A Light Shining in a Dark Place

2nd Peter

“The light that shines in a dark place”

God invites us to see and know things that can only be known by divine revelation. From the first verse, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) to the last chapter, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Revelation 22:14), the most important issues of existence have been set forth by God’s prophets and apostles. Their spoken word eventually became settled into written form. This written form became the canonical Scripture. In the purpose and by the special calling of God these knew that they were stewards of revelation and that their ministries of the word would be given perpetuity as authoritative revelation in Holy Scripture.

I. The Necessity of Repetition 12-15

A. Verse 12 – Irrespective of the maturity of their present knowledge, Peter will write to remind them. He did not want to trust these truths to the mere impressions, or even the clear grasp, of those who had heard his preaching. Eternal salvation depends on hearing and believing the truth and persevering in it (1:10, 11). For that reason the witness that he bore and they heard must be given again. The strong language is used about their knowledge and the firm establishment in the truth in order to heighten the intensity of Peter’s conviction that his stewardship demanded repetition and ascertaining perpetuity.

B. Verse 13 – It is his moral duty to stir them up by reminding them. Peter wrote, “I think it right,” to emphasize the morally obligatory task before him. “Think” translates a word which mean to account, to draw a conclusion that fully accords with a proper perception of all the facts. 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. As long as he is in the body, his task is to “stir up” those under his charge by reminding them of the coming of the Lord Jesus and the eternal glory that is at stake through the faithful reception of this message.

C. Verses 14, 15 – He will make sure of the perpetuity of his apostolic witness even after his death. Peter knew that his death would soon come. Christ had made it clear to him a specific way. We all should have the same urgency, however, about our calling for all of Scripture makes it clear in a general way that none of us can boast of tomorrow (James 4:13-16). The burden of this entire passage makes it clear that Peter understood his word was given by inspiration of God. That did not mean, however, that he need not give strong effort in his calling. His witness would benefit the church in centuries to come after his death, so he wrote with a sense of urgency. A clear view of divine purpose gives increased diligence. 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.

II. The Nature of Apostolic Testimony 16-18

A. The witness of the apostles was not a fabrication. It was not a matter of creatively constructed stories. They were not trying to produce morality plays or invent characters and events in order to convey moral insight and themes of hope. They had no cleverly devised agendum to begin a new religion or to co-opt the Jewish longing for the Messiah into a movement seductively contrived.

B. Their reports came from sober observation. It is a matter of two things.

1. Eyewitness – Peter with no hesitation says, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” This is precisely what John, who was at the same event to which Peter is referring (Luke 9:38ff), claimed in 1 John 1:1-3. The writer of Hebrews confirms this in Hebrews 2:1-4. Note the language that Peter uses to describe how impressive this event was: majesty, honor, glory, from the Majestic Glory.

2. 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 – 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. They were given the insight that the saints there are recognizable—Moses and Elijah–and can carry on conversation. Nothing, however, can preempt the glory of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his character (Hebrews 1:3).

3. Peter continues his insistence that his readers know that this is an eyewitness account. “We ourselves heard this very voice, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”

III. The character of Scripture – Verses 19-21

A. Historically unfolding revelation [“We have the prophetic word made more sure’ cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12]. As in 1:10, Sure means manifestation by clear evidence of an existing absolute. Scripture is inspired and all it prophecies concerning Christ could not fail. But how would they be put together in the Messiah? One no longer has to wonder as the prophets did, according to 1 Peter1:10, 11, about the person or the time of the Christ. He was 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 from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16, 17). Peter is expressing that the prophetic word has received its clear and certain fulfillment in the person of Christ.

B. His present testimony is that which is the clear fulfillment of what had been prophesied before. 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.” Even so now, when he writes, “to which you will do well to pay attention,” he means 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.

C. The origin of the sacred writings – He invokes this principle in support of the authoritative nature of his writing to them.

1. Scripture does not arise from human investigation and interpretation of events (verse 20). Earlier Peter had reminded his readers of this very truth regarding his writing (“we did not follow cleverly devised myths).

2. In the past, the prophets spoke and then recorded their speaking as the Holy Spirit carried them along. Their speaking became graphe [writing], that is, Scripture. Even so, the preaching of Peter and the other apostles became Scripture. For this parallel between the inspired truthfulness of the prophets and the same of the apostles in this context see 2:1.

3. Paul’s argument in 2 Timothy 3:10-17 sets forth the same parallel. He reminds Timothy of “my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith” etc. as something that marked him off from the false teachers (13) and demonstrated that he had “kept the faith” (4:7). Timothy, therefore, was to continue in what he had learned because he had learned it from Paul himself (14) as well as from the “sacred writings.” Inspired Scripture includes the witness of Paul.

D. The necessity of paying heed.

1. Scripture, including this apostolic message about Christ, is a “lamp shining in a dark place.” The world is dark and ignorant. The knowledge of God is repressed because men love darkness rather than light (John 3:19, 20). The Scripture, opening minds and hearts to the redemptive glory of Christ as the image of the invisible God, in the light “shining in a dark place.”

2. We are to give heed to Scripture until the “day dawns,” until Christ himself returns. “The day” is the day of Christ. This word will be our light until the day of Christ comes in the fullness of his light. “He who began the good work in you will bring it to completion unto the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6). In 2 Timothy 1:12, Paul expressed confidence that the deposit he had received from God would be preserved by God until the return of Christ, “that day.”

3. The morning star rises in your hearts – our complete conformity to Christ. In Revelation 2:28 Jesus refers to giving the faithful “the morning star,” that is, the glorious prize of his appearing for the fulfilled redemption. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus called himself “the bright morning star.” John wrote in 1 John 3:2, “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

IV. Application

A. Do you expect to grow in spiritual supplies apart from a heart-felt love for the Word?

B. Do you expect to grow in spiritual supplies apart from attention to the Word of God in preaching?

C. Do you expect to grow in spiritual supplies apart from your personal attention to the Word?

D. Do you expect to understand the word of God if you do not see Christ as its fulfillment and the one who not only has fulfilled Scripture but the one who will be the fulfillment of all of history when he returns in the grace of transforming glory and the wrath of the righteous judge?


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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