By Joe McKeever
Often, as we serve Him on earth, the Lord gives us these little glimpses of Heaven, special moments when we know “the Lord is in this place!”
Pastor Perry Sanders decided to witness to his seatmate on a plane bound for Richmond. “Do you know the Lord?” he asked the elderly gentleman. “I sure do!” the man said. “I’d love to hear about it,” said Perry. The man said, “Years ago, I was traveling the highways of South Carolina in sales. As lost and miserable as it’s possible to get. And one day I picked up a hitchhiking college student. He told me about Jesus and led me to the Lord.” Perry said, “Sir, do you recall where you let that student out?” “Yes sir. He got out in Bamberg, South Carolina.” Perry Sanders, longtime pastor of Lafayette’s First Baptist Church, said to him, “Sir, I’m that boy. I was a student at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC and always tried to share my faith with anyone giving me a ride to my parents’ home in Bamberg.” A little foretaste of Heaven.
In Heaven, they ‘re going to be coming up to you: “Do you remember that time you witnessed? Preached a sermon? Prayed a prayer? Gave an offering? Wrote a note?” And God used it. So, He lets that happen just a little in this life in order to prepare us, to encourage us, to keep us faithful.
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (2 Peter 1:16).
In the middle of His teaching on discipleship, the Lord Jesus paused to utter a one-of-a-kind prophecy, one that would be fulfilled within the week: “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). The gospels of Mark and Luke phrase it slightly different. “…will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1). “…shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).
The prophecy was fulfilled a few days later when the Lord took with Him the three disciples of His inner circle–Peter, James and John–to the top of the mountain where He was transfigured. Several things happened…
–Jesus underwent a change. “The appearance of His face was altered and His robe came white and glistening” (Luke 9:29). “He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mark 9:2-3). “His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2).
–He met with Moses and Elijah. Bodily. And clearly recognizable since no introductions were made, as far as we can tell. They “appeared in glory” (Luke 9:31), which we take to imply they were also radiant like the Lord.
–Only Luke tells us that “they spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31).
–The disciples fell into some kind of trance and went to sleep. When they awakened, they saw this tableau spread out before them (Luke 9:32).
–Peter, not knowing what to say (Luke 9:33), said something. “Lord, it’s good to be here! So, let’s make three historical markers (tabernacles; either for worship or maybe Peter wanted to stay there on the mountaintop!)–one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!” He was so sure this was a great idea. Surely, the Lord would be honored to have His name mentioned in the same breath as the great Lawmaker and the great Prophet.
–The Father spoke. Oh, did He ever! “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased! Listen to Him!” The Father left no doubt that Jesus was Superior to these great men. One of a kind. To be heard and obeyed.
–And the disciples, getting the message straight from the Throne, did the right thing: They were so stunned, they fell on their faces shaking in their boots.
–The Lord Jesus walked over, touched them–there is that Great Healing Touch again! See Mark 1:41. He said, “Arise and don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they were alone with the Lord.
Great story. One of a kind. Never to be repeated. A glimpse of His majesty, a preview of the Second Coming, to be sure.
Why did Jesus invite Peter, James and John to be spectators of this amazing event?
Three things follow the Transfiguration here in Matthew 17. 1) At the bottom of the mountain, they encounter a problem: a man had brought his sick son to the disciples for healing but they were unable to do anything. The man looked at Jesus and said, “IF you can do anything…..” The Lord said to the man, “IF you can believe, all things are possible.” (see Mark 9 and Luke 9) The Lord said it was a matter of FAITH and PRAYER.
2) The Lord told the disciples they were about to be tested. “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” (17:22) And the last thing: 3) Jesus was informed that His taxes were due!
Here are several reasons for the Lord giving them this glimpse of the Second Coming…
–So their faith would be strong. They would have their faith tested again and again.
–So their prayers would be more effective. The best demonstration of faith is prayer.
–So they would appreciate the continuity of revelation from the Old Testament right on into the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Moses, then Elijah, and now Jesus. A straight line of revelation.
–So they would have a proper understanding and appreciation of what God did at Calvary. Calvary was no accident or misplanning on God’s part. It was the plan from the beginning. A song about the cross has this line: “But don’t feel sorry for my Jesus; He did exactly what He came to do.”
–So the Lord’s followers would have the perspective to deal with the mundane issues of life–like paying taxes. Sometimes we feel stoned to death by popcorn, or eaten alive by a school of minnows. Keeping focused on the victory that is ours in Christ will make all the difference.
We are truly more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).
Ephesians 1 says “the guarantee of our inheritance” (1:14). Some translations say the Holy Spirit is God’s down payment on our salvation. That’s the same idea as a foretaste or appetizer. If it’s so good now, just imagine what’s coming!
Twice since moving back to Mississippi–where I lived and ministered from 1967 to mid-1986–I’ve had the experience of a man approaching me to say thank you for encouraging a college student to keep her baby and not have it aborted, over 30 years earlier. Both men were the fathers and both married the two women. One said, “The child was born handicapped and lived 11 years, but she was the joy of our lives every day.” The other said, “That daughter is now 31 years old and such a blessing to us.” Both said they had made mental notes to thank me at the first opportunity. I remember neither situation. But I said to them, “I sure hope I’m the right minister! Because I want this on my record!”
That’s how Heaven will be, I believe: people coming up thanking you for that offering or that prayer or that witness or that sermon or that note which God used in their lives. “You are the reason I’m here.”
Makes you want to be faithful now, doesn’t it?
Joe McKeever is a cartoonist and former director of missions at New Orleans Baptist Association . This editorial first appeared on his blog.