In 2 Peter 2: 4-10 we see that God takes false teaching very seriously and will judge false teachers. God has a heavy hand when it comes to error. He’s not malevolent or capricious; but as a holy entity he cannot tolerate evil, immorality, or error.
We must keep a biblical theological lens/worldview when we think of judgment. Every decision we make is a judgment.
It’s also important to keep in mind that when Peter wrote this, his audience was completely familiar with these stories. The three examples Peter uses of God’s judgment from the past are:
1-Sinful angels cast to Hell
2-God destroyed the world with the flood, but Noah was spared
3-Sodom and Gomorrah burnt, but Lot was spared
1: God punished the sins of the angels
Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are passages to reference about the angelic realm.
The angels’ sin consisted of thinking, “I will be like God, I will ascend to the most high, and this sin resulted in their being cast into hell.” (Jude 6)
These other-worldly creatures are in a holding cell awaiting their judgment.
If these other-worldly creatures who sinned were punished, who are these false teachers to think they’re going to get away with it? (1 John 3:8)
Peter uses the word Tartarus, (“the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titans”). The Jewish audience hearing this was very familiar with the idea of being tossed into hell, they connected to this language.
Peter uses tartarus to connect with his audience in a way they would understand and he seems to regard tartarus as a place of temporary detainment prior to their final judgment.
2. God didn’t spare the ancient world.
But he did spare Noah.
God destroyed not just the sinful people in the world, but the entire antediluvian (before the flood) world. God wasn’t just issuing judgment on the sinful people, but on the world. The floodgates of the heavens and the earth were opened up (Genesis 7:11) and washed away the entire world as it was, with the exception of Noah.
Noah was called “a preacher of righteousness” but we have no record of him as a preacher. The building of the ark was a commentary. Noah wasn’t opening up the scrolls and teaching, but he was obeying God. Obedience teaches righteousness.
Peter’s clear, logical argument continues: False teachers aren’t going to get away with false teaching, they will be judged.
3. God condemned (gk: tephroó, “reduced to ashes”) Sodom & Gomorrah
The total destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah was allowed by God to bring home to succeeding generations that unrighteousness will, in the end, ruin.
False teaching and false behavior ultimately always produce suffering and disaster. Whether in Lot’s day or in Peter’s or in our own, this judgment will come.
Peter’s audience would have known about Pompeii, about Sodom & Gomorrah, about the flood — this language & symbolism was familiar to them.
Lot may be seen as a weak, worldly individual sitting at the gate, or city counsel, of Sodom. He lived very much among them, but Peter gives us the context: he was a light among darkness. Lot’s inner-reaction to the evil around him was to be worn down, exhausted, oppressed by the evil lives of his fellow citizens. His conscious was not so dulled that he was no longer pained by what he saw.
“Our great security against sin lies in being shocked at it” – Cardinal Newman
If sin no longer bothers us, we’ve got a problem.
When God tells Abraham he’s going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, He says He will relent if there are 10 righteous men in the city. There were not even 10, but Lot was living among them. He was not endorsing the culture, but trying to live righteously in a lawless time.
Thoughts on divine judgment: God obviously judged the angels, the ancient world, and Sodom & Gomorrah, but Peter is also demonstrating that God knows how to rescue the godly from temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, especially those who indulge in the flesh and its corrupt desires and those who despise authority.
Peter explains God’s judgment on false teachers and false behavior, but don’t miss that Noah is rescued, Lot is rescued – the righteous are rescued. God knows how to rescue his people. Even in Noah’s time and in Sodom and Gomorrah, God rescues the righteous.
The tension is to be in the world but not of the world. If this were simply a matter of great discipline, we could do this. This isn’t an issue of the flesh, but an issue of the spirit.
If we are of the flesh, if our desires are immoral, and if we despise authority – God views those things the same way He views false teaching.
1. False teachers and their kind will not escape judgment.
There’s something innate in the human heart that knows what’s wrong. When the human heart no longer sees wrong, that’s when we become vulnerable to false teaching.
God’s not malevolent or capricious, but all of us are headed to hell and only those who respond by faith are considered righteous.
2. All of creation is accountable to God.
The reason things are falling apart is not human condition alone, but because of the context we live in – like our bodies, no matter how well we care for our bodies, we’re going to die – no matter how perfectly our world was created, it is fallen.
To despise authority is nothing new. When Jesus Christ lived, there was a malevolent dictator named Herrod. He was a megalomaniac who enslaved people all over the world.
Jesus says one thing about authority: Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, render to God what is God’s. We are to respect authority.
John 17: 13-19
Jesus is saying, God, will you set them apart in a crazy culture in truth. Don’t just spare them from the crazy, set them apart in truth.
1 John 2:15-16
You and I are to be other-worldly creatures in a world that is not our home, and trust that He will rectify and make right what is unjust.
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