2 Peter #7
The Surest Testimony
2 Peter 1:16-21
February 19, 2020
Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s open our Bibles to 2 Peter 1:16. I’m hoping to finish chapter 1 tonight, Lord willing, as we continue our study through the Book of 2 Peter. Peter is penning a letter to warn his audience of false teaching that’s coming.
So the best insulation against false teaching is to have a maturing Christian. So, Peter dedicates that first chapter to maturity. Chapter 1 is really a call to maturity, and the chapter has four parts, as we’ve studied.
You have the introduction. We have the writer, recipients, greeting (verses 1-2). And then there is really the heart of the chapter, which is the call to growth (verses 3-11). Number one: we have the provisions for growth which are power, knowledge, promises, and the new nature.
Number two: the portrait of growth. What does growth look like? What does maturity look like? We have this tremendous portrait there in verses 5-7. In other words, if a Christian is maturing, these are the things that will become more and more evident in a person’s life: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
Then number three: the benefits of growth. Why grow up? Growing up is hard! Why not just stay in the crib? I was more comfortable in diapers, quite frankly. Problem is that I don’t think they make diapers big enough for me anymore.
When you grow up and get out of the diapers, there are certain benefits: productivity; living in harmony with your new identity; you develop greater sureness of your salvation; you become more stable (and that’s really what Peter wants in his audience—stability—because the false teachers prey on the unstable); and you don’t just enter heaven—but you enter heaven fully rewarded.
Then, what Peter does two times in this letter is he interrupts his train of thought and gives his purpose for writing. So, this is his first purpose statement (1:12-15). Peter here is writing his last will and testament just prior to his death to remind his audience of previously revealed truth. He’s just reminding them. He is trying to recall to memory what they already know. It’s a way to solidify his audience in the basics. It’s sort of like Vince Lombardi.
You guys know who Vince Lombardi was, right? The Packers lost a big game. Vince Lombardi was a very well-known football coach at the time. He walked into the locker room after the game, held up a football, and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” In other words, “The reason we just lost is that we lost sight of the fundamentals. So, we’re going to go back to the very basics, including telling you what this is. This is a football.”
And that’s what Peter is doing here in chapter 1—actually, the whole book. He is saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” So there are not a lot of novel things he’s saying as much as it’s a reminder of what they already know.
Peter knows he’s ready to die, and he pens this letter so they’ll have some kind of written record that they can use to remind themselves of the basics after he’s dead and gone. Because the Lord made clear to him, remember? “When you were young you dressed yourself, you went where you wanted. When you’re older, people are going to take you where you do not want to go,” speaking of the manner of death in which Peter would glorify Christ through martyrdom.
So, he knows his martyrdom is at hand. And he wants to get this book out, this letter, on the fundamentals, so they’ll have something to remind themselves of once he’s dead and gone. Because, in a few short years, he will be dead. He will be dead, but he won’t be gone. He will have just moved, right? From his tent, which is his body, where? Into the presence of the Lord.
He has finished his purpose statement. Then, in verses 16-21, he gets into the subject of the coming Kingdom. Why is he dealing with the Kingdom? Because in verse 11, before he introduced his purpose statement, as he was talking about the benefits of growth, he said this, “for in this way the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
So, the Kingdom is future here. He wants them to enter the Kingdom fully rewarded. And this is where it pays dividends to do the audience analysis that we did in our first two lessons. In the first two lessons in 2 Peter, we didn’t start verse by verse. We looked at who his audience is. And you might have been asking yourself, “This is kind of boring. Can’t we just get into the book?”
Well, here’s where it pays dividends to understand this background. If you understand this background, you know exactly why he’s bringing up the things he is bringing up in verses 16-21. If you haven’t done your homework, and you haven’t studied who he is writing to, then it just seems like he’s bringing up things that are irrelevant.
Is his audience Jew or Gentile? Jew! We went through that. So a Jew is always asking (certainly a Christian Jew, a Hebrew Christian), “If Jesus is the King, then where is the Kingdom?” That’s the number one question on their minds. We as Gentiles don’t think that way, but they thought that way, because they came out of Hebrew Bible (what we now call the Old Testament). And the Old Testament always presented King and Kingdom as horse and carriage.
