2 Peter 1:16-21 Lesson Two – The Trustworthy Prophetic Word

16 For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory: 

This is My beloved Son. 

I take delight in Him!

18 And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (HCSB)

In this passage, Peter addresses the false teachers who didn’t believe in Jesus’ return and believed that life would continue as it always had. This false teaching had to be met head on as Peter’s instructions to the readers of living a godly life and receiving an eternal reward are pointless if heaven doesn’t exist. Peter defends the position of Jesus’ return by reminding the readers of the transfiguration and its anticipation of a future event, the second coming of Christ.

Verse 16

Peter is talking about the apostles in general by the use of “we” and the establishment of the New Testament church. He reasons that the churches were founded on their apostolic tradition and teaching the “power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek words dynamis (power) and parousia (coming) need to be understood together, indicating the “powerful coming” of Jesus. When Jesus returns, it will be with power.

  • Matthew 24:30b and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:7b This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels.

The word parousia is often understood in the New Testament to indicate the future return of Jesus.

  • James 5:7a Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. 
  • 1 John 2:28 So now, little children, remain in Him, so that when He appears  we may have boldness and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

The use of the word parousia in Hellenistic writing or understanding was often used to denote the arrival of a ruler or god.

The apostles preaching was the future coming of Jesus and the day of judgment where it will be decided who will enter into His eternal kingdom, with entrance reserved for those who lived godly lives (a previous lesson covered this). Again note, this is not works-based salvation but proof of salvation through a life of kingdom work. 

Peter defines two principles of apostolic teaching.

  • It was not based on cleverly invented stories or myths. The false teachers used the term “myth” in a derogatory manner; they saw no truth in their preaching and considered it a fable.
  • It was based on their eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. They saw first-hand the majesty of Jesus.

Verse 17

The main thrust of this verse is God’s declaration of approval placed upon Jesus, His Son. This approval came through the voice of God the Father, bestowing honor and glory on Jesus. In both the Old and New Testaments, God’s voice came from heaven.

  • Dan 4:31a While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven.
  • Revelation 11:12a Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them.
  • Revelation 16:1a Then I heard a loud voice from the sanctuary saying to the seven angels.

Honor is a description of the exalted status of Jesus.

Glory is a description of the brilliance of the light that shone from Jesus at the moment, the same brilliance that described the Father (Yahweh). 

Peter is referring to the transfiguration, a theophany similar to the ones on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20) and Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8-18). Peter is placing emphasis on honor and glory because it is a future vision that will occur again at Jesus’ second coming. The words spoken at the transfiguration point us back to Jesus’ baptism, where His ministry began, and He was commissioned as God’s Son (Matthew 3:17).

The transfiguration was the most supernatural event in Jesus’ ministry.

The transfiguration is an affirmation of the truth of Scripture.

  • Moses represented the Law.
  • Elijah represented the prophets.
  • Both pointed to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets.
    • Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
    • Hebrews 1:1-3 Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance  of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

All three of the synoptic Gospels record the transfiguration after a declaration of Jesus’ return as being a demonstration of power and glory. 

  • Matthew 16:27-17:13
  • Mark 9:1-13
  • Luke 9:27-36

The transfiguration is a manifestation of Christ’s return and the establishment of His kingdom. This understanding also supports the passages in the synoptic Gospels where Jesus said that some of them would not die before they saw the glory of the Kingdom. The transfiguration was the glory of the Kingdom. 

As a final point, Peter is an eyewitness to the transfiguration event, lending credibility to its authenticity. 

Verse 18

Peter continues with his argument that he was witness to Jesus’ glory and hearing the Father’s voice while on the holy mountain. Verse 18 ties verse 17 into what follows in verses 19 and 20. 

Verse 19

The “we” once again refers to the apostles, which is confirmed by the context of the verse in the use of “we” and “you,” where the apostles have the truth that the church needs to pay attention to their message. The prophetic word must refer to the Old Testament because of the connection to the following verse’s use of “prophecy of Scripture.” The Greek word to denote Scripture here refers to writings, not an event. 

