What About Prophets Today? – Part 4

What About Prophets Today? - Part 4

This article is part 4 of a 6-part series entitled What About Prophets Today?

Peter’s Anticipation of the Finality of Revelation in Scripture

The Apostle Peter looked forward to the same consolidation of apostolic and prophetic witness with the written Scriptures of the old covenant. He expressed this forcefully in 2 Peter 1:12-21.

Peter recognized the necessity of repetition in sealing the power of divine truth to dull minds. When he says in verse 12, “I will always be ready to remind you of these things,” Peter indicated that irrespective of the maturity of their present knowledge, he will write to put this reminder in permanent form. He did not want to trust these truths to be mere impressions; nor did he want the impact to be isolated to those who had heard his preaching. Eternal salvation depends on hearing and believing the truth and persevering in it (2 Peter 1:10, 11).

Peter considered it his moral duty to stir them up by reminding them. He has accounted this reminder to be right, just, according to binding moral standards, to spend the remainder of his life assuring that his message cannot be forgotten. He wanted to be “careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease” (15). He was an eyewitness and an inspired apostle so he wanted his readers to be able to recall this witness even when his words from mouth or pen no longer would flow.

The witness of the apostles was not a fabrication. Their reports came from sober observations of sight and sound. “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty,” a testimony confirmed by John who wrote, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you.” The writer of Hebrews acknowledged his dependence on this kind of witness when he wrote of the “great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.” Peter’s language stretched itself to describe how impressive this event was. It was no triviality, easily mistaken. No, it was a sensibly discerned majesty, honor, glory from God, an utterance from the Majestic Glory.

Not only did they see the glory of Christ and the glory of the Father descend from heaven (an experience of the glory of the kingdom of God even as Jesus had promised in Luke 9:27), but they heard the voice from heaven declaring the sonship of Jesus. Jesus was the incarnate Son of God. He always existed with the Father, eternally generated by the Father, and thus of the same essence with the Father. This heavenly confirmation gave those who observed a glimpse of the transfixing beauty, loveliness, and brightness of the kingdom of God.

In evaluating the nature of this particular event, Peter wrote, “We have the prophetic word made more sure” (NASB). The New King James Version settled on the word “confirmed” as fitting the meaning.  As in 1:10, when this word is used about making one’s calling and, thus, election “sure,” Peter means manifestation by clear evidence of an existing absolute. Election is an eternal certainty by the decree of God but is evidenced as a reality in one’s life by the evidence of godliness, perseverance in faithfulness, and love.

Just as surely as election is absolute, but is confirmed, or made sure, by certain events, so Old Testament Scripture is inspired, unchangeable, and all it prophecies concerning Christ could not fail. But the absolute truthfulness of such Scripture finds verification and clarity in supportive events consistent with the unchanging truth of revelation. How could these various streams of prophetic truth find symmetry and consistency in the Messiah? One no longer has to wonder as the prophets did, according to 1 Peter 1:10, 11, about the person or the time of the Christ. He was now before them with the glory around him and the voice of the Father from heaven. This is a similar idea to that voiced by John when he wrote, “And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Peter is expressing that the prophetic word has received its clear and certain fulfillment in the person of Christ.

His present testimony served to give coherence and sweep away ambiguities of previous prophecy. As Christ was the person to whom all the types, promises, and prophecies of the Old Covenant point and in whom they were created, so the apostolic word is the culmination of the divine revelation. In 1 Peter 1:24, 25, Peter claimed, after citing Isaiah 40:6-8, that his preaching was the “word of the Lord [that] remains forever.”  “This is the gospel that was preached to you,” Peter asserted. When he preached, he also prophesied, and his words of preaching/prophesying completed the prophetic word of the Old Testament. Even so now, when he writes the words, “to which you will do well to pay attention,” he means “Pay attention to what I am writing to you now.” His testimony is the fulfillment of prophecy in Christ as reported by the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is to that culminating word that they, and we, must pay attention.

Following that, Peter recalled the well-established doctrine concerning the origin of a “prophecy of Scripture” to justify his admonition to his readers. He invoked an established understanding of the origin of the sacred writings in support of the authoritative nature of his writing to them. Note particularly how Peter conflated the speaking of the prophets with its final and enduring form in the graphe, Scripture. In the past, the prophets spoke the word of the Lord when it came to them and then recorded their speaking as the Holy Spirit carried them along. In that process, their speaking the audible word became graphe, the written word. Even so, the preaching of Peter and the other apostles became Scripture. Peter continued the parallel between the inspired truthfulness of the prophets and the same of the apostles in 2:1: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you.”

Peter knew that his written witness held the status of Scripture and served as a continuation of the prophetic ministry of instruction. We are to give heed to Scripture until the “day dawns,” until Christ himself returns, and until “the morning star rises in your hearts” – our complete conformity to Christ. Scripture—the complete canon of the Old and New Testaments—will show us Christ and conform us to Christ until that day when the brightness of his glory completes that process of “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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