So, last week we saw how Peter, who was coming near to the end of his earthly life, was still doing what the Lord Jesus had commissioned him to do so many years before, which was to take care of the Lord’s people by feeding them on God’s word. And so, we thought about how the Lord’s shepherds today — his ministers and elders — are to take care of God’s people by feeding them on God’s word. They’re to teach them God’s word and they’re to keep reminding them of God’s word, again and again, so that God’s people will always be able to remember the things they were taught. That’s what the Apostle Peter did; and it’s what the Lord’s shepherds are to do today.
And Peter went on to explain that the things which we read in the New Testament about the Lord Jesus are not cleverly-invented stories. That’s what some of the false teachers were saying about Peter. But he wanted to make clear that the things which Peter taught about the Lord Jesus and which are recorded for us in the New Testament are not myths and legends and fairy-tales. No. The things Peter and the other apostles wrote are things which they saw with their own eyes and they are things which they heard with their own ears. And so, Peter refers to the occasion when the Lord Jesus was transfigured on the mountain and when he received honour and glory from God the Father. ‘We saw it with our own eyes’, Peter is saying. ‘We heard God’s voice with our own ears’, he’s saying. This is not something we made up, for we saw it and heard it; and this same Jesus, who was received honour and glory from God the Father on the mountain, is coming again one day in glory and power to judge the living and the dead.
So, the New Testament does not contain cleverly-invented stories, but it’s the eye witness testimony of the apostles. And what about the Old Testament? Well, when those Old Testament prophets spoke about the coming of the Lord Jesus, they weren’t making it up, but they spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit so that whatever they spoke was not only the words of men like Moses and David and Isaiah and Daniel, but it was also the word of God. And what is true of the Old Testament prophets, is true of all the Scriptures, because all Scripture is God-breathed; it’s written under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. And so we ought always to pay heed to it, and believe it and obey it, because it is the word of God.
In chapter 2, Peter goes on to refer to the false teachers who had come along and who were troubling the church with their false teaching. And so, Peter wants to warn his readers about these false teachers. But he also writes to his readers about the coming judgment when God will punish these false teachers and those who become like them. So, he’s warning his readers about the false teachers and about the coming judgment.
Now, we might be tempted to say that this is a very negative passage of Scripture, because here’s Peter, criticising these false teachers and pointing out their faults and what they’re doing wrong. Why does he have to be so negative about them and criticise them like this? Why? And then, here’s Peter, talking about the judgment to come. Why does he have to be so negative about the future? Why can’t we have a positive message, a message that will lift our spirits and make us feel happy? Why do we have to spend time dealing with such bad news and such negative things?
The answer is simple: it’s because this is the word of God. God in his wisdom inspired the Apostle Peter to write these things and to warn us about these things. God in his wisdom has determined that we need to hear these things and be warned about them. God, who knows all things, and who knows what is best for us and who knows what we need to hear, has decided that we need to hear these warnings about false teachers and about the coming judgment. And as servants of the Lord, who love him and who trust him, we ought always to submit to God and to pay attention to his word. So, that’s why we have to study these things: because this is God’s word to us.
Verses 1 to 3
And so, let’s turn to this passage to see what the Lord, in his wisdom, wants to teach us. And in verses 1 to 3 Peter begins to tell his readers about the false teachers. And so, look with me at verse 1. Peter has been referring to the Old Testament prophets who spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. So, they were true prophets. But, of course, there were also false prophets. Just think of all the prophets of Baal at the time of Elijah: Elijah had remained faithful to the Lord, but there were many of these false prophets who led the people astray so that instead of worshipping the one, true and living God, they began to worship Baal and other false gods. Or, on other occasions, they were prophets who claimed to speak on God’s behalf, but they were only making it up and they were only telling the people what they wanted to hear. Well, just as there were false prophets in the past, in the days of the Old Testament, so there will be false teachers among you, says Peter. And Peter says at least six things about these false teachers.
First of all, they secretly introduce destructive heresies. Instead of teaching the truth of God’s word, they’re teaching false doctrines and false ideas which have nothing to do with God’s word. And these false doctrines and ideas are destructive, because those who follow this false teaching will be led astray by it and will wander away from the true path that leads to everlasting life in the presence of God. And, of course, the false teachers introduce their false idea in a secretive way. They don’t advertise the fact that they’re false teachers and they don’t make clear that what they’re saying is different from what’s in God’s word. They’re passing it off as the truth and they make what they say seem so plausible and reasonable and believable. Meanwhile, of course, they’re saying that what Peter and the other Apostles have been teaching are only cleverly-invented stories. So, these false teachers are undermining what the true teachers are saying; and they’re passing off their own false doctrines as the truth.
