Jonathan Edwards, in Notes on Scripture, left us with one of the most penetrating meditations on the glory of the Son of God at the transfiguration. He wrote:
“’But were eyewitnesses of his majesty,’ etc. They, the apostles, had not only ‘heard’ him say that he would come in his kingdom in power and great glory, but they were in a sort eyewitnesses of it, in that they were eyewitness of something in Christ that was a remarkable and wonderful earnest and prelibation of it, viz. the glory of his transfiguration. The glory of the transfiguration was manifested to Peter, that wrote this epistle, and two other disciples, to that very end, that it might be an earnest of what he had been telling them of his coming in his kingdom, and a specimen of the glory of his second coming; for in each of the three evangelists, the account of Christ’s transfiguration follows next after Christ’s foretelling them of his coming in his kingdom. What they saw of the glory of Christ’s transfiguration was an evidence of two things that were dependent one on another, both which these apostates denied.
First, it was an evidence that he was the Son of God, the same that was declared by the voice which said, “This is my beloved Son.” This these apostates denied, 2 Pet. 2:1, “denying the Lord that bought them.” This was evident by that glory that they saw, as,
1. The glory that Christ then appeared in was so divine and admirably excellent, and had such a bright and evident appearance of divinity, such an admirable and ineffable semblance of the infinitely glorious perfection of God, his awful majesty, his purity, and infinitely sweet grace and love, that evidently denoted him to be a divine person. The Apostle says, “He received from the Father honor and glory.” The term is doubled and varied, thus to signify the exceeding excellency of the glory.
There was doubtless an inward sight, or lively sense of heart, of Christ’s spiritual glory that accompanied Peter’s sight of the visible glory of Christ. There was an ineffable beauty, majesty, and brightness in his countenance that held forth and naturally represented the excellencies of his mind, his holiness, his heavenly meekness, and grace, and love, and that majesty that spake his union with the deity, and by the influence of the Spirit of God accompanying, excited in Peter and the other two that were with him a great sense of those perfections, and their immense excellency, adorableness, and sweetness. And the Spirit of God doubtless accompanied the word of God that Peter and the others then heard, so that that word was spiritually understood and believed, so that Christ’s glory then was manifested to the disciples three ways. By the rays of light, it was exhibited to their eyes; by the voice, it was declared to their ears, and by the Spirit, to their souls. The last was the most convincing and certain evidence to them of Christ’s divinity.
This glory of Christ that the apostles then saw, both the outward glory and that spiritual glory that the outward glory had a semblance of, did most remarkably appear to be such as exceedingly became the only begotten, dearly beloved, and infinitely lovely Son of God. Therefore the apostle John, who was another eyewitness of it, speaking probably with special reference to this, John 1:14, [says], “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” It exhibited not only the divine greatness in the majesty, of which the apostle Peter in this place especially speaks, but the divine grace and love in the sweetness of it.
2. This glory that appeared in the person of Christ did exactly resemble that excellent glory that the Apostle speaks of, out of which the voice came (v. 17). For there was there in the mount an external glory as a visible symbol of the presence of God the Father, and by which he was represented, as well as an external glory in God the Son, viz. that bright cloud that overshadowed them. There was a glory in that cloud that the Apostle calls an “excellent glory.” When it is said in the evangelists that “a bright cloud overshadowed them” [Matt. 17:5], ’tis not meant a light or white cloud, as by a cast of light upon it by something shining, such as are some clouds by the bright reflections of the sun’s light, but a cloud bright by an internal light shining out of [it], which light the Apostle calls an “excellent glory.” It [was] probably an ineffably sweet, excellent sort of light, perfectly differing from and far exceeding the light of the sun. All light is sweet, but this seems to have been immensely more sweet than any other that ever they had, impressing some idea that we can’t conceive of, having never seen it, as we can conceive of nothing of light more than we have seen. We could have conceived of no such light as the light of the sun, had not we seen it, nor of any color—blue, red, green, purple, nor any other. God doubtless can excite other ideas of light in our minds besides any of those that we have had, and far exceeding them, a light affording sweetness and pleasure to the sight far exceeding all pleasure of the grosser and inferior senses. Therefore Peter, the Apostle that writes this epistle, was exceedingly delighted with it in the time of it, which made him say, “It is good for us to be here” [Matt. 17:4], and made him talk of building tabernacles, and think of spending the rest of his days there. And he still (though now old and near his end, by vv. 13–14) retains a lively sense of the exquisite gloriousness and pleasantness of that light when he expresses himself, as he does here, calling [it] the “excellent glory.” (See “Miscellanies,” no. 721.) And there probably was an exact resemblance between the glory that the disciples saw in Christ’s face and that which they saw in this cloud, which declared him to be the Son of God; for they saw him to be his express image.
