By Samuel Parrish
“…And we[the apostles] have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” – 2 Peter 1:19-21
An adopted daughter looks for her biological parents; a middle school boy makes a cheat sheet for his final exam; a twenty-something stares into the night sky and wonders if something or someone is looking back. The search for what is true, what is real, stretches from the mundane to the metaphysical. In his second letter, Peter offers one measure of reality that yields the surest path to truth, even in the face of more personal, experiential evidence.
To make his point, Peter briefly takes his audience back in time. During their discipleship with Christ, Peter, James, and John journeyed with Jesus up to what many commentators call the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17). As Jesus stood between Moses—who represented the law—and Elijah—who represented the prophets—the three disciples experienced Jesus in a measure of his heavenly glory. They fell to their faces as the voice of God the Father spoke words of identity and satisfaction over God the Son. In one moment, the lordship and sonship of Jesus are confirmed miraculously. It is with this experience in mind that Peter addresses his present audience, asserting that even the transfiguration could not surpass the sure standard of reality found in God’s written word.
Although the presence of the glorified Son will one day fill our world with light, God has provided us with another light to guide us until his return: His written word. Peter compares our present age to a persistently dark place. He longingly anticipates the “morning star arising in our hearts,” a clear representation of Christ himself despite the use of this phrase in other passages of scripture to denote other theological concerns. Peter expresses hope for the day when “we will know fully even as he now knows us.” However, until that day, we are led by another light, the light of scripture.
Yet, there is a lesser light many try to travel by, the light of experience. The Mount of Transfiguration happened as Peter says it did. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the event and other New Testament writers reference it repeatedly. We see no argument against Peter, James, and John that contests the reality of this experience. When we wish to meet with God, this is the “mountain top moment” in the New Testament we frequently reference. And yet, Peter says as real as this experience was, it was as incomplete as it was temporary. The light of this one experience would not be enough to prevent him from denying Christ before the rooster crowed. It would not produce the repentance necessary to bring him back into the fold. It would not confirm him as the voice of the gospel to the Jewish people after the resurrection and ascension. Each of those events points to a light and revelation greater than experience.
That greater light is predictably the light of God’s revealed word. In this persistently dark world, as we long for the dawn of that final, everlasting day, the words of men, and even our real “experiences with God,” are insufficient to light the way. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we have been given God’s word preserved by faithful men and women over thousands of years. It is as authoritative in all that it teaches today as it was when the words were originally spoken and recorded. It is a faithful witness to past events, and an overflowing spring of hope as we look to the future. When confronted with the darkness of our world, and even the darkness in our own hearts, we have a great light in the great gift of God’s word.