2nd Peter: Episode 3

Beth's Notes

1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.   2 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)

False doctrines had already begun to make serious inroads into the churches scattered throughout the world, as Paul’s later letters give evidence, and as that of Jude also bears witness.  Peter had this in mind when he gave his final message to the saints; and he foresaw even greater apostasy in the days to come, and so gave an inspired word of warning in order that believers of every age might not be carried away by the personality and persuasiveness of false teachers masquerading as servants of Christ.

The close connection between this chapter and the epistle of Jude has been noted often and is worthy to be read alongside of 2 Peter 2.   When God wants to emphasize something, He says it twice.  We are to red flag repetition in Scripture as it is always important.   The Holy Spirit Himself inspired both of these writers to portray conditions that the church of God would have to face in the years to come.  While they cover the same ground, Peter emphasizes the spread of unscriptural theories whereas Jude dwells more particularly upon the effects of these, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.  Thus they give a twofold warning designed to save the elect of God from being misled.  By this double testimony God emphasizes those things that we need to keep in the forefront of our minds. 

When the Edict of Milan was passed in a.d. 313 the church was then free to move into the world, legally and openly propagating its doctrines.  But at the same time, the world also began to move into the church, diluting its message for the next 1,200 years until the Reformation broke forth on the scene. It is obvious from 2 Peter 2 that the world was already in the church well before the time of Constantine.  Believers in all ages must be constantly on guard against its attack.  The church is to permeate the world with the Truth of the Gospel not the world permeating the church with its false doctrines and lifestyles.  Believer’s MUST know the Truth and to stand firm in it.  

False Teaching Exposed (1-3):

Satan's counterfeits with their insidious activities are always present. They appeared in Israel during the days of the writing prophets spoken of in Chapter 1:19-21, and they were present in the first-century church as well. Though Peter switched from writing about false prophets of the past to false teachers in the present, their teaching was the same - heresy.  

Interestingly, false prophets often rose out of Israel – from God’s own people - not from surrounding people groups.  I am reminded of Jeremiah’s words:

31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?   Jeremiah 5:31 (NIV) 

Again Jeremiah tells us:

9 Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and his holy words. 10 The land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land lies parched and the pastures in the desert are withered. The [prophets] follow an evil course and use their power unjustly. 11 “Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness,” declares the LORD. 12 “Therefore their path will become slippery; they will be banished to darkness and there they will fall. I will bring disaster on them in the year they are punished,” declares the LORD. 13 “Among the prophets of Samaria I saw this repulsive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14 And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.” 15 Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty says concerning the prophets: “I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land.” 16 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The LORD says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ 18 But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?   Jeremiah 23:9-18 (NIV) 

Indeed, who has listened and heard His Word?  We are all individually held accountable.

Similarly false teachers appear from the midst of the church.  They know the Truth but deliberately lie for some purpose - oftentimes to simply tickle their hearers ears – teaching and preaching what people want them to say not what God wants them to say.  Interestingly Peter writes in their “greed” the teachers will exploit their hearers with fabricated stories.  The word translated “greed” is from the Greek Word “Pleonexia” meaning: “Broad term including the sins of the flesh and it is from this root which these sins grow, the longing of those who have forsaken God to satisfy themselves by means of the lower objects of nature.”   Paul tells Timothy:

3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV)

They secretly introduce their false teachings which are destructive heresies.  “Secretly introduce” meaning “bring in alongside” or “infiltrated”.  “Heresies” in classical Greek simply meant schools of philosophy. But New Testament writers used it to describe religious parties or sects - i.e. the Sadducees or the Pharisees - or factions probably based on false doctrine.  Such heresies are “destructive” for they lead people away from Christ and thus to spiritual ruin.  The charlatans come in under cover bringing in heresies both privately and secretly.  It is never customary for teachers of error to declare and oppose the Truth openly in the beginning.  Like Satan, they are sly in their approach and get others first to question Truth.  They gain the confidence of God’s people prior to making their real views known.  Once they have wormed their way into the confidence of the people of God they go to the limit, even denying the Lord Who bought them and exposing themselves to the judgment of God.  The sad result of their unscriptural ministry is that the weak and uninstructed readily follow the pernicious ways of these misleading representatives of Satan, and because of this, the way of Truth is derided and evil spoken of.   Their target is the gullible and vulnerable – those that may have heard the Word but do not hold it in their hearts. They do not apply what they know to be true.  Again, Paul tells us in 2 Timothy speaking of false teachers:

