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COMMENTARY ON THE SECOND LETTER OF PETER (2).

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

Chapter 2. The False Prophets Who Are In Such Contrast To What Has Been Just Described.

In chapter 1 Peter has outlined what Christians are to be as they respond to God’s word and to the teaching of the prophets. In this chapter he will describe what they ought not to be, and will draw attention to dangerous false prophets.

They must remember that in the past the true prophets were always countered by false prophets. So in the light of true prophecy, and of those who teach truly, they are to beware of the false teachers who have risen among them.

Constantly in the Old Testament we learn of prophets who spoke what the people wanted to hear. They ‘heal the hurt of God’s people with ease saying, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace’ (Jeremiah 6.14; 8.11). They promised that no judgment would come on the people (Jeremiah 4.13). And the people loved to have it so (Jeremiah 5.31).

So, says Peter, even today they are easily recognisable. They deny the Master Who bought them, for they cannot bear the way of the cross, and their ways lead to licentious behaviour which brings dishonour on the name of Christ. Furthermore they themselves are only in it for what they can get out of it. Let them then recognise what their end will be, in contrast with that of the true people of God. For God has ever brought judgment on those who followed worldly lusts.

He then gives three examples of this. For example He brought judgment on the angels who sinned, He did it on Noah’s world, so that only the preacher of righteousness and those who followed him were spared, and He did it on Sodom and Gomorrah so that only righteous Lot was spared. For the truth is that He knows how to deliver the righteous from temptation and bring His judgment on the unrighteous who follow their own desires.

He then goes on to describe in verses 10-22 the kind of men that these teachers are, and the end that lies in store for them, a warning to all false teachers. For as James emphasises, to be a teacher was to be placed in a serious position. Teachers will receive the heavier judgment (James 3.1).

The importance of this chapter cannot be overemphasised in our modern day when there is much laxity about what entertainments Christians can engage in and watch, and people think that they can safely dabble in the occult. We do well to take heed to the warnings involved.

The False Teachers, Their Message And Its Consequences (2.1-3). .

The future tense here is probably intended simply to be a general future. The point is that the false teachers are at present among them and will continue on into the future. There will always be false teachers as Jesus had constantly warned.

2.1 ‘But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there will be false teachers, who will surreptitiously bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction.’

Just as false prophets had always arisen in Israel, to oppose the true prophets described in 1.19-21, so now they also must expect false teachers who will seek to lead them astray. They will make a pretence of being Christian, but will really deny the very heart of Christian teaching, and will introduce destructive heresies. The expectancy of the rise of such false teachers was emphasised by Jesus in Matthew 24.4-5, 11-12, 23-25 and parallels. See also Acts 20.29, 30. Significantly in the light of chapter 3 they are also signs that Christ will come. The very fact of false teachers points to the coming of Christ.

The word for ‘heresies’ basically means ‘things that men choose to believe in’ in contrast with the truth. It has in mind things that people want to hear and believe.

These destructive heresies would in this case appear to include a denial that ‘the Christ’ really became flesh and died for us. They deny ‘the Master Who bought them.’ (Compare Jude 1.4). For the concept of being bought by Christ compare 1 Peter 1.18-19; 1 Corinthians 6.20. For similar heresy see also 1 John 4.1-6.

This denial arises because they have not recognised the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. To them He is not an historical figure. Rather He is one of their illsusions. They have not recognised Him as He is. He is just one of a number of intermediaries. And there is nothing historical about Him. The world goes on as it always has. God has not broken in.

Many modern heretical teachers follow the same line for the opposite reason. They overstress Christ’s real humanity and deny the necessity for redemption. To them Christ is little more than a man. To them it is not God’s beloved Son Who has come. They too have not seen His power and coming.

Alternately he may be saying that they claimed to be redeemed and accept Jesus as Lord, but denied it by walking in a way that was exactly the opposite of His teaching. In other words they had not believed in Jesus as He really is. For it is not enough just to ‘believe’ (James 2.19). The life also must be turned in the right direction. In other words it must be a genuine belief.

