2 Peter 1:16-18 “Affirming the Apostolic Message, Part 1: The Testimony of Christ’s Coming Power”

For no craftily devised myths did we follow when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His own majesty. For instance, when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such a word as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” And we ourselves heard this word made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.


It is helpful to remind ourselves of the context in which we now find ourselves. The foundation of Christian redemption and the call to holiness has already been laid (1:3-11). Peter has provided his readers with his purpose in writing, that is, to remind them constantly of these things and arouse them to action (1:12-15). The task of exposing the threat of false teachers remains before us (2:1-22) as does the encouragement of sound doctrine (3:1-18). What stands in between Peter’s purpose statement and the main body of the letter are these verses (1:16-21) that prove the validity of Peter’s claims.


It is not possible to know exhaustively the content of what these heretics taught. Peter does not give us a bullet point statement of faith from these dissenters, but we do know what they denied. The central theme that united these false teachers was a denial of coming judgment and the bodily future return of Jesus Christ to earth (2:1; 3:3-4). Their denial of a biblical eschatology allowed them to indulge themselves in all manner of wickedness (2:2-3). If there is no future kingdom that rewards the righteous and no future King who will judge the wicked, then present holiness is at best an optional decision. What people believe about the future directly impacts how they conduct themselves in the present. Peter’s exhortations for holiness are firmly grounded upon the certainty of Christ’s power and coming.[1] Before Peter goes on the offensive (2:1-22), he establishes the inevitability of Christ’s future return and reign. The purpose of 1:16-21 is to establish that the apostolic teaching of Christ’s future return is a biblical certainty.


Peter endeavors to affirm Christ’s return by first attesting to the historical reality of the event in time and space (vv. 16-18) before addressing the veracity of the prophetic word (vv. 19-21). As he affirms the reality of a physical and future return of Christ in vv. 16-18, Peter points to another physical event that occurred in time and space; namely, the Transfiguration. Peter uses the event of the Transfiguration to defend the future return of Christ by reminding his readers of two things: the character of the messengers (v. 16) and the content of the message (vv. 17-18).


The Character of the Messengers (v. 16)


There seems to already exist an accusation against Peter and the apostles laid by the false teachers. Before Peter can expose these false teachers, he first addresses the charge laid against the apostolic faith. This charge effectually claims that the apostles fabricated Christ’s second coming. In answer, Peter offers a rebuttal to their charge (v. 16a) and then reminds his readers of how the apostles received their knowledge of Christ’s return (v. 16b).


Refutation of Slander

For no craftily devised myths did we follow when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ


The main verb of this clause (when we made known – ἐγνωρίσαμεν) points to the time in history when Peter and the apostles explained the “power and coming” of Jesus Christ. The first-person plural refers to Peter along with the other apostles, for it is this apostolic faith that the readers share (1:1). Peter does not necessarily claim to be among those who first brought the good news of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and return, though that is possible in a few of these cases. In any case, all the apostles preached the same message. Peter specifically mentions that the apostles explained the “power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Another example of hendiadys is found in this power and coming (δύναμιν καὶ παρουσίαν), the use of two terms combined to refer to a single thought. The single thought in view is Christ’s second advent.


The coming of the Lord (παρουσία) has in view His arrival. We find this term used in secular writings to describe the visitation of a king to inspect his realm or the arrival of persons to a particular place. The term demands a physical presence in time and space and cannot be satisfied with a spiritualized advent. Yet the first term we read (δύναμις) indicates the power and might associated with this coming. Christ’s first coming was accompanied with humility (Zech. 9:9). His second coming will be accompanied with great power (Zech. 14:1-5). What we have here is a reference to what the Old Testament calls the Day of the Lord.


Described briefly, the Day of the Lord includes the judgment and destruction of the wicked (Obad. 15; Joel 1:15; 2:1-11; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:14-18), the reign of Yhwh as the Davidic king (Hos. 3:5; Mic. 2:11-12; Zeph. 3:14-15), the repentance and restoration of Israel (Obad. 17, 20-21; Joel 2:31-32; Hos. 3:5; Zeph. 3:16-20), and the event that ushers in the kingdom (Obad. 21; Joel 3:9-17; Amos 9:11-12; Mic. 4:1-3). The prophets repeatedly pointed to this coming day to motivate repentance (Joel 2:12-17; Hos. 6:1-3; 10:12; Zeph. 2:1-3) and provide hope of Yhwh’s promises (Joel 2:18-27; Amos 9:13-15; Hos. 14:4-7). The apostles never altered from the pattern set by Old Testament prophets. They preached the same message that Israel’s king would come to judge and restore. They simply clarified that Jesus of Nazareth is this coming king. As the apostles became the witnesses of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost places of the earth (Acts 1:8), they taught that Jesus would physically return in the same way that they saw Him ascend and that He would destroy all opposition before taking the throne of David in Jerusalem to reign over His kingdom. The problem facing Peter is the fact that dissenters claimed that they made the whole thing up.


