2 Peter 1:16-21 by Robert Dean
What is TRUTH and how do we know it? Listen to this lesson to learn about lower case and upper case truth. Find out three human viewpoint systems of knowledge and how all of them involve faith in human ability. See that only divine revelation reveals TRUTH. See the contrast between mythology and revelation. Be challenged to make certain you are not deceived by myths, fables, or fantasies in our culture so you can continue to mature spiritually.
Series:2 Peter (2019)
Duration:1 hr 10 mins 52 secs

THE TRUTH vs. Myth, Fable, Fantasy
2 Peter 1:16–21
2 Peter Lesson #030
February 6, 2020

Opening Prayer

“Our Father, it is a tremendous privilege we have to serve You, a tremendous privilege we have to enjoy our relationship with You, to walk with You, to walk in the Light, to walk in the Word, to learn the Word, to be here whenever we can in order to take in Your Word, to learn it, to understand it, assimilate it into our thinking, let it challenge us and transform us so that we can come to be everything that You would like us to be in terms of our spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. And that we can develop all of the different assets that You have provided for us in our spiritual life.

“Father, we pray for each one here. We pray for those in this congregation, those whose lives we impact. We pray that God the Holy Spirit would use our lives and our testimonies as a challenge to people to follow the truth of Your Word. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”

Slide 1

Open your Bibles with me to 2 Peter 1. We’re coming toward the end of this great chapter. One of the things that we should recognize—I think all of you know this, but it needs to be said—is that there were no chapter divisions in the original; there were no verse divisions. As we come to the last three verses in what we see as chapter 1, it smoothly flows into the central message of the Epistle, which is to beware of false teachers. This is going to be a major focus in the next chapter dealing with the false teachers and their impact on the congregation. At that time, false teaching was yet future. By the time Jude wrote, which is a parallel Epistle, they have arrived.

They’re still here. They haven’t gone anywhere. If you doubt it, go home, turn on your television, look and see some of the programs that are on. Just about 95–98% of them are communicating heresy and false doctrine. Some of them do get the gospel right, but after that it’s all wrong. They influence so many people; they influence everybody negatively because they’re not teaching the truth.

They influence some people negatively because they are just teaching lies, they’re teaching heresy, they’re teaching things that aren’t biblically true. They influence others negatively because they’re just a turnoff. People look at that and just see them as hucksters, as those who are trying to make a fast buck off of peoples’ religious lives. It’s just a tragedy, and they are a blemish on the body of Christ.

We need to also be aware because there are many out there that you know, that I know, that have been with us and part of us and have gone out. They have been deceived by false teaching. Some are pastors, some are those who have been believers for many years and then for one reason or another they get distracted and they go into some sort of false teaching. They get caught up in a lot of very strange doctrines that are prohibited in Scripture, arguing about many different things that are actually identified and listed by Paul in his epistles to Peter.

Slide 2

We need to focus on the truth. That’s what we come to as we get into our study here. Some review in order to set the stage here a little more for what’s happening in the last three verses in 2 Peter. I’ve titled the lesson THE TRUTH—uppercase with the definite article in English. THE TRUTH. It’s not a truth; it’s not simply truth; it is THE TRUTH as it’s communicated in the Scripture. We’ll see why I emphasize that, but there is only one TRUTH and that is God’s TRUTH.

God is Truth Himself. He embodies Truth. Truth is what God thinks; Truth is that which God created and designed. When we align to the Truth, we align to reality. Anything that is not aligned to God’s thinking, not aligned to THE TRUTH is living in some sort of fantasy world. That’s why I’ve entitled this THE TRUTH vs. Myth, Fable, Fantasy.

There are a lot of people out there who are living to one degree or another so divorced from reality in myths that have been made up, in their own little fantasy world, living on various fables. Some of these have managed to be systematized into cults, into various religious sects. We have some significant leaders in the Senate who are completely deceived by false teaching and by error and by the fables of Joseph Smith. How in the world we can trust somebody walking in such self-deception, I don’t know. Whether they agree with us a lot or not, they’re still deceived by what they are following.

Slide 3

In 2 Peter 1:12, Peter states as he’s moving towards this conclusion based on what he has said about how the believer grows on the basis of all the assets that God has given us going back to 2 Peter 1:3–5, where he talks about our spiritual growth coming [2 Peter 1:3] “… through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” This is then related to His promises. Promises are words. Promises are communicated through the verbal revelation of God and the written revelation of God. He communicates through words that specify the content. Isn’t that interesting? It’s not ideas.

You will often run into people who say, “Well, the Bible has ideas that are inspired by God.” The Bible doesn’t say that. The Bible says the words are breathed out by God, not the ideas. The words communicate ideas, but if you just change the word a little bit, you change the ideas. It is very important to understand that God in His sovereignty oversaw the process of revelation so that the words that were in the original documents are the words that precisely communicate what He wants for us.

