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Matthew 16:28: Transfiguration or Second Coming of Christ?

Study of Spiritual Gifts in the Bible
William Bell

Imminent Time Statements for Christ's Return

More and more, evangelicals are feeling the weighty power of the imminent time statements related to the Jesus' coming (parousia or presence). Some have tried for years to ignore the many texts which teach that Christ would return within the first century generation. Others are either ignorant of the time statements or plainly ignore them.

  • Jesus told his apostles they would not have have covered all the cities in Israel as they fled Jewish persecution before he returned, Matt. 10:23.
  • He said his coming would occur in the "consummation of the Jewish age", (Matt. 13:39,40, 24:3).
  • He taught that his generation would not pass away until all the events were fulfilled, Matt. 24:34, Lk. 21:20-22, 32.
  • The Apostles all spoke of his return as "at hand" (imminent), coming in a very, very little while, standing near the door, as the last hour, and shortly to come to pass. (Rom. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:5, Jas. 5:7-8; 1 Pet. 4:7, 17; 1 Jn. 2:18, Re. 1:1, 3, 22:6, 7, 10, 12).

These passages are very troubling to evangelicals who preach fear, war-mongering and imminent Armageddon. They would rather see millions of people killed, mostly African American, Palestinians, Arabs and Latinos. Christian Zionists are willing to risk the lives of two-thirds of the Jewish population in the world to see their dreams of doom and gloom come to pass. It is sickness.

Some Standing Here Who Shall Not Die Till They See The Son of Man Come

Dispensationalist Christian Zionist evangelicals such as John Hagee are beginning to feel the power of the above imminent statements. They know that the hand-writing is on the wall for them to continue their "chicken little" rant that the "sky is falling". It was a lie with Chicken Little, and it is a lie today.

One such passage that they are "desperate" to explain away is Mathew 16:28. Hagee seeks to blow the text off by saying it is a reference to the transfiguration found in chapter 17. Several have opted for this view. This is their way of handling the imminent teaching in the text.

Christ said, For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works, "Assuredly, I Say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom". (Matt. 16:27-28)

Reasons for the Transfiguration View According to Hagee, 4 Blood Moons: Something is About to Happen, pp. 93-94.

  1. Chapter divisions are not inspired. Therefore, 16:28 is a continuation of 17:1-2
  2. The N.T. church did not yet exist. The "Rapture" had not occurred
  3. Peter, James and John would soon represent the body of N.T. believers

Response

It is true, chapter divisions are not inspired. However, that does not account for the "time" of fulfillment. We agree the subject of Matt 16:27-28 and the Transfiguration are related. Peter tells us that it was a vision of the "power and parousia" (coming) of Christ. 2 Peter. 1:16.

So, we must accept the words of the inspired Apostle that it was a "vision" of an event which had not yet occurred. Likewise, Jesus Since Hagee agrees that the church had not yet begun, then it was impossible for the coming of Christ to have occurred at the time of the transfiguration.

After the events of that day ended, Jesus told the three to "tell the vision to no man until he had risen from the dead". (Matt. 17:9) What they saw was not the actual occurrence of the parousia, but the vision of Jesus' coming as a future event. But, we yet have unanswered questions.

Mark 8:38-9:1 and Luke 9:26-27 are parallel passages to Matthew 16:27-28. However, Mark's account is separated with a chapter division. Obviously, it is arbitrary as both Matthew and Luke's account show they are one event.

Therefore, Jesus taught that he would come in the glory of His Father with his holy angels and judge the adulterous and sinful generation before some of them died. Since those events cannot be forced into an occurrence which happened six days later at the transfiguration, the latter does not fulfill but only foreshadows them through the vision.

In other words the vision is showing what would occur after the church is established, not before. Hagee's comments in the criteria above from his book answer his own error on the text.

Time Contradiction

Secondly, if Peter and John would "soon" represent the church, how could the transfiguration be the time of fulfillment of Matt. 16:27-28? It clearly cannot because judgment could not occur before the church was established. Even on Hagee's paradigm, the Rapture (of which the Bible says nothing) certainly did not occur after six days. Nor has it occurred even to this day. That would mean the Apostles and others present at the time would yet be alive on earth.

If Hagee cannot get the judgment and the parousia fulfilled in six days, he cannot force the coming of the Lord into the transfiguration. He can only get a "vision" of it. But the coming in Matt. 16:27-28 was not a vision, but prophecy. It is recorded in Isa. 40:10; 62:11-12. God does not fulfill prophecy with a vision, but with reality and confirmation. A vision is prophecy! Daniel was told God would "seal up vision and prophecy". Dan. 9:26. He said the "vision" of Christ's coming referred to the "time of the end" not to the transfiguration. (Dan. 12:4, 13)

Most glaringly, Joel's prophecy from which Hagee takes his 4 Blood Moons theorizing, was not fulfilled in the Transfiguration. Peter, stated Joel's prophecy began to be fulfilled after Jesus' resurrection and ascension. But he says "this is that which was spoken by Joel. He places Joel's "one blood" moon in the first century generation (Acts 2:40).

Thirdly, in the vision, Moses and Elijah appeared. They represented the Law and the Prophets, not merely O.T. saints as Hagee says. However, when God spoke, they disappeared from the vision leaving Christ alone and a voice which said, "This is my beloved Son, hear him".

Foreshadowing the Authority of Christ

The vision is a depiction of the passing of authority from the Law and the prophets to Christ alone. Moses and Elijah's passing away indicated that the Law and the Prophets roles were fulfilled and that we now live under the sole authority of Jesus Christ, which did not occur until after his death and resurrection. "All authority has been given to Me n heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:18-19).

They were no longer to be baptized into the name of Moses (by his authority) but into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit by the authority of Christ. They were no longer authorized to observe all things Moses commanded, but rather to observe all the things of Christ. Jesus said all things written in the Law and the Prophets would be fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. That is the meaning and time of the vision the Apostles saw at the transfiguration.

The events of Matthew 16:27-28 were not a vision. For them to have been fulfilled in the transfiguration, they would have to be a vision, not the real events. Verse 28 places the judgment, and coming of Christ with the Holy angels in the glory of the Father before some then living died.

For Hagee's argument to have merit he must prove the parousia occurred in fact six days later. He admits he can't. He must prove the judgment occurred in fact six days later, He can't. He must prove the Son of Man came in his kingdom in fact, six days later. He doesn't even believe Christ should be king (have a crown), therefore, he can't be consistent and believe and teach the transfiguration is vision of the coming kingdom of Christ.

Dispensational Christians Zionists do not believe the kingdom has been set up until this day. Mark's account (9:1) uses a verb which says those who stood with Christ would not die till they had seen Christ come in his kingdom. It means they would live beyond the event and look upon it as past. Such could and did occur in the first century. It is impossible for it to occur after all them died, which is the case for today.