A couple of summers ago I had a letter through the post which said ‘Jury Summons’. I am sure if you have experienced being on a Jury you will agree, it is a fascinating experience. Put together with 11 others, you are to decide, based on the evidence alone about the verdict of someone’s future. The ideal is that everyone on the jury will agree or at least a majority. So, for quite some time we discussed and debated the case but the main issue that we struggled with was the temptation to keep justifying and arguing points that weren’t in the evidence (perhaps they were having a tough time in life, perhaps they had been neglected), all which could have been true but we had to be reminded by the judge that we needed to rely only on the evidence alone. And when we got to grips with that we could then make a decision.
Well in our reading today, Peter has a case made against him and the apostles. They have been accused of telling cleverly devised stories, ‘myths’ about the coming of the Lord Jesus in Power. And so, Peter responds by pointing to evidence to reveal the truth about God and his plan. The evidence is twofold: firstly, an eyewitness account and secondly the word of God. He uses sure and clear evidence to remind all of us that we can trust the promise that Jesus is coming again – so as Peter says, let’s pay attention because this is a letter of great encouragement!
Peter, believed to the be the author of this book, was an apostle of Jesus. And in this book, Peter is writing to Christians to encourage them to live Godly lives.
The Christians he is writing to were scattered all over the place and they were feeling the heat; accusations were being made against them; and many knew their lives were on the line. Even Peter recognises in verse 13 -14 that he soon will face death and he hasn’t got long. The persecution they were facing was very real. But at the start of this chapter, Peter assures these fellow Christians about the promise of a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom with Jesus Christ. We can trust the promise that Jesus is coming again.
Believe the promise he is coming from the eyewitness account
And the first way he assures his readers is by reminding them that he was an eyewitness of Jesus’ majesty.
My husband and I have recently been watching the Netflix series called ‘The Crown’. For those who haven’t seen it, this is a drama which shows the life of Queen Elizabeth II from the 1940’s to modern times and we’ve been gripped! But I have to keep reminding myself that this is a drama and not necessarily all of it is true! Yet it has revealed some gaps in my knowledge about history, so as I am watching it, I am constantly throwing questions at google; did this really happen?! I’m searching for news articles, statements, witnesses who can confirm if this drama unfolding in front of me is actually true! Well, I realised two things that firstly, google isn’t always completely accurate but secondly that I clearly have a desire to know answers that are based on evidence from witnesses.
Well it was the same for Jewish law, who strongly valued the testimony of witnesses. At least two witnesses were required to convict a person of any crime. So, Peter draws not only on his own experience but he points to other witnesses too and says ‘we were eyewitnesses to his majesty’. Peter is referring to Christ’s transfiguration on the holy mountain.
The transfiguration in the gospel accounts is when Jesus’ appearance was radiantly transformed, which was a powerful demonstration of his divine nature. The three eye witnesses Peter, James and John recognise at the transfiguration God’s appointment of Jesus as king and judge. Peter is emphasising that as witnesses together, they ‘have heard the voice that comes from heaven’ (1:18). And God’s voice said, ‘this is my beloved Son, whom I love’. Peter as a witness is in a position to certify the power of Christ.
This was what the Christians who were scattered and facing persecution needed to hear, that Jesus is King and Judge and is coming again in power! And eyewitnesses have seen his majesty – they can vouch for this! As I saw when I did jury service, nobody can conduct a trial unless there are eyewitness accounts, they are relied on and have to swear to truthfulness. And the witnesses in this passage are swearing by God, as they spoke from God and as they were prompted by the Holy Spirit.
And perhaps some of us here today feel a bit like these Christians. Scattered and under pressure. You’re the only Christian in your workplace, or at the school gates or in your network of friends. Or perhaps you feel scattered in a wider sense; the Church of England recognises that church attendance is in decline with over half the population in Britain now saying they have no religion. Being a Christian can be lonely, particularly if you face accusations or even persecution. But this message from Peter is one of encouragement for all those in that position! He has seen the majesty of Christ and is saying, friends we must believe the promise that Jesus is coming again! This is a message for us just as much as it was for the early Christians. Do we still trust that promise?
