Let?s spend the next few weeks studying the Epistle of 2 Peter. The purpose here is to become familiar with the text and to analyze the text for the proper context. Then we will take what we have learned and interpret the scriptures of this epistle followed by life application. I hope that after studying 2 Peter that you will be edified as the word of God enters into your mind and change your life to the glory of God.
The author of this epistle identifies himself as the apostle Peter. This epistle was probably written between 65 and 68 AD. Peter was martyred during the reign of Emperor Nero. Therefore, Peter died prior to 68 AD. The purpose of this epistle seems to be to instruct the church how to deal with false teachers within the church.
Now let?s look at the scriptures in chapter one verse by verse. I will provide some background and contextual information and then we will make conclusions on the way. Let?s begin with verse one.
2 Peter 1:1 (NKJV) Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
The word bond-servant can best be understood as someone bound to service of to another. Peter first identifies himself as someone who is bound to the service of Christ. Peter indeed is a servant of Christ and a servant for the long haul. He is bound to his service to Christ and for Christ, which he was eventually martyred for.
Do you consider yourself a servant of Christ? In what way are you a servant of Christ? Do you abide by the teachings of Jesus Christ pertaining to life and the Kingdom of God? How committed are you to following Christ?
Peter also identifies himself as an apostle. An apostle is one sent out to perform a task or mission on behalf of someone else and in the authority of the sender. The apostle is a representative of the sender. So Peter is bound to his service to Christ in addition to being on a mission for Christ and in His authority.
I know that there is a title called “apostle” in the Christian church community. However, this is much different then the way it is used in the Bible. Actually, anyone can call himself or herself an apostle of God and that call would be relatively subjective to someone else. However, the apostles in the Bible and the early church apostolic fathers were on a mission for Christ directly or through one of Christ?s apostles (disciples).
“To those who have obtained like precious faith.” This basically or collectively refers to the true church (body of Christ, the believers). Some translations render this as, “obtained a faith.” The faith referred to here is the capability to believe as opposed to the belief itself. This faith was provided by Jesus Christ?s righteousness, that is, he did what was right before God.
“God and Savior.” This refers to the deity and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is called God in that he is deity and we know that he is the savior of the world. He saved us from our sin by dying on the cross and rising from the dead by the power of God. To say that Jesus Christ is God is complicated and involves the doctrine of the Trinity, which is well beyond the scope of this lesson. However, we should understand that the Bible in no way tells us that Jesus and God are the same person. To say that Jesus is God is to acknowledge his deity and not to say that he IS God absolutely. This is evident for obvious reasons such as to whom did Jesus pray or by whom did Jesus rise from the dead? So we should understand the statement of God and savior as the acknowledgment of Jesus? deity and not merely his identity.
This also reveals that the early church believed in the deity of Jesus Christ. He was more than a mere man or a great man. He was deity, the same essence as God himself. Again, this subject is well beyond the scope of this lesson. I would encourage you to look up the doctrine of the Trinity for more information. However, from a personal faith perspective, it isn?t all that important. This topic becomes important in discussions dealing with apologetics.
2 Peter 1:2 (NKJV) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
Peter seems to indicate here that grace and peace are multiplied in the life of a Christian by the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. The word “knowledge” is more than mere knowing something. The word knowledge here refers to a “full knowledge.” There were false teachers during the first century (and beyond) that taught that knowledge was superior to faith. The apostolic writers stressed the Greek “full knowledge” to combat this heresy and to distinguish their concept of knowledge. This knowledge transcends speculation, which Gnostic thought derived from, and was founded in a relationship with Jesus Christ. I should also point out that most likely Gnosticism was not an organized system at this time but the seeds of that system were surely evident.
So we can see here the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. From that relationship flow grace and peace, which actually makes a lot of sense. How can grace and peace flow from God into your life if you have no intimate relationship with him? If God is merely the man upstairs or the entity that you worship in church than it is impossible for his grace and peace to flow into your life through that channel, which isn?t personal at all. So develop a personal and intimate relationship (fellowship) with God and allow his life to flow through you.
2 Peter 1:3 (NKJV) as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
The term “divine power” refers to the power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead. This same power is available to the church today (Ephesians 1:19,20). Peter says that this divine power has given us all that we need to live a godly life in Christ.
This verse is important because it reveals the absoluteness of the redemptive act of Christ in that all we need for true life and godliness is given to us by that power that raised Jesus from the dead?the power of God. There is nothing else that we need that pertains to life and godliness. Faith in Jesus Christ is all that is needed for eternal life and reconciliation with the Father. That is, to believe in Jesus Christ is to trust that Jesus died for your sins and that that redemptive act was enough (complete).
We also see that this power comes to us by the knowledge of God or Lord and Savior. Again, this knowledge is more than mere mental capabilities. It refers to an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and therefore God the Father.
Peter also says in this verse that Jesus called us by his glory (that which is very apparent, referring to the attribute of his presence) and virtue. The word virtue from the Greek word used here means excellence. We are drawn to follow Jesus by his glory and virtue.
2 Peter 1:4 (NKJV) by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
We have been given exceedingly great and precious promises by Jesus? glory and virtue (excellence). In other words, Jesus Christ is true to His word.
