Challenged To Hear

KEY VERSE: “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and, behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” —Matthew 17:5


DURING THE MINISTRY of Jesus, the disciples had several stirring verifications of the Heavenly Father’s good pleasure in his Son. Once was when three apostles, Peter, James, and John, were taken up into a high mountain by Jesus. There our Lord became transformed before their eyes, so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes were dazzling white. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared on the scene and spoke with Jesus. Peter was so thrilled that he wanted to stay on the mountain. He suggested building a dwelling for each: Jesus, Moses, and Elijah! While Peter was still making this recommendation, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and they heard a voice speak from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”—vs. 5

At first the scene frightened the three men so thoroughly that they fell on their faces. Jesus touched them, assuring them that there was no cause for fear. When they did stand, the episode had ended, and only Jesus was with them. Yes, this experience had a profound effect upon them. God’s command to heed Jesus was taken very seriously, but now they would pay even greater heed to his words. But they would not always understand his words.

This was demonstrated immediately as they came down the mountain, when Jesus charged them, saying, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” (vs. 9) Just six days previous to this, Jesus had told them that he must go to Jerusalem to be killed, and be raised the third day. Peter remonstrated with Jesus, trying to prevent him from going to Jerusalem. Not until Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead, were they able, at last, to comprehend his words.—Matt. 16:21-23

As they descended the mountain, the marvelous vision they had just beheld prompted them to ask: “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (Matt. 17:10, New Revised Standard Version) Jesus said that the scribes taught this because Malachi had written, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful [‘glorious’, Septuagint Translation] Day of the Lord.”—Mal. 4:5

Jesus answered: “Elias [Elijah] truly shall first come, and restore all things.” (Matt. 17:11) He continued, “Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.” And they knew he was speaking of John the Baptist.—vss. 12,13

Jesus did not mean that John the Baptist, as the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus, completely fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi. True, he had come in the spirit and power of Elijah to make the Israelites aware of their great need for repentance and forgiveness, preparing their hearts to receive their Messiah.

But there was more to the symbolism. Elijah was a picture of the footstep followers of Christ, the selection of whom was the chief work of God during the Gospel Age. Jesus’ primary work at his First Advent was to lay down his life in sacrifice for all mankind. As a reward for faithfulness, he was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God.

The Elijah class would be composed of all those who, during the Gospel Age, heed Jesus’ invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” (Matt. 11:28-30) If faithful now, these will actually turn “the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6) during the Millennial Age.”—Matt. 17:11

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