‘The Lord (despotes) that bought them.’ If they have been ‘bought’, does this then mean that these people were Christians? The answer is probably ‘no’. The thought is rather that Christ’s redemption is offered to the whole world for it to accept or otherwise, but is only effective for those who do accept it. Compare ‘He gave His life a ransom for all’ (1 Timothy 2.6). ‘He is the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe’ (1 Timothy 4.10). In other words He is potentially there for all, but effective only for those who respond to Him from the heart. Those whom He redeems and saves will necessarily become ‘reformed’ people. But these men have rejected His redemption. They pretend to present a ‘lord and saviour’ but they have totally diminished Him.

The word for ‘Master’ occurs in the New Testament in 1 Timothy 6.1, 2; Titus 2.9; 1 Peter 2.18, where it is rendered ‘masters’; Luke 2.29; Acts 4.24; Revelation 6.10, where it is rendered ‘Lord’, and is applied to God; and in Jude 1.4, where it is almost certainly to be regarded as applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no good reason therefore for denying that that is true here also. The idea is that He has bought us as a master buys his slaves, and that He therefore has full rights over us, so that to reject His ways is therefore a grievous sin. But these treachers have denied that the Master has come.

So by their behaviour what these people are doing is bringing on themselves swift destruction. And this, along with the delivery of the truly righteous, will be the emphasis of this chapter.

2.2 ‘And many will follow their lascivious doings, by reason of whom the way of the truth will be evil spoken of.’

A prominent aspect of their teaching would seem to have been a claim that the way to acceptability with the divine was by lascivious behaviour, probably including illicit sex and drunkenness. The idea may have been that they attained ‘oneness’ with their god(s) by ‘making love’ to sacred prostitutes and avid women in the Temples, or because their behaviour was seen as denying the flesh by treating it as irrelevant and letting it run away with itself. Either way lust and desire controlled their thinking.

Unbelievable though it may seem, there are so-called Christians today who also consider that they can behave in a similar way because it is ‘natural’, and because ‘God wants them to enjoy life’. This is the argument for illicit sex between homosexuals, which along with adultery, where the same excuse is often used, is clearly condemned in Romans 1.24-27. It is also the basis for much drunkenness. And the result is that Christianity is held up to ridicule because of its supposed adherents, as a result of the fact that Christians fail to be Christlike. Here Peter reveals that those who argue in this way are false teachers and will come to their due end

The practical outworking of this was found in those days among the Nicolaitans and similar groups who are mentioned in Revelation 2.6, 14-15, 20, where attendance at idolatrous feasts and engaging in loose sex on religious grounds was clearly practised, along with drunkenness.

2.3 ‘And in covetousness will they with feigned words make merchandise of you, whose sentence now from of old does not linger, and their destruction does not sleep.’

The true motive of these teachers is now revealed. They are lovers of wealth. They use believers as though they were so much merchandise, to be manipulated for gain. It is covetousness that drives them on. Paul was thinking of similar teachers when he said, ‘Unlike others we do not peddle the word of God for profit’ (2 Corinthians 2.17). Beware of preachers and hierarchies that become rich on the back of supposed Christianity.

And they do this by feigned words. This is in contrast to ‘unfeigned love of the brethren’ (1 Peter 1.22). Their words are really a pretence as they seek to manipulate men and women. They invent their own doctrines in order to lead others astray, and thereby themselves profit by it.

The Roman Catholic church practised this during the Middle Ages. And we have a number of examples in the modern world. The leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses grow fat on the books that their minions sell for them. Other sect leaders similarly make a fortune out of their literature, as well as out of the giving of their supporters. It is rarely that you come across a poor sect leader.

But again comes the warning. God is not mocked. All should keep in mind that ‘Their sentence from of old does not linger.’ Just as the false prophets were condemned in the Old Testament, and their proper sentence was death, and in the end they and the people who believed them died, often prematurely, so will these latest teachers also find that they are already sentenced. And the result is that their destruction is not asleep. It will soon catch up with them for it already has them in its focus.

Examples Of God’s Judgment On Licentious Behaviour And His Delivery Of The Righteous (2.4-9).

Peter now calls on a number of examples from the Old Testament which demonstrate the truth of what he is saying.

2.4 ‘For if God did not spare not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;

The first example is the angels who sinned before the Flood (Genesis 6.1-4). They had followed ‘lascivious ways’. They ‘saw that the daughters of men were fair, and took all whom they chose’ (Genesis 6.2). While, apart from the Flood, we are not told of their fate in Scripture, it is well documented in Jewish literature (see below). And it is confirmed in 1 Peter 3.19 (where they were disobedient in the days of Noah); Jude 1.6 (where it is the angels who did not keep to their proper sphere) and supported in Revelation 9.1-11.

