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Bible: What Does 2 Peter 2 Teach Us About the Destruction of False Teachers and Apostates?

Updated on September 8, 2016

The Apostle Peter


The Demise of False Teachers

Speaking of prophecies and prophets, Peter mentions that false prophets circulated among God’s OT people, Israel.

He reveals this well-known fact just to point out that false teachers will also work secretly among the Lord’s NT congregation, the Church, introducing heretical doctrines, some of which repudiate the Christ Who died in their place.

The phrase “swift destruction” points to divine intervention of the judgment-type; God will not permit these teachers to corrupt His church’s testimony, especially so soon after she came into being (v. 1).

Nevertheless, they will succeed in gathering many disciples to themselves to follow their “destructive ways,” and exploit them for personal gain through “slick advertisements” (“deceptive words”).

Consequently, these teachers will cause outsiders to blaspheme “the way of truth” (vv. 2-3a).

[Rank unbelievers, not knowing the differences between truth and heresy, lump all “Christians” together into one ball and seek to deprecate the whole.]

Peter reiterates that the Lord will not wait much longer before “lowering the boom” on them (v. 3b).

The Flood/Sodom and Gomorrah


Character of False Teachers

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To illustrate that God knows how to judge the evil and to save the righteous, Peter presents two OT examples of such activity (vv. 4-8).

He constructs a logical “if . . . then” argument whose protasis begins with a rehearsal of God’s rejection of the angels who cohabited with “the daughters of men” (v. 4; cf. Gen. 6: 2, 4; Jude 6).

It then mentions the LORD’s subsequent watery judgment upon Noah’s world as well as His salvation of eight persons including the “preacher of righteousness” (v. 5).

Finally, he discusses the Lord’s catastrophic judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah—devastation He used as a warning to future ungodly cities (v. 6)—, and His deliverance of “righteous Lot” from the daily torment he experienced among the Sodomites (vv. 7-8).

[Though Peter reports three times that Lot was “righteous,” the OT presents his lifestyle as anything but. See Genesis 19).]

After proving that God has both judged the wicked and saved the righteous in the past, Peter concludes in the apodosis (“then . . . ”) that the Lord will surely accomplish the same in the future (v. 9).

He will especially punish those who live to satisfy their unclean desires and who, in their arrogant presumption, hate bowing to the authority of angels (“dignitaries,” “glories”) [v. 10].

Despite receiving this disrespect from them--what comprises this denigration, Peter does not say--, these powerful spirit beings do not denounce or rail against the false teachers, being content to allow God to be their judge (v. 11).

Peter likens the false teachers to “natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed” (“unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed,” NASB) [v. 12a].

[The apostle regards them as irrational sub-humans worthy of destruction.]

They remark disparagingly on subjects about which they know nothing (v. 12b).

Not only will their corrupt speech lead them to utter ruin, it will also earn them “the wages of unrighteousness” as people who have drinking parties during daytime hours (v. 13a).

Peter further characterizes them metaphorically as shameful imperfections (“spots and blemishes”) that appear at Christian gatherings; their deceitful ways lead them to drunkenness (v. 13b).

They continually engage in sinful, adulterous leering, tempting people who do not have a firm foundation in their lives.

They have a practiced expertise in greed; Peter pronounces them “accursed children” (v. 14).

Balaam and His Donkey


Abandoning the right way, these false teachers follow Balaam’s train, pursuing “the wages of unrighteousness”: hiring themselves “to do religious work for personal gain” (v. 15; cf. Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 437).

Peter mentions that God caused Balaam’s donkey—an animal chosen undoubtedly because it symbolizes stubbornness—to prevent the prophet from following through with his insane attempt to curse God’s people (v. 16; cf. Num. 22).

Peter adds two final descriptions of these false teachers, calling them “wells without water” and “clouds carried by a tempest.”

Outwardly promising refreshment, they fail to produce the goods to meet the people’s needs.

Consequently, only the eternal “blackness of darkness” remains for them: a reservation in Hell (v. 17).

Picture of an Apostate


A Portrait of an Apostate

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Peter bemoans the fact that these arrogant, eloquent teachers tempt with empty promises of sexual fulfillment those people who barely escape the destiny of those who live ungodly lives (v. 18).

They promise freedom from restraint to their disciples, while depraved lust wholly controls and enslaves them (v. 19).

Having returned to the overpowering, filthy habits they temporarily overcame by learning about Jesus, they find that their latter moral status has become worse than their former (v. 20).

Peter draws the logical conclusion that since these apostate teachers have reverted to their past beliefs, it would have been better if they had never heard the gospel in the first place (v. 21).

[Those who have heard the gospel but have rejected it are more culpable than those who have never heard it at all.]

He compares their present condition to a dog eating its vomit and to a clean sow returning to her mud (v. 22; cf. Prov. 26:11).

© 2014 glynch1


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