In 2 Peter 1:12, Paul says “For this reason, I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things.” These things go back to what he has said from 2 Peter 1:3–11. It probably includes even more. It may include what he says in the previous Epistle, but contextually it would be from verses 3–11.

2 Peter 1:12 “For this reason, I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.” I have translated this as you see on the slide “even though you have known them.” It emphasizes a perfect tense, completed action in past time. It’s emphasizing the present results, so it is legitimate to translate it “even though you know them”, but it’s not a present tense.

It’s “you know it now, as a result of completed past action.” “You have been made stable in the past so that you now are stable, and it is by means of THE TRUTH.” The article is there in English; the definite article is there specifying specific Truth, that the Word of God is THE TRUTH. It’s not a truth. It is THE TRUTH and so he’s emphasizing the present TRUTH which is that TRUTH which is related to this dispensation, to this Church Age—this present body of doctrine that they have learned and that they’ve been taught.

Slide 4

In order to do any kind of comparison where we’re talking about truth, the question that comes up is the question that Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” What IS truth? How do you know truth? That is a fundamental question: How do we know truth? Knowing something has to do with perception. That’s another way of talking about it—methods of perception.

It’s not a contrast, as some people have stated it, where it’s a contrast between faith vs. knowledge, faith vs. experience because all of the systems of knowledge, all of the systems of perception are really grounded in faith.

I break this down in two categories. The lower category is the absolute category of divine viewpoint. The upper box is our autonomous or independent systems of perception. Independent means independent of God’s revelation. This is knowledge that is developed without reference to God’s revelation, without an acceptance of God’s authority over His creation to design His creation a certain way. It doesn’t mean that you can’t come to know lowercase truth to some degree. You can perceive things such as a water molecule is made up of two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms. You combine that together, and you have H2O and that’s water.

You can come up with conclusions about mathematics—everything from the simple arithmetic 2+2 = 4 to complex quadratic equations and calculus and trigonometry and geometry, much of which was known by the ancients.

When we recently went to Egypt and went to the pyramids we saw the precision of their architecture and of their construction according to very rigid geometrical, trigonometrical principles and laws which is phenomenal. I’ve heard it said many times over the years that we don’t know how they did it with the instruments that they had.

You can learn lowercase truth, but you can’t learn uppercase TRUTH. TRUTH is what helps us to organize the lowercase truth because it’s not just facts. You don’t have just a whole body of just loose facts floating around.

I think Charlie Clough uses the illustration of a string of pearls. If you take the string out, all you’re left with is a bunch of pearls that just kind of roll around on the tabletop. You need to have something that pulls them all together, strings them together so that they are in a beautiful design. That is when you go from just facts, individual pearls, to an overall worldview, and that is when you start getting to, if it’s biblical, to TRUTH.

We have three things we talk about here. The system of knowledge, a system of perception. How do you know what you know? Its starting point and the method—how do you get there? There are three systems.

  1. Rationalism which, as it sounds, emphasizes reason. The starting point is the idea that man has certain innate ideas—first principles that he innately perceives, and then he develops everything from that. It is a belief, a belief that man is born with these innate ideas and that he has the ability using logic and reason to move from everyday principles to universal absolutes. That method uses logic, uses reason. It’s in favor of rationality. It is rigorously rational when it is developed by men like Plato in the ancient world, Descartes and others in the Post-Enlightenment period.
  2.  Then you have empiricism. Empiricism often just expresses experience, because we perceive things through our senses, through what we see, what we hear, what we taste, what we touch, what we smell. These are our sense perceptions. The idea that we’re born not with innate ideas, but with a blank slate. The Latin phrase was a tabula rasa or an erased tablet as it were. Again, it uses logic and reason in a rigorous fashion to come to conclusions.

However, historically, both in the ancient world and in the Post-Reformation/Post-Enlightenment period, rationalism and empiricism go bankrupt because you’re starting with something within God’s finite creation and attempting to argue to something that is outside of God’s finite creation. You can’t do it. You can’t make that leap.

If you’re trying to find meaning in life, reason will leave you bankrupt. Historically, reason is always attempted first and then it goes bankrupt and then you look to empiricism and that goes bankrupt. Then you just throw up your hands and say, “You can’t know truth; you can’t know anything.”

That’s called skepticism. You can’t really know anything for sure. I can’t know if God exists; I can’t know if the universe really exists. As Descartes would say, “I can’t even know that people outside of my brain exist.” How do I know truth? How do I know anything? If reason is bankrupt, empiricism is bankrupt, then you can’t live like that. You can’t live on skepticism, you can’t live on hopelessness, you can’t live as if life is meaningless. If you try, you’ll end up committing suicide.

