2 Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
(a) But false prophets. The counterfeit follows the authentic. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were blessed by true prophets and troubled by false prophets such as Balaam (2 Pet. 2:15).
(b) False teachers among you. Just as there were false prophets among the Children of Israel, there are false teachers who infiltrate the church. Like Jesus (Matt. 7:15), Paul (2 Cor. 11:13), John (1 John 4:1) and Jude (Jude 1:4), Peter felt a strong need to warn believers about these dangerous people and their destructive teachings.
(c) Secretly. These wolves in sheep’s clothing are sneaky. They use spiritual jargon to disguise their real agenda, which is to feed their greed (2 Pet. 2:3).
(d) Destructive heresies. False teachers usually come in two stripes; some preach law (Acts 15:5), while others preach licence (Jude 1:4, Rev. 2:15). These false teachers were in the latter camp. They taught that grace is a license to sin (see next verse).
Licentious teachings are destructive because they undermine your faith and seduce the vulnerable (2 Pet. 2:14). Left unchecked, false teachers can wreck families and split churches.
(e) Denying the Master. These false teachers were not misguided Christians but ungodly people who denied the Lord and were unacquainted with the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:19). How did they deny the Lord? Perhaps they did not believe that Jesus was fully man and fully God (1 John 4:2, 2 John 1:7). Maybe they questioned whether he was the Son of God and the Savior (1 John 2:22, 4:3, 5:10). These teachers embraced the trappings of religion, but they didn’t know Jesus and he didn’t know them (Matt. 7:23).
It’s plain from the context that Peter is talking about false teachers, the sort of people that Jesus and Paul referred to as ravenous or savage wolves (Matt. 7:15, Acts 20:29). Yet some Christians worry that Peter is talking about them. “I denied the Lord once.” Well, so did Peter (Luke 22:34). Don’t confuse apples with oranges. A Christian who stumbles and says something regrettable is acting contrary to their true nature. After Peter denied the Master he wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). In contrast, a false teacher who is enslaved to corruption and never stops sinning is just doing what comes naturally (2 Pet. 2:14, 19).
(e) Who bought them. Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:6). With his blood he ransomed all of us, including false teachers. That doesn’t mean everyone is saved, but everyone is free to leave the prison of sin because the ransom has been paid. “You have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20).
(f) Swift destruction. Those who attack God’s family put themselves on a fast track to destruction (2 Pet. 3:7). Their time is short and their destruction swift because the Judge is right at the door (see entry for Jas. 5:9).
2 Peter 2:2
Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;
(a) Sensuality. The original word (aselgeia) means licentiousness or lasciviousness. These false teachers can be recognized by their immoral lifestyles.
Jesus died to set us free but we can lose our freedom through legalism or licentiousness. The former puts price tags on the grace of God, while the latter removes the price tags from sin. Licentiousness says do what you will, for we are under grace not law. It’s a partial truth (all things are permissible) that leads to captivity and death (not all things are beneficial; see 1 Cor. 6:12).
(b) The way of the truth will be maligned. Licentious teachers are bad advertisements for Jesus, and they make the church look bad. Their fraudulent lifestyles reinforce the perception that the church is full of hypocrites and they hinder people from coming to the kingdom (see 2 Pet. 2:14).
2 Peter 2:3
and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
(a) Greed. Like Balaam the prophet who loved the wages of unrighteousness, these fraudsters are in it for the money (see entry for 2 Pet. 2:15).
(b) Exploit you. They want your money, your endorsement, and your social media likes and shares. They have no interest in helping you grow in grace. To them you are a resource to be mined.
(c) False words from false teachers amount to a false gospel. While good teachers impart truth that leads to freedom and godliness, false teachers propagate lies that lead to sin and bondage.
(d) Judgment from long ago. Their condemnation has been a long time coming, but it’s coming. Those who deny the Lord and attack his bride are heading for trouble (2 Pet. 3:7). In the following verses Peter provides three examples of how God deals with the unrighteous. The angels who rebelled, the ancient world, and the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
(e) Their destruction; see entry for 2 Pet. 3:7.
