Until the Day Breaks and the Morning Star Rises In Your Hearts
Suppose you are going to die soon and you have an opportunity to write one, maybe two more letters to your loved ones, what would you like to say to them? Will you be sad or thank them, will you write about your love for them or witness about the Lord? Suppose furthermore that you know that the road ahead will become more and more difficult, would you want to add something else? Whatever it is that you would like to write to your loved ones, should they take your message seriously?
The Bible Contains At Least Three Examples of Such Last Letters
In the last gasps of his second Roman imprisonment in 67-68 AD, the apostle to the uncircumcised writes as if he knows that he will soon die (‘already being poured as a drink offering’). Paul fought the good fight, completed the race and kept the faith (2 Tim 4:6-7), but what does he write to fellow believers when inspired by the Holy Spirit? He writes: every Christian should increase in godliness (see 1 Tim 3:16; 6:3-6, 11), in good deeds (Tit 1:8, 16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14) and should fulfil their ministry, even if it means suffering oppression (2 Tim 4:5). Death is not the end, because the crown of righteousness was put aside for Paul and the Lord will give it to him on that day – and not only to him, but to every person who loved the appearance of the Lord (2 Tim 4:8).
The Book of Revelation With Its Seven Letters is the Last Book In the Bible
Not only is God the Father (Rev 1:1) and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:11-13) speaking, but it is further the Holy Spirit (see 1:10) who inspired the apostle John to write. John has to write down what he sees, as well as the Lord Jesus Christ’s seven letters to seven congregations. Although Revelation contains several prophecies, Jesus is the focus of this last book in the Bible. Revelation testifies of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who sent his angel to testify these things before the congregations: ‘I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star’ (Rev 22:16). It is Jesus who encourages believers to hold on to what we have and to conquer, to conserve Jesus’ works to the end – and for those who do that, the Son of God promises: ‘And I will give him the morning star’ (Rev 2:28).
Do You See a Pattern In These Letters?
Here is a third example. Peter knows that he must cast off his tent home (i.e. his body) soon. In his next to last letter he writes about God’s grace in which believers stand to endure suffering for their faith in Christ (1 Pet 5:12). In the second and last letter of this apostle to the circumcised, he warns that the coming danger will not be an obvious attack from the world outside, but that believers should expect a subtle attack from false teachers – even from within the church. A good title for 2 Peter could be ‘the believer’s conflict in the last days’. The theme of the letter is that the believer should grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of increasing backsliding (see 1 Pet 1:3; 5:12; 2 Pet 1:3-11; 3:18). Even though his time is short, Peter raises believers up through ‘remembrance’ (2 Pet 1:12-13; 3:1-2). He uses the words ‘knowledge’ or ‘to know’ 16 times in his last letter – but knowledge of who or what? This knowledge of believers is not merely an intellectual understanding of the truth (although it does include that), but ‘knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence’ (2 Pet 1:3; see 1:4-8; John 17:3; 2 John 2:25).
What would you say is the content and pattern in the last letters of Paul, Peter and in the book of Revelation?
We read from Genesis 32:22-32 before we focus on 2 Peter 1:16-21.
22The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female slaves and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said: “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me. 27And he said to him: “What is your name?” And he said: “Jacob.” 28Then he said: “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him: “Please tell me your name.” But he said: “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been delivered.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.
2 Peter 1:16-21
16For 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. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on that holy mountain. 19And we 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; 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Discussion of 2 Peter 1:16-21
False teachers teach little more than ‘cleverly devised myths’ (v. 16). Perhaps they are stories, experiential or cute tales, but whatever these myths are, they have no divine power to give us anything that can lead to a life in the Lord and to godliness (see 2 Pet 1:3). In contrast with this, Peter testifies of the great power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 17). Peter was on the mountain where the transfiguration took place (I believe it is Mount Hermon) when God the Father said of the Lord Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Mat 17:5; see 2 Pet 1:17). Peter emphasises the honour, glory and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 16-17). This is what the Lord Jesus Christ will look like when He establishes the kingdom of God on earth and rules over it. The Son of Man will come to earth with the same great power and glory as He had with the Father before the world existed (see Mat 24:30b; John 17:5).
After the transfiguration on the mountain, the Lord Jesus concealed his glory again and 40 days after his death and resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven. What believers now have is Christ in us, the hope of the glory (Col 1:27) and the indwelling Holy Spirit. In his divinity Christ is omnipresent and dwells in believers, but in his humanity, he is in heaven at the right hand of the Father. What we also have is God’s general revelation in creation and His special revelation in Scripture. Peter does not focus on his own experience on the mountain, but on ‘the prophetic word more fully confirmed’.