Secondly, they deny the sovereign Lord who bought them. The sovereign Lord is the Lord Jesus Christ. And just as an earthly master might acquire a slave by paying the purchase price, so the Lord Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Master, has bought us so that we might serve him all the days of our life. And the price he paid for us and the price he paid to set us free from sin and Satan and death so that we might belong to him was not gold or silver, but it was his own blood, shed on the cross; by his blood he has bought us. However, these false teachers — who presumably claimed to be servants of the Lord — have in fact turned away from following him. Instead of living to please the Lord Jesus Christ, by obeying him, they are living to please themselves. And, of course, that’s what makes these false teachers so dangerous: they claim to follow the Lord and to serve him; and so believers can be taken in by them and can be fooled by them: Sure, this person professes faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He says he loves the Lord. Who am I to doubt his profession? I should listen to him.
But even though he professes faith and says he loves the Lord, if he’s teaching false ideas and false doctrines, then he’s not from the Lord.
Thirdly, they will bring swift destruction on themselves. Well, from what we know of these false teachers, it seems that they were denying the coming judgment. According to Peter in chapter 3, some of them were saying:
Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?
In other words: Jesus Christ isn’t coming again. He’s not coming to judge the world. Sure, the world will just carry on as it has always been and we don’t need to worry about a coming judgment. So, they were saying the day of judgment will never come. But Peter re-assures his readers that the coming judgment will come soon enough on these false teachers. They were saying that it will never come; Peter reminds his readers that it will happen; and it will happen soon.
Fourthly — and this is perhaps the most distressing thing that Peter says about them — many will follow them; manny will follow them. Since these false teachers profess to love the Lord, and since they’re introducing their ideas secretly, and not openly, many will be taken in by them and many will listen to them and will follow them and so be led astray from the true path that leads to everlasting life. And many will follow their shameful ways, says Peter. And so, we’re not just talking about false ideas and false doctrines; things we’re to believe. We’re also talking about false practices: sinful and shameful practices and behaviours.
Tell me: Why do people deny the truth of the Bible? Why do they undermine what the Bible says? Why do they say that what the Bible teaches is wrong? Why do they come up with their own ideas and teach them? Well, there may be many reasons, but one reason is because the Bible condemns what we want to do and the kind of life we want to live. Men and women want to live as they please; they want to do whatever they want. Isn’t that right? We want our own way; and we want to do whatever we please; and we don’t like it when someone says we can’t; or when someone condemns us for it. But the Bible says that living to please ourselves, and living to please our sinful desires and inclinations is wrong. It’s sin. It’s forbidden by God.
So, you see, the Bible points out that we’re sinners; and that what we want to do is wrong; and that unless we confess our sin and guilt, and turn away from our life of sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for sinners, then God will one day condemn us and punish us for what we have done. But instead of confessing their sin and guilt, and instead of turning away from that life of sin, and instead of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s far easier to deny the truth of God’s word and to say that the Bible is wrong. And so, these false teachers were teaching their false ideas and false doctrines and false practices; and sadly, many of those who heard them were only too happy to follow them.
And so, fifthly, they will bring the way of truth into disrepute, because, by doing these shameful things, they will only bring shame and dishonour on the Lord. These false teachers which Peter is talking about claimed to follow the Lord; they claimed to be Christians who had been bought and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. But they were doing shameful things and wicked things and they were following their own sinful and shameful desires. And so, any outsiders who heard about these things, would think that Christianity must be an wicked and evil thing, because look how Christians behave.
And sixthly, they exploit the church out of greed. Think of the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up everything — including his life on the cross — for us and for our salvation. Think of the Apostles, who suffered so much for the sake of Christ their Saviour and for the good of the church. But these false teachers are only in it for what they can get out of it.
Well, Peter was describing the false teachers who lived long ago. But false teachers still exist today. And they’re just the same, because they will secretly introduce false ideas into the church; and they will deny the sovereign Lord by doing whatever they please; and — sadly — many will be taken in by them and will follow their shameful ways; and so they will bring dishonour to the Lord and his church; and they’re only in it for what they can get out of it. God inspired Peter to write these things so that believers in every generation will be warned and will be on guard so that we will not be taken in by whatever false teachers appear in our day.
And, of course, their judgment will come soon. In fact, as Peter says in verse 3, it is hanging over them and it is not asleep. A sleeping dog is nothing to worry about, because you can pass by it with ease, so long as you’re quiet and don’t disturb it. But what if that dog in your path is not asleep? What if, instead of sleeping, it’s waiting for the right moment to pounce. Well, God is not asleep; people might think he’s asleep or they might think he doesn’t exist, because each new day seems the same as the last and it doesn’t seem like he’s ever going to come in judgment. But what if he’s not asleep? What if he’s waiting for the right moment to come and judge those false teachers who cause so much havoc in the church and who lead so many people astray?