Believe the promise he is coming from the promises of the Old Testament
The second way that Peter assures his readers of this promise is by reminding them about the promises of the Old Testament; ‘we also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable’ (v19). Prophecy is a prediction about the future. Peter could be referring to scripture in general or more specifically the words of the prophets. But Peter says you will do well to pay attention to it, because the scriptures point to the day of the Lord.
This week I spoke to my younger brother who has finally decided he needs to learn to drive! So, he’s been revising for his theory test and he said Katherine let me test you on a few questions and see how many you remember! And I have to confess I was a little rusty on some of my road signs. When we were driving down to Hampshire this morning, I was paying a lot more attention to the signs! Because they point out important (and actually essential) information to be safe and to avoid hazards.
Well Peter is saying, pay attention, let’s not become too complacent in our faith because the day of the Lord is coming and scripture is signposting this! In fact, he says the scriptures are a lamp shining in a dark place; they illuminate and reveal hazards and they help us to walk without stumbling. The world, or more probably the human mind, is pictured as dark when it is ignorant of God’s prophetic message. Into this darkness the prophetic scripture casts a ray of awakening hope where we can look forward to when the day dawns, when Jesus will return.
And Peter affirms the divine origin of Old Testament prophecy. He states that no prophecy in the Old Testament scripture originated from human imagination or initiative. In a world full of fake news, so often influenced by exaggeration or imagination, it can make us sceptical about what is truth. We’ve seen that this week with the tragic news about presenter Caroline Flack with her friends and family pleading with the media to be fair and accurate. It makes us doubt what we can really trust in the news.
But Peter here is defending the accuracy of the Bible. He says we can trust the word of God because The Holy Spirit of God inspired not only the prophet’s dream’s and visions, but also their interpretations of them. So when they spoke the prophecies we see in scripture, they were spokesmen and women for God himself. They were moved by the Holy Spirit as we see in verse 21.
In some translations, this final verse in this passage says ‘they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’ I’ve recently been trying to encourage my toddler to walk or shuffle down the stairs by himself but he still reaches out his arms because he wants to be carried. When the Spirit speaks through someone it is as if they were being carried and moved along. And to be carried by the Holy Spirit, means coming to the place of surrender of all that you are, so He can take over and use your vessel to speak as He desires.
Maybe you’re here for the first time and this idea of being carried and guided by God feels attractive or perhaps you’ve got questions and you’re working this all out. Either way, I want to encourage you to find out more about this God that Peter is defending with his life.
And if we put our trust in God, this letter is such an encouragement! Peter is reminding us that we can trust the promise that Jesus is coming again! This is a promise from God himself – what confidence it gives us! So, do we trust this promise? Are we living lives that are prepared for the second coming of Christ?
As I’ve been reflecting on this question this week I have really prayed that God would help me to know how I can prepare. As someone who struggles with uncertainty anyway, this question is quite daunting.
But as Peter has helped us see, it starts by really trusting the promise of His return. And the reason we can trust scripture and know it is reliable is because all of prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. So, we can prepare by living in the light of his first coming!
This might mean encouraging one another – as brothers and sisters in Christ let’s build each other up and in testing times remind each other of these biblical promises. Let’s keep on doing the work that Jesus has left us to do! Jesus says in Mark that not even persecution should stop the work of the proclaiming the gospel – we are his witnesses! Let’s accept the uncertainties – we don’t know the exact time and the day when Jesus will return but what we do know is that when he does, if we put our trust in God, we will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom with Jesus Christ. So finally let’s not lose hope – because Jesus is coming again in power!
As Peter and his fellow Christians were feeling the heat, he turned to the evidence to remind us of God’s promise. And sitting under these promises is God the Almighty. This is the firm foundation our faith is built on. Therefore, Peter reminds us that we can trust this divine promise that Jesus will come again in power. A message of complete hope and encouragement!
2 Peter 1:16
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 had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (2 Pe 1:16–21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.