Though we are familiar with this incident of the transfiguration of Jesus, I have always had a feeling that we have not really grasped strongly enough the significance of it. We view it objectively as something that happened in the life of our Lord here, perhaps the most wonderful thing, and we leave it there and fail to realize that there is a tremendous challenge in it, and that it means something of very great importance and significance in the economy of God. Furthermore, we fail to realize that this is the focal point of all the Scriptures. From the beginning of the Bible up to this point, and from this point onwards, everything past and future meets here, is focused upon this, and this therefore contains that which is of tremendous account. The Lord Jesus said with emphasis, "There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." Pentecost was the fulfilment of that, but the transfiguration was the meaning and nature of that. The two go together -- the transfiguration and the coming of the Holy Spirit as He came on the day of Pentecost.
A Kingdom Trio
Now, in order to get right to the meaning of this, let us note that it says -- and Jesus was always very deliberate and quite calculated in what He did, there was nothing casual about Him in word or in deed -- "Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart." Peter and James and John more than any others of the disciples of our Lord were those who had the great Kingdom complex. They were looking for the coming of the Kingdom. They had all the Jewish concept of the Kingdom and all the Jewish expectation of the Kingdom, and from various ejaculations of theirs it is quite clear that they were thinking in terms of the Israelitish kingdom coming in relation to Jesus. "Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). That is their mentality, their expectation, their hope. We can say this trio was a Kingdom trio in mentality and concept and expectation. It was as though all this system of truth or teaching about the Kingdom was focused upon and gathered up into those three men.
An Object Lesson of the Kingdom
And Jesus took them deliberately apart up into the high mountain and was transfigured before them. They were the spectators of this. They were the ones who had this unique experience. Jesus was giving them an object lesson of the Kingdom. If you look at all the features you will see how truly that was so. Jesus had said -- "the Son of man coming in his kingdom". That is the first significant thing. "The Son of man in his kingdom". That is relationship to man, that is man being brought in according to God. This Kingdom is the Kingdom which God intended man to have, to be man's Kingdom. It is the Kingdom of the Son of man as representing man according to God's mind.
The Kingdom for Man
And so at once we are taken right back to the beginning of the Bible, and we see what God intended regarding the first man -- to give him the Kingdom. "Thou makest him to have dominion" (Psa. 8:6). The Kingdom was the great idea in God's mind in the creation of man, that all things should be under his feet. But that first man missed the Kingdom or lost the Kingdom, and it was not only a matter of government. Why he lost the Kingdom was because he became another kind of man, for this Kingdom belongs to a certain kind of man, and Adam, the first for whom it was intended, changed his nature by disobedience, by unbelief, and so he lost it. Another, the last Adam, comes in and recovers what Adam lost or missed -- the Kingdom.
The Moral Perfection of the Kingdom
But He shows what kind of a man is the Kingdom man, and you have two things here in this presentation of the transfigured Son of man. One is moral perfection. Here He is presented in all the purity and perfection of moral victory, tested, proved in every way in which a man can be tested and proved, emerging triumphant after all. There is nothing more really to be done as far as He personally is concerned. If He descends the mountain and goes to the cross, that is not on His own account. That is to bring the other men into the Kingdom, but on His own account all is done. He has reached the point of moral perfection, and so perfection is written large in the very description of Him here: His garments and His face, the picture of moral and spiritual perfection.
The Glory of the Kingdom
The other thing is glory, and when you put those two things together, you know what the Kingdom is. It is spiritual and moral perfection in manhood issuing in glory. That is a word very difficult to understand. Of course, we usually do associate with the word "glory" the accompaniments of this transfiguration -- bright, glistening, fierce light. That is quite true in this sense -- if you find a person who is really by the grace of God overcoming, they are up against something that calls for much grace, maybe in themselves, some difficulty, some handicap, some discouragement, something that is so calculated to make them anything but triumphant Christians; or it may be in some other person with whom they have to live and work, it may be in the home, it may be in the business, it may be anywhere, and these people are an awful trial to them, but if you see these people triumphant through the grace of God over those trials, you do see something about them that is glorious. You can even see it in their countenance. How different they are from the people who are under their troubles. Their face tells whether they are over or under. There is something you recognize there of glory. It is a very faint illustration of this thing. Jesus has triumphed, reached the point of absolute victory on all matters, and the glory follows. I do believe that when we are glorified together with Him, there will be something very light about us -- I do not mean frivolous. We shall be radiant -- that is the word -- radiant people. Heaven is going to be a glorious place in this sense -- that everybody is going to be so radiant.
