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What is that big funnel-looking cloud visible during the day that glows like fire at night preceding Israel?
That's what we call the "Shekinah Glory." Actually, you won't find the words "Shekinah Glory" written in our English Bibles anywhere per se. The Hebrew word "shaw-kan´" literally means "to inhabit or dwell." It is used in Exodus 40:35, "And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle." The Hebrew word used in that verse for "abode" is "shaw-kan´," hence, "Shekinah Glory."
Some have suggested that this pillar of cloud by day and fire by night was actually a fiery banner carried by the standard bearer in front of Israel. Look at the following scriptures and see if that feeble explanation makes sense to you:
To top it off, let's take a look at what took place at the new temple on the day that Solomon dedicated it:
1Kings 8:10 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD,
1Kings 8:11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.
1Kings 8:12 Then spoke Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.
1Kings 8:13 I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever.
Based upon these scriptures, I think we can conclude with confidence that the term "Shekinah Glory" is an accurate description of the supernatural presence of God among Israel during their wilderness wanderings.
Today we hear from those who promote revivalism of the term glory.
It is thrown around as a common occurrence at meetings. The glory of God was there, it came down, it manifested. But what exactly is the glory of God and how does the Bible describe it? We find it most often described as the visible manifestation of the presence of God. Other times it is used figuratively, meaning to give honor above all else.
In Hebrew it is called the Kvod adonai which means the shekinah glory of the Lord. Kvod (Glory) in Hebrew and means mean’s weight.
In the Old Testament many saw God's shekinah glory as the physical manifestation of the presence of God. throughout the Old Testament we find numerous theophanies, appearances of God, accompanied by his glory. This is recorded in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. When God appears in glory it means he has visited a particular place like he is in no other place.
In Ex.3:5 We see the glory appear to Moses in a visible fashion along with the angel of the Lord in the burning bush. Ex.13:21-22 we find the glory appear as a pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night as Israel was led out of Egypt through the wilderness.
This glory protected Israel from the pursuit of the Egyptians and appears along with The Angel of the Lord (Ex. 14). We also find this glory attributed to destroying the Egyptian army and providing Israel with quail and manna in the wilderness. In Ex.34:29-35 Moses comes down off mount Sinai bathed in his glory, like the angels in heaven who stand in his presence. The glory of God's presence was reflected in His face like the moon reflects the suns light so he needed to wear a veil. Yet this glory that was representative of the law eventually faded away (2 Cor.3).
In Lev.9:23 After the offerings we find " Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people.
Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, And there came forth fire from before Yahweh, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat; and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces." This event put Gods approval on the priesthood and fear in the people.
These manifestations were described as light, a Fire, a cloud or a combination of these and they are associated often with The Angel of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, the Cherubim or God in thick darkness. They were visible to all, not just a few.
The same manifestation of God's glory that accompanied The Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament we find in the NT with Jesus in the flesh. No longer would God dwell in a temple made with hands, but a living temple as the God/man. In the New Testament it is called the doxa Kurion meaning brightness, which is by how God makes himself known visibly.
There are 3 accounts of the transfiguration event, each has slightly different details.
Matt 17:1-9: “ Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.
His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. “ While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
Mark 9:1-10: And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.”
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. The transformation event of Jesus is the most descriptive experience we have of Gods glory in the New Testament. I will read only one of these accounts and refer to the others.
Preceding this event Jesus says in Luke 9:27-37: “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”
Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”-- not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.”
The traditional location of this event is considered to be Mt. Tabor south of Galilee, modern scholars believe it is Mt. Herman 9,200 ft above sea level, which can have snow. This make sense since after they came down they departed through Galilee to Capernaum, going south.
One of the first things we notice is a possible conflict in the accounts of the amount of days after. two accounts Mt. and Mk . say 6 day's, Luke says 8 day's. This can be settled in understanding that Jesus could have said this more than once and at different times to his disciples. Both Mt. and Mk. say after 6 day's not on the 6th day , so this should clear any conflict. Many commentators give significance to these numbers in the accounts, for example Gaebelein says, “6 is a mans number, the number signifying the days of work. After 6 days-after the work of mans day has run out, then the day of the Lord, the kingdom.” Luke uses the number 8 as it is the number representing new beginnings the resurrection day.
