Poor Peter was looking though a glass very darkly and suffering from the common human malady of selective hearing and understanding. All he seemed to hear and understand were those horrifying words about the suffering, the rejection, and the killing. Did he not hear Jesus telling them that His resurrection from the dead—one of the greatest turning points in all eternity—was soon to occur?
Peter had the powerful Satan whispering words of fear into his mind: fear for Jesus, fear of persecution, fear of his own death. Would any of us have fared any better than Peter? Satan, up to his old tricks, knew that one of history's most pivotal days was approaching and what the glorious outcome of Jesus' suffering and death would be. He wanted to make a concerted, eleventh-hour effort to prevent it from happening. How? By using human fear and reason—by frightening and tempting Peter into trying to talk his beloved friend Jesus out of even mentioning these two events: the greatest sacrifice and the greatest miracle in human history.
Jesus was no coward, of course, but He certainly did not look forward to the impending physical torture that He knew He must endure. He had the ability—if just through Scripture alone—to foresee it all in detail. Paul suggests that, even before His incarnation, Christ frequently pondered what He would have to experience: "He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once in the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26).
Death of a Lamb
Peter proclaims Jesus to be the Messiah, and Jesus speaks of building His church and being crucified and resurrected. This was a major step forward in the disciples' understanding, and it corrected the erroneous prophetic teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. However, from the incident that occurs in verses 22-23, we can see that Peter—and probably the other disciples also—were not yet fully convinced of it.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why the Transfiguration?
These verses show how easily a disciple of Christ can become the means of communication from demons. Peter did the speaking, but Jesus spoke to Satan, attributing the source of the disciple's action. His verbal outburst was against God's will that Jesus suffer and die. Without recognizing it, Peter permitted himself to be a willing conduit for Satan's will!
Several years ago, I clipped an abstract of a book, Wrestling with Dark Angels, which was advertised in a book catalog. The abstract reads:
They're those inner "voices of reason" that try to convince you that wrong is right, that evil is good. They're Satan's dark angels, and you fight them every day. Some of today's most respected theologians help you better understand these supernatural forces so you can combat them effectively—and win the war for your mind.
There is a time coming, represented by the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day, when these dark forces of reason will no longer be free to influence mankind as they can now. Those who are now facing them without understanding what is happening will have died, been resurrected, and will live again with the knowledge of why life was so difficult before. God will not make them face these dark angels' subtle but powerful influence again. It will have had its effect, which will still have to be overcome. However, the possibility of that influence being refreshed each day will not exist.
The solution for us today is to combat that influence by means of the continuous influence of God's Holy Spirit flowing from our relationship with God through Bible study, prayer, meditation, occasional fasting, and obedience. Being in the spiritual presence of God and His Son Jesus Christ is the antidote. It is our shield and the means to flee Babylon.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part One)
Like Peter, we could be motivated to believe or disbelieve something, accept or reject something, say something or keep silent, depending on the circumstance. Additionally, we may have no reaction at all at the moment of communication, but the thought is stored and available for later use or supplementation. It is entirely possible for a person to go through his entire life as a pawn of Satan and never know it.
This situation reflects a usage of what the Bible's writers term "spirit." Spirit is the English translation of the Hebrew ruach (Strong's #7304), in the Old Testament and the Greek pneuma (Strong's #5141) in the New. It can literally mean "a current of air," "breath," "blast," or "breeze." However, when used figuratively, it indicates "vital principle," "disposition," "the rational soul," etc., or an invisible super-being such as God, Christ, an angel, or a demon. Whether used literally, as with "wind" or "breath," or figuratively, as indicating God, angel, or demon, it describes something that is invisible and immaterial and at the same time powerful, even a thing of considerable power. The foremost elements of spirit, then, are invisibility, immateriality, and power.
E.W. Bullinger remarks in Appendix 9 of the Companion Bible:
The meaning of the word is to be deduced only from its usage. The one root idea running through all of the passages is invisible force. . . . [I]n whatever sense it is used, [it] always represents that which is invisible except by its manifestations.
He also shows that ruach is used in nine different ways in the Old Testament, while pneuma is used fourteen different ways in the New Testament.
In John 6:63, Jesus says, "It is the Spirit [which] gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." Here is a clear example of the figurative use of "spirit." Words are the symbols used for communication; they are received into our minds through sight, as when reading, or sound, as when hearing. But once in the mind, nothing material is packed into our brain. Words - and thus the concepts they carry with them - are spirit because they are immaterial, invisible, and of considerable power, depending on how we use them. Thus, we can receive "spirit" in the form of words or concepts from a spirit being. In this case, it is in reality "thought transference" because no sound is heard through our ears.
Just because one is close to Christ does not eliminate the prospect that a demon will communicate with and through him. As seen in Matthew 16:22-23, Peter did the speaking, but Jesus spoke directly to Satan, naming him as the source of Peter's outburst against God's will that Jesus should suffer and die. Without Peter's recognizing it, he permitted himself to be a conduit for Satan's will. The disciple's "good" intention was against God's will, and Jesus thus judged it to be evil.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Two)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 16:23: