Banner image for '1st Peter'

by Warren Camp

2 Peter 1:19–21 . . .

“Scripture’s More Sure Words of Prophecy”

Thumbnail of Duccio's c. 1308 painting of 'The Transfiguration'

Click to enlarge Duccio’s c. 1308
“The Transfiguration” painting.

We learned in the middle (v. 14) of this first chapter that Peter knew he was about to die. He wanted his readers to realize and adopt a solid biblical foundation so that, after he died, they wouldn’t be led astray by false teachers who’d already begun to harass the churches. The solid foundation that Peter highlighted is the revealed Word of God. The central focus of all Scripture is the Lord Jesus Christ. In vv. 16–18 (highlighted in Warren’s previous commentary), Peter boldly states that the apostles weren’t following cleverly devised fables when they made known the power and coming of the Lord Jesus. Rather, they’d experienced Jesus’ supernatural presentation on the mount of transfiguration [see photo, right] where they’d witnessed, firsthand, Jesus’ majesty and glory. Peter, James, and John benefited greatly by having seen and heard a prophetic first-hand glimpse of the truth: that Jesus will come again in power and glory to reign. This apostolic witness to Jesus Christ is an essential building block of the foundation of our faith.

Another building block of a Christian’s faith foundation is found in Peter’s opening declaration: “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable” (v. 19). He likely meant that the three apostles’ experience on the mount of transfiguration clarified and confirmed the truth found in the Old Testament, that the Messiah will come again to judge the world and reign in glory over his redeemed people. Therein, Peter tells us “to pay attention to” that word, until Christ returns, seeing it as “a light shining in a dark place.” We’re urged, above all, to be careful to interpret God’s Word correctly (v. 20), because those words come not from man but from the inspired Word of God (v. 21). 

If you plan to base your entire life on something, you better rely on solid evidence. And, if you’re going to stake the assurance of your eternity on that authentication, you definitely want to be sure that such evidence is truthful. It would be outright tragic to spend your life following a path that you presumed would lead your to heaven, only to find out — albeit too late — that you were wrong.

We Christians are to build our lives and stake our eternity on the truth of God’s Word. Because we have the solid foundation of God’s inspired Word, it behooves us to mind it carefully and interpret it correctly. Scripture is not to be interpreted subjectively, according to one’s feelings or preferences, but objectively, according to the meaning of the text. To interpret it according to your subjective feelings would be to twist the Scriptures, something that the false teachers were doing (2 Pet. 3:16).

The Solid Building Block of God’s Foundation (1:19)

Every apostle had witnessed the glory and power of the Lord Jesus — the same glory we’ll see when he returns to reign on the earth. The apostles actually witnessed the things about which they’d written.

Jesus’ transfiguration was personally witnessed by Peter, James, and John who saw Christ being revealed in his bright and shining glory (Luke 9:28–36). The voice of God from heaven declared that Jesus is his Son (2 Peter 1:16–18). The reality of that event confirms Old Testament prophecies. Peter had the privilege of eyewitness testimony of not only that single event but all of Jesus’ other wonders. 

Prophecy of Scripture
19We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Pet. 1:19 NIV).

Warren Camp's custom Scripture picture of 2 Peter 1:19

Click to enlarge Warren’s custom
'2 Peter 1:19' Scripture graphic.

The “We” in v. 19 (and vv. 16–18) likely refers to the apostles who had “the prophetic message as something completely reliable.” The “reliable” in Greek, bebaioteron, refers to something that is certain, something that won’t fail under examination, that won’t crumble underfoot. Herein, Peter asserts that the apostles, as opposed to the false teachers, had received a much more valid and reliable word from God, which they and every one of his readers had better obey.

These apostles “saw the light,” that is “a light shining in a dark place,” which was the light of the glory and power of our Lord. Old and New Testament passages speak of Scripture as a light or lamp. The psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105; see also Proverb 6:23). When Peter speaks of prophetic writings as “a light shining in a dark place,” he’s using a familiar scriptural metaphor.

When we earnestly follow and obey the Scriptures that God has revealed for us, the Lord provides us with all the light we’ll ever need. His light will be abundant. And, we’ll have his light for as long as it takes for God’s purposes to be fulfilled and his kingdom to be established on earth. No other “light” will be needed, particularly not the false “light” that comes from cleverly devised stories (v. 16). Incidentally, Peter’s words here strongly imply that the ordinances of Scripture are closed, such that no further “prophetic messages” will be made.

Many of those mentioned prophetic messages were fulfilled as a result of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. Other Old Testament prophecies haven’t yet been fulfilled. We still live in a dark world. But those prophecies about Jesus, including the ones about his return when he’ll judge and be King, become for us believers “a shining light in [our] dark place.” They illuminate — reveal hazards — thereby making it possible for us to walk without stumbling. They also encourage us, lead us, and educate us. But these lights and prophecies will no longer be needed the day Christ returns.

