“By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing [Greek: exodos] of the children of Israel and gave commandment concerning his bones.” —Hebrews 11:22

THE Greek word exodos (spelled exodus, in English) means, ‘the way out’. Professor Strong gives ‘exit’ as a synonym. Generally this word is associated with the time when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, freeing them from the bondage of Egypt. Although this is the way it is used in this text in Hebrews, it is not how it is used in the only two other occurrences of this word in the New Testament.

As recorded in the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus had a serious talk with his disciples, asking them who others thought he was. He received a variety of answers. But when he asked who they thought he was, Peter spoke up and said: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”—Matt. 16:16

If you were in that little band of disciples, and really believed that Jesus was the Son of God, you would have probably expected him to take steps to throw off the Roman yoke of bondage. That would have required him to raise an army, and also to move toward acquiring some political power. Certainly you would not have expected him to accept being defamed or scoffed at, spit upon, smitten, mocked, and finally put to death by his enemies.

The disciples at the time, however, did not understand that this was exactly what Jesus knew was going to happen. “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.”—vss. 21,22

Peter’s expectations concerning what Jesus should be doing, and what should be happening to him, were so strong that he argued with the Lord about it. But Peter, of course, did not have a clear perspective of what was to occur in the life of Jesus and his followers. This event is also described in Luke 9:23, where these words of Jesus are recorded, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Then he said, “But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God.”—Luke 9:27

This ‘seeing’ was necessary so they would later appreciate that although they would suffer and die in this life, the promised ‘glory to follow’ would far exceed their grandest expectations! Jesus’ statement that ‘some would not die until they saw the kingdom of God’, was actually fulfilled a few days later.

We read further, “It came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he [Jesus] took Peter and John and James and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered and his raiment was white and glistening. And behold there talked with him two men which were Moses and Elias [Elijah], who appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease [Greek: exodos] which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.”—Luke 9:28-31

“But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass as they departed from him Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here. And let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said: While he thus spoke, there came a cloud and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone.”—Luke 9:32-36

The vision, which is the term Matthew used to describe this experience (Matt. 17:9), was of Jesus in glory. Moses and Elijah were not literally resurrected and alive, but were with Jesus in the form of a vision, although how the disciples recognized them is not explained. This vision was somewhat like a motion picture with sound. The three were talking together, and their subject was exodos—the way out from the present condition, via death, and subsequent resurrection to heavenly glory. This was a first-hand experience afforded these three disciples, designed to convince them that the death of Jesus would not be a catastrophe.

Why should Moses and Elijah have been with Jesus in this vision, and not others such as Noah, Daniel, Job (Ezek. 14:14), or some other prophet? There may be several reasons. For one thing, both Moses and Elijah had experiences in common with Jesus. Both had fasted for forty days in a wilderness condition. Both certainly had a peculiarly special relationship with God. Both had unusual deaths. God ‘took’ Moses in death, after allowing him to see the Promised Land from the peak of Pisgah’s mountain. Elijah was caught up to ‘heaven’ in a whirlwind, at the time of his death. Both Moses and Elijah were mentioned in the final verses of the Book written by Israel’s last prophet. See Malachi 4:4,5.

The selection of Moses to be featured in this vision might well relate to something he said in Deuteronomy 18:15. His words were, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” The Apostle Peter knew these words; in fact he quoted them in Acts 3:22 when later preaching to the people of Jerusalem. At that time he applied the reference made by Moses to a promised, future prophet, to Jesus. The experience of the transfiguration vision, where he saw Jesus and Moses together, may have given Peter this special insight: “Jesus is truly the one Moses said God would raise up!”

The selection of both Moses and Elijah has additional significance. How fittingly Moses and Elijah picture the two phases of the kingdom. Moses represented the earthly phase, and Elijah the heavenly. Moses was a faithful servant, but he was not referred to as a son. (Heb. 3:5,6) At his death Moses was not caught up to “heaven.” Elijah, on the other hand, was caught up to “heaven,” and fittingly identifies with those who will be part of the heavenly phase of the kingdom.

Of course Elijah actually died, but he never literally went to heaven. We know this to be a fact because Jesus himself said, “No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven.” (John 3:13) He was, like Moses, simply ‘taken’ by God, and his body was never found. This is another similarity these three individuals shared, for neither Jesus’, Moses’ nor Elijah’s bodies were ever found after their deaths.

Exodos was the subject of discussion between Jesus and the two patriarchs. The conversation concerned the matter of the death of Jesus, and its manner. It was the same theme which had caused Peter to utter his words of rebuke to the Lord, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” Peter needed to learn that everlasting death did not necessarily result from suffering and dying. Suffering accepted in a way which is pleasing to ‘God, leading to death, would actually result in exaltation and glory. Death as a result of faithfulness to God would eventually lead to the exodos, or exit, from one condition to another.

