Just as much as people question the second coming of Jesus, there are the same amount of questions, if not more, about there being a final judgment upon the disobedient. The commonly asked question is always: how can a loving God send people to eternal punishment? Because people think this is such an airtight point, they go on believing that there is no future judgment and live how ever they want. Peter is going to deal with those who bring in such false teachings.
1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
Peter begins by recalling the past. There were false prophets before that came from among the people. It was not that there were simply outsiders trying to lead the people astray, but there were Israelites that were supposed to be people of God that acted as false prophets. There were people like Balaam and Korah, as Jude identifies in his letter (Jude 11). In the same way, there will be false teachers among the people of God today. There will be people who claim to be Christians and look like Christians, but they bring in destructive heresies. These are teachings that are catastrophic to our faith and destructive to our souls.
There are great and destructive heresies today. We see Peter mentioning that there were teachers that were denying the Master who bought them. That denial still happens today. There are religions and teachings that say that Jesus was just a good man and a good teacher, but not God. The impact is that the things he taught were just some good guidelines to follow, but there is no condemnation for a lack of obedience. Jesus was just a good person. There are religious groups that claim that Jesus was just an angel and not God. Some say that Jesus was created by God the Father and was not in the beginning with God and as God, as John 1:1 declares. Some say that Jesus is God, but he is a lesser God, not fully God. Some religions say that Jesus was a prophet of God, but not divine. Jesus simply ranks somewhere with other great prophets and teachers like John the Baptist, Isaiah, and Elijah. All of these are destructive heresies, yet these all lay claim to the banner of Christianity and religion. Do not be deceived. You cannot go to any church or religion you want and have the truth of God’s word. You will find destructive heresies. Peter is giving a strong warning to watch out. These people will claim to be followers of God, but they are even so far gone from the Lord that they will deny the Master who bought them.
Another great and destructive heresy today surrounds salvation. Everyone is teaching different ways to come to God. Some claim that any path you take will lead you to God. You don’t need Jesus. You need some spirituality. Some say that all the world religions will lead you to God. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). It is a destructive heresy that says that you can come to God however you want and that you do not need Jesus or do not need to obey Jesus. Some think you can do a bunch of good deeds and be a good person. Just be a good person and that is all you need. God said that there is no one who is good, no one who is righteous, and no one who is moral (Romans 3:10-11). Some will tell you that you are a Christian if you simply believe there is a God and say a prayer. God said to repent of your sins and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. It is a destructive heresy to say that you can be saved without doing all that God has said to receive his mercy and grace. We need to see that we are surrounded by destructive heresies.
Peter says that they will follow their sensuality. They will participate in shameful immorality and tell you that it is okay. Today we have all sorts of people claiming to be followers of God who will tell you that sexual sin in acceptable. They will tell you that sex before marriage is not sinful. They will tell you that cheating on your spouse is not a big of a deal. They will tell you that it is okay to divorce for any reason. They will tell you it is okay to remarry for any reason. They will tell you that homosexuality is just another way of living. These are all lies and destructive heresies. But you can find a church that will approve of your sins. You can be as sexually immoral as you like and find some church that will say you are acceptable to God. Don’t believe these lies. These despicable things lead to the way of truth being slandered and blasphemed. We are not showing the way of truth when we are involved sexual before marriage. We are not showing the way of truth when we are cheating on our spouse. We are not showing the way of truth when we divorce our spouse. We are not showing the way of truth when we marry another.
Notice that these false teachers do not really care about you. They will lead you to believe that they care about you and have your best interests in mind. But if they are teaching that you that any path leads to God, that salvation does not require what the scriptures teach, or that you can be involved in immorality, they do not have your soul’s best interest in mind. They are in it for themselves. They are in it for the money of being a false teacher. They are in it to justify their own sinful behaviors. They will say whatever they need to say to deceive you. They are not pursuing Jesus and his glory.
Consider carefully what Peter says: “Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” Don’t think that they are getting away with something. They may not have received judgment yet, but that does not mean that their destruction and judgment have gone to sleep. Their condemnation has been declared and it is coming. Peter now offers four proofs to show the certainty of judgment and eternal punishment for those who are active and accepting these destructive heresies.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (ESV)
Before we analyze Peter’s proofs, it is important to notice the construction of this section. Each of the proofs begin with “if.” You can see each “if” in verses 4-7 with verse 8 being a parenthetical. Verse 9 is the conclusion from these if statements. Verse 9 begins with “then.” So it is important to see this construction to see what Peter is doing as he presents these four proofs of judgment.