The apostle John who saw this, he probably afterwards in his visions saw the very same sort of light and glory as an emanation of the glory of God filling the New Jerusalem, which he now saw filling the mount of transfiguration, the type of it which he gives an account of in Rev. 21:11. “Having the glory of God, and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.” The light he then saw seems to be perfectly differing in nature from any that is to be seen in this [world], and immensely more sweet and excellent. He evidently wants words and similitudes to set it forth; he wants something excellent, and sweet, and precious enough to set it forth. He says it was like “a stone most precious”; he knew none precious, or bright, or excellent enough to the sight. But he says it was “like a jasper stone,” more resembling that than any other; but that is not sufficient, and therefore he adds, “clear as crystal.” And from the whole we may gather it was something he could not express, and that there was nothing like. (See note on the verse.)9 So it was the same kind of light that this beloved disciple had the glory of God represented by. Rev. 4:3, “He that sat was like a jasper and a sardine stone.” A jasper and a sardine stone were of different colors, one green and the other red. How then could the light appear like both? By this it is plain that, indeed, it was like neither, and that the Apostle could find nothing to represent it by. There was all that was excellent in both. This is something like his seeing that the street of the New Jerusalem was like “pure gold,” and yet like transparent “glass” (Rev. 21:18).
3. This glory that they saw in Christ appeared to them as communicated from that glory in the cloud, for the Apostle says, “He received from the Father honor and glory” [2 Pet. 1:17]. The light in Christ’s person appeared to them to be as it were lighted up, or begotten as it were, by that in the cloud; or2 the glory in the cloud appeared shining on Christ, and so communicating the same excellent brightness. This again declared him to be the Son of God, for it showed him to be the express image of the Father, and to be from the Father as begotten of him. Thus the glory of Christ’s transfiguration was an evidence that he was the Son of God.
Secondly, it was also a special and direct evidence that what he had said a little before of his second coming was true, as it was given as a specimen of that glory that he should then appear in, and showed that this was the person that the prophet Daniel foretold would come in so glorious a kingdom, that the Jews called the kingdom of heaven, by the agreement there was between this glory they saw in Christ, and that which Daniel describes to be in that person that should set up that kingdom, whose garment is said to be “white as snow” (Dan. 7:9), as Christ’s garments were said to be “white as the light” [Matt. 17:1], and “so as no fuller on earth can white them” [Mark 9:3].
And nextly, besides this visible glory, the Apostle mentions the voice that there was from the excellent glory in the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him” (though the last clause, “hear him,” is not here mentioned). It is observable that it is the very same that the glory that was “in the cloud” declared to the eyes of the apostles, that the voice “in the cloud” declared to their ears. The communication visible from this glory to Christ, one glory as it were begetting another, and the exact resemblance of the glory begotten, declared him to be God’s Son. And the sweet and exact agreement between one and the other, and the union that appeared by communication, denoted the love between the Father and Son, or that he was well-pleased in him. And this glory being given, as a specimen of the glory of his second coming, declared the truth of what he had so lately told ’em of his second coming, the same that the voice implicitly declared when it bid them “hear him,” or believe what he said, which the disciples that heard it must especially apply to the things he had most lately told them and instructed them in.
Verse 19, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in your hearts.” By the “word of prophecy” is here meant the standing written revelation that God had given to his church, as appears by the two next verses. This is spoken of as surer than a voice from heaven. But the Apostle has a special respect to the prophetical part of this written revelation, and most of all those parts that speak of the glory of Christ’s kingdom, which is the principal subject of scripture prophecy, particularly that prophecy in the 7th chapter of Daniel that speaks of the kingdom of heaven. This word of prophecy is “as a light that shines in a dark place.” The time of Christ’s coming is here spoken of as the morning, when Christ, who is the sun, shall arise and appear; and his happy kingdom, that he shall then set up, is represented as the daytime. But the time that goes before that is here represented as nighttime, or a time of darkness, and we that live in that time as being in “a dark place.” The “word of prophecy” is as a light shining in a dark place, or as the light of a bright star in this night, a light preceding the day of Christ’s coming, like the morning star that is a forerunner of the day. The prophecies of that day foretell it, as the daystar foretells the approaching day. The prophets were harbingers of that blessed season, as the morning star is the harbinger of the day. By the prophecies of that day that go before it, something of the light of that day is manifested beforehand and is reflected to it, so that some of the light of the sun is anticipated, as by the daystar while it is yet night. If we give heed to these prophecies, we shall enjoy this foregoing light in our hearts, and so this daystar will arise there. Our faith in these prophecies will be the evidence of that glorious sun that is now not seen, and will render his light that is hoped for in some measure present in this dark world, and in our dark hearts. We shall in a measure have the joy of the morning of Christ’s coming beforehand. We shall have a light in our hearts that will be an earnest and forerunner of the glorious light of that day, as the dawning of the day before sunrise.
This world is a dark place without Christ, and therefore is dark till he comes, and till his kingdom of glory is set up. It appeared to be so now, especially in the circumstances of the Christians that the Apostle now writes to, a world of heresies, grand delusions, and dreadful wickedness. They were in a dark place; they were not only surrounded with heathens and subject to persecution, as appears by Peter’s first epistle that was written to the same Christians, as is evident by 2 Pet. 3:1, but were in the midst of vile heretics and apostates, as has been said already. And Christ delayed his coming, and they had many temptations to deny the present truth, and lose their hopes of the sun’s rising. When a man is in a dark place, and is in danger of stumbling, and falling, and being lost, and has a light held forth to him to guide him in it, it behooves him to take heed to it, and keep his eye upon it, lest he get out of the way and fall into mischief.”1
1. Edwards, J. (1998). Notes on Scripture. (H. S. Stout & S. J. Stein, Eds.) (Vol. 15, pp. 213–218). London; New Haven: Yale University Press.