Eyewitnesses of Majesty

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

- 2 Peter 1:16–18

Though we may not always be conscious of it, our ethics are partly based upon our eschatology. That is to say, our behavior depends in large part on what we believe about the end of the world. Those confessing a coming day of judgment are often more likely to strive after holiness than those who deny a final reckoning with God.

This is made clear in 2 Peter 1:3–11, which emphasizes the need to live holy lives in order to ensure our final welcome into the kingdom of God. This is not to say that our redemption is based on our own efforts. Rather, the concern for holiness demonstrates the surety of God’s election, which alone guarantees our heavenly reward (v. 10). Knowing that Jesus will return in judgment motivates the elect to pursue holiness so that by God’s grace they will receive this great reward.

To deny that Christ is coming again as judge and king, however, affects one’s behavior. If there is no final judgment, there is nothing to fear. We do not have to worry about possessing a living and active faith (James 2:14–26). We can do whatever we want.

The original audience of 2 Peter had to deal with teachers who denied the second coming of Christ, probably in order to justify their immoral lifestyles (see 3:3; 2:14). In today’s passage, Peter begins to deal with these teachers, asserting that the apostles did not follow “cleverly devised myths” when they preached the second coming of Christ (1:16). This statement tells us that the false teachers denied the validity of the apostolic witness in order to support their assertions.

Peter addresses this charge by insisting that he and other apostles were eyewitnesses of Christ’s majesty in the transfiguration (vv. 16–18). Peter’s account of the transfiguration here is strikingly similar to the visible reign of the Davidic king as God’s agent of judgment described in Psalm 2. The transfiguration, according to Peter, revealed Christ’s inherent glory and thus that He is the long-awaited Davidic king. As such, as Psalm 2 promises, He will return in judgment. Therefore, the transfiguration anticipates Christ’s return. The second coming is not a myth; rather, it is anticipated by a historical event (the transfiguration) to which many could testify.

Coram Deo

In our day many claim that those who wrote the New Testament were not eyewitnesses of the ministry of Jesus. However, as today’s passage contends, many were eyewitnesses of the events described. In the case of someone like Luke, those who walked with Christ during His first advent were carefully interviewed. Spend some time reviewing the evidence for the historicity of the New Testament so that you might answer critics of the Bible.

Passages for Further Study

Deut. 18:15
Mal. 4:5
Mark 9:2–13
Luke 1:1–4

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343