Here is Christ the Son of man radiant, and the basis of His radiance is His spiritual life. That is the Kingdom. It was for that that man was created. It was that which he lost. It is that which the last Adam has recovered in His own Person, and here in the transfiguration He gives these three representatives of the great theory of the Kingdom a real object lesson of what the Kingdom really is. "The Kingdom is not you sitting upon thrones and exercising your importance over other people, ordering them here and there and all that sort of thing. This is the Kingdom: the Kingdom is in terms of spiritual victory resulting in spiritual radiance."
Now when He came in His Kingdom on the day of Pentecost, look how radiant they are. See how so many of those things which had bothered them and troubled them in themselves and with one another up to that point just disappeared. They were a quarrelsome crowd; they could not get on together even when they were with the Lord. They are always spoiling things by their wrong approaches and reactions and interests and ambitions. But see, now there is a mighty victory over all that. We could say it was never before possible for those twelve men to stand up together. They might have done it physically, but to really have stood up together is a mighty victory over temperamental differences and all that sort of thing of the natural man. It is a mighty victory to really be together: one voice, one heart, one mind, one objective. They are together. Lots of things have been transcended now by the coming of the Kingdom. The sovereign rule of the glorified Lord has descended upon them, and that which had been so contrary to the divine idea of the Kingdom has just gone out, and there is radiance there. They are just filled with joy. It is a wonderful picture really of transfigured men, and the church is supposed to be a transfigured church on that basis.
The Focal Point of History
This is the heart of the transfiguration. It is the Kingdom, what God meant, what man missed, what Christ has brought in in His own Person and into which He has called us, into His eternal Kingdom. It was a wonderful event. I think the greatest thing that had ever happened in the history of mankind was the transfiguration of our Lord, and yet the newspapers said nothing about it, the world knew absolutely nothing about it, completely ignorant of it for the time being. It is not found in any historical record at all apart from the New Testament, and the greatest thing in the history of mankind, the Kingdom, is always like that. The world cannot appreciate it, cannot understand it, cannot appraise it. The world really does not know anything about this. Its system of values is altogether different from spiritual values and moral perfections, and therefore it cannot appreciate even the joy and the radiance of Christians. The world looks on at a radiant Christian, and says, "I do not know what it is all about, what you are making all the fuss about." It just cannot appreciate this joy and radiance but it is the greatest thing in history.
The Impact of the Kingdom
Well, this whole thing needs to be analysed much more thoroughly, but we are not going to be able to do that now. But note, these men, Peter, James and John, as beforehand representatives of that other idea of the Kingdom, and now the nucleus of this new idea of the Kingdom, these men felt the impact of that Kingdom that day. We even had to excuse Peter for, as we say, "putting his foot in it". It was an awful blunder that Peter made, but there you are, you see. When you get an overwhelming experience, you make all sorts of blunders. You get carried away from yourself. And so he blurted this thing out. But the fact is that these men went down under the impact of this thing. This was the Kingdom coming in power, and when the Kingdom comes in power, we go down, we just have to go down. This is the test and the challenge of the Kingdom where we are concerned. We have all the teaching about the Kingdom, we have got a number of different systems of teaching about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of heaven, and so on. But it is not our teaching, it is not our system, it is the effect that it has upon us, and really to truly hold the truth of the Kingdom means that we are people who have gone down with our faces to the ground before the revelation of Jesus Christ. This thing is too much for us, it is overwhelming, it is a tremendous thing. We just fall on our faces; we are like dead people. Is that how the presentation of divine truth comes to us? Do you ever sit in the presence of the presentation of the Lord Jesus, either in a meeting or with your Bible, and as it is going on, you are hearing, or you are reading, you bow your head and say, "It is too big for me, too wonderful, it is overwhelming"? I do not mean intellectually overwhelming, but spiritually. This is tremendous! It touches the heart like that, and unless that is true, there is something lacking in our apprehension of truth. Truth ought to bring us to our knees. The presentation of Jesus Christ ought to humble us and empty us, and we ought to go down on our faces -- yes, if you like, in fear and trembling, anyhow so long as we go down, and that is what happened to them. It came in power, in representation, in the Person of the Son of man that day, and it registered something overwhelming upon them. You know that because it was many years after this event that Peter wrote about it. "This voice we ourselves heard borne out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount" (2 Pet. 1:18). Read further what he says about it. "You had better take heed", he says, "as unto a light that shineth in a dark place." Peter never forgot it. It came back to Peter with renewed force and it went through to the end of his life with him.
