Jesus had invited only three people to climb the mountain with him, to witness the transformation of God’s shekinah glory emanating from within him, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, and to hear God the Father affirm God the Son. Peter and John now preached the gospel wherever they went, and the power of their testimony rested upon all they had seen and heard with Jesus—including his transfiguration.
Peter rightly recognized that what he now wrote was by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, anchored in the scripture Jesus had taught them (particularly after his resurrection), and in what he had witnessed as a disciple of Jesus Messiah.
Efficacy of True Prophecy
For this reason, Peter wrote,
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed.
You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
First of all, you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.2 Peter 1:19-21 (NRSV)
Peter’s letter would conclude with powerful prophecy, but for now, Peter was reminding his readers of the sacredness of scripture, and the supernatural efficacy of true prophetic utterance.
Thousands of biblical prophecies have already been fulfilled—over twenty predictions from the Hebrew scriptures alone were fulfilled within one twenty-four-hour period at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Fulfilled prophecies authenticate the many more prophecies still waiting to be fulfilled in scripture, as well as authenticate the teaching given by those who prophesied.
Almost all prophecies had meaning and weight for their original hearers because they would be partially fulfilled in their own day as a sign of their complete fulfillment in a day still to come.
Fulfilled prophecy proves that the God of the Bible is really God, and that God is the One True God
1. Only God is omniscient: Even the most causal search through the Hebrew scriptures brings up dozens of passages attesting God’s knowledge of all things, whether secret or hidden, whether past or future. There is nothing outside the scope of what God sees and knows.
2. Only God is omnipotent: God has proven time and again in the events of human history, the Lord is able to make what God says will happen, actually happen. The only way prophecy can be fulfilled is if the God Who reveals future events is also the God Who governs history to see that things come to pass as the Lord ordained.
3. Only God is truly sovereign: God’s will prevails even through the caprices of human free will.
True prophecy is speaking God’s message under the influence of the Holy Spirit – speaking the mind and counsel of God past, present, and future, as Peter wrote: For prophecy never had its origin in the will of a person, but men and women spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
This is exactly what Moses was addressing at the end of his life, when he gave his last discourse to the people before entering the land.
You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has -not- spoken?”
If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.Moses to the people, Deuteronomy 18:21-22
Penalty for False Prophets
Famous seers and soothsayers have entranced the world from time to time, with eerily accurate predictions that come true—Nostradamus comes to mind, but so do a number of other authors and mentalists. Watching the signs of the times and having good intuition can explain some of that phenomenon. But for the protection of the people—because fulfilled prophecy authenticates the rest of the message—God instituted a harsh penalty for certain false prophets.
There are, it seems, prophets who rightly foretell the future, but with that credibility they next teach against God. That was an eye-opener for me. So, false prophets come in two colors, so to speak.
- False prophets who make inaccurate predictions have clearly not received a word from God and they can be ignored. No need to be frightened. And, since they have effectively discredited themselves, no need to take further action.
- False prophets who make accurate predictions, on the other hand, and use their notoriety to then lead people away from God have also not received a word from God. But they must pay a heavy price. The penalty is death.
Fulfillment of Prophecy
Fulfilled prophecy acts as proof that the scriptures are God’s word, because the accurate forecast of a future event must ultimately come from God, Who is the creator and sustainer of everything.
Prophecies that have come through the word of God often have a layered fulfillment that follows God’s cosmic timetable. A single prophecy may be fulfilled in two (or more) different ways at different times.
One example might be Jesus’ prophecy found in Matthew’s Gospel,
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
. . . So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.Jesus, Matthew 24:6-8, 15-16 (NRSV)
In fact, during the disciples’ lifetime this was an accurate description of what was going on in the Roman empire. There were wars in every quarter, uprisings that the Roman legions had to constantly put down. The Middle East is earthquake country, and they had a few bad ones during that time—not to mention the several severe temblors surrounding the days of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
When the Roman armies circled Jerusalem in 70 AD there was famine for five months. When Titus and his soldiers entered the temple, the Holy of Holies, to loot it, they were an abomination that brought desolation. And when the Roman siege began, believers accurately sensed this was what Jesus had warned about, and they wisely took the Lord’s counsel to flee to the surrounding hillside before the Roman net locked Jerusalem down.
Many, however, see that near-term fulfillment two thousand years ago as a harbinger for a still-future-to-us fulfillment to come, at the end of time, right before the ushering in of the new heavens and the new earth.
Keep that in mind as we head further into Peter’s second letter.
True Prophecy’s Authentication of Godly Teaching
As strong as an eyewitness account may be, there was an even stronger reason for believing Peter’s and the apostles’ teaching.
The picture Peter depicted, of being swept up in the Spirit, was of a ship raising its sails into the wind and going in the direction the wind blows.
- Naysayers claimed Christian doctrine was based on myths and fables. But Peter explained that the apostles’ teaching was based upon his and others’ eyewitness testimony and personal experience with the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Naysayers claimed prophecy originated in the prophets’ own imagination, ingenuity, intuition, and plain good luck. But Peter explained that godly prophecy originated with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Prophets—and notably Peter—did not write their private opinions, they wrote what they were given by the Spirit of God.
Fulfilled Prophecy as Testimony to Christ
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.God concerning Messiah, Deuteronomy 18:18-19 (NRSV)
Fulfillment of prophecy is more than a prediction coming true, it is God’s word coming alive, two dimensional words becoming three dimensional reality.
An EDSITEment-reconstructed Greek fleet of galleys based on sources from The Perseus Project. | By EDSITEment, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4763342%5D