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 both blessed by true prophets and troubled by false prophets like 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 introduce destructive heresies. False teachers come in two stripes; some preach law (Acts 15:5), while others preach licence (Jude 1:4, Rev. 2:15). The teachers Peter is rebuking were in the latter camp (see next verse).
(d) 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). They did not believe that Jesus was fully man and fully God (1 John 4:2, 2 John 1:7). Or perhaps they questioned whether he was the Son of God and the Savior (1 John 2:22, 4:3, 5:10). They may have had prominent ministries, but they didn’t know Jesus and he didn’t know them (Matt. 7:23).
(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 the church put themselves on fast track to destruction (2 Pet. 3:7). We cannot say their destruction is soon any more than we can say the Lord’s return is soon. (No one knows the day or hour (Matt. 24:36).) But we can say the Judge is right at the door (see entry for Jas. 5:9). Time is running out for those who oppose the Lord.
2 Peter 2:2
Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;
(a) Sensuality. Many false teachers adopt licentious or 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 entry for Rom. 6:1.
(b) The way of the truth will be maligned. Licentious teachers are bad advertisements for Jesus, and they make the church look bad. Their scandalous lifestyles reinforce the stereotype that the church is full of hypocrites.
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, false teachers are in it for the money (2 Pet. 2:15). They seek to magnify their own reputations and bank accounts.
(b) Exploit you. They want your money, your likes, and your 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 which 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). What sort of trouble? In the following verses we get three examples of how God deals with the unrighteous. The three examples include the angels who rebelled, the ancient world, and the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
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. The angels who rebelled against the Lord have been imprisoned until Judgment Day.
(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). Peter uses a unique word that describes a dungeon or pit of darkness where the fallen angels are confined until Judgment Day (Jude 1:6). Much more than that we cannot say.
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.
(d) Ungodly. To be ungodly is to have no regard 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 and are lost forever (2 Pet. 3:7).
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) Ashes. These corrupt cities were destroyed by fire and brimstone that rained down from heaven (Gen. 19:24).
(c) 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).
(d) 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 like his uncle Abram 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. The gift of righteousness had not been given and the “one act of righteousness” had not be 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 particularly wise man. He walked by sight while Abraham walked by faith. 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.
(c) Their lawless deeds. Their violent crimes.
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. The godly are rescued; the ungodly are destroyed (2 Pet. 3:7).
(b) The godly are those who belong to God
(c) Temptation. Trials and troubles. The God who rescued Lot will rescue you.
(d) The unrighteous are those who have no desire to get right with God. God draws them with open arms and they turn their backs. They have no interest in grace, and they do not want the gift of righteousness that God offers to all.
(e) Under punishment. Reserved for punishment.
(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. God’s judgment is especially coming to those mockers who oppose him and lead his children astray (2 Pet. 2:14, 3:7). It is one thing to live in ignorance of the Lord’s ways, and quite another to live in defiance. The ignorant are shown mercy (1 Tim. 1:13); the stubborn and defiant are storing up wrath (Rom. 2:5).
(b) Indulge the flesh. They live for themselves and are insensitive to the things of God.
(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 willingly submit to and pray for those authority (1 Tim. 2:2, 1 Pet. 2:13), these mockers speak ill of pastors, politicians and anyone in a position of influence. They think they can make a name for themselves by pulling others down, but there is nothing honorable or Christlike about their disdain for others.
(e) Self-willed. They are self-righteous, unteachable, and egotistical.
(f) 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 mighty and awesome creatures. A man mocking an angel is like an ant trying to provoke Samson.
(b) A reviling judgment. If angels refuse to play the judgment game, so should we. 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 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 commentators freely offer opinions about people and subjects they know nothing about. They like to portray themselves as infallible experts, but a 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, they will reap punishment (2 Pet. 2:9).
(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 communal love feasts (Jude 1:12). Recall that these false teachers are “among you” (2 Pet. 2:1). They’re in your services and they’re partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
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) Unstable souls are those who are in two minds about the gospel (Jas. 1:8). (The original word for unstable (asteriktos) means vacillating.) Since they are not standing firm in the true grace of God (1 Pet. 5:12), they are susceptible to every wind of doctrine and the deceptions of false teachers (Eph. 4:14).
(d) Greed. False teachers are in it for the money (see next verse). They have no interest in equipping the saints or helping the hurting. They’re after the offerings and honorariums. They take but never give.
(e) Accursed children. They are the cursed children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6), not to be confused with the beloved children of God (2 Pet. 3:1).
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 has become 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. 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. He 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). They 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 words wander.
(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 of 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). They heard the good news and were on their way to freedom, but they were ensnared again by these seducers.
(e) The ones who live in error. False teachers preaching license.
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 teach a licentious message use words like freedom and liberty, while they themselves remain enslaved to sin.
(b) For by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. They think they are free, but they are totally dominated by sin. 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 say no to ungodliness (Tit. 2:11–12). Only Jesus can set us free from the power of sin.
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. 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).
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). They briefly “escaped” the defilements of the world when they heard the good news. But the message they heard did not profit them, because it was not combined with faith (Heb. 4:2). Like the unbelieving Israelites who fled Egypt but fell in the wilderness, they did not enter the Promised Land.
(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 hardened their hearts 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. We who have been born again of imperishable seed have no reason to ever regret hearing the gospel.
(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.
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. False teachers act like sinners because they have not been born again. They do not partake in the divine nature of Christ (2 Pet. 1:4).
(b) Dog… sow. The proverb about the dog comes from Psalm 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, act like animals, and remain enslaved to sin (2 Pet. 2:1, 12, 19).
The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.
- 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