  1. The only thing you can do is latch on to something that you think will give your life meaning. It may be drugs, it may be money, it may be success, but it’s on some detail of life. When you get into this detail of life, it’s not based on reason; you’re just leaping for it, you’re grasping after it. This is called mysticism. It is a form of rationalism, but it’s rationalism gone to seed because instead of using reason and logic, it is irrational. You have an inner private experience. You just know it’s true because it’s true, and the emphasis is on human ability.

Again, in each of these, faith in human ability, but in mysticism, you have a nonrational, non-verifiable presupposition. You just believe it because that’s the only way you can make life work, and the alternative is just darkness and depression and despair.

You have this irrational leap, and that’s counterpart to an emphasis on emotion. That’s what we see today, all around us are people who have rejected everything up here. They have mostly rejected the revelation of God. They can’t find answers in reason; they can’t find answers in empiricism, so they have to live on the basis of mysticism.

Mysticism is just pure subjectivity. There’s nothing objectively real that they can depend on, so they just depend on some sort of irrational belief and that’s a fantasy. Historically then you generate idols, you generate philosophical, religious systems that you think will give you meaning and value.

When you reject rationalism and empiricism, it always leads to irrationality. Just look around, watch, observe what’s going on in our culture. I have a friend who’s a lawyer, and he tells me that when they do these special studies with juries where they have observed jurors, they do various things in terms of mock trials, and also then listening to them in the jury room and listening to how they reach verdicts, he said it’s just flat scary. No one can follow a logic chain, nobody that’s on these juries can follow a syllogism of basically three points to be able to develop a conclusion that is consistent with the evidence. They have no idea. It’s all just gut reaction.

It’s all just emotion because we’ve got a culture that is grounded not in truth anymore, but in many truths. Whatever people believe in, that’s true. If it works for you, that’s great, and so it’s just pure irrationality. That’s good if you’re a criminal, and you can somehow make it look good so that you can pull the wool over people’s eyes or your lawyer can, but you can’t get to people who really understand and can think through the facts and the data.

That has a lot of implications. It has implications for any communicator, has implications for anybody who is a pastor trying to communicate the Word of God. Thank God we have the Holy Spirit working on people to make it clear to them, otherwise it would be absolutely hopeless.

But we have God the Holy Spirit, and we have the perspicacity of God’s Word that is used to open up people’s minds despite the failures of education, the failures of school systems, the failures of parents to provide and train and teach children the truth and how to think and how to reason.

We have to learn to trust in the Word of God over against whatever the feelings may be, whatever the subjectivity may be. Everybody in our culture seems to be running over a cliff together, running to destroy themselves in irrationality. We can believe in the objective revelation of God, knowing that there is order, that there is purpose, that God cares for us, God has provided redemption, God has told us how to understand reality. All of that is there.

It doesn’t reject logic and reason, but it doesn’t elevate logic and reason as rationalism and empiricism do to an ultimate position. Logic and reason must be minimized to serve the revelation of God and not submit the revelation of God to our limited experience or limited reason.

Slide 5

Peter tells them that he’s going to repeat these things to them. He is going to write it down so that they can read it over and over again in the future and be reminded of these eternal truths again and again. That has been a great thing through the ages what has been written and what has been preserved that carry on a man’s spiritual leadership and teaching far beyond the limitations of his own life.

Peter says you need to go over this again and again, be reminded again and again. Even when you think you know it all, there’s always more to learn because we’re dealing with the Word of an infinite God. You never get to a point where you should say, “I really understand this.” You just don’t; it doesn’t happen. You keep studying, you keep studying, you keep probing the Word. That’s what is necessary in order to grow. The Bible sets itself against every human culture in history by arguing that It is the source of absolute truth. Again and again we have this claim of absolute truth.

Slide 6

When we find the noun for truth in the New Testament, It’s the word ALETHEIA, and it’s usually with the article. In Greek, you don’t talk about the definite article because there’s no indefinite article, so you just talk about the article.

John 8:32, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” This is a much-abused passage. Both places use the definite article. It is talking about the Word of God. That is what sets us free from what enslaves us. What enslaves us is our sin nature. What enslaves us are our passions, our sinful passions. We have to know the truth of God’s Word. It starts with the gospel—the gospel of truth which tells us who Jesus is as the eternal Son of God. What He did, that He came to earth and died on the Cross for our sins. When we understand that, it first of all sets us free from the tyranny of the sin nature.

Then secondly, as we continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, it sets us free from ongoing dominion of the sin nature where we willingly put ourselves back under the control of the sin nature, giving in to its lusts and giving in to its desires. The only way we can have real freedom is to know the Word and let the Word of God change us from the inside out.

