2 Peter Chapter Two
© 2000 William R. Cunningham
We discussed false teachers within the church in the last lesson. This lesson we will continue with that discussion as we continue with 2 Peter chapter two. We are going to do a verse-by-verse analysis of this epistle to extract what message or lessons that it presents to you. Of course it is up to you to practice those things that you learn from the Bible.
Recall the discussion of part one of this lesson. Peter informed the Christians that there would be false teachers among them in the same way as there were false prophets during the Old Testament times. These false teachers, Peter said, would lead some from the truth to turn to false ways and to false gods. He also said that God would judge these false teachers for what they do.
Judgment and Deliverance
2 Peter 2:4(NKJV) 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;….
As you can see, these verses form part of a very long sentence. In any case, Peter gives examples of how God passed judgment on the wicked and delivered the righteous. There are two main interpretations of this verse.
Rebellious and Fallen Angels
Some believe that Peter is referring to the "sons of God" in Genesis 6:2. In this case, the "sons of God" were angels that rebelled against God and their purpose in creation. They began to have sexual contact with women (daughters of men). They were judged (condemned) for this rebellion and were cast into hell (Tartarus). We will discuss the concept of hell in a moment. Some believe that Peter is referring to the angels that fell with Satan. They were cast out because they rebelled against God by joining Satan in his prideful opposition to God.
The Word "Hell"
The word hell is an Anglo-Saxon word used to translate one Hebrew word (Sheol) and three Greek words (hades, gehenna, and tartaroo). The word hell means the abode of the dead mostly referring to a final place of eternal punishment for unbelievers.
The Hebrew word Sheol refers to a place in the depths of the earth (see Deuteronomy 32:22, Proverbs 9:18, 15:24). Sheol is also used to describe the furthest point from heaven (see Job 17:13-14, Psalms 139:8, Proverbs 1:12). Sheol describes a pit, a place of no return, and death in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Greek words that were translated into the word "hell" are Hades, tartaroo, and gehenna. For the most part the Greek word "Hades" was used to translate the Hebrew word "Sheol." The New Testament use of the word "Hades" is as a place of torment in contrast to heaven (See Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27,31). Hades also represented the power of the underworld in Matthew 16:18.
The Greek word Gehenna comes from two Hebrew words: ge hinnom, which means "Valley of Hinnon." This term originally referred to a ravine on the south side of Jerusalem where pagan gods were worshipped (See 2 Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 7:32, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 33:6). It became a garbage dump and came to be associated with abomination where fire burned continuously (see 2 Kings 23:10). Gehenna became to be known as a place of burning, which is what we typically think of when we use the word "hell."
The Greek word tartaroo is only used one time in the New Testament. It is used in our current lesson in 2 Peter 2:4. The word tartaroo is used in classical Greek to identify a subterranean region, doleful and dark. The ancient Greeks associated tartaroo with the abode of the wicked dead. It was thought of as a place of punishment for the wicked. In the New Testament it is used to identify the place of punishment for the rebellious angels.
The Concept of Hell
Our concept of hell typically is a place of eternal fire where the lost souls are doomed to eternal punishment. However, is hell really a place where there is fire that burns eternally or is the reference to burning in the scriptures a figure of speech? Consider that Jesus called the place of eternal punishment a place of darkness (See Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30).
Some believe that hell is simply a place of torment and not necessarily with fire. These believe that hell is a place where our cravings are never satisfied. These unsatisfied cravings (perhaps of the flesh or similar) torment us. It could be similar to "burning with passion" as Paul used in 1 Corinthians 7:19.
Another concept of hell, which we mentioned earlier, is a place of darkness. Darkness in this case could represent the absence of God’s presence. It would then be a place where there is no real life only torment.
In any case, we know that hell is a place that we don’t want to go. It is a place of torment in one way or another. It is a place that we go if we are not saved. I should mention at this point that there are those that believe that no one will go to hell. Some believe that God will eventually save all people regardless of their activities here on earth. Others believe in various levels of hell where the dead that are not totally evil will have a chance to pay for their past sins. This is where the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory comes. To them, purgatory is a place where souls of those who die in God’s grace may make satisfaction for past sins. It is a place of temporary punishment as opposed to the Bible’s concept of hell being a place of permanent or eternal punishment.
Except for the Catholic’s doctrine of purgatory and the Universalists’ doctrine of salvation for all people, the Christian’s perspective of hell is a final place of judgment where the ungodly will be tormented forever.
God’s Judgment and Deliverance in the Past
2 Peter 2:5-8 (NKJV) 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)—
Two examples are given here of God’s judgment and God’s deliverance. God punished the people of the earth for their wickedness and he delivered Noah and eight others from the judgment that befell the world. God also condemned Sodom and Gomorrah by burning the two cities to the ground and yet He delivered Lot and his family from that destruction. Peter also says that Lot was tormented everyday because of the lawlessness around him every day.
God’s Wisdom in Judgment and Deliverance
2 Peter 2:9-11 (NKJV) 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.
God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations (enticement to do evil) and hold the ungodly until the Day of Judgment. Peter emphasizes those who walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and those that despise authority. These, we can assume, refer to the false teachers.