We can be partakers of the divine nature through the promises of Christ and therefore escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.
There is something else quite interesting and important that you should note. We can overcome the world by the power of God. By being like God (partaking in the divine nature), we can escape the worldly corruption that arises from worldly lusts. The power to overcome is found in the power of God and not our own will power or ability to not sin.
Verses Five through Seven
2 Peter 1:5 through 2 Peter 1:7 (NKJV) But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
The listing of qualities by adding one quality to the previous in these verses was a standard literary form in Jewish, Greek, and Roman texts. Basically, these qualities would lead to a fruitful Christian life. Remember that we have all that we need for life and godliness because of Jesus? divine power. Let?s look at these qualities.
First Peter says to diligently pursue the qualities listed. Therefore, it is up to us to pursue and live the things that he lists here as well as other things pertaining to the Christian life. You should also realize that Peter is not giving a pathway to follow for these qualities. That is, he is not saying to first get faith, then virtue, then knowledge, etc. It is understood that all of these qualities should be pursued simultaneously.
Faith refers to the belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is related to the phrase “of the faith.” It does not refer to a belief in God to give you something. I believe that this point is crucial to understand what Peter is saying here. The ability to believe God for a new car, new home, money, etc. is not the subject of faith. Again, faith refers to the belief in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
To that faith we should add virtue (excellence in character). Note that faith without works is dead (See James 2:17). Therefore we can add to our faith the evident qualities listed here.
To excellence (virtue) we also must have knowledge, which refers to an intimate relationship (knowledge of) with Jesus Christ.
To that relationship (knowing Christ) we must have and practice self-control. We saw how Jesus practiced self-control in his ministry when at times he would stand up to the religious leaders and other times he would avoid them or get away from them. And you should consider that Jesus had the power to do anything that he wanted to do to them.
Perseverance (the ability to last or endure, patience) comes after self-control. Perseverance implies the quality of patience.
After perseverance we have to have and practice godliness, which is piety or living according to God?s way or scheme.
Brotherly kindness refers to the kindness that Christians have for each other. It means fraternal affection or brotherly love. The Greek word here is Philadelphia, the name of the city that I live in?The city of brotherly love. I thought I would just throw that one in there.
The last quality is love, the foundation of the relationship that we have with God and should have with each other.
Now it is important that we don?t get into a religious mindset here. It is easy to take the list of qualities here and begin to religiously pursue them thinking that such would give you acceptance by God or somehow elevate you to some higher order of piety. These are guidelines of the lifestyle of a Christian. Paul gives us a list of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 for example. The main thing is to live a productive Christian (godly) life.
2 Peter 1:8 (NKJV) For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Having these qualities grow in us will cause us to be fruitful in our knowledge (relationship) with Jesus Christ. This is very important because it may free you from many of the rules and regulations that you are trying to keep in order to be a “good Christian.” Manifest these qualities within yourself and you will be fruitful in your personal relationship with Christ. Simply be yoked to Christ and you will bear fruit.
2 Peter 1:9 (NKJV) For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Anyone who lacks the qualities given in verse eight is deceived. These people have forgotten that Jesus cleansed them from their old sins. Therefore we should remember what Jesus did for us. To say that you believe in Jesus is not enough. Your life must show forth the faith that you claim to have.
Consider that “those who lacks these things” are those who are not growing spiritually. These people are not progressing in the qualities of the righteousness of God. Therefore, these people either have closed their eyes to the truth for whatever reason or they have been deceived to believe or to pursue something else (as in the church of Galatia). This is why it is so important for us to pursue those things pertaining to godliness and not to be so attached to religious activities and doctrine at the expense of the pursuit of the truth.
Verses Ten and Eleven
2 Peter 1:10 through 2 Peter 1:11 (NKJV) Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Show forth the salvation that you have by practicing the qualities given previously. The only evidence that people have of our relationship with God (our salvation) is from the lives that we live. We are living witnesses of Christ. If we diligently pursue and practice the qualities of an effective Christian lifestyle then we will not stumble. Also, because of our living an effective and righteous Christian life, we will be enthusiastically welcomed into God?s everlasting Kingdom (as opposed to those that merely made it in).
We can see here that the way to stay standing in the righteousness of God is to live a godly life and practice the qualities of the Christian lifestyle. These will keep us safe from the worldly things that go on around us. It seems that the pursuit of the truth will keep us on the path of righteousness.
Verses Twelve through Fifteen
2 Peter 1:12-15 (NKJV) For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.
The significance of these verses is that the people who knew the truth needed to be reminded of that truth. Therefore, we can conclude that having acquired some level of revelation or truth is not sufficient to maintain that state. We constantly need to be “energized” and edified by each other and by the constant pursuit of truth in God?s written word. We constantly need to be reminded of the faith that we have and the lifestyle that is required of us. It is never the time to rest while we live on this earth because temptation and deception are all around us constantly looking for a way to enter into our lives to ultimately cause our demise.
So respect those who admonish you, encourage you, and inform you of a perceived fault. These people are in a sense reminding you of the lifestyle that is conducive of a Christian. Of course, beware of false teachings by knowing the truth but be aware that all criticisms are not meant to destroy you but to edify you.