If the King is present, what should be right there with Him? The Kingdom. Isaiah 9:6-7 says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us…” Then, right after this it says, “And the government will rest on His shoulders…” And it talks about everlasting peace, and the increase of His government will know no end, justice and righteousness, etc. So they always understood this as: King…there’s got to be the Kingdom.
The problem with Christ is, He was the King, but the Kingdom did not materialize right away. Why is that? Because His own nation did not enthrone Him. Therefore, we’re in a different age now called the Church Age where the Kingdom is not canceled but is what? Postponed.
And this was a real stumbling block for Hebrew Christians. It’s a real stumbling block for any Jewish person today who is an Orthodox Jew. They don’t understand how you can have embraced Jesus as your King when, “Clearly, we don’t have world peace and all of the things spoken of in Hebrew Bible concerning when the Messiah comes.”
So, they’re always wondering, “Have we believed in the right guy?” Matthew is very clear, “You have believed in the right guy,” because he traces Jesus’ genealogy back to David—and from David back to Abraham. So, clearly, He has the Messianic pedigree.
Their second question is, “Well, if He is the right guy, where is His Kingdom?” And Matthew explains, “The Kingdom has been postponed.” Then they’re thinking, “If the Kingdom has been postponed, is it ever going to come to the earth? Where is it? When is it coming?” So, to understand the things that Peter is mentioning here, you have to think like a Jewish person. You have to ask the question that a Hebrew Christian would ask. You have to put yourself in the shoes of a Jewish person, or else the things he brings up won’t make a lot of sense. That’s why we did all that work at the beginning demonstrating the Hebrew Christian audience of 2 Peter.
What Peter does in these final verses in chapter 1 (verses 16 to 21) is he gives them proof that the Kingdom is on schedule. “Yes, there’s been a temporary roadblock, so to speak, but it’s just a bump in the road. It’s not a U-turn. The Kingdom is going to come one day. Don’t worry about it. When the age of the church is completed, the Kingdom will come.”
And he gives them two proofs that, “You can bet your bottom dollar that the Kingdom will come.” The first proof is in verses 16-18; that is a reference to the Transfiguration. The second proof is in verses 19-21, which is a reference to the inspired Old Testament, which predicts the Kingdom. That’s why he’s going into the information he’s going into: he’s answering a question that’s always been on the mind of the Hebrew Christian.
Notice, if you will, his first proof that the Kingdom is right on schedule. It’s the reference to the Transfiguration, and it’s in verses 16-18. Peter writes, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses [very important word] of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased.’”
Now, God the Father said that about God the Son two times. The second time is in the Transfiguration, which we will talk about in a minute. The first time was when? Anybody remember? The baptism of Christ.
Verse 18, “And we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” What mountain would that be? That would be the Mount of Transfiguration.
With that in mind, let’s go back 30 years into Peter’s life. Let’s read what he saw in what is called the Transfiguration, where Jesus transfigured Himself in His glorified state. Holding your place in 2 Peter, go back to the Gospel of Matthew and look at 17:1-8. This is the event that happened 30 years earlier in Peter’s life that he’s referencing.
It says in Matthew 17:1-6, “Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus [see, Peter was there when this happened], ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said [this is exactly what he’s recording in the verses we just read in 2 Peter], ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified.”
By the way, that’s always the reaction when holiness comes into contact with sinful people; the reaction is always fear. This is what happened to Isaiah in chapter 6 when he saw the Lord, you remember. He says, in Isaiah 6, “I was undone. I was shaken to the core of my being.”
And John, in the Book of Revelation, has the exact same experience when he sees the glorified Christ on the island of Patmos back in the first century. “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man,” the Book of Revelation says.
Verse 7-8, “And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, ‘Get up, and do not be afraid.’ And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.”
Now, the thing to understand about the Transfiguration is where it takes place in Matthew’s Gospel. The turning point in Matthew’s Gospel is chapter 12, because that’s when the religious system (the leadership) attributes Christ’s miracles to Satan. That’s in Matthew 12:24.
And the moment that happens there’s a complete change in Jesus’ ministry. The Kingdom is no longer being offered to first century Israel. And what happens is that Jesus moves from a public ministry of offering the Kingdom to Israel to a private ministry where He is now preparing a minority, a remnant (the disciples), for the age of the church.
We’ve been through this chart before in our Kingdom series. I don’t know if I need to talk you through the whole thing again; just recognize that Matthew 12:24 is the hinge of Matthew’s Gospel. It’s a shift in the whole thing.
So this is why Matthew 17, which we just read, comes after Matthew 12. Matthew 12 is the hinge (or the turning point). Matthew 17 comes after Matthew 12. Do you guys agree with me that chapter 17 comes after chapter 12? All right—just making sure.
The Transfiguration doesn’t happen at the beginning of the book. It happens towards the end of the book, because it’s a reminder that, “Yes, the Kingdom offer has been rejected by the nation in the first century, but that does not mean the Kingdom will never come one day.” So, to prove that the Kingdom will come one day, Jesus provides a token of the coming Kingdom, revealing Himself in His glorified state (a token of the coming Kingdom) as the reminder that God has not forgotten His Kingdom promises.
Yes, the offer has been turned down. Yes, once you get beyond Matthew 12 it’s very clear that the Kingdom is in abeyance—it’s in postponement. But don’t confuse postponement with cancellation, because Jesus, through the Transfiguration, gives a token of the Kingdom (which is no longer imminent but will come to the earth one day). And that’s the significance of what’s happening in Matthew 17.
So when the Apostle Peter—going back now to 2 Peter—tells his Jewish audience that, “Yes, the Kingdom, although it’s in postponement, will come to the earth one day,” he gives a proof to his Jewish audience why what he says is so. He says, “The first proof is that I was an eyewitness to the token of the Kingdom on the Mount of Transfiguration.”
And in Matthew 7:1, 3 you see Peter present, along with James and John, as they saw this token of the Kingdom. So Peter says, “The Kingdom is going to come one day, and why do we know that? Because I was an actual eyewitness to the token of the coming Kingdom that Jesus provided on the Mount of Transfiguration.” And that’s why he’s making reference here to the fact that “we were eyewitnesses,” and “take my word for it,” and “I was there to see it on the holy mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration).”
That’s why he says in verse 16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales…” That’s a jab, if you will, at the Gnostics—those bringing in the alleged “secret knowledge” that he is writing against. He says, “Unlike their ‘secret knowledge,’ we apostles did not follow cleverly devised tales. You can take my word for it; I was actually there when Jesus transfigured Himself and Moses and Elijah appeared with Him.”
Moses and Elijah have a tendency to make guest appearances when the Kingdom is near. That’s why they show up where in the Book of Revelation? Chapter 11, because the Kingdom is at hand again during that time period.
So Peter says, “We didn’t follow secret knowledge, or cleverly devised tales. We were actually eyewitnesses to this token of the Kingdom. So you can bet your bottom dollar that the Kingdom will come, because Jesus reminded us that it will come—even after Israel rejected the offer of the Kingdom—by transfiguring Himself. Just so you don’t forget that the Kingdom is on schedule one day (just not in your timing), Jesus glorified Himself.”
And Jesus is saying, “What’s true for Me, in terms of My glorification, is going to be true for the whole earth once the Kingdom arrives.” And Peter says, “I was there to watch that Transfiguration, so I am an actual eyewitness to the fact that the Kingdom will come.”
So, “You Hebrew Christians don’t be discouraged because you think the Kingdom will never come. Yes, it will. I saw a token of it with these eyes of mine.” So that becomes his first proof. Wouldn’t that be enough of a proof? I mean, I would be satisfied with that, wouldn’t you?
But then he says (verses 19-21), “Let me give you a second proof that’s even more reliable than the first proof!” More reliable than an eyewitness who saw the Transfiguration? Yes! Even more reliable than that. And his second proof is that the Kingdom is predicted in Hebrew Bible. It is predicted in what we today call the Old Testament.
Remember when we were doing our study on the Kingdom? We described what it’s like from the Old Testament prophets. And look at all of these Old Testament verses—completely from the Old Testament—developing the doctrine of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom, when it comes, will be established by God (Daniel 2:44). It’ll be eternal (Daniel 7:27). It will represent Christ’s direct rule on the earth (Zechariah 9:9-10). It will be earthly (Zechariah 14:9).
Israel’s land promises will be fulfilled (Genesis 15:18-21). Israel will be the head and not the tail (Isaiah 49:22-23). There will actually be a functioning millennial temple during that time period (Ezekiel 40-46). David himself will be resurrected (Jeremiah 30:9).
The earth will be filled with righteousness (Isaiah 9:6-7). Weren’t we talking about, in prayer time, election fraud? We are praying against election fraud. You are not going to have election fraud—or any kind of fraud—once the Kingdom comes.
The curse will be dramatically curtailed (Isaiah 65:20, 22). Peace will break out all over the earth (Isaiah 2:4). Prosperity will come to the earth (Amos 9:13-14; Isaiah 65:22). There will be profound changes in the Earth’s typography (Ezekiel 47:1-12).
And when the Kingdom comes, you won’t have any delayed answers to prayer. No sooner is the word off your tongue—actually before the words roll off your tongue—God will immediately answer (Isaiah 65:24). Sounds like a great time period, doesn’t it?
Notice that the whole thing is developed from the Old Testament. So, the question becomes, “Is Hebrew Bible reliable?” I mean, “Can you actually believe this stuff about the Kingdom?” So this becomes Peter’s second point (verses 19- 21), and he explains that all of these prophecies that we walked through very quickly here are actually more reliable than eyewitness testimony itself. It’s even more reliable than what Peter saw in Matthew 17 (30 years earlier) as a token of the Kingdom.
So Peter, in verses 19-21, makes this profound statement about the inspiration of the Scripture. In particular, the inspiration and inerrancy of the Old Testament, and this becomes exhibit number two. Exhibit number one is the Transfiguration; exhibit number two is these predictions in Hebrew Bible concerning the Kingdom.
Notice what he says here in verses 19-21. “So we have the prophetic word…” What word would that be? All of those verses we just talked about regarding the Kingdom.
“So we have the prophetic word made more sure…” More sure than what? Eyewitness testimony. “…to which you do well to pay attention.”
Earl, you like the Psalms. Tell me what Psalm it’s speaking of here: “as to a lamp shining in a dark place,” Psalm 119. Do you know the verse? Verse 105. I know that was right on the tip of your tongue; I answered too fast for you. Psalm 119:105. We’ll talk about Psalm 119 in just a minute.
“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy…” What prophecy? All of these verses about the Kingdom.
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation…” In other words, when Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Isaiah sketched the portrait of the coming Kingdom, they weren’t giving an editorial in a newspaper. It wasn’t a personal commentary section. This was what God revealed through these prophets.
“…no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” He reveals here a tremendous statement about the doctrine of Scripture. And the section of Scripture he is talking about is what we call today the Old Testament.
And in the process, he reveals two attributes of the Scripture. Verse 19 is one attribute—we’ll do that second. Verses 20 and 21 is another attribute, and we’ll do that one first. I mean, “Why trust the Bible when it goes on and on and on about this Kingdom?” Because the Old Testament is divinely authored. That’s what he is getting at in verses 20 and 21, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
Now, this is frequently mistaught. People say, “No prophecy is a matter of one’s own private interpretation.” They say, “Don’t ever challenge my beliefs in the Bible, because no prophecy is a matter of one’s own private interpretation.” And they make it sound like the Bible reader has some kind of infallible interpretation—and that’s completely foreign to the context. It’s not talking about the interpreter of Scripture 2000 years later, but it’s talking about who? The writer of Scripture—the author of Scripture.
The Old Testament, when it was written, particularly the parts of it that reveal the Kingdom, they weren’t sitting down saying, “I hope it works out this way. Gee, it would be great if the story would end this way. I think this… I think that…” What it’s saying is, “When those guys wrote, they weren’t giving their personal opinion!” And they weren’t. Why? Because they were actually carried along by the Holy Spirit.
A great parallel passage to ours right here is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (which is also Paul’s last will and testimony in a book called 2 Timothy), “All Scripture is inspired by God…” See the Greek name? It’s THEOS (God), and the word “breath” combined in one word. And that’s what you call a hapax legomenon. “Hapax” means once; “legomenon” means spoken. This is a word used only one time in the Greek New Testament, and it’s used to describe God’s breath. And it’s used to describe the inspiration of the Scripture.
So, the Scripture makes the claim that it is actually God’s breath. It makes the claim that it’s actually the very saliva of God. Consequently, the Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 goes right there with 2 Peter 1:20-21.
Peter consequently says, in verse 21, when the Old Testament prophets sketched the Kingdom, they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for “moved” is PHERO, and it is the same word used in Acts 27:15, 17 which describes wind filling up sails on a boat and the boat is propelled. So, just as wind fills up sails on a boat and the boat moves, that’s what the Holy Spirit did with the writers of Scripture. He came upon them in a supernatural way, and they ended up writing down not their own private interpretation but the exact word of God—without error, without mistake in the original manuscripts.
