When Jesus Comes in Kingdom Glory
“Some of those standing here . . . will not taste death at all until first they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”—MATTHEW 16:28.
1, 2. What happened shortly after Pentecost 32 C.E., and what was the purpose of the event?
SHORTLY after Pentecost 32 C.E., three of Jesus Christ’s apostles saw a memorable vision. According to the inspired record, “Jesus took Peter and James and John his brother along and brought them up into a lofty mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them.”—Matthew 17:1, 2.
2 The transfiguration vision came at a critical time. Jesus had started to tell his followers that he was going to suffer and die in Jerusalem, but they found his words difficult to grasp. (Matthew 16:21-23) The vision strengthened the faith of Jesus’ three apostles in preparation for his coming death and also for the years of hard work and testing that would follow for the Christian congregation. Can we today learn something from the vision? Yes, because what it foreshadowed actually takes place in our time.
3, 4. (a) What did Jesus say six days before the transfiguration? (b) Describe what happened during the transfiguration.
3 Six days before the transfiguration, Jesus told his followers: “The Son of man is destined to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will recompense each one according to his behavior.” These words would be fulfilled at “the conclusion of the system of things.” Jesus further stated: “Truly I say to you that there are some of those standing here that will not taste death at all until first they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:27, 28; 24:3; 25:31-34, 41; Daniel 12:4) The transfiguration took place in fulfillment of these latter words.
4 Exactly what did the three apostles see? The following is Luke’s description of the event: “As [Jesus] was praying the appearance of his face became different and his apparel became glitteringly white. Also, look! two men were conversing with him, who were Moses and Elijah. These appeared with glory and began talking about his departure that he was destined to fulfill at Jerusalem.” Then, “a cloud formed and began to overshadow [the apostles]. As they entered into the cloud, they became fearful. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying: ‘This is my Son, the one that has been chosen. Listen to him.’”—Luke 9:29-31, 34, 35.
5. What effect did the transfiguration have on the apostle Peter?
5 The apostle Peter had already identified Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Jehovah’s words from heaven confirmed that identification, and the vision of Jesus transfigured was a foretaste of Christ’s coming in Kingdom power and glory, eventually to judge mankind. More than 30 years after the transfiguration, Peter wrote: “It was not by following artfully contrived false stories that we acquainted you with the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but it was by having become eyewitnesses of his magnificence. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when words such as these were borne to him by the magnificent glory: ‘This is my son, my beloved, whom I myself have approved.’ Yes, these words we heard borne from heaven while we were with him in the holy mountain.”—2 Peter 1:16-18; 1 Peter 4:17.
6. How did events unfold after the transfiguration?
6 Today, our faith too is strengthened by what the three apostles saw. Of course, events have moved on since 32 C.E. The following year, Jesus died and was resurrected, ascending to the right hand of his Father. (Acts 2:29-36) At Pentecost of that year, the new “Israel of God” was brought forth, and a preaching campaign began, starting in Jerusalem and later spreading to the ends of the earth. (Galatians 6:16; Acts 1:8) Almost immediately the faith of Jesus’ followers was tested. The apostles were arrested and severely beaten because they refused to stop preaching. Soon Stephen was murdered. Then James, an eyewitness of the transfiguration, was killed. (Acts 5:17-40; 6:8–7:60; 12:1, 2) Peter and John, however, survived to serve Jehovah faithfully for many more years. In fact, toward the close of the first century C.E., John recorded further visionary glimpses of Jesus in heavenly glory.—Revelation 1:12-20; 14:14; 19:11-16.
7. (a) When did the transfiguration vision begin to be fulfilled? (b) When did Jesus recompense some according to their behavior?
7 Since the beginning of “the Lord’s day” in 1914, many of the visions seen by John have been fulfilled. (Revelation 1:10) What of Jesus’ ‘coming in the glory of his Father,’ as foreshadowed by the transfiguration? This vision began to be fulfilled at the birth of God’s heavenly Kingdom in 1914. When Jesus, like a daystar, rose on the universal scene as a newly enthroned King, that was, as it were, the dawn of a new day. (2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 11:15; 22:16) Did Jesus at that time recompense some according to their behavior? Yes. There is strong evidence that shortly thereafter, the heavenly resurrection of anointed Christians began.—2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 14:13.
8. What events will mark the culmination of the fulfillment of the transfiguration vision?
8 Soon, though, Jesus will arrive “in his glory, and all the angels with him” in order to judge mankind as a whole. (Matthew 25:31) At that time, he will reveal himself in all his magnificent glory and give to “each one” just recompense for his or her behavior. Sheeplike ones will inherit everlasting life in the Kingdom prepared for them, and goatlike ones will depart into “everlasting cutting-off.” What a splendid conclusion that will be to the fulfillment of the transfiguration vision!—Matthew 25:34, 41, 46; Mark 8:38; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.