  • Isaiah 42:1 This is My Servant; I strengthen Him, this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him. I have put my Spirit on Him; He will bring justice to the nations.
  • Psalm 2:7 I will declare the LORD’s decree: He said to Me, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.”

It would appear that Peter is saying that their witness of the transfiguration confirms the prophetic nature of Scripture, the assurance of Jesus as Messiah, and His future coming to judge the world and establish His kingdom.

Peter then points the reader to Scripture’s truth and how it functions as a light on the narrow road. This is in contrast to the false teachers who had deviated from the narrow path and were leading people away from God’s truth.

  • Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet and light on my path.
  • Proverbs 6:23 For a command is a lamp, teaching is a light, and corrective discipline is the way to life.

How long do we need to travel the narrow path? Peter’s answer is until Jesus’ return, “until the day dawns and the morning star rises.” This is the day of judgment and salvation. Those who love God will be saved, and those who opposed God will be punished.

  • Isaiah 13:6 Wail! For the day of the LORD is near. It will come like destruction from the Almighty.
  • Isaiah 13:9 Look, the day of the LORD is coming – cruel, with rage and burning anger – to make the earth a desolation and to destroy the sinners on it.
  • Ezekiel 30:3 For a day is near; a day belonging to the LORD is near. It will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.
  • Joel 1:15 Woe because of that day! For the Day of the LORD is near and will come as devastation from the Almighty.
  • Amos 5:18 Woe to you who long for the Day of the LORD! What will the Day of the LORD be for you? It will be darkness and not light.
  • Obadiah 15 For the Day of the LORD is near, against all the nations. As you have done, so it will done to you; what you deserve will return on your own head.
  • Zephaniah 1:7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:14 As you have partially understood us – that we are your reason for pride, as you are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.
  • Philippians 1:6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
  • Philippians 2:16 Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the Day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.

When Christ returns, we will no longer need the prophetic Word because the Morning Star will illuminate our hearts, and the prophecies that pointed to His return will have all been fulfilled.

Verse 20

There are two possible interpretations of this verse, and different translations will word it differently.

  • The first is found in the NIV, NET, and NLT, among others. They read, “No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” 
    • The vision and the explanation both come from God, not from the prophet. 
    • A genuine prophetic word must contain both the vision and an accurate interpretation. 
  • The second is found in the HCSB, NKJV, and ESV, among others. They read, “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
    • Interpretation can’t be made to support the position you’d like or your own views. 
    • Peter was likely pointing to the false teachers he condemns in chapter 2, interpreting Scripture in such a way as to support their position that Jesus will not return. 
    • This practice is a danger in today’s church. 

From the context of both the passage and the entire letter, it appears that the second choice is the correct interpretation. The false teachers of Peter’s day, just like false teachers today, interpreted passages to satisfy their own views and desires. This is a dangerous practice and has led many astray and even resulted in the establishment of cults.

Verse 21

This verse provides the foundation for the previous verse. The apostle’s interpretation of prophecy does not come from their own minds; it comes through revelation from God. Peter makes two points in this verse.

  • The origin of all prophecies is from God. All of Scripture came from God.
  • The correct interpretation of all prophecies is from God. The Holy Spirit unveils the truth in Scripture, not our desires of what we want Scripture to say.

As believers, we need to grab hold of this and never let go. It is the basis for following characteristics of Scripture.

  • Authority – God’s Word conveys authority in how we should live our lives.
  • Infallible – It is incapable of being wrong.
  • Inerrant – It is without error.

Applications

  • Ask yourself if you believe in the authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture. If you have any doubts, pray for God to remove them. You aren’t alone in this struggle. Even the great evangelist Billy Graham struggled with the notion of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. However, after struggling in prayer over this issue, his doubts were removed.
  • Always double-check what you hear or read from preachers, pastors, bible teachers, websites (this one included!) to make sure they aren’t false teachers or twisting Scripture to support their agenda.
  • Hold fast to reading and applying Scripture in your life. It is the lamp to keep us on the narrow path.
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring alive Scripture and guide you through its truth.

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