God's Kingdom Will Be Established
The disciples, and most of the people in Israel during the first century, were of the opinion that when the Messiah came, He would establish His kingdom. They thought that He would defeat the Romans and send them back to Rome. Yeshua, in Matthew chapter 16, tells His disciples something quite different.
Beginning in verse 21:
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Matthew 16:21
Yeshua’s disciples, who were expecting Him to establish God’s Kingdom, hearing instead that He was going to die, would have certainly received this as a terrible blow because it was not at all what they expected. And then, as Yeshua is aligning their expectations with the truth of what will happen, He seems to fuel their false expectations when, in verse 28, He adds:
“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matthew 16:28
Mark, in his account, adds that some would see Messiah come in power as recorded in chapter 9:
“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” Mark 9:1
Both statements would have been encouraging news to the disciples after having received the devastating declaration that He had just given them. After all, they hoped for His kingdom to be established on the earth. They expected the Son of Man to come with power and glory and angels as attested to by the Scriptures and by many Jewish writings of the day.
But, imagine how Yeshua’s words must have left the disciples wondering. They must have been thinking, “ When will this happen? And, how soon?” Would He die and then, after three days, rise up and establish His Kingdom?
Why would Yeshua be so vague with His disciples? Sensing their wonder, Yeshua responds with an even more troubling answer.
Why would He give an answer that would almost certainly fuel their misgivings? What did the Rabbi mean when He said, “Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom”? How could Yeshua fulfill this prophecy?
Not long after Yeshua spoke of these things, it is recorded that, from the twelve, He called aside “the some” – Peter, Jacob (James), and John. These three disciples were taken up on Mount Hermon where they see Yeshua in the glory of His kingdom. This was not a vision. They actually saw Yeshua in heavenly glory and they actually saw Moses and Elijah with Him. These three disciples were granted a foretaste of the “Son of Man, His glory and His Kingdom” – they saw the Messiah in His glory:
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.” Matthew 17:1-3
Why did Yeshua wait six days to take them up on the mountain? Why would Matthew and Mark both be so specific in recording this fact? Could it be that Yeshua was actually letting them know when this would happen in its fullness?
Yes – and it was something that Peter would realize later.
For, he writes:
“With the LORD a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day” 2 Peter 3:8
Yeshua tells His three disciples, and us, when He will actually come in the fullness of the Kingdom – after six thousand years. At the start of the seventh millennium, He will reign.
But, why does Yeshua appear with Moses and Elijah? Moses, who is recorded in the Torah, as having died? And Elijah, who is recorded as having been taken directly to heaven in a chariot of fire? Why these two?
The Apostle Paul explains why Yeshua, coming in His kingdom, would appear with the living Elijah and the resurrected Moses. At the time of His coming, Paul says that it will be:
“In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:52
“According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
Yeshua is going to return in His Father’s Glory with the Clouds of Heaven – those who are the righteous. Those who like Moses, have been resurrected, and those who are caught up alive like Elijah.
In Peter’s response to all of this, we are told even more about the event:
“Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’” Mark 9:5
Peter, amazingly suggests, that they should build three temporary shelters or booths (sukkot) – one for each of the men. Peter’s request speaks of the Festival of the LORD that teaches us about this period of time when Yeshua will come into the fullness of His kingdom – the Feast of Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles.
Now remember, these disciples are not having a vision. They are actually seeing and experiencing the event. And, six days earlier, they heard Yeshua say that they would not taste death before they saw these things. They must have surely thought, “This is it! Messiah will go down from this mountain in power and defeat all of Israel’s adversaries!”
Then they hear a voice from heaven:
“While He was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’” Matthew 17:5
A Heavenly Voice calls out, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” The message is almost identical to the words that John the Baptist heard when Yeshua was baptized. After Yeshua had been immersed, a voice from Heaven declared to Him, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
The message from Heaven, in both cases, is clear. “My Son” is a reference to the Messianic title given to the Davidic King. For:
“You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Psalm 2:7-9
“Whom I love” is an amazing reference to Yeshua’s mission as the Suffering Servant. These are almost the identical words God spoke to Abraham when He told him to offer his son Isaac – when He instructed Abraham to, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, “whom you love.” This passage is called the Akeidah or, the binding of Isaac, and it is an amazing picture of the death and the resurrection of Yeshua.
