Be established in the present truth…For we have not followed cunningly devised fables.
2 Peter 1:12, 16
The resurrection of Christ and the fact of the empty tomb are not a part of this world’s complex and continuing mythologies. This is not a Santa Claus tale—it is history and it is a reality!
The true Church of Jesus Christ is necessarily founded upon the belief and the truth that there was a real death, a real tomb and a real stone!
But, thank God, there was a sovereign Father in heaven, an angel sent to roll the stone away and a living Savior in a resurrected and glorified body, able to proclaim to His disciples, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth!” (Matthew 28:18).
Brethren, He died for us, but ever since the hour of the Resurrection, He has been the mighty Jesus, the mighty Christ, the mighty Lord!
Our business is to thank God with tearful reverence for the cross, but to go on to a right understanding of what the Resurrection meant both to God and to men. We understand and acknowledge that the Resurrection has placed a glorious crown upon all of Christ’s sufferings!
Lord, I praise You that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact and not a fable. Because He lives, I have real purpose in this life and I can look forward to the life hereafter.
Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, (1:12a)
Therefore refers back to the greatness of salvation (1:1–4) and the blessedness of assurance (1:5–11), themes so crucial they must never be forgotten. Peter did not want his readers to forget they were saved (v. 9), nor the blessings of their salvation (v. 3). When Peter used the future tense, will always be ready, he was first indicating that he would remind his listeners of truth whenever given the opportunity, including when writing this Spirit-inspired epistle. But he also anticipated all who, in the ages to come, would read this letter and be reminded of the great things God gave him to say.
The apostle Paul, like Peter, knew the necessity of repeating the truth: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you” (Phil. 3:1; cf. Rom. 15:15; 2 Thess. 2:5). Jude also sought to remind his readers of what they once knew (v. 5).
Contrary to the beliefs of some, there is no such thing as brand-new spiritual truth, only a clearer understanding of the timeless truths (Isa. 40:8; 1 Peter 1:23–25; cf. Matt. 5:18) in God’s Word. People do not always know the truths of Scripture, nor do they always hear true and accurate interpretations of it. Therefore, some in that condition may think certain truth is new—and it is to them. But there is no new revelation from God (cf. Jude 3). All who preach and teach the Scriptures are reminding people of what God has said in His Word so constantly that His repetition and theirs makes truth stick.
Certainly 2 Peter 2 and Jude’s letter vividly illustrate this principle of divine repetition in Scripture. The New Testament epistles deal with the same gospel in all its richness by revealing it in different terms and analogies. The Synoptic Gospels tell the same story three ways. Jesus repeated His message in sermons, parables, and object lessons everywhere He went, exposing His followers to the truth again and again. That was critical in the training of the Twelve.
Even the messages of the Old Testament prophets are essentially the same as they preach law, judgment, and forgiveness. The Psalms repeat the attributes and works of God. The books of Chronicles rehearse material from 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Deuteronomy 5:1–22 is a second giving of the Law at Sinai (Exodus 20), which reminded the people of it and readied them to enter the Promised Land.
even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. (1:12b)
Peter was a kind shepherd who understood and exhibited sensitivity for his flock. Scripture extols gentleness (cf. 2 Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:23; 6:1; 1 Thess. 2:7; 2 Tim. 2:25), meekness (cf. Matt. 5:5, nkjv; 1 Tim. 6:11, kjv; James 3:13 kjv), and tenderness (cf. Eph. 4:32), characteristics Peter displayed when he acknowledged that his readers already possessed godly virtue. He was encouraging, not condescending or indifferent to their devotion to Christ (cf. 1 Peter 5:2–3).
