False Teachers Condemned
Because false teachers pervert God’s word, they are condemned and they will be destroyed, even if they appear to get away with it now. (3)
To prove his point, Peter listed a series of judgments imposed by God and recorded in the Old Testament to show that he can and will do it.
First, Peter showed that God did not spare angels when they sinned. (4) He cast them into hell. This is similar to Jude 6, which says angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, God has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment comes.
Although the English translations say God cast them into hell, Peter did not use the New Testament word for hell, “Gehenna”. Instead, he used the word “Tartarus”, the holding place for people after death. He may have done this to emphasize that they were not in the place of final torment, but they were punished and restrained in some way (chains) as they were kept until the judgment.
There is disagreement about which even Peter has in mind here. Some believe it is about the angels who sinned by rebelling with Satan against God. Others believe it refers to the events of Genesis 6, when the “sons of God” married the daughters of men. Since Peter has already mentioned this (1 Peter 3:19), and it matches up with Jewish tradition, the latter is likely what Peter referred to.
Second, God did not spare the ungodly when he destroyed the world by flood. (5) (Genesis 6-8) This is the story of Noah and the ark.
Third, he destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, raining down fire and sulphur, giving us an example of the final judgment of the ungodly. (6)(Genesis 19:23-29)
These events show that God knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the final day of judgment. (9) The false teachers denied the return of Christ and future judgment. Peter refuted them with these examples.
Underlying this is the belief that God does not change. He hates sin and will punish it.
Notice, though, that in the midst of judgment, God preserved the few who were righteous. He rescued Noah and his family. He rescued Lot and his family. This would have been an encouragement to these little churches in northern Asia who were the few in the midst of a multitude of the unrighteous.
It is also an encouragement to us today: God will rescue us through trials. Those trials may come from the presence of false teachers, but would include any trials in which our faithfulness to God and his word are subject to persecution and ridicule. God will rescue us from apostasy.
God rescues us even from the final judgment, because we are his. Remember the scene in Revelation 20:11-15, the Great White Throne Judgment. As the world stood before the throne, books were opened that contained the names of all people and their sins. But, then, the Book of Life was opened. Those whose names were in the book, the believers, were spared and welcomed into the New Jerusalem. Those whose names were not written there were thrown into the lake of fire. God will vindicate and preserve us while he judges and punishes those who reject him and his Son.
Judgment for Rebellion and Sensuality
Peter pointed out two egregious sins that lead to judgment, First is “lust of defiling passion”, meaning sexual immorality. The false teachers in Peter’s time were known for sexual immorality, believing that there would be no judgment of it.
Second, they despised authority. (10) They did not accept and obey the authority of Christ, his word or his church.
They were bold and willful, or arrogant. They had a great deal of confidence in themselves, untempered by humility or spiritual wisdom. They were so arrogant that they did not hesitate to blaspheme or slander the glorious ones (celestial beings). In contrast, good angels, though greater in might and power, did not slander the evil angels before the Lord. (11) They left judgment to God.
But the false teachers evidently did slander the angels, blaspheming about matters of which they were ignorant. So, Peter says, they are like irrational animals who will be caught and destroyed.
Most of you likely do not slander fallen angels. However, the point Peter makes of making proclamations about things we do not know is relevant to our time. God, through the Bible, revealed to us what he wants us to know and how much he wants us to know. He did not reveal everything he knows.
There is much we do not know. Here is an example. We understand God is a trinity; Father, Son, and Spirit are all part of the Godhead. We do not know or understand everything there is about this concept. But, it is not for us to make things up, which is what speculation is. It is especially not for us to make things up and claim they are true.
So, if a preacher says each member of the Godhead is a Trinity, so there are really nine members of the Godhead, he is speculating at best, or lying intentionally to get attention. And Peter makes it plain that judgment is coming for false teachers.
In verse 13, Peter returned to the idea of the immorality of the false teachers. He said they: (1) revel in the daytime, meaning they could not wait until dark, when evil things usually happen, making them blots and blemishes on the church; (2) revel in their deceptions at the love feasts; (3) commit adultery and looked at every woman as a candidate for it (14) ; (4) insatiable for sin; (5) entice unsteady souls; and (6) are greedy.
Certainly they are not those who pursue holiness as God commanded.
They are under God’s curse. (14)
The false teachers have gone astray. They followed the way of Balaam. Balaam was a prophet in the Old Testament who took money to prophesy against Israel. His donkey rebuked him, meaning he had less insight into God’s work than a donkey! (Numbers 22-25, 31) He led the people of Israel astray. Comparing the false teachers in Peter’s day to Balaam was to say they were as despicable as he was.
Peter had still more to say about the false teachers. They were waterless springs and mists driven by the storm. (17) These are two great images for those who live in the desert. Both promise refreshing water, but deliver nothing but disappointment. Similarly, the false teachers promised understanding of the things of God, but instead delivered confusion and lies.
They also seduced recent converts, teaching that sexual promiscuity is the pathway to freedom. Peter saw the paradox in the promise of freedom, for the false teachers were slaves to sin. (18-19)
Since the false teachers had, through supposed conversion, escaped the defilements of sin, to be again enslaved by them is a worse state than their lostness before conversion. (20) Thy would have been better not to know the way of salvation than to know it and turn back from it. (21)
We must learn to discern the difference between truth and false teaching.
We must avoid false teaching, even more so if it entices us to sin.
And we must certainly not become false teachers, for a terrible judgment awaits them.