These angels were cast down into Tartarus, which according to the Greeks was the worst place in Hell. The word is used to signify the worst possible fate,and to distinguish it from the place of the dead. And there in pits of darkness they were reserved for judgment. The words are figurative. Spirit beings could not be kept in physical pits, and it is questionable whether literal darkness affects them. The point is simply that they are safely restrained and away from the true light, and are awaiting judgment and destruction (just as the false teachers are).

It will be noted that in contrast with what follows there were no exceptions among these angels. All were doomed. In the same way there will be no exceptions among the false teachers. (An alternative possibility is to take the text as ‘chains of darkness’, but the earlier manuscripts favour ‘pits’ (Aleph, A, B)).

Note On The Angels In Pits of Darkness.

It is clear that these are the angels described as ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6.1-2 for a number of reasons.

Firstly because Peter appears to be listing his illustrations in Biblical order, thus

  • Angels that were imprisoned because of their sin (verse 4 compare Genesis 6.1-2). There is no other mention in Genesis of angels sinning. Note also in respect to this how it is emphasised that both the past destruction of the Flood and the coming destruction by fire will affect ‘the heavens’ as well as the earth (3.5, 7).
  • Noah and the Flood of water that destroyed the earth (verse 5 compare Genesis 6.5-8.22). Note also in respect to this 3.5-6.
  • Lot and the Destruction by fire of Sodom and Gomorrah (verses 6-8 compare Genesis 18-19). Note also in respect to this 3.7, 10.

Thus three incidents in Genesis are given in order, and in Genesis there is only one reference to angels sinning.

Jude 1.6 describes God’s dealings with these angels as follows, ‘and the angels who kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, He has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.’

Furthermore a comparison of 2 Peter and Jude makes it quite clear that 1). 2 Peter used Jude in constructing his own account. Or 2). Jude used 2 Peter in constructing his account. Or 3). Both used a common source. There are too many coincidences of thought and grammar for it not to be so.

But whichever it may be we must now ask, what was the source from which this extra information was initially obtained? And Jude in fact gives us the clue. For he describes an incident from The Assumption of Moses (Jude 1.9) and cites words from the Book of Enoch (Jude 1.14-15). And both these books were examples of Jewish apocalyptic literature. What then can we learn from such Jewish apocalyptic literature? In fact the story of the fall of these angels and the story of Noah and the Flood are both commonly dealt with in this literature.

In the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) we have the following description of the fall of these angels:

“And it came about, when the children of men had multiplied, that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children (6.1-3) --- And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in to them and to defile themselves with them (7.1). ---And again the Lord said to Raphael: 'Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness (10.4) --- bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they will be confined for ever. And whoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations. And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate and the children of the Watchers, because they have wronged mankind. (10.12-15) --- And then will the whole earth be tilled in righteousness, and will all be planted with trees and be full of blessing (10.18-19) --- . 'Enoch, you scribe of righteousness, go, declare to the Watchers of the heaven who have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken to themselves wives: "You have wrought great destruction on the earth, and you will have no peace nor forgiveness of sin, and inasmuch as they delight themselves in their children, the murder of their beloved ones shall they see, and over the destruction of their children shall they lament, and will make supplication unto eternity, but mercy and peace shall you not attain.” (12.4-6).

It will be noted that in comparison with Peter we have the ‘spirits in prison’ (1 Peter 3.19), the ‘committing to pits of darkness to be reserved to judgment’ (2 Peter 2.5) and ‘the new earth in which dwells righteousness’ (2 Peter 3.13), and in comparison with Jude we have ‘the angels who left their first principality’ and the ‘everlasting bonds’ (Jude 1.6). Furthermore in 60.8 we have mention of ‘the seventh from Adam’ (Jude 1.14).

The same incidents are described more briefly in Jubilees 4.15; 5.1ff.; Testament of Reuben 5.6-7; Testament of Naphtali 3.5; 2 Enoch 18; etc.

We have selected only a few extracts from the text, but the full text makes quite clear that we undoubtedly have reference here to the events described in Genesis 6.1-2.

End of note.