The recipients of this letter undoubtedly had heard other inspired New Testament letters read and preached (cf. 3:15–16), so they knew and believed the truth, so as to be established in it. The verb rendered established (stērizō), meaning “to firmly establish,” or “to strengthen,” is a perfect passive participle indicating a settled condition. They had given evidence by their faithfulness that the true gospel was strongly present with them. Peter affirmed them without doubt as genuine, maturing believers. He could have echoed Paul’s words to the Colossians, “You previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5b–6; cf. 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 John 2:27; 2 John 2). When anyone comes to know Christ, the truth abides in him (2 Peter 1:12; 1 John 2:14, 27; 2 John 2; cf. John 17:19; 2 Cor. 11:10; Eph. 4:24; 6:14). It was still imperative that Peter’s readers receive this reminder, in view of the threat they faced from the powerful infiltration of false teachers (chapter 2 of this letter).
For is the causal term linking this passage to the previous one and explaining why Peter reminded his hearers of the truth. He was absolutely convinced of the truth he taught because he had personally experienced it. He also spoke for the other apostles and New Testament authors when he asserted, we did not follow cleverly devised tales. All of them received supernatural revelation (John 1:51; 1 John 1:1–3) verifying that what they were taught and were subsequently preaching was the truth (Matt. 13:11, 16–17; cf. Matt. 11:25–26; 1 Cor. 2:10).
Peter’s opening assertion answers the accusation of his critics that he taught carefully crafted lies only to attract gullible followers and make money off them. False religious teachers commonly sought the power and popularity that brought not only money (cf. Mic. 3:11), but also sexual favors (cf. Jer. 23:14). However, Peter refuted his accusers by saying he and his fellow apostles did not follow the deceptive approach of false teachers.
Cleverly devised stems from sophizō (“to make wise”) and connotes sophisticated, subtly concocted ideas. The expression also refers to anything clandestine or deceitful. Seeking to devour the sheep, the false teachers would disguise their lies (cf. 2:1) to make them appear as divine truth (Jer. 6:14; 14:14; 23:16, 21, 26; cf. Matt. 7:15).
Tales (muthos, from which the English myths derives) refers to legendary stories of gods and heroic figures participating in miraculous events and performing extraordinary feats. Those tales characterized pagan mythology and its worldview. Paul used muthos, which always has a negative connotation in the New Testament, much as Peter did, to refer to the lies, fabrications, and deceptions of all false teachers (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14). Peter flatly denied that he was drawing upon such fictitious stories when he made known his teaching. Undoubtedly, false teachers had told his readers that Christian faith and doctrine was just another set of myths and fables.
Made known (gnōrizō) is often used in the New Testament to speak of imparting new revelation (John 17:26; Rom. 16:26; Eph. 1:9; 3:3, 5, 10; cf. Luke 2:15; John 15:15; Acts 2:28; Rom. 9:22–23; 2 Cor. 8:1; Col. 1:27; 4:7, 9). In this instance, the revelation concerned the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ—His second coming in glory and dominion (Matt. 25:31; Luke 12:40; Acts 1:10–11; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:13; Rev. 1:7). Apparently the false teachers were not only undermining Peter’s teaching in general, but also specifically denying what he said about the return of Christ. Peter’s reference to that line of attack later in this letter (3:3–4) confirms that fact.
Because Peter connected the phrase power and coming with the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a sure indicator that he referred to His return (cf. Matt. 24:30; 25:31; Rev. 19:11–16). The description certainly does not fit His first coming in meekness and humility (cf. Luke 2:11–12; Rom. 1:3; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6–7).
Coming is the familiar New Testament word parousia, which also means “appearing,” or “arrival.” The term, whenever used in the New Testament of Jesus Christ, always refers to His return. W. E. Vine elaborated on this aspect of the meaning:
When used of the return of Christ … it signifies, not merely His momentary coming for His saints, but His presence with them from that moment until His revelation and manifestation to the world. In some passages the word gives prominence to the beginning of that period, the course of the period being implied, 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1; Jas. 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 3:4. In some, the course is prominent, Matt. 24:3, 37; 1 Thess. 3:13; 1 John 2:28; in others the conclusion of the period, Matt. 24:27; 2 Thess. 2:8. (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 4 vols. [London: Oliphants, 1940; reprint, Chicago: Moody: 1985], 1:209)
In his first letter, Peter had declared the truth of Christ’s second coming (1 Peter 1:7, 13; 4:13; 5:4). But here he stresses that he and the other apostles were eyewitnesses of the very majesty Christ will fully display when He returns. Certainly all the apostles had seen Christ’s majesty in His life and ministry (John 2:11; 17:6–8), and in His death (John 19:25–30), resurrection (Luke 24:33–43), and ascension (Acts 1:9–11), so that those who were New Testament writers (e.g., Matthew, John, Peter) were eyewitnesses to much of what they wrote. Peter’s point is that the false teachers denied his claims about Jesus, but unlike him, they were not eyewitnesses to His life and ministry.
