinner and your failed responsibility to uphold the Law, with a sin free Messiah who kept the Law perfectly and then, voluntarily, took on your sins and died on your behalf. In other words, your sin debt you owe Me and your deserved punishment has been paid in full by your Messiah. Now, your participation in this new covenant, only requires you to have faith that you will have eternal life, because of the propitiation made by your Messiah. I cannot make it any easier for you than this. I am holding out My hand to make you this free offer. But you must make a conscious decision to take it. I am knocking at your door, but you must open it. The decision is yours to freely decided. From now on, “Listen to only Him” (Hebrews 1:1-3; John 3:16).

Jesus was not only the prophesied Messiah, or in Hebrew the Anointed One of God, but He was also literally the biological Son of God (Luke 1:34-35). God wanted the disciples to see Jesus in His former glory as an eternal spiritual being before He became a mortal physical human being. He wanted the disciple to witness and to write down the event for posterity. God wanted the disciples to understand that what they were now hearing was even more important than what they were seeing. Moses and Elijah had been brought to Jesus not the other way around. They represented a covenant that was perfect, but could not be kept by anyone other than Jesus. He wanted to make it crystal clear that the Church Jesus would establish was based on a new more perfect Everlasting Covenant approved by God before the foundations of the world. And, that the Church, based on this Covenant, was personally sanctified by God. That they and the world were to follow only one religious leader and that leader was Jesus.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked God three times if here was any other way to redeem mankind other than by His crucifixion. This was the only time God did not respond to Jesus. God did not answer because He did not need to. His silence was saying that there was in fact no other way to ensure the salvation of mankind than through the death of His biological Son in whom He was “well pleased.”

After God spoke the command, “listen to Him,” the cloud along with Moses and Elijah were instantly gone. Only Jesus was left standing (Matthew 17:7-9; Mark 9:8-9; Luke 9:36). The disciples remained face to the ground in fear until Jesus gently touched them and in a reassuring voice said, “... arise and do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7). As they descended down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone about what they saw and heard until “after” His Resurrection.  He told them this because if they told others about what happened, it would cause a mass celebration of Jesus as Messiah only to be immediately replaced by mass dissolution when He was crucified and buried.

The meaning of the transfiguration was seven-fold. First, Jesus had told them a week earlier that He was the Messiah, but knew He needed to make a strong visual statement to ensure they believed His claim. Second, Jesus wanted them to know that He had come to fulfill the Law of Moses and the promises of the prophets. Third, He had prophesied to the disciples that some would see Him in His glory before they died; thus, He made good on His prophecy. Forth, He showed the disciples that not only were Moses and Elijah alive in death, but He could resurrect and call them to Himself at will. This was later explained by Jesus to the religious leaders concerning an afterlife (Mark 12:27). Fifth, He wanted the generation, at the end of the age, to know what He would physically look like at His Second Coming. Sixth, He wanted His followers down through the ages to understand that He, His ministry, and His church were all sanctified by God the Father. His public execution, burial, resurrection from the dead, and His physical ascension into heaven should leave no doubt as to the authenticity of who He was, and the certainty of His prophecy concerning His Second Coming.

And finally, the most dramatic Satanic attack in the history of mankind occurred on Mount Hermon. It was here that the demonic plot to destroy the human race through an alien hybridization was unleashed. This in turn caused mankind to think only evil violent thoughts continually (Genesis 6:5-8). Thus, God sent the great flood to destroy this mongrel race yet saved one family to repopulate the earth. Therefore, it was appropriate that Jesus would come to the place where evil on a worldwide scale was created and released. Jesus’ mission was to set in motion a holy spiritual movement that would counteract the growth of evil in the world until, “… he who holds back and continues to hold back is taken out of the way” by way of the rapture (II Thessalonians 2:7). He came to the mountain to declare war on Satan, initiate a plan of victory over Satan and envelope the stronghold of Satan with the purifying Shekinah Glory of the Triune Godhead. Mount Hermon was now taken from Satan and made yet another part of the coming Kingdom of God.

