Table of Contents
Journey Out of Time
Moses and Elijah
surrounding the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of
are exceptional. They are exceptional for two reasons.
First, because Moses and Elijah
uniquely represented the Law and the Prophets in the Jewish mind,
here they stand together as two crucial witnesses under the Old
Covenant. What they bore witness to was
the perfection of the Lord's manhood. He had been tempted by
Satan; He had been abused, persecuted,
provoked and maligned by his fellowmen, disappointed in his friends,
and misunderstood by his family. He
had suffered the insults of the world and its thanklessness;
yet He had never failed to respond to human
need in love and gentleness, nor to human wickedness with anything
but perfectly righteous anger. He
had, in short, displayed all the potential glory of true manhood,
without spot or blemish even in the eyes of
1. "Verily, I [Jesus] say to you There
are some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till
they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. And after six
days Jesus takes Peter, James, and John his brother, and brings
them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before
them: and his face shone as the sun, and his raiment was white
as the light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah
talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord
it is good for us to be here: if you wish, let us make here three
tabernacles: one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed
them: and behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This
is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.
When the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces, and were
very afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise,
and be not afraid. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw
no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down the mountain Jesus
charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son
of man be risen again from the dead." Matthew 16:2817:9.
his worst enemies, not
one of whom in the end could find any fault in Him whatever.
He had been made
perfect by the things which He endured (Hebrews 5:8(2)) and as He stood glorified
in the presence of two
witnesses, God had declared Him wholly pleasing in his own sight.
It was to this perfection of his
manhood that Moses and Elijah now bore witness as He came to
threshold of entering into glory from the Mount of Transfiguration.
He had kept the whole Law in letter and
in spirit and thus had every right to pass into heaven without
The Scriptures constantly affirm
that any man who perfectly fulfills the Law shall indeed be worthy
eternal life (Leviticus 18:5; Ezekiel 20:11,13; Romans 10:5;
Galatians 3:12; and Luke 10:28(3)). Divine
satisfaction can be entirely satisfied via this route. Only this
One Man had ever fulfilled the whole Law and
was therefore "worthy." Moses and Elijah seem to have
been called upon to bear witness to the fact of this
worthiness and its significance in the light of the death he
was to embrace entirely of his own free will
Since the Law requires a minimum
of two witnesses (Matthew 18:16),(5) both Moses and Elijah were
2. "Though he were a Son, yet learned
he obedience by the things which he suffered [experienced]."
3. "You shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments:
which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord."
Leviticus 18:5. "[in the wilderness] I [God] gave them my
statutes and showed them by judgments, which is a man do, he
shall even live in them .. . . But the house of Israel rebelled
againt me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes,
and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even
live in them. . . ." Ezekiel 20:11, 13. "For
Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, that the
man who does those things shall live by them." Romans 10:5.
"For as many as are
of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written,
Cursed is every one who continues not do to all things which
are written in the book of the law. But that no man is justified
by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just
shall live by faith. The law is not of faith, but, The man who
does them shall live in them." Galatians 3:10-12. "A
certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him [Jesus], saying, Master
what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He [Jesus] said to him,
What is written in the law? How do you read it? He, answering,
said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and
with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all
your mind, and your neighbour as yourself. And [Jesus] said to
him, You have answered right: this do, and you shall live."
4. "[on the Mount of Transfiguration] there talked with
him [Jesus] two men who were Moses and Elijah: who appeared in
glory and spoke of his decease which he should accomplish at
Jerusalem." Luke 9:30-31.
5. ". . .in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word
may be established." Matthew 18:16.
needed, and they were
ideally appropriate. But in order to doubly certify these two
witnesses, a third
witness added his testimony the Father in heaven (Matthew
witnesses, the maximum
that the Law could require, thus testified to the perfection
of him who was worthy to become the
sacrificial Lamb. He was declared wholly innocent that he might
become altogether guilty on our
behalf, and not on his own.
However, in order that a
record on earth might later be made of this threefold testimony
in heaven, three
favoured disciples were present as witnesses at the time of this
critical certification. It was only after this
validation of Himself that the Lord came back down from the Mount
of glory and "set his face to go up to
Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51), at the same time seeking to impress
upon the disciples the significance of what
going up to Jerusalem would mean for Himself and for them (Mark
But how did Moses and Elijah thus
appear in person before the resurrection? If the resurrection
body is essential to a true reconstitution of the person and
if that bodily resurrection is yet future, how did
they appear so identifiably themselves at this time?
This is the second special aspect
of their appearance at this time, and it hinges upon the fact
that both had
experienced a unique end. We know that Elijah was translated,
carried up to heaven bodily so that he was
never buried in the earth (2 Kings 2:11).(8) It is apparent, therefore, that the means for his
as a whole person were still available. His body was somehow
preserved presumably for this very
What about Moses? The circumstances
surrounding his death were also exceptional. We are told in
that Moses died and was buried: but in this unique instance he
was buried by God, not
6. "While he [Peter] yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud
overshadowed them: and behold, a voice out of the cloud, which
said, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear
him." Matthew 17:5.
7. "As they came down the mountain [of Transfiguration]
he charged them that they should tell no man what things they
had seen, till the Son of man was risen from the dead. And they
kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another
what the rising from the dead should mean." Mark 9:9, 10.
8. "And it came to pass, as they [Elisha and Elijah] went
on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire,
and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah
went up by a whirlwind into heaven." 2 Kings 2:11.
9. "And he [the Lord] buried him [Moses] in a valley in
the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knows of
his sepulchre unto this day." Deuteronomy 34:6.
by man. And we learn
from Jude 9 that the archangel, Michael, was specifically appointed
to protect this
body. Indeed, Michael may have actually been appointed to the
task of interment. It is apparent that
Satan, perceiving that this specially treated body had some important
significance in the purposes of God,
attempted to seize it, perhaps in the hope of destroying it or
even in the hope of using it for embodiment
himself; just as he later was to use Judas (Luke 22:3; John 13:27(10)) after failing to acquire
Jude 9(12) tells
us that Satan and Michael contended over the body and the contention
was so strong that Michael had to call upon the Lord for assistance.
Clearly the body of Moses, like the
body of Elijah, was needed for very particular reasons, and both
bodies became the subject of special
treatment -- and perhaps of special interest also to Satan.
It does seem that the circumstances
behind the presence in person of Moses and Elijah on the Mount
Transfiguration were indeed of particular significance. We cannot,
therefore, draw from this scene any
firm conclusion regarding the position or state of the departed
saints under ordinary circumstances. We
have here a unique event that demanded exceptional steps to be
taken under circumstances which are
clearly made the occasion for certain statements (especially
Deuteronomy 34:6 and Jude 9, previously
cited) that underscore its extra-ordinary nature.
10. "Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed
Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve." Luke 22:3. "[at
the Last Supper] when he [Jesus] had dipped the sop, he gave
it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop, Satan
entered into him. Then said Jesus to him, That which you do,
do quickly." John 13: 26, 27.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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11. "The Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired
to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed
for you, that your faith fails not." Luke 22:31, 32.
12. "Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil
he disputed about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring against
him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke you."