By Dr. Robert E. Picirilli

You might have wondered why Peter made spiritual growth so important in chapter one. The answer is in chapter two: erroneous teaching exists to threaten the spiritually immature. Peter tells us to expect the certain appearance and judgment of false teachers. He deals with each of these characteristics individually.

First, he discusses the certain appearance of false teachers (2:1-3a). The repeated word “shall” emphasizes certainty. Let’s briefly look at each of these.

  1. There shall be false teachers (v. 1). This is just as sure as there are false prophets in Israel.
  2. They shall introduce heretical teachings (v. 1). Heresies are human opinions that divide from the truth. “Damnable” means they are heresies that damn in “swift (sudden) destruction.” (This passage anticipates 3:10). Notice how these heresies involve denying the Lord (Greek despotes – an absolute master) who bought them. Jesus died for those who perish as well as for the saved.
  3. They shall exploit (“make merchandise of“) the church by trafficking in false doctrine (v. 3). They are motivated by the lust of self-glorification. Their method of doing so is through feigned, fabricated, and made up speech. (The Greek word used here is the origin of our word “plastic.”)
  4. Many shall follow them (v. 2). They will be successful in spite of their “pernicious” ways. (This word has same Greek root as “damnable” and “destruction” in v. 1.) The shameless lives of the false teachers and their followers will bring the whole Christian way into disrepute. The “evil spoken of” is literally “blasphemed.”

Second, he discusses the certain judgment of false teachers (2:3b-9). His discussion of this is mingled with the promise of deliverance for the faithful. Verse 3b asserts the fact of sure judgment of false teachers in an interesting way. This verse states that the sentence of judgment was long ago passed and will certainly be executed (same Greek word for “destruction.”).

Three examples are given in verses 4-8. Each indicates an exalted group that God judged and punished. Each of them also points out that if God judges and punishes people like this, He will certainly do so to false teachers. Let’s briefly look at these three groups.

  1. God judged sinful angels. There is no reason to read the fabulous interpretations of Genesis 6 into this. The reference here may simply be to the original fall of Satan and his cohorts.
  2. God judged the entire sinful world. He punished it with the flood (Greek: cataclysm). He saved only Noah and his family.
  3. God judged two sinful cities. He punished them by overthrowing them (Greek: catastrophe). He delivered only Lot and his daughters. Verse 8 explains verse 7. Although Lot was not blameless, the wickedness of the cities still vexed his soul. What a contradictory character he was!

Noah was “a righteous preacher” and Lot “a righteous man.” This prepares us for the conclusion of the long sentence in verse 9. You would expect it to read something like this: “God judged these people so surely He will judge others who teach and follow falsehood.” However, it does not end that way. It assures us of deliverance for those like Noah and even Lot who stick with the truth.

The “temptation” here is the trial of judgment. Delaying judgment is one way God prepares for the deliverance of those who accept the truth. (See 3:9.) But the sentence of verse 3 stands; the ungodly are reserved for that judgment. When that moment arrives we will want to be firmly established in the truth so that we will not be condemned to the catastrophic cataclysm of God’s final judgment on unbelievers.