It is also very interesting to see in these verses that Peter suspected or “knew” that he would die soon. He accepted it as God?s will because he said that Jesus revealed it to him. This is interesting because we would like to think that God?s will would have been to secure his safety so that Peter could continue to preach until he died of natural causes. However, that appears to not be the case. Peter accepted “God?s will” and prepared for the time when that will was carried out. That is, he prepared the people to be constantly reminded of the truth even after he had died.
This tells us that all that is painful or “bad” may be God?s will. We would like to believe that God?s will is a utopia existence. However, when we consider how some of the apostles were martyred and even later apostolic fathers were killed, we must reconsider our conclusions about God?s will. Even today people die for what they belief and while fighting for what they believe. We can?t dare say that for some reason he or she went outside of God?s will and was therefore killed. We must reckon that perhaps their death was in line with the will of God. Perhaps our perception of death (leaving this world) is not the same as God?s perception of death since to God you still exist as you always have but without a body. Perhaps your work is done and you can come to glory for eternity. Whatever the reason, we should not be quick to declare the will of God based on pleasant or unpleasant experiences.
Verses Sixteen Through Eighteen
2 Peter 1:16-18 (NKJV) For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
There were heretics that preached that the stories of Jesus Christ were fables and therefore not true. This belief exists even today. However, Peter says that they (the disciples) were eyewitnesses of Jesus? majesty. They were present when God declared that Jesus was his son and that he was well pleased with him. They were also present when Jesus was transfigured before them (James, Peter, and John). See Matthew 17.
Verses Nineteen Through Twenty-One
2 Peter 1:19-21 (NKJV) And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
In addition to being eyewitnesses of Jesus? glory, prophecy also confirmed their claims and the glory of Jesus Christ. The prophet did not interpret the prophecy that he spoke because the prophet was not the originator of the prophecy. God inspired these men to speak the words that He had for His people.
Let?s analyze verses one through three and then let?s look at what the Bible tells us about the main topic of these verses.
2 Peter 2:1-3 (NKJV) But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
At the end of chapter one, Peter stated that the prophets of the Old Testament times spoke as God moved them. Now he says that there were false prophets in addition to the true prophets of God. Just as the Old Testament times had its false prophets, there will also be false prophets now, which is still true today.
At the time of the writing of this epistle, false prophets would underhandedly bring in false teachings that would cause destruction of the people including themselves. These false prophets would actually deny the Lord Jesus Christ and cause others to do the same. Unfortunately, many people would fall from the truth as a result of following the false prophets to destruction.
We should notice that the origin of the false prophets was among the Christians. It?s not clear if the false prophets came from outside of the Christian community and then mingled among them not truly converting or whether they were Christians that had gone astray.
Verse three is very important! Let me quote it from the New Century Version of the Bible, which has a much more contemporary wording.
2 Peter 2:3 (NCV) Those false teachers only want your money, so they will use you by telling you lies. Their judgment spoken against them long ago is still coming, and their ruin is certain.
The false teachers will use the people so that they can get more money and possessions. Just because someone says that they have a word from the Lord or claims to be a prophet does not mean that God actually sent them or that they are operating in the name (authority) of God. These false prophets/teachers will reap what they so and pay the consequences of leading people astray.
I want to elaborate on verse three some more because I see this operating in the Christian community all to often. Consider a person that wants to do the right thing by living a life acceptable to God. This person assumes that the best place to learn about God and what to do to live a good Christian life is in the church. He or she may also assume, and understandably so, that the words of a prominent preacher is valid and consistent with the word of God. However, there are some ministers that will use the ignorance of some Christians to obtain the riches that they desire.
Christians are told to give 10% of their money to the local church and God will bless them. We are told that we are robbing God if we don?t give this 10% to the local church and told that we are violating the law of the tithe. We are told to support our pastors with unquestionable loyalty. We are told to be completely loyal to our local church. Notice that you will rarely hear teachings on knowing God for oneself, or how to study the Bible. We are spoon-fed by ministers so that they can indoctrinate us. This doesn?t mean that all ministers are dishonest because I know some very godly ministers that truly want the best for people.
The point here is that some ministers use hype, suggestion, and the “name of God” to persuade you to give them what they want, which is usually your money. They basically have ulterior motives for their exciting teaching sessions. You give and give and give hoping for that great blessing from the Lord when all along you have been supporting the lavish lifestyle of the minister or pastor that you are supporting. I have seen people struggle and yet give their money to the church only to be left alone when they were in need.
Again please understand that I am not saying anything derogatory about a pastor or minister having nice things. The problem that I have is when they have these nice things at the expense of the people. Some ministers and pastors have nice things because they simply can afford it. They rightfully receive offerings from the church and some pastors even have a fulltime job. However, not all ministers (or those claiming to be such) are honest.
The false teachers will tell you anything so that they can get your money or other possessions (time and loyalty for example). Your only protection against these false prophets is to seek the truth and to respond only to what you truly know is the word of God. Don?t agree with a minister just because they have a mega-church or drive a Mercedes. Don?t agree with a pastor just because he or she is your pastor. Agree with people if you know that they agree with the Word of God that you know. Of course if you don?t know the word of God then you may fall for anything.