2.5 ‘And did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly,’

These next two examples were regularly used by Jesus (Luke 17.26-29, 32; compare Matthew 24.37-40). Here Peter is saying that God also did not spare the ancient world of which ‘the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’ (Genesis 6.5). This included their lusting after the ‘sons of God’ (Genesis 6.4). Thus He brought a flood on the world of the ungodly.

On the other hand this time there were some who were delivered from judgment. These were Noah and the seven who were with him in the Ark. Compare here 1 Peter 3.20. The idea of Noah as a preacher of righteousness is found in Jewish tradition (e.g. Josephus’ Antiquities I. 3.1, ‘But Noah displeased and distressed at their behaviour, tried to induce them to alter their dispositions and conduct for the better’). He was one who stood up to be counted in the world of his day (compare Hebrews 11.7). Thus Noah was in total contrast to these false teachers that Peter is talking about. He was delivered, they will perish.

2.6 ‘And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, having made them an example to those that who live in and ungodly way,’

A third example of God’s judgment were Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19; Jude 1.7; compare Luke 17.28-29, 32). They were turned into ashes, and overthrown, and made an example to all who live in an ungodly (i.e. a lascivious) way. They were famed for their sexual misbehaviour.

2.7-8 ‘And delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked, (for that righteous man living among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds),’

But one man, Lot, again a ‘righteous man’, was distressed by their lasciviousness and was vexed by it continually day by day, was delivered. So in these last two examples, while judgments came on those who lived lasciviously, there were a remnant who were saved. We may feel that Lot did not reveal himself as particularly righteous in the way that he behaved. But the point is that he believed God and in the end obeyed Him, even though somewhat reluctantly.

And the same was now true in a lascivious world, destined for judgment, with the few, the new people of God, being delivered because of their righteousness. The righteousness is comparative. The point is that even in his sins, Lot’s heart was turned towards God. For the depiction of both Noah and Lot as ‘righteous’ compare the Wisdom of Solomon 10.4, 6 among the apocryphal books.

2.9 ‘The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment (or ‘while continuing their punishment’) in readiness for the day of judgment,’

Thus these examples demonstrate that God knows how to deliver the godly out of testing and temptation, while at the same time keeping the unrighteous under sentence of punishment in readiness for the day of judgment. Strictly speaking, however, the present participle may suggest not just sentence of punishment but continuing punishment as they are kept ready for the day of judgment. The thought may be of the continuing punishment in the intermediate state as in Luke 16.22-23.

Note the threefold reference to ‘righteous’ with reference to Lot - righteous Lot (verse 7), that righteous man (verse 8), righteous soul (verse 8) - and note the previous reference to the ‘preacher of righteousness’ (verse 5). Here that becomes ‘the godly’. The righteous and the godly are those whose hearts are right towards God, and who are not caught up in the lusts and evil desires of the world.

Peter’s Indictment Of The False Preachers (2.10-19).

Peter accuses the false teachers, who are in total contrast to Noah and Lot, both of whom had had connections with angelic beings in one way or another, but had not become obsessed with such things, of a number of things:

  • Firstly that they treated spiritual beings and their doings lightly. They were arrogant in their dealings with the spiritual world, and especially with regard to Satan. The impression given is they saw themselves as having access into that spiritual world through their ‘knowledge’ and felt able to treat spiritual beings with contempt because of their own spiritual superiority. There is a warning here not to become involved with that world or with the occult. As we are warned as a result of Genesis 6.1-4, and here, mankind are not to try to pierce the veil that separates them from the ‘other world’.
  • Secondly that they lived lives of sin and debauchery, caught up in a round of pleasures, deceiving others in order to persuade them to do the same, free and easy in sexual matters, and possessed by a love of wealth.
  • Thirdly that like Balaam they had sold themselves to evil for the sake of prosperity and reward, something which even a dumb ass knew was folly.

Today we are likely to come across all three, for we live in a world which seeks after every new thing, and makes light of the spiritual dangers of the occult, which has simply let itself go in seeking the pleasures of the flesh, and whose love for wealth is destroying its very soul.

2.10-11 ‘But chiefly those who walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise dominion. Daring, self-willed, they tremble not to rail at dignities (literally ‘glories’), whereas angels, though greater in might and power, bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord.’

