For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
In addition to the verse quoted above, here is the verse immediately preceding the Transfiguration Gospel:
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.
When Peter recalls the transfiguration event, he calls it the “coming,” or the Parousia, to use the Greek word. The Parousia is the end times coming of Christ.
Just one verse before the transfiguration account, Jesus also speaks of His “coming.” The Greek word here is not parousia, but erchomai, the verb for “to come.” However, this word is very often also used for Christ’s end time coming. Whereas erchomai focuses on the action of coming – going from one place to another – parousia focuses on the result of that coming, the continuing presence of Christ.
There’s a powerful case to be made that at the transfiguration event, Peter, James, and John literally saw the coming of Christ, that is, His second coming. Put another way, they saw the “end times” Jesus, the post-exaltation Jesus. Or put in John’s terms, they saw Him “as He is” after His revelation, which he adds is how we will also be, what St. Paul terms “the revealing of the sons of God.”
Did Peter, James, and John see the second coming of Christ? If so, what would support this case?
First, we can refer to the verses quoted above. Jesus tells His disciples that “some” of them would see Him coming in His kingdom. “Some” suggests more than one, so it can’t just be referring to the revelation given to John at Patmos. Well, the very next verse Jesus takes “some” of the disciples and transfigures into His exalted state right before their eyes. This event St. Peter specifically calls the “parousia,” or end coming and presence, of Christ. The textual evidence is strong.
Second, let us remember what the purpose of the event was. It was to confirm the faith. The apostles were to be witnesses of the articles of faith that made up the Apostles’ Creed. We see in the transfiguration event several articles of the creed witnessed: the fatherhood of God, the sonship of Jesus, the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come. How on earth could the apostles “bear witness” to the life of the world to come if it were merely the word of another? As Peter wrote, he wasn’t about writing myths, but was an eye-witness of the things He proclaimed.
Third, and this would be the most controversial, but Peter, James, and John were witnessing the resurrected bodies of Moses and Elijah. Now, Elijah’s body had already been “resurrected” or “transfigured” long ago, when the fiery chariot picked him up and took him to heaven, but Moses’ body had not. Moses’ body will only resurrect at the second coming.
How do we know Moses’ body was resurrected at the transfiguration event? Well, we can’t know for absolute certainty, but here are some indications that he was there bodily.
Moses was localized. He wasn’t a ghost. Elijah could not have been anything but a body, because it was his body which ascended in the fiery chariot, so why would Moses not have had the same status as Elijah? Or was Elijah a body but Moses – and Moses alone – a ghost?
We’ve already seen Jesus prove the resurrection of the flesh by pointing out how the Lord at the burning bush was the “God of Abraham,” that is, the God of the living, not of the dead. How was Abraham resurrected at the time of the burning bush? How is Moses resurrected at the transfiguration?
Such mysteries are not answered because, well, that’s how mysteries operate. They’re weird, and time warpy. For instance, the Gospel of Luke tells us Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were talking of His “exodus,” or death. How can they speak of something which had not yet occurred? How can the book of Revelation speak of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”? Mysterious. Time warpy. But that’s how eternity works – not time bound.
If it is the case that Peter, James, and John were the “some of you” disciples who got to see the coming of the kingdom before their deaths, how cool is that. How cool that we have that witness. Those apostles, the foundations of the Church, were given to witness what we will one day be.
So, when they say things like, “now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is…”, we know they speak from eye-witnessed experience.