Now, we may not have a physical, objective sight of a transfigured Lord, but the Holy Spirit would make the glorified Lord glorious to us. You see, it is borne out all along. When John himself so many years afterwards saw this Son of man, he said, "I fell at his feet as one dead" (Rev. 1:17). When Saul of Tarsus saw the glorified Jesus of Nazareth, he was down on his face, a broken, crushed man, helpless, impotent in his own strength. We need to recover, do we not, this element of the wonder and glory and greatness of the Christ about whom we hear so much, that He should be redeemed from a commonplace, saved from familiarity; on the contrary, our hearts should be deeply moved.
The Lordship of Christ
I will say one other thing concerning Peter -- well, we will excuse him. Probably we should do something very much like that in such an experience. "This he said," says another writer, "not knowing what he said" (Luke 9:33). All right: but when he had said it, heaven took serious account of it, and while he was yet speaking, a cloud overshadowed them, a reaction of God from heaven, and a voice came out of the cloud saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him". Now then, the whole question and issue of utter subjection to the Lord is brought in at that point. That is the Kingdom. You may talk foolishly, frivolously, impulsively, but look here -- you had better subject all your talking to the absolute domination of your Lord. Don't our tongues want to come under the Lordship of Christ? Therefore they are to be touched by the Kingdom and transfigured. Tongues have got to be delivered from that which is not the glory and purity of the Kingdom of the Son of man, and in every other way. This little phrase -- "Hear ye him" -- don't you go dictating to Him; don't you make suggestions to Him: you listen to Him. That is the law of the Kingdom. Christ is the first and the last. Christ is the only One from whom we are to take our orders, our instructions. We have got to be there where we refer everything to Him, we defer everything to Him, where He is in the place of absolute Lordship.
The Need of Openness of Heart
Is it not an amazing thing? -- I think it becomes the more amazing when we consider it -- here is the Son of man transfigured and glorified in that brief moment as an object lesson and an example, but look at Him again and consider and contemplate all that that signifies -- a man in the glory, a man glorified because perfected, all that that means. We cannot grasp it. And then listen -- "And killed the Prince of life" (Acts 3:15) -- a terrible thing to contemplate, killed that One. Here He is, look at Him, transformed, transfigured, and then kill Him. He was no other Son of man or Son of God that they crucified than the One on the mount; He was the same One. The point is just this, that we need really to have our eyes opened to the Lord Jesus to save us from making the most awful blunders where His honour and His glory are concerned. They did it because they were blind, and they were blind because they were prejudiced, and see what they did because they were prejudiced. It is not two Christs, the Christ of the Transfiguration Mount, and the Christ hanging on the cross. It is the same Christ, and they can do that as the result of prejudice. They can do that, a thing like that, because their hearts are not willing to have Him as Lord, as King. Oh, what we can do by reason of a closed heart and a closed mind. How necessary it is, then, for us to be in the place of obedience to the Lord and what it will lead us into. Do you get my point? Openness to the Lord will lead us right into that which Adam lost, the glorious Kingdom. Openness to the Lord is the first step back into the Kingdom. Closedness to the Lord, like Jewish prejudice, meant that Israel lost the Kingdom.
Oh, may the Lord give us an open heart, an unprejudiced mind, a pure spirit, transparent inside, and see what it will lead to. It will lead to the Kingdom, and the Kingdom is not just a system of things, although it will become that eventually. It is a nature; it is a spiritual power. It will lead us to glory. There is no glory along the line of a closed heart or a closed mind of prejudice, fear and suspicion. That is the way away from glory. The open heart, submission, subjection to Christ, is the way into the Kingdom.
A spoken message, 23rd January, 1955
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