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“For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.
16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:12-21).
As a Dying Man to Dying Men
I’ve been stirred by Richard Baxter’s words, “I preached as never sure to preach again; And as a dying man to dying men.” Peter knows that he will soon die so he does not want to waste his time or his words. What he says is of the utmost importance. And so his hearers had better listen. Imagine if your grandpa was dying and beckons you to his bed. He rallies his ragged breathing. With your ear close to his mouth, you suddenly feel a buzzing in your pocket––phone call. “Sorry, Gramps, hold on. I got a call.” You’d be a fool to disregard your Gramps. Peter is now an old man, a father in the faith, a best friend of Jesus, and he beckons you to come close.
Knowing that his end is near, Peter aims to stir up Christians to godly living because the Lord Jesus Christ will soon come in power. In verses 12-15, Peter wants to stir up his brothers and sisters to godly living. Peter gives the motivation for this––the certainty of Jesus’ promised coming. Verse 16 introduces the central theme for the rest of the book, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths (that’s what the false teachers are saying) when we made know to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In verses 16-21, Peter presents two reasons for the hearers to have sure knowledge that Jesus indeed will come in majesty and power. 1) Testimony of Peter as an eyewitness at the Mount of Transfiguration 2) Testimony of Jesus’ prophetic word before the Transfiguration that he would come in the lifetime of some of his disciples. This prophesied coming, parousia, of Christ was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Preterist view), and Peter knows that he and his readers do not have long so he stirs them up because the Lord Jesus Christ is coming soon.
Stirred Up to Remember (vs. 12-15)
vs. 12 “Therefore, I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth you have.” Peter’s therefore of course refers back to the previous verses where he charges Christians to make every effort to add these qualities to their life––faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love. For if these qualities are 1) yours and 2) growing, then you will not be ineffective and unfruitful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your life will be full of the fruit of faith, virtue, knowledge, godliness, self-control. And you know what? All this godly fruit in your life gives evidence that you are connected to the godly root of Jesus Christ. Verse 10, “Brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall” How do yo know if you’re an apple tree? You grow apples. How do you know you are a real apple tree? You grow real apples. The apples are not cardboard cut-outs or plastic with the shinny *ding* taped to your life. “For if you practice these qualities (Are you practicing them––how did the last two weeks go? Make a list of these Christian character qualities, put them on your mirror. Ask you wife, “How’s my self-control been? Am I growing in knowledge?” Seriously, get after them) for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (vs. 10-11).
Therefore, in order that you may be fruitful, that your calling and election may be sure, that you may not fall, that you may be richly provided an entrance into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, Peter intends always to remind you of these qualities. Peter knows that his people already know this and are already established in the truth. And I would say that the majority of our church already know the truth that you should have faith and patience and self-control, and you should all be growing (not dying). And Peter wants to continually encourage you, as do I, to go further up and further in. You’re here, you’re doing it. Keep climbing!
vs. 13-14 “I think it right, as long as I am in this body to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.” Peter’s aim is to stir you up––to wake you from sleep, slumber (Peter does his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression). This verb to stir up is what the disciples did to the snoozing Jesus when a storm whipped up on the sea (Mk. 4:38). Urgency––life and death. Water is out there, and now water is coming in here. Peter is willing to halloo in your ear to get you to wake up, even if you don’t want to. The human mind and heart is apt to become sleepy, cozy, lazy.
Peter is urgent to make every effort now because he knows he does not have too much longer to live. The Lord has provided miraculous escapes for Peter in the past––imprisoned by Herod with double chains, double guard, locked gates, and an angels leads him out to freedom the night before his execution (Acts 12). But he knows now that his death is soon. Jesus already told him in John 21 what kind of death he was to glorify God––tradition accounts of crucifixion upside down, and perhaps Jesus has told him that the end is near.
And so, Peter will “make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things” (vs. 15) Peter, like Moses in Deuteronomy, is at the end of his life and wants to ensure that the second generation continues on firm and is established in the truth that they have. Deuteronomy means “the second law” when Moses reiterates the Law he received on Mount Sinai to the new generation who grew up in wilderness. This generation had not seen the miraculous events of the Exodus just like Peter’s readers had not seen the signs and wonders of Jesus. And so they give reminders to the people––remember how Yahweh has redeemed you from Egypt and from your previous sinful life. Remember how the Spirit guided you in the wilderness. Remember that God has given you all things for life and godliness. Both Moses and Peter have beheld the glory of God on a holy mountain and so confidently testify.
Not Cleverly Devised Myths (vs. 16)
Verse 16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made know to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the central theme now for Peter––the certainty of the coming of Jesus. Peter wants to assure his readers that the prophecy of Jesus’ coming is not a sophisticated myth or fable or parable. This is what the false teachers are claiming in chapters 2-3, “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as there were from the beginning of creation’” (3:4). They claim the apostles like Peter were just making up the prophecies about Christ’s coming, but that’s not true.
The first section of our passage is clear and applicable to our 21st century context––stirring Christians to godliness. But these last verses must be understood in their original context and from Peter’s and his readers’ perspective. The central issue on the table in 2 Peter is the promise of Jesus’ imminent coming, in the near future. The false teachers say it’s not happening and Peter says that Jesus will soon appear in power. This coming is in the future for these Christians in first century. We read “future coming” and we transfer their future to our future. And so make the power and coming that Peter refers to as the final coming of Christ at the end human history. However, Peter is dealing with issues facing the churches in the first century, specifically the coming and power of our Lord Jesus Christ to judge the structures of the Old Covenant sacrificial system. We hope to unpack this as we go.
In keeping with the Torah’s requirement, Peter gives two witnesses to support his teaching about the power and coming of Jesus: 1) Peter’s own eyewitness testimony of Christ’s glory at the Mountain of Transfiguration 2) Jesus’ prophetic word of his coming within this generation .
