II. WARNING AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS SOON TO APPEAR, 2 Peter 2:1-22.
1. Their doctrine, influence, and doom, 2 Peter 2:1-3.
1.False prophets—While there were these holy men and true prophets among God’s people, the ancient Israel, there were false prophets as well. Some pretended to be prophets who were not, and some prophesied “out of their own hearts,” who followed “their own spirit,” and saw “nothing.” Deuteronomy 18:20-22; Jeremiah 28:15-17; Ezekiel 13:2-3.
False teachers—Teachers of falsehood in the Church, the spiritual Israel.
Privily shall bring in—Literally, Shall bring in by the side of. By the side of the true doctrine already received, they would bring in what seemed to be truth, not, at first, in open antagonism, but stealthily and unobservedly.
Damnable heresies—Rather, Heresies of destruction. For they led to perdition. The word heresy ordinarily, in the New Testament, means a sect or faction; it here is nothing created or founded, but brought in, and must have the sense of doctrine. The character of these heretics is so fully described in this chapter that there is no mistaking their identity. Adopting the theory that all evil is in matter, they easily fell into the inference that the grossest immorality is consistent with sinless purity. The logical culmination of such a doctrine was in a denial of Christ’s authority over them as Lord and Redeemer. On this shocking doctrinal heresy, so subversive of the glory of Christ, the apostle’s mind fastens, as shown in his next words.
Denying the Lord that bought them—Some think that God is meant, but incorrectly, for as idolatry is not alleged, that would make them atheists, which they were not. The word for Lord is , master, denoting supreme authority and sovereignty. These false teachers had charged St. Peter with misrepresenting, in his first epistle, the power and dignity of Christ. See notes on 2 Peter 1:16. They denied, then, the Godhead of our Lord Jesus Christ; they denied his lordship over men and angels; and they denied the redeeming efficacy of his death.
Swift destruction—As a result of this denial; for they repudiate the only Saviour. The Lord had bought them with his own blood; and yet they are miserably self-destroyed. It indisputably follows, from this passage, that some for whom Christ died will finally perish. Efforts are made to escape this inference; such, for instance, as Scott employs, who says, “It is not requisite to understand the apostle as declaring that the Lord Jesus Christ had died with an intention of redeeming these very persons.” Most certainly not; yet he does expressly declare that Christ did redeem them, and he would be a bold man who would venture to affirm that he redeemed them without intending it.
2.Their pernicious ways—Most of the oldest and best authorities read their licentiousness. They carried their doctrine into practice; and the prediction that many would follow their example of dissoluteness, and think it purity, was abundantly fulfilled. Irenaeus says, that Simon Magus taught that “they who believed in him were free to live as they pleased, and that men would be saved by his grace, and not according to their works; and that nothing is good by nature, but only by institution. And therefore his votaries live in lasciviousness.” The immoral conduct of these Christian professors inevitably caused Christianity to be evil spoken of. Clemens Alexandrinus gives as a reason for his writing, the infamy brought upon the Christian name by the shameless lives of false teachers, and the necessity of disabusing the public mind.
3.Through covetousness—Rather, in it, living and moving in it as their atmosphere.
Feigned words—Crafty, oily speeches.
Merchandise—Gain; make money out of you. St. Paul found their parallels. See 1 Timothy 6:5; Titus 1:11. The commentators find them pervading Roman Catholic history.
Whose judgment—God’s condemnation of such sinners.
Lingereth not—It may seem to be doing nothing, but it is really at work.
Damnation—Eternal destruction. Years before, when Simon Magus sought to traffic with him for the power of conferring the Holy Ghost, St. Peter used the Greek of this very word: “May thy money be with thee unto destruction.” Acts 8:20.
Slumbereth not—It is not nodding, as if in a doze, but awake, to overwhelm them.
2. The certainty of their punishment maintained from three historic precedents, 2 Peter 2:4-12.
a. First case—The fallen angels.
4.Angels that sinned—When, why, how, or how many, we are nowhere informed. We only know that some angels “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,” (Judges 1:6,) and that they sinned. Inasmuch as sin is transgression, it follows that they were living under law, and were therefore in a state of probation. By their sin they fell under God’s displeasure and into swift punishment.
Cast’ to hell—Literally, Thrust down to Tartarus. Only here is the word found in the New Testament. In the Greek mythology, Tartarus is the lowest part of Hades. Hesiod (Theog. 721,) speaks of it as the place below the earth where the rebellious Titans are enchained and the souls of the wicked are confined; and Homer (Il. 8:14-16) describes it as a deep gulf within the earth, with iron gates and a brazen entrance. Note Ephesians 4:10. Whatever be its real locality, St. Peter’s use of the word shows the remoteness from heaven to which the fallen angels were driven, and the hopeless wretchedness into which they were plunged.
Chains of darkness—Chains made of darkness, expressive of the impossibility of regaining that world of light from which they were cast down. Tregelles and Alford read, caverns of darkness.