2 Peter 2:4
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
(a) Angels. Presumably these are angels who rebelled against the Lord and fell with Satan (Luke 10:18). But we cannot say for sure as the Bible says almost nothing about them. Peter says the angels were cast down while Jude says they abandoned their heavenly abode (Jude 1:6).
(b) Hell. The original word (tartaroo) is not a noun but a verb that means to incarcerate. It is derived from the Greek word Tartarus, a subterranean place of gloom and darkness. Tartarus is not Hades, the abode of the dead (see entry for Matt. 16:18). Neither is it the fiery Hell of which Jesus spoke (see entry for Matt. 5:22). There is some mystery here. Is Peter speaking literally (fallen angels are locked up in some dark pit) or figuratively (fallen angels are unable to be delivered from darkness)? Are fallen angels also known as demons? What we can say is that fallen angels (like demons; Matt. 8:29) are confined in some way until Judgment Day (Jude 1:6).
2 Peter 2:5
and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
(a) The ancient world. The antediluvian world that was destroyed in the great flood.
(b) Noah was known as a righteous man (Gen. 6:9) and an heir of the righteousness which is received by faith (Heb. 11:7).
(c) Preacher of righteousness. Noah encouraged his neighbors to get right with God but they didn’t listen.
(d) Ungodly. To be ungodly is to have nothing but contempt for the things of God.
Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6) and God’s desire is to justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). But those who choose to live independently of God ultimately cut themselves off from the Source of life (2 Pet. 3:7).
A holy God and ungodliness cannot coexist any more than light and dark can coexist. As the light of God’s love shines ever brighter, the darkness must flee, and those who prefer the darkness will find themselves with no place to go.
2 Peter 2:6
and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;
(a) Sodom and Gomorrah were so wicked that their names became synonymous with depravity and violence. They were hellholes full of every kind of misery. The cries of those they oppressed were so great that they drew the attention of the Lord himself (Gen. 18:20–21).
(b) Destruction. The original word (katastrophe) means overturn or overthrown. Sodom and Gomorrah were overturned and burned and the result was a catastrophe. A land that had been compared to the garden of the Lord (Gen. 13:10) was reduced to a smoking ash pit.
(c) Ashes. These corrupt cities were destroyed by fire and brimstone that rained down from heaven (Gen. 19:24).
(d) An example. What happened to Sodom and Gomorrah is a picture of what will happen to the ungodly on Judgment Day (Luke 17:29–30, Jude 1:7).
(e) Ungodly; see previous verse.
2 Peter 2:7
and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men
(a) Righteous Lot. Lot was righteous because he obeyed the call of God and went to Canaan (Gen 12:4). The faith that justifies is always a response to the call of God.
Before the cross, no one could be made righteous with Christ’s righteousness. The gift of righteousness had not been given and the “one act of righteousness” had not been done (Rom. 5:18). This is why Old Testament saints such as Abraham were credited with righteousness on account of their faith in God (see entry for Rom. 4:3).
Like his uncle Abraham, Lot was credited or reckoned righteous on account of his faith in God. But in the new covenant, we are made righteous with the righteousness that comes from the Righteous One. (Rom. 5:18–19, 2 Cor. 5:21). See entry for Righteousness.
(b) Oppressed means vexed or distressed. Lot moved to Sodom because the town was attractive (Gen. 13:10), but he never adopted the corrupt culture of his Sodomite neighbors. He remained an alien in a strange land, much as we are aliens in a fallen world (1 Pet. 2:11).
(c) Unprincipled men. The men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and depraved (Gen. 13:13).
2 Peter 2:8
(for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),
(a) That righteous man; see previous verse.
(b) Tormented. Sodom was not a good place to raise children and Lot hated living there. His righteous soul was tormented day after day. Yet strangely, he never left. Sodom got involved in a war where Lot and his family were taken captive (Gen. 14:11–16). After he was rescued by Abraham, Lot returned to the wicked town. Even as the fire of heaven was about to fall upon the city, he hesitated. He literally had to be dragged from the city by two angels (Gen. 19:16).
Lot was a righteous man who trusted the Lord, but he was not a wise man. At critical moments in his life he walked by sight and relied on his own natural judgment. Despite his foolishness, Lot and his daughters were saved because God rescued them. We are not saved because we are wise or make good life choices; we are saved because our Rescuer is mighty to save, and his grace is greater than our worst decisions (see Rom. 5:20).
