Ever wondered why Moses and Elijah were chosen to be with Jesus when he was gloriously transfigured high on the mountain? (Matt. 17) The typical explanation given, according Dr. James White, is that Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the Prophets. Perhaps that is it or part of it. But Dr. White came across an explanation, from a liberal theologian apparently, that is intriguing if nothing else. It goes like this: Moses and Elijah came close to seeing God’s face in their own day (close encounters with the divine Holiness), but could not behold His glory so the Lord passed by them as they shielded their eyes. The appearance of Yahweh before them was accompanied by bright lights, earthquakes, fire, wind, and they had to look away from the face of God, cover their eyes with a cleft in the rock or with their hands. But now, Messiah has come, and “in Him the fullness of deity dwells.” The appearance of God, Yahweh Himself, passes before them and the appearance of God is translucently bright once again. Only this time, they safely beheld the very face of God in Jesus Christ without fear. That is, the very shield from the glory of God that they needed, the cleft in the rock, in order to see the face of God safely was now provided for them in Jesus Christ, our Rock of Ages ,Cleft for Me, as they looked upon the very face of the eternal and living God. And though Jesus said, “When you see me you have seen the Father,” for “I and the Father are one,” now he commands us to “have no fear” for Christ Himself is our hiding place, so that we may boldly “behold his glory.”
Consider this explanation for yourself as you read the close encounter accounts:
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
1 Kings 19
And behold, the LORD passed by [Elijah], and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.