2 Peter 1:16-18 ~ 20091108 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/08 2 Peter 1:16-18 Eyewitnesses of His Majesty
10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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.
Peter is holding out to us precious and very great promises as incentive to make every effort to grow in godly character. He insists that we be all the more diligent to make our calling and election sure by practicing these qualities. He tells us that if we lack these qualities we are so focused on the present that we are blind - having forgotten that we have been cleansed from our former sins. Peter is making every effort to put down a permanent record before he dies that will serve as an enduring reminder to stir us up to a pursuit of godly living. He tells us that if we practice these qualities we will never fall, and in this way there will be richly provided for us entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Peter is warning us that if we don't grow in holiness, we may have no part in the promises, we demonstrate that we are not part of his elect, called out people, we will ultimately fall, and we will not gain entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Peter knows that the false teachers would scoff at this motivation for holy living.. The false teachers were denying Jesus and following their own sensuality. They were saying things like
“Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” [3:4].
They would argue that the 'eternal kingdom' is simply a fairy tale invented to control people with fear and manipulate behavior. There is no eternal kingdom and there is no coming judgment. Jesus is not coming back and you will not have to answer to him. You have been set free by his grace, so you are free to pursue your desires and live in whatever way that you see fit.
Peter has said that God has provided everything we need for life and godliness. Eternal life and godliness are a package deal. You can't have one without the other. The false teachers would argue that eternal life is a fairy tale so there is no need for a godly life. Peter's first defense of a life in earnest pursuit of holiness motivated by the hope of entrance into the eternal kingdom goes like this: 'No, Jesus really is coming again as judge and king, we can say this with confidence because we were eyewitnesses of the transfiguration'. This may sound like strange logic at first, but lets look at what he says and we will see how it fits together.
Peter says that he is making every effort to put down in writing for future generations the apostolic testimony to the truth of the life-transforming good news of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Peter feels urgency to make a written record because he is one of a small group of eye-witnesses, and he will shortly be putting away his tent. Peter says 'we did not follow cleverly devised myths'. This is a response to the accusation of the false teachers. The apostles were just followers of fables and fairy tales. These are crafty cunning myths, because they are designed to manipulate behavior and subject people to their authority. If you can get people to believe that Jesus is coming back and everyone will stand before him as judge and 'give an account of every careless word' [Matt.12:36] that has compelling power to control behavior. Peter flatly denies that the apostles were followers of myth. Instead, they were eyewitnesses of his majesty. The facts were not manipulated and handed down to them; they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears the historic event. False teacher seek to undermine the gospel message by attempting to disprove the historicity of the bible. So-called 'Christian' liberals who are educated beyond their intelligence have attempted to deny the historicity of some of the biblical narrative, while holding on to the religious teaching. The stories of the Old Testament and of Jesus are fables designed to teach truth. They are not meant to be believed as literal historical events. They are simply a literary device used to communicate morals. If that were true, the bible would be teaching by example that lying is a great virtue. The problem for the liberal is that the historical narrative and the theological truths are inextricably woven together. And the bible has over and over and over again proven itself to be the most reliable historical document that exists.
Peter says we were not following myths; we were eyewitnesses. The content of the message that is in dispute is 'the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ'. 'Coming' when used of Jesus in the New Testament is a term that is used exclusively for the future coming of Jesus in power and glory:
Matthew 24:3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”
These two words 'power and coming' could be translated 'the powerful coming' or 'the mighty coming'; his 'coming in power'.
2 Thessalonians 1:7 ... when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
Notice Peter says 'we'. Peter identifies himself with the rest of the apostles. We all teach the same message. When we were teaching you about the future return of Christ in power and glory, we were not passing on myths; we were passing on what we had observed first hand. He stands shoulder to shoulder with the others who were also eyewitnesses together with him. And they were eyewitnesses of his majesty; his power and coming. If we look at the account of the transfiguration in all the synoptic gospels, we see that in each one, the promise that they would not 'taste death until they had seen the kingdom of God after it has come with power' (Mk.9:1) comes directly before the fulfillment on the mountain.
Matthew 16:27 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. 28 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.”
Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
So the transfiguration of Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise that these disciples would see the Son of Man coming in power and glory.
...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,”
Here's how Matthew records it:
Matthew 17:4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” [c.f. Mk. 8:38-9:9; Lk. 9:26-36]
Peter and James and John were eyewitnesses of his divine majesty. And they were ear-witnesses of the honor given him by the Father. Peter doesn't bother to mention here that the voice of the Majestic Glory interrupted his own blubbering. This was no deep resonant James Earl Jones movie voice. This was the voice of God himself that caused these three grown men to be terrified and fall on their faces. And what the Father said was 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased'. If we are unfamiliar with the Old Testament, we might miss the significance of these words. God is using the words of Psalm 2:
Psalm 2:1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
This is a Psalm describing the installation of the messianic king on his royal and judicial throne. Jesus is the one whom God set on his holy mountain and declared to be his Son and King. We can also see a connection to Isaiah 42:
Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
Jesus is the only begotten Son and King, as well as the servant (in Isaiah, the suffering servant, who will be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities [Is.53:5]); the chosen servant in whom my soul delights. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”. Jesus received honor and glory from God the Father – this is yet another indication that Jesus is indeed one with the Father –very God of very God; because just a few verses later in Isaiah, God says:
And yet Jesus receives glory and honor from God the Father. His Majesty received glory and honor from the Majestic Glory.
Peter takes this historical event that he personally witnessed, and says that the future coming in power of Jesus is not a fairy tale or myth, because God the Father has already installed Jesus as that coming messianic King who will rule and judge the nations. We were at his coronation ceremony. We were there for his inauguration. God himself sealed it with his own words. The authority for the certainty of the future coming of Jesus to reign and judge is the authority of the very voice of God the Father. We didn't make this stuff up. 'we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain'. You false teachers can set yourselves against the Lord and against his anointed, but God is laughing at you, and he will speak to you in his wrath and terrify you in his fury, because he has established his King on his holy mountain. Jesus is King and he is coming and he will inflict vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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.