(c) Their lawless deeds. The violent crimes committed by the wicked Sodomites.
Sodom was the kind of town where you risked your life every time you stepped outside your door. The men who ran the city were thugs who took what they wanted and destroyed those who got in their way.
2 Peter 2:9
then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,
(a) The Lord knows how to rescue the godly. In the day of judgment the godly are rescued while the ungodly are destroyed (2 Pet. 3:7).
(b) The godly are those who belong to God. They are believers, also known as the children or household of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
(c) Temptation. The same God who saved Noah and rescued Lot knows how to deliver you from trials and troubles.
(d) The unrighteous are those who have no interest in getting right with God. God draws them with open arms but they turn their backs. He offers them his righteousness but they scorn his gift. Unrighteous is a synonym for ungodly.
(e) Under punishment. Reserved for punishment. The ungodly and the unrighteous are heading for destruction (2 Pet. 3:7).
(f) The day of judgment. Judgment Day is the day when Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire (2 Th. 1:7). This day is also known as the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:10), the day of Christ (Php 1:10), the day of visitation (1 Pet. 2:12), the day of God (2 Pet. 3:12), the day of eternity (2 Pet. 3:18), the day of wrath (Rom. 3:10), the day of judgment (2 Pet. 2:9, 3:7) or simply the day (2 Pet. 1:19). See also the entry for Matt. 10:15.
2 Peter 2:10
and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.
Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties,
(a) And especially. If the unrighteous are in trouble, then greedy fraudsters who malign the truth and seduce the vulnerable are in real danger (2 Pet. 2:2–3, 14).
(b) Indulge the flesh. Like dumb animals, they live only for their appetites (2 Pet. 2:12).
(c) Its corrupt desires. The desires of the flesh, which include the desire to get your own way, get everything for yourself, and to appear important, wage war against the soul (see entry for 1 Pet. 2:11).
(d) Despise authority. While believers respect and pray for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:2, 1 Pet. 2:13), these mockers speak ill of pastors, politicians and those with any sort of real authority. They build themselves up by pulling others down, but there is nothing honorable or Christlike about their disdain for others.
(e) Daring or presumptuous. These shameless self-promoters are full of arrogance and pride.
(f) Self-willed. They are self-righteous, unteachable, and egotistical.
(g) They do not tremble. They have no qualms about slandering spiritual beings.
2 Peter 2:11
whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.
(a) Angels who are greater. The angels of God are mightier and more awesome than loud-mouthed braggarts spouting heresy.
(b) A reviling judgment against them. Angels don’t mock and judge each other. If angels refuse to play the judgment game, so should we (Jude 1:9). Judgment is God’s business, not ours (Jas. 4:12).
2 Peter 2:12
But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed,
(a) Like unreasoning animals. These false teachers are instinctive unspiritual creatures living only for their appetites. They have more in common with the beasts than the born again children of God.
(b) Reviling where they have no knowledge. These scornful critics freely offer opinions about people and subjects they know nothing about. They like to portray themselves as infallible experts, but their sneering, dismissive tone masks their insecurity and ignorance (Jude 1:10).
(c) Destruction… destroyed. The self-destructive way of the flesh leads to corruption and death (Rom. 8:13, Gal. 6:8). See also the entry for 2 Pet. 3:7.
2 Peter 2:13
suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you,
(a) Suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. For their wrong doing, these false teachers will reap punishment (2 Pet. 2:9). This punishment will be entirely self-inflicted and utterly contrary to the wishes of God (2 Pet. 3:9). God does not wish for anyone to perish – not even false teachers who malign the truth – and he has gone to extraordinary lengths to deliver us from our destructive choices. But in the end we all reap what we sow, and those who prefer the wages of sin to the free gift of life shall reap death (Rom 6:23).
(b) Revel in the daytime. These ungodly influencers are not secret sinners battling guilt and shame, but daytime sinners flaunting their disgraceful behavior.
(c) They carouse with you making a spectacle of themselves at your love feasts (Jude 1:12). Recall that these false teachers are “among you” (2 Pet. 2:1). They’re in your services, small groups and social media feeds. They show up at your conferences, concerts, and cookouts.