Slide 7

In John 14:17 and John 15:26, we’re told in reference to the Holy Spirit that He is the Spirit of Truth. As we’ll see in our study, the Holy Spirit is the One who is the Member of the Trinity, who is the Agent of inspiration. We see that in our passage 2 Peter 1:21, “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” He is the Spirit of Truth. He is the One who communicates truth, He is the One who oversaw inspiration to make sure that what the writers recorded was absolute truth, and then He oversees the preservation of that truth.

Jesus told the disciples in John 14:17, “The Spirit of THE TRUTH, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 15:26 talking about the Holy Spirit, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of THE TRUTH who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”

I got an interesting question this last week. Somebody was reading this and looked at the word in English “helper” and connected that with what I’ve taught about ezer in Genesis 2:18, that the woman would be the helper for Adam. Different word. There’s a different Greek word used to translate ezer consistently through the Old Testament. It is not PARAKLETOS. This has the idea of encouragement, one who strengthens, one who enables in that sense, empowers in that sense. Sometimes it’s translated “the comforter”, sometimes it’s translated “helper”, sometimes it’s translated “encourager.” All of those ideas are part of that Greek word PARAKLETOS. This is not in the same word group or semantic range as ezer in the Old Testament.

Slide 8

John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of THE TRUTH has come, He will guide you …” Here Jesus isn’t talking to us through the disciples. He’s talking only to the disciples. You’ll run into people who will say “Well, the Holy Spirit is guiding me into all truth.” Your response needs to be “No, He’s not.” That’s not what that passage is talking about.

Jesus is telling His disciples who will write Scripture and who will pass on the stories about Jesus and what He did and who He is. The Holy Spirit is going to empower them to do that, especially those who will write Scripture—Peter, John, and James, the brother of John, not the writer of the Epistle. He will enable them to write the Scripture.

We’re told in John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of THE TRUTH has come, He will guide you into all THE TRUTH, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak.” Who does the Holy Spirit hear it from? From the Father. He is the ultimate originator of revelation. “Whatever He hears” showing that the Holy Spirit is submitted to the authority of the Father. “Whatever he hears He will speak, and He will tell you things to come.” That’s interesting because the fulfillment of prophecy is one of the things that confirms Scripture. It isn’t that which is the ultimate authority, but when God works in human history, He always gives confirmatory evidence of what He is doing.

Slide 9

John 17:17 and John 17:19 are very important verses. In Jesus’ prayer to the Father, He says “sanctify them” or set them apart or build their spiritual life. “By Your” is in there, but I added “the” to make sure we understand it’s a definite noun here. “Your” should take the place of being good English, but we want to make this point.

Sanctify them by Your THE TRUTH. Your word is TRUTH.” Now that’s interesting that the second use of TRUTH here doesn’t have the article with it, and what that’s doing is it’s assuming you already understand what THE TRUTH refers to. Here it is by the lack of the article emphasizing the quality of THE TRUTH.

The same is true in John 17:19, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by means of TRUTH.” It is God’s Word that sanctifies us. It’s not what we sing. It’s not what we experience. It’s not going to some religious retreat. It’s not going through some discipline of prayer, where you walk through some sort of mystical labyrinth, which is very popular in some of the more liberal churches today. They’re just looking to monasticism for their practices because they’ve given up on the Bible and they’re looking to pagan methodologies. Asceticism is not a path to spirituality. It is a path to spiritual depravity.

Slide 10

2 Peter 1:13. Paul goes on to say, “Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible says, “to wake you up.” That’s the idea. Scripture is designed to do something. Scripture isn’t just learning a lot of facts. Scripture is getting God’s revelation to challenge us, to make us uncomfortable, to teach us how we are to live.

John Dunn, who is a well-known 17th century poet and had a Puritan background, said that what we go to the Bible to do is like we go to our closet to find something to put on. I thought, “That’s interesting.” How many times in Scripture does it say to put off something and to put on something? We are to clothe ourselves with the spiritual virtues, with the fruit of the Spirit, with the Word of God.

That’s the idea. We are to be stirred up, we’re motivated to be transformed by the Word of God. We come to be challenged by the Word of God, to change how we think, so that it will change how we live. We resist change, but that’s why we come. There are a lot of churches where they don’t teach the Word in very much depth. One of the reasons they have so many people there is they don’t want to change, and they are not taught anything that challenges them to transform their lives, transform their thinking or change.

Slide 11

Peter goes on to say in 2 Peter 1:14, “knowing that shortly l must put off my tent.” That is his physical body. He knows that very, very soon, he will be taken to be with the Lord.

Slide 12

This is a fulfillment of the prophecies we saw last time in John 21:18–19.