Jesus’ Glorified Companions
9. Should we expect Moses and Elijah to be with Jesus in the fulfillment of the transfiguration vision? Explain.
9 Jesus was not alone in the transfiguration. Moses and Elijah were seen with him. (Matthew 17:2, 3) Were they literally present? No, for both men had long since died and were asleep in the dust awaiting a resurrection. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Hebrews 11:35) Will they appear with Jesus when he comes in heavenly glory? No, because Moses and Elijah lived before the heavenly hope opened up to humans. They will be part of the earthly “resurrection of . . . the righteous.” (Acts 24:15) So their appearance in the transfiguration vision is symbolic. Of what?
10, 11. Whom do Elijah and Moses picture in different contexts?
10 In other contexts, Moses and Elijah are prophetic figures. As mediator of the Law covenant, Moses foreshadowed Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant. (Deuteronomy 18:18; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 8:6) Elijah foreshadowed John the Baptist, a forerunner of the Messiah. (Matthew 17:11-13) Further, in the context of Revelation chapter 11, Moses and Elijah foreshadow the anointed remnant in the time of the end. How do we know that?
11 Well, turn to Revelation 11:1-6. In verse 3 we read: “I will cause my two witnesses to prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days dressed in sackcloth.” This prophecy was fulfilled upon the remnant of anointed Christians during World War I.a Why two witnesses? Because the anointed remnant perform works that, in a spiritual way, are like those of Moses and Elijah. Verses 5 and 6 go on to say: “If anyone wants to harm [the two witnesses], fire issues forth from their mouths and devours their enemies; and if anyone should want to harm them, in this manner he must be killed. These have the authority to shut up heaven that no rain should fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every sort of plague as often as they wish.” Thus, we are reminded of miracles performed by Elijah and Moses.—Numbers 16:31-34; 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 1:9-12.
12. In the context of the transfiguration, who are pictured by Moses and Elijah?
12 Who, then, do Moses and Elijah foreshadow in the context of the transfiguration? Luke says that they appeared along with Jesus “with glory.” (Luke 9:31) Clearly, they foreshadow Christians who have been anointed with holy spirit as “joint heirs” with Jesus and who thereby received the wonderful hope of being “glorified together” with him. (Romans 8:17) Resurrected anointed ones will be with Jesus when he comes in the glory of his Father to “recompense each one according to his behavior.”—Matthew 16:27.
Witnesses Like Moses and Elijah
13. What features mark Moses and Elijah as fitting prophetic pictures of Jesus’ anointed joint heirs glorified with him?
13 There are notable features that mark Moses and Elijah as fitting prophetic pictures of Jesus’ anointed joint heirs. Both Moses and Elijah served as Jehovah’s spokesmen for many years. Both faced the wrath of a ruler. In a time of need, each was supported by a foreign family. Both boldly prophesied to kings and stood firm against false prophets. Moses and Elijah both saw demonstrations of Jehovah’s power on Mount Sinai (also called Horeb). Both commissioned successors on the east side of the Jordan. And the times of both Moses (with Joshua) and Elijah (with Elisha) saw the greatest number of miracles, apart from those that occurred during the lifetime of Jesus.b
14. How have the anointed served as Jehovah’s spokesman, like Moses and Elijah?
14 Does not all of that remind us of the Israel of God? Yes, indeed. Jesus told his faithful followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) In obedience to these words, anointed Christians have served as Jehovah’s spokesman from Pentecost 33 C.E. until now. Like Moses and Elijah, they have faced the wrath of rulers and have witnessed to them. Jesus told his 12 apostles: “You will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations.” (Matthew 10:18) His words have been fulfilled repeatedly during the history of the Christian congregation.—Acts 25:6, 11, 12, 24-27; 26:3.
15, 16. What parallels are there between the anointed on the one hand and Moses and Elijah on the other in the matter of their (a) fearlessly standing for truth? (b) receiving help from non-Israelites?
