Read Matthew 17:1-8; 2 Peter 1:16-21
This morning I was listening to a story about a grand house in Czechoslovakia. The magnificent home-it could be called a palace-was built after World War I. The book that was being discussed relates stories from the lives of some of the interesting people who lived in that house throughout the past hundred years or so. Among the people that were named was Shirley Temple Black. I had forgotten that she served as the Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989-1992. She held her position when Communism was defeated there, at the time of the Velvet Revolution. Hearing the name of the child star turned ambassador made me wonder if Temple Black was still alive and if she is, what is she doing now? What I discovered as I put the question into the computer is that she died on April 10, 2014. She was 85 years old. Concerning what she is doing now is a question I can't answer.
It is not because the Bible does not speak about what happens when we die because Jesus gave clear teaching about where those who put their trust in Him would go after death, John 14:1-3. He told His loved friend Martha and the repentant criminal who was crucified with Him the same truth, John 11:25-27; Luke 23:39-43. They would continue to live, even after they took their last breaths here. What precious truth this is. We can know because Jesus Who is Truth, John 14:6 has told us that those Who receive Him will be His Children, John 1:11-12 and each one will be with Him in His Father's house, John 14:1-3. No, we don't know exactly what each is doing right now, but we know where they are, with their Savior. The only reason I don't know where Shirley Temple Black is now is due to the fact that I don't know if she believed in Jesus and received His gift of everlasting life, John 3:16
In Matthew 17:1-8, we learn about an amazing "where are they now" occurrence in Jesus' life. We actually get a glimpse into the lives of two men Jesus' followers had known about from childhood. Wouldn't you have liked to have been with them that day? Peter, James and John actually saw Moses and Elijah. How many times had they heard the account of Moses' leading the children of Israel across the Red Sea on dry land? How many times had they thrilled at Elijah's standing up against the false prophets of Baal, and there they stood with them on the mountain. There is so much truth in this short passage, but let's confine ourselves to one wonderful nugget. How would you feel if you actually saw these two men who had died hundreds of years earlier? And there they were alive and well? We don't know what they were doing during that time period between Moses' death, Elijah's translation into heaven and the day of the Transfiguration? But we do know that Matthew, Mark and Luke each wrote about this incident, Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36. They let us know that these two prominent men were recognizable people. They were still Moses and Elijah. Luke even tells us that they discussed Jesus' approaching death in Jerusalem, Luke 9:31.
Is there anything that could be more encouraging than the firsthand accounts of these men who witnessed such an amazing incident? The truth is that Peter says that he knew truth that was more certain than what he saw with his own eyes. In 2 Peter 1:16-21, we are reminded of the reliability of prophesy. Peter was certain of what He saw that day and that he had heard the voice from heaven, the One Who honored Jesus far above Moses and Elijah. The apostle reminded us of this incident to comfort and encourage us concerning the truth about God's Word. As wonderful as Peter's special time on the mountain was, prophesy is for us an even brighter and trustworthy light because God's Word is what turns our attention to the True Light, John 8:12. Since prophesy Peter says never came from man's initiative, but rather from God, we can fully rely on what the Lord tells us through the ones who received His message.
What reminders we have in Isaiah 46:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Isaiah 40:8; Psalm 33:11 concerning the reliability of God and all that He has said. Therefore, even though there is much we don't know about what is presently going on in the lives of those who have died in Jesus, we have enough truth from God's Word to be comforted. Where are they now? They are in Jesus' presence where there is fullness of joy, Psalm 16:11. We will someday be where they are, but they will not come back here in order to be with us, 2 Samuel 12:22-23. Because we know these priceless truths and so many others, though we grieve when a loved one dies, we have a comforting hope, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. Our Hope is Jesus.