I want to reiterate that we should only respond to those things that we know to be from God. How can we do this if we don?t know the subject of the teaching or prophecy? The same way you would agree because you know the teaching to be true is the same way that you would disagree because you know the teaching to be false. If you don?t know one way or another then you are not obligated to do anything. It is best to defer your decision until you can determine if what you are told is true. I should point out that you would tend to give those ministers that consistently agree with the word of God (according to your knowledge) the benefit of the doubt. This is only natural because you have learned to trust them because they consistently teach what the Bible actually says. You know this because you study the Bible too.
Don?t Follow a Prophet That Pulls You From God
Let?s look at some references of the activities of false prophets in the Old Testament. I think this will help us to have an accurate perspective of false prophets, their affects on the people, and how they are dealt with and perceived by God.
Deuteronomy 13:1 through Deuteronomy 13:5 (NKJV) “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ?Let us go after other gods??which you have not known??and let us serve them,? you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.
There are some very important things that we need to see in the above verse. The first thing that I would like to do is define the terms prophet and “dreamer of dreams.”
A prophet was one that received a word (message, revelation) from the LORD and then declared that prophecy to the people. A prophet was one called to speak the words of God. A dreamer of dreams was simply someone who claimed to have received a vision from a dream or during the night season.
Now a typical way that a prophecy was validated was when it came true. So if someone spoke a prophecy that actually happened then that person is considered to be a true prophet because his or her prophecy was validated by the fact that the events prophesied occurred. However, God says that even if the prophecy came true that the people should not follow the prophet if he or she attempts to pull them away from HIM. Therefore, we cannot judge a prophet as true merely on the premise that his or her prophecies came true. We must also judge the actions of that prophet as to whether he or she pulls us away from God or draws us to Him.
Therefore, it is still imperative that we know God so that we always pursue him and not be drawn away by other false doctrines. We also see that we cannot judge a prophet solely on the fact of the seemingly validity of their prophecy.
A Word on Validity
It is quite common to judge a minister as a true man or women of God if it appears that the “spirit is moving.” However, what spirit is moving? We cannot conclude that someone is moving in the Spirit of God just because people seem to be healed or some miraculous event occurred. Recall in the Old Testament how the magicians during Moses? activities performed like miracles as Moses did.
Some Christians are too conditioned on the sensational that they don?t stand back and take a bird?s eye view of what is going on. We still have to follow God regardless of how things appear to us. Therefore, we must know the truth and God so that we can stay on track regardless of what is going on around us. We think that if people are being healed, speaking in tongues, shouting, crying, and other such gestures, that God is moving in the place. We see here that such may not be the case. The whole thing could be staged, the minister may be familiar with the philosophy of suggestion, or another spirit might be moving. We shouldn?t be so quick to validate the activities of God by sensationalism. Rather, simply know the truth and stick to it.
Remain True To God
God also told the people to stay loyal to Him (regardless of the words or persuasion of the prophet). God will test us to confirm our faith in him or in something else. Well, doesn?t God already know what we will or will not do? Regardless of the answer to that, the Bible many times tell us that God will test us to see what choice we will make. Our faith in him must be from our own will and that will can only be established if we make a choice. Therefore, we can argue that god tests us to validate our faith in Him.
Penalty of the False Prophet
Notice the severity of how the false prophet was dealt with. He or she was put to death. They are like a cancer because they bring others down with them. As more people follow after a false prophet, the higher the probability that others will follow. Therefore that prophet must be eliminated else he jeopardizes many. They are evil and must be put away from the people to preserve the faith.
God?s Word over the Words of Man
1 Kings 13:16-22 (NKJV) And he said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. 17For I have been told by the word of the LORD, ?You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.?” He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ?Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.?” (He was lying to him.) So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water. Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ?Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD, and have not kept the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the LORD said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.?”
Here is an example that drives home the point stated earlier. It doesn?t matter what anyone tells you. Your first priority is to do what God told you to do. Period! Here was a true man of God that was specifically told what to do and what not to do (Read 1 Kings chapter 13). However, notice in verse 18 that a false prophet persuaded him to eat with him thus disobeying God. We can reasonably conclude that the man of God figured that it must be OK to eat with the man because he claimed to be a prophet too even though God had already told him what to do. How many times have you disobeyed God because you reasoned that the words of someone else somehow negated what God told you? Would you disobey God for the words of your pastor, teacher, or ministry leader? Well this prophet did just that and paid for it with his life.
The main point of this story, however, is how we can be duped by the claims of someone pertaining to the things of God. Just because someone says that he or she is a minister, pastor, evangelist, or any other leadership title in the religious community, does not mean that we have to follow him or her blindly. Our ultimate responsibility is to know what God told us and then stick to that.
Going Along With The Crowd
Let?s examine yet another illustration of the affects of false prophets. Consider 1 Kings 22:1-40. King Ahaz decided to listen to the words of the lying “prophets” instead of the prophecy of a true prophet of God, Micaiah. Micaiah was told to agree with the other lying prophets so as to encourage the king to go to battle. However, Micaiah first mocked the king and then went on to tell the truth. King Ahaz didn?t like the prophecy of Micaiah because it discouraged him from going to battle and winning a war. Instead, Ahaz had Micaiah put in prison as he went on to battle. Now Micaiah told Ahaz that he would be killed if he goes to battle. King Ahaz went to battle disguised but was still killed by a stray arrow.