15 Further, anointed Christians have been as fearless as Moses and Elijah in standing for truth against religious falsehood. Remember how Paul denounced the Jewish false prophet Bar-Jesus and tactfully but firmly exposed the falseness of the gods of the Athenians. (Acts 13:6-12; 17:16, 22-31) Remember, too, that in modern times the anointed remnant has boldly exposed Christendom and such witnessing has plagued her.—Revelation 8:7-12.c
16 When Moses fled the wrath of Pharaoh, he found refuge in the home of a non-Israelite, Reuel, also called Jethro. At a later time, Moses received valuable organizational counsel from Reuel, whose son Hobab guided Israel through the wilderness.d (Exodus 2:15-22; 18:5-27; Numbers 10:29) Have members of the Israel of God been helped similarly by individuals who are not anointed members of the Israel of God? Yes, they have been supported by the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” who have appeared on the scene during these last days. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16; Isaiah 61:5) Foretelling the warm, loving support that these “sheep” would offer his anointed brothers, Jesus said to them prophetically: “I became hungry and you gave me something to eat; I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me. . . . Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”—Matthew 25:35-40.
17. How did the anointed have an experience similar to that of Elijah on Mount Horeb?
17 Further, the Israel of God had an experience comparable to that of Elijah on Mount Horeb.e Like Elijah at the time he was running from Queen Jezebel, the fearful anointed remnant thought that their work was done at the end of World War I. Then, also like Elijah, they had an encounter with Jehovah, who had come to judge those organizations claiming to be “the house of God.” (1 Peter 4:17; Malachi 3:1-3) While Christendom was found wanting, the anointed remnant was recognized as “the faithful and discreet slave” and was appointed over all Jesus’ earthly belongings. (Matthew 24:45-47) In Horeb, Elijah heard “a calm, low voice” that proved to be that of Jehovah, giving him more work to do. In the quiet period of the postwar years, faithful anointed servants of Jehovah heard his voice from the pages of the Bible. They too perceived that they had a commission to fulfill.—1 Kings 19:4, 9-18; Revelation 11:7-13.
18. How have outstanding manifestations of Jehovah’s power been channeled through the Israel of God?
18 Finally, have outstanding manifestations of Jehovah’s power been channeled through the Israel of God? After Jesus’ death, the apostles performed many miracles, but these gradually ceased. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13) Nowadays, we do not see miracles in a physical sense. On the other hand, Jesus said to his followers: “Most truly I say to you, He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these.” (John 14:12) This had an initial fulfillment as Jesus’ disciples preached the good news throughout the Roman Empire in the first century. (Romans 10:18) Even greater works have been done today as the anointed remnant has spearheaded the preaching of the good news “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matthew 24:14) The result? The 20th century has witnessed the ingathering of the greatest number of dedicated, faithful servants of Jehovah in history. (Revelation 5:9, 10; 7:9, 10) What magnificent evidence of Jehovah’s power!—Isaiah 60:22.
Jesus’ Brothers Come in Glory
19. When are Jesus’ anointed brothers seen with him in glory?
19 As the remnant of Jesus’ anointed brothers finish their earthly course, they are glorified with him. (Romans 2:6, 7; 1 Corinthians 15:53; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 17) Thus they become immortal kings and priests in the heavenly Kingdom. With Jesus, they will then “shepherd the people with an iron rod so that they will be broken to pieces like clay vessels.” (Revelation 2:27; 20:4-6; Psalm 110:2, 5, 6) With Jesus, they will sit on thrones judging “the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28) Groaning creation has eagerly awaited these events, which are part of “the revealing of the sons of God.”—Romans 8:19-21; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8.
20. (a) Regarding what prospect did the transfiguration strengthen Peter’s faith? (b) How does the transfiguration strengthen Christians today?
20 Paul spoke of the revelation of Jesus during the “great tribulation” when he wrote: “He comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones and to be regarded in that day with wonder in connection with all those who exercised faith.” (Matthew 24:21; 2 Thessalonians 1:10) What a magnificent prospect that is for Peter, James, John, and all spirit-anointed Christians! The transfiguration strengthened Peter’s faith. Surely, reading about it strengthens our faith too and fortifies our confidence that Jesus will soon “recompense each one according to his behavior.” Faithful anointed Christians who have survived to this day see their confidence confirmed that they will be glorified with Jesus. Other sheep have their faith strengthened in the knowledge that he will save them through the end of this wicked system of things into the glorious new world. (Revelation 7:14) What an encouragement to stand firm to the end! And this vision can teach us much more, as we will see in the following article.
d See the book You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., pages 281-3.
e See “Let Your Name Be Sanctified,” pages 317-20.
Do You Recall?
◻ Who appeared with Jesus in the transfiguration?
◻ How was the faith of the apostles strengthened by the transfiguration?
◻ When Moses and Elijah appeared “with glory” along with Jesus in the transfiguration, whom did they represent?
◻ What parallels are there between Moses and Elijah on the one hand and the Israel of God on the other?
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The transfiguration has strengthened the faith of Christians past and present