Peter never forgot this lesson. Later, when he penned his first letter, he wrote: “Ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.”—I Pet. 1:9-11

How greatly Peter had progressed in his understanding of this matter from the time of the transfiguration experience! Peter had not been aware of the testimonies of past prophets which indicated that suffering and death would be necessary before Christ could enter into his glory. But with the passage of time, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, Peter understood this vital truth.

In his second letter, Peter made a specific reference to his experience on the mount of transfiguration. He wrote: “We have not been following cunningly devised tales in making known to you the power and appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were beholders of that greatness. For having received from God the Father honor and glory, a voice of this kind was brought to him by the magnificent glory—‘This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I delight.’ And this voice which was brought from heaven we heard, being with him on the holy mountain.”—II Pet. 1:16-18, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

The apostle made it clear that the ‘cross-bearing life’ he was talking about had previously been prophesied long centuries ago; although before the crucifixion, Peter’s expectations had been different. The moving experience on the mount of transfiguration put God’s stamp of approval on the life and ministry of Jesus. The translator, Weymouth, makes the next verse more understandable: “So we have the word of prophecy confirmed; to which you do well to pay attention—as to a lamp shining in a dark place—until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”—vs. 19, Weymouth

By these words, Peter assures us that he knows what he is talking about, because of his experience of seeing our Lord in glory. And so he exhorts us to keep our faith strong in the promise that if we are faithful unto death we shall receive a crown of life (Rev. 2:10)—because he knew with certainty that the death of a faithful Christian will lead to their ultimate glorification. It will be their ‘way out’, their exodos.

In fact, the third and final place where this Greek word is used in the New Testament is when Peter described his own death, saying: “Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease [Greek: exodos] to have these things always in remembrance.” (II Pet. 1:15) Peter could have used another appropriate Greek word for death, but he did not. He chose to use the same word Jesus had used when he talked with the two prophets in the vision. Death was the ‘way out’ from a condition of human sin and suffering, into perfection of spiritual life and glory. This was very real to Peter and he wanted it to be very real to all the footstep followers of Christ.

Matthew and Mark’s records both indicate that Jesus was “transfigured [Greek: metamorphoo] on the mountain.” See Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2. The Apostle Paul used the identical Greek word to describe what should happen to us as Christians: “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed [Greek: metamorphoo] into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”—II Cor. 3:18

Paul was no doubt thinking about the face of Moses when he came down from the mountain, and how it shone so brilliantly that Israel could not stand the sight. He had mentioned that event earlier. (Exod. 34:29,30) The phrase, ‘open face’, should really be translated, “unveiled face,” since, when Moses talked with God his face was uncovered. As he descended from Mount Sinai, Moses mirrored the glory of God in his face. The people recognized immediately that Moses had been with God and that he had been tremendously affected by the experience.

Likewise, as we commune with the Lord, the glory we behold should have a transforming influence on us. We should become a copy of that glory. The Moffatt translation renders the Greek this way: “But we all mirror the glory of the Lord with face unveiled, and so we are being transformed into the same likeness as himself, passing from one glory [the glory which we behold] to another [i.e., we become a manifestation of that glory].”

This work of transformation of character is one of the most important aspects of our consecrated walk. After Paul told us that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices, he added, “And be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed [Greek: metamorphoo] by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2) We are to be changed from the fashion of this world into the fashion of our Lord Jesus Christ. If such a transformation does not occur in us, we will not be a part of the glorified Christ.

The mountaintop experiences we have should increase our faith. Like the three disciples who descended from the mount of transfiguration with new knowledge, which later through the Holy Spirit they understood more fully, we too with greater determination will press on in the face of adversity. They will help us never to lose sight of the glorious prize of life which will be ours if we are faithful unto death! We should heed Paul’s words, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—II Pet. 1:10,11

However, not all of our experiences are of the ‘mountain-top’ variety. Most tests of faithfulness come in meeting the general responsibilities and happenings of each day. The following is a short reading which may help us to appreciate more fully these “Common Days.”

“One of the chief dangers of life is trusting occasions. We think that conspicuous events, striking experiences, exalted moments, have most to do with our character and capacity. We are wrong. Common days, monotonous hours, wearisome paths, plain old tools, and everyday clothes tell the real story. Good habits are not made on birthdays, nor Christian character at the New Year. The vision may dawn, the dream may waken, the heart may leap with a new inspiration on some mountaintop, but the test, the triumph, is at the foot of the mountain, on the level plain.

“The workshop of character is everyday life. The uneventful and commonplace hour is where the battle is won or lost. Thank God for a new truth, a beautiful idea, a glowing experience; but remember that unless we bring it down to the ground and teach it to walk with feet, work with hands, and stand the strain of daily life, we have worse than lost it, we have been hurt by it. A new light in our heart makes an occasion, but an occasion is an opportunity, not for building a tabernacle and feeling thankful and looking back to a blessed memory, but for shedding the new light on the other path, and doing old duties with new inspiration. The uncommon life is the child of the common day, lived in an uncommon way.”—Excerpt from “Our Most Holy Faith,” page 541, and marked “Selected.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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