Once “the day dawns” (v. 19c), a light will no longer be needed. Once Christ returns, the Scriptures will no longer be required. And, regarding Peter’s “the morning star rises in your hearts” (v. 19d), scholars see this as a reference to what’s said in Numbers 24:17: ”A star will come out of Jacob.” Jewish people understood that verse to be a messianic prophecy. Peter proclaims that Jesus is that star. The morning star is Venus, the brightest light (other than the moon) in the night sky. In Revelation, Jesus says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16).

All Prophetic Revelations Come from God (vv. 20–21)

The following reliable and prophetic words are from the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament. Starting v. 20a, with “Above all, you must understand,” Peter makes it a priority that his readers steadily bear in mind the following fact as a primary and most essential truth. These Christians were to recognize the Bible as having the utmost importance in their lives. They weren’t to neglect it. They could trust it because it originates from God.

20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things (v. 20).

Warren Camp's custom Scripture picture of 2 Peter 1:20–21

Click to enlarge Warren’s custom
'2 Peter 1:20–21' graphic.

Then in v. 20b, Peter asserts that “no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.” His clause presumably means that the truths that he’d learned and taught came from prophets whose communications originated directly from Scriptures. It literally says, No prophecy of Scripture springs forth or originates from one’s own disclosure. We aren’t free to interpret Scripture according to our own personal whims. Their prophecies weren’t derived from their own assumptions, suggestion or conclusions, and weren’t their own opinions. Instead, the direct irrefutable source of Scripture’s prophecies was of a higher origin: truthful words imparted by Father God. He’ll then conclude by adding his advisory in v. 21: “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Both verses are highlighted in Warren’s custom Scripture (right).

Peter could be referring to Scripture in general, or more specifically to the words of the prophets. Perhaps he’s referring even more specifically to the many Old Testament prophetic writings that foretell the Day of the Lord Jesus: Isaiah 13:6, 9; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7–8, 14, 18; 2:2–3; Malachi 4:5).

One of the biggest pieces of evidence of Jesus’ resurrection is the disciples’ testimony and changed lives. Apostle Paul lists some of the most compelling evidence for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. It’s a fact that more than five hundred witnesses confirmed it, many of whom were still alive to verify that when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians. The disciples’ changed lives and eventual martyrdom are another strong exhibit of the Lord’s resurrection. Because the disciples were Jesus’ contemporaries, they would have known all the facts about his resurrection. They continually told people that Jesus had indeed been risen from the dead.

People often overlook or forget about God’s prophecies. But his forecasts are like “a light shining in a dark place.” They lead and guide people to the truth especially during uncertain times.

Prophecy is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t come from people’s thoughts or ideas. It’s divine in origin. But how did God do this? He supernaturally directed the minds of every writer without relinquishing their intelligence, literary style, personal feelings, or other human factors. His complete and rational message to man was recorded with perfect accuracy, alluding to divine authorship.

21For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (v. 21).

The idea in v. 21 is that you aren’t free to interpret the Bible according to your feelings or to add or exclude parts of it as you like, because the Bible is the fundamental word of God; he provides it to us through numerous God-inspired men. And, it carries his authority and wisdom for how we should live. After all, it’s the word spoken by the universe’s Sovereign entity, to whom we’ll eventually give our account. “Above all,” we better make every effort to understand God’s words correctly and obey them completely!

Incidentally, for more than 3,800 times, Old Testament writers referred to their writings as being “words of God.” They themselves were aware that what they’d written came directly from God — “as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” It didn’t originate from them. The consistency of Scripture, provided by more than forty writers, is further confirmation that what they’d written was derived from God’s thoughts and breathed out by Him. [See Warren’s custom Scripture picture of 2 Timothy 3:16–17.]

The Day of the Lord Jesus will be an eschatological (end of time) event. It will bring judgment to the guilty and deliverance to the faithful. His second coming clearly fits that embodiment. It’s extremely important to study prophecy because it prepares us for our first meeting with Lord Jesus.

It Makes You Wonder . . .
  • Q. 1  Why does Peter defend the authority and inspiration of the prophets?
  • Q. 2  What problem does this imply that his readers might have (vv. 19–20)?
  • Q. 3  If so much prophecy has already been fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, how are we to regard prophecy yet to be fulfilled?
  • Q. 4  If you could have been with Jesus in one event of his, which would you choose? Why?

Thumbnail of 'Meal of Our Lord and the Apostles' by James Tissot, 1886–1894. Warren Camp's 'Peter Masterpieces' photo album.

‘Meal of Our Lord and Apostles’
Click to open “Peter Masterpieces.”

Summary Video: “Second Peter”

     Watch this overview video of Second Peter created by BibleProject.

Warren’s New “Peter Masterpieces” Photo Album

     View several classic paintings of Saint Peter by art world masters: Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rubens, Goya, El Greco, Raphael, Masaccio, Giotto, Correggio, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Veneziano, Tissot, Duccio, Fra Angelico, Galle, Duccio, Dürer, Palomino, and many more.

This Week’s Passage
2 Peter 1:19–21

New International Version (NIV) or view it in a different version by clicking here.
Listen to chapter 1, narrated by Max McLean.

Finger pointer

Take Warren’s “1st and 2nd Peter Quiz” now
—   or   —
bookmark his quiz and take it later.

See Warren’s other Bible-study quizzes.