This Bible Study is part of the "1st and 2nd Peter" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
It is amazing, today, that although many people are looking for the return of Jesus Christ, some are being told: "He just comes to your heart. He does not really come to this earth." Some people say: "Well, Jesus Christ may come back tonight. He may come back in a hundred years. He might come back in a thousand years.
I am Doug Winnail, a Pastor with the Living Church of God. We are continuing with our Bible study of 2 Peter. 2 Peter is a book written by the Apostle Peter to churches in northern Asia Minor—and it also contains lessons for us. Peter is writing to people who are being persecuted, who are having to deal with false doctrines and false ideas that are being brought into the early Church.
Peter is writing in approximately the mid-60s AD. At this time, there were Jewish people trying to push Jewish ideas in the Church. There were Gnostic teachers around the various parts of the Roman Empire—especially in Antioch and Syria—pushing Gnostic ideas, which were a crazy mixture of pagan ideas and satanic ideas for the most part. Also, people were developing who wanted to be their own teachers. Peter is warning about those things, and he is giving these churches instructions how to recognize and how to deal with false prophets and false teachers.
In Chapter 1, Peter mentioned that the Church of God—the Church that he is part of—has a more sure word of prophecy. He also mentioned that no prophecy is of any private interpretation. We cannot just make up our own personal interpretation of scriptures. You can read that in 1 Timothy 3:15. It is the Church’s responsibility to be the pillar and the ground of Truth—to hold on to what is right and true. This discussion of false teachers, and of prophecy being of no private interpretation, is a lead-in from the end of Chapter 1 to what Peter then discusses in Chapter 2. He talks about false prophets.
2 Peter 2:1
But there were also false prophets among the people [in Peter’s time], even as there will be false teachers among you [Peter mentions that Scripture is written for our admonition—for those of us who live at the end of the age. These lessons are really meant for us today. There will be false teachers as we approach the end of the age, he says…], who will secretly [suddenly] bring in destructive heresies…
We have talked in previous Bible studies about how Christmas and Easter got into the Christian church—that the pagan peoples in the Roman Empire were keeping Christmas, actually celebrating a very loud festival towards the end of year, towards the winter solstice. This festival included drunkenness and revelry and so on, while they were honoring the rebirth of the sun. These pagan people were eventually told, in an attempt to convert them to a false "Christianity," that they could keep this festival but actually worship the Son of God instead of the sun that is coming up. All kinds of reasons were used to bring destructive heresies and pagan practices into the Church of Jesus Christ. They actually corrupted that Church. Peter is saying: "People, your false teachers will secretly or suddenly have an agenda. They will work false teachings into the Church—even denying the Lord who brought them."
It is amazing, today, that although many people are looking for the return of Jesus Christ, some are being told: "He just comes to your heart. He does not really come to this earth." Some people say: "Well, Jesus Christ may come back tonight. He may come back in a hundred years. He might come back in a thousand years. Maybe He is not really coming back at all—it is just a metaphor." These destructive heresies have spread through the Church over the centuries. But Peter says…
2 Peter 2:1-2
…who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. [Peter goes on…] And many will follow their destructive ways…
Peter’s implication is these false ideas will be popular. Accepting them is going to be the easy way to go. He says that many people will follow those destructive ways. He is only repeating Jesus Christ’s warning in Matthew 24, where He said: "In the last days, many will come in My name and they will deceive many." Peter is referring, really, to the instructions he received from Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 2:2
And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
Today, people who keep the Sabbath or keep the Holy Days are often called "Jewish." Yet Jesus kept the Sabbath. The Apostles kept the Holy Days. The early church believed that Jesus Christ was going to return to this earth to reign on this earth. Jesus Christ did not preach about going to heaven. The Apostles in the early Church never believed that they were going to go to heaven, yet people that believe as Jesus Christ and the Apostles did are blasphemed today! As I mentioned in a previous study, anyone who believes today that it is wrong to participate in abortion or have an abortion, is called a "Christian extremist"! In other words, if you are against murdering an unborn child, you are an extremist—this is what is happening in our society today. Because of false ideas and false teachings, the way of Truth will be blasphemed and ridiculed. Then Peter says, talking about false teachers…
2 Peter 2:3
By covetousness they will exploit you [They will take advantage of you.] with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle…
False teachers’ agenda is to divert Christianity from the biblical teachings that have been around and active since the first century. There are major churches today that are just waiting for their opportunity to pull people away from biblical teachings and get them back to traditions, instead of biblical teachings.
2 Peter 2:3-4
By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle [They have been watching for their opportunities. They think in centuries. They take advantage of the time to move.], and their destruction does not slumber. [Talking about the doom of these false teachers. Peter is saying, "Don’t worry, there is a judgment coming." He gives several examples about judgments in the past God has rendered on evildoers.] For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell…
The word here is actually "a place of restraint." The term is tartaroo, it refers to a place of restraint. You can read more about this in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, which talk about the sin and rebellion of Satan. As it mentions in Revelation 12:4, a third of the angels followed Satan in that rebellion.
2 Peter 2:4
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;
Their judgment is coming. Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 6:3 that the saints will judge angels. It appears that part of the responsibility of saints ruling with Jesus Christ will actually be to determine the fate of some of these rebellious angels. God is going to judge those evil angels. He says…
2 Peter 2:5
And did not spare the ancient world [That is, in Noah’s time.], but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness [Righteousness is preaching the Commandments of God.], bringing in the flood on the world [and removed the] ungodly [people. That was the second judgment.]