2 Peter 2:14
having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children;
(a) Eyes full of adultery. Like Balaam of old (see next verse) and Jezebel of Thyatira (Rev. 2:22), these false teachers lead people into idol worship and sexual immorality.
(b) Never cease from sin. They habitually sin because it’s in their nature to sin. In contrast with the children of God who occasionally stumble, sinners sin because they know no other way to live (1 John 3:4, 6).
(c) Enticing. The original verb (deleazo) means to entrap or bait. They are sheep-stealers, drawing people away from Jesus and to their own rotten ministries.
(d) Unstable souls are those who are in two minds about the gospel (Jas. 1:8). (The original word for unstable (asteriktos) means vacillating.) They have heard the gospel and they may have even repented. But since they are not standing firm in the true grace of God (1 Pet. 5:12), they remain susceptible to deception and every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). This is not referring to false teachers who deny the Lord and remain unsaved, but those the false teachers prey upon.
(e) Greed. False teachers are in it for the money (see next verse). They have dollar signs in their eyes. They have no interest in equipping the saints or helping the hurting. They’re after the offerings and honorariums. They take but never give.
(f) Accursed children. They are the cursed children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6), and should not be confused with the beloved children of God (Eph. 5:1).
2 Peter 2:15
forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
(a) Forsaking the right way. In contrast with believers who are established in the truth (2 Pet. 1:12), false teachers are far from the truth. Like greedy Balaam, they have chosen the wrong path (Num. 22:32).
(b) Gone astray. Going astray is a sign of a restless and unbelieving heart (see entry for Heb. 3:18).
(c) The way of Balaam. For a fee paid by the king of Moab, Balaam the prophet enticed the Israelites into idol worship and sexual immorality (Num. 25:1–3, Rev. 2:14). Because of his treachery, Balaam’s name became synonymous with greed and deception. In the New Testament, Balaamites were sometimes known as Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitans were libertines who infiltrated the church and introduced destructive heresies (see entry for Rev. 2:15).
(d) The wages of unrighteousness. Money. On two occasions Balaam told the messengers of Moab that he could not be bought for any amount, not even a house full of silver and gold (Num. 22:18, 24:13). But somewhere along the way he sold out. Balaam showed Moab how to put stumbling blocks in front of Israel, and for this the Israelites killed him (Num. 31:8, 16, Rev. 2:14).
2 Peter 2:16
but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.
(a) A rebuke. Balaam’s donkey could see what the prophet himself could not see, that the angel of the Lord was opposing him (Num. 22:28–31).
(b) Madness. Insanity. Balaam was mad to think he could harm God’s people and get away with it.
2 Peter 2:17
These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.
(a) Springs without water. The false teachers who trouble the church are all talk and no action (Pro. 25:14). These time-wasters promise much but deliver little.
(b) Mists driven by a storm. Like clouds carried along by the wind, their teaching is all over the place. One day they say this, the next they say that. Since they are not established in the truth, their teaching is full of contradictions.
(c) Black darkness. Those who close their minds to the light of God’s love wander in darkness (1 John 2:11). Although the gospel of grace shines like a beacon calling them home, they prefer to remain outside in the dark and cold.
God patiently waits for the ungodly to repent because he does not want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). But those who persist in stubborn unbelief eventually cut themselves off from the One who is light. Like wandering stars that drift out of the galaxy, they flicker into blackness and are gone for good (Jude 1:13).
2 Peter 2:18
For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error,
(a) Arrogant words of vanity. These licentious teachers are loudmouths who brag about things they don’t understand.
(b) They entice by fleshly desires. Their teaching tickles the ears and appeals to the intellect but it leaves your spirit unmoved and does not feed your faith.
(c) Sensuality. They seduce the unstable by promoting licentious or immoral lifestyles.
(d) Those who barely escape are the immature and unstable who are susceptible to bad teaching (2 Pet. 2:14). False teachers don’t go after mature believers. They go after those unstable souls who are not yet standing firm in the grace of God (2 Pet. 2:14).
(e) The ones who live in error. False teachers preaching license. (see 2 Pet. 2:1).
