Michael Boling – Thoughts from the Theocratic Kingdom (Vol. 2): Proposition 153


In Proposition 153, George Peters states:

“This view of the Kingdom with its two classes (viz., the translated and dead saints, glorified, forming one class, and mortal men the other) is forcibly represented in the transfiguration.”

In this Proposition, Peters points to the event of the transfiguration of Jesus as being a representation of the Kingdom, in particular the understanding of two classes of individuals/beings existing, that of translated and dead saints/glorified saints and mortal men. This seems a bit of a stretch given my understanding of the Transfiguration, but we shall see what Peters has to say as he elaborates on his position in the below observation.

The most notable observation Peters presents in Proposition 153 is the following:

“The transfiguration itself is a real occurrence, as the entire narrative fully demonstrates. Passing by the mere unfriendly supposition of Strauss that it is a mythical fabrication of the love of the marvelous to eclipse the account of Moses, or, the simply ignoring of it, without explanation, as unworthy of credence (a summary way of disposing of Scripture, which certainly taxes reason), or the attributing it to an “optical allusion,” in which thunder, lightning, mists, and an excited imagination play their allotted parts, let us briefly consider what some have called “The Dream of Peter” (Furness, etc.), or a kind of visionary appearance (Palfrey), a scenic representation which appeared mentally or in some other way to the disciples, but had no real existence – so that Jesus, instead of being really transfigured, only appeared to be so in a dream, or kind of vision. The ablest defender of this view, is Dr. Neander, who (Life of Christ, Sec. 185) admits, however, that it may be “an objective fact,” i.e. a real, outward transaction, but, if so, it took place in view “of some unknown object for it,” of which we must “confess our ignorance.” Being thus at a loss from his Church-Kingdom standpoint – to account for its occurrence, if a real manifestation, he inclines to adopt the theory of its being “a subjective psychological phenomenon,” i.e. that it was only a mental conception, a vivid dream or vision induced by the impressive circumstances in which the disciples were placed, viz., by the prayer of Christ. Thus one of the most sublime exhibitions of Christ is transformed by this eminent man into a dream. He admits the difficulty how, if a vision, a mere mental affair, the three disciples obtained it at the same time and in the same form. Strauss, Renan, and others are more consistent and logical in their rejection of the whole matter as mythical, than Neander and others are in receiving it, and then divesting it of all force and propriety, by constituting it a kind of dream. If only a dream, why, as Neander queries, should all three at the same time dream it; why then forbid its revelation to others; why present it as a matter of historical fact; why specially assert that they beheld it “when they were awake;” why should they, from an upright position, fall upon their faces with dread, and what need of the Savior to encourage them; and why introduce Peter as speaking? They style of narration, the particulars given, the design intended – all forbid such a caricaturing or belittling of that sublime representation. Having just shown that the preceding context contemplates that “some” of the disciples then present should “see,” with their own eyes, “the Son of man Coming in His Kingdom,” and finding that “six days after” three of these same disciples did see this transfiguration, which represented Jesus in His glory as “The Christ,” we are fully prepared to find that these witnesses are positive in asserting that it was a real transaction, as e.g. John (John 1:14) “we beheld (Gr., we distinctly saw, so Bloomfield, etc.) His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” Barnes (Com. loci) says: “There is no doubt that there is reference here to the transfiguration on the holy mount. To this same evidence Peter also appeals, 2 Pet. 1:16-18. John was one of the witnesses of that scene, and hence he says, ‘We beheld His glory.'” John thus vindicates the reality of the transaction, and sustains the three Evangelists in their representation of it. Then Peter (2 Pet. 1:16-18) mentions the place, the voice and saying from the Father, and emphatically declares that those who were on “the holy mount” at the time “were eye-witnesses of His Majesty.”

The event known as the Transfiguration is provided for us in Scripture in Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36. Peters appeals to the Transfiguration as support for two classes existing in the coming Kingdom – the translated and dead saints, glorified, forming one class, and mortal men the other. One can look at the events described at this transfiguration of Jesus and note the description of translated saints (Moses and Elijah), the transfigured Jesus, and moral men (Peter, James, and John). Peters goes to great lengths to suggest this was not a dream or mythical event, but rather it involved real live people being translated/transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John. These three disciples watched Moses and Elijah actually speaking in real life with Jesus.

I have a few issues with such a position. First, this suggests some sort of pre-resurrection if you will of Moses and Elijah, in particular if they are said to be speaking with Jesus. They had to come from somewhere. Did they come from the presence of God? If so, where in Scripture do we find the saints having been resurrected or having gone to be with the Father at this point in the salvation timeline? For those who suggest the immediate translation of the soul to heaven at death, did Moses and Elijah get a head start on having their souls reconnected with a restored body before all the other saints? Again, where in Scripture do we find support for that position?

Second, Jesus describes this event as a vision. In Matthew 17:9, Jesus instructed Peter, James, and John to “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” This Greek word vision is horama, meaning “a sight divinely granted in an ecstasy or in a sleep, a vision.” It is the same term used to describe what Peter say in Acts 11 with the sheet filled with animals coming down from heaven. Was the event in Acts 11 a literal sheet filled with animals? There is nothing in the context to suggest it was anything other than a divine vision.

Third, to Peters questioning if this was “just” a vision, how all three disciples could have seen the same vision all at the same time with all the same details, the response is what they saw was a divinely provided vision. God as the provider of the vision, is fully capable of accomplishing such a feat.

Fourth, if (and I believe it is) this was a vision, it does not negate the importance of what these disciples saw. They certainly were “eye-witnesses” to the glory of the Son, albeit via a vision. They beheld a vision which was in and of itself a picture of things to come in the future.

I have to humbly disagree with how Peters treats this event. I have an idea and appreciation for how this will connect with the coming Kingdom, but his treatment and explanation of this event is lacking in my opinion, at least in this specific observation. This was a vision of things to come. I can support the approach of two classes of people existing at some point in the coming Kingdom, but that does not have to mean the transfiguration event involved a real life Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus. It was a vision, an important one for sure, but a vision.

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