Note: Bible references included in this post are mainly from the King James Version. The intent in using this particular English translation is to show that the subject matter is clearly represented in commonly available and accepted scriptural texts.
Jesus Christ declared:
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Matthew 22:23 KJV)
Moses and Elias serve as living examples of this magnificent truth. On a particular occasion, Jesus took three of His disciples into a high mountain where Moses and Elias (or “Elijah”) appeared to them and spoke directly with Jesus of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. (Matthew 17:1-4 KJV)
And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answered and said to 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. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. (Mark 9:2-6 KJV)
And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he 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 glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. 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. (Luke 9:28-33 KJV)
Both Moses and Elias had long since passed physically from this earth, yet here we read in three gospel accounts contained in the Bible of these three (Jesus, Moses, and Elias) speaking together in the presence of three eyewitnesses (Peter, James, and John). There was yet another very important witness to this event: God the Father.
While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. (Matthew 17:5-7)
And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves. And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. (Mark 9:7-9 KJV)
While he thus spake, 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. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen. (Luke 9:34-36 KJV)
Peter would later reaffirm the literal nature of this event, thus attesting to the truthfulness and accuracy of the accounts quoted above.
Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour 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 this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (II Peter 1:12-21 KJV)
There are many more eyewitness accounts recorded in the scriptures that confirm our Lord’s words that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Chief of these are Jesus’ words to Martha just prior to raising her brother, Lazarus, from the grave. Jesus Christ declared that He is the resurrection and the life and that all who believe in Him will live.
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. (John 11:20-27 KJV)
Further proof of our Lord’s words came after His own resurrection from the dead. Matthew records how, at that time, many people rose from the dead and appeared unto many witnesses.
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Matthew 27:52-53 KJV)
It is important to note that not just a few followers of Jesus Christ witnessed this amazing display of our Lord’s power over death. As Matthew testifies, those who arose from their graves appeared unto many. We should also note here that there is no absolute proscription in scripture against such persons appearing to individuals or groups of people on the earth. Rather, we have further accounts of resurrected souls appearing to individuals after they had passed from this life. John, for example, would write many years later of how one of his fellow brethren appeared to him.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19:6-10)
Note how John’s response was not unlike the time when he and the other two Apostles saw Moses and Elias speaking with Jesus on the mount. Here again we see how John was in awe of such an individual’s appearance which compelled to worship him. Why? Those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ will be like Him in glory.
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (I John 3:1-3)
How is this possible? Our Lord gives His Spirit of truth to those who trust in Him and His provisions for their redemption.
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (I John 4:12-17 KJV)
John’s experience in seeing Moses and Elias on “the mount of transfiguration” and later seeing one of his fellow brethren in the Isle of Patmos provide us with invaluable instruction regarding visions of those who have since passed on from this life. Simply put, a true angle of God will not accept worship of themselves. Rather, they will direct us to worship the Lord. Further, they will not cause someone to be puffed up in any way. Rather, their presence will bring humility as it did when one of his brethren appeared to John in a vision. Most importantly, such visitations will clearly and decisively direct us to worship God. Recall, for instance, how Paul would later write that we are not to worship such individuals lest we lose our reward in Jesus Christ.
To better understand Paul’s proscription against angel worship, I find it instructive to review how other translations of the Bible (such as provided on biblehub.com) represent Paul’s words. I believe that such an exercise is valuable to us because there can be and are false manifestations of angels and deceiving spirits that have and do appear unto mankind.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (II Corinthians 11:13-15 KJV)
Stated another way, from comparing the wording of the different versions of the Bible provided on biblehub.com, as an example, we can gain understanding as how to avoid those who are proud and puffed up by their experiences and those who go into great detail in describing what they say they have seen, and others who speculate much about such matters.
However, and for a reality check, does Paul’s counsel Colossians 2:18 disqualify the testimonies of Peter and John, both of whom wrote in detail of their experiences with messengers from above? What about the prophets of old like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekial, and others, all of whom went into great detail about the visions they witnessed? In a word, the answer to this question is unmistakably no, otherwise the scriptures would contradict themselves. As quoted above from II Peter 1:12-21, we can be assured that we can count on the testimony of the prophets and apostles of God when considering such matters. In fact, their experiences and messages provide us with wisdom in how to judge any experience that we or others may have today on the topic of this post.
To sum up, it is important to understand that all such messengers sent by God will appear to the glory of our Lord, and will bear witness of Him. They will not glorify the messenger, but the One who sends them. Consider, for example, the following statement made by Jesus:
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (John 16:13,14)
This is why Jesus can use all scripture recorded by the prophets, which is inspired of the Holy Ghost, to speak of Himself. They all testify of Him.
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
But we must remember, that we are not to think our salvation is in the scriptures. It is found in Jesus Christ alone, and therefore we must come to Him for our salvation.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (John 5:39,40)
Notwithstanding the majesty of this person’s countenance – which was the glory of the testimony of Jesus residing within him, like the individual who appeared to John admonished him to worship God and no one else.
By these several witnesses, especially the witness the Father gave of His Son on several occasions (when baptized, on the mount of transfiguration, in the temple, etc.) we understand how we can know if a spiritual messenger is of God or not. Do they call upon us to worship God? Do they bear witness that Jesus Christ came in the flesh (I John 4:1-8)? If not, turn from them and worship God alone. For we are not without hope. Jesus lives and all they who believe in Him have eternal life.
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (I Corinthians 15:14-20)
Paul was ministered to by man from third heaven.
Like Job, we can be sure that we will see God in this flesh.
Remember we will know as we are know
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
I Cor 15 – most miserable? No! Alive in Christ