Two of the great follies of these false teachers is that they live lives of lustful pleasure, eagerly satiating their fleshly desires, and that they exhibit arrogance towards the occult and treat lightly the heavenly world (compare Jude 1.8). Compared with verse 9, rather than being delivered from temptation, these walk right into it, not realising what they are getting themselves into.

As wealth increases in our present day, instead of it producing gratitude to God, it simply encourages men and women to live for pleasure and to go to excess. And as God then fades from the mind they seek to fill the gap by tampering with the unseen world. But, as Peter brings out, thereby they are playing with powers that they do not understand.

He describes them in vivid terms:

  • ‘They despise dominion.’ Jude illustrates this by reminding his readers that even the Archangel Michael dared not directly interfere with Satan but calls on the Lord to rebuke him. But these men think that they can rebuke Satan at will, and treat him lightly. They mess with the occult and do not realise what powers are involved, and they seek to manipulate such powers to their own ends. They thought that their own spiritual exaltation was such that they could dismiss such spiritual powers openly, to the admiration of their followers.
  • They are foolishly ‘daring’ (tolmotes). They do not fear going to any depths of sin, nor to mess with the occult.
  • They are ‘self-willed’. They think themselves masters of the Universe, and that they have a right to do anything that they like without restriction. ‘Obstinately maintaining their own opinion, or asserting their own rights, they are reckless of the rights, opinions and interests of others.’
  • They ‘do not tremble to rail at dignities (glories)’. An example of such attitudes is found in their attitudes towards the occult. They are like children playing with fire without realising its great dangers, even challenging the powers of the occult. They overlook the fact that they are dealing with powers even greater than the angels, powers who will in fact condescend to them, and then possess them. Peter’s continual emphasis on this brings out how important a warning it is. The term ‘glories’ may have in mind that such beings transform themselves into pseudo angels of light in their dealings with men (2 Corinthians 11.14). Or it may simply indicate their high status.

2.12 ‘But these, as creatures without reason, born mere animals to be taken (captured) and destroyed, railing in matters of which they are ignorant, will in their destroying surely be destroyed.’

In their pride they do not recognise the truth about themselves. They are behaving irrationally. They are forgetting that because they have ignored the Spirit and rather pander to the flesh (see Galatians 5.16-24) they are nothing better than animals. Having turned their backs on a true relationship with God, they are like wild beasts (compare Daniel 7.3; 8.2 ff; Revelation 13.1), and they will thus share the inevitable fate of such animals, they will be captured and destroyed. Evil angels/spirits do not play games.

And yet although being nothing better than animals they think that they can mess with heavenly powers. What folly. There may here be the thought that they call on the occult in order to destroy the lives of those who displease them, ‘railing (blaspheming) in matters of which they are ignorant --- destroying’. Or it may indicate that they think that by their own spiritual prowess they can consign ‘demons’ to the pit. Either way the consequence is that they will be destroyed themselves (compare Acts 19.13-16).

Note that Peter uses the idea of ‘speaking evil, blaspheming’ three times. ‘Speaking evil of (blaspheming) dignities’ (verse 10); bringing ‘a blasphemous charge’ (verse 11); and here ‘speaking evil/blaspheming in matters of which they are ignorant’. They are the very opposite of righteous. They are being blasphemous in the way that they behave towards heavenly beings (like the angels that fell they too are not keeping to their position - Jude 1.6)

2.13-14 ‘Themselves suffering wrong as the reward of wrongdoing, counting it pleasure to indulge themselves in the daytime (literally ‘in a day’), spots and blemishes, revelling in their deceivings while they feast with you; having eyes full of adultery, and who cannot cease from sin; enticing unsteadfast souls; having a heart exercised in covetousness (pleonexia) having children of cursing.’

As a result of their behaviour they themselves ‘suffer wrong’ as the wages of their ‘wrongdoing’ (note the play on words, and compare verse 15). They reap what they sow. This partially looks back to verse 12. Their life may seem to be one round of pleasure, but they are not really happy in it. They are restless, even tormented, in spirit and the life gradually palls so that they want more and more excess.

And why do they suffer? It is precisely because their lives are one long search for pleasure. They indulge themselves in the daytime, something they are able to do because they sponge on their followers. Thus they are spots and blemishes, (contrast 3.14; and see 1 Peter 1.19) caricaturing Christianity, and totally unfit to offer themselves to God. (A later Christian work The Didache would later put a tight restriction on the benefits that prophets could receive). And when they enjoy their food at their followers’ expense they revel even while deceiving them, while their eyes are always looking around for some woman, adulteress at heart, whom they can lead astray (they have ‘eyes full of adulteresses’). They are simply driven on by sin.

