Jesus states this following this event on a mountaintop, followed by a question from Jesus' students:
“Elijah truly does come first – and restores everything – and as it is written about this Servant of Humanity, he bears many things and is scorned. But I tell you, Elijah has already come and they have done to him whatever they wanted – as it is written about him.” (Mark 9:12-13)
Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James, and John and brought them up a high mountain alone. There in front of them, he changed to another form. And his clothing turned brilliantly white as snow – greater than any washer could whiten them on earth. Then Elijah appeared, with Moses – and they spoke with Jesus. Then Peter responded and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us erect three tents – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he didn’t know what to say because they were very afraid. Then a cloud formed and enveloped them. A voice came out of the cloud: “This is my beloved Representative – listen to him!” Then suddenly they looked around and didn’t see anyone but Jesus and themselves. As they descended the mountain he instructed them not to tell anyone what they had witnessed, until the Servant of humanity rises from the dead body. They kept that statement between themselves – but debated with one another what appears from the dead body means. Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (Mark 9:2-11)Jesus is thus answering their question above. He explains that he - the Servant of Humanity (the more appropriate translation of υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) will be persecuted just as his teacher John the Baptist was persecuted.
Jesus' reply is also described in the Gospel of Matthew:
“Elijah truly shall come first, to restore everything. But I say to you that Elijah has already come and they didn’t know him, but have done to him whatever they liked. Similarly, will the Servant of Humanity be persecuted by them." (Matt. 17:11-12)
Is Jesus confirming that John the Baptist was Elijah?
Jesus is speaking of none other than John the Baptist. This is confirmed by Jesus that his teacher, John the Baptist, previously appeared as the Prophet Elijah:
"All the Prophets and the Scripture preached prior to John. And if you can accept it – he is Elijah, who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Matt. 11:13-14)Thus we find that Jesus is clearly stating that John the Baptist was previously the Prophet Elijah. And since Elijah appeared in the land of Judah in the 9th Century BC - about 900 years prior to John - we must question:
How does someone re-appear within a different body?
This puzzle is answered in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, as it describes John:
He will go forward before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah – to turn the hearts of the teachers back to the children and the disobedient to the consciousness of the devoted, to prepare the people to serve the LORD. (Luke 1:16-17)It states, "in the spirit ... of Elijah." Here the word "spirit" is translated from the Greek word πνεῦμα (pneuma). This word means, according to the lexicon:
"the spirit, i.e. the vital principal by which the body is animated - the rational spirit, the power by which the human being feels, thinks, decides - the soul - a spirit, i.e. a simple essence, devoid of all or at least all grosser matter, and possessed of the power of knowing, desiring, deciding, and acting - a life-giving spirit - a human soul that has left the body"Thus we find clearly that the Scriptures are defining the element of the spirit - the soul - as distinct from the physical body - which leaves the body at the time of death.
And as clarified by Jesus, this spirit-person or soul - or the self - can leave one body and then come to occupy another body.
We further find that the spirit-person of Elijah who came to occupy the body of John the Baptist, also appeared to Jesus and his disciples at the mountaintop:
Then suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared – and they were talking with him. (Matt. 17:3)Thus we find that not only did the spirit-person of Elijah appear in another form, but so did the spirit-person of Moses. The Book of Mark describes this further:
Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John and brought them up a high mountain alone. There in front of them, he changed to another form. And his clothing turned brilliantly white as snow – greater than any washer could whiten them on earth. Then Elijah appeared, with Moses – and they spoke with Jesus. (Mark 9:2-4)How did they appear before them? We find clear evidence from the Scriptures that Moses left his physical body many centuries previous:
And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. (Deut. 34:5)Certainly, Moses' physical body decomposed following the death of his physical body. According to Judaic custom, the body is put into a tomb where it thoroughly decomposes and turns to dust. In prominent families, the remaining bones are sometimes put in a box called an ossuary.
In the same way, Elijah's physical body also decomposed some 900 years before John. But according to Jesus, he then came to occupy the body of John the Baptist.
What about the transfiguration?
Some other translations of Mark 9:2-4 describe Jesus' changed form as "transfigured." (Instead of "he changed to a different form.") This comes from the Greek word μεταμορφόω (metamorphoō) - which means, according to the lexicon, "to change into another form, to transform."
Whether we call it "transfiguration" or "changed into a new form," the meaning is clear. The Scriptures are describing appearing in another physical form - a body of sorts that can be seen by the physical eyes.
This is describing Jesus, but then he appears with Elijah and Moses, so all are appearing as transfigurations.
Thus, this transfiguration also allowed his disciples to see Moses and Elijah even though their physical bodies had long decomposed. What did they see?
They saw physical appearances of the spirit-persons within forms they could physically identify. This type of vision - also called an angelic vision - has been described elsewhere in the Scriptures. This is when a messenger of God - an angel - transfigures in order to appear before one's eyes in the physical dimension.
Transfiguration is, in fact, the only way that Elijah could have become John the Baptist. The spirit-person that occupied the body of Elijah in the 9th Century BC left that body when that body died. And that spirit-person of Elijah came to occupy - changed into another form or transfigured into - another body some 900 years later in the form of John the Baptist.
