By Andrew E. Courtis
As the people of God, we have the certain hope that our Lord Jesus Christ is coming back one day. When He returns, He will establish a perfect kingdom in which righteousness will reign and to it there will be no end. This truth is found throughout Scripture and it shapes the way will live out our Christian life (cf. 2 Peter 3:11).
There are many who will mock what we believe. Certainly, the whole idea of believing that Jesus will return again is something that people have mocked throughout the centuries. This was even happening in Peter’s day (cf. 2 Peter 3:4).
What do we base our belief and conviction on that says Jesus is coming back. In addition to that, would do we base all of our beliefs on as Christians? It is nice for us to say that the reason we believe the teachings of the Bible is because we have a changed life. This certainly is an outcome of a life shaped by Biblical teaching, however this is not a sufficient reason as to why we build our entire life upon the teachings of the Bible. There many people form different religions and disciplines that will tell you that their lives have changed for good due to their beliefs and practices. And in many ways this is true. So a changed life does not prove by itself validity of the claims.
So then, how do we know what we believe concerning Jesus Christ is true? What to we build our hope on? In this message we will learn about two truths that provide us with a firm foundation that we can build our hope on. This firm foundation provides us with a strong conviction concerning the reason we believe. The two truths are: The Apostolic Witness (1:16-18) and The Prophetic Word (1:19-21).
1. THE APOSTOLIC WITNESS (1:16-18)
What is the apostolic witness? The apostolic witness is the testimony that comes from the eyewitness account of the Apostles. The Apostles were a select group of ordinary men that were chosen and sent out by Jesus to be His witnesses. Jesus granted them a unique and foundational authority in which their ministry was confirmed with special miraculous signs (2 Cor. 12:12). How are they trustworthy witnesses? When it comes to this Apostolic Witness, there are two features we need to be aware of. Their witness was not from cleverly devised myths and it was centered on Divine Majesty.
Firstly, it was not from cleverly devised myths. Peter writes, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:16a). When Peter along with the other apostles taught that Jesus is coming back in great power, this was not the result of a made up story. Peter didn’t sit down one day and create this great tale of Jesus the Son of God returning to this world, in which He will judge His enemies and then rule in an eternal kingdom. The word Peter uses for “myths” here is a term that was used to tell stories of the Greek gods. These stories were not factual, but rather they were fables designed to inspire or give life lessons. Many people view the teaching of Christianity as nothing more than myth or fiction.
But Peter insists that this is not the case. Notice that Peter writes “we” five times in verses 16-18. This makes the point that what he proclaims concerning Christ is not from some private and unverified experience. Instead, it comes from the witness of Peter and other apostles.
Secondly, the apostolic witness was centered on Divine Majesty. In other words, what the apostles saw concerning Jesus was His Divine power and glory. Peter writes,
“but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 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,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (1:16b-18).
This is Peter’s account of the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:1-13; Luke 9:28-36). This looks back to the time when Jesus led Peter, James and John up a high mountain. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, they saw Jesus being transfigured before their very eyes. His face was bright like the sun and His garments were a bright white. Moses and Elijah also appeared and they were talking with Jesus. Peter interrupted and offered to set up three tents. Then in mid speech, Peter was interrupted when a bright cloud appeared over them and a voice spoke saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5). After this, the disciples fell down in fear and Jesus touched them and told them to get up. When they got up, all they saw was Jesus. This amazing event was something that would have never left the minds of these three men.
This experience of Peter, James and John was to help them understand that Jesus, who is the majestic Son of God, will come back in blazing glory to rule and reign. This event verified the reality of Christ’s Second Coming. Peter is able to say to his readers that Jesus is coming back again, and they can build their hope on this because he along with others saw the majestic glory of Christ, which was a glimpse of His coming glory. Their teaching concerning Christ did not come about by some private vision or experience by sitting under a tree, or by being visited by an angel. Multiple disciples saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears the Divine Majesty of Jesus Christ.
2. THE PROPHETIC WORD (1:19-21)
Peter now provides a second reason why we can have the certain hope of our Lord’s return, and that is because of the prophetic word. Peter writes, “and we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed” (1:19a). What is “the prophetic word”? I take this to be a reference to the Old Testament Scriptures, and particularly those that refer to the future judgment and kingdom of the Lord. So what Peter is saying here is that the event of the Transfiguration of Christ confirmed what the Scriptures said concerning God’s plans for the future. This event showed Peter that what the Scripture says concerning coming judgment and glory are true. Peter’s experience on the Mount of Transfiguration confirmed what the Old Testament Scriptures said about Christ. For this reason, we are to pay close attention to the Word of God. He goes on to write, “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” (1:19b). This is one way we grow as Christians. We need to take time to carefully and consistently pay attention to the Word of God. It will guide us and shine light where there is darkness. The Psalmist wrote “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The world we are living in is a dark place. It is sin saturated and it is so subtle. It promises us so much but does not deliver. Only the Word of God can give us the clarity in a dark place.
The reference “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” is referring to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The event itself is described as the day dawning. It is the beginning of something new and glorious. Then the description “the morning star rises in your hearts” refers to the personal experience for the believer at that time. In the final verses of this passage Peter makes the point clear that the prophetic word does not originate from man but from God. He writes,
“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.” (1:20-21).
The Scriptures game through human authors, and this explains the varying styles in Scripture. But these authors did not invent what they were writing. They were “carried along by the Holy Spirit”. The term “carried along” is used of the sails of a ship in Acts 27:15, 17. The Holy Spirit superintended the writing of Scripture so though it made use of individual style, it was God’s Word. We build our hope on the Scriptures because they are God’s Words.
So here we have two truths that provide us with a firm foundation that we can build our hope on – the Apostolic Witness and the Prophetic Word. As we carefully pay attention to the Word of God this because a means for our spiritual growth.
“Come to the Word with a holy appetite and a teachable heart. Sit under the Word attentively, receive it with meekness and mingle it with faith. Then retain the Word, pray over it, practice it and speak to others about it.” –Thomas Watson