And the sad thing is that they entice along with them by means of their bait wavering Christians who are not steadfast in soul. This may well refer to the women who responded to their seducement. Or it may have in mind their general deception of weak Christians. Or indeed both. Furthermore they have ‘trained themselves in pleonexia’, that is in the desire to have more of the things which a man should not even desire, let alone have. That is what all their attention is on. They are ‘children of cursing.’ This may indicate that they are the kind who seek to bring down curses on others, but it is more likely that we are to see it as signifying that they themselves come under God’s curses as reflected in God’s Old Testament warnings (e.g. Deuteronomy 27.15-26; 28). NIV thus translates as ‘they are an accursed brood.’

2.15 ‘Forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the hire of wrongdoing;

Indeed these teachers can be compared to Balaam (Numbers 22-24). Forsaking the straight path, the right way, they too have gone astray, like Balaam did. He also was one who loved the wages of wrongdoing. For he was at first ready to curse Israel for the sake of reward, and later he was the cause of their being lured into sin. And all for the sake of money.

2.16 ‘But he was rebuked for his own transgression. A dumb ass spoke with man’s voice and stayed the madness of the prophet.’

But let them remember that Balaam was rebuked because of his transgression, and that by a dumb ass. Even a dumb ass was wiser than he was. And the result was that he stopped in his headlong race to disaster. He recovered from his madness. By this Peter is offering a way of escape to these ‘madmen’. If only they will listen, they also may recover. But he wants his readers to know what they are. Madmen who are not even as wise as a dumb ass.

2.17 ‘These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved.’

What his readers must recognise is what that these men are. They are springs without water. They may seem to have much to offer, but really they are empty and dried up. The truth is that they cannot offer the water of life, because spiritually they are devoid of life. They are totally empty. Men come to them, as to a spring in the desert, looking for satisfaction for their thirst, and find the spring is dry. (Contrast Jesus Who said, ‘He who comes to Me will never hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst’.

And they are as temporary and as lacking in provision as mists or clouds driven by a storm, which pass overhead without emptying their contents. They bring no fruit producing rain with them. One moment they seem to be offering everything. Farmers’ hearts are full of hope. The clouds seem full of rain. And the next they are gone. And meanwhile they have left behind nothing worthwhile.

But for such people the blackness of darkness is reserved for ever. We can compare here the ‘pits of darkness’ above, and the outer darkness spoken of by Jesus (Matthew 8.12; 22.13). Compare also Jude 1.13, ‘for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved for ever’. Rather than bringing light they themselves will finish up in total darkness.

2.18-19a ‘For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from those who live in error, promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption.’

Peter then expands on what he means. Their teaching is made up of great swellings of vanity, their attraction and lure is through the lusts of the flesh, which appeal to men’s worst natures. Everything is from the wrong motive and directed towards the wrong ends. And what is worse they do it to those who have newly become connected with the Christian church, who were only just escaping from a former life which offered these things, a life where they had lived among those who lived in error. Thus they are being dragged back by these teachers into the kind of life that they have just recently escaped from.

‘Promising them liberty.’ These false teachers pretend to offer them freedom, while the truth is that they themselves are enslaved, bondslaves of corruption. So rather than becoming truly free, they will become slaves to things that will destroy them.

The promise of freedom was a characteristic of Christian teaching. The Gospel offers men a genuine freedom from sin and the world. But Paul warns his readers that while they have indeed been called to freedom they must not use it for an occasion to the flesh (Galatians 5.13). Compare how in his first letter Peter tells his people that indeed they are free but they must not use their freedom as a cloak of maliciousness (1 Peter 2.16). For the point is that Christian freedom is not the freedom to sin, but is freedom from sin. But these false teachers offered to men the freedom to sin as much as they liked, with the result that they simply bring them into bondage to sin.

2.19b ‘For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage.’

Even while they speak of freedom they are themselves bondslaves. For the truth is that whoever or whatever overcomes a man, brings him into bondage. And they, being overcome by such things, are themselves slaves to sex, and revelry, and drunkenness. And the same is true for those who follow them. Compare Revelation 2.22. Seneca similarly said, "To be enslaved to oneself is the heaviest of all servitudes."