In Vs.28 of Luke they went up the Mountain to pray which he and his disciples frequently would do. Here Jesus took his three closest disciples Peter, James and John to witness this event.. Mk.9:1; Lk.9:27; Mt.16:28 all say some of you standing here will not taste death until they see the Son of man coming into his kingdom, Mark adds “ present with power” (Dunamis miracle power that was used for signs given to validate who Jesus was ).
Each one of these accounts have slightly different details to what transpired as Christ revealed himself to his disciples in a way that they never knew before. This event occurs sometime at the closing of his ministry.
In Luke’s account 9:32: “ Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.”
Luke records that as Jesus prays ( he also is the only writer to record Jesus was praying at his baptism) that he is then transformed. Since they were all asleep, we know this occurred at night with a black sky as the backdrop to contrast his glory among the stars.
While He (Jesus) is PRAYING he was transfigured; Jesus is in prayer and Moses and Elijah both appear as he is transformed before the disciples eyes . Matthew states his face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light, Mark reports He was transfigured before them his clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them . Luke says the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. All report in the best words they can of a most unusual event.
He was transfigured in Greek is the word is Metamorphoo = meaning a change of appearance. This is not an inward change but an outward one. What was once veiled is no longer, they were able to see the inner glory that was veiled in flesh, what his inner nature really was. Jesus was the visible manifestation of God's presence in human form. Luke ( 9:29) avoids this term, which might suggest to gentile readers the metamorphoses of heathen gods, and uses the phrase egeneto heteron, “was altered”, lit., He “became (ginomai) different .
This event describes Christ having his outward appearance change showing the cost of leaving heaven, and hiding his glory.
By doing this he confirmed the disciples faith and authenticated His being their Messiah. As their king he came in humility, He came as a servant, it was a temporary period of humiliation to be human, and limit himself to the human condition. After He is resurrected and He is exalted to his former position before he came (All authority is given to Him Mt.28). At this particular time His divine form showed through his human form, the glory of deity came through His flesh revealing who he really is.
Heb.1:3 states the Son is the radiance of Gods glory and the exact representation of his being. The word radiance is literally effulgence, shining forth.,”
This is what was within Him and expressed by His life, His teachings and actions. Here Jesus shows that He has the glory of God that manifested itself in the Old Testament and dwelt in the tabernacle. This is not a reflection but an outshining of God's glory from within his being, His very nature revealed on the outside. As in Jn.1:1-14 says the word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. the gr. Word for dwelt is skenei which come from the Hebrew root of shechinah (no sh sound). The word, the wisdom, the truth of God in the Son became flesh and tabernacled among us. Just as God revealed himself to Moses in the Old Testament and tabernacled among Israel in the tent. Lev.9: 6-7 The shekinah glory dwelt in the tabernacle in the Holy of Holies. As the Priests of Aaron enter to carry out their ministry the glory of the Lord lit up the room as they performed their duties. This same glory is seen in the Son
So in the New Testament man was able to behold God's glory to some extent in the form of humanity. God in the Old Testament manifested himself in a tent the Israelites built for him and later in the temple. But he planned to dwell in a tent not made with hands.
Jn.1:14 describes this event as the word (Logos) became flesh (tabernacled). B. B. Warfeild states, “the flesh of our Lord became… the temple on earth.,”(the person and work of Christ p.53) In the O T. God was separate from his temple while in the new he made it a part of him. It was not a temple that was inanimate but one that could feel that was vulnerable to the human existence and needed to be preserved and protected like anyone else.
Moses was not a foreigner to Gods glory, since he had seen it many times. In Exod. 24:15-18 “Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days.
And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain.” Interestingly their are similarities to God's glory resting on Mt. Sinai and the transfiguration account. Here is Moses once again on a MT. engulfed in the cloud and hearing his voice from heaven and seeing all his expectations. This time instead of an afterglow He sees the same glory in a human being His Messiah.
Jesus prayed in Jn17:15: “ And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. In v.24 …”That they may behold my glory which you have given me for you loved me before the foundation of the world”.