As for the notion that John the Baptist was previously Elijah: This is also a clear case of reincarnation, and Jesus is confirming that his teachings did include this doctrine.
Did this doctrine prevail before being covered up?
In fact, the Mosaic philosophy taught the doctrine of reincarnation until the 18th Century, and even today the Kabbal philosophy - an ancient form of Judaism - accepts reincarnation.
And we know that Jesus' teachings were grounded in the teachings of the Prophets.
Furthermore, the early Christian followers accepted reincarnation, confirmed by early church fathers like Origen and Bishop Clement. Origen, from the Second and Third Century, was a leading Christian teacher with thousands and thousands of students. Origen was also close to Clement.
But we find that the Roman-controlled Catholic Church banned reincarnation in the Fourth and Fifth Century and issued threats to anyone who accepted these teachings of Jesus:
“If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their impious writings, as also all other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four Holy Synods and if anyone does not equally anathematize all those who have held and hold or who in their impiety persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned: let him be anathema.” (Anathema 553)These early teachers all taught what Jesus taught: The reality of reincarnation - or the rising of the soul from one body to another body, also referred to as "the resurrection of the dead." This is opposed to the rising of the soul to the spiritual realm - referred to as the "resurrection of the living."
This teaching is clarified by Jesus as he answers a Sadducee's question about resurrection:
"Because in the resurrection they will not marry, nor will be subject to marriage, but will be as angels of God in the spiritual realm. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God – ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matt. 22:30-32)This statement by Jesus clarifies "the dead" as being those who are not interested in loving and serving God - or not ready to. Their resurrection - the reappearance of their souls - will be within another physical body. Those who dedicate their lives to God are among the "resurrection of the living" according to Jesus.
The exceptions are those representatives of God like Moses, Elijah and John, who appeared in earthly forms in order to teach us love for God. But we see clearly that Jesus and the Pharisee teachers did teach reincarnation - what Jesus calls the "resurrection of the dead."
What is the doctrine of the unseen soul?
After all, the soul or spirit-person is invisible to the eyes. This is why we cannot find any physical element missing in a dead body. The body is now lifeless, with no personality after death. Yet all of the cells and organs - the brain, the heart, the liver and so on - are still there in the dead body.
This means that we are not these temporary physical bodies. Each of us is a unique individual spirit-person. A spirit-person that dwells within another dimension. A spirit-person that is composed of spiritual elements, not material elements. This is why we cannot see where a person goes after the body dies.
Yet we know from clinical death research that a person certainly leaves the physical body and continues existing. Clinical death research has shown that a person will rise up above the physical body and look down upon it. This means that we are not these physical bodies.
And this explains how the spirit-person of Elijah could become John the Baptist. It also explains how Jesus' physical body could be murdered on the cross, yet he appeared before his disciples three days later.
And it also explains why Jesus' disciples did not recognize Jesus when he first appeared before them. Because he - his spirit-person - had left his physical body. He was appearing before them in a transfiguration.
How can we go to heaven or hell?
This is also how any of us - depending on the decisions we make during this lifetime - can go to hell. "Heaven" is the spiritual realm. This is our home. Meanwhile, "hell" is in the physical realm - the world of temporary physical bodies.
If we decide not to return to the spiritual realm, then the level of the hell we go to will depend upon our actions during this lifetime. They determine where we go in the form of consequences. Just consider Jesus' statement to someone he healed:
“See, your body is now well. Sin no more so nothing worse happens to you.” (John 5:14)This clearly indicates that our future depends upon the actions we take. Our actions in this lifetime can also determine where we end up in our next lifetime:
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2)Jesus' disciples were asking him whose consequences were being paid for in the blindness. Since the man was born blind, according to what Jesus had taught them, his activities in a previous lifetime could have caused him to be born blind.
What is sin?
Sins are those self-centered activities that are condemned by the Supreme Being's instructions. Any self-centered activity has a consequence. A self-centered activity that hurts another person will result in us having whatever effect we had upon another come back to us in one form or another - either in this life or the next.
Similarly, if we help another person with a self-centered objective, then the consequence will be that we will be helped by another in the future.
One way or another, we will have to reap the effects of what we sow during this lifetime.
This is fairness. The Supreme Being is extremely fair. Why would God set up a system where we could hurt others without consequences? That would be unfair, not only to those who are hurt, but to those who hurt others - those who need to be educated.
That is what our life in the physical world is: An education. We are here to learn. But what are we here to learn?
Are we here to learn how to love?
This is the sum and substance of our education. This is why there are consequences: So we can know how it feels to be hurt as we may have hurt others in the past.
This is designed to encourage us to have empathy for others. This is because empathy leads to the ability to love.
The ultimate lesson we are here to learn relates to love. We need to learn to love again. We need to regain our innate love for the Supreme Being and our love for others. This is why this is Jesus' most important teaching:
‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction. And the second is like it – ‘You shall love others as yourself.’ There is no other instruction greater than these.” (Matt. 12:30-31)