Slides 13 and 14

He concludes that little section by saying, 2 Peter 1:15, “Moreover, I will be careful—I’ll be diligent—to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.” I think that’s a reference to what he is writing.

Slide 15

Then we come to 2 Peter 1:16–18. This is where he contrasts the truth that they’re established in with the mythology, the fantasies, the legends of the surrounding pagan culture. He says 2 Peter 1:16, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables—or myths—when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his Majesty.”

What he’s referring to there, as I pointed out the last time and what he develops in the next two verses, is he’s referencing when Christ is transfigured on what we refer to as the Mount of Transfiguration, revealing His deity, His glory, and revealing who He is as the coming King and Messiah in all of His Kingdom glory. They had a foretaste of that covered in Matthew 17.

In 2 Peter 1:17–18 he goes on to say, “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory:—an allusion to and a title for God the Father who said—‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

What Peter starts off with is telling about what they heard, what they saw. In 1 John 1:1–3, John talks about what they heard, what they saw, what they felt as they touched Jesus. This is their experience. But the experience confirms something that is prior to experience and that’s the revelation of God. That’s where this goes when we get down in 2 Peter 1:19.

Slide 16

We look at 2 Peter 1:16, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables.” That’s the contrast. Are you living your life on the basis of a fantasy, or are you living your life on the basis of secular myths, or are you living your life on the basis of pseudo-Christian myths? That’s the challenge here, because Satan has been adept at disguising the truth to deceive people so that they will not follow God, blinding their minds to the truth. Peter is saying that what he is teaching is THE TRUTH.

Slide 17

It raises the question how do we know it is true? This passage gives them in reverse.

  1. The priority is because it is the revealed prophetic Word of God. This is seen in 2 Peter 1:19, and so we have the prophetic word confirmed.
  2. It’s confirmed by what? It is confirmed through what they saw and what they heard. Experience confirms what the Word of God has said; it is not prior to the Word of God.

Slide 18

What we see raised here is this issue of mythology. I’ve created a little bit of a chart here to give you a contrast, but before we get into developing the chart, one thing I want to talk about is what is mythology and the impact of mythology. You can pick up any number of commentaries, especially on the Old Testament, but there are those on the New Testament as well, that try to minimize the miracles of Jesus, the power of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and say that these are just religious myths.

According to classical study of mythology, a myth is a way of explaining reality with a supernatural explanation that cannot be proven. By “proven” in that definition, we mean they can’t be confirmed. The interesting thing is whenever God speaks in the Scripture, whenever God acted, there was always confirmatory evidence.

One of the ways in which this mythology thing works, and if you are a student of Old Testament theology as it has been practiced the last 200 or 300 years, this is pretty typical of the kind of thing you’ll run into.

In the Bible in Genesis 32, we have the story of Laban and Jacob. Jacob had to flee from his parents’ home because he had deceived his father Isaac, and he had taken the birthright from his brother, Esau. Esau was breathing threats of murder, so Rebecca helped Jacob get out of town as fast as he could so that he would not be murdered by his brother. He goes and he spends approximately 20 years working for his uncle Laban, who is just as much of a deceiver and a con man as Jacob is. Jacob learns a lot of lessons in the good sense there.

On his way back to the land after he leaves with his herds and with his flocks, he’s coming down the east side of the Jordan in what is now Jordan, he’s crossing the Jabbok River in Genesis 32. He’s got to cross the river, and he apparently seems to have a difficult time according to this way of interpretation.

But finally he’s able to cross the river and has a new insight into God. Of course, this is a story that eventually relates to his wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, and this is when he meets God face-to-face and names the place Peniel.

Because critics reject inspiration, they reject the authority of God, and their presupposition is that they just borrowed from mythology. Critics will say that in Canaanite mythology, there is a river god, so what happens is that Jacob has to fight the river god. In their mythology, the river god either decides for you to live or to die. If you lived, you’re blessed by the gods.

They say, see what happens is they have this story about Jacob’s trouble getting across the river. They want to explain that in some supernatural way, and they end up cleaning the whole story up and getting rid of the multiple gods and just having one god and claiming that it’s the one god who is the one that Jacob met there before he crossed the river. Problem is there’s no place in Canaanite literature where you can find such a story. Scholars just make this stuff up.

You get over into Isaiah 14, it talks about the fall of Satan, or Ezekiel 28, and there scholars try to argue that these stories also are based on Canaanite myths. The trouble is there’s no such myth that you can trace either one of those stories to, so they just make this up. It’s so deceptive.

You can pick up almost any study Bible, and you will find that in either Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28, or both, you’ll find a footnote in the study notes that this is probably based on a myth to depict the challenge with God, something like that, but there’s no evidence for that whatsoever.