“Listen to Him” is an obvious reference to Yeshua and the one standing with Yeshua – Moses. For, in the wilderness, Israel was told this:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him.” Deuteronomy 18:15
This “prophet like unto Moses” is, of course, the Messiah Yeshua. There are literally hundreds of parallels that can be identified when comparing the lives of Yeshua and Moses. These parallels are discussed in Ada Habershon’s book the Study of the Types. (See pages 165-168.)
So here, on a high mountain, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, the Heavenly Voice commands that the disciples “listen to Him” alluding to and declaring that Yeshua is the Messiah and “the Prophet.”
But, in order to literally fulfill the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15, it will take more than a bunch of parallels between the lives of Moses and Yeshua. The Messiah must speak the words of God directly. And, as we study the Gospels, we find that this is, indeed, the case with Yeshua.
Yeshua testifies of Himself when He says in the Gospel of John:
“I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” John 8:28
And again when He says:
“I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.” John 12:49
Yeshua tells us, Himself, that He speaks only the words of the Father. But, that is only His testimony. Scripture makes it very clear that “in the mouths of two or three let all things be established.” Matthew 18:16
And, the problems do not end here, because we are told this about Moses in Numbers chapter 12:
“When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles.” Numbers 12:6-8
In order to literally fulfill the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15, the Messiah must achieve a level of prophecy equivalent to that of Moses. Messiah must be able to hear the voice of God directly. No visions, no dreams, no riddles, but clearly. Messiah must speak to God “face to face.” Who besides Yeshua can bare witness to this? Well, here on the mountain of Hermon, in the presence of Peter, Jacob, and John, the Voice from heaven speaks to Yeshua “face to face” and declares He is a prophet like unto Moses - that He is the Messiah. Peter, Jacob, and John bare witness to this.
Here, on the mountain of Hermon, the disciples are shown the time of His coming “after six days” or, as Peter tells us, after six thousand years. They are shown that He will return with the resurrected and those who are caught up to meet Him. They are told by God, the Father, that Yeshua is His Son and the King from the line of David – “this is My Son.” They are told by God, the Father, that Yeshua is the lamb offered for Isaac – “whom I love.” And, they are told that Yeshua is the prophet like unto Moses – “listen to Him.”
And then, after these amazing revelations, after this painstaking effort to convey His mission, as they return and go down the mountain, Yeshua tells them that they must not to tell anyone about their experience. They are instructed to tell no one until after the resurrection. We must assume that this included the other disciples, but why?
The answer lies in the Matthew chapter 16 from above: because the “Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected…, be killed and after three days rise again.” It was this aspect of the Ministry of Messiah that would secure the Kingdom they so longed to see. It was only in Messiah’s unjust execution that the judgment of the rulers of this age and the reward of the righteous could be attained. This becomes plain to John when, in exile, he receives Yeshua’s Revelation years later. When he sees that the scroll with the seven seals must be opened.
“Then I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’” Revelation 5:1-5
This scroll must be opened for the judgment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous to begin. John weeps because no one is found to open it. The angel tells John there is One who is worthy – the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” And so, as John looks up from his weeping, he expects to see the “Lion,” the King, but, instead, he sees:
“…a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” Revelation 5:6
John does not see a lion, he sees a slaughtered Lamb. The revelation of Yeshua’s super-human nature, His being King, was secondary to the accomplishment of His suffering and resurrection. Only the slaughtered Lamb could take the scroll. If Yeshua did not suffer, die, and resurrect then the Kingdom of Heaven could not be re-established. If Yeshua did not suffer, die, and resurrect then the judgment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous could not happen.
Even Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians:
“We speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7-8
Had Yeshua’s mission been understood by the rulers of this age, Messiah certainly would not have suffered and died. If He had not suffered and died, He would not have arisen. And, had He not arisen, God’s plan would not have been accomplished.