************ Sermon on 2 Peter 2:3b-10a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 25, 2020
2 Peter 2:3b-10a
"The Judgment of the False Teachers"
To stay true to the faith, Peter wants us to know four things. He want us to know Salvation/Savior, Scripture, Satan, and Sanctification. We've looked at our Savior/Salvation. We've looked at Scripture. Today, we continue our study of Satan and his false teachers and false prophets.
Let me remind you of what Peter has already told us about Satan's false teachers. First, they are always to be found in the church. Second, they secretly introduce heresies. Third, they deny the Lordship of Christ Jesus. Fourth, many people follow them. In verse 10ff Peter gives us many more details about Satan's false teachers. But before he does that he wants to tell us their destruction by God is sure.
So, today, we look at the destruction of those who speak against God and His truth and don't repent of their ways. I want to raise three points: first, the judgment promised; second, the judgment foreshadowed; third, the judgment and mercy.
I The Judgment Promised
A Our first point is the judgment promised. There are lots of people who mock and doubt the reality of a future judgment. Peek ahead to 2 Peter 3 where Peter talks of these scoffers and mockers. I've told you before about Rob Bell's book "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived." Bell claims God's love wins in the end and no one gets punished.
Peter -- under the inspiration of the Spirit -- tells Bell, you, and me that judgment is not something to doubt or mock or deny.
B Peter mentions the judgment already at the end of verse 1. There he writes that the false prophets and false teachers are "bringing swift destruction on themselves." Swift means quick, sudden, soon. Destruction means either death or the coming of Christ in judgment. Their judgment is promised.
In verse 3 Peter writes "their condemnation has long been hanging over them." What is Peter saying? That though their judgment has not yet happened, it has been planned; in fact, it was planned long ago. God is true and holy and judges all liars and deceivers -- especially those who lie about and distort His Word. Their judgment is promised.
In verse 3 Peter also writes "their destruction has not been sleeping." It is not an idle threat. It is not meaningless words. God, so to speak, is not asleep at the switch. Someday He will flip the switch. Someday the executioner will arrive. It is inevitable. It surely is coming. Their judgment is promised.
II The Judgment Foreshadowed
A In verses 4, 5, and 6 Peter mentions three powerful examples that foreshadow the final judgment: a judgment on angels, the judgment of the Flood, and the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah.
We begin with the angels mentioned in verse 4 of our Bible reading:
2 Peter 2:4 (NIV84) — 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment ...The verse starts with "For if ..." That is not strong enough. There is no "if" about what Peter writes. It is not up to debate. There is no doubt this happened. Let's use "since" instead.
Peter's argument goes from the higher to the lower. Since God judged elevated beings like angels, then surely He will also judge lower beings like men. Since the fallen angels got punished, no sinner, no false teacher, can possibly think he will escape. "Learn from the angels," says Peter to you and me and the false teachers. "Since the angels were not spared when they fell into sin, why do you think you will be."
Who are these angels Peter is talking about? They are the same ones Peter mentions in his first letter. There Peter mentions Jesus' body went in the grave but in His Spirit He went elsewhere. Where did His Spirit go?
1 Peter 3:19–20 (NIV84) — 19 he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah ..."Spirits in prison" must be the angels of our passage.
Where are these fallen angels? Peter tells us they are in hell, in gloomy dungeons, in prison. Three ways of saying the same thing. Our text says God "sent them to hell." It is all one word in the Greek. Literally, God sent them to Tartaros. This is a word from Greek mythology. The Greeks said Tartaros was a place lower than Hades. So the fallen angels of our text were sent to the lowest possible place, the deepest pit, the most terrible place of torture and eternal suffering, a place known for its darkness and bottomlessness.
Peter says God put "them into gloomy dungeons." They were handed over, like prisoners, and put into a pit of darkness. In ancient times, prisoners were kept in the ground, in pits. That's where these angels were put -- in underground prisons.
Peter further says they are "held for judgment." They are like a prisoner who is in the penalty phase of his trial. There is no bail. There is no escape. When the penalty is announced, they will go from the gloomy dungeon to the lake of fire mentioned in Revelation (cf Rev 20:10).
So, who are these angels in hell, in gloomy dungeons, in prison? Peter can't be talking about Satan and his host of demons. Peter can't be talking about the host of angels of Revelation 12 who fought against Michael, were defeated, and were cast down to earth. Since the Garden of Eden already, all of these angels and demons are at work in the world (1 Peter 5:8; Eph 6:10–12). By way of contrast, the angels Peter is talking about were put into hell and are being held for judgment.
So who are these angels? You won't like my answer: We don't know. Nor do we need to know. It is not necessary to debate the hidden mysteries of this verse in order to get the main message for us on this Preparatory Sunday: namely, God judges rebellion and will not spare those who reject His will. [By the way, Peter and Jude both mention Old Testament events that we find only in the apocryphal books. The judgment of the angels is one of them.]
B Peter's second example of judgment goes back to Noah and the Flood.
2 Peter 2:5 (NIV84) — 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people ...People talk about how bad things are today, how wicked things are. But things were way worse at the time of Noah. Why do I say that? Because there were only eight believers in the whole world. Eight. That's the worst time in human history when the total number of believers can be counted on two hands.
