THE APOSTLE PETER’S FAREWELL

The Transfiguration by Raphael, c. 1520
Raphael’s portrait of the Exodus Jesus would lead from Jerusalem

By: Frank Tunstall

             “I know that I will soon put my body aside as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me,” Peter wrote in his second epistle. On so many occasion and in so many ways, Peter had been the pillar of the twelve apostles. Now, near the end of his life he wrote a second letter best remembered as his farewell and as his defense of the Old Testament Scriptures.  Peter intended that his letter would make it possible for his successors to “be able to remember these things” (2 Peter 1:14-15).

             As Peter’s spiritual offspring in Christ, we are now in another Easter season. We surely want to remember the things the Holy Spirit put in Peter’s heart for the first century church, because they also apply to the church today.

              Paul’s martyrdom is usually dated about A.D. 65; Peter’s homegoing followed soon thereafter. It must have been cause for heavy grief for Peter to know Paul had been martyred. Their promotions to their eternal rewards came shortly before the Jewish rebellion that resulted in Jerusalem and the Temple being destroyed by Rome’s legions in 70 A.D.

              Peter’s second letter also shows the job description of the Holy Spirit in writing the Scriptures. The Spirit was committed that the truth would be clearly known and preserved for all generations. Peter knew well the factual and historical events that surrounded the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ had to be preserved.

              Peter added to the record with his short but very powerful epistle. His second letter, as did his first, reads like an apologetic [writing to defend the truth of the gospel]. To make the point, some key words will be italicized.   

              “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory [on the Mount of Transfiguration], saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18). Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses and gave testimony the Heavenly Father’s voice was indeed audible.

              The transfiguration of Jesus was a historical reality, a factual event that showed the apostles had not crafted “cleverly invented stories” when they “told about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Instead, they “were eyewitnesses” – the best kind of testimony. The evidence was not hear-say (2 Peter 1:16-17. Peter was one of the eyewitnesses at the transfiguration; the other two were James and John.

              The transfiguration teaches profound gospel truths. Among them is the Heavenly Father’s audible affirmation of Jesus as God’s Son, who also gave the clear command to Peter, James and John – “listen to Him.” These three disciples were eyewitnesses who heard the distinct voice of the Heavenly Father coming from the majestic glory.

              The transfiguration is also one of the Bible’s premier revelations showing life after death for the people of God. When the historic event of Jesus’ transfiguration occurred, Moses had been dead for some 1500 years, and Elijah for about 800 years, but both were alive and well at the Lord’s transfiguration and fully knowledgeable regarding Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection soon to happen at Jerusalem. In fact, Moses and Elijah had more information on the mountain about Jesus’ death and resurrection than they did during their ministries, and more information than did Peter, James, and John who lived with Jesus daily! Moses’ and Elijah’s topic of conversation with Jesus was His pending decease or departure Jesus would “accomplish at Jerusalem.” [The Greek word is exodon and it translates best in English as exodus.]

              Moses’ 40-year exodus was a great achievement, no question about it. But his exodus does not compare with Jesus as the firstfruits of the resurrection who leads the people who die in Christ daily to their heavenly home (Luke 9:31, KJV (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus will also one glorious day lead the far greater exodus known as the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

              The fact Moses and Elijah were so very informed indicates quality teaching goes on in heaven. Their information was current. This meant their discussion was intelligent regarding the divine timeline of God for Messiah’s sacrifice that would accomplish the salvation of all people who believe Jesus is the Son of God and repent.

               Can there be a better proof of life after death than Moses and Elijah talking intelligently with Jesus at His transfiguration? In Peter’s account as an eyewitness, his testimony was historic. When linked together as one, the stories of the transfiguration and of the death and resurrection of Jesus provide evidence that is ultra-convincing.  Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses at both scenes.

               Little wonder the Holy Spirit motivated Peter to write his testimony for posterity. Perhaps this explains why Peter moved from telling the transfiguration story, to his account of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures. At this stage in the development of the church, Peter was talking only about the Old Testament Scriptures (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

               Peter’s affirmation of the Scriptures was preceded by a warning: “You will do well to pay attention” because this word of the prophets is like “a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). The ministry of Jesus Christ was the light that shined into the Roman world’s spiritual darkness that signaled a new beginning in a new covenant. The Holy Scriptures provided a solid foundation for the dawning of the new day.

              “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21; John 14:26; Luke 24:45-49). The Holy Spirit is the wind of God who inspired the Scriptures, akin to the wind filling the sails and driving a ship.

              The incarnation of Jesus, including His death and resurrection, fulfilled the predictions of the prophets with 100 percent accuracy and made the “word of the prophets” even “more certain.” In fact, Jesus is the living Word who authenticated the written word in the Old Testament. The same is true for the New Testament.

  • How important that we cherish the Old Testament and the New Testament Scriptures.
  • How important that the death and resurrection of Jesus, the grand story of the Easter season, become a reminder of the price Jesus paid for our salvation.
  • How important that the Holy Spirit saw to it the evidence was recorded, and continues to be preserved and protected in every generation.

One story comes to mind.

              Jerusalem rebelled from Rome’s rule including very overbearing taxation policies in the early 60’s A.D. The legions of Rome arrived in Jerusalem and the siege of the Holy City began about five years later. It continued until 70 A.D. when Rome’s fighting machine broke through Jerusalem’s defenses and began the slaughter of the Jews – men, women, children and infants.

              All of the priceless books that would become the New Testament were still unassembled manuscripts when the breakthrough came except the three epistles of the Apostle John and the Revelation. John wrote them some twenty years later. The question of preservation of the manuscripts naturally follows. It is not known to history where the manuscripts were located when the legions invaded, but we know where they were not.

              THEY WERE NOT IN JERUSALEM!

              The question follows: what does it say to you that the home church in Jerusalem when the temple and the city were destroyed did not have the manuscripts?

Looking back, only one answer is possible: the Holy Spirit preserved them!

And the Holy Spirit has continued to preserve and safeguard the Scriptures in both Testaments from that day to this.

              Ah! to sing and rejoice this Easter as we tell the old, old story that has such historical accuracy of Jesus’ brutal crucifixion and glorious resurrection – and keep on telling it until the next time Jesus comes.

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