This just shows how the liberal theology of the critics is infiltrated into evangelicalism. They have a word for this—they call it factitious. Don’t you love it? Factitious: Part of it is factual, part of it is fictitious. It’s just a story designed to communicate some universal truth, but it’s not to be taken seriously. This has been especially dominant among German liberals. I just hated studying this stuff when I was in seminary because you’re not getting the truth, but you’re trying to learn what the false teaching is that comes about.

Since we’re studying false teaching, one of the things that comes along is what’s called historical criticism. There was an Old Testament scholar in the mid-20th century who was pretty fed up with this, and he wrote quite a bit on Old Testament theology. In one of his works that was translated into English, it was badly translated and he’s making a comment about one of these episodes. It wasn’t the one with Jacob, but like that, and he’s translated as saying this is not history—it really happened.

Now that’s a bad translation by somebody who didn’t understand the nuances of the German. In German you have two different words for “history”. There is the word historie and that refers to the actual events that occurred in the past. There is another word geschichte, which refers to stories. They didn’t actually happen.

What has happened in the study of Old Testament theology is that most Old Testament scholars of the liberal variety put all of these episodes in the realm of geschichte and not historie. It’s just stories, and von Rad was going against that. He said this was real history, meaning it really happened. He was trying to go against them, but the translator got the whole episode all messed up.

You will always run into people who will say that the Bible is just filled with mythology. If you spend a lot of time watching the Discovery Channel or the History Channel or any of these series—the mysteries of the Bible or stuff like that—then you’ll get really confused because of the garbage that they bring up. They always end up making the Bible into some kind of mythology.

Slide 18

With that as sort of a background, let’s look at the contrast between revelation as it’s taught in the Bible and mythology. First of all, revelation. Revelation originates from the one true living God. He is the One who spoke everything into existence, and He is the One who oversees, maintains, and sustains His creation. There is nothing that any creature can do to destroy God’s creation. I mean he can mess up parts of it to some degree, but God is the One who takes care of everything, so we can trust Him.

We don’t have to worry about any kind of climate change. There will be some serious climate change when we get into the Tribulation, but it’s all under the control of the sovereign God. We have to understand and trust God and not get caught up that somehow we can throw a lot of money at a problem that doesn’t exist. Climate change is nothing more than a socialistic program to move money from the wealthy nations to those who don’t have anything. It is evil to the max.

What we see in this passage is Peter talks about when they were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration that they heard a voice from Heaven. In Deuteronomy 4, you read down and what Moses reminds them of is that they heard the words, the voice of God at Mount Sinai. It wasn’t just that Moses went up on the mountain, wasn’t just that Moses went up and is gone for 40 days and comes back and goes “Okay, I’ve got 10 rules. We’re all going to follow that.” “Why should we follow your laws? Hammurabi’s got a bunch of laws. Others have a lot of laws. Why yours?”

Moses responds basically and says, “You heard the voice of God.” It wasn’t that they heard the thunder—that’s later. They heard the words of God. He goes back to the fact that there’s revelation, that which is given to him on Mount Sinai, but it’s confirmed by what they heard. They knew it was an objective revelation of God. If they had had their digital recorders there, they could have recorded the voice of God. The voice of Heaven tells us that revelation comes from outside of creation. It comes from the Creator God who dwells in Heaven.

The second thing we learn in this passage in 2 Peter 1:21 is it’s not from the will of man. Man has not originated this. These disciples were not a bunch of super geniuses who could get together and make up the kind of events that transpired in the life of Christ. You don’t have the intricacies of Messianic prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus. Nobody could come up with that on their own.

If any human being were to sit down and try to write the Scriptures—people have tried to rewrite the Scriptures—it would be much different than what we have. Most of us here, if we’re honest, would say there are a lot of sections in here I just wouldn’t include because I just don’t understand. They’re difficult to understand. Other places, they just need more explanation. Then there are other places in the Bible that, well, it really strains our faith and our credulity to believe that a serpent could talk or that a man can walk on the water, so most people wouldn’t put things like that in it. You don’t have that in other kinds of religions.

Then in 2 Peter 1:21, he talks about these men who “were moved by the Holy Spirit.” It didn’t come from them. It came from God, who moved them by the Holy Spirit.

A second thing that comes out in this section is what’s referred to in 2 Peter 1:19, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place.” We live in darkness, but it is God’s Word that illuminates, it reveals. That’s what APOKALUPTO means, the word that is translated revelation. It means to disclose, unveil, enlighten. [2 Peter 1:19], “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place.” It is objective light. It doesn’t come from inside of us. It originates externally and then enlightens that which is in our minds.