Eyewitnesses (epoptai) originally meant “general observers” or “spectators,” but over the years its meaning evolved. Barclay explains:
In the Greek usage of Peter’s day this was a technical word. We have already spoken about the Mystery Religions. These Mystery Religions were all of the nature of passion plays, in which the story of a god who lived, suffered, died, and rose again, never to die again, was played out. It was only after a long course of instruction and preparation that the worshipper was finally allowed to be present at the passion play, and to be offered the experience of becoming one with the dying and rising God. When he reached the stage of being allowed to attend the actual passion play, he was an initiate, and the technical word to describe him was in fact epoptēs; he was a prepared and privileged eye-witness of the experiences of God. (The Letters of James and Peter, rev. ed. [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976], 310)
With that usage in mind, it is clear that Peter saw himself and his fellow apostles as preeminently privileged spectators who had reached the highest and truest level of spiritual experience in being with Christ. Peter had in mind one event in particular that dramatically previewed Christ’s second coming majesty.
1:12 As he considered the present and eternal implications of this subject, Peter determined to keep on reminding the believers of the importance of the development of Christian character. Even if they already knew it, they needed to be constantly reminded. And so do we. Even though we are established in the present truth, there is always the danger of a preoccupied moment or a forgetful hour. So the truth must be constantly repeated.
1:16 The closing verses of chapter 1 deal with the certainty of Christ’s coming in glory. Peter deals first with the certainty of the apostolic witness, then with the certainty of the prophetic word. It is as if Peter joins the NT and the OT, and tells his readers to cling to this united testimony.
He emphasizes that the apostles’ testimony was based on fact, not on myth. They did not follow cleverly devised fables or myths when they made known to the readers the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The specific event to which he refers is the Transfiguration of Christ on the mount. It was witnessed by three of the apostles—Peter, James, and John. The power and coming is a literary way of saying “the coming in power,” or “powerful coming.” The Transfiguration was a preview of Christ’s coming in power to reign over all the earth. This is made clear in Matthew’s account of the event. In Matthew 16:28 Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” The very next verses (17:1–8) describe the Transfiguration. On the mount, Peter, James, and John saw the Lord Jesus in the same glory He will have when He reigns for one thousand years. Before they died, those three apostles saw the Son of Man in the glory of His coming kingdom. Thus the Lord’s words in Matthew 16:28 were fulfilled in 17:1–8.
Now Peter is emphatic that the apostolic account of the Transfiguration was not based on fables (in Greek, myths). This is the word that some modern theologians are using in their attack on the Bible. They are suggesting that we should “demythologize” the Scriptures. Bultmann spoke of the “mythological element” in the NT. John A. T. Robinson called on Christians to recognize that much of the Bible contains myths:
In the last century a painful but decisive step forward was taken in the recognition that the Bible does contain “myth,” and that this is an important form of religious truth. It was gradually acknowledged, by all except extreme fundamentalists, that the Genesis stories of the Creation and Fall were representations of the deepest truths about man and the universe in the form of myth rather than history, and were none-the-less valid for that. Indeed, it was essential to the defense of Christian truth to recognize and assert that these stories were not history, and not therefore in competition with the alternative accounts of anthropology or cosmology. Those who did not make this distinction were, we can now see, playing straight into the hands of Thomas Huxley and his friends.
