Today: [2 Peter 2:] False Prophets and Harmful Influences. In this chapter of 2 Peter the apostle warns of problems to come in the centuries ahead. False prophets and heretical movements existed in Peter’s day as they do in ours. Peter helps us to know how to identify these errors and to safeguard ourselves from their influence.
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[2Pe 2:1-22 KJV] 1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast [them] down to hell, and delivered [them] into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth [person], a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned [them] with an overthrow, making [them] an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed [his] righteous soul from day to day with [their] unlawful deeds;) 9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: 10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous [are they], selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. 11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. 12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, [as] they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots [they are] and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam [the son] of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18 For when they speak great swelling [words] of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, [through much] wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
In 2 Peter 2 the apostle warns about false prophets and false teachers in time to come for the people of God. He refers to damnable heresies so outrageous that they go so far and to deny the Lord Jesus Himself. Certainly, there have always been groups and individuals such as this, but these words of Peter were not long in beginning to come to pass. From the second century on gnostic influences already present in Judaism made their influence felt in the theology of the Christian church. These groups believed in a very nebulous and confusing world of demi-urges and pseudo gods and goddesses where the redemption of man was dependent on learning certain mystic truths and murky doctrines of self-realization. Many of the early church histories of the time were produced to refute such heresies as they were wide-spread and much accepted through the Christian community.
In verse 3 Peter exposes the motive of kingdom building and influence garnering that would motivate these movements declaring that if God didn’t spare the angels that sinned, nor the world before the flood with the exception of Noah, nor Sodom and Gomorrha neither shall the perpetrators of these wrong teachings and aberrant movements be spared from the consequences of their error. For the believer, Peter encourages us that God knows how to deliver the godly from the temptations of false doctrine and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment for their punishment.
Who are the angels that sinned Peter is referring to? They are described in Gen. 6:1-16 as angels who copulated with the daughters of men thus polluting the human genome with the DNA of creatures who were beyond redemption. This is why God spoke of Noah as being perfect in his generations – not speaking so much of his moral character – as his family line being pure from this demonic contamination. The passage also refers (v. 9) to a day of judgment when the unjust will be punished. The idea of eternal punishment or hell is significantly marginalized in Christianity today to the point that Pew Research reported an increasing percentage even of Evangelical Christians do not believe in the existence of Hell. By some reports, 59% of professing Christians below the age of 50 do not believe in the idea of Hell or eternal punishment. The language of Peter, however, is unambiguous on the subject.
Who is in danger of this judgment? Chiefly those (v. 10) that live in presumption, despising government who are unafraid to rail against authority which they would call “the establishment.” Peter reminds us that angels themselves were very aware of the powers that exist in the world a reference to Jude suggesting that they wouldn’t even rebuke Satan directly but would say “the Lord rebuke you…” Heresy prone believers, however (v. 12) think nothing of speaking dismissively of things they don’t understand which Peter insists (v. 13) will result in receiving the reward of unrighteousness (i.e., divine punishment).
Who are these negative influences in our midst? Those who flaunt their heretical belief and unrestrained lifestyles all the while insisting if we don’t put up with them we are not walking in love. Having eyes full of adultery they cannot cease from sin and are very adept at beguiling immature believers into forsaking what Peter calls the right way of God. As Balaam who loved the fruits of unrighteousness Peter warns that these wells without water, clouds carried with a tempest are reserved for a place of darkness forever. This a very sobering thought when you realize that Peter is not talking about people far removed from us but about people in our midst who claim to be a part of the body of Christ.
How do we know these dangerous influences? They speak lofty words to encourage immoral lifestyles and justifying all manner of corrupt behaviors all in the name of Christian liberty. Peter pushes back against these ideas declaring of whom a man is overcome of the same is he brought into bondage. If having escaped the pollutions of the world we are again entangled therein the latter end for such a one would be worse than at the beginning. It would be better (v. 21) not to have come to know Jesus than after finding salvation to turn away from the commandment of holiness that is incumbent upon us as men and women of God. It is as detestable as a dog returning to its vomit. From these unquestionably strong statements we can clearly understand that even though you are in Christ your behavior matters. Your lifestyle impacts your relationship with Christ even to the point of incurring eternal consequences. A very sobering admonition indeed.
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