6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.  2 Timothy 3:6-7 (NIV)  

The focus of their heresies was the sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, whom they denied (Jude 4).  This in turn led to their own spiritual destruction or ruin, which will be swift “sudden” and “soon”.  These false teachers, who were said to be among the people, and whom the Lord had bought, end up in everlasting destruction.  They were “redeemed” in the sense that Christ had paid the redemptive price for their salvation, but they did not apply it to themselves and so were not saved. Christ's death is “sufficient” for all, but it is “efficient” only for those who believe.  This is a strong argument for unlimited atonement - the view that Christ died for everyone - and against limited atonement - the view that Christ died only for those whom He would later save.

The tragic fact about many false teachers is that they are successful.  People listen to them and follow them and their shameful (meaning “debauchery”, “filthy”, “lustful”) ways.  It refers to debased sexually immoral practices.  Heresy is like leaven.  Paul tells us in Galatians:

9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”  Galatians 5:9 (NIV) 

Like leaven, sadly, false doctrine will corrupt all with which it comes into contact.  We are to be on our guard against false teachers and we do this by checking all teachers against the Word of God.  We must rest upon that!  It seems people will fall for anything.  Remember we are held accountable for our own lives.  We are to be like the Bereans of Paul’s day who checked what Paul said against the Scriptures:

11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  Acts 17:11 (NIV)

Others teach error ignorantly.  They are not false teachers per se as they believe what they are teaching is the Truth, while a false teacher knows what he is doing and does so deliberately. I am reminded of James words of warning to us regarding teachers:

1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.  James 3:1-2 (NIV) 

James suggested moderation and restraint in the multiplication of teachers. Obviously too many of the new Jewish Christians aspired to teach and thereby carry some of the rank and admiration given to Rabbis.  It is doubtful that the reference here is to official teachers of the apostolic or prophetic status.  These are the unofficial teachers in the synagogue meetings of the church family where much latitude was given for even strangers to speak. Paul frequently used this courtesy given visitors.  James’ complaint was simply that too many believers were overly anxious to speak up and show off.  Teaching has to be done, but those who teach must understand their responsibility, as those who teach will be judged more strictly.  A teacher’s condemnation is greater because, having professed to have a clear knowledge of duty, he is all the more bound to obey it.

Ministerial charlatans and quacks have often troubled the flock of God.  In their greed they use others for their own mercenary purposes and turn the church into a dirty marketplace.  “Exploit” means to commercialize (“buy, sell, trade”, “carry on business”).  “Stories they have made up” is literally, “fabricated words”.  They are artificial, not genuine – plastic that can be molded into any possible shape.  And their end is condemnation and destruction.  They fall into the same doom which God has planned for other violators of truth and righteousness.  Their destruction has not been sleeping.  God’s justice does not sleep and it is never late.

 “There are narrow limits to our knowledge.  There is a great breadth to our conceit.”  C. H. Spurgeon

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)-- 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.  2 Peter 2:4-9 (NIV) 

Peter now gives us historic examples of God’s judgment using several illustrations to demonstrate both.  In one of the longest single sentences in the New Testament Peter was intent on demonstrating both the Lord’s judgment and His deliverance.  God will judge false teachers and others who sin against Him and His Word.  Indeed, God will take care of the wicked.  History, Peter wrote, gives ample verification of this truth.

The first example is that of fallen angels. This refers either to their fall with Satan in his rebellion against God in Ezekiel:

15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.   Ezekiel 28:15-17 (NIV) 

Or to the sin of angels in Genesis:

1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”  4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. 5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.   Genesis 6:1-6 (NIV) 

As we see from the above Scriptures, there were two distinct angelic apostasies.  While Satan was the leader of both they did not occur at the same time.  If God in His justice punished angels, surely He would not hesitate to punish people.  Those who were created innocent, followed the lead of Satan and sinned even in heaven.  God spared not the angels though they were beings of so high an order and He plunged them into hell, literally, “Tartarus” apparently a prison of custody (gloomy dungeons – the lowest depth of hell) between the time of the judgment and their ultimate consignment to the eternal lake of fire.  Held in chains of darkness, there will be no future trial for their doom is already sealed.  Satan himself is not bound in Tartarus, nor will he be until he is cast into the bottomless pit, which is prior to the millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ stated in Revelation 20:1.  Satan is called the Prince of the Power of the Air, and he and his cohorts are still at large and are described as wicked spirits in the heavenlies.  False prophets, Peter argued, will taste the same judgment as the rebellious angels.