Angels (vs. 4).Peter begins with angels. God did not even spare the angels when they sinned. Even angels will not be spared from judgment. The point is that if angels are judged, then certainly people will be judged for their sins. Further, notice that their judgment is certain. They are kept in chains of gloomy darkness until the judgment.
The ancient world (vs. 5). God did not even spare the ancient world in the days of Noah. Every person in the days when Noah lived died in the flood except for Noah and seven of his family members. We may think that there were not many people on the earth at that time. Conservative estimates of how many people on the earth at the time of the flood is approximately one billion people. It is possible and reasonable that there were three to four billion people on the earth at the time of the flood. Dr. John R. Rice, who wrote, Genesis: In The Beginning, says, “there would have been as many people alive at the time of the flood as there were in the whole earth at the time of the Babylonian captivity, with all the nations of Egypt, Assyria, China, India and other mentioned in Scripture.” He further says, “the earth may have been as well populated before the flood at it was about the time of Christ” (p. 169). It was a fully populated world at the time of the flood. God destroyed a fully populated world by water, saving only eight. The sinful will be judged. Notice also that God can spare the righteous while destroying the wicked.
Sodom and Gomorrah (vs. 6).Third, God gives us a powerful example of what happens to the ungodly. Sodom and Gomorrah were so wicked that God could not even find ten righteous people to spare the cities. When the two angels came to warn Lot about the coming judgment, the men of the city beat down Lot’s door trying to get to these men to have homosexual relations with them. Sodom and Gomorrah were condemned to ashes as it rained upon them fire and sulfur. Their destruction was so great that we still have not conclusively found their location archaeologically. God wiped their existence off the earth. Peter says that Sodom and Gomorrah are examples, or patterns, of what happens to the ungodly. This is not some isolated incident of judgment in the Old Testament. This is the pattern with God. He judges the ungodly.
Lot (vs. 7-8).But God will spare the righteous, as he did with righteous Lot who was distressed and tormented by the sexual conduct of the people. Reading the Genesis account of Lot does not reveal any righteousness in Lot, and perhaps some unrighteous decisions. But notice that Lot was tormented day after day over the sinfulness and wickedness of the people. Are we tormented and distressed over the evil that surrounds us or have we become callous to wickedness? Do we mold to the sinfulness of the world or are our hearts still pricked when we hear and see sinful activity? We cannot condone immorality and must keep our consciences pure so that we are still pricked by evil. When we lose this sensitivity we will fall into the same sinfulness because our consciences will no longer be moved. We will justify ourselves and not see our actions for the filthy sin that it is.
Verses 9-10: Key Point. Verses 9-10 contain the key point that Peter has been leading up to with these causal statements. First, God knows who to rescue the godly from trials. God has shown his faithfulness to vindicate and deliver the godly. This is the great hope for the Christian. God can deliver you from your trials that come from the ungodliness of this world. This point captures some of the theme of Peter’s first letter. However, contextually, Peter is speaking about more than simply our individual trials. The theme of this chapter has been the ultimate judgment against false teachers and the ungodly. Their condemnation is not idle and their destruction is not asleep. It is certainly coming. But the godly will be rescued from this ultimate judgment, just as Noah and Lot were rescued from the punishment of the ungodly.
Second, the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise [apostolic or godly] authority. The NET renders this statement the most clearly and most accurately —
“…and to reserve the unrighteous for punishment at the day of judgment…” (NET)
Many scholars also contend for a similar translation, “…to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, when they will be punished” (see Peter H. Davids, Pillar New Testament Commentary, p. 232; contrast to NIV which misses the point). The word “hold” means “to guard; to prevent from escaping; by implication, to detain,” according to Strong’s. The point is that the ungodly are not going to escape judgment. God has detained them and they will not avoid the punishment to come on the day of judgment. Their destruction is not asleep. It is certainly coming.
- Since God judged immorality in the past, he will do it again in the future.
- If you do not know the truth, you will be easily fooled by error.
- If you are not able to discern the methods and teachings of false teachers, you will be easy prey for them.
- Judgment is coming and is certain. Will you be rescued from judgment?