2 Peter Part 6
The More Sure Word of Prophecy
2 Peter 1:16-21 / Luke 9:28-36
So far in this passage, Peter has opened up some amazing ideas for his first readers and for us.
Vs. 1 – The average Believer trusting Christ alone for their salvation, has a faith of equal standing with the Apostles.
Vs. 2 – That grace and peace can be multiplied in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. It need not remain stagnant but can grow and blossom.
Vs. 3 – That God has called Believers to His own glory & excellence.
Vss. 3 & 4 – That God has already granted Believers what is necessary to enter into His own glory and excellence in making us partakers of the divine nature through the Holy Spirit.
Vs. 8 – That as Believers grow in these things we can have an eternal impact on the souls of others while enjoying more and more fruit of these glories in ourselves.
Vs. 10 – That Believers can gain more and more victory over sin.
Vs. 11 – That the growing Believer can anticipate not just Heaven, but a rich or lavish entrance into the eternal Kingdom.
All this Peter argues – for a group of dispossessed refugees in the hostile backwater of the persecuting and rejecting Roman empire.
All this, for marginalized, troubled and persecuted Christians in every age and under all different circumstances.
All this, for even you and me – if we are truly Christ’s.
And as is often the case with the announcement of grace in the Gospel and the goodness of God toward sinful men – some would think it too good to be true.
And enemies of the Gospel would reinforce that notion – telling us that all these things are mere myths. All bogus and invented by wicked people to gain power and prestige.
To which attacks, Peter feels the need to respond head on – which form the substance then of vss. 16-21.
At that, Peter is especially sensitive to address the last portion he had mentioned – the promise of Heaven.
In our own generation – where philosophical materialism rules the day – where human beings are considered mere cosmic accidents, with no lives of meaning or purpose outside of ourselves, and the assumption that everything and everyone just lives and then dies and that’s it – don’t notions of Heaven smack of infantile fairy tales and uneducated pipedreams?
Worse yet, look at the outworking of radical Islam, where people commit the most heinous and atrocious acts of terrorism and violence, all to try and achieve some sort of orgiastic afterlife? Aren’t all such notions just fuel for the ignorant and imbalanced to excuse their hatred?
To which Peter gives an immediate and emphatic NO!
A 2-fold response which cements the certainty of the Believer in this regard – in a most wonderful foundation.
- 2 Peter 1:16-18 “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”
“We” – Me and the rest of the Apostles, we didn’t come preaching to you stuff we just heard from someone else – we have 1st hand experience having spent more than 3 years with Jesus AND, we were eyewitnesses of the coming glory of Christ Jesus when we were with Him on the mount of transfiguration.
Peter, James and John that day saw a glimpse of the glory that is yet to be ours when Jesus returns. And had been forever changed by it!
We had the portion read for us out of Luke 9, and it does not paint the flattering picture of a Peter who would be looking to gain power and prestige in the eyes of others.
In fact, it is noted in each of the accounts – that he was so stunned and overcome, he made the utterly foolish pronouncement: “Let us build 3 tabernacles, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” At which point, God the Father rebukes him out loud, and even his biographer Luke says Peter didn’t know what he was saying! (Luke 9:33)
We saw this – Peter says. We were eyewitnesses of His majesty. We saw the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To which we all must bear in mind that having the Gospels written and circulated in the Churches, would have easily opened up Peter and the rest to charges of fabrication. But none emerge in the literature of the day.
The same way Paul when defending himself before King Agrippa in Acts 26 can appeal to common knowledge about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus by saying “these things weren’t done in a corner.” You can check out the witnesses. Like the more than 500 who saw Jesus post resurrection Paul refers to in 1 Cor. 15.
So let me tell you about the glory to come says Peter – I saw it. You know me. You’ve known my life and my ministry. You know the lives and ministries of James and John too. And we SAW IT! We were eye witnesses.
- BUT! There is even something better than our eyewitness testimony.
And this is where it gets rich.
Yes, we saw this and you have believed our testimony, but: 2 Peter 1:19–21 “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Yes, we saw and heard that day – but we have something better than our personal experience and eyewitness testimony – We have the “prophetic word” – the Old Testament. And that, more fully confirmed than even our eyewitness account.
And it is THIS – the Word of God which YOU do well to pay attention to as a lamp shining in a dark place, until that day when He returns and you receive the fullness of what has been promised.