Peter was greatly impressed by the significance of the Flood for he referred to it three times in his two epistles – 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6.  “Noah... and seven others” is the niv's rendering of the Greek “Noah, the eighth person.” The others were his wife, his three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), and their wives.  God will always have a remnant.  Noah was a righteous man – Genesis 6:9 - an obedient servant of God, and a shipbuilder – Genesis 6:13-22.  Peter added that he was also a preacher or “herald” of righteousness, who spoke out against the vile corruption all around him.

The primary focus of 2 Peter 2:5 is the unsparing hand of God on the civilization prior to the flood, the ancient world with its ungodly people. Do false teachers today think they can escape God's judgment because of their large numbers? Peter reminded them and those who are the targets of their delusions that God can and will judge evil even when it involves the entire human race - with the exception of only eight people.  The word “brought”  suggests the suddenness of God's judgment in the Flood. Peter used the same verb in Verse One in speaking of heretics who are “bringing” destruction on themselves.  I am reminded of Christ’s return to this earth and that it will come suddenly and surely.  Paul tell s us in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3:

1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.   1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 (NIV) 

This comes as a warning to us all to keep our accounts short with the Lord.  Jesus tells us:

6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Luke 18:6-8 (NIV)

Jesus was not speaking out of ignorance. Nor was He questioning whether all believers would be gone when He returns.  Instead, He asked the question to spur the disciples on to faithfulness in prayer, to encourage them to keep on in their praying. 

God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire is a classic example of universal destruction of the ungodly in Genesis 10:15-29.  The statement rendered “burning them to ashes” in the NIV, is used only here in the New Testament and means “reduce to ashes” or “cover with ashes.” Peter concluded this illustration by saying that God made them an example - “model, pattern” - of what is going to happen to the ungodly.  Jude also speaks to this:

7  In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.  Jude 1:7 (NIV) 

Peter’s purpose here was to cite this historical incident of judgment, not to elaborate on the cause for such severe destruction.  Yet, in our present day, homosexuality recalls the same shameful conduct as in those two ancient cities – Genesis 19:4-5; Genesis 13:13; Romans 1:26-27. 

Peter had spoken of the deliverance of Noah and his family and now he cited another, God's rescue of Lot.  Here again is an interesting New Testament commentary on a familiar Old Testament passage.  In Genesis, Lot hardly comes across as a righteous man; it is quite possible that godliness was not a consistent mark in his daily conduct.  Yet in his standing before God he was a justified man – “righteous”.  This is evidenced by the fact that Lot was distressed -  “tormented, oppressed” by the enormity of iniquity all around him.  The people in those twin cities were filthy – “in sexual debauchery” -   “shameful”; “lawless” – “unprincipled”, and involved in lawless – “without any standard or law” - deeds.  Besides being distressed, Lot was also tormented in his righteous soul.  Seeing and hearing about all their vile ways day after day grieved Lot to the point of inner torture.

It is noticeable that though Lot is here designated as “just” and “righteous”, we do not find his name written in the Eleventh Chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews – the great Hall of Fame Chapter of God’s righteous saints.  It never could have been said that “by faith Lot dwelt in Sodom”:  Wooed by the city lights and fertile plains, it was rather lack of faith that took him there.  He had hoped thereby to better his worldly circumstances.  Finally, when the judgment fell he was saved out of it all but so as by fire.   The great and destructive fire destroyed everything for which he had labored during all those years that he had lived in Sodom.  This is reminiscent of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15:

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.  1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NIV)

The word “rescue” in Verses Seven and Nine speaks of God’s willingness and ability to deliver His people from assorted difficulties and dangers even when they themselves (like Lot) do not overtly seek deliverance. Yet depending on the Lord’s ability to rescue is no excuse for failing to enter the warfare against false teachers and false prophets.  The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of trials and temptations, persecutions, and tribulations of every kind, and to reserve the unjust until the day of judgment to be punished.   