King Ahaz lost his life because he decided to listen to the false prophets instead of the true prophet of God. He wanted people to tell him what he wanted to hear instead of the truth. It is interesting that the king demanded that Micaiah tell him the truth (after Micaiah mocked them) and yet he wanted Micaiah to say what he wanted to hear.
How many times did you respond to what you wanted to hear instead of the truth? How many times did you persuade someone to tell you the truth according to what you wanted? It is very important that we pursue truth even though it may not be what we want to hear.
We also see in this last illustration how peer pressure can tempt you to stray from truth. Would you go along with the crowd even though you have a different opinion? How much opposition does it take for you to abandon the truth and go along with the masses? Stand strong and stay with truth because there is a great reward as well as penalties for not staying with the truth.
Recognizing False Prophets
How can we know a false prophet? Let me briefly discuss this. Consider the following scripture.
Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep?s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
You will recognize a false prophet or teacher by what they produce. Are people delivered or are they bound? Do the prophet?s words produce closeness to God (edification) or closeness to something else, even himself or herself? The Spirit of God edifies and brings liberty (from bondage) whereas false prophets bring bondage to their ways and destruction.
Judgment and Deliverance
2 Peter 2:4(NKJV) 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;?.
As you can see, these verses form part of a very long sentence. In any case, Peter gives examples of how God passed judgment on the wicked and delivered the righteous. There are two main interpretations of this verse.
Rebellious and Fallen Angels
Some believe that Peter is referring to the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2. In this case, the “sons of God” were angels that rebelled against God and their purpose in creation. They began to have sexual contact with women (daughters of men). They were judged (condemned) for this rebellion and were cast into hell (Tartarus). We will discuss the concept of hell in a moment. Some believe that Peter is referring to the angels that fell with Satan. They were cast out because they rebelled against God by joining Satan in his prideful opposition to God.
The Word “Hell”
The word hell is an Anglo-Saxon word used to translate one Hebrew word (Sheol) and three Greek words (hades, gehenna, and tartaroo). The word hell means the abode of the dead mostly referring to a final place of eternal punishment for unbelievers.
The Hebrew word Sheol refers to a place in the depths of the earth (see Deuteronomy?32:22, Proverbs 9:18, 15:24). Sheol is also used to describe the furthest point from heaven (see Job 17:13-14, Psalms 139:8, Proverbs 1:12). Sheol describes a pit, a place of no return, and death in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Greek words that were translated into the word “hell” are Hades, tartaroo, and gehenna. For the most part the Greek word “Hades” was used to translate the Hebrew word “Sheol.” The New Testament use of the word “Hades” is as a place of torment in contrast to heaven (See Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27,31). Hades also represented the power of the underworld in Matthew 16:18.
The Greek word Gehenna comes from two Hebrew words: ge hinnom, which means “Valley of Hinnon.” This term originally referred to a ravine on the south side of Jerusalem where pagan gods were worshipped (See 2 Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 7:32, 2?Chronicles 28:3, 33:6). It became a garbage dump and came to be associated with abomination where fire burned continuously (see 2 Kings 23:10). Gehenna became to be known as a place of burning, which is what we typically think of when we use the word “hell.”
The Greek word tartaroo is only used one time in the New Testament. It is used in our current lesson in 2 Peter 2:4. The word tartaroo is used in classical Greek to identify a subterranean region, doleful and dark. The ancient Greeks associated tartaroo with the abode of the wicked dead. It was thought of as a place of punishment for the wicked. In the New Testament it is used to identify the place of punishment for the rebellious angels.
The Concept of Hell
Our concept of hell typically is a place of eternal fire where the lost souls are doomed to eternal punishment. However, is hell really a place where there is fire that burns eternally or is the reference to burning in the scriptures a figure of speech? Consider that Jesus called the place of eternal punishment a place of darkness (See Matthew?8:12, 22:13, 25:30).
Some believe that hell is simply a place of torment and not necessarily with fire. These believe that hell is a place where our cravings are never satisfied. These unsatisfied cravings (perhaps of the flesh or similar) torment us. It could be similar to “burning with passion” as Paul used in 1?Corinthians 7:19.
Another concept of hell, which we mentioned earlier, is a place of darkness. Darkness in this case could represent the absence of God?s presence. It would then be a place where there is no real life only torment.
In any case, we know that hell is a place that we don?t want to go. It is a place of torment in one way or another. It is a place that we go if we are not saved. I should mention at this point that there are those that believe that no one will go to hell. Some believe that God will eventually save all people regardless of their activities here on earth. Others believe in various levels of hell where the dead that are not totally evil will have a chance to pay for their past sins. This is where the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory comes. To them, purgatory is a place where souls of those who die in God?s grace may make satisfaction for past sins. It is a place of temporary punishment as opposed to the Bible?s concept of hell being a place of permanent or eternal punishment.
Except for the Catholic?s doctrine of purgatory and the Universalists? doctrine of salvation for all people, the Christian?s perspective of hell is a final place of judgment where the ungodly will be tormented forever.