God states several times he will not give glory to any other but himself. Yet in Jn.17 we have Jesus stating for God to glorify him with the same glory he had before there was any created thing. This shows us two important points, one, he pre-existed as a distinct person from the Father and that he shared in his glory which makes him God. This gives us insight into what Jesus gave up coming to earth to veil his nature. It was hidden from man physically but revealed in practice.
The disciples wake up suddenly seeing him in the midst of conversation with both Moses and Elijah. who appear in glory discussing his approaching death or departure, which in Greek is exodus. This is the aim of his mission what he is about to accomplish in Jerusalem, by giving his life on the cross. It is spoken of as a departure, not as being put out of existence, as all saints will have an exodus, a departure from this world to the next.
None of the writers tell us how they identify Moses or Elijah. It could either be from their conversations or by divine knowledge, it certainly wasn’t from their pictures. As the disciples recognized who these men were so will we have the same ability in knowing.
Both Moses and Elijah were associated with the glory of the kingdom and were expected by the Jewish people to return at the end of the age. Both heard from God at Mt. Sinai (1 Kings19:8, Ex.24:15-16)
Each of these were representative of humanity and the Jewish nation. One died and one never saw death. Both went to different places Moses to Abraham's bosom, Elijah taken up in a whirlwind. Moses is representative of the law and also the dead that will be resurrected.
Elijah represents the prophets and the translated saints, those who will be rapture, that will never see death. Both are associated with the power of God. A number of truths can be learned from this event .It shows the unity of the OT. and the NT. Both had written about the sufferings glory of Christ that would follow. All that the was spoken of and the prophets was now there in substance not shadow. Jesus validates the OT by bearing witness to these men, they were real and in agreement and that one day we will all be gathered together in Jesus. Moses was not resurrected was but alive in spirit, which proves their is life beyond the grave without our bodies.
It was Moses who wrote in Deut.18 to give heed to the prophet that will come. Christ is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. Of both what Moses and Elijah wrote, and did.
The disciples wake up in the middle of all this which seems to be a common occurrence of these three as they fell asleep in the boat, and at Gethsamane later. The famous Bishop Ryle stated this, “Let it be noted that the very same disciples who here slept during a vision of glory were also found sleeping during the agony of Gethsamane. Flesh and blood does indeed need to be changed before it can enter heaven. Our poor weak bodies can neither watch with Christ in his time of trial nor keep awake with him in his glorification. Our physical constitution must be greatly altered before we can enjoy heaven.”
Peter once again volunteered with his mouth saying that it is good they are here “ lets make 3 tabernacles for you Moses and Elijah.” While he was speaking and waiting to hear their reaction to his project it was superseded with a cloud that tabernacled over them.
Mark records that Peter spoke because he was afraid. As Moses and Elijah were disappearing Luke records Peter's words. Maybe he thought the Lord would also leave, so he spoke out presumptuously. It was an awkward moment and at times like these we can all say dumb things. Its best to keep silent in the presence of God's glory, a holy moment then to say something foolish. It was Peter at an earlier time that rebuked Jesus for this intent in Mt.16 this time he has no different a reaction, instead of telling him not to go (to his death) he asks him (Moses and Elijah) to stay. We should note Peter was right in some ways but wrong in others. It was with the right intentions but with the wrong timing. Peter did not know the Passover lamb first needs to be sacrificed before the feast of tabernacles can be celebrated. This is when God will dwell with man permanently. It is at this moment a cloud engulfs them all, the audible voice of God the Father speaks from the cloud giving approval of his Son.
The disciples fall on their face afraid much like the Israelites did when God came down and spoke at Mt. Sinai. Many of the manuscripts say “this is my Son the chosen one.” When the voice stops both Moses and Elijah are gone, leaving only Jesus. This was an object lesson to show Jesus is not just another prophet or a greater prophet. He was the word communicated to the prophets he is God and deserves preeminence above them all. God the Father pointed to his son and shows them to follow Jesus only, by removing Moses and Elijah. Jesus then touched them saying arise do not be afraid, as he did many times in his ministry to comfort those who were overwhelmed by seeing the power of God. They were left with him alone just as they began.
Jesus said previously, some would not die until they see the coming of the kingdom in power.