That God can deliver the “godly men from trials” is a source of comfort to believers, exemplified by Noah and his seven family members and Lot and his daughters. On the other hand God holds – “keeps under guard” the unrighteous for the coming day of judgment, the great white throne judgment and the lake of fire written about in Revelation 20:11-15.  The wheat and tares now grow together and one day He will make the separation.  Jesus tells us:

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 The owner's servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.  The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”  Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV)

10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12 But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. 13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed--an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey--a beast without speech--who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.  2 Peter 2:10-16 (NIV) 

False teachers will be judged severely by God, as certainly as were the angels, the world in Noah's day, and the sinful people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In Verses 10-17 Peter described the true nature of the false teachers plaguing the church in the first century.

The apostles and teachers emphasized purity and cleanliness before God. But the false teachers in the church who denied these standards demonstrated their desire to be indulging the flesh – “follow the corrupt – pollution, defilement” desire of the sinful nature - like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and did so in a spirit which held authority in contempt.  Indeed, they despised authority.  Jude tells us:

18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.  Jude 1:18-19 (NIV) 

But this was not just any authority, these reckless antinomians – grace abusers if you will -  despised – “think down on” both “lordship” and “authority”.  This most likely refers to the authority of the Sovereign Lord Himself and His Word.  One would expect people of this mentality - who are bold, presumptuous, self-willed and arrogant - to slander even to the point of deliberately speaking untruth about celestial beings.  They held to the belief that God wills man to live under no restraints whatsoever.  Because they desire to be their own authority they do not desire to be subject to anyone.  Self-willed, they are determined to have their own way and are not afraid to speak evil of those of highest rank as they are so filled with pride and conceit.  

False teachers were doing things even angels would not do, namely, slander such beings. One might expect stronger and more powerful beings - good angels - to criticize less powerful beings - fallen angels, but that is simply not allowed in the presence of the Lord.  We are told in Jude:

8 In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”  Jude 1:8-9 (NIV) 

Yet so great was the pride of these slanderers that it knew no bounds in their attack on all who disagreed with their teachings.  Even so, Scripture states, they were totally ignorant of the very things they blasphemed.  Again, Jude states:

10 Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals--these are the very things that destroy them.   Jude 1:10 (NIV) 

The false teachers of the first century were like brute beasts. They operated from instinct, which was locked into their sin nature, rather than from rational choice.  They followed their natural desires.  Old and New Testament alike make it very clear that man is capable of living lower than the animals.  Like animals in a jungle, their only value was in being caught and destroyed.  This harsh language from Peter is an indication of how serious he considered these heresies to be.  “Like beasts they too will perish” is literally, “in their corruption they too shall be corrupted” an interesting play on words.  Corruption here probably means eternal punishment.  

Yet, all the while God tells His children:

20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:20-24 (NIV)

To be sure, these false teachers will be caught in their own webs.  They will be paid back with harm for the harm – “injustice” or “wickedness” - they have done.  God will give them what they have done to others.  Paul states in Galatians:

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV) 

Though the false teachers tried to pass themselves off as spiritual leaders possessing a special level of knowledge, they did not even seek to hide their orgies under the cover of darkness but would carouse in broad daylight, while reveling in their pleasures – “deceptions”.  And they did all this while obviously joining in the love feasts of the church.  Again, Jude states:

12  These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. 13  They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.   Jude 1:12-13 (NIV)

They were blots and blemishes.  Like a stain on a clean shirt or a scratch on a tiny ring, they marred the Lord’s Supper by their very presence. This was just one of the injustices they did to others.  They delighted in what was vulgar, vile, and vicious.  They speak evil of that which is sacred, that which is holy.  Isn’t it interesting that men take God’s name in vain?  They don’t take the city’s name in vain or their boss’s name in vain or the name of some person they hate.  Yet they take God’s name in vain.  They are not afraid to speak evil of dignities, of glories, of this order that God has established in His universe.  It is pride which causes them to speak as they do. 

Critical language poured from Peter’s pen as he summoned sharp phrases to condemn these heretics.  Had there been any doubt up to this point about the salvation of these false teachers, Peter closed the door by indicating they were habitual sinners, their eyes consistently looking toward sinning. With eyes full of adultery is literally, “having eyes full of an adulteress,” that is, thinking only of adultery when they see women. They never stop sinning is literally, “unceasing in sin,” probably referring to their sinning with their eyes:  Jesus tells us in Matthew:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”   Matthew 5:27-28 (NIV) 

In refusing the Truth they, of necessity, will be left to perish in their own corruption, and in due time will be rewarded according to the unrighteousness of their lives.  They have lived as though their greatest object was to satisfy the desires of their own hearts – their own flesh.  They have counted it a pleasure to riot in the daytime – the night will find them utterly unprepared for the judgment that they have so richly deserved.   