Reserved—Kept in custody unto the day of final judgment.
God spared them not—And the case shows his rule of punishment of sin.
b. Second case—The antediluvians.
5.Spared not the old world—That is, though his long suffering waited a hundred and twenty years for the repentance of the wicked, and though he gave them for that period the preaching and godly example of Noah, the blow, when the day of punishment came, was unsparing and terrible.
Saved—Here comes in, by way of contrast, the idea of the preservation of the godly, which is as certainly God’s law of action as is the punishment of the wicked.
Noah, the eighth—Not the eighth preacher, as some say, but, according to a frequent idiom, Noah, and seven others.
A preacher—St. Peter alone mentions Noah’s preaching. He was a proclaimer of righteousness, heralding the coming flood, and exhorting the people to believe God, repent of their sins, obey him in holy living, and thus escape the impending wrath. Hebrews 11:7. But they refused, and that world of the ungodly was swept away. Such, and so terrible, is God when he arises to judgment; and such will he always be, with as little regard to numbers and as great regard to character.
c. Third case—The cities of the plain.
6.Sodom—Interceded for by Abraham, but lacking its needed ten righteous men to save it. Genesis 18:32. The occasion and the manner of the destruction of these cities is narrated in Genesis 19. They are a standing ensample for ungodly men in all after time, warning them of the doom to which they are exposed. There are a full score of references to it in Scripture.
7.Delivered—A second example of preservation of the godly, in the case of Lot. Genesis 19:12-23. Just is the same Greek with righteous, in 2 Peter 2:8.
Vexed—Literally, Worn down by the conduct of the lawless in licentiousness. , says Bloomfield, “signifies a despiser of all laws. The term is applied to these, because they did not live after that primeval law, partly of nature and partly of tradition, with which they were favoured.”
8.Explanatory of the vexed in 2 Peter 2:7.
Vexed—Lot tormented himself by what he daily saw and heard of their conduct. The inference is, that he sought to reform them, though unsuccessfully.
9.The conclusion from for if, of 2 Peter 2:4.
The Lord knoweth how—And has both the power and will to do it, as he has showed.
To deliver—As he did Noah and Lot, and as he always will his faithful people.
Temptation— Any state of trial into which they are brought, by which their faith and obedience are proved. No exemption from temptation is promised; but we have the pledge of safety in it, and deliverance out of it. The Lord knoweth, also, equally well, with the same power and will, how to reserve the unrighteous, keeping them in custody unto the day of judgment, when their doom will be judicially pronounced.
To be punished—Better, Under punishment, as the rich man in hades, (Luke 16:23,) and the fallen angels, (2 Peter 2:4,) in a penal state, and awaiting full and final punishment in the great day. Such terms exclude the possibility of a second day of grace after death.
10.But chiefly—Especially, and most signally, does this knowing how to punish apply to the basely abominable characters here named. It was shown toward the people of Sodom, and it will be shown toward the false teachers and their followers. Bloomfield properly sends us to the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans as the best commentary on this passage.
Despise government—Rather, Despise lordship. Opinions widely vary as to the proper reference, whether to God, Christ, Satan, angels, or civil magistrates. We think it is to Christ primarily, whom, as 2 Peter 2:1 informs us, the false teachers would deny, and then to all authority, human, angelic, and divine.
Speak evil of dignities—Literally, Blaspheme glories; that is, those who exercise the lordship which they despise. Their blasphemy is, then, but the out-speaking of their inward contempt.
11.Whereas angels—Jude is evidently speaking of a different matter. These daring, opinionated, but weak and helpless sinners, profanely rail at even the Lord who bought them, while angels, vastly their superiors in every way, do not, in reporting the conduct of these false teachers, bring against them a railing judgment in the presence of the Lord their judge, but simply state the naked facts.
12.These—False teachers. As’
destroyed—Rather, As brute beasts, by nature born for capture and destruction. They profess a superior knowledge, but, as if they had no more reason than irrational animals, they condemn and rail at things of which they know nothing, as the glories of 2 Peter 2:10; and thus acting like beasts, they shall perish like beasts. In’
corruption—In it, as their element, they live; in it they grow; and in it they will go on until they shall be corrupted to death, corruption working out eternal corruption.
3. Their viciousness of life, 2 Peter 2:13-18.
13.And shall receive—Better, Receiving. This participial clause, ending with unrighteousness, is simply explanatory of perish. Perdition is their duly earned wages.
Count it—Rather, Counting it pleasure; commencing with these words a new sentence of pungent invective, which continues through 2 Peter 2:16. In the East it was a shameful disgrace to be drunken in the daytime. So 1 Thessalonians 5:7 describes the custom: “They that be drunken are drunken in the night;” but rioting by day would be a pleasure to these heretical profligates.
Spots—Stains upon the Christian name.
Blemishes—Disfigurements disgracing the Christian Church. Contrast with 1 Peter 1:19.