So, this is the point that Peter is getting at here, and this is a miracle that we call “dual authorship.” Because in the process of this (and we call this inspiration), the Holy Spirit somehow used the gifts, writing styles, temperament, life experiences of each biblical writer. Consequently, we believe in Authorship of Scripture (capital A) and authorship of Scripture (lowercase A). The Holy Spirit did not override who these men were; but somehow, miraculously, He used them to record a perfect message.
You can see their personalities come out. Peter talks more about water in his books—and the flood—more than any other biblical writer. That makes sense when you understand that Peter was a…fisherman.
Luke talks more about the prenatal activities of Jesus and John the Baptist in their mother’s wombs than any other biblical writer, because Luke was a…physician, a doctor. Colossians 4:14 talks about, “Luke, the beloved physician.”
In fact, Luke, in the Book of Acts, talks about how Judas killed himself. He fell off a cliff, his body went down a ravine, the rocks cut open his body, and his intestines gushed out. I read that and I say, “Why do I need to know about his intestines?” I don’t really care about people’s intestines. But if you’re a doctor, this is a big deal, right? You talk about intestines…and prenatal activities.
And then Matthew talks about monetary sums [the parable of the talents? that’s a monetary sum] more than any other biblical writer because Matthew was a…tax collector. In fact, only in Matthew do you have the story of Jesus and Peter going fishing. And they gain, from that fishing trip, a fish with a coin in its mouth. And Jesus says, “Use that coin to pay your temple tax.”
Now, why would only Matthew record that story? Why doesn’t Mark talk about it? Why doesn’t Luke talk about it? Why doesn’t John talk about it? Well, it makes sense if you understand Matthew’s background as a tax collector.
When you go to Israel today, they’ll take you across the Sea of Galilee. And when you figure out how much money they charge you to go, you’ll understand why Jesus decided to walk across the sea. But you go to this place called St. Peter’s Restaurant, and they serve fish from the Sea of Galilee. They have a lot of bones sticking out, so if you’ve got young kids, it may not be the best thing; you might order off the child’s menu. So, every time I go there, I keep looking at my fish that they serve. I keep wanting to find the coin in there. I haven’t found it yet.
But my point is, this is what you mean by “dual authorship.” The Spirit came upon these guys and they wrote God’s message perfectly. It’s not a matter private interpretation. But somehow the Holy Spirit miraculously respected their individual gifts and skills and temperament in the process. So, it’s a miracle that we call “divine authorship.”
Very similar to the virgin birth! Where Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, came forth from a human womb, Mary’s womb. Somehow God used a human in that miracle—not the conception, of course—but He used Mary’s womb. And that’s what He did here with what we call “divine authorship.”
This is why Peter says that Scripture is not a matter of one’s own private interpretation. And he’s most likely referring to a lot of verses that Jews would know very well. Because when the false prophets prophesy, they give out of their own minds. They give their own interpretations. Not so the Bible!
Peter may be referring to Jeremiah 23:16, which says of false teachers, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the Lord.’”
Now, compare that to what Peter says about Hebrew Bible and the Kingdom, “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own [private] interpretation…” Peter may be referencing, also, Ezekiel 13. Verse 3 says, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing.’”
Verse 6, “‘They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, “The Lord declares,” when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word. Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, “The Lord declares,” but it is not I who have spoken?’”
As Peter is doing this, he’s no doubt jabbing at these Gnostics who are coming with their own secret knowledge. He says, “Compare their own secret knowledge to what you have in Hebrew Bible, which is not a matter of one’s own private interpretation, but men spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit in the miracle of dual authorship.”
Peter now says, “The Kingdom will come because:
- I saw a token of it on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Beyond that, you have something even more reliable than that on the doctrine of the Kingdom.
- You have the testimony of the Old Testament, which came into existence through the inspiration of God Himself, so you can trust it.
Then, in verse 19, he gives a second quality of Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament. He says this in verse 19, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”
He says, “What you have in your lap, called the Old Testament, is more powerful, even, than Peter’s own eyewitness testimony.
So what he is saying here in verse 19 is, “What you have in Hebrew Bible is a more powerful witness than eyewitnesses!” Because has he not just spoken of eyewitnesses? His own eyewitness to the Transfiguration in verses 16-18.