It is Biblical prophecy, the prophetic word, which we have to heed ‘as to a lamp shining in a dark place’. What is the analogy between the prophetic word and a lamp that shines in a dark place? If John the Baptist was a lamp that burned and shone and gave light in which people delighted (see John 5:35), how much more should we delight in the light of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ of whom the prophetic word testifies? What is the bottom line of the prophecy? The testimony about Jesus is the spirit of the prophecy (Rev 19:10). God’s Word is a lamp for my foot and a light for my path (see Ps 119:105) and so the prophetic word in the Bible shines because it testifies of the Lord Jesus Christ and his glory.
The world system is without a doubt a dark place under Satan and it has been becoming darker and darker over the last 2 000 years. The night will come when no one will be able to work (John 9:4b). Some are certainly backsliding in their faith and are adhering to seductive spirits and the teachings of devils – just as the Holy Spirit says in one of Paul’s last letters about the end times (see 1 Tim 4:1-5). Night is falling, because governments are being controlled by crooks; nations are allowing lawlessness and more people are losing their way. If it is that dark now, until when should we heed God’s prophetic word like a lamp that shines in a dark place?
A Flashback to Jacob’s Struggle
God confirmed the Abrahamic covenant with Jacob before Jacob left the land (Genesis 28:13-15), but Jacob wanted to gain God’s blessings and peace in his own way. Jacob first had to struggle through a night before receiving a blessing, before the sun rose for him. Jacob did not defeat God in the struggle through the night – in fact, God dislocated Jacob’s hip – but Jacob paradoxically prevailed because he submitted to God’s will. And then, strangely enough, Jacob asked: “What is your name?” (Gen 32:29). The struggle lasted until daybreak and the Man with whom he struggled, the second Person of the Trinity, whom Jacob saw face to face (Gen 32:29), said: “Let me go, for the day has broken”.
Just as Jacob – whose name was changed and who is the father of the twelve nations of Israel – struggled with God all through the night, so Israel will struggle all through the night of the Tribulation Period until they acknowledge and call out: “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” (Mat 23:39; see Hos 5:15-6:1; Zech 12:10). For those Jews who fear the Name, the sun of righteousness share arise with healing in his wings; and they will move out leaping like calves from a stable (see Mal 4:2) – because the Day of the LORD is not only a time of tribulation close to the end of the night, but when the day has broken also a day of blessing in the Messianic kingdom.
The Morning Star
However, the Church is not the nation of Israel, but is comprised of believers from all nations, both Jews and non-Jews. Peter writes that we have to heed the prophetic word like a lamp that shines in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts. Physically, the morning star appears when the night is almost over, shortly before the new day breaks. How should we understand this symbolic language? The night has been almost 2 000 years long and the earth is becoming an ever-darker place. Shortly before the day breaks, the Church will be taken away to be with the Lord forever. As mentioned, the Day of the Lord consists of both the seven-year Tribulation period and the blessing of the Messianic kingdom that commence shortly after the Lord’s return to earth.
Regarding the morning star, Jesus says in Revelations 22:16: “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star”. This symbolic reference to Jesus as the root and the descendant of David (see Isa 11:1) not only emphasises that Jesus Christ will fulfil all the covenant promises regarding the house of David, but also that He will shine the brightest as the bright morning star, because He is the God-man that will rule as King. The King’s followers will also shine: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). The Son of Man also refers to Matthew 13:43 here: “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear”
What about Jesus’ promise that “…I will give the morning star” (Revelations 2:28)? Believers have Christ in us, He is the hope of the glory (Col 1:27), so the morning star is either authority in the Messianic kingdom or greater intimacy with the Lord Jesus.
What was the context when Paul and Peter wrote their last letters? At that time, Roman Caesars had to be worship like gods; one of the worst Caesars, Nero, died in June 68 AD. Both Paul and Peter died sometime during 65-68 AD. It was already dark in the world by then. Now that we know the above, and with reference to the letters of Peter, how will we live today and in the new year?
- Viewed negatively: we should flee the depravation that is made desirable in the world and zealously add to our faith more virtue, knowledge, self-control, long-suffering, godliness, brotherliness and love for our fellow humans (2 Pet 1:4-7, see Tit 2:11-14).
- We should bear the fruit of the Lord Jesus and not forget the cleansing of our previous sins (see 2 Pet 1:8-9).
- We should be willing to suffer for our faith in Christ (1 Pet 5:12).
- We should grow in sanctification, stand in Christ and not stumble (2 Pet 1:10).
- Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Pet 3:14).
- Mockers mock the promise of the Lord’s Second Coming, but we should not follow the myths of false teachers (2 Pet 2; 3:3-4).
- We should increase in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ – to Him belongs all the glory, now and forever (2 Pet 3:18).
Keep your eye on Jesus who will come and to take us in glory (John 14:1-3; 1 Cor 15:51-52; 1 Thes 4:13-18). We heed the prophetic word because it is like a lamp that shines in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Then we will see the Lord face-to-face and be with him always (2 Pet 1:19; see Gen 32:30; 1 Thes 4:18).
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