In 2 Pt. 1:16-18 Peter describes this revealing of the coming kingdom, “ For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased . And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with him on the Holy mountain.” The testimony of the Father is toward his Son, by doing this he is glorified. This is the same voice that spoke at the baptism of Jesus when John the Baptist revealed him to Israel as the lamb of God, now speaks before his suffering as the lamb. Peter is referring to being eyewitnesses of his glory, Jesus showed who he was by unveiling the glory that he hid when he came to earth. His glory showed through his human nature and even his clothes. The phrase coming is associated with Christ's 2nd advent so they were given a preview of what it would be like. Both Moses and Elijah are related to the coming of the kingdom. Is it any wonder Peter made the suggestion to build three tabernacles for Moses Elijah and Jesus, he thought this was it, the day all Israel had been waiting for, the kingdom in all its glory.
As God revealed his glory to Moses on Mt.Sinai, he was revealing it through the son to his three closest disciples Peter, James and John with Moses also being there . All 3 will be writing as eyewitness of Gods glory revealed .While the gospels refer to the voice coming from the cloud here Peter states it came from heaven. This is called in Hebrew Bat-Kol when God speaks audibly from heaven.
In Acts 9:3-8, Paul encounters what he calls a great light, (22:6-11) the glory of the light blinded him. He describes it as brighter than the sun (26:13-18). Paul knew about his forefathers encountering Gods glory and so he immediately bows his will to its presence. We read the voice of Jesus spoke from heaven on the Damascus Road to Paul, just as God the Father spoke from heaven at Jesus baptism and on the Mt. of Transfiguration to the disciples about his Son.
In Israel's history the shekinah glory appeared and disappeared at times but then finally departed from the Mt. of Olives. In Ez.11:22-23 it goes from the eastern gate to the Mount of Olives that Israel was able to say ‘Ichabod’ the glory has departed, but it was not to be permanent. Just as in the New Testament Christ ascended in a cloud and the glory departed from the same Mt. He will also come back in this same glory but fully revealed to the whole world. Christ’s appearing is also associated with a visible glory in the 2nd coming. Mt.16:27 tells us he will come in the glory of His Father the 2nd time. In Matt 24:30 at his 2nd coming he will reveal himself to all for who he really is.” The sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven …and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” The sign will be the shekinah glory seen by all on earth, there will be no mistake of who he is. His glory will be revealed on the day of the Lord in darkness.
Joel 2:2 A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. Joel 2:31 “ The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.” Amos 5:18: “It will be darkness, and not light.” Zeph.1:15: “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, Rev.1:7: “Behold he is coming with clouds, and every eye will see him.” The clouds of heaven are descriptive of the glory he comes with. Rev. 1:16: “and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” When Christ comes to bring his kingdom on earth his glory will also be here. Rev. 21:23: “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” The city of God will be lit up by his glory, Gods glory.
As we receive Christ's nature we become transformed from the inside out.
As we have his light in us, it should be seen by all as a witness in the darkness of this world. As Paul the apostle said in 2 Cor.4:5-7: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” We are to reflect and present Christ’s glory as the moon does the suns. 2 Cor.3:18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
How are we changed into the Sons image? Paul writes in Rom.1:17: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Jesus said. when he comes will he really find faith on earth? To have faith… a small word but the most essential practice of walking with Christ, don’t dismay, true trust in the storms of life will one day be rewarded.
The disciples were in awe of witnessing what only some of the prophets had wrote about , Jesus then turned to them before coming down from the Mt. and said “keep it a secret until he rises from the dead.” It is only with a completed understanding and with power that they could proclaim his message.
The resurrection, the 3rd point of the gospel, which took place on the 3rd day . This is what gave reality to what they had seen and experienced on the Mt. of transfiguration.
As he said in Luke 24 on the Emmaus Rd., Christ had to suffer before he could actually enter into his glory and be exalted and crowned to sit on the throne. Jesus before he ascends to heaven then says, “Go, tell everyone, making disciples of the nations.” This is the last marching orders of our savior and it continues to echo today until he comes. When Christ comes again in all his glory we too will share in it in some small way, as Dan 12:3 states, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”