Now, what is the most powerful form of testimony you can ever introduce in a court of law? Eyewitness testimony. And Peter says, “What you have in Hebrew Bible concerning the doctrine of the Kingdom is even more powerful than that.”
Now, this is very important. Because I was reared early on with a version of Christianity that says, “Yes, the Bible is good. But you also have to be open to extra biblical insights from God. You have to be open to impulses that you receive from God. You have to be open to these subjective experiences from God.”
You can see here that Peter contradicts that mindset, because he talks about his own subjective experience of seeing the transfigured Christ. But then he says, “What you have in the Scripture is more certain or more sure than my own subjective experience!” I mean, talk about a subjective experience! He saw the transfigured Christ!
But he says, “What you have in the Bible is even more certain than that.” So once you understand that, you start to say, “Why am I wasting all of my time looking for these subjective experiences, subjective voices, subjective visions, mystic type of experiences when you’ve got the Bible? Which is more certain than any subjective impression you could ever have!”
I am not the biggest fan of John MacArthur with his Lordship salvation, but John MacArthur did a really good job in a book called Charismatic Chaos where he dealt with the charismatic movement in the church. I read that book cover to cover as a fairly new Christian. And this is one of the arguments that John MacArthur brings up, “Why are we always running off to these “prophets,” looking for these “visions,” and treating God like we’re reading a fortune cookie?”
When we have the objective truth of God’s Word! Which is more certain, he says, (or more sure) than even a private subjective experience. Consequently, the Scripture is a light or a lamp shining in a dark place! Earl, what Psalm is that? Psalm 119. What verse is that? Verse 105. There it is! “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”
Now, that’s just one verse. Earl, correct me if I’m wrong. Isn’t Psalm 119 the longest Psalm in the Psalter? It’s laid out like an acrostic. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. And the Psalm runs eight lines for the first letter; every line begins with that letter (aleph). Then the Psalm runs an additional eight lines, each line beginning with the second letter. Then it goes eight lines beginning with the third letter. Then it goes eight lines beginning with the fourth letter. Through all 22 letters. It’s an unbelievable Psalm!
If you ever want to give yourself to something in the Bible, study that! And what’s the whole thing about? People say it’s about God’s Word. It is! But it’s about a specific part of God’s Word, called Torah, which is the first five books of Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. It’s what God has revealed concerning Himself through His Law. He says things in there like, “I am more knowledgeable than people older than me.” “I am more knowledgeable than people who have more experience than me, because I meditate on Your Law.” So, when Peter here is talking about how prophecy is like a lamp shining in a dark place, he’s no doubt in my mind making reference to just one part of Psalm 119, Psalm 119:105.
What do we have in Scripture? We have something that’s more sure than eyewitness testimony that functions as a light shining in a dark place. Now, would you say the world is in a dark place? Why is the world in a dark place? Because the Kingdom is not here right now. So what prevents me from becoming despondent, living in a fallen world, when I don’t see Kingdom conditions? The lamp of prophecy keeps me hopeful because it reminds me that the Kingdom is still going to come one day. So, it’s a lamp shining in a dark place.
Peter says, “and you would do well to pay attention to it!” Forget my little deal that I saw—that’s eyewitness stuff. That was great, but here’s what you really need to be looking at—this book right here. And try Psalm 119; you ought to pay attention to that.
And after you’re finished with Psalm 119—if you ever get through that (because it’s a long, long Psalm) then go back and study Torah (which is the revelation of God’s perfect moral character through His Law). That’s what Peter’s getting at here; it’s a tremendous statement about the doctrine of Scripture in the backdrop of a bunch of false teachers coming along and giving their own secret knowledge, private interpretations, and their own subjective experiences.
What is he saying about the Morning Star? The Morning Star is going to arise in your hearts. Now, Who do you think the Morning Star is? It’s Jesus! How do we know that? Because you guys are experts on the Book of Revelation, right?
In Revelation 2:28 Jesus says, “I will give him the morning star...” (Now, we haven’t gotten to chapter 22 yet, have we?) But He will say in 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendent of David, the bright morning star.”
So, when Peter says, “until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts,” he’s talking about the coming of the Kingdom. And you know from our study of the Kingdom that it largely begins with God’s covenant with Abraham, where God made a covenant with Abraham. Abraham did not make a covenant with God—God made a covenant with Abraham.