Why does Peter place such exceeding stress on the Scriptures, on the Old Testament and its prophecies above even his own experience?
Because it is MORE confirmed.
How so? Because the OT prophecies were not private oracles but public, and affirmed by the entire Jewish nation.
And, those prophecies prove to have come by the Holy Spirit in their fulfillment.
Archdeacon Farrar wrote: “And still stronger is the surety we have in the prophetic word”…“Why more sure? Because wider in its range, and more varied, and coming from many, and bringing a more intense personal conviction than the testimony to a single fact.”
- D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., 2 Peter, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 9.
One of the marks of true Biblical witness is that we tell people, look, don’t believe me – go to the Scriptures!
Experiences can fade over time. They can be embellished, or even lose detail. But the Word of God abides.
It can be checked and re-checked. Consulted and re-consulted. And, it is actually written so as to be scrutinized this way.
If you want a fun exercise sometime, a true, faith building and faith cementing activity – just scan the Gospels for the number of times the writers note specifically how Jesus in His acts and words fulfills specific prophecy.
Let’s just take Matthew in a very rapid survey this way.
1 – Matthew 1:22–23 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
2 – Matthew 2:5–6 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
3 – Matthew 2:14–15 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
4 – Matthew 2:16–18 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
5 – Matthew 2:23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
6 – Matthew 3:1–3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ”
7 – Matthew 4:12–16 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
8 – Matthew 8:16–17 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
9 – Matthew 11:7–10 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
10 – Matthew 12:15–21 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
11 – Matthew 13:13–15 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “ ‘ “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
12 – Matthew 13:34–35 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”
13 – Matthew 21:1–5 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”
14 – Matthew 26:30–31 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
15 – Matthew 26:53–54 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
16 – Matthew 26:55–56 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
17 – Matthew 27:6–10 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
You read all of these, and haven’t even ventured on passages like Gen. 3 and the prophecy that that Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head; or Psalm 22 with its “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” – “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
Nor have we noted Isaiah 53’s “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”
There are literally hundreds of others we could point to – without yet mentioning all of the types and shadows locked up in the imagery of the High Priest; the prophet like Moses yet to come; all of the sacrifices typifying His atoning death; the promise of Pentecost fulfilled and His resurrection and so on.
Believe or don’t believe my eyewitness account – but believe your Bible and the overwhelming prophecies that demonstrate Jesus was the promised Messiah, and that the Heaven He promised therefore must be an absolute certainty and worthy of all we might suffer here in the meantime.
And so we say all the things mentioned in the first part of the chapter have their root in Christ – who fulfilled all, and cannot lie.
God has provided for an enduring and verifiable and complete record upon which to base our faith.
And might we add here that Peter’s admonition in this regard demonstrates for us why we are to base our knowledge and conclusion about spiritual things on the Word – even above our OWN experiences.
For the very same reasons Peter points us to the Scriptures. Experiences can fade, can lose detail and can be misinterpreted. But the Word – it remains – and can be put to the test and read and studied over and over until misinterpretations fade more than our memories.
All of this then leaves us with this wonderful reality: How great, how stupendous, how glorious is God’s love for His people – that He has prepared and preserved this Word for us throughout the centuries – that we might KNOW, with an absolute knowing the glories and truth of Christ.
Newton: “Let us adore him for his love, that love which has a height, and depth, and length, and breadth, beyond the grasp of our poor conceptions; a love that moved him to empty himself, to take on him the form of a servant, and to be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; a love that pitied us in our lost estate, that found us when we sought him not, that spoke peace to our souls in the day of our distress; a love that bears with all our present weakness, mistakes, backslidings, and shortcomings; a love that is always watchful, always ready to guide, to comfort, and to heal; a love that will not be wearied, cannot be conquered, and is incapable of changes; a love that will in the end prevail over all opposition, will perfect that which concerns us, and will not leave us till it has brought us perfect in holiness and happiness, to rejoice in his presence in glory. The love of Christ: it is the wonder, the joy, the song of angels; and the sense of it shed abroad in our hearts makes life pleasant and death welcome. Alas! what a heart have I that I love him no better! But I hope he has given me a desire to make him my all in all, and to account every thing loss and dross that dares to stand in competition with him.
John Newton and Richard Cecil, The Works of John Newton, vol. 2 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 180–181.