2 Peter 2

1 However, not everyone who claims to be a prophet is sent by God. Throughout the ages, false prophets and teachers have abounded, leading people away from the truths that God has revealed. The Christian Church would not be immune to this problem. Rarely are their teachings obviously contrary to the Bible at the beginning. False teachings often starts with redefining of terms, overemphasis on some verses to the exclusion of others, or speculation about historical or spiritual events that are not specifically explained in the Scriptures. Their teachers may also introduce beliefs and rituals from other religions or secular philosophies and place them "along side" Scriptural doctrines as if they were equals. Their sects tend to grow from those who themselves do not understand the Bible well and are looking to those who seem to know what they are talking about, or who have a version of the Gospel that appeals to them more than what is presented in the Bible. Depending on the number, nature, appeal, priority, and persistence of false teachings, they can become spiritually destructive to those they follow and those they influence. When a group loses its focus on God and Jesus, it is no better off spiritually than any other secular group, even if they continue to call themselves Christians. When taken to the extreme, a group may have completely redefined their beliefs in such a way as to deny any semblance of God or His plan of Salvation as described in the Bible. Holding on to such a belief system spells certain doom for them when they stand before God on Judgment Day. Salvation must be based on a foundation of truth, not error.

There is much controversy about the meaning of the last part of the verse. The question is, if people who have been bought can be destroyed, does that mean one can lose his salvation? This would contradict several other verses in Scripture that indicate that salvation is eternal (e.g., John 3:16). However, this verse does not specifically refer to those who have been saved, but to people in general. It is also taught in many places that Jesus "died for all" (1 Tim 2:6). Yet, it is also true that while His death is sufficient to save all, and all have been called to believe in Him, relatively few will actually put their faith in Him and ask for salvation, which is a necessary requirement (Heb 4:2).

2 False teachers tend to be those who do not feel bound by moral or legal obligations. Eventually, their unethical or illegal dealings are exposed, sometimes for the whole world to see. This can be disheartening for those inside the church, and become a source of ridicule from unbelievers. In the process, the Gospel appears to lose credibility. Obviously, the true value of the Gospel is not lessened, but the world judges it based on the conduct of those who claim to follow it. People in need of salvation, hope, stability, and truth will not be helped by any organization rife with corruption.
3 In many cases, greed for money is the motivation for false teachers. In the subtlest cases, they may simply bend the truth to avoid offending and possibly losing members of their congregation. There are several examples that are more flagrant. Some false teachers promise that for every dollar they donate to him, God will repay the donor 2, 10, or more dollars. Of course, this is an unfounded teaching, and ironically, tends to feed off the greed of other people instead of lessening this sinful attitude. Some teachers demand payment for sins. The follower pays the leader according to the magnitude of the offense, and the leader then grants forgiveness. This ignores the Bible's teaching that forgiveness is a gift, and that sin should be avoided, not simply paid for. Many notable false teachers have demanded that their followers give him all their money and possessions. The leader then lives in luxury while his followers practically become slave labor.

God does not stand idly by while people misuse the Gospel to exploit one another. He keeps careful track of all the wrongs that these people are doing, and will certainly punish them on Judgment Day.

4 Here, Peter offers several examples of punished sin with the intention of giving evidence that false teachers will likewise suffer judgment. The first example is that of the angels who sinned. This could refer to the rebellion that Satan lead against God's authority, or could possibly allude to a specific event such as Gen 6:1-4. They were cast out of heaven, and while many of these demons are loose in the world, others were imprisoned. It appears from Luke 8:31 that demons knew that God could cast them into the "abyss" at any time. "Tartarus" is a word from Greek mythology referring to the lowest part of Hades where wicked souls were tortured. In the original Greek manuscripts, either the word sirois (pits) or seirais (chains) is found. It is not clear from the context which word was intended, but the general idea that these beings are confided is understood either way. They are thus prisoners until they are tried on the Last Day.
5 The second example is when God first judged the world with the Flood during Noah's day. The whole world at that time strayed from God. Noah alone with the support of his family communicated with God, obeyed Him, and told others about Him. The obvious lesson is that God is willing to punish the wicked, regardless of how many, and save the righteous, no matter how few. The majority is not always right, and it is unwise to follow a false teacher no matter how popular he or his teachings are. The ungodly will certainly be punished.