There is no other nation in the history of the world that God has made a covenant with—and to. God hasn’t even done that with the United States. Now, in our founding documents we have what’s called the Mayflower Compact. It’s what the Pilgrims did when they came over here around 1620, and it’s a tremendous Christian statement. But even the Mayflower Compact itself is not God’s covenant with America; it’s our Pilgrims’ covenant to God. See the difference?
So, Abraham has a covenant. And in the covenant, he’s promised three things: land, seed, and blessing. Hopefully, this is review.
The blessing is amplified in the New Covenant. In the New Covenant it is promised that the nation of Israel will one day be in faith, because God has taken His laws and inscribed them where? Inside the hearts of the Jewish people. You’ve got a whole nation destined to come to Christ in a day the Book of Isaiah tells us. And when that happens all the living Jews at the time will be born again, because God will make good on the New Covenant and His laws will be inside of them.
“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. ‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’”
So, when Peter says that prophecy is a “lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star [who is the Morning Star? Jesus] arises in your hearts,” he’s talking there about the fulfillment of the New Covenant. Once the New Covenant is fulfilled, the Kingdom is here! But until you’ve got every single Jew on planet Earth regenerated, the Kingdom is in postponement. And the world continues in a dark place with Satan as the god of this age.
With that being the case, what prevents us from becoming discouraged and despondent while the Kingdom is not here and the world remains in the dark place? It’s the prophetic word! Which functions as a lamp shining in a dark place. Peter says that you would do well to pay attention to it! Because if you’re not paying attention to it and you don’t care what the Bible says about the coming Kingdom, you’re left with your own discouragements and you think the world will never get better.
And you think that if you vote the right people in things are going to get fixed. And how’s that working out for us? Sometimes it works out better than others. But, overall, would you not say that our country is falling apart? It doesn’t seem to me that we’re on some great ascendancy. It seems to me like we’re deteriorating. And you pick political candidates based on, “Well, do we want to go over the cliff at 50 miles an hour or 75 miles an hour?” This is the choice we’re left with. And I encourage everybody to get out and vote, because 50 is better than 75. But we need to put our hope in the right place, right?
This is what Peter is talking about. So what’s the point? He’s mentioned the Kingdom in verse 11. The Jews are all saying, “Well, where is it?! Where is the Kingdom?!” And, “If the Kingdom is not here, have we believed in the right person?” And he is saying, “You have believed in the right person. Jesus is the right guy. The Kingdom is not canceled, but it’s postponed. And let me give you two proofs as to why it’s postponed.”
And not only two proofs as to why it’s postponed, but two proofs as to why you can trust that the Kingdom is going to come one day. Number one, Peter says (verses 16-18) that the Kingdom will come because “I was an eyewitness to a token of the Kingdom” through which event? The Transfiguration. Now, that would be enough.
But then he says, “Let me give you a second proof that’s even more certain than the first proof,” and he does that in verses 19-21. “You can trust the prophetic Scriptures when it speaks authoritatively about the coming Kingdom, because the prophetic Scriptures are more sure than even my own eyewitness testimony to the token of the coming Kingdom on the Mount of Transfiguration.” Because the Scriptures are what? God breathed! And therefore are not a matter of one’s own private interpretation.
Having finished that point which he has to go into with a Jewish audience, now he is ready to continue on with the rest of his book. So that leads us out of chapter 1: introduction, call to growth, purpose statement, and two proofs that the Kingdom is going to come one day. We’re experiencing a bump in the road, but it’s not a U-turn.
I remember when I was going through my PhD program. And when you’re going through a PhD program, you’re in that program for seven years, basically. I was in it for seven years (which is the same length as the Tribulation period, by the way). There are so many hoops you have to jump through that you begin to ask yourself, “Am I really going to make it?” Dr. Toussaint came up to me and said, “Andy, don’t worry about it. We’re going to get you out of here.” That one little thing he said gave me hope for the whole seven years!
So that’s what you have in the Bible. You have the hope that the Kingdom will materialize because Peter saw a token of it. Even if that weren’t enough—which it is—you have the word made more sure in Old Testament prophecy.
The next time I’m with you? We are switching gears. We are going to be getting into chapter 2 where now he’s moving away from the issue of maturity and getting into the subject of the characteristics of false teachers. Try to give yourself a good hard study to chapter 2; we’ll be dealing with that next time.