Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 16:27b (Holman) “. . .and then He will reward each according to
what he has done.”
This verse should matter to each and every one of us because it deals with our quality of life in eternity. Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. He will accurately determine the true moral character of every individual.
This Judgment will not determine everlasting destinies. That decision is made at our death. Heaven and Hell hinge on what we do with Jesus in this life.
People go to Heaven not because they’re good; or to Hell because they’re bad. Jesus dealt with the sin issue. He paid our debt by dying for the sins of the world. Thus, people go to Heaven if they submit to Jesus, to Hell if they don’t.
We know Heaven and Hell have gradations of reward and punishment. The Judgment of Deeds discussed in our text will determine our measure of loss or blessing. We do not fully understand how this works, but we know enough to realize behavior from the time of conversion until death will matter after death.
Jesus wanted us to know He will be the determiner of our circumstances. Today’s cross will be replaced by tomorrow’s crown. Jesus came a first time to take death; second time He’ll take over. The last throne is His throne (Morgan).
Jesus had no qualms about using rewards as a motive for good behavior. The rewards He offers are not an appeal to selfish urges. Self-interest becomes selfishness only if it gratifies our worst self. To want our best self to be blessed is to act not selfishly, but in ways the Lord meant for us to act before Adam fell.
The wrong self-interest is to indulge in the pleasures and rewards of this physical life to the detriment of our eternal selves (verse 26). If we pursue this wrong quest, it yields merely a temporary reward, and total loss in the end.
Want the reward Jesus will bring with Him someday. He will judge us not by what we gained of Earth, but by how well we lived in light of another world. This fact should compel to live in light of holiness, seeking to obey with reckless abandon the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. They matter.
Matt. 16:28 “I assure you: There are some standing here who will not
taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
It is difficult to know for sure what Jesus was referring to here. Was it His resurrection, when He was proved with power to be the Son of God? Or was it Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples? Or the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem, when the last hope that God’s kingdom would be political was swept away? All of these possibilities have their proponents.
Others, including me, believe He meant His Transfiguration. All three Synoptic Gospels (Mark 9:1-2; Luke 9:27-28) record it immediately after these words. It clearly evidenced the kingdom by showing Jesus’ royal Kingship.
Peter remembered the Transfiguration as an amazing Kingdom moment. Many years later he wrote, “We did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him! And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).
These facts make the Transfiguration option the natural choice to me. I do have to admit I am, as a mathematician, often unduly influenced by Occam’s Axiom (or Occam’s Razor): the simplest solution is usually the correct one.
The bad chapter division here does not help. A brief over-simplified review of New Testament manuscript history may help. In early Greek texts, there were no spaces between words. Papyrus was too valuable to waste space.
Eventually words were separated. This is not a slam-dunk for translators (for instance, GODISNOWHERE could be good or bad news).
In the 1200s, Stephen Langston, Archbishop of Canterbury, divided the Bible into chapters. In the1500s, verses were numbered. The Geneva Bible of 1560 was the first English translation to number both chapters and verses.
An imaginary sample, from I Thessalonians 5:16-18, would have read, REJOICEALWAYSPRAYCONSTANTLYGIVETHANKSINEVERYTHING.
This tells us chapter divisions and verse numbers are random selections, not part of the inspired text. Thus, Matthew did not intend a break after 16:28.
Matt. 17:1a After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John.”
A week had passed since Peter’s great confession, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” (16:16), and Jesus’ stunning revelation, He would have to “suffer many things . . . (and) be killed” (16:21). “Messiah. Killed.”
Peter, in utter shock and disbelief, rebuked Jesus, “No, Lord! This will never happen to You!” Jesus reprimanded Peter’s rebuke, and told the Twelve they would suffer too. Jesus then allowed time for the hard truth to sink in.
We should be keenly interested in this event because it happened when the Twelve were in a quandary about who and what Jesus was. This is precisely where some of us, and many of our friends and family, are. The most perplexing and debated enigma of all time is accurately analyzing the Person of Jesus. The Transfiguration helps us be better equipped to tell others who and what Jesus is.
Jesus took three disciples with Him to witness the Transfiguration. This satisfied the Old Testament requirement that at least two witnesses were needed for an event to be established by credible testimony (Deuteronomy 19:15).
These three were the innermost circle. Peter was the undisputed leader. James would be the first of the Twelve to be martyred. John was the beloved.
I’m glad Dad named me for John the Baptist, the great preacher. As I’ve aged, I’ve more and more envied the description given to the Apostle John, “the Beloved”. I think I can safely say we envy the favored position of all three of these disciples, Jesus’ closest friends. We evidence a growing faith if we desire to be closer to the Savior than ever before. All should desire an up-close spot.
These three were given the honor of being present when Jesus, with mighty resurrection power, raised Jairus’ daughter (MK 5:37). The three also had the huge privilege of seeing Jesus’ glory here. We too want to be close to Jesus in His power and glory, but is this all that friendship with Jesus entails?
No. Follow the three further. They were allowed to see His glory, not as an end it itself, but in order to steady them as they saw His agony. These three witnessed Jesus’ Gethsemane agony, when He sweat blood drops (Luke 22:44).
The Transfiguration occurred for the sake of Peter, James, John, and us, to bolster their faith, and ours. They would soon be sharing His trial and cross, as we are all called to do. They needed encouragement to strengthen them. We do too. Remember, there will be a cross to bear, but beyond this, glory to share.
A word of warning. The Transfiguration helped the three, but was not a lifelong cure-all. Peter denied Jesus, and long harbored racism in his heart; James and John once wanted to destroy a city, and showed selfish ambition.
We may be tempted to think we would be better people if we could have remarkable, miraculous experiences like the Transfiguration. No doubt they would help, but only for a while. God will not let us thrive spiritually on the afterglow of great experiences from the past. As we cannot exist on last week’s food, we can’t live on last week’s spiritual experiences, no matter how glorious.
Where do we find us in the story of the favored three? Do we want to see only His power and glory, and turn away from seeing His agony, the tear that always lingers in the corner of His eye for the lost and hurting and poor of the world? Loving Jesus, enjoying His glory, and hurting when and where He hurts, are driving forces in holiness, missions, evangelism, and church planting.