To refute the charge of myths, Peter gives three proofs of the Transfiguration: the testimony of sight; the testimony of hearing; and the testimony of physical presence.
As to sight, the apostles were eyewitnesses of the Lord’s majesty. John testified, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14).
1:16 cleverly devised tales. The word for “tales” was used to refer to mythical stories about gods and miracles (cf. 1Ti 1:4; 4:7; 2Ti 4:4; Tit 1:14). Realizing that false leaders and their followers would try to discredit this letter, and that he was probably already being accused of concocting tales and myths in order to get people to follow him so he could amass wealth, power, and prestige as false teachers were motivated to do, Peter gave evidences in the following verses to prove that he wrote the truth of God as a genuinely inspired writer. made known. This word is a somewhat technical term for imparting a new revelation—something previously hidden, but now revealed. the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Since there is only one definite article with this phrase, the meaning is, “the powerful coming,” or “the coming in power.” The false teachers who were opposing Peter had tried to debunk the doctrine of the second coming of Christ (see 3:3, 4) about which Peter had spoken and written (1Pe 1:3–7, 13; 4:13). eyewitnesses of His majesty. The “we” that begins this verse refers to the apostles. In one sense, all of the apostles had been eyewitnesses to Christ’s majesty, especially His miracles, resurrection body, and ascension into heaven. Peter, however, is referring to a more specific event which he will describe in the next verse. The kingdom splendor of Christ revealed at this event was intended as a preview of His majesty to be manifested at His second coming (cf. Mt 16:28; see notes on 17:1–6). The Transfiguration was a glimpse of the glory to be unveiled at the final revelation, the apocalypse of Christ (Rev 1:1). It must be noted that Jesus’ earthly ministry of healing, teaching, and gathering souls into His kingdom was a preview of the character of the earthly kingdom He will establish at His return.
1:12 The readers of this letter already know these godly qualities (cf. vv. 5–10) and are already established in the truth concerning life in Christ. Peter’s intent is simply to keep biblical morality in the forefront of the Christian’s daily pursuits.
1:16 cleverly devised myths. “Myth” translates Greek mythos, “a story without basis in fact, a legend.” The gospel of Christ was no myth, because the apostles were eyewitnesses of his majesty. Peter had observed the “majesty” of Christ firsthand at the transfiguration. He knew that Christ had come in power; he was no mere literary character invented for a mythological narrative. But Jesus’ transfiguration also functions as a prelude and anticipation of his coming in glory. Readers learn from 3:3–4 that the false teachers believed that the second coming was also a myth, but Peter refutes this, underscoring the certainty of Christ’s return.
1:12 remind you continually concerning these things Peter exhorts them so that they will remember and obey what he has taught them.
established in the truth The saving message of Jesus that Peter has already described (see note on v. 1).
1:16 ingeniously concocted myths Peter is defending the truth of what he has preached about Jesus’ return (2 Pet 3). This is in contrast to the false teachers who have called his authority into question (compare 1 Tim 1:4 and note).
eyewitnesses Peter and the apostles testified about events they witnessed firsthand, particularly Jesus’ transfiguration.
1:16 we. Peter links his message with that of the other apostles to affirm that they all preach the same message.
myths. This word is always used in the New Testament in a negative sense and in contrast to the truth of the gospel (1 Tim. 1:4; 2 Tim. 4:4).
the power and coming of … Christ. The Greek word translated “coming” is parousia, the usual New Testament term for Christ’s Second Coming in glory (3:4, 12; Matt. 24:27; 1 Thess. 3:13). “Power” is elsewhere associated with Christ’s coming (Matt. 24:30).
eyewitnesses of his majesty. Peter was present at Christ’s transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–8 and parallels). The eyewitness testimony of the apostles to the Transfiguration establishes the truth of Peter’s message in general, and in particular provides the historical basis for the apostolic expectation of the Second Coming. The Transfiguration was understood by the apostles to have been a brief anticipation of the divine glory with which Christ will return to earth (Matt. 16:27–17:8).
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