The disciples Peter, James and John experienced the glory of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Last weekend (11-12 November), Pastor Kong Hee unpacked the significance of such a glorious encounter with God.
“Glorious”. “Refreshed”. “Transformational”. These were the words Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church heard from the attendees of the Global Pentecostal Summit (GPS) as they shared with him their experience of the event. The GPS was a symposium held the week before (3-6 Nov 2023), which gathered Pentecostal scholars from around the world.
The service was preceded by a time of baby dedication, where the newest members of the church were blessed and presented to the church. Pastor Kong opened his sharing by thanking all the staff and volunteers who had worked tirelessly before, during and after the GPS.
“The word that stood out the most was ‘glory’,” said Pastor Kong as he shared with the church what comes next after after the move of God many experienced at the summit.
ENCOUNTERING THE GLORY OF GOD
He opened his sermon with the account of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17). This event is significant because it was one of two places where God the Father spoke audibly from heaven about Jesus. Moses and Elijah were seen again on earth together with Jesus who was visibly glorified with such brilliance that was not seen, even in His resurrection.
To Peter and John, such an encounter was an unforgettable and life-changing experience. Many years later, they would still remember it clearly—they gave a detailed account of what they saw in 2 Peter 1:16, 18 and John 1:14 respectively.
Six days before this event, Jesus had revealed to His disciples His coming sufferings and told them that whoever wanted to be His disciple had to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. These statements were far from what they had expected of the Messiah, whom they thought would be like a strong general who would set them free from the Romans’ oppression. To them, it was an oxymoron for the glorious Messiah to also be a suffering servant.
To encourage Peter, James and John, the future leaders of His church, Jesus wanted to show them who He really was, so He took them to a mountaintop to pray. “Jesus Himself needed to pray and spend time with the Heavenly Father to make sure that He knew and did not mistake that God’s path to victory was indeed the way of the cross, that there was no other way except through Calvary,” Pastor Kong explained.
In the Bible, the mountain is a place of revelation. As Jesus was praying on the mountain, His face began to transform. “This is why prayer and communion with God are so powerful. We are created for communion,” the pastor said, encouraging the congregation to never cease praying.
Similarly, when Moses communed with God on Mount Sinai, his appearance also changed. There are many parallels to Jesus and Moses going up to the mountain to pray; for example, Jesus was glorified on the seventh day while God appeared to Moses on the seventh day. Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white, while Moses’ skin shone with glory. In both cases, the glory of God appeared as a cloud covering them and a voice spoke from heaven. When they descended from the mountain, those who saw them were overcome with wonder.
Pastor Kong went on to explain that the word “transfigured” in Matthew 17:2 means a complete change of form, structure, and substance from inside out. It is in a passive tense, which indicates that it is God who is behind this change.
“The power to change comes from God the Father through the Holy Spirit, just like your own spiritual transformation,” the pastor preached. One would never be able to change on his own, but when he surrenders to God and His word, the Father—by the Spirit—conforms them into the image and likeness of Christ from within.
Jesus’ physical transformation, which was visible to His disciples, became so bright in appearance that it was difficult to look at Him. It was like looking at the blazing sun, a light that came from within without external resources. This was also God’s original plan for mankind.
In light of what Jesus had told His disciples earlier about the sufferings to come, His transfigured radiance showed one thing: that His glory as the King of creation never ceases, and even in sufferings and His death, He is still the King of Glory.
“Every cross-bearer will be a glory-receiver,” the pastor assured the church. He added that “the end isn’t the cross, the end is the glory”.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MOSES AND ELIJAH
For the first time, the three disciples saw Jesus in His real identity as the divine Son of God, and there stood with Him Moses and Elijah (Mt 17:3).
Pastor Kong explained that Moses represented the Law, while Elijah represented the prophets of Israel. Jesus came to fulfil all that the law and the prophets had visions and dreams about.
Both Moses and Elijah had visions of the glory of God on the mountain—Moses on Mount Sinai and Elijah on Mount Horeb. Both had a unique ending; their bodies never decomposed. When Moses died, God took his body directly to heaven. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Moses represents those who died in Christ and will be resurrected with a perfect body at Jesus’ second coming. Elijah represents those who would be caught up to heaven without death during the Rapture at the second coming.
As Jesus, Moses and Elijah were conversing about Jesus’ impending suffering and death, the three disciples were “very sleepy” (Lk 9:32) and when they awoke, they saw the glory in front of them. The glory was there the whole time, but they could not see it because of their sleepiness.
“Don’t fall asleep when the glory of God has come on the church!” warned Pastor Kong. “Stay awake on the day of your visitation!”
In Matthew 17:4, Peter suggested that he build a tent for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. This statement revealed two things about Peter. Firstly, he did not like the cost of discipleship—in fact, Mark and Luke recorded Peter’s fear.
Secondly, Peter did not grasp the stature of Jesus Christ. He put Jesus on par with Elijah and Moses when suggested building tents for the three them. On this note, Pastor Kong taught the church that not every event organised by the church is equal.
“[During GPS] something happened in the realm of the Spirit and if you missed it, you’ve got to catch up,” he urged. “I don’t want any of you to be left behind, God is going to take us from glory to glory!”
In the following verses, God appeared in a “bright cloud” that covered them (Mt 17:5). Bright clouds used to be how God appeared in the Old Testament. It was the glory of God that filled Solomon’s temple.
Everything the Father says is from the Bible. “This is my Son, whom I love” is a direct quote from Psalm 2:7 and “with Him I am well pleased” is quoted from Isaiah 42:1 about the suffering servant. God was trying to tell the three disciples that His glorious Son is also the suffering servant.
When God speaks, He uses the language of scripture. Pastor Kong urged the congregation to be serious about the Bible and be strong biblical Christians. He also urged the church be attentive and listen to what Jesus is saying to them.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
After the whole encounter, the clouds cleared, Moses and Elijah left, the disciples saw only Jesus (Mt 17:8). “What you need to see after a glorious encounter is Jesus in His love and tender mercy,” the pastor declared.
From then on, the three disciples never saw Jesus the same way again. Such an encounter demanded a radical shift in how they viewed Jesus and their own lives.
Likewise, after a glorious event like the GPS, one’s mindset and values must change, said Pastor Kong. “This transformation must affect everything in your life: every thought you have, every behaviour of yours, every dream and ambition of your heart.”
In his closing, Pastor Kong urged the church to listen and obey God’s word. Many in church today only want the parts of the Bible that promise instant wealth, success and gratification, but they fail to listen to the call of Jesus, which is a call to self-denial and self-sacrifice.
The Mount of Transfiguration showed a Saviour who was more than willing to humble Himself and carry the Cross. Jesus has shown that to share in His glory, one must also be willing to share in His sufferings (Romans 8:17). Christians must be willing to go the way of the cross to be heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.