Peter’s initial words are a strong denial. He states plainly that the apostles did not follow a cleverly devised myth when they made these things known to them. Peter does not say that the false teachers proclaim myths as Paul did in other places (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Tit. 1:14). Apparently, this is the accusation leveled at him and the apostles regarding their eschatology. The false teachers mock them and derogatorily refer to the doctrine of Christ’s return as carefully crafted fables.[2] What we read as carefully devised myths or cleverly devised tales (σεσοφισμένοις μύθοις) describes a fable that has been purposefully and expertly constructed with the implication that its design is to deceive. Peter denies this accusation outright. The apostles did not teach what they constructed. They proclaimed what they know to be true. They know what they saw.


Affirmation of Truth

But we were eyewitnesses of His own majesty


Peter begins with a strong contrast (ἀλλὰ). This claim to be an eyewitness (ἐπόπται) eliminates the charge of teaching carefully constructed nonsense because Peter claims to have seen what he has taught. What the apostles taught concerning the return of Christ is based on what they saw with their own eyes. They did not come by this information second or third hand. They experienced this revelation for themselves. This revelation Peter calls Christ’s own majesty (μεγαλειότης), His state of majestic grandeur and sublimity. The apostles beheld the glory of the only begotten (Jn. 1:14) and then proclaimed to others what they saw. Jesus did not command the apostles to teach the world a carefully constructed fable. He commanded them to testify as to what they have seen and heard (Acts 1:8).


Peter could have replied like many evangelicals today by saying that it is not important that Jesus return in bodily form, but only to know the spiritual reality that He is sovereign and will “win” in the end. Yet Peter does not take this modern and popular approach. Rather, he sticks to his guns and demands a physical return of Christ in time and space based on a specific event that he witnessed in time and space. Peter turns to the facts of history when he calls himself an eyewitness.[3] The apostolic teaching of Christ’s return was not cooked up in a cave in Arabia or in a grove of trees in western New York. They made known what they saw.


The Content of the Message (vv. 17-18)


It becomes obvious that Peter specifically has in mind the event of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8; Mk. 9:2-8; Lk. 9:28-36). Usually, the Transfiguration is taught as the Father’s affirmation of the Son and confirmation of the atonement which still looms ahead. Yet all three of the synoptic gospel writers place this event in an eschatological context. Six days before the Transfiguration, Jesus promised that there would be some of His disciples that would not taste death “until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:28 NASB). The Transfiguration has major eschatological implications, which is why Peter makes a beeline to this even as an example of (1) what he has witnessed and (2) how this testimony relates to Christ’s return.


Peter’s Statement (v. 17)


In v. 17, Peter recounts the events of the Transfiguration. First, he sets the scene with a brilliant theological summary (v. 17a) and then reminds his readers of the very words spoken by the Father to the Son (v. 17b).


Setting the Scene (v. 17a)

For instance, when He received honor and glory from God the Father,Such a word as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory,


Grammatically, this section is subordinate to v. 16[4] and thus is something of a parenthesis that provides more information regarding this witnessed majesty. Peter specifically recalls the event when Jesus (the natural antecedent of λαβὼν) received honor and glory from God. By referring to God the Father without the use of the article (θεοῦ πατρὸς), Peter uses what is recognized as a single name.[5] God the Son received honor and glory from the God the Father.


The preposition παρὰ when used with the genitive case indicates the source (from) of this honor and glory. It appears that we have yet another use of hendiadys to describe the single idea of exaltation. In the Father’s bestowal of honor (τιμή) we read the high value He placed upon the Son. In glory (δόξα) we read the renown and prestige received by Jesus from the Father. Jesus received this honor and glory in what the Father spoke to Him.


By saying “such a word as this” (φωνῆς…τοιᾶσδε) Peter marks this voice as unique and unlike any other. The preposition ὑπὸ with the genitive marks “the majestic glory” as the agent of this voice. Peter, who loves to repeat his terms, has already used “majestic” (μεγαλοπρεπής) and “glory” (δόξα) in reference to Christ. He now uses both to describe the Father. If the Majestic Glory is the agent of this voice, then the Majestic Glory is God the Father. The Gospel writers record three occasions in which the voice of God the Father was audibly heard by men: (1) at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:16-17; Mk. 1:10-11; Lk. 3:21-22), (2) at Jesus’ Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5; Mk. 9:7; Lk. 9:34-35), and (3) during an interview with certain Greeks during Jesus’ passion week (Jn. 12:20-28).[6] In each instance, God the Father is affirming His Son Jesus and His mission. But each instance (Jesus’ baptism, Transfiguration, and passion) comes with its own context and set of implications. It may seem strange to phrase it this way, but God chose His words with great care when He spoke for men to hear. These words have biblical and theological importance.[7] That is to say, it is not just that God spoke but what God said that matters.