God?s Judgment and Deliverance in the Past
2 Peter 2:5-8 (NKJV) and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)?
Two examples are given here of God?s judgment and God?s deliverance. God punished the people of the earth for their wickedness and he delivered Noah and eight others from the judgment that befell the world. God also condemned Sodom and Gomorrah by burning the two cities to the ground and yet He delivered Lot and his family from that destruction. Peter also says that Lot was tormented everyday because of the lawlessness around him every day.
God?s Wisdom in Judgment and Deliverance
2 Peter 2:9-11 (NKJV) then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations (enticement to do evil) and hold the ungodly until the Day of Judgment. Peter emphasizes those who walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and those that despise authority. These, we can assume, refer to the false teachers.
The word “presumptuous” means to be arrogant or conceited. The term “self-willed” refers to a person that does whatever he wants. The word “dignitaries” is thought to refer to the angels or to people in authority. Even the angels do not accuse these false teachers before the Lord. This is believed to be a reference to Jude 9 pertaining to Michael the Archangel.
Spots and Blemishes
2 Peter 2:12-14 (NKJV) But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.
The false teachers speak evil about things that they don?t understand. They are like animals because they do not think of what they are doing (the consequences). They only act based on the moment and don?t seem to care about the consequences of what they do. However, they will be judged in the end.
The false teachers are the stains in the Christian community. They are the blemishes or spots that party in their own deceptive ways as they commune with other Christians. They are so deceived that they sin openly. The feast mentioned here might refer to the love feast, which was built around the celebration of the Lord?s Supper. It might have also referred to social contact with the heretical teachers. The heretics (false teachers) were so self-deceived that they actually thought that they were celebrating their freedom in Christ with their drunken revelry at the Lord?s Table (the Eucharist or communion).
The false teachers lust after women and are never satisfied as they entice weaker Christians to sin. These heretics actually taught new Christians that adultery was acceptable Christian behavior. The women, who were not grounded in the doctrines of Christianity, fell for this deception and were enticed to sin and thus corrupted by the false teachers. I should mention that this applies to women teachers who seduce men as well.
The false teachers are full of covetousness and are therefore accursed children. This probably referred to the fact that the false teachers were once part of the family of believers but later became heretical.
2 Peter 2:15 through 2 Peter 2:16 (NKJV) They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man?s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
The false teachers have turned their backs on the truth (the right way). They have become lost and thus do the same thing that Balaam the son of Beor did. Balaam was basically a prophet for hire. Also note that Balaam was not a prophet of the LORD though Balaam did have and encounter with Him (see Numbers chapters 22-24). The madness of the prophet refers to Balaam?s thinking that he could curse the Israelite people for a fee, which the LORD did not allow to happen. Also consider that Balaam used divination since he was not a prophet of God.
2 Peter 2:17-18 (NKJV) These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
The false prophets are full of empty promises. Peter compares them to wells that don?t have any water and clouds that don?t produce any rain. Consider the false teachers of today that tell you God?s blessings will come if you do such and such. Those “guarantees” are empty because their teachings are only lies to entice you to give them your money.
Christians, whom have already escaped other false teachers, are lured through the lusts of the flesh to follow the words of the false teachers. This happens all of the time in the Christian community. Consider the minister that speaks great words that are designed to get you emotional (not using your thinking power). They speak rhetoric instead of truth in order to lure you into a trap to satisfy their own lusts. They appeal to the lust of your flesh or your own basic desires in order to get you to do what they want you to do. The word lewdness (or wantonness in the KJV) means to be lascivious or licentious, that is, to be sexually unchaste.
2 Peter 2:19 (NKJV) While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
The false prophets promise their victims liberty when all along they are bound to corruptions. They cannot promise liberty because they do not have it. The liberty spoken of here should be understood as the liberty in Christ, which is a freedom from sin and the law. Who has overcome you? To whom are you a slave?pastor, TV evangelist, bishop, or minister? Instead we should be slaves to Christ so that we would be bound to Him, which is everlasting life.
A blind man cannot lead the blind, except in the ways of the blind. A false teacher cannot lead you in the way of truth, only in the way of deception, of which they are. False teachers can promise you many things but only what God has promised is true. Anything other than that is mere empty words probably designed to use you.
2 Peter 2:20-22 (NKJV) 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 in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
The “they” in these verses refers to the false teachers. The false teachers were enlightened with the truth of the Gospel and yet they have turned away from it. The latter state is said to be worse then the first. See Hebrews 6:4-6 for a similar situation.
Notice that the false teachers are in a very bad state and that you do not want to be associated with them. Above all, we should not follow the way of the false teacher, which is a way that leads to destruction (judgment).
2 Peter 3:1-2 (NKJV) Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,
There are some that believe that Peter did not write this letter. However, the author seems to identify himself clearly as the Apostle Peter. Here he mentions that fact that he has written a previous letter. This may be referring to 1?Peter or another lost letter that he wrote to the same church or region. He says that the purpose of the letter is to stir them up by reminding them of the words of the prophets and the Apostles of Jesus Christ. We must consider that some people were being drawn away by the heresies that were going around in the church community. Therefore there was a need to remind them of the truth that they first heard.
This applies to us as well. We always need to be built up and reminded of the truth that we know. Christianity is not a faith whereby one can coast the rest of his or her life once a certain level of enlightenment has been reached. Christianity requires a life of sanctification, which is a life of continual growth in the things of the Lord Jesus Christ. We never reach a point where we can say that we have arrived. We are always growing.
