What is heaven like? The question we all find ourselves asking over the course of our life. We imagine all the foods, people, and hobbies we love being there.We envision God and Jesus on a throne. A really cool but long worship concert.A big feast.
But truthfully we don’t have a clear picture of what heaven will be like. And the Bible doesn’t give very many details. It makes very clear that it’s a life we want, but doesn’t give away all the secrets.
We do have one scene from Jesus life where he seems to jump back into his eternal life, and this could be a preview of what resurrected life will be like. Mark 9 can be considered the video trailer of eternal life before the full movie is released. It gives us clues as to who will be there and what will happen, but they are only snippets.
There are three recorded instances when God spoke from heaven during Jesus’ life. The first time occurs when Jesus was baptized. The skies tear apart, a dove swoops down over Jesus, and a loud voice from heaven says,
Today, we will discover the second time God speaks on Jesus’ behalf, and it’s vitally important for us. Jesus tells his disciples that some of them will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God with power.
Hadn’t they already seen the Kingdom come?
And hadn’t they already seen powerful works?
Apparently not the kind of power Jesus is talking about.
Peter has just confessed that Jesus is the Christ for the first time, and Jesus immediately begins teaching the disciples that he will suffer and die. That’s a far different vision of the type of Savior they were imagining. One who would come and break the chains of Roman oppression and restore the Kingdom of Israel.
Yet six days after he tells them how he would die, Jesus takes his core three disciples, Peter, James, and John up on a mountain to show them what a Kingdom with power looks like. And it’s certainly not what they think.
At the top of the mountain, Jesus very appearance changes before them and his clothes are dazzling white, whiter than any bleach could ever bleach them. (sorry Clorox).
If that were not strange enough, immediately Moses and Elijah (powerful figures from the Old Testament) appear with Jesus and they begin chatting like old friends.
The disciples, naturally terrified and a little dumbfounded, speak.
This seems like such a weird thing to say. It’s kind of like if you’re very distantly related and super-crazy cousins show up at your doorstep unannounced , and they plan on staying at your house for a few weeks. If this were to happen, you might be very surprised but would recover quickly saying:
“oh well come on in, sorry about the mess. Come on in and make yourself at home, I was just making supper.”
Of course you hadn’t planned on hosting your super-crazy cousins for a few weeks, but you’ll push through it, right?
That’s probably what the disciples were thinking… they hadn’t woken up that day thinking they were going to see two ancient men who had been dead now for hundreds of years…
but then they did see them….so they invite them to stay awhile.
Suddenly, something magical happens.
A cloud overshadows them, and a loud voice from Heaven speaks out of the cloud .
“This is my beloved son, listen to him.”
And just as quickly as Moses and Elijah appeared, poof they are gone.
And all that is standing before them is plain, ordinary Jesus.
No sparkling robes. No cloud and booming voice.
Just their Rabbi.
Jesus commands them to keep this little incident a secret, until after he had risen from the dead.
There it is again, Jesus talking about dying and rising from the dead. Whatever that is supposed to mean.
And so the Core Three begin trekking back down the mountain with their Rabbi. . Thinking on all that happened. Asking Jesus questions. Discussing among themselves.
There are so many questions to ask about this text, but a few things are clear.
Jesus is heading into glory, and his followers will go with him.
Once Peter confesses Jesus is the Messiah & Christ, Jesus wastes no time telling his twelve what that means. He says he will suffer. He will be rejected by the elders and the teachers of the law. He will be killed. He will rise again after three days. Jesus doesn’t say this to them in parables, he tells them plainly. Of course it would have been extremely troubling to receive this news, and it seems like the disciples shove it off.
Like No way is that happening. Die? Be rejected? Rise? No way.
So, Jesus takes his Core Three up to a mountain to show them that his life will not end in death. He gives them a preview into resurrected life, and eternal life is all together glorious. Jesus is taking his disciples with him along the path to death, but he wants them to know (and us to know) that this isn’t the end.
If this is a glimpse of eternal life, there are a few things we know for sure.
Jesus body is transformed, and ours will be too. We may not be able to imagine what type of body we will have, but we will have one. And one that is dazzling.
We will know one another and be fully known.
The Core Three immediately recognize Moses and Elijah. Think about it, they didn’t have yearbooks back then or family photo albums. How did the Core Three automatically know who they were?
Moses and Elijah are symbolic of two big things. The first is that Moses entered into eternal life the way most believers will enter into eternal life. Moses died on a mountain and his body was left to decay…a normal process of death. And so many believers have died and await the resurrection of their bodies into Eternal life. But Moses does make it there.
Elijah represents the believers who will still be alive when Jesus returns again. Elijah did not die a natural death, the Bible says that God took him up. And so believers who are still alive when Jesus comes back will be taken up to meet Jesus in the sky.
Last, Moses is symbolic of the Old Testament Law (the Torah that we discussed heavily in Mark 7). And Elijah is symbolic of all the prophets who spoke the word of God to his people throughout the centuries.
If you contemplate why these two men were with Jesus on the mountain you realize that both Moses and Elijah find their fulfillment in the life and person of Jesus. The natural man who dies but believes will be raised up. The last people living in the last age will be raised up. And the old way (Torah and Prophets) is passing, and Jesus is bringing something new.
Remember new wine into new wine skins.
Either way we meet God, whether by dying a natural death or being alive when God returns, we will go into eternal life eager to meet Jesus.
If there is any doubt that Jesus is the Christ, God himself reminds us to Listen to Him.
We have learned so much about the man Jesus, but not only is Jesus the son of man, he is also the son of God. Jesus is a man, yet he is something more than man. He claims to be God. Jesus transfiguration is a real sign of his deity, not just his humanity. Jesus does not need to die to step into eternal life, he passes through his life as a man into his life as God with fluidity. This is one of the main lessons from his transfiguration, that Jesus is a really great human, but he is also a really awesome God.
The disciples needed reminders to listen. We need reminders to listen to his teachings. The path behind Jesus isn’t always easy, so God in his great mercy reminds us.
This guy is the real deal.
I love him. There are great things ahead.
Listen to Him.
The remaining passages in Mark 9 focus on his ministry of teaching his disciples who he is.
Read on to learn and remember to ask good questions of the text among the way:
- What is Happening?
- 2. What words or places need defining?
- What is Jesus doing in this passage and what are the crowds and disciples reactions?
- What are yours?
Mark 9 New International Version (NIV)
9 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has comewith power.”
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[a]”
Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time
30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Whoever Is Not Against Us Is for Us
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
Causing to Stumble
42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.  [b]45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  [c]47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where
“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’[d]
49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”