Their deceit was aimed at seducing (meaning “bait, entice”) the unwary or unsteadfast, and they had become specialists in greed (meaning “having a heart exercised in greed”) – “Experts”, as Peter calls them.  They are guilty of all these immoral excesses.  It is no wonder that Peter called them an accursed brood.   Sensuality, deception, greed—all are deserving of God's wrath.  We see in these descriptions the utter corruption of the human heart.  When a man thinks wrong, he is going to act wrong – one cannot escape that fact.  

As these teachers of error mingle among the people of God, marring and disturbing the fellowship of the saints, giving themselves over to self-indulgence as they feast with Christians as though they belong to the family of God.  Because there is no power in error to subdue nature’s sinful lusts, these false teachers are described as never ceasing from sin.  It is only the might of the Holy Spirit that can subdue and hold in check the lusts of the flesh.  False doctrines can never do this.  It is only the power of God that changes the human heart and its leanings.

“Will power does not change men.  Time does not change men.  Christ does.”  Henry Drummond

“Therefore, the gospel . . . should be seen as not only a message of good news for lost people to be saved from sin’s penalty, but also as a message of good news for Christian people to be saved from sin’s domineering power.  The goal of the gospel is not merely to forgive us, but to change us into true worshippers of God and authentic lovers of people.” Dr. Steve Childers

“The only way to change your life is to change your mind, and that requires changing the lordship and leadership of your heart.”    Robert J. Morgan 

While beguiling or leading astray unstable souls – that is, those who are not well-grounded in the Truth of God – theses apostates prove themselves to be an accursed generation whose hearts are exercised not unto godliness but with covetous practices.  

In verses 15 – 16 Peter invoked a fourth Old Testament illustration, but this time he moved from Genesis to Numbers – Chapters 22-24.  These false prophets were like animals, and their prototype, Balaam son of Beor, was reproved by an animal – a donkey who restrained the prophet’s madness – Numbers 22:28, 30.  Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness.  He knew that he should not go and prophesy against Israel, but he loved the price that was being offered to him.  Therefore, “the way of Balaam” is the covetousness of one who does religious work – pretending to be subject to the Lord - for personal profit.  While on his way to do this evil deed his donkey... spoke – literally “was making a sound”, stopping the prophet in his madness – literally “being apart or away from right thinking”.  A mere donkey, a dumb animal, was smarter than Balaam!  One commentator stated that in the old days it was a miracle when a jackass spoke and now in our day it is a miracle when one of them keeps quiet!  The donkey spoke to Balaam and rebuked him because of his covetousness.  The false teachers, like Balaam, had sinned so long and so intensely that their sin had become a form of insanity.  Also, today many people have so thoroughly given themselves over to avarice and debauchery that their lifestyles are spiritually insane.  Money and sex - even in the name of religion - continue to bring spiritual ruin to many people.  This is “the error of Balaam” – Jude 11 - the way which is diverse from the straight way.

17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.  18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”  2 Peter 2:17-22 (NIV) 

Though the ultimate judgment of heretics is assured, Peter wrote as he did because of the damage that these apostates continued to wreak in the church. Peter now explained the great destruction that such false teaching can bring into the church.  While they promise liberty, they themselves are servants of corruption.

This “accursed brood” was (and is) able to make an impact because of the deceptive nature of their approach and the vulnerability of their targets who were not steeped in God’s Truth.  False teachers are springs without water and mists driven by a storm – Jude 12-13 - in both cases one would look for some benefit or blessing (i.e. a cool drink from the spring; a refreshing shower from the clouds) but in each case he is disappointed. The very nature of hypocrisy is that one does not have what he pretends to have. Once again, Peter wrote of their coming judgment. The blackest darkness is reserved for them.  This blackness is presumably hell.   

Using human speech as their weapon, false teachers aim at their targets mouthing empty, futile, worthless, boastful, without results words.  Such high-sounding words by which they sought to impress and deceive people were actually worthless, being no different from the sound a donkey makes!  These false teachers sought to lure the unstable by appealing to – “baiting” “enticing” - the lustful desires of the sinful human nature. They promised freedom while they themselves were mastered by sin.  For, as Scripture states, we are slaves to whatever has mastered us.  As Christians, Christ is to be our Master – and what a wonderful Master He is!  The teachers themselves were licentious and they tried to encourage Christians to be the same.  These apostates had a head knowledge of Christ.  They knew the Truth but had no love of the Truth.  They rejected what they once professed and had become enslaved in some sort of corruption.

