In stark contrast to Holy Spirit inspired prophets who spoke true words that gave light, there were false prophets who led the people astray (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Isaiah 28:16-17; Jeremiah 6:13-15; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:14; Jeremiah 23:32; Ezekiel 13:1-9; Micah 3:8-12). Unfortunately, Peter had to warn that there will be false teachers who try to lead the church astray (Acts 20:28-31; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5). They would quietly bring in false teachings that would divide the church (Jude 1:4). Usually false teaching is brought in subtly beside truth. They may have denied the Lord through some teaching which destroyed his Lordship (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-58), or they may have denied him through living lives as if they had not been bought with Christ"s blood (1 Corinthians 6:13-20). Their end was going to be unexpected, yet brought on by their own misdeeds (2 Peter 2:1).
Peter warned that these false teachers would lead many to engage in unbridled lust. People who were not yet Christians would not be able to distinguish between true Christians and those following false teachers, so the way of truth would be spoken against, or blasphemed, as if it were evil. These false teachers lead people astray out of a desire for personal gain. They used words made up for the occasion, which indicates they knew what they were saying was not true (2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:5; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 1:9-11; Jude 1:11; Jude 1:16). God has always held such false teachers in contempt. Their lives are headed down a path of destruction and their punishment neither loiters along the way nor nods off to sleep (2 Peter 2:2-3; Philippians 3:18-19).
The Doom Awaiting False Teachers
Angels were created by God to serve him and do his bidding (Hebrews 1:7; Hebrews 1:14). To prove punishment surely waited for the false teachers mentioned in verse 3, Peter referred to some angels who violated God"s will and were being held in bonds awaiting the day of judgment (Compare Jude 1:6). These verses do not reveal when these angels sinned, nor which angels they are. However, Peter did indicate they were held in a dark place until judgment arrived (2 Peter 2:4).
The second and third illustrations Peter used to prove punishment will surely come are both used by Jesus in Luke 17:26-29. Literally, Peter described Noah as a herald of what is right in God"s sight. Despite the fact that he proclaimed it, the people continued on in their evil ways until God destroyed them. Peter did give a ray of hope when he mentioned the eight people who were saved. Anyone can be saved as Noah, his three sons and their wives were if he will strive to please God.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, brought on by God"s judgment, is described in Genesis 19:1-26. It came upon them because of homosexuality (Jude 1:7), pride, abundant idleness and a refusal to help the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:48-50). God intended for this destruction to stand as a reminder to all who would live ungodly in the future (2 Peter 2:5-6).
God"s Sure Deliverance
Again, Peter sought to show that God will save any righteous who may be found among the wicked. Lot was worn out with worry over the sin he saw all around him. What Lot saw and heard caused him to be in mental anguish every day. He loved right living and was disturbed by evil deeds.
There can be no doubt that God knows how to deliver those living godly lives, a conclusion which logically comes from the examples in verses 4-8. The word translated "temptations" here could also be translated "trials." Notice, Peter does not promise God will keep trials out of Christians" lives but does say He will deliver them. The day of judgment will be for all, and the unrighteous will hear their sentence pronounced on that day as well (2 Peter 2:7-9; Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46).
All of the unrighteous will face punishment, but the ones named in 2 Peter 2:10 are especially reserved for judgment. Their sin must have been terrible, since Peter refused to name it specifically. He calls it uncontrolled desire that pollutes the flesh. Also, they had no respect at all for authority, evidently even Christ"s (2:1). That lack of respect lead them to take liberties with God and man. They were determined to have their own way and that seemingly led them to speak evil against any authority that got in the way of their pursuit of what they wanted.
In contrast, angels, who were much greater and more powerful than the false teachers, would not even bring accusation against the false teachers, who were their inferiors. The false teachers seemed to have no problems with conscience when they were obviously speaking evil about those who were superior to them (2 Peter 2:11).
A Sad Portrait of False Teachers
The false teachers, of whom Peter spoke, were like animals with no conscience going about taking whatever they could by force. Man usually destroys such animals because of the damage they do and Peter said these should have been similarly destroyed. Though they were ignorant about certain matters, they spoke evil against them. The road of selfish desire would actually be the road to the false teachers" own destruction (2 Peter 2:12).
Sin offers much, but pays only injury and harm to the sinner. Sinners often try to hide their evil deeds by doing them under the cover of darkness (Ephesians 5:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:7). Peter described some so wicked that they enjoyed practicing their evil deeds even in the day. They were like ugly stains on a pure white garment. Tragically, these wicked people came to the feasts, which the Christians enjoyed, and pretended to be good people. They enjoyed putting on such a show and deceiving people by causing them to believe they were faithful (2 Peter 2:13).
These false teachers were so wicked that they found opportunity for satisfying their lusts in even the most innocent and harmless situations. They could not look on a woman without seeing her as "an adulteress" (KJV margin). With such an outlook, they could not cease sinning. They dangled the appealing bait of their wickedness before young Christians and others who were not well-grounded in the faith. They had been trained, much like a runner training for a race, in greed and were cursed children in the eyes of God (2 Peter 2:14).
They had once been in the way of truth (verse 2) but had abandoned it. Apparently, Balaam was a prophet for God when the messenger of Balak first approached him about cursing the children of Israel (Numbers 22:1-14). Balaam desired the reward Balak, the king of Moab, offered if he would curse Israel, but three times God moved him to speak a blessing (Numbers 22:15-41; Numbers 23:1-30; Numbers 24:1-25). Finally, he counselled them to entice Israel to sin so the Lord would curse them (Numbers 31:16; Numbers 25:1-9). Balaam planned to go despite God"s solemn warning. The ass speaking was a miracle worked by God to warn Balaam of the dangerous course he was following. A weary traveler in an arid country has his hopes raised by the sight of a well. These false prophets were like empty wells, raising hopes only to dash them to pieces. Also, they were like a mist, or cloud, that extended hope of rain to a farmer with sun parched fields, but never delivered on that promise. A dark judgment awaited them (2 Peter 2:15-17).
Beware of Empty Promises
The false teachers, about whom Peter warned, used big words that sounded good but were empty. They lured those who had just escaped back into the ways of sin. Christians certainly are free from the bondage of sin and death (John 8:32-36; Romans 6:6-7). However, the false teachers told young Christians they were free to do as they pleased. Peter said they preached freedom, but were themselves the slaves of sin (2 Peter 2:18-19; Romans 6:16-18; Romans 8:1-6; Galatians 5:1).
The deceivers had escaped the defilement of the world. This was done through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Peter, in 2 Peter 2:20, does not use the word for general knowledge, but for precise or full knowledge. Clearly, the false teachers had not always been hypocrites. Note, they had escaped but were now entrapped in the tangled webbing into which they sought to lure others. Because they knew better, it could truly be said they were in a worse condition than they were in before they first learned about Jesus (2 Peter 2:20).
It would have been better for them not to have fully known the Lord"s will, than to reach the state of turning back. Better because they brought reproach on the church. Better because they were more receptive to the gospel when they were unconverted sinners than when they were erring Christians. Also, better because greater knowledge brings with it greater responsibility (Luke 12:36-48). Peter used the proverb of the dog returning to its own vomit from Proverbs 26:11. The proverb about the sow is likely from a source other than the Bible, but certainly is true. Note that the dog had vomited up what made him sick and the sow had been washed clean. Both went back to that out of which they had come (2 Peter 2:21-22).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 2 Peter 2". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany