There is simply so much to contemplate in these words from the Apostle and leader of Jesus’ Disciples, St. Peter, that I urge everyone to consider:
For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. — 2 Peter 1:16-21
What grabs me about this passage (which I have memorized because it is so powerful to me) is the eyewitness account from a disciple how had the unique opportunity to see “the Word of God” (see John 1:1-18 to see another close disciple of Christ literally call Jesus “the Word”) alive and in Incarnate in the flesh. Peter is zooming in on one experience related in the Gospels, when James, John and Peter himself saw Jesus transfigured into glory (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36). And Moses, representing the Law (see John 1:17 as an example), and Elijah, representing the Prophets (Malachi 4:5 cf. Matthew 17:11-13), were sent from heaven as a witness to this glorification of Jesus before these men’s very eyes.
It sends chills down my spine. And I have no doubt in my mind that it continued to send chills down Peter’s spine every single time he thought about that moment for the rest of his life until he himself was crucified as a martyr in testimony of his Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus, under Emperor Nero in 64 AD.
Listen to what this man who testified to his faith in his very own blood had to say: he was not making up a bunch of fables or fairy tales: he himself saw everything he writes about and he saw it in the company of other men who saw the same things alongside him. You keep seeing the witness verbs: “We saw.” “With our own eyes.” “We ourselves heard that voice.” “When we were with him.”
They saw it with their own eyes and they heard it with their own ears and they touched it with their own hands. St. John – another Apostle and Disciple of Christ who also personally witnessed and experienced the Transfiguration of Jesus with Peter, said the following:
We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. — 1 John 1:1-4
Again, St. John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, 13:25, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20), again and again pointed to what he had personally witnessed and experienced: “W proclaim to you the One … whom we have heard and seen.” “We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands.” “This One who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen Him.”
Everything that Jesus did and said was publicly witnessed, especially by His Disciples, who Jesus commissioned as His witnesses. They were there. They lived it. They saw it and heard it and touched it. John recorded that Thomas literally put his fingers in the holes that remained in Jesus’ wrists and ankles following His Resurrection (John 20:19-28).
It is a FACT of history that all of the Disciples of Jesus, save old John – who himself was tortured and suffered scrounging for existence as a slave-laborer in the mines of an island prison – sealed the truth of their testimony in their own blood. Why was it not John’s fate to die as a martyr? Maybe because he was the one that Jesus commissioned to take care of His mother, Mary, when he said the words, “Woman, behold your son.” And to “the disciple whom He loved” the words, “Behold your mother” (John 19:26-27). But it was ultimately St. John alone, the youngest of the Disciples during the public Ministry of Jesus on earth, who lived on as the final apostolic link to the unbreakable chain of the Testimony of the Church to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, from the dead, and of the New Life in Christ that was available to any who would call on the Name of the LORD Jesus so they could experience the Resurrection Life of Jesus for themselves.
We know that people can sincerely believe something that turns out not to be true. And yes, there are even people who would be willing to die for what turns out to be a lie. I submit that every Islamic terrorist who blows himself up so he can kill as many innocent people as possible, believing that he will go straight to Paradise and enjoy the carnal affections of seventy virgins, fall under this category.
I remember watching the theologically-liberal series, “From Jesus to Christ” on PBS. But even the theological-liberal New Testament scholars that the series heavily relied on all unanimously acknowledged “that his disciples really and with absolute conviction saw him again afterwards.” St. Peter continued to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead AS A FACT THAT HE HAD WITNESSED for more than thirty years until his own death. St. John continued to proclaim the FACT of the Resurrection THAT HE HAD PERSONALLY SEEN, HEARD AND TOUCHED for something on the order of seventy years after the Crucifixion of Jesus until his own death around 100 AD.
What makes the Disciples – who of course were also true martyrs who died as witnesses rather as than mass murderers who died killing innocent people – categorically different is the fact that they PERSONALLY saw and PERSONALLY experienced and PERSONALLY heard and PERSONALLY touched Jesus after His Resurrection from the dead. They PERSONALLY were there to experience all the key events FIRSTHAND.
They really, sincerely, with absolute conviction believed the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And my point is that there was absolutely NO POSSIBLE WAY they could have been mistaken.
Let me get back to the Transfiguration of Jesus, for example. Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him. They were all there to see the Transfiguration of Jesus and experience it for themselves. And afterward, they clearly would have been saying to one another, “Did you just see what I saw?” And “What did YOU see?” And they were easily able to verify that it had really, truly happened, that they were NOT having a hallucination, for the very simple reason that three people cannot have the same hallucination, the same exact departure from reality, at the same time. Three witnesses saw the same thing. They verified it to one another. It happened. It wasn’t just a “clever story.” It was real. Real enough to be willing to live for. Real enough to be willing to die for after having lived your entire life completely transformed by that they each saw with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, and touched with their own hands.
Twelve ordinary, uneducated men from a conquered backwater Roman province rocked the world with “what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what they beheld and their hands handled, concerning the Word of Life,” as John put it in the opening verse of his first epistle. Think also about the key early followers of Jesus: think of James the Just, the brother of Jesus. Not only had James not believed in Jesus or His ministry while it was popular to do so, but James had actually believed that Jesus was out of His mind. I just ask you: what would it take for you to believe that your brother was in fact GOD? I mean, just imagine being the parents: “Mom, my brother is saying He’s God again!” “Stop telling James you’re God, Jesus!” “But I Am that I Am!” “MOM!” Seriously: imagine what had to happen to bring James to his knees before Jesus: first of all, it required a post-Resurrection appearance, which Paul describes in what is very clearly an EARLY Christian creed found in 1 Corinthians 15 dated to within five years of the Resurrection by historians: “Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (vs. 7). James had to realize upon self-reflection how Jesus had lived His entire life in moral perfection. And James believed that his half-brother (James’ father was Joseph; Jesus’ Father was God) truly was God Incarnate. And he believed. James became the leader of the early church in Jerusalem. James came to be known by the nickname “Camel Knees” because of the large calluses on his knees that he developed from spending long hours on his knees in prayer – to his Brother. Again, imagine the personal transformation that had to occur! James was murdered about AD 62 in a mob riot incited by the Sanhedrin. He gave his LIFE in his faith in his Brother. Imagine that! Add to the mix Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a rabid Pharisee in the very spirit of the rabid Sanhedrin that murdered James. He went out breathing fire and hate in his desire to destroy what he viewed as a terrible, blasphemous heresy against his beloved Judaism as men and women began increasingly worshiping One named Jesus they claimed was the Messiah of Israel. Saul went out on the Road to Damascus to hunt down Christians and put them in chains; somehow, he amazingly BECAME a Christian when he heard the very Jesus he was trying to eradicate speak to him and strike him blind until another Christian came to heal this Persecutor of the Church. Paul, after having suffered a LIFETIME of suffering for His Lord whom he once tried to exterminate from history, died as a martyr in testimony to his absolute faith in Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the World.
How do you explain these men???
Now, allow me to return to 1 Peter 1:16-21 and enter into evidence the additional witness of Moses and Elijah, and what their appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration meant: as I already pointed out, Moses represented the Law, and Elijah represented the Prophets. In other words, they represented the Scriptures, the Word of God as it had been handed down to God’s people from Adam and Eve until Jesus’ day.
Take some time, please, to just scroll down the list of the hundreds of prophecies from the Law and the Prophets that Jesus literally fulfilled in His First Advent when He came as the Suffering Servant, to die as the Lamb of God in fulfillment of the penalty in the Law for the sins of the world.
