In yesterday’s post Beware of Wolves, Peter affirmed that the false teachers in the church will, ultimately, be condemned and destroyed by God (2 Pet 2:1-3). In verses 1-9 Peter describes false teachers who greedily spread lies about Christ’s authority. They encourage Christians to indulge in sexual sin. They pursue erotic desires in the open, are experts in greed, despise authority, live in bold arrogance, and blaspheme things they don’t understand.
Peter assures that these deceivers will be punished for the harm they’ve caused. This includes leading people away from Christ and back into the sinful practices from which they had begun to escape. God did not spare sinful angels, or the wicked of Noah’s day, or the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and will not spare these false teachers, either.
After revealing that God will bring judgment—condemnation and destruction—upon the false teachers in the church, Peter offers a list of historical examples to show that God does indeed judge those who rebel against Him. “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—” (2 Pet 2:4-8).
God destroyed every person in the entire ancient world, aside from Noah and his family (Gen 6:1-8). Why would God do such a thing? In addition to possessing great mercy and love, our God is a righteous judge. The world was in a catastrophic state of evil prior to the flood: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5)
Peter now points to the example of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:1-29). In response to the sinfulness of the people of those cities, God sent fire from the sky to destroy both towns and all of their residents. Ezekiel described the wickedness of her people in much greater detail, saying they “…had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.” (Ez 16:49–50). Modern culture has much in common with these ancient people.
Again, Peter uses an example in which God’s judgment on those in rebellion was sudden and unexpected, offering no chance of escape (Prov 29:1). But as we see in the next verse, the righteous Judge has offered mercy in the form of a warning to those He wants to save. Peter will soon make the same connection for his readers: God’s judgment is coming, but He offers salvation to those who trust in Christ.
It’s true that God’s judgment of those in rebellion against Him is swift and complete, far more devastating than any human judgment. And yet, it is also true that God’s grace and mercy far exceed what we as humans might grant to each other. Lot was righteous in God’s eyes because he had been justified by God. This was in part due to Lot’s place in God’s family as Abraham’s nephew and also that his soul was tortured by what he saw and heard. “and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—” (2 Pet 2:7-8).
Peter finally concludes his long “if” statement by arriving at the “then”. This is his conclusion: “then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.” (2 Pet 2:9-11)
The point of this lengthy statement has been this: God’s judgment is coming. The false teachers in the church will be condemned and destroyed. This is not a question of “if” God will repay, only “when”. If God condemned the rebellious angels and the world of Noah’s day and Sodom and Gomorrah, then He won’t hold back in condemning those rebelling against Him now. This is especially true for those guilty of two things. One is indulging in sexual sin and despising—living in contempt of—authority.
Peter revealed evidence of the conceit of the false teachers; they were not afraid to speak arrogantly about angelic beings. This might have meant insulting them, ignoring the influence of spiritual beings, or even telling lies about what such beings could or would do; obviously they were speaking of these beings with great disrespect. Contempt leads to carelessness; speaking rudely of spiritual beings not only makes a person less cautious, it can invite unwanted attention. Peter tells us that angels wouldn’t speak so disrespectfully of fallen angels; they wouldn’t “heap abuse” on these rebellious angels, even though God pronounced His judgment (Ez 28:16).
But there’s more: If God saved Noah and Lot, men He declared to be righteous, He will also save those He declares to be righteous now. God knows how to do both. He knows how to rescue His people, the ones He declares to be godly, from trials. And He knows how to hold those who are ungodly to be punished for their rebellion on the coming day of His judgment (Ps 145:20).
The message is clear. We may be tempted to look at the world and think that those who oppose God are winning. It may seem that standing with God costs more than it’s worth. We must never forget that God is still paying attention. Destruction will come, and so will salvation. The faithfulness we demonstrate today will be vindicated, one day. “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Ps 31:24)