Peter's argument goes from the more to the less. Since God punished the millions of the whole world, drowning them all, punishing them all for eternity -- except for eight people -- then why would He spare the lesser number of false teachers?
"If God did not spare the ancient world." Again, there is no if, but, or maybe about this. "Since God did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people."
Peter calls them "ungodly people." What did they do? Listen to how Genesis describes them:
Genesis 6:5–6 (NIV84) — 5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.How bad were they? So bad that Genesis tells us twice that it "grieved" the Lord who made everything good and perfect (vs 6 & 7). So God said He was going to destroy every living creature, except for Noah and those with him.
The main message for us on this Preparatory Sunday: Since God judged the whole world at the time of Noah, then certainly He will judge rebellious men today.
C Peter's third example of judgment goes back to Sodom and Gomorrah.
2 Peter 2:6 (NIV84) — 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly ...
"If he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah." Again, there is no if, but, or maybe about this. "Since he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah." Actually, Deuteronomy 29 informs us there were more than two cities which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger; not just Sodom and Gomorrah but also Admah and Zeboiim; four cities and probably a number of little villages. In other words, it was a whole region that God burned to ashes. The judgment was like the Flood, totally devastating, killing every single person and every living being in the area. All that was left was ashes. Remember, it was once a lush valley. That's why Lot wanted to live there with his flocks and herds. And, it became a fire pit of burnt out ashes.
Again, this was God's judgment on the ungodly. On those who corrupt the truth and live evil lives. Genesis describes them this way:
Genesis 13:13 (NIV84) — 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.We know from Genesis that they wanted to have a homosexual relationship with Lot's visitors -- not realizing they were angels. We know from Ezekiel they were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy (Ezek 16:49).
Peter tells us their condemnation is an "example." A model, a pattern. Of what happens to the ungodly. Now, remember, these are people Abraham (the friend of God) prayed over. Abraham prayed God would not destroy the cities of the plain for the sake of ten righteous people. So Peter is saying, "Since those who Abraham prayed for couldn't escape judgment, why should false teachers think they will escape?"
The main message for us on this Preparatory Sunday: Since God judged the cities of the plain, then certainly He will judge rebellious men today.
III The Judgment and Mercy
A Our third point is judgment and mercy. Peter needs to talk about mercy when he talks of judgment. He needs to because there are some in his audience who are scared by his pronouncements of judgment. They hear about the worldwide Flood and wonder if they will escape the coming judgment. So Peter adds a note about Noah in verse 5 to comfort and encourage his flock: "but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others." Do you hear what Peter is saying? In the midst of universal judgment, God preserved Noah and seven others.
Did you catch how Peter describes Noah? Peter calls Noah "a preacher of righteousness." While he built the ark, he preached; while he preached, he built the ark. He preached with his life. He preached with his words. He let people know about God's demand for obedience and righteousness. He let people know about sin. He let people know about the coming judgment. He warned people to repent and believe.
What did God do? God protected Noah. Preserved. Put in a guarded place, a protected place. How? By putting Noah in the ark and by shutting the door of the ark.
God's message to us on this Preparatory Sunday: God preserves and protects us from coming judgment just as He preserved and protected believing Noah and his family.
B Peter makes a similar point about Lot. Again, God preserved and protected from judgment. Again, Peter wants to speak a word of comfort to believers who might doubt their own salvation and fear God's judgment. Listen to what Peter says about Lot:
2 Peter 2:7–8 (NIV84) — 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) ...Do you hear the word used three times to describe Lot? Righteous. Lot was righteous. Three times inspired Scripture tells us Lot was righteous. Do you wonder why God says this three times? Because Lot's life leave us wondering. In Genesis 13, when he chooses to live on the plain of the Jordan, we see a Lot who is worldly, weak, selfish, self-centered, disrespectful, shallow, superficial, unwise. In Genesis 19, when he offers his daughters to the men of Sodom, we see a Lot who is morally weak and unfit to be a father who should protect his daughters. Also in Genesis 19, when he has to be dragged out of the city, we see a Lot who is hesitant and unsure. And, when he gets drunk and sleeps with his daughters, we see a Lot who has no self-control.
Yet, God calls him a righteous man. Also, we know Abraham believed Lot was righteous because he included Lot in his list of ten righteous people in Sodom. Lot was a righteous man. He believed in God. He had faith. He tried to protect God's holy angels. He sought to obey God. He was bothered, greatly bothered, distressed, tormented, by the lawless deeds he saw and heard; sin bothered him. I wish that was true for every Christian -- that they are tormented and distressed by the sin of this world!
God's message to us on this Preparatory Sunday: God preserves and protects us from coming judgment just as He preserved and protected righteous Lot.
Let me end with Peter's conclusion in verse 9. Our translation starts with the word "if" again -- but there is no if, but, or maybe about this.
2 Peter 2:9 (NIV84) — 9 if/since this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.God knows how to rescue godly men. God knows. He has a plan. The plan of salvation. The plan that His Son make Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, humbling himself and becoming obedient to death -- even death on a cross! God knows how to rescue godly men in Jesus.
But, but, God also knows how to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment. That, too, is part of His plan.
This week, congregation, we are asked to prepare our hearts for the Lord's Supper. Consider God's plan to rescue and God's plan to judge. Repent and believe so you, like Noah and Lot, are rescued from the coming judgment.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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