The word "presumptuous" means to be arrogant or conceited. The term "self-willed" refers to a person that does whatever he wants. The word "dignitaries" is thought to refer to the angels or to people in authority. Even the angels do not accuse these false teachers before the Lord. This is believed to be a reference to Jude 9 pertaining to Michael the Archangel.
Spots and Blemishes
2 Peter 2:12-14 (NKJV) But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.
The false teachers speak evil about things that they don’t understand. They are like animals because they do not think of what they are doing (the consequences). They only act based on the moment and don’t seem to care about the consequences of what they do. However, they will be judged in the end.
The false teachers are the stains in the Christian community. They are the blemishes or spots that party in their own deceptive ways as they commune with other Christians. They are so deceived that they sin openly. The feast mentioned here might refer to the love feast, which was built around the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It might have also referred to social contact with the heretical teachers. The heretics (false teachers) were so self-deceived that they actually thought that they were celebrating their freedom in Christ with their drunken revelry at the Lord’s Table (the Eucharist or communion).
The false teachers lust after women and are never satisfied as they entice weaker Christians to sin. These heretics actually taught new Christians that adultery was acceptable Christian behavior. The women, who were not grounded in the doctrines of Christianity, fell for this deception and were enticed to sin and thus corrupted by the false teachers. I should mention that this applies to women teachers who seduce men as well.
The false teachers are full of covetousness and are therefore accursed children. This probably referred to the fact that the false teachers were once part of the family of believers but later became heretical.
2 Peter 2:15 through 2 Peter 2:16 (NKJV) They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
The false teachers have turned their backs on the truth (the right way). They have become lost and thus do the same thing that Balaam the son of Beor did. Balaam was basically a prophet for hire. Also note that Balaam was not a prophet of the LORD though Balaam did have and encounter with Him (see Numbers chapters 22-24). The madness of the prophet refers to Balaam’s thinking that he could curse the Israelite people for a fee, which the LORD did not allow to happen. Also consider that Balaam used divination since he was not a prophet of God.
2 Peter 2:17-18 (NKJV) These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
The false prophets are full of empty promises. Peter compares them to wells that don’t have any water and clouds that don’t produce any rain. Consider the false teachers of today that tell you God’s blessings will come if you do such and such. Those "guarantees" are empty because their teachings are only lies to entice you to give them your money.
Christians, whom have already escaped other false teachers, are lured through the lusts of the flesh to follow the words of the false teachers. This happens all of the time in the Christian community. Consider the minister that speaks great words that are designed to get you emotional (not using your thinking power). They speak rhetoric instead of truth in order to lure you into a trap to satisfy their own lusts. They appeal to the lust of your flesh or your own basic desires in order to get you to do what they want you to do. The word lewdness (or wantonness in the KJV) means to be lascivious or licentious, that is, to be sexually unchaste.
2 Peter 2:19 (NKJV) While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
The false prophets promise their victims liberty when all along they are bound to corruptions. They cannot promise liberty because they do not have it. The liberty spoken of here should be understood as the liberty in Christ, which is a freedom from sin and the law. Who has overcome you? To whom are you a slave—pastor, TV evangelist, bishop, or minister? Instead we should be slaves to Christ so that we would be bound to Him, which is everlasting life.
A blind man cannot lead the blind, except in the ways of the blind. A false teacher cannot lead you in the way of truth, only in the way of deception, of which they are. False teachers can promise you many things but only what God has promised is true. Anything other than that is mere empty words probably designed to use you.
2 Peter 2:20-22 (NKJV) For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
The "they" in these verses refers to the false teachers. The false teachers were enlightened with the truth of the Gospel and yet they have turned away from it. The latter state is said to be worse then the first. See Hebrews 6:4-6 for a similar situation.
Notice that the false teachers are in a very bad state and that you do not want to be associated with them. Above all, we should not follow the way of the false teacher, which is a way that leads to destruction (judgment).
Stay true to God and do not follow the ways of the false teacher. Know the word (Way) of God for yourselves so that you are less likely to believe a lie. Don’t regard the words of ministers as the true word from God unless you know God’s word for yourself. You are responsible for your life and not your pastor, Bible teacher, minister, deacon, grandmother, etc. God has inspired many men to write scripture that reveals Him and His Way to us. Ministers and teachers can help us learn but they should not be reckoned as the final word on what God has said. Know the truth for yourself. Pursuing the Truth Ministries has the following question for you to consider.
Do you know the truth or do you simply know what you were told? Do you know the truth or are you filled with the teachings of someone else or the doctrines and dogma of a religious organization (even those calling themselves Christian)? How can you be protected from the agenda of false prophets? Know the truth! Don’t just accept what you are told and don’t just respond to what others tell you to do. Be free in Christ by being bound to Him and free from the bondage that others would place on. Do what you know to be true and not what others command you to do. A former pastor of my youth once told me to know God for myself. Do you know God for yourself or do you know him through the teachings, ideas, ideals, and perceptions of someone else? Think about that.
Above all, follow God and not the teachings that would take you away from Him. Learn to recognize false teachers and don’t follow them to destruction. Amen.
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