The third place where God has already judged in the world…
2 Peter 2:6
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah…
These places were rampant with homosexuality and with all kinds of lusts and evils. God destroyed those cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the United States, we have a man who was rejected to be on the Supreme Court of the United States—he was labeled as an extremist because he believes in biblical principles. He wrote a book entitled Slouching Toward Gomorrah, talking about our society today, and he said that Gomorrah is our probable destination. We will probably not change soon enough. Peter says that the lesson from the Bible is that God judged Sodom and Gomorrah and destroyed them. There are punishments that will come on the United States and other nations around the world who profess to be Christian peoples, but who don’t live by those teachings. God condemned Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live in an ungodly way.
2 Peter 2:7-10
And delivered righteous Lot [Lot was living in Sodom. He was the nephew of Abraham.], who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them [people living in Sodom and Gomorrah], tormented his righteous soul [his mind—he was troubled daily by what he saw] from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds); then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations [He delivered Lot. He got Lot out of there and He will deliver us too. He is going to deliver those who are righteous out of a sinful world.]… and especially those who walk according to the flesh [They are the ones who are going to be punished.] in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority.
Here Peter begins to identify, for the benefit of the Church members, how to identify false teachers. First, you identify them by what they teach, comparing it with the Bible. He also says that "they will despise authority." They will despise government. They will despise godly authority or constituted authority. They will want to be in charge themselves. They will want to make their own decisions. They won’t want anyone making decisions that will affect them.
2 Peter 2:10
[These false teachers] They are presumptuous [They presume that they know how to explain the Bible. They presume that they know how to run things.], self-willed…
They want to do things their way. This is part and parcel of the way our society believes today. We believe we have to be our own person. We have to make our own decisions. We don’t let anybody else tell us what to do. Yet if we are going to be Christian, we have to let God tell us what to do.
2 Peter 2:10-12
They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries [They are not afraid to speak evil of God. They are not afraid to speak evil of the Bible. They are not afraid to speak evil of those in authority.], whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. [It says angels are going to be putting other people down. Again, talking about the impact of these false teachers.] But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed…
In other words, some people act like animals. They are not restrained by any laws. They are not restrained by any conscience. Some people have described the generation growing up in America today as a generation of barbarians. They don’t recognize authority in the home. They don’t recognize authority held by civil authorities. As a result, our nations are coming apart.
2 Peter 2:12
…[they] speak evil of the things they do not understand…
Many people laugh at Christians for opposing abortion, for opposing homosexuality and for opposing all kinds of evils. But they don’t realize that we are taking the lives of over a million and a half unborn babies a year in America. How many people died in the Holocaust? Fve or six million. But we have been doing this for almost 30 years. Thirty million babies have been killed.
2 Peter 2:12-13
…[the people] speak evil [of what they don’t understand. They speak evil of people who are trying to live by the Laws of God.]… and [they] will receive the wages of unrighteousness [Peter says], as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. [He says] They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast.
Christians will be keeping the Feasts of God—the Holy Days. There will be people there at those Feasts, in many cases having a ball, having fun, but not paying attention to what is being preached—not really wanting to live the way of life that is being talked about.
2 Peter 2:14-15
Having eyes full of adultery [That is our society today. We have to guide our eyes and guide our minds.] and that cannot cease from sin, [These false teachers, it says, will beguile.] unstable souls. [They will mislead people who do not have a firm foundation. Again, Peter has talked about, over and over, and as we will see toward the end of the chapter, the importance of knowledge, the importance of proving things, the importance of remembering what is right and what is true. If we do that, we will not be unstable. We will not be deceived easily.] They have a heart trained in covetous practices [They are exercised in evil things.]…They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam…
You might want to do your own little Bible study on Balaam. He was a false teacher talked about in Numbers 22-25. He was apparently a predictor of the future in the ancient Near East. He held a position in the pagan world similar to Moses among the Israelites. But he was into predicting the future for a wage. It is a very interesting story; you may want to read through it on your own.
2 Peter 2:15
…who loved the wages of unrighteousness; [He liked to predict the future for whoever would pay him—whatever future they wanted.] but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice…
God enabled a donkey to speak. It is interesting that Balaam, as a diviner, made his predictions by cutting up an animal and looking at the insides. God had an animal tell Balaam, "There is an angel up in front of you and you couldn’t even see it! You are supposed to be able to predict the future!" Balaam also deceived the Israelites. He got them involved with pagan idolatry and pagan immorality and deceived a whole nation. Peter is talking about this biblical character who had earlier deceived the Israelites, and is saying, "Be careful, those of you in the Church—those of you who have been called to believe the Truth—that you don’t get caught up in sexual and immoral idolatry by false teachers."
We will conclude, then with the last couple of verses in Chapter 2…
2 Peter 2:18
For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness…
Have you ever heard people getting into philosophy, especially their own philosophy? Great "words of emptiness"—a lot of hot air—is what Peter is saying.
2 Peter 2:18
…they allure through the lusts of the flesh…
"This will feel good. This will taste good. This looks reasonable." Just like Satan did to Eve.
2 Peter 2:18-20
…they [appeal] through the lusts of the flesh through lewdness [Again, the sexuality—the evil aspects of it.], the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, ["You will be free! You will have fun! You will enjoy life!"] they themselves are slaves of corruption [They will teach you fables.]; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 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 [if they get involved with these things.] in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
Unfortunately, some people slip back. Their minds have been opened to understand the Truth, but they let go of it and they slip back into these pagan ideas and these fables that have been fostered.
2 Peter 2:21-22
..it would have been better [Peter says] for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment [to turn away from authoritative preaching and teaching of the Truth.]…But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed [herself, getting all clean], to her wallowing in the mire."
Peter is saying that people were understanding the Truth but going back to the pagan ideas that they once came out of. He talks about one of the trials that weare going to have to deal with—false teachers. We are going to have to learn to recognize them, and understand how they operate, so that we can avoid being deceived.
In our next, final, segment, we will continue with one more chapter in 2 Peter. I am Doug Winnail, with the Living Church of God.