Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
Question: The account of the Transfiguration scene is recorded in Matthew 17: 1-9. Jesus was
transfigured on the mountain in the presence of Peter, James and John. These disciples then
witnessed the appearance of Moses and Elijah, who had died centuries earlier, speaking with
Jesus. Does the appearance of these two prophets prove that the dead are conscious?
Answer: Jesus Himself called the Transfiguration scene a vision (verse 9) when He said, “Tell
the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” A vision gives a
representation of things, but not the actual things themselves. The book of Revelation gives a
series of visions, for example, the Roman Empire is represented by a red dragon; the Apostate
Church by a Harlot and a City, Babylon; the true Church by a chaste Virgin and a City, New
Jerusalem; Jesus and the Church by the Tree of Life, etc. The vision that Peter saw in
Acts 10: 9-17 is another example. In all visions, the thing seen is not the reality, but a
representation, a figure of the reality.
Two Scriptures explain the vision of the Transfiguration: In 2 Peter 1: 16-18, St. Peter testifies
that this vision represents the Second Advent, the Power and the Kingdom of Christ by the
words “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “his majesty.” What the disciples
saw in the “holy mount” was not Christ’s actual Second Presence and Kingdom, and the Power
associated with these, in fact, they still have not been manifested to men. But they did see a
representation of these.
The other Scripture is Matthew 16: 27, 28. Because of the break between these two verses and
Matthew 17: 1-9, most people fail to connect these two sets of Scriptures. There were no
chapters in the Bible until nearly twelve hundred years after St. Matthew wrote this Gospel, but
Jesus’ statement shows that they are connected. In verse 27 Jesus shows that at His Second
Coming and Kingdom (Matthew 25: 31) He would reward all according to their works. Then in
verse 28, He says that some of His hearers should not die until they had seen Him coming in His
Kingdom. But all of His hearers died at least nineteen centuries ago, and the Kingdom is still not
here. How, then, shall we understand His words that some of His hearers should not die until
they had seen Him coming in His Kingdom?
We answer: Three of His hearers, Peter, James and John, in the Transfiguration scene saw Him
coming in His Kingdom – not in its actuality, but a vision, a representation of His Second
Advent and Kingdom. They also saw Elijah in the vision, a representation of the Church, the
spiritual phase of the Kingdom; and they saw Moses in the vision, a representation of the Old
Testament Faithful, the earthly phase of the Kingdom. Thus the Transfiguration scene gives a
complete representation of the Kingdom – its Head, Jesus, and its two phases, the Church and
the Ancient Worthies. The literal Elijah and Moses were not in the holy mount at all; only
representations of them. They are still dead – unconscious in the tomb – awaiting their
awakening (John 5: 28, 29), when they will be in the earthly phase of the Kingdom.