All Need To Consider What Following This Teaching Involves (2.20-22).

It is often debated as to whether these following verses are spoken about the false teachers, or about both them and their followers. Certainly Revelation 2.22 would suggest the latter. And this would seem to be confirmed by the reference in verse 18 to those who having recently been rescued from the world of sin and corruption are in danger of returning to it under false colours. Thus this would seem to be a general warning to all, both teachers and followers.

2.20 ‘For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first.’

By hearing of Christ and coming to a knowledge of Him and His holy requirements, they have escaped the defilements of the world and its twisted morality. They have come among Christians in order to learn the truth, and as a result of being among them and worshipping with them, their past has dropped off. But let them be warned. If while doing so they simply allow themselves to be entangled again in such defilements and are overcome by them, their last state is worse than the first.

It would seem that these people had not yet come to saving faith in Christ. They were still learning the rudiments on which their faith would be built. They had been impressed by the lives and attitudes of Christians and had come to learn more. But coming from their polytheistic backgrounds it would take time for them to reach a basic understanding of what it was all about. That was why they were so vulnerable.

We tend to forget that while Jews and those familiar with Judaism already had a background which enabled easier understanding of Christian truth, and therefore enabled speedier conversion, out and out pagans had no such background to build on. Even the idea of only one God was new to them and had to be absorbed. And their knowledge of ethics was very distorted. Thus their ‘knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’ was at a very basic level.

We can compare the problems that missionaries had, and have, before they can be sure that someone has been truly ‘converted’. Often they first have to build up a level of understanding of what sin is, of what God is, and of what God’s requirements are, before they can even begin to go on to the deeper truths. Although at times God will surprise them with vessels specially prepared by Him.

2.21 ‘For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.’

And the sad thing for many of these people was that just as they were learning about the way of righteousness, and about Christ’s holy teaching, and were almost ready for full response, they were being turned back from it into the ways of these false teachers.

And the same was true for the false teachers themselves. They too had been introduced into the way of righteousness, but had then become caught up with ideas that took them in the opposite direction. Better were it that they had never become involved, for their present position now made it harder for them genuinely to come to Christ.

For ‘the way of righteousness’ compare Matthew 21.32. It was what was brought by John the Baptiser, in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. But they had not yet quite achieved to ‘the holy commandment delivered to them’, the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself (compare John 13.34; 15.12, 17; and see 14.15, 21; 15.10).

2.22 ‘It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire.’

What has simply happened is what the old proverb said, they have reverted to nature. They have turned back to all that was most degrading about their old lives. The dog has turned back to his vomit. The thought is perhaps of the scavenger dog which, when it can find no other food, returns to the remains over which it has previously vomited, or even to its own vomit lying in the road, for what nourishment it contains. The returning of such dogs to their own vomit was something that had disgusted men through the ages as Proverbs 26.11 brings out. In the same way the sow, having been washed, has gone back to wallowing in the mud. For both dog and sow seen together elsewhere compare Matthew 7.6. The idea of their degraded and disgusting behaviour was clearly proverbial.

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Peter,second,letter,epistle,false,prophets,teachers,destructive,heresies,Master,
bought,lascivious,ways,swift,destruction,covetousness,feigned,words,
merchandise,God,spared,amgels,sinned,cast,Hell,Tartarus,pits,darkness,
reserved,judgment,ancient,world,Noah,preacher,righteousness,seven,flood,
ungodly,cities,Sodom,Gomorrah,ashes,righteous,Lot,distressed,wicked,
Lord,deliver,temptations,judgement,despise,dominions,daring,self-willed,
dignities,might,power,railing,accusation,creatures,without,reason,mere,
animals,hire,wrongdoing,revvel,daytime,spots,blemishes,love-feasts,adultery,
Balaam,son,Beor,dumb,ass,spoke,madness,prophet,springs,water,mists,
storm,blackness,darkness,swelling,words,vanityentice,liberty,bondservants,
corruption,bondage,defilements,knowledge,Lord,Saviour,Jesus,Christ,
entangled,overcome,last,worse,first,way,righteousness,holy,commandment,
true,proverb,dog,own,vomit,sow,washed,wallowing,mire