Sporting—Revelling in the fruits of their deceit or fraud. Instead, however, of , deceits, Tregelles reads , love-feasts. This would mean that they make the love-feasts occasions for their baseness. But, in either case, feast undoubtedly refers to those festivals.
14.Full of adultery—Rather, Of an adulteress. At the love-feasts their very eyes speak their insatiable lust, and do not cease from the sin of lustful gazing. Matthew 5:28.
Beguiling—Laying baits for those not established in Christian doctrine and life.
Exercised—They had trained their heart so thoroughly in covetousness, as a gymnast trains himself, that they had become skilful experts in all its arts.
Cursed children—Rather, children of a curse, like “the son of perdition.” John 17:12. Their unblushing greed and abominable licentiousness had brought them where God’s curse was abiding upon them.
15, 16.The right way—The straight way of Christian truth and duty. The way of Balaam was a crooked way. A prophet of Jehovah, he used his prophetic gift for gain; and for the sake of personal gain, against the known will of God, he sought to curse Israel. Numbers 22:7; Numbers 22:17. He was a fair type of these false teachers, who used the gospel for the gratification of their avarice. His counsel to Balak to tempt Israel to sin does not seem to be included here.
Rebuked’ iniquity—Not, we think, by the ass, but by the Angel of the Lord, an Old Testament designation of Christ himself, who said to him, “Thy way is perverse before me,” extorting the confession, “I have sinned.” Numbers 22:32; Numbers 22:34. An additional element in the transaction was, the speaking of the dumb ass with a human voice; but the madness which she forbade was the foolish anger which led Balaam to smite her with a staff, and to wish that he had a sword with which he might kill her. Numbers 22:27; Numbers 22:29. The ass showed more reason than did either Balaam or the false teachers. St. Peter, as against all sceptics, holds this as a true historical event.
17.Wells—They promise water to the thirsty traveller in the desert; but on his coming to them, they are dry. So these professed greater knowledge and purer truth, but the water of life they could not give to thirsty souls.
Clouds—The best authorities read mists, which are clouds condensed, and darker, and give more promise of rain, so welcome in time of drought; but a whirlwind seizes and drives them away, and no rain falls. So with these teachers; they disappoint those that long for the truth. But their awful doom awaits them, for there is reserved for them the mist—rather, the blackness (which makes the chains of the fallen angels in Tartarus, 2 Peter 2:4)—of darkness, the deepest pit of hell.
18.Speak’ vanity—Their talk is pompously grandiloquent, but full of emptiness; a pretentious sensationalism admirably adapted to catch the unthinking. Thus laying baits in their own lusts—preaching for truth doctrines that work by licentiousness—they allure those who have embraced the gospel, and are but a short time escaped from the influence of their old heathen associates.
Clean escaped—We read with the best texts, a little. Recently converted, and not yet fully instructed, they are the more easily entrapped by these deceivers.
4. Their corruption and utter apostasy, 2 Peter 2:19-22.
19.Promise’ liberty—Rather, Promising them liberty, themselves being. The great swelling was about liberty; nominally the Christian freedom which Christ effects for his people, (1 Peter 2:16,) but really a freedom to do as they pleased, being under no law and without restraint. Yet these promisers were most abject slaves, and ignorant of real liberty. The proof is on the very surface; they were overcome by corruption, and so were made slaves to corruption, John 8:34; Romans 6:16.
20.The servants of corruption, not their victims, are meant.
Escaped— The same word as in 2 Peter 2:18 and 2 Peter 1:4.
Through the knowledge—Rather, in the true, ripe, full knowledge; the element in, and the means by which, the escape was made, showing that it was not a mere external reformation and a profession of religion without saving grace, as some theologians would have it, but a true experience of its blessed power. They were by it brought into the way of truth, the right way, the way of righteousness. 2 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 2:15; 2 Peter 2:21.
Entangled—Interwoven with them.
Overcome—And so again enslaved.
The latter end—Their last state of vice, that is, since their apostasy, is worse—lower and fouler—than the first.
21.Way of righteousness—The way of justification from sin through faith in Christ, and of holy living. The laws for walking in this way constitute the holy commandment given them to be kept; but after keeping it for a time, they are now turned back out of it. Surely, then, they were once in it. Besides, the compound word rendered known means to know increasingly, and implies that they had once been living, growing Christians.
It had been better—Because in ceasing to add to their faith, virtue, etc., (2 Peter 1:5,) they came to forget how Christ saved them, (2 Peter 1:9,) and fell into the guilt of apostasy and a lower depth of sin; because they sin against greater knowledge and have less excuse; and because they will therefore receive a severer punishment. 2 Peter 2:20-21 forcibly show the fall of these false teachers from a state of grace. Their certain doom is pronounced in 2 Peter 2:1; 2 Peter 2:3; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 2:12; 2 Peter 2:17.
22.Proverb—These fitting illustrations (Proverbs 26:11) of the brutish sensuality and disgusting moral filthiness into which these apostates had sunk, close the horrible description. Both were probably current sayings.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Peter 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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