"Noah the eighth" is an idiom in Greek meaning "Noah and seven others." His family included his three sons, their respective wives, Noah, and his wife - eight in all.

6 The third example is that of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Gen 18:20 indicates that the whole city was full of sin. Gen 19:4-9 shows the pervasiveness of their sinful attitudes when seemingly every man in the city gathered around Lot's door demanding that they be allowed to rape the visitors lodging in his house. Obviously, they did not understand that these visitors were actually God's investigation team sent to determine if this sinful city should be allowed to continue or not. This event left no doubt that among them, only Lot displayed any kind of righteousness. As a result, the entire area was reduced to ashes by the fire and brimstone that God sent against them.
7 Commentators have criticized Lot for his hesitation and obvious lack of positive spiritual influence among his family and neighbors, yet God still considered him righteous. Here it is revealed that while he may have seemed much like everyone else on the outside, on the inside he was distressed by the sinful lives of those around him. While his character was not perfect and we are not given much information about his beliefs, there is no indication that he knowingly participated in overtly sinful activity, and he did have a faith that pleased God.
8 Peter further emphasizes the agitation in Lot's soul, using the word "torture" to describe what it was like for him. He apparently felt compelled to live among them, obviously having chosen the area when he separated from Abraham (Gen 13:5-11), and of course, needing people to buy and sell with. In having such close contact with them, he could not avoid seeing and hearing the evil all around him. Any righteous person should feel troubled under such circumstances. The nature of that disturbance can only be speculated, but is probably not far different from what we experience today. We become grieved when we see how people hurt themselves and each other. We might be saddened to know that ungodly people will likely be condemned by God, yet they are unconcerned or simply do not believe it. We may become exasperated in knowing how to communicate the Gospel with such people effectively, or be afraid of being mocked or rejected for following Jesus. We may also feel hypocritical at times, knowing that our behaviors are not perfect, even though our salvation is sure. It is likely we can sympathize with Lot in many ways.
9 In light of the account of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah, Christians can be assured that God knows how to rescue the righteous while He is punishing the wicked. The Greek word translated as "temptations" in several versions is more accurately rendered as "trials," especially considering the context. This does not mean that Christians will not suffer, nor does it mean that we will escape every situation unscathed, but if nothing else, we can be confident that on Judgment Day, we will escape the ultimate punishment, while wicked people and the false teachers will be condemned. God goes to great lengths to save the righteous for heaven and preserve the ungodly for punishment.
10 The more depravity displayed in a false teacher's life, the more certain he will suffer God's wrath. Two key components include indulging the corrupt desires of the flesh and despising authority. The first could possibly be reduced down to selfishness. Symptoms of such self-centeredness include greed for wealth, luxury, entertainment, and the pursuit of all kinds of sexual pleasures, while remaining unconcerned about others' needs or who is harmed physically or spiritually in the fulfillment of these things. The second category may refer specifically to pride. Such a person has no respect for authority, be it a governing or religious authority. Most will pretend to be respectful in public, but in their personal lives, they will break laws and moral standards without any remorse (unless they are caught, of course). They believe that only they know how to run their lives and the lives of others. They strive for power and attention, with the goal usually going back to the fulfillment of their selfish desires. Some become so arrogant that they brazenly slander those in authority.

Note that the intention of the word doxas is not exactly clear. Its definition is "glorious," "splendid," or "majestic." The only definite clues we are given is that 1) the word is referring to some kind of being, and 2) they are good beings, since doxas always refers to something positive. This eliminates the possibility that the word refers to Satan or demons. How one interprets the next verse would decide whether this word refers to angels or human leaders.

