Glimpse of Glory 2 Peter 1:12–21
Sixty seconds is all it takes. When sponsors of a television program want to entice viewers to tune in next week, a one-minute preview of the most exciting scenes is all it takes. If you like what you see in that brief encounter, you will surely love the complete version—or so they hope. In a similar way, the Lord Jesus provided His disciples with a brief yet powerful portrayal of His glorious return. False teachers in the first century denied the truth of His return and judgment, just as the culture of our day tries to erase a future judgment. Peter’s personal testimony, combined with the words of the prophets, produces a sure foundation of prophetic certainty. Jesus will come again!
The Peril of Forgetting (vv. 12–15)
Peter knew he would soon die, as predicted by the Lord Jesus (Jn. 21:18–19), so his last words to his beloved believers took on a sense of urgency. These Christians knew the truths of the gospel and the importance of making their “calling and election sure” (1:10). Yet Peter wanted to refresh their memories repeatedly so they would never forget. Notice that he used the word remembrance three times in these four verses. Peter chose to repeat himself because he knew that basic truths need to be heard more than once. Every believer knows how easily he or she can drift away from godliness. Even the hymn writer said, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”
The pull to forget comes not only from the sinful nature still residing in Christians, but also from the enticing words of false teachers who exploit believers with deceptive words (2:3). Those who deny Jesus’ Second Coming relish the freedom to live as they please, thinking that no judgment awaits them. But we Christians choose to live by holy standards now because we long for future entrance “into the everlasting kingdom” (v. 11). Jesus is coming again to judge the world and reward His people.
The Power of Eyewitnesses (vv. 16–18)
The Apostle Peter denied any falsehood in his proclamation of Jesus’ return. In fact, he was an eyewitness to an event that previewed the Second Coming. The account is found in Matthew 17:1–7; Mark 9:2–8; and Luke 9:28–36. Jesus called three of his closest disciples to a mountain and “was transfigured before them; and his face did shine like the sun, and his raiment was as white as the light” (Mt. 17:2). Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. Just as Peter began suggesting that three booths be constructed, a voice from a heavenly cloud interrupted him: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Mt. 17:5). The speaker was none other than God Almighty, the source of all power and glory.
Peter’s eyewitness testimony confirms that Jesus is coming again for two reasons. First, the physical appearance of Jesus during the transfiguration was similar to that of Moses on Mount Sinai, whose face shone with the reflected glory of God. The difference was that Jesus’ glory shone from within, proving His full deity. Because Jesus is fully divine, His own words about a future return must be true. Second, Peter heard Jesus clearly explain the experience on the mountain as seeing “the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Mt. 16:28), or, as another gospel writer worded it, seeing “the kingdom of God come with power” (Mk. 9:1). Peter, James, and John were privileged to catch a glimpse of coming glory, a preview of things to come.
Our entertainment culture is marked by fiction. At the same time, movies about Jesus and biblical characters regularly appear on television. Many people have concluded that the Bible is just another story. Sadly, most viewers never seriously consider His words of truth. Behind the words of the Scriptures are eyewitness accounts testifying that Jesus Christ will return in power and great glory. But there is something even more reliable than this.
The Precision of Scripture (vv. 19–21)
Whether people discuss the sublime truth of God’s Word or the temporal value of a cure for the common cold, the final appeal is usually, “It works for me!” Personal experience seems to carry the greatest weight in the court of public opinion. Not so with Peter.
There was something “more sure” to Peter than his own experience on the mount of Jesus’ transfiguration. It was the “word of prophecy” (v. 19). This phrase describes the entire scope of both Old and New Testament prophecies that point to the glorious future Kingdom of Jesus the Messiah. From the first good news in Genesis 3:15, to the promise of an eternal king in David’s line (2 Sam. 7:16), to the servant that Isaiah predicted (42:1–9; 49:1–13; 50:4–11; 52:13–53:12), to the dating of Daniel’s seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24–27), to Zechariah’s pierced and reigning king (Zech. 12–14)—all of these and more Old Testament prophecies point to Jesus’ coming. The New Testament contains Jesus’ own words about His Second Coming (Mt. 24–25), as well as the apostles’ predictions (Acts 3:19–21; 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:50–57; 1 Th. 4:13–18; Rev. 1:7).
These prophecies that Peter read in the Scriptures outweighed his personal experience. He actually heard the voice of God and saw Jesus transformed in a foretaste of the future Kingdom. Like Peter, we are not to make our experience the rule of Scripture. Rather, we should make Scripture the rule of our experience. We are to take heed to the word from God as a light that shines in a dark place until the “day” (or the “day of the Lord”) dawns (v. 19). That day will result in the judgment of the earth and the establishment of righteousness. At that time the “day star” will arise in our hearts. This refers to Jesus, the “morning star” (Num. 24:17; Rev. 22:16), the one whose presence will illuminate any uncertainty that we now experience. At that time our faith will become sight, and we will know even as we are now known (1 Cor. 13:12). But until Jesus comes, our first and final authority must always be the sacred Scriptures.
Peter further strengthens our faith by explaining the unique origin of the Scriptures. We must understand that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (v. 20). Although this verse may seem to discuss the proper interpretation of Scripture, it does not refer to other people interpreting its words. The word interpretation means untying, unraveling. Peter said that none of the prophecies of Scripture originated through a prophet’s unraveling of his own thoughts. The Scriptures never had their origin in any prophet’s mind. A similar concept is expressed in the next verse, which says, “the prophecy came not at any time by the will of man” (v. 21a). The Bible is one book composed of 66 separate books. Surely they would be contradictory if each prophet had untied his own thoughts in producing his individual book. As has been said, “God’s truth always agrees with itself.”
The true source of the Scriptures is God Himself. They came when “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (v 21b). Just as a ship is driven along by a strong wind, so God’s Spirit moved these prophets and apostles to record the very words God intended. (Acts 27:15 uses the same Greek words as 2 Peter 21b to describe the “wind” and “Spirit” who “moved” the “ship” and “men.”)
God said to Jeremiah, “I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9). False prophets spoke “a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord” (Jer. 23:16). Jude described his writing of God’s words as an inward compulsion of a necessity to write (Jude 3). Paul said that the very words of Scripture are God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). The doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures is a fundamental truth of the Christian faith. The process was a mystery and a miracle. The fact that the Bible was written by men and yet is the very word of God cannot be fully understood. Such mystery overshadows both the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of Jesus’ full deity and full humanity. Mere mortals cannot grasp these wonderful truths—and that fact should reassure us that God’s thoughts and ways are far beyond ours!
Peter declared the divine source of the Bible to remind his readers that God’s prediction of Jesus’ Second Coming is absolutely certain. Peter’s eyewitness account at Jesus’ transfiguration stands as a strong testimony. But stronger still is the written revelation recorded in Scripture. God declared, “it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).