The Transfiguration and the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God
The disciples had suffered a shattering blow. Peter had moments earlier received the heartiest congratulations for his inspired insight that Yeshua was the Messiah of YEHOVAH God (Matt. 16:16). Then these unwelcome words: The Son of Man is going to be arrested and killed, but he will come back from death on the third day. Peter takes matters into his own hands and rebukes the Savior, only to receive a severer rebuke in return. Peter's agenda would wreck the Messianic program designed by YEHOVAH God for the Messiah. The lesson is clear: If we gain the whole world, but are unwilling to give up everything for Yeshua, what have we really gained? Better to abandon all for the Gospel of the Messiah than to be excluded from the Kingdom. Then Yeshua said: "I tell you with absolute certainty, there are some standing here with me who this side of death will see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom" (Matt. 16:28).
How can that be? Did the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God arrive within the lifetime of Peter, James and John? If so, then the vision of the Kingdom proposed in the pages of this article (and others) is completely astray. We have been saying constantly that the primary and dominant meaning of the "Kingdom of God" is the theocratic world empire of the Messiah to be inaugurated on a renewed earth, with headquarters in Jerusalem, consequent upon the future arrival of Yeshua. No such Kingdom arrived within the lifetime of the Apostles. No such Kingdom came into view at the crucifixion of Yeshua. No such Kingdom appeared when Yeshua ascended to the right hand of the father. A very considerable confusion has come over churchgoers on this issue of the definition of the Kingdom, a confusion which is all the more perplexing because the Kingdom forms the content of all New Testament presentation of the Gospel (see for example Luke 4:43: Matt. 3:2: 4:23: 9:35: 24:14. etc.).
Commentary which proposes that Yeshua ascended to the throne of David at his ascension has not learned to think in Messianic terms. The throne of David was, and will be, located in Jerusalem, not in heaven. The heir to the throne is presently absent from the earth which is to be his inheritance along with the faithful (Matt. 5:5; Rev. 5:10). Luke, brilliant evangelist and companion of Paul, carefully laid out the Messianic Program in Acts 1:5-7. In those much-neglected verses Yeshua is asked the crucial question, "is it at this time that you are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?" The question is raised after three years and a further 40 days of intensive training in Kingdom studies (Acts 1:3). Despite this fact commentaries think they know better than the trained Apostles. To criticize them at this point in their career, as many do at this verse (Acts 1:6), is to impugn the Messiah himself. Yeshua did not for one moment discount the fact that the Kingdom will be restored to Israel (as the whole of Old Testament prophecy announces). He simply stated that it is impossible to know when that event will take place. That the Kingdom will come is sure. When it will come is unknown. It is not a question about whether the Kingdom is to return to Israel. It is a question about when that will happen. What did come "within a few days" was the powerful outpouring of the Spirit. What did not come within a few days was the Kingdom. It is a serious mistake to overlook that vital distinction between two events so carefully spelled out in Acts 1. Those who think they find the throne of David in heaven in Acts 2 do so, we propose, at the expense of the primary data supplied by Acts 1:5-7.
Back to our initial question. The Messiah had made the amazing statement that some standing in his presence, in the early years of the first century, would witness the coming of the kingdom. Yet the Kingdom did not come, neither then, nor at the ascension, nor certainly in AD 70! (The current proposal in some quarters that the destruction of Jerusalem without any restoration of Israel was the coming of the Kingdom is sheer impossibility!)
What the inner circle of disciples saw was indeed the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. But they saw it in vision. Luke makes the closest connection possible between the prediction about the Kingdom and the transfiguration event which followed (Luke 9:28: "Now it came to pass about eight days after this saying [about seeing the Kingdom]). What the disciples witnessed was the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God on earth. They saw the glory of the Messiah -- glory is a common synonym for the coming Kingdom -- and in his company there appeared the resurrected Elijah and Moses. The righteous would "shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father," Yeshua had said earlier (Matt. 13:43). So Yeshua, at the transfiguration, appeared with shining face, shining like the sun, while his clothing was white as light (Matt. 17:2). This extraordinary glimpse into the world as it will be when the Kingdom comes was a fitting encouragement to the disciples after the daunting announcement of the Messiah's impending death. The event of transfiguration is deliberately described as a vision -- orama. Those who witnessed the event were projected temporarily into the future. No other event in the experience of the disciples is perhaps as amazing as this. The memory of it and the meaning of it were indelibly written on the mind of the leading Apostle, Peter.
Thus he confirms for us the impression we gain of the Transfiguration given by the three Gospel writers. In 2 Peter 1 he speaks of the diligence required for entrance into the future Kingdom (vv. 1-11). With this teaching in mind he is anxious to provide good documentation for the basis of Christian faith. He wants them to remember what he had taught about the Kingdom. "We did not follow clever fables when we made known to you the facts about the power and Coming [parousia = second coming] of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16). When was this? "When we were with him in the holy mountain" (v. 18). We saw the second coming of Yeshua and we saw the Kingdom. We saw them when we saw Yeshua transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah on the mountain. They had indeed seen the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. Most interestingly, Peter describes himself and his companions as eyewitnesses of the future Kingdom. The word he used is a technical term to describe what is seen by an initiate into the divine mysteries. Peter was privy to the secrets of YEHOVAH's Kingdom, the mysteries of the Kingdom, the heart of the Gospel of salvation (Matt. 13:11 ff; cp. Luke 8:12).
How clear is our vision of the Kingdom? How well have we been initiated into the unfolding secrets of the Kingdom plan, YEHOVAH's ongoing activity to produce immortals to supervise the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God with Yeshua when he returns? We suspect that there is much work to be done before the church can unite in its testimony to the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God Gospel so beloved by the Messiah. A giant step forward will be taken when Acts 1:5-7 is reinstated as a basis for a clear distinction between the coming of the spirit at Pentecost and the different event entirely, which is the future coming of the Kingdom at the return of the Messiah. Indeed the Messiah must remain in heaven (thus the Kingdom cannot possibly be yet restored) until the restoration of all things in accordance with the words of the Hebrew prophets (see Acts 3:21).
Systems of teaching which evaporate the concrete hope of the restoration of the throne of David in Jerusalem at the coming of the Messiah risk depriving the Messiah and the saints of their inheritance.
Hope of Israel
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.