A Light for When All Other Lights Go Out, An Exposition of 2 Pet 1:19
“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, 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.” (2 Pet 1:19 ESV)
This is the best sentence Peter ever wrote—and by best I guess I mean most poetic—but I mean, this is unbelievable. As I was reading through 2 Peter, this verse jumped out and mugged me. Because who knew the Bible read like The Lord of the Rings? And, more specifically, who knew a fisherman could write like this?
It reminds me of the light of Eärendil’s star which Galadriel gave to Frodo at the beginning of his journey:
“And you, Ring-bearer,” she said, turning to Frodo. “I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.” She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. “In this phial,” she said, "is caught the light of Eärendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
Exposition of 2 Pet 1:19
Light = Word
The light Peter is talking about is “the prophetic word,” which he says is “made more sure” by the Transfiguration (2 Pet 1:17–18), because the prophets are who predicted that event and made complete sense of it. So the word we have written down is absolutely sure, and it gives us proof of that in its continued accuracy.
The Word is the light—that’s a common Biblical image (Ps 119:105; Prov 6:23, etc.)—but what struck me is the imagery of how that word changes us, how it grows in our hearts.
(As we go forward, I’m going to break down the symbolism of the day dawning and the morning star arising, but I must admit, the more explanations I read about this, the less “mugged” I became. The poetic value of the text is often diminished by explanation, but that shouldn’t be the case. We should be able to both “feel” and “know.” So, allow me to help you “know” right now, then we can step back and “feel” even better than before.)
We must actually force ourselves to be alert to the Word, otherwise it won’t penetrate us and change us. That alertness is the key that makes the difference between our doing “well” and those false prophets who forget the Truth (2 Pet 1:9).
Lamp Shining in a Dark Place
We must pay attention to the Word as we would a lamp shining in a dark and gloomy place. Not hard to do, since the world we live in is often described as “darkened” (John 3:19). Even our own hearts are darkened (Rom 1:21; cf. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad). So the word is the light, and Jesus is the light (John 8:12). And He has come to bring us light (John 12:46). He does this by His word, the little lamp shining brightly in a world all-but enclosed in darkness.
The Day Dawning
“Until the day dawns…” We aren’t staring at a lamp sort of sadly in a dark room, waiting for it to go out; we are waiting for a day, a particular day. This is the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:20; 1 Thess 5:2), which Peter talks about later (2 Pet 3:10). We are staring into a lamp now: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but…” yes, there is a but, “then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12). The Day of the Lord (DOL) will have a dawn, just like days now do, and when it does, our waiting, our working, our paying of attention will all be over and worth it.
The Morning Star
This “morning star” is an ancient reference to Venus, here referring to the coming of Jesus Christ. We forget that we are caught in a drama where the hero will come riding in and save the day, but Jesus is that hero. As Gandalf said in the Two Towers, “Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.” Jesus said something similar over and over about His second-coming (e.g., Matt 24:29–31).
But what about this “in your heart” business? Why is Peter conflating an objective event (the DOL) with a subjective experience? Or is he? Schriener is helpful here:
When Jesus comes, we will not need the prophetic word to shine in a dark place—this sinful world. Then our hearts will be enlightened by the Morning Star himself, and that to which prophecy points will have arrived…Caulley rightly emphasizes that the knowledge of God that shines upon us in conversion (2 Cor 4:6) will reach its consummation at the second coming.
Our hearts are renewed now (Rom 2:29), we have the ability to receive God’s word in our hearts now (2 Cor 3:3), but not totally. Not yet. We look forward to complete renewal in the future, and we do it with epic longing. It’s not something we can get immediately. It’s something we will wait our entire lives for.
“It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
The light we have now, the lamp, the morning star, is the word of God, because in the word we see Truth, light, and Christ. For now, we fight the darkness. We are of the darkness and yet not overcome by it, because we have the light which sustains us (John 1:9). There will be times when darkness seems to overcome you, but you must make sure to not lose hold on the light of this morning star, not to stop paying it attention, for it will be to you a light when all other lights go out, and it will sustain you until the day when the morning star rises not just in your heart, but in the world.
In the Meantime
- Be alert: Matt 24:42;
- Become partakers of the divine nature: 2 Pet 1:4;
- Remember: 2 Pet 1:12, 13; 3:2;
- Pay attention: 2 Pet 1:19; (don’t let it escape your notice: 2 Pet 3:5, 8); and,
- Pursue the True Knowledge of God: 2 Pet 1:3.