Third, there is confirmatory evidence which conforms to revelation. Revelation doesn’t conform to the external evidence; it is the evidence that confirms and conforms to revelation. This is in 2 Peter 1:17–18 where we have, as I pointed out last time, the phrase “This is My beloved Son” which is a direct allusion back to Psalm 2:7, where God the Father announces that Jesus is His begotten Son, the Messiah—“You are My Son.” This fits these patterns.

The fourth thing that distinguishes biblical revelation from myth is that myth is cyclical, but biblical revelation is linear. What that means is that history is going somewhere. There is a future. There is an eschatology in the Bible talking about what will happen in the future. We think of eschatology as what will happen in our future, but when God was teaching Adam and his sons and grandsons all the way down to Enoch down to Noah, everything He said was eschatology. It was all future, and the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament were all future. Many of them have already been fulfilled, but we have this future, everything is driving to a future. That means history will resolve itself.

You have some aberrations that stole this idea from Christianity, such as Marxism, but Christianity teaches a history that is linear. That’s why history is important. History is going somewhere. We have to be students of history. History as they say is “His story”. It’s God’s story, so it’s linear.

Let’s look and contrast this with myth. Mythology only works with polytheism. In contrast, revelation is from the one true, living God. Mythology always involves multiple gods and goddesses because they are the ones who interact with each other, and they cause things to happen on the earth, or they replicate things that are happening on the earth. In all mythology, there is an interplay between the gods of the pantheon.

There’s no such polytheism in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t fit the pattern. This always discourages certain scholars because they see that difference, but they can’t explain it because their presupposition is the Bible is not any different from any other mythology.

Second thing about mythology is that it is filled with irrational concepts like the idea of a true myth. That’s an oxymoron. There’s no such thing as a true myth. A myth by definition cannot be proved true or not true. It’s just an irrational belief. The use of terms like factitious, getting people to believe things that are contradictory and destructive and irrational and living on that basis.

Third, its myths are polytheistic instead of monotheistic. They have multiple gods.

Then finally, history is cyclical. Greek mythology, all mythology is cyclical. You just have the same patterns going on and on. It explains the seasons, it explains the annual events, but it just goes on and on in an unending cycle. It’s not going anywhere.

What Peter is saying is that they (2 Peter 1:16) “… did not follow cunningly devised fables.” They didn’t follow myths. They were following something that was headed somewhere. It was headed to the Kingdom.

Remember when we look at Matthew 17, Jesus has just prior to this said that there were those in His presence who would see the Kingdom. Then six days later, he’s taking James and John and Peter with Him up on the mountain and there Jesus is transfigured in His glory. Then appear Elijah and Moses, and Peter jumps the gun and says, “I want to build tabernacles for you.” He is interrupted, and the Father says, “Well, just shut up and listen to My Son.”

There’s something else going on there. The reason he wants to build tabernacles is because when the Kingdom comes, that is the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, which takes place in the fall. The Feast of Tabernacles is designed to teach a couple of things.

First of all, the first six days everybody builds these little sukkot. It’s just like a lean-to. You can put a tent out in the yard or something like that, and you live there for six days. That’s to remind the Jews of what went on in the wilderness wanderings and to remind them of how difficult it was. Then on the last day, they can move into their house and live in the comforts of their house, and that is to depict what it will be like when they come into the Kingdom.

So, Peter building these tabernacles was legitimate. It was just that Peter had his timing wrong, it wasn’t the time to fulfill tabernacles at the time of the Transfiguration. It was just giving them a foretaste of what would happen in the future when the Kingdom was established. They see Jesus enshrouded in light and that has Messianic Kingdom overtones.

We’ll get into that as we further develop what’s going on at the end of 2 Peter 1:19 where it says “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” That is Kingdom imagery, so we’ll talk about that in just a minute.

Slide 19

Talking about truth versus myth. Just a couple of things to remind you about is that revelation may be confirmed by evidence. That is what we see, what we hear, what we touch, what we can measure. It’s confirmed; it is not on the basis of. Revelation is confirmed by evidence, and then secondly, experience or evidence is evaluated by revelation. Revelation is the ultimate criterion. Revelation is not evaluated or interpreted on the basis of experience. Always remember that: We interpret our experience from the Bible; we don’t interpret the Bible from our experience.

When you look at what is going on in about 90% of evangelicalism, they’re interpreting the Bible from their experience. Just go to some Sunday School class, and the Sunday School teacher is going to say, “Well, what did you think about that, how does that make you feel?” They’ll start getting you to think subjectively about the text instead of what it actually means, to interpret it on the basis of what you think without any study whatsoever.

The last point is that biblical truth is never in a vacuum. When God reveals something, there is always objective, verifiable evidence, eyewitness evidence, what you see/what you hear/what you touch that confirms what God has done.