It is not offensive to use the word "majesty" with respect to human leadership. With respect to civilian leaders, their "glory" derives from the general principle that God "appoints" world leaders (see notes on Rom 13:1). Religious leaders gain their "splendor" through their relationship with God.

11 The difficulties in interpreting these two verses is that it is unclear whether "majesties" refers to demons, angels, or humans, and whether the "them" in this verse refers to the false teachers or the "majesties."

Several commentators have drawn parallels between this verse and Jude 1:9 and Zec 3:1-2, where angels do not rebuke Satan directly, but respectfully leave all judgment to God. This would make the "majesties" in the previous verse refer to fallen angels. However, this is unlikely, because the word used for "majesties" always refers to something positive.

Another way to interpret these verses is that the "majesties" in the previous verse refers to angels and the "them" in this verse refers to false teachers. The meaning would then be that false teachers revile angels, but the angels in turn do not judge them.

A third interpretation is that the "majesties" are human leaders, and the "them" also refers to human leaders. In this case, the interpretation would be that false teachers revile human leaders when note even angels will do so.

A fourth interpretation is that the "majesties" in the previous verse are human leaders, and the "them" of this verse are false teachers. In this case, the idea is that false teachers are not afraid to scorn their leaders, whereas angels do not even pronounce judgment against the worst of these false teachers, who likely deserve it more than the leaders they denounce.

The main thing that makes it most likely that "majesties" refers to human leadership is that in the previous verse, the civil and religious "authorities" are referred to, although it is still not difficult to expand that to mean that false teachers despise all authority, including the angels and God.

In any case, the implication is that if angels leave judgment to God, people would be wise to do the same. The word that is translated in different versions as "reviling," "slanderous," or "railing" is the Greek word for "blasphemous." The implication is that to judge in God's place is blasphemy.

12 We live in a strange world. It is perhaps ironic that many scientists, who we consider the most rational people of all, spend a great deal of time and effort trying to convince others that humans are merely animals of nature. Some naturalists consider people to have equal or even lesser value than the other animals. Some psychologists also see us as little more than "smart" animals. After years of such daily influences, it is not surprising that many "common" people believe all these messages. However, while society generally accepts these teachings, it paradoxically will punish those who live by them. People who live like animals are those who follow only their instincts. They take what they want whenever they want and relate to others only to fulfill their own emotional and physical desires. They think little about the consequences of their actions or the harm they do to others. Societies have little tolerance for this kind of behavior and may fine, imprison, or even execute those who are selfish enough to violate others. It is especially sad when religious leaders begin to accept, practice, and teach others to live this way. If people would think about it from either a civil or Scriptural viewpoint, we would understand that we are held responsible for our actions because we are rational beings. We have the ability to control our words and actions. Animals who attack and kill people are immediately destroyed without question because we know that these creatures cannot be reasoned with. People, however, were designed as rational beings and should not live like beasts and behave in such an unfettered manner that authorities must hunt them down and remove them for the welfare of civilians. When people behave like animals, they are treated like animals.

Those who teach that people are merely animals tend to be those who either deny there is a spiritual realm or have a distorted view of it. They may mock others who believe in God and the Bible, but they remain willfully ignorant of the evidence supporting the Scriptures. They will have no excuse when they stand before God on Judgment Day, and they will be captured and destroyed like the animals they claim to be.

13 False teachers will earn the punishment they will receive, increasing the amount with every harmful act they do. They may become so bold in their evil ways as to flaunt them publicly, not even having enough shame to conceal their misdeeds. They get a kick out of deceiving others, and enjoy seeing how much they can take advantage of others under their false guises.

In relationship to the church, they are like stains on clothing or bruises on fruit, making Christianity seem less desirable to people outside, if not inside. They bring disgrace to Christian celebrations, possibly even using the Lord's Supper as an occasion to indulge their vices.

14 The false teachers may be lusty people, always seeking to fulfill their sexual passions with whomever they desire. Following only their animal instincts, it is as if they cannot help but sin, and they continually practice at it. They will "trap" anyone who is not well grounded in Christian principles.

They may be well-trained in greed, undoubtedly using religion to trick people into handing over their possessions. The word likens their training in greed to an athlete exercising.

These false teachers may make themselves out to be children of God, Peter exposes them as "children of a curse," which means they will inherit destruction from God, not His kingdom.

15 Balaam was a man who spoke with God and spoke God's words to people. We do not know much about Balaam's character before he is mentioned in Num 22-24. He had a reputation for being a reliable prophet, and may have been considered a godly man of good character. However, we see Balaam respond in greed. Although God told Balaam that he could not curse Israel, Balaam hoped God would change His mind so that he could attain the rich reward promised in exchange for such a curse. Balaam was not concerned about what God wanted, he wanted to be wealthy, even if it meant going against God's will. He became a mercenary for evil.

As Christians, we must be careful that we do not fall into the same trap. We know what weaknesses we have by which we are most likely fall when we are tempted. We may have weaknesses we do not yet know about. However, we can not fall if we keep our minds set on God. Do we truly love Him? Are we really dead to the worldview of godless people? Temptation will reveal where our true love lies. The time of temptation is when we choose whom we will serve.

16 In the case of Balaam, God went to extraordinary lengths to warn the prophet about his actions. God caused his donkey to rebuke him verbally, perhaps 1) trying to get Balaam's attention with this miracle and 2) implying that even a donkey had better spiritual "sight" that him. Peter makes it clear that Balaam was "not in his right mind." He was so blinded by avarice that he was not making rational decisions. Likewise, false teachers who are eager to fulfill their own sinful ambitions will bring destruction on themselves and at the very least cause harm to those who follow him. Obviously, God does not deal with all false teachers this way, but the story illustrates how seriously God takes the matter.
17 Peter describes false teachers with dire metaphors. They are like wells without water, an utter disappointment to any desert traveler who finds one while searching for something to drink. Those who look to these false teachers for spiritual enlightenment will not be helped at all by them. In a similar way, they are like a cloud promising rain to the dry land, only to be driven away by the wind, leaving any expectant farmer disappointed. These teachers may promise their followers the "water of life," but in reality, they have nothing to offer.

God has already prepared a place for these teachers who give their followers such empty hope. It will be a place of "thick darkness," completely and eternally separated from the light of God's glory.

18 False teachers will often use the notion that the loudest people will be heard to gather a following. They will be so confidently in what they say, and so insistent that they are right that people who are unsure and in need of security will naturally be drawn to them.

False teachers may go further to appeal to the fleshly desires of people. It is rare today that these teachers will openly promise something like sexual fulfillment in their groups (although at least one group does promise men a multitude of women in the afterlife), but it is common for some to promise wealth and health to those who follow them. Others may focus on social acceptance and love, which appeals to those who are lonely or outcast. Some promise visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit in one's life. Still others will simply promise heaven to their followers, specifically focusing on how perfect, joyful, and painless it will be. While the latter are certainly more spiritual sounding than the former, it still misses the point of Christianity. The goal is not to attain heaven or be spiritually fulfilled - the purpose of Christianity is to know God. Attaining heaven and finding spiritual fulfillment are the direct result of one's good relationship with God. Having one's physical and social needs met is also promised, but usually with contingencies (e.g., fellow Christians need to be willing to love and help one another). Freedom from pain, suffering, persecution, and physical deterioration are never promised in this lifetime, although God does walk with His people during these times to provide spiritual comfort, and occasionally alleviates the problem. The God actively discourages Greed and the fulfillment of sexual desires outside of a marriage relationship, so those promising such things should be easy to see and avoid.