Those prophecies clearly present 456 identifying characteristics of what the Messiah would be like. And the mathematical odds of one man fulfilling just EIGHT of them is one chance in ten with seventeen zeroes after it, or less than one chance in a quadrillion. Pretty good job for 32 men who mostly never even TALKED to one another, let alone in any way, shape or form conspired.
Over forty men who wrote over a period of over 2,000 years. And yet it marvelously, miraculously tells one story: the story of the fall of the human race, and the story of the Creator God who ultimately became a man Himself in order to take our sins upon Himself and save us.
Let’s do some comparison for the sake of contrast: how many men wrote the Qur’an? One. His name was Muhammad. How many other men could independently verify that Muhammad wasn’t making up a whole bunch of stories? Zero. Muhammad was alone in a cave called Hira the first time he allegedly received the dictation of the Qur’an by an angel that Muhammad had already heard about from the Jews who frequently came along the Arabian trading routes. At no time during any of Muhammad’s revelations do we ever find that anyone else was present.
If you want to trust a sacred Book, which one should you trust? Particularly given the fact that Muhammad clearly pirated large portions of the rival sacred Book: he couldn’t even find his own angel; he had to steal one from the Jews. He couldn’t even invent his own patriarch, he had to pirate Abraham from the Jews and warp their account to reject Isaac and make Ishmael the hero in blatant contradiction of what the original account presented in Genesis chapters 15 through 18. And if you read the excellent work, “The Truth About Muhammad,” you will find that, amazingly, every single time Muhammad wanted to do something to advance his own interest, he would somehow have a revelation from Allah that let him have whatever he wanted. There were dozens of these “convenient surahs,” but the most infamous of them were the so-called “Satanic Verses” that allowed Muhammad to receive one “revelation” that allowed allies to have their own gods in order to secure their alliance against a common enemy, only to then receive a completely contradictory “revelation” when the first “revelation” became inconvenient for Muhammad. It’s kind of like me promising I’ll give you a billion dollars if you risk your life fighting for me, and then I receive a revelation from God after you’ve fought and won my war for me declaring that I don’t have to pay you a dime. Whenever Muhammad wanted something, he could mysteriously soon afterward have a surah “revealed” to him that justified his doing or taking or murdering or marrying whatever he wanted.
The same is true of the Book of Mormon. One guy wrote it. Initially, there were three so-called “witnesses” that claimed they had seen the “golden plates” that Smith said he used to write the Book of Mormon. Such that:
The Three Witnesses were a group of three early leaders of the Latter Day Saint movement who wrote in a statement of 1830 that an angel had shown them the golden plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and that they had heard God’s voice testifying that the book had been translated by the power of God
The Three Witnesses were Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer, whose joint testimony, in conjunction with a separate statement by Eight Witnesses, has been printed with nearly every edition of the Book of Mormon since its first publication in 1830. All three witnesses eventually broke with Smith and were excommunicated from the church. In 1838, Joseph Smith called Cowdery, Harris, and Whitmer “too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.”
The Mormon Church still disgracefully calls them “the Three Witnesses.” I call them “False Witnesses.” As history does to anyone who looks into their “testimony.”
You ultimately find, if you bother to do the research, that while the so-called “witnesses” (both the three and the eight) testified that they had “seen” the golden plates. But they actually only “saw” them “by faith.”
I suppose I could point out that at least Joseph Smith managed to find some so-called “witnesses” who at least initially claimed to be able to verify that Smith wasn’t full of bovine feces, which makes his book vastly superior to Muhammad’s in that regard. And at least Joseph Smith managed to invent his own angel, rather than merely pirating one from the Bible, as Muhammad had. The problem is that all of Joseph Smith’s primary “witnesses” were bogus and ended up being excommunicated from the church their “witness” had given birth to. And then there is the unfortunate fact that Joseph Smith was a convicted fraud and con-man before he suddenly became a “prophet.”