The Mockers During the Last Days
2 Peter 3:3-4 (NKJV) knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Scoffers refer to the false teachers that mock the prophecies pertaining to Jesus? return. These scoffers will live according to their own lusts and they will mock the promise of Jesus? coming. They are deceived because they assume that Jesus won?t come because nothing has changed over thousands of years.
The Last Days
I thought it would be appropriate to briefly discuss the doctrine of the “last days.” A more formal term is eschatology, which deals with the end times. There are many beliefs pertaining to Jesus? return and the days leading up to that. You will find that people have been looking for the last days since early Christianity. One could conclude that the apostles thought that Jesus Christ might return during their lifetime or soon thereafter. However, almost 2000 years later, Jesus still has not returned. Does this mean that he will not return? On the contrary. It only means that he hasn?t returned yet and that we shouldn?t become complacent since it has been so long (to us).
There are many teachings that try to predict the time of Jesus? return. These ideas are especially evident in the study of the book of Revelation. However, there is one thing that we must keep in mind, which is shown in Matthew 24:42-44, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, and 2 Peter 3:10. We do not know when Jesus will return and that we therefore should always be prepared for his return. The panacea for this, as we will see, is to simply live a godly life now.
My philosophy about eschatology is that it doesn?t matter. Just be ready. It really doesn?t matter when Jesus Christ is returning. It really doesn?t matter when the last day is. If I?m ready now then it really doesn?t matter. If Jesus were to come right now then I would be ready. If Jesus would come 20 years from now and I?m still living then it doesn?t matter because I?m ready. If Jesus were to come 200 years from now then it really wouldn?t matter because I will most likely be with him already. Do you see my point?
I don?t spend much time in the study of eschatology because to me it doesn?t matter. Jesus even taught us in his parables to be ready. If you are always ready then you are confident that you are living a godly life. If you think that you can do whatever you want to do and then at the last minute repent and be saved, then you are taking a great risk because not only are you totally ignorant of the day Jesus will return, you are also ignorant of the day you will die and therefore lose your chance to repent and be saved. So the bottom line is simply to be ready.
It Happened Before
2 Peter 3:5 through 2 Peter 3:7 (NKJV) For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
The word “perdition” here means “ruin or loss.” The false teachers that mock Jesus? return refuse to remember what happened in the past. The word of God created the earth and sustained it. The same word of God later destroyed the earth with water. The word of God is sustaining the world today but this time for the Day of Judgment and the world will be destroyed by fire.
The Good Guy in the Sky
I think it is appropriate at this time to briefly discuss the wrath of God. We know God to be good, loving, patient, kind, etc. However, we must realize that God is sovereign. He is not a “goodie two shoes.” He is the creator of the universe and the giver of all life. He does whatever he wills or purposes to do. It is dangerous to think that that ole great guy in the sky would never harm me or will always see to it that I am safe and sound. Yes he does look out after us but this doesn?t mean that we can do whatever we want and claim the protection of God. We are required to obey him and if we don?t we will have to endure the consequences of our actions.
No Limit in Time
2 Peter 3:8 through 2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
One day is a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. This is not to be taken as a literal formula. It merely highlights the fact that God is not limited by time. What appears to be a long time to us is an insignificant amount of time to God. Our perception of time is limited whereas God has no limit in time. Time is of no consequence to God because he is eternal. So we may think that it is taking a long time for Jesus to return when in fact to God it is no time at all. Compare the millions of years of the universe? existence and 2000 years since Christ. Even then the amount of time is insignificant. Now compare 2000 years with eternity! We therefore, can?t objectively comment on God taking so long or not.
Besides, God wants all to be saved and he is giving people time to repent and come to Christ. God looks at things from a completely different perspective then we do. We may be thinking about how bad the world is and how we want all of the pain to end. God is looking at the lost people and giving them an opportunity to be saved.
The fact that God is longsuffering or patient with us demonstrates that he is concerned about our daily lives. He is aware that a day means a lot to us, thanks be to Jesus Christ who walked on the earth. Therefore, God knows our perception of time and is patient with us among other things.
The Day of the Lord
2 Peter 3:10 (NKJV) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
Again we see here that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. This means that we really do not know when Jesus will return. Peter says that this day will be accompanied by a great noise at the passing away of the heavens and that the elements will melt from the great heat. Everything will be burned up including the works that are in the earth. This latter statement seems to imply that the fire is more than a physical phenomenon.
Now here again we can try to get bogged down with details as to what is going to happen at the last days and even with the concepts of the tribulation (pre-tribulationists, post-tribulationists, etc.). The fact remains that if you are ready (living a godly life), then it really doesn?t matter. Even in an overall concept it doesn?t matter because we have no control over what God will do and therefore will have to deal with it anyway, if indeed we have to (for those that are with him already during this time). However, the Day of the Lord will be a terrible event to the unsaved.
Signs of the Times
There are many people that try to correlate current events in the world with scripture. For example, this particular verse seems to imply something like a super hydrogen bomb or even greater. However, we would only be speculating needlessly in these efforts. It is unlikely, however, that the coming of the Lord is associated with the devastation that people inflict on themselves. Again, the bottom line is simply to be ready when he does come?whenever that is.
