Transfiguration and Transformation, Hywel R. Jones. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2021.
Summary: “Transfiguration,” referring to Christ and “transformation,” referring to the believer translate the same Greek word, metamorphosis. This work explores both why the difference and what the connection is.
Metamorphosis. This Greek word is used to describe both what happened to Jesus on the mountain with Peter, James, and John and what happens in the believer as the become increasingly like Christ. We say Jesus was “transfigured” while describing what happens to believers as “transformation.” In this compact but carefully argued book, Hywel R. Jones explains both the distinction and what the significance may be that the same word is used.
The first half of the book considers the transfiguration of Jesus. He looks at the setting, as a hinge point at the end of the Galilean ministry and the journey to the cross. He considers this both in terms of its historicity and as revelatory of the one fully God and fully human as the incarnate Son. Jesus’s divine nature is revealed in all its splendor without destroying his humanity. His careful exegesis looks at the significance of the kingdom in all three accounts and the successive scenes of the transfiguration, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, and the interruption of Peter and the Father’s word. Finally, this leads to its purpose–to prepare both Jesus and his disciples for his death, that his self-abasing death and the exaltation of God are one thing in this one human-divine person.
The second, and longer, part of the book discusses the believer’s transformation, inaugurated in our regeneration to new life through the Spirit of God and increased through our ongoing sanctification as we behold the glory of Christ, as our minds are renewed, and as we are recreated in the image of God. Finally, we experience transformation perfected in our glorification, where we become like Christ, purified of all sin and raised as Christ was raised in new, glorified bodies.
Hywel R. Jones summarizes the essence of the difference and connection of these two experiences of Christ, and of the believer as follows:
‘The transfiguration of Christ shows how the divine can penetrate the human without destroying it. The transformation of the believer shows how the human can become conformed to the divine without its ceasing to be human. This is the ultimate metamorphosis that is compatible with Christian truth.’Hywel R. Jones, p. xvi.
In Christ, his full divinity was revealed through his full humanity. For the believer, we are not nor will be divine, but are rather being formed into fully human but utterly accurate reflections of what God is like in Christ. Neither the divine nature of Jesus or the divine image of God in human beings diminishes the humanity of either.
Jones gives us a study that both reveals the glory of God in Christ and the glorious transforming work God in Christ Jesus has begun in us , is continuing, and will bring to perfect completion when we see Christ. Against scholarship that diminishes the glorious deity of Jesus to emphasize his humanity, Jones portrays the Son to be listened to, whose glory would be revealed in suffering. And for those of us who wonder if there is hope for us muddling sinners, he offers hope rooted in the work that began in our conversion, is continuing day by day as we keep looking at Christ, and will be gloriously completed. We see both the greatness of Christ, and in that greatness, the greatness of our destiny, all captured in that one word, metamorphosis.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.