Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.
At the Transfiguration of our Lord, Jesus spoke with these two figures from the Old Testament. This was nothing short of a miracle, that the glory of heaven came briefly to earth and these two great men of faith were able to speak with Jesus. There is much we can derive from this about the after life of a believer - we are conscious, we are with God, we are able to follow the events on earth, we have a greater capacity to understand the plan of God - but the Lord only gives us a brief glimpse of such things, and we are wise if we do not read too much into them.
The greater question is why did Jesus wish to speak with them? The Scripture never states why, but in our conjecture we may remember the loneliness of these two servants on earth, the similarities between their service and Christ’s. Christ the man, the man with no sin, but the man nonetheless, gained their insight and encouragement for His final ordeal. Moses was given to anger. Elijah was given to depression. Both had served in faith and in courage, but both had also stumbled near the end of their lives as they felt the burden of obedience too great to bear.
The word is correctly translated “departure” in this passage. Not ceasing to exist, but a leaving of this world and an entering into eternity, the realm of the Spirit. Among whatever other things were shared, it is worth noting the dignity of the death of Christ. Despite the pain and shame of the cross, it was a going out from this world of shadows and form and entrance into light, it was liberation from the limitations of the flesh and entrance into life. It can be said that every believer’s death is like this - a door through which we exit this world and enter the presence of God, and therein lays the dignity of a believer’s death.
But Christ’s death was something more than only this, a great deal more. In His death was payment for the sins of the world, and in His departure He served as our leader and liberator. The curse of the darkness of sin is upon all of us and each of us. Part of the penalty of sin is the enslavement to it that we each experience. Even these two great men - Moses and Elijah - had felt this reality in their lives. They by themselves alone could not lead us out of death and into life, rather they both served as prophets who pointed us toward the coming Messiah.
Perhaps the conversation between these three was the simple reaffirmation of the kingly dignity of Christ, that in His death He would lead captivity captive, that He would make a public spectacle of the demonic powers who stand ready to accuse us (Col. 2:14-15), and that He would lead us who believe into eternity.
The physical reality of death is normally void of dignity. We die in weakness and are buried quickly to avoid witnessing the decay of our bodies. Often our minds go before our bodies wear out and a dark confusion sets over us. (Sometimes we can see the benevolent hand of God in such things.) But let us look behind the curtain of death and see it in God’s view as it should be seen, as a thing of redemptive dignity because Christ has led the way for us into eternity.
The goal of our life on earth is not just to have a well-rounded earthly life, to have a career, a family, and our retirement. Such things are nice, but the goal of our life transcends these. It is to know God and to live in the love and life of Christ, and to prepare for eternity with Him. This reality gives us a redemptive dignity every day: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).