That is NOT the way the Bible is. Not at ALL. There are layers upon layers of interlocking sources. As examples from the Old Testament period, Ruth was written contemporaneously with Judges. So you have writers who didn’t even know each other authenticating one another. The Pentateuch covered the period written in Job. During the period of 2 Samuel, David was writing his Psalms. And we can learn more from both sources about the other from each. As we get into the Books of Kings, we’ve got all kinds of interlocking sources: we’ve got 1 and 2 Chronicles, Song of Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Obadiah, Joel, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah and Lamentations all during that same period. All these different biblical writers giving us accounts that never contradict one another the way Muhammad frequently contradicted Muhammad. Daniel and Ezekiel wrote during the same basic period of time. Ezra, Esther, Haggai, and Zachariah were written over the same period of time. Nehemiah and Malachi were written over the same period of time.
The same is true of the New Testament, only we have even MORE corroboration. How many Gospels, how many accounts of the life of Jesus, how many perspectives, do we have? We’ve got FOUR. We’ve got St. Matthew, we’ve got St. Paul, we’ve got St. Luke, we’ve got St. Peter, we’ve got St. John, we’ve got St. James, we’ve got St. Jude, we’ve got the writer of Hebrews, all writing about the same Gospel over the same period of time. And they NEVER contradict one another when their writings are closely studied in full context. The deeper you get, the more the harmony. Which is an amazing, and literally miraculous thing.
And the Bible has been called “God’s Anvil,” because it has stood the test of time as critics have tried to pound away at it for millennia. No book has been more read. No book has been more attacked. The Bible has withstood everything ever hurled by hell against it. The atheist Voltaire sneered, “In no more than one hundred years, intellects like mine will make the Bible disappear.” But within fifty years of his own death, Voltaire’s own printing press was used to churn out BIBLES for people hungry to devour the Word of God. That is why no Book has ever changed more hearts and transformed more lives.
Again, for the sake of contrast, try that with the Qur’an. Salmon Rushdie pointed out the sordid history of the self-refutation of Muhammad as a prophet of God, and he was rewarded with a fatwa on his life as a result. And they recently reinstated it just to make sure we know they’re still out to murder him. Think of the sneering liberals who mock the Bible and Christians who would NEVER DARE do the same thing to the Qur’an and Muslims – because they are cowards and because they know that Muslims would murder them whereas Christians will only pray for them. My point is that the Bible has withstood 2,000 years of hateful, demonic attack and unrelenting criticism from unbelievers that would have long-since destroyed any book that was NOT from God. And the Bible didn’t survive by murdering and massacring its intellectual and moral opponents the way the Qur’an has.
The New York Times Best Seller List never mentions the Bible. That is because The Bible refutes absolutely everything liberalism stands for. But the Bible is every single day, every single week, every single month, every single year, year-after-year, century-after-century, the best-selling Book on planet EARTH. NOTHING ELSE even comes CLOSE to it. More than FIVE BILLION Bibles have been sold, according to Guinness World Records.
At this point I can throw in the incredible uniqueness of Jesus. There has NEVER been in ALL the history of the world ANYONE like Him. Today, every major religion on earth has tried to claim Him, co-opt Him, make Jesus theirs: not only the obvious Christianity, but Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etcetera. This is not true of ANY other religious figure from ANY other religion. Jesus is UNIVERSAL. And it is fitting that He would be so: because He alone is the Savior of the whole world, in fulfillment of the Scriptures and demonstrated by His Empty Tomb where every other religion has a corpse for a founder.
So let me get back to where I began, with 2 Peter 1:16-21. Peter witnessed, along with James and John – with Moses and Elijah representing the testimony of the Law and the Prophets of the Deity and Ministry of Jesus of Nazareth – the Transfiguration of Christ. And Peter, reflecting on that day, writes:
Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. — 2 Peter 1:19-21
Peter is pointing out what the great historian and careful researcher St. Luke pointed out in his Gospel when he wrote of two disciples experience when they unknowingly encountered the Resurrected Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. They had been talking to one another about all of the events that had taken place since Jesus’ arrest and public execution and Jesus – His identity concealed from them – began walking with them as they walked along the road. Jesus asked them, “What are you guys talking about?” And they incredulously asked Jesus, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” (Luke 24:18). Jesus asked, “What things?” And they told Him, culminating in this:
And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said: but Him [Jesus] they did not see.