What was Said (v. 17b)

“This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”


This simple statement heard by the three disciples is usually read quickly without much reflection. Here we read the Father’s affirmation of His Son, and nothing more. But each term is carefully weighed and is thus worthy of our consideration. It is worth noting that this scene is purposefully presented in front of an Old Testament backdrop. Jesus is speaking with two Old Testament prophets, Moses and Elijah, on a mountain in unveiled glory. Both prophets had similar experiences during their lifetimes (Ex. 34:1-8; 1 Kings 19:9-18). Both prophets are personally connected to the coming of Messiah (Deut. 18:15; Mal. 4:4-6). Both prophets now stand on a mountain with the promised Messiah in His glory.


With this Old Testament background in place, it is interesting that God’s first words declare Jesus to be “My beloved Son” or, more literally, “My Son, My beloved one” (ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός μου). There are only two places in the Old Testament where Yhwh speaks of His Son, Ps. 2 and Hos. 11. Of these two passages, only one is directly attributed to the person of Messiah. In the second Psalm, David declares the future day of Yhwh’s wrath doled out by the hand of His Messiah (Ps. 2:7).[8] This goes far beyond a declaration of Jesus’ divinity. Here we read the Father’s affirmation that Jesus is the Son who will return to earth in glory to judge the nations and establish His kingdom. In the gospel accounts we read the added warning, “Listen to Him!” Psalm two ends with a similar warning: “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Yhwh in fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are those who take refuge in Him!” (Ps. 2:10-12). The Father has affirmed that this Jesus will return to rule and reign.


To this statement the Father adds “in Whom I am well pleased” (εἰς ὅν ἐγὼ εὐδόκησα). There are not many places where Yhwh declares His delight (εὐδοκέω) in an individual yet, the LXX uses a sister verb to describe the “delight” (προσδέχομαι) of Yhwh in His Servant who will bring justice to the nations: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Is. 42:1).[9] This is the introductory verse in the first of Isaiah’s “Servant songs,” the emphasis of which is upon the Servant’s assured success despite opposition.[10]


This brief statement from the Father certainly affirms Jesus as the divine lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29). Yet the Father never separates eschatology from soteriology. This statement goes beyond Christ’s cross-work to include His king-work. The Father declared Jesus to be the King who will save His people and return to rule His people.


Peter’s Credentials (v. 18)

And we ourselves heard this word made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain


Peter again uses the first-person plural (ἠκούσαμεν) to refer to what he, James, and John heard. The personal fact of the matter is emphasized with Peter’s addition of the pronoun ἡμεις (we ourselves heard). Peter, James, and John saw with their own eyes the unveiled Son of Man in the glory of His kingdom as a foretaste of His return. They heard with their own ears the voice of God the Father confirm what they saw. This was no inner voice coming from within. This voice came from heaven (ἐξ οὐρανοῦ). God the Father was the source of this voice. Nor was this a vision to be interpreted or a story relayed to Peter secondhand. The apostles stood on the holy mountain with Jesus. The physical location of this mountain is not known to us. It is holy in the same way that Horeb and Zion are holy. There God met with man. Christ, for the first and only time in His first advent, was revealed and declared to be all that He is.


The Transfiguration proves that Christ will return in glory to shatter the rebellious nations like earthenware and establish justice in the earth. The Transfiguration proves that the Messianic kingdom is yet future. The Transfiguration proves an unbreakable link between Christ as savior and Christ as king. The apostolic message of Christ’s return is not a theory devised on hearsay. It is a message that stems from what the apostles witnessed firsthand.


Conclusion


It is difficult to tell in our day what unites the various threads in the tapestry we call “evangelicalism.” There is little agreement between the various evangelical branches on any given topic. There is no need to affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, a literal six-day creation, man’s inability to seek after God, the exclusivity of Christ for redemption, the form and function of the family, church government, the sacraments, or a variety of other doctrines in order to identify as an evangelical. The term itself comes from the Greek εὐαγγέλιον, which means gospel. Apparently, in the eyes of evangelicals, none of these things affect the gospel.


One common thread that binds evangelicals is the lack of significance they attach to eschatology. They uniformly affirm the insignificance of the last things. It matters not that one denies the future kingdom or maintains that the kingdom will arise without the King. All are welcome at the table of evangelicalism. Yet to Peter, a precise eschatology that affirms Christ’s future and physical return in connection with Christ’s future and physical kingdom is inseparable from his exhortations for present holiness. There is no biblical Christianity without a biblical eschatology. Even though most Christians have been wrongly led to believe that eschatology is not an important issue, they will, for the most part, affirm that the way we live our lives now matters. Yet, the only reason why our present lives matter is because of Christ’s future return, reign, and rule. It is time to repent of our indifference and be ready for His glorious return. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p. 69. [2] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 313. [3] Ibid, p. 314. [4] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 287-8. [5] Ibid, p. 288. [6] Hiebert, p. 74. [7] Schreiner, p. 316. [8] Ibid, p. 316. [9] Ibid. [10] Andy de Ganahl, The Servant of YHWH, Victory Through Suffering: An Exposition and Application of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Feeding the Sheep Commentary Series (Self Published, 2021), p. 8-9.

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