It appears that at the time Peter was writing, it was the people interested in becoming Christian converts that were the targets of these teachers. These people were just ready to escape the errors of their pagan ways, only to be lured into a trap that sounded like Christianity, but encouraged sin rather than freed them from it. False teachers can sound like spiritual people because they use many of the same words that those who witnessed to them about Jesus do, but those who do not understand Christianity often do not know that they are being lead in a very different direction.

19 False teachers will promise their followers freedom. Referring back to 2 Pet 2:10, this probably means autonomy, that is, "liberation" from authorities, laws, and moral codes. However, they did not see that this "freedom" left them to become slaves of their own desires, which are self-centered, and thus corrupt. Alluding to the practice of victorious armies taking slaves from the vanquished, these people have been conquered by sin, and have become slaves to it.
20 This verse is difficult to interpret. The first problem is that it is not clear whom "they" refers to. It could be those of verse 18 who were "escaping" lives of error, possibly then indicating that this included new Christian converts. On the other hand, the context of the chapter is about false teachers. Some commentators suggest that it could be inclusive, and it is probably fair that this verse encompass a general principle rather than a description of a specific group.

The next difficulty involves the explanation of the circumstances and consequences. Elsewhere it is indicated that one's salvation cannot be lost once it is attained. How then one could be "worse off" after attaining "knowledge of the Lord" and then returning to sin is not exactly clear. Does "knowledge of the Lord" indicate a salvation experience, or is it merely an academic knowledge? The wording indicates that "they" had repudiated sin for a while only to return to it later, but again, behavioral changes do not necessarily indicate the condition of the heart accurately.

If "they" are pagans what had taken the first steps towards Christianity only to be lead astray by false teachers, then certainly they are worse off because it might become difficult or impossible for them to distinguish between the true and false religions, and thus never attain salvation. If "they" are Christian converts, then they might be considered worse off in that, while still saved, their lives will become useless for kingdom work, and may actually turn non-believers away rather than attract them to the faith. If "they" are false teachers, then they had attained at least some knowledge of Christianity, but have ignored the implications and developed a false religion suited to their own purpose. To add to the problem, they teach others to follow their false doctrines. In this case, neither they nor their followers attain salvation, even if they claim it. They also become responsible for preventing others from knowing the truth.

21 It will be especially miserable on Judgment Day for those who had knowledge of the Gospel but rejected it. It will be clear to them that the offer of mercy was there for the taking, but they had refused it. This will undoubtedly add the deepest regret to their eternal punishment. To false teachers will be added the awareness that they were responsible for others being condemned, not having been helped at all by their lessons or example.
22 Peter compares these people to dogs and pigs, considered among the vilest of creatures from the Jewish standpoint. The dog, after having purged itself of whatever was making it ill, will later return to eat what it vomited up (Prov 26:11). In the same way, a person may stop doing a particularly harmful sin for a while, but if they are not changed on the inside, they are likely to indulge in the same activities again. The second proverb is not in the Old Testament, but is found in Jewish writings. The nature of pigs is to wallow in mud, so no matter how much one cleans them, they will simply return to do what they usually do. Perhaps this can be likened to someone who becomes "religious" on Sundays or holidays, but the rest of the week lives unscrupulously. One's appearance is not necessarily an accurate indicator of their spiritual life. Since demons can pretend to be angels, we should not be surprised when unsaved people can pretend to be Christians (2 Cor 11:14-15). Usually, their true identity will eventually be detected, but even if they manage to fool everyone, they cannot fool God. The point of this verse is similar to Jesus' chastisement of the Pharisees in Mat 23:26-28. They appeared as clean and religious on the outside, but inside they were unreformed, full of sin, and far from God.

Some point to this verse as an indicator that salvation can be lost, but others have pointed out that neither the dog nor the pig have changed, that is, they were never anything else than dogs or pigs. The Christian, however, is a new creature.