Verses 4 to 10a
And so, in the following verses — verses 4 to 10 — Peter goes on to say more about the coming judgment. And really the point he’s making in these verses is summed up for us in verse 9: God knows how to rescue the godly; and he knows how to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment.
And in order to make this point, Peter refers to three stories from the Old Testament. Firstly, he refers to angels who were punished. It’s likely Peter is referring to that obscure story in Genesis 6 where we read how the sons of God — and the sons of God may well be angels — saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and so, they came and married them. Well, it was not God’s will for angels to marry humans; and so, what they were doing was wrong. And so, here in these verses, Peter refers to their condemnation and how they were sent to hell, a gloomy dungeon, to be held for the day of judgment. Secondly, there’s the story of the flood. Do you remember? God was sorry that he made the world, because he saw that every inclination of the thoughts of our hearts was only evil all the time. Only evil all the time. And so, he decided to destroy the world with a flood. Thirdly, there’s the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, those wicked cities at the time of Abraham, which were destroyed when the Lord rained down burning sulphur on them.
Well, each of those three stories make clear that God is able to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, because the punishment he sent on the angels and on the people in the days of the flood and on the people in Sodom and Gomorrah was a foretaste of what will happen on that great and terrible day of the Lord when Jesus Christ will come in glory and power to judge the living and the dead, everyone who has ever lived; and those who did not turn to him for forgiveness in this life will be condemned for what they have done and punished forever for their sins. God knows how to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment. And that’s especially true, says Peter at the beginning of verse 10, for the false teachers who were following the corrupt desire of their sinful nature, and who despised the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were saying that there’s no such thing as the judgment; they were saying that the day of judgment will never come. But, says Peter, it will come, and God was warning us about it when he punished the angels and when he sent the flood on the earth and when he poured down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah. He was warning us about the coming judgment so that we might repent and turn in faith to his Son who is the only one who is able to save us from the coming day of judgment.
On the other hand, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly, all those who belong to him. And so, in the days of the flood, the Lord rescued Noah and his family so that they did not perish in the flood, but were saved. And in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord rescued Lot, that righteous man who was Abraham’s nephew, and who lived among those wicked people, but who was distressed by their filthy lives and who was tormented in his soul by all the lawless deeds he saw and heard. The Lord rescued him.
If the Lord was able to rescue them, if he was able to deliver them from the judgment which was coming at that time, then the Lord knows how to rescue his people today. He knows how to rescue us from trials. Do you see that in verse 9? He’s able to rescue us from whatever trials we may face each day, because he’s able to help us to stand firm in the faith despite all the wickedness around us and despite the pressure that is put on us to conform to the ways of the world. Just as he enabled Noah to remain faithful, when everyone around him was so wicked, and just as he enabled Lot to remain faithful, when everyone around him was so wicked, and his own soul was distressed and tormented by the things he saw, just as he enabled them to remain faithful, so he’s able to help his people in every generation to remain faithful and to stand firm in the faith so that we don’t give up the faith and become like everyone else.
And, of course, ultimately, he’s able to rescue his people from the coming day of judgment, because on the day of judgment, all who have trusted in Jesus Christ the Saviour, and in him alone, will be declared not guilty, but righteous in the sight of God. Even though we’re sinners who may have done everything wrong, for the sake of Christ who died for us, we’ll be pardoned and forgiven. And instead of being sent away to be punished — which is what we deserve because of what we’re done wrong — we’ll be brought into the presence of the Lord and into that place of perfect peace and rest which our Saviour has prepared for us and for all who believe in him.
So, the false teachers were saying there’s no need to worry, because the day of judgment will never come. And at that time, many people were listening to them. And many people believe the same thing today. But Peter wanted to remind his readers of what God has revealed in his word so that they would know the truth. And the truth is that the day of judgment is coming; and when it comes, the wicked will be punished for ever; you will be punished for ever, unless you turn from your sins in repentance and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world, who gave up his life on the cross to pay for the sins of his people. And so, whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but will have everlasting life in the presence of the Lord. False teachers are still saying: Don’t worry. Don’t worry. It’s all nonsense. There’s no such thing as the day of judgment.
But God’s word is clear: the day is coming when Christ will come to judge the living and the dead; but all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. So, call on the name of the Lord, trust in him, so that you will be saved.