Seeing the kingdom of God
Jesus made an astounding prediction.
But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.
Aside from Jesus himself everyone who was there is now dead, so this prophecy must have been fulfilled. But just when did its fulfillment take place? The prophecy appears in three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in all three is immediately followed by the event known as the Transfiguration.
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.
As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
In Matthew’s gospel there is a chapter break between the two events. The prediction ends chapter 16 and the transfiguration begins chapter 17. The chapter and verse divisions in our Bible were not part of God’s revelation but were added later by men. Sometimes we must ignore them if we want to understand the Bible. The Transfiguration gave the disciples a preview of what the kingdom of God will be like when Jesus returns to rule the world.
The first thing they say was a transformation in the appearance of Jesus. The the book of Revelation John would give a description of what Jesus looks like now.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
Then they saw Moses and Elijah talking to him. They knew who they were even though they could never have seen them before. This may indicate that in the Kingdom we will have the ability to recognize everyone we see, whether we have ever met them before or not. If this is so, it will make things a lot easier for me. I have a terrible time remembering the names of people I meet.
Moses gave Israel the law. Elijah was a prophet. The coming of Jesus was foretold by the law and the prophets.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Moses died and was buried. Elijah never died but was taken to Heaven while still alive.
And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
2 Kings 2:11
Millions of believers have died and will be resurrected to enter the kingdom but there will be some who will be taken to Heaven without dying just as Elijah was.
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
This event is know as the Rapture. Perhaps Moses represents the believers who have died and will be resurrected, Elijah stands for those who will experience the Rapture, and the disciples stand for those who will be alive on earth when Jesus returns.
(The disciples fell asleep while Jesus was praying. This seems to have been a habit for them because they did the same thing when Jesus was praying before he was arrested.
In his second letter Peter referred to this incident as evidence that what he taught was true.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
2 Peter 1:16-18