Attention ladies, the techniques of false teachers are only workable with the naive, for the heretics are like a 300-pound man selling diet books—they promise... freedom but are themselves hopelessly enslaved by depravity.  Their empty and boastful promises of liberty are reminiscent of Satan’s words to Eve.  These false teachers exalt themselves instead of exalting Christ.  They do not use the Word of God except for a few little proof texts that more or less clothe their teaching with a pious halo.     

Whether “they” in Verse 20 refers to the teachers or their victims, both groups had available to them the True knowledge of Jesus Christ Who does graciously offer liberty and life and salvation to all who would believe in Him.  While these people claimed a knowledge, they knew Him not.  They had professedly given up the world, its sin and folly but there was never a new nature imparted and they again found themselves mastered by the world.  They did not truly believe.  Remember even Satan knows Christ and trembles but is not saved.  Sadly, when Truth is rejected, the end is a deeper corruption - again entangled in it and overcome - and presumably to a more severe degree of punishment. Sin never remains on the same level.  This is what Verse 20 is discussing in 2 Peter.  Indeed, these people would have been better off never to have known the gospel, the way of righteousness, and the sacred holy commandments than to have known the truth and have deliberately violated it.

Dr. A. C. Gaebelein a preacher of the Word states:  “Friends, if you came in here today unsaved and you walk out of here unsaved, I am the worst enemy that you have ever had, because you have heard the gospel and you can never go into the presence of God and tell Him that you have never heard the gospel.  You have heard it, and it will be worse for you when God pronounces judgment than for any heathen in the darkest part of the earth today.” 

Jesus tells us:

43 “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”  Matthew 12:43-45 (NIV)

We are vessels made to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  When we seek to fill it with the lesser objects of nature we are doomed both in life and death – even though we may be worldly successful – like Lot all his earthy possessions counted for nothing.  Yet, if we are a child of the King, we will always, always be a child of the King and always be gloriously alive in Him Who bought us with His blood and offered us the unsearchable riches of Christ.  We are held by the grip of Christ Himself not by our own grip.  Proclaiming this was the Apostle Paul’s passion.  He writes in Ephesians and Colossians:

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.  Ephesians 3:7-8 (NIV) 

24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness-- 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:24-29 (NIV)

And if you are a pig. You will always go back to wallowing in the pigpen.  

“If that dog or that sow had been born again and had received the nature of a sheep it never would have gone back to the filth here depicted.”  C. H. Spurgeon

Jews considered both dogs and pigs among the lowest of creatures so Peter chose these animals to describe people who knew the truth and turned away from it.  The first proverb, “A dog returns to its vomit”, is taken from Proverbs 26:11:

11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.  Proverbs 26:11 (NIV) 

The second proverb, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud”, was presumably commonly known by Jews in the first century. The underlying principle of both is the same: these apostates (whether false teachers, their victims, or both) never were what they seemed to be and returned to what they had been all along. Dogs and pigs can be scrubbed but not kept clean, for it is in their very nature to return to unclean living. Such apostates are in a tighter bondage, they are farther from the truth, and they are deeper in spiritual filth than ever before.

Believers today do well to heed Peter's warning against false teachers, to learn how to discern truth for themselves, and to teach it to others. The false teachers will themselves meet destruction and others will be destroyed by them. But Christians can wage spiritual warfare more effectively if they know their spiritual enemies, the techniques that heretics use, and the end result of their deception.

“Oftentimes we don’t like to say the words Hell and judgment, because people will get offended. So we hide that part of the gospel message. Listen, the word gospel means good news. But before someone can fully appreciate the Good News, they need to know all about the bad news. Jesus did not come to be an additive in our lives. He did not come just to give us warm, fuzzy emotional feelings. Jesus primarily came to deliver us from eternal judgment in Hell. Things like happiness, peace, and joy are fringe benefits. The big issue is eternity. We must not be afraid to tell people the truth. We, like the apostle Paul, need to proclaim the whole counsel of God.”  Greg Laurie

“Return, return, return! Jesus is waiting for you! He will stretch forth His hand and pull you in--into Himself, your heart's true home.”  C. H. Spurgeon

It is never too late to turn to Him.

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

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