Eyewitness of Jesus’ Glory (vs. 17-18)
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Christ’s Transfiguration in their Gospel (Mt. 17:1, Mk. 9:2, Lk. 9:28). Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain and transfigures so that his face radiates like the sun and his clothes are white as light. Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking with Jesus (Jesus the culmination of the Law and the Prophets). Then a bright cloud overshadows them and a voice booms, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” The disciples fall on the ground covering their heads, terrified because they are in the presence of the Trinity––Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While the disciples are still hunkered down, Jesus comes and touches them and helps them up, and is now alone.
So how is this a support that Jesus’ coming is not a myth? The transfiguration is a preview of the coming power of Jesus. Peter holds up his hand and says, “I can give a witness. I’ve seen the light. I’ve seen the cloud and heard the voice and beheld the glory.” Thirty plus years later, Peter could still close his eyes and see the radiant face and dazzling clothes and his rib cage rattle with the voice that declared Jesus the Son of God. What Peter beheld at the Mount of Transfiguration was a glimpse of the coming power and glory, and it was enough to flatten a man. This was a foretaste of the meal. A preview for the full event. Peter saw a glimpse of Jesus glorified as King and as King he will come in power.
Sure Prophetic Word (vs. 19-21)
Peter says that “we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in the dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (vs. 19). We have something more sure than the dazzling light of Jesus’ face imprinted on Peter’s retinas, more firm than the voice heard by Peter, James, and John. And that is the prophetic word.
What is the sure word of prophecy that Peter is referring to? It’s Jesus prophetic word that he gives to his disciples before the Transfiguration. In each of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus prophecies, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mk. 9:1). Peter has already given his word of the coming power of Jesus, and now adds Jesus’ own word for his own coming in power. Jesus puts a timestamp, a deadline, on this prophecy. There’s a ticking clock on this prophetic word––within the lifetime of some of the disciples.
In the three synoptic Gospels, there are the same three events before the Transfiguration––Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection, Jesus calls his disciples to take up their cross. Jesus then concludes with the prophetic word of his coming. Matthew 16: Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus then predicts his death, burial and resurrection. Peter is chastised, “Get behind me, Satan!” Then Jesus tells them they must pick up their cross and follow him (literally true for Peter). Jesus concludes, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done…” *Prophetic Word Alert* “Truly, I say to you there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” The prophecy is giving and the count down begins. After this prophecy, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain and you know what happens––a preview of the coming glory and coming power.
Mark 8 follows the same three steps––Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, “You are the Christ.” Jesus predicts his death burial and resurrection, “Get behind me Satan.” “Pick up your cross and come follow me… For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with angels.” And Jesus said to them, *Prophetic Word Alert* “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mk. 9:1). Jesus takes three disciples up a mountain. And one more time in Luke 9. Peter confess Jesus as the Christ. Jesus predicts his death and resurrection. Pick up your cross and follow me. *Prophetic Word Alert* “But I tell you truly there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (vs. 27). Transfiguration.
The sure prophetic word of Jesus’ coming is Jesus’ word, and he said that He would come before the end of the life of some of his present disciples. This prophecy is expounded on in Matthew 24 when Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple and the devastation of Jerusalem, “There will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mt. 24:2). All of which will happen within this generation, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”–– for it is a sure prophetic word (Mt. 24:34-35).
Why does Peter believe this is so important? Jesus made this prophecy around 30 AD and it’s now around 65 AD. The forty year generation hourglass is coming to an end. Don’t despair on Jesus’ delay, “Why is it taking so long?!?” He will come. But why would it matter to a bunch of people in Turkey (Asia Minor) what happened in Jerusalem, a city hundreds of miles away? Some Jewish Christian might be tempted to abandon the promise of Jesus and return to offering bulls and goats as sacrifices in Jerusalem. And in monumentally bad time, return to Jerusalem when Romans are about siege the city.
This also matters for them like it should for us. Is Jesus trustworthy? Is his word reliable? Jesus said his coming in power would happen within the lifetime of the disciples. So, is Jesus a true prophet or is he a liar? He better not be a liar because I’m about to march into a colosseum ready to die for Jesus in whom I trust.
Peter reassures his readers that Jesus’ word is true and encourages them to “pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Things may look bleak and dark, but there is the word of God which is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path (Ps. 119:105). vs. 20-21, “Knowing this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture comes form someone’s interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but holy men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Peter says that Scripture did not come from man (playing pin the tail on the Rapture) but from the Holy Spirit. God speaks to us through his Holy Scriptures like he spoke to the disciples on that holy mountain. And we ought to have the same response as Peter, James, and John––reverent, obedient, fully humble before the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It’s helpful and necessary to keep in mind that Peter is preparing Christians for a very real conflict––persecutions against the church (first letter) and false teachers within the church (next chapter). The preparation for these trials is the pursuit of godliness today. Godly living is your armor to withstand the assault of mockery and torture. Sure knowledge guards against false teaching. Do you want to stand in that day? Then do this today. Then believe this today.
The power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was true and is true. He really came in power and awful glory in the lifetime of some of the disciples. And we will hear in the next chapter how this coming was a coming judgement like the flood during Noah’s time and fire against Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus came against Jerusalem in 70 AD in glory and power just as he said. And Peter reminds believers that the best thing to do with the certainty of Christ’s coming is to pursue godliness. In the knowledge that Jesus has come in glory and that he will come again, pursue godliness. Wake up from your spiritual snooze. Keep your eyes fixed on the light of God’s word. Make every effort to add to your faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love. Within your lifetime, you too will see the glory and power of Jesus. How will you prepare that day? Be stirred up to live a godly life.