Having come down from the mountain, Jesus was immediately confronted by a boy possessed by an extremely powerful demon that had resisted multiple attempts by the disciples to cast him out. Satan was trying to show publicly that Jesus and His disciples were not strong enough to defeat his most powerful demon entities in the heart of his kingdom. But Jesus immediately cast out the demon who appears to have killed the boy as He was driven from his body. Jesus then took the boy by the hand and apparently brought him back to life. Although Satan brought murder and death into the world, Jesus brought love and life eternal into the world (John 8:44, John 11:25). No one ever died when Jesus was present. He proved that in the heart of the nation’s most pagan site, His powers prevailed against demons, the gates of Hell and Satan (Matthew 16:18). Jesus then looked up at the mountain and said to His disciples, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain move from here to there and it will move (Matthew 17:20).

The three disciples felt honored that they had been singled out from among the 12 to meet Moses, Elijah and to witness Jesus in His glorified state. They felt privileged and they apparently felt proud. Unfortunately, it may have been this realization that quickly led them to engage in a discussion among themselves as to which one was the greatest of the three. Which one would be responsible for coordinating the ‘Jesus as King’ movement? A position that today we would call the Chief of Staff (Matthew 18: 1; Mark 9:33-34; Luke 9:46). Jesus quickly ended that conversation by stating that those who serve others will be first in the coming Kingdom of God.

It is very interesting that although the disciple John was an eyewitness to the transfiguration of Jesus, he does not at first glance seem to mention it in his Gospel. Or does he? Bible scholars all agree that the Gospel of John is uniquely different from the other three Gospels. The other three are so similar that they are referred to as the synoptic Gospels. The Greek word synoptic means similar. But John’s account of the ministry of Jesus is not so much focused on what He did as who He was.

John’s Gospel is not simply another diary of the 40-month ministry of Jesus. John makes it clear from the first verse of Chapter 1 that Jesus was God incarnate. The Book of Genesis starts off with the phrase, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” (Genesis1:1) The word “beginning” in Hebrew means before the actual act of creation, thus God existed eternally before the creation of matter. John starts off His Gospel with the words, “In the beginning was The Word (a separate entity from God) and the Word was with God (separate from God) and (yet) the Word was (also) God. The same (Word) was in the beginning with God. All things were made (created) by Him (the Word); and without Him (the Word) was not anything made that was made. In Him (the Word) was the life; and the Life was the light of men. “…He (the Word) was in the world and the world was made by Him (the Word), and the world knew Him not” … and the Word was made flesh (Jesus) and lived among us and we (the 3 disciples at the transfiguration) beheld His (Jesus’) Glory, the Glory as of the Only Begotten (biological Son of the Father), full of Grace and Truth (John 1:1-4, 10,11-14).

So, it would seem that John does in fact refer to the transfiguration of Jesus and he does this in three ways. Literally, as an eyewitness he cites the actual event. Figuratively, in that the transfiguration caused Him to focus his Gospel on more of who Jesus was than what He did. And prophetically, John would also write the Book of Revelation in which he was allowed to actually eyewitness the timeline of the tribulation period and the Second Coming of Christ in the Glory as of the Only Begotten Son of the Father. Thus, Genesis begins with the Word of God speaking creation into existence and ends with the Book of Revelation when Christ, the Word of God, returns to take control of the world He created with only a word (II Thessalonians 2:8, Revelation 19:15).

In closing, Jesus literally took His 12 disciples to Caesarea Phillip to confirm verbally that He was the Messiah and to physically confirm who He was through His transfiguring. Figuratively, He was announcing to the world that all false man-made religions were now exposed for the lie they are. That man can never achieve heaven and eternal life through laws, rituals and works. Prophetically, Jesus was informing all mankind down through the ages, only His Church would have the power to hold back evil from destroying the earth. That only He as founder of His Church had the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and the keys to Death and Hades (Matthew 16:19; Revelation 1:18). He would soon prove His powers over the physical world by raising Himself from the dead. This in turn would serve to support His promise that He would also raise His followers from the dead (John 11:25-26). And finally, He would display His powers over the spirit world by descending into Hades and leading the imprisoned spirits of the righteous to heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10).