Slide 20

Look at what Luke says the beginning of Acts. He addresses it to his friend Theophilus. He says [Acts 1:1–3], “The former account—that would be the Gospel of Luke—I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up—the ascension—after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen, to whom he also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs.”

There’s the resurrection that occurs, which is doubted by a lot of liberals today. [They believe] that Jesus was just some kind of a ghost; He was resurrected in the minds of His disciples. But Jesus gave them objective, verifiable proof confirming the reality of His resurrection. The message of Peter is not a fable or a myth. It is contrasted to that; it is based on confirmatory evidence: what they heard. They could have been deceived perhaps. Jesus goes up on the mountain; He is standing with the sun at His back. The disciples come up behind Him; they can’t see Him. They just see the sun behind Him, and it looks like some sort of glorious revelation.

Slide 21

You can explain it that way, but then how do you explain the voice of God, that they all heard the voice of God externally, objectively, saying, [2 Peter 1:17], “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The exact same thing He said at the baptism of Jesus.

Slide 22

In Matthew 17:1–2, we’re told “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” The symbolism there relates to the Kingdom because the Kingdom is often portrayed in the Old Testament as a time of light and not darkness. It is a time of the sun rising. It is the time of the morning star.

Slide 23

This is the imagery that we have here—the picture of Jesus at the beginning of Revelation 1:14, “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.

Slide 24

Jesus is there and “Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.”

Slide 25

Then Peter jumps the gun and wants to build these tabernacles. Of course, he gets shut down very rapidly because it’s not the time. They’re not establishing the Kingdom at that point, so his idea of developing the tabernacles is that he’s seeing this as the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles and that comes when Jesus establishes His Kingdom.

Slide 26

It’s interesting how the disciples were always confused about when He was going to establish the Kingdom. In Matthew 17:5, “While He was speaking, behold, a bright cloud—again, this emphasis on light and brightness—overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ ” Then in Matthew 3:17, this repeats what was said at the baptism of Jesus.

Slides 27–30

It goes back to Psalm 2:7, which we have studied.

Slide 31

Then in 2 Peter 1:18, “And we heard this voice—there is confirmatory evidence of what we saw and what we heard—which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

Slide 32

In 2 Peter 1:19, Peter says, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” This is a phraseology and language that was associated with the coming of the Kingdom. It looks forward to the Second Coming.

Slide 33

This language comes out of prophecies in the Old Testament. For example in Malachi 4:2, God says “But to you who fear My name The Sun—SUN not SON, and that reflects the Hebrew accurately—of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.” Talking about the prosperity of the Millennial Kingdom.

It is the Sun of Righteousness. He is going to illuminate the world, and like the sun, the rays go throughout the world and illuminate the entire world. It depicts this as a sunrise.

Slide 34

The idea of a star goes back to Balaam, the diviner, in Numbers 24:17 who utters a Messianic prophecy. “I see Him, but not now; I behold him, but not near;—He’s talking about the Messiah—A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter—that is a sign of being a ruler or king, or a dominion, a kingdom—shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.”

Luke 1:78. I have two translations there—the New King James Version and the Holman Christian Standard Bible. This is Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist speaking, and he’s reading the New King James. “Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us.” That’s an archaic word. It means the dawn. When the dawn occurs and the sun is coming up, what do you see? If you’re right at the beginning, you look towards the east and what is illuminated? Venus, the morning star.

This is a picture. We’re in darkness now, but when The Sun of Righteousness comes, when the Messiah comes to establish His Kingdom, then this is the illumination of the world.

This passage in 2 Peter 1:19, “… and the morning star rises in your hearts.” That phrase “in your hearts” seems rather subjective to all of us. There is an aspect of subjectivity there. It is a picture of the realization and comprehension of Christ coming in His Kingdom, something that only believers will recognize. They will recognize when the Kingdom is being established, and so this becomes clear to them in their hearts.

Remember the heart is often used as the seat of thinking, so it is not talking about something mystical. It’s talking about in your mind, in your thinking you will come to realize that the Kingdom has now arrived. At that time of writing and to this day, the Kingdom is not here.

You see this light imagery used in 2 Peter 1:19 that is common to various statements about the coming of the Messiah in the establishment of His Kingdom.

That brings us to 2 Peter 1:20, “… knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” This introduces the whole issue of the way and the means of divine inspiration and what that is, and we’ll come back to develop that when we come back next time.

Closing prayer

“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word, to reflect upon the significance of this passage and how we’re challenged by revelation to change, to be transformed, to live in light of Your Word and not in the darkness of the world, not to be ruled by the passions of our sin nature, but to be transformed, strengthened by God the Holy Spirit, where we are sanctified by means of Your Word.

“Father, we pray that you challenge us with these things. In Christ’s name, amen.”