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. — Luke 24:24-27
And again when Jesus appeared to the eleven Disciples and Jesus ate with them and told them:
“These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “This it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” — Luke 24:44-48
I’ve already provided a link to the hundreds of prophecies that Jesus would have explained to them how He fulfilled in His birth, His ministry, His sacrificial death as the Lamb of God in atonement for the sins of the world and His glorious resurrection.
That’s what Peter is describing. He saw the prophetic Word of the Scripture come alive right before his very eyes, his very ears, his very hands. The Scriptures are a lamp in a dark place that shine our way straight to Christ and to His salvation from sin into a new birth through regeneration and a new life through sanctification.
There are times in my mind when something occurs to me and I conclude based on my experience, based on my reasoning, based on my intuition, that something is going to happen. That’s NOT what the prophets did. Peter – a prophet and writer of Scripture through divine inspiration himself – specifically says that prophets DON’T write from their own understanding of what they happen to think, or from any human initiative or intuition. NO, Peter says very plainly, these prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.
So Peter had Jesus Himself teach him about how the Scriptures prophesied His coming and precisely detail what He would do when He came. Hundreds of prophecies fulfilled; 456 identifying characteristics described. And Peter – who also witnessed the Resurrected Jesus after having seen His dead body – saw the prophetic Word made more sure.
More sure than anything in this world.
I am now watching with amazement the last days prophecies unerringly coming to pass. I read the Scriptures in Ezekiel about the coming war of Gog-Magog, in which Russia and Iran lead a confederation of nations that would ultimately all become Muslim attack Israel. I have now witnessed for the first time in history, I believe, both Russia AND Iran in Syria, RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO ISRAEL. We are seeing the last days clock zooming toward Armageddon because of the abject demonic foolishness of the Obama presidency, make no mistake.
All the political coalitions are in place that the Bible amazingly described 2,600 years ago. China’s way across the mighty Euphrates River has not merely been cleared, it has literally been PAVED as a network of concrete dams literally allows them to shut off one of the mightiest rivers on earth. And not only cross the river but use it as their HIGHWAY to Armageddon.
Is the passage of Revelation 6:14, detailing the opening days of the period that will soon befall a wicked humanity when “The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up,” was that merely symbolic? Not when you consider that that is PRECISELY what a nuclear warhead looks like when it is detonated. And God’s Word prophetically saw that day coming 2,000 years BEFORE THE FIRST HUMAN EVEN DREAMED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF A NUCLEAR WEAPON.
Just as God’s word wasn’t merely being “allegorical” or “symbolic” when it described an army of 200 million soldiers from the east – PRECISELY WHERE SUCH A VAST ARMY WOULD COME TODAY – when at the time this prophecy was given there weren’t 200 million human beings on the entire planet.
Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies of His First Advent LITERALLY. He wasn’t symbolically born of a virgin; He didn’t allegorically rise from the dead. It is fools from hell who deny the literal Word of God. And in the same way, we are watching the prophecies of the end times and the Second Advent culminating in Jesus Christ coming as King of kings and Lord of lords being fulfilled LITERALLY. And that is made sure just as sure as the fact that Russia and Iran are not “symbolically” in Syria immediately north of Israel.
Even if you’ve got nothing else, ESPECIALLY if you’ve got nothing else in this world, you can COUNT on the Scriptures. that is because “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
And you can count on Jesus, the Word whom the Word of God heralded from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis straight through the Scarlet Thread that runs through the entire Bible.
Maranatha, Lord Jesus. How I long to see you, my dear Friend Who sticks by me closer than a brother.