2 Peter 2:19
promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.
(a) Are slaves of corruption. Those who preach grace as a licence to sin use words like freedom and liberty, while they themselves remain enslaved to sin. On their platforms and profiles they may portray something that looks like freedom. But if you knew their secrets you would see that they are as captive to sin as any sinner.
(b) For by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. These false teachers think they are free, but they couldn’t stop sinning if they tried (Rom. 6:16). The only remedy for sin is the grace of God that teaches us to deny ungodliness (Tit. 2:11–12). Only Jesus can set us free from the power of sin (John 8:36).
2 Peter 2:20
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
(a) Escaped the defilements of the world. These false teachers briefly “escaped” the defilements of the world when they heard the good news. For a moment they saw the open door and the way to freedom. But the message they heard did not profit them, because it was not combined with faith (Heb. 4:2). Like the unbelieving Israelites who escaped the defilements of Egypt but fell in the wilderness, they did not enter the Promised Land.
Some use this verse to suggest that Peter is talking about misguided Christians, as if God would destroy his wayward children! The Good Shepherd deals gently with his straying sheep (Heb. 5:2). He rescues them and doesn’t condemn them to blackest darkness (2 Pet. 2:17). The context shows that Peter is discussing false teachers who deny the Lord, remain enslaved to sin, and are unspiritual creatures (2 Pet. 2:1, 12, 19). They follow Balaam not Jesus (2 Pet. 2:1, 15).
(b) Knowledge without faith does not equal salvation.
There are those who know and believe the love that God has for us (1 John 4:16), and there are others who know but don’t believe. These false teachers heard about the love of God but they never repented. They hardened their hearts and set themselves up as enemies of God,leaving them worse off than before.
(c) The last state has become worse. Those who are lost may be found, but those who have rejected the gospel put themselves in a bad place. It is all but impossible for them to come to the place of repentance (Heb. 6:4–6).
2 Peter 2:21
For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.
(a) Better for them not to have known. The one who rejects the way of righteousness is worse off than the one who has not heard the gospel because he has hardened his heart to that which could save him. Again, this is not talking about a wayward child of God. Those who have been born again of imperishable seed (1 Pet. 1:23) may stray from time to time, but since they are held in Christ’s mighty hand they are eternally secure (John 10:28–29).
(b) The way of righteousness is synonymous with the gospel of grace for the gospel reveals the righteousness that comes from God (see entry for Php. 3:9).
(c) The holy commandment is not the Gospel (which is an announcement; see 1 Pet. 1:12). Nor is it the law of righteousness (which is not based on faith; Rom. 3:12). The holy commandment of God is the command to believe in his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23). These false teachers did not heed this command but turned away from it. They responded to the good news by turning their backs to Jesus.
Further reading: “Does 2 Peter 2 say you can lose your salvation?”
2 Peter 2:22
It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”
(a) Proverb. The meaning of the proverb is that false teachers act like sinners because they have not been born again. Having no fellowship with the Lord they are unable to partake in his divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
(b) Dog… sow. The proverb about the dog comes from Prov. 26:11, while the proverb about the sow is not found in the Old Testament. (It may have been a rabbinical proverb or a Greek proverb familiar to first-century listeners.) The point is that dogs act like dogs and pigs act like pigs because it’s in their nature to do so. In the same way, sinners act like sinners because they have not been born again. This proverb is not about misguided Christians who occasionally stumble. It’s about false teachers who deny the Master, turn away from the gospel, and remain enslaved to sin (2 Pet. 2:1, 19, 21).
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- 2 Peter 2:1
- 2 Peter 2:2
- 2 Peter 2:3
- 2 Peter 2:4
- 2 Peter 2:5
- 2 Peter 2:6
- 2 Peter 2:7
- 2 Peter 2:8
- 2 Peter 2:9
- 2 Peter 2:10
- 2 Peter 2:11
- 2 Peter 2:12
- 2 Peter 2:13
- 2 Peter 2:14
- 2 Peter 2:15
- 2 Peter 2:16
- 2 Peter 2:17
- 2 Peter 2:18
- 2 Peter 2:19
- 2 Peter 2:20
- 2 Peter 2:21
- 2 Peter 2:22