Reason to Live Godly
2 Peter 3:11 through 2 Peter 3:12 (NKJV) Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
These verses are someone complex in their presentation and punctuation. For one thing it is a very long sentence with various tenses of punctuation that can be confusing. However, after reviewing several versions of the Bible and several commentaries, I believe that I understand what Peter is saying here. Let me quote the New Living Translation of the Bible since I think its use of punctuation helps to clarify the text.
2 Peter 3:11 through 2 Peter 3:12 (NLT) Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! You should look forward to that day and hurry it along?the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames.
Some versions use a question mark (?) at the end of verse eleven but didn?t seem to provide a corresponding answer. However, if we look at verse eleven as not being a question but a statement, then I believe the text is more clear and consistent among all of the versions that I reviewed.
Peter says that since everything is going to be destroyed then we should live holy and godly lives. He then goes on to say that we should look forward to that day and hurry it along. This last statement seems to imply that we can control God?s timing in some way. The Greek word used here is also consistent with that thought. This seems to agree with the fact that God is patient with us so we could reasonably say that we have an influence on how long God would wait. As an example, suppose God is waiting for a certain number of people to be saved (not that he is and I don?t believe that he is). Well if through increased evangelistic activity that certain number of people is saved sooner then later then God will move sooner then later.
In any case, we should live godly lives now because we don?t know when the Day of the Lord will come. This day will come suddenly and therefore we should be ready, which we will if we are living a holy and godly life all of the time.
New Heaven and Earth
2 Peter 3:13 (NKJV) Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Eagerly awaiting the Day of the Lord is not the main concern of Christians pertaining to the last days. Of primary importance is the promise of God of a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness will dwell. The word “heaven” in this context means the sky and by implication it means happiness, power, or eternity. There will come a day when we will dwell in total righteousness with God in the new heaven and the new earth.
This is also consistent with the purpose of the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation was written to give the persecuted Christians hope. We have a hope in that one day, righteousness will reign. We don?t fear the Day of the Lord because God will not judge us. We have hope in the face of all of the evil that exists in the world today.
Be Found in Peace
2 Peter 3:14-15 (NKJV) Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation?as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
Knowing that all of these things will happen and that we have a promise from God of a new heaven and a new earth, we should therefore be diligent to be ready by living a godly life. Be found pure and with a good reputation. Peter also states that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. What does that mean?
Consider verse fifteen from the NIV, which I believe renders the verse in a way that is easier to grasp.
2 Peter 3:15 (NIV) Bear in mind that our Lord?s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.
In other words, the fact that God is slow to judge the wrong that we do, i.e., our sins, means that we have salvation. If God weren?t slow or patient with us then we would have been judged already. Therefore, the statement that God?s patience means salvation makes more sense. Peter also says that Paul wrote about the same thing in his letters (epistles).
2 Peter 3:16 (NKJV) as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
Paul wrote about the salvation and patience of the Lord in his epistles as well. However, Peter says that some of the things that Paul says are hard to understand. Untaught or unstable people twist the words of Paul, which would result in their own destruction. They also twist the rest of the Scriptures.
This is indeed a profound statement and it shows how important it is to gain understanding. We must consider that Paul was very educated in the Law and he was taught for three years in the things of Christ. Paul was in short an educated man. Some of the things that he wrote were hard to understand by some. However, that may be true of any writer. In any case, there were some that twisted what Paul said to suit their own desires. False teachers would use Paul to confirm their own crooked teachings.
I should also say that the same thing happens today. There are those that misuse the word of God. Teachers take the scriptures out of context to use them to verify something that they want to teach. In particular, many teachers are caught up with the prosperity message so much that they pervert the word of God. There are many scriptures that I am aware of that are taken out of context to support the prosperity message and to get your money. Many slander the entire Bible just as Paul was slandered during the time of 2 Peter and today.
Know the Truth
2 Peter 3:17 through 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV) You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
Again Peter admonishes the people to beware of these false teachers since they already know the truth. If they don?t stay alert then they risk falling into error just as the false teachers have fallen. Instead, grow in grace and knowledge of Christ, which implies an intimate relationship as opposed to mere accumulation of information about Christ.
The main theme of this epistle is a warning to Christians of the false teachings that exist within the Christian community. Stay on guard. The false teachers will try to pull you away from God, the truth that you know, to follow their ungodly ways. They will teach things that will appeal to your own lusts so that they can satisfy their own lusts. The entire motive of these false prophets is to satisfy their covetousness at your expense.
The false teachers will be judged at the Day of the Lord. They will not get away with the deceit that they perpetuated. So don?t be swayed by them to follow them. Stay with God by staying alert and bound to the truth. The power of God that is within you has given you all that you need to live a godly life. Therefore, since we know that the heaven and the earth will pass away, we should therefore consistently live a godly life. We don?t know when Jesus will come again. Therefore, we should always be ready by living a righteous life.
Know the truth and protect yourself from the false teachers. They exist today as they did during the writing of 2 Peter and during the Old Testament times. They want your money and resources so that they can get all the things that they lust after. They want sex, prestige, power, and wealth all at your expense. So stay true to the truth and guard yourself from the doctrines of the false teachers. Amen.