Wednesday, 22 January 2020
…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 2 Peter 1:20
Peter just spoke of “the prophetic word,” saying that we have it “confirmed.” With that understood, he now speaks of that same prophetic word, beginning with, “knowing this first.”
It is a point which must be first understood before he explains why it must be understood. The explanation will come in the next verse. He then says, “that no prophecy of Scripture is.” The word translated as “is” means to come about, emerge, transition from one point to another, etc. It is not an exact match for the word “is,” and should not be translated this way here. Rather, it should say something like “no prophecy of Scripture comes about.”
With this understood, he then says that such does not come about by “any private interpretation.” There are three possible explanations for this. The first is that it is speaking of the one who issues forth the prophecy. The prophet (Isaiah, for example) is not the sole source of what is penned. The second is that it is speaking of the recipient. The one reading the prophecy (Pastor Imperfect, for example) does not privately make up the meaning for what has been prophesied, claiming his interpretation is the correct one. The third is that it is speaking of the prophecy itself. Therefore, the purpose and meaning of the prophecy comes to be through its own explanation. In other words, a prophecy does not explain itself.
The answer to Peter’s statement comes from both the preceding verse and the verse which follows. Peter has said that the prophetic word is confirmed. The example he gave occurred at the coming of Christ, in His transfiguration. The event explained the prophecies which spoke of Him. Peter will next say that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
Peter has said that the ultimate Source of prophecy is the Holy Spirit. Here he says it “comes about,” meaning there is a transition from one point to another. After this, he speaks of those who receive it. And so, this is referring to the one who issues forth the prophecy – the prophet.
It may be true that the meaning of prophecies is not subject to any interpretation someone wishes to identify it with, but that is a problem not being addressed here. He has shown that what was spoken about was of divine, not human, origin, and that the fulfillment of those prophecies is a specific person, event, time, etc. Those things are concrete and are thus not open to any of various interpretations. It doesn’t mean there might not be incorrect interpretations of the prophecy, but that is not the fault of the prophecy. Rather, it is the fault of the person who is not schooled in how the prophecy was actually fulfilled, or will actually be fulfilled if it is yet future.
The word translated as “interpretation” is an interesting word, only found here in Scripture. It signifies a solution, explanation, or interpretation. It refers to the untying of knots, and thus, there is an unveiling of an issue.
Because of the meaning, one might make the claim that this is then speaking of the person receiving the prophecy, such as Pastor Imperfect. It is not up to his own private interpretation to decide the meaning of the prophecy. There is a knot and it must be untied, but he cannot do it. Rather, it must be the Holy Spirit who does this. This would then add a note of “super spirituality” to anyone who claims they have properly deduced the meaning of the prophecy. “Certainly, Pastor Imperfect is a man filled with the Holy Spirit.” But this is not the intent of the words.
If the event has a concrete fulfillment, then God has revealed its fulfillment already, or He will reveal its fulfillment in the future event itself. A prophecy about Christ on the cross (such as in Psalm 22) is fulfilled in Christ’s crucifixion. There is no need to give Rabbi Ridiculous any credence when he says it is a future prophecy metaphorically speaking of the nation of Israel. The interpretation is fixed in the fulfillment.
Rather, this is what Peter spoke about in his first epistle –
“Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.” 1 Peter 1:10-12
The prophets who received the prophecies could not make the claim upon their own prophecies, stating what its fulfillment would be. They received the word, saw the knot, tried to unravel it, and could not. They, and indeed even angels, desired to know what the prophecies meant. But until God’s timing came about, the meaning of the prophecies remained His alone.
Life application: “Private interpretation” means “own interpretation.” In other words, what is contained in the prophecies of the Bible is of divine origin and not of man or demon. In contrast to this are countless prophecies which come to us from an almost unlimited number of sources.
We have prophecies or predictions from other religions such as Islam, Buddhism, etc. There are also those from Nostradamus, horoscopes, tarot cards, palm readers, and even generated by computers for example. The list is long, and these “prophecies” always lacks one essential element that the Bible contains – divine inspiration.
Not only do they lack divine inspiration, they are forbidden by God. Although part of the Old Testament Law, the same prohibitions apply to us today concerning these types of activities as it did when recorded in Leviticus –
“And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.” Leviticus 20:6
Any prophecy which is not specifically of God is not to be trifled with. The reading of Tarot cards and Ouija boards, for example, relies on a manipulation of the created order in anticipation of helpful clues about one’s personal future.
The same is true with daily horoscopes. To view these as innocuous and fun is akin to taking hot coals and placing them in your own lap – the result is detrimental to one’s well-being. It is shocking that Christians – true believers who have called on Jesus as Lord – participate in these activities. One cannot be held guiltless when they hold Jesus with their right hand and hold out their left to a palm-reader. We need to have single-hearted devotion to the Lord lest we find ourselves subdued and torn away by a lesser master.
Further, as prophecies are things which belong to God, and which then are fulfilled in a concrete way at a set time by God, it is presumptuous and sinful to think that future prophecies can be determined by us. We may know they are going to come about, such as the rapture. This is because it is clearly detailed in Scripture. However, like the prophet who is on the “before” side of the event, we too cannot unravel the knot of “when” the rapture will occur. To attempt to do so is to diminish the very premise which Peter writes about here. Do not be deluded by people who think so highly of themselves that they think they can speak for God about something which He has reserved to Himself until He reveals it to the world.
O God, we pray today that Your face would be turned toward us, not against us. We pray that our hearts and souls would be directed completely and solely toward You and that You would keep us from those prophecies which are not of divine origin. Help our doctrine to be pure and our hearts to be steadfast – directed to You alone. Amen.