So, what more appropriate place to announce the truth of who He was, the founding of His Church, His powers over Life, death and Hades all backed by the voice of God the Father, than in the Land of the Serpent at a false pagan worship site with the gates of Hell looming in the background. He also announces that not even the actual gates of Hades or Hell could withstand the power of His church to defeat evil and death. He then spreads the Gospel, or good news of God’s plan for mankind, throughout the territory of Bashan home of the Nephilim. He ascends to the top of Mount Hermon, the highest point in Israel, and in front of 3 New Testament witnesses, 2 Old Testament witnesses and the Triune Godhead, reveals Himself in His heavenly glory. A spectacular event fit for a King!

On a closing note, there are five other location that scholars believe are possibly the site of the transfiguration. The traditional site is Mount Tabor which currently has 4 churches located there. This mount was first cited in the writings of the Christian scholar Origen (184 A.D—253 A.D.). It is also mentioned by St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313 A.D.- 386 A.D.) and by St. Jerome (342 A.D.- 420 A.D.).  So, what we have is Origen declaring this as the site approximately 200 years after the event. Then St. Cyril declares it the site over 300 years after the event, and St. Jerome sites it some four hundred years after the event. But again, scripture does not name the mountain. And this is remarkable when you consider that Jesus told the disciples that they could tell the story of the transfiguration “after” His resurrection. And all four Gospels mention the transfiguration yet none site the location. The Gospels were all probably written no later than 37 years after the ascension of Christ or before 70 A.D. We can rightly assume this because none of the Gospels mention the complete destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. This omission concerning the Temple is all the more remarkable because Jesus prophesied that the Temple would be completely destroyed (Matthew 24:2). So, if the Gospels were written after the destruction of the Temple, the writers would have definitely included the fact that this remarkable prophecy of Jesus had been fulfilled. But there is no mention of the Temple being destroyed, and the entire Jewish population being driven out of Israel known as the Great Diaspora. So why the Gospels left out the location is a mystery. And this means that we can only rely on oral traditions, the history of uses of the areas cited, and the few scant clues we have in scripture.

Many modern scholars now believe that Mount Tabor is not the correct site for a number of reasons. First, it is located at the junction of an historically heavily traveled road called the Via Maris. Second, since the time of Joshua, it has aways been a mountain used as a military lookout. Thus, the mountain has a history of being heavily fortified. Third, the Sanhedrin used it monthly for signal fires to announce the sighting of each month’s new moon. This was a way to keep track of time concerning festivals. Fourth, the mountain and its surrounding area has always been heavily populated. So, it is doubtful that Mount Tabor was the site chosen by Jesus to privately display Himself in His Holy Glory.

Eusebius (260A.D- 340 A.D.) the famous and respected Greek historian on Christianity, wrote that he believed that the transfiguration took place on Mount Hermon. And it is interesting that the Bible actually couples Mount Hermon and Mount Tabor, “Tabor and Hermon sing for the joy of Your name” (Psalm 89:12). While both of these sites have Biblical histories, only Mount Hermon is praised by King David as being, “… lofty in its majesty” and “…a blessing of unity in Israel.” (Psalm 47:6, Psalm 89:11-12; Song of Solomon 4:8; Psalm 133:1-3). Mount Hermon is also said to be the loveliest of all images and majestic with its top covered in snow (Psalm 133:3). The flora, snow, rainfall and dew of Mount Hermon is traditionally seen in stark contrast to the hard stone, dry climate and stark look of Mount Zion. Today, Israel calls Mount Hermon the eyes of the Nation in that its altitude makes it Israel’s strategic early warning system for advancing hostile military forces.

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