2 Peter 2:1-10 – God’s Punishment & Protection

If ancient history teaches us anything, let it be this: God knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and how to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment. Let us consider both statements Peter makes here, for they are vitally important truths.

First, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation. What the text does not say (but we are inclined to suppose) is that God knows how to keep the godly from destruction. It is easy to think Peter is making two contrasting statements:

  • God knows how to deliver the righteous from judgment. 
  • God knows how to deliver the wicked to judgment. 

This is true, and it can even be seen in the stories of the rescue of Noah and Lot, along with their families. 

Peter is saying that God is able to keep the righteous righteous (this is no misprint), even when they are living in a most unrighteous environment. God was able to keep Noah and Lot and their families from succumbing to the temptation of their society, even when that corrupt and violent society was so corrupt it was ripe for divine judgment.

Christians today are becoming too much like the Pharisees of old. They wrongly suppose that holiness is measured in terms of the distance we put between ourselves and “sinners.” The Bible speaks of holiness more in terms of our loss of affection for the world and its sinful lusts. We suppose that if we isolate ourselves and our families from the world, we will be untainted by it. What an encouragement we find in Peter’s assurance that God knows how to rescue us from temptation, even when we live in the midst of a society that is corrupt and violent, ripe for divine judgment.

Second, God knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.  Once again, we may be tempted to jump to the wrong conclusion. Peter’s examples from ancient history are not intended to demonstrate merely that God has judged sinners or that God will judge them, though this is true. Peter’s examples are cited to prove that God not only knows how to keep the righteous from falling into temptation, but that He also knows how to keep the unrighteous for the great eternal judgment which is yet to come. The judgment of the society of Noah’s day, of those fallen angels, and of Sodom and Gomorrah is not complete. Their judgment is only partially complete, and they still await their final doom. They are being kept for judgment, a judgment still to come, a judgment described in the Book of Revelation…the ultimate judgment is not temporal but eternal. In the words of the Book of Revelation, the final judgment is not the “first death,” but the “second death.” Those who were judged at the flood and in the fire which came upon Sodom and Gomorrah experienced the first death. But this judgment is only temporal. It is but the “first fruits” of God’s judgment. The angels were cast into Tartarus, and not really into hell, which takes place at the end of time as described in Revelation 20. The term “hell” in 2 Peter 2:4 is a translation of the term TARTARUS, and not one of the terms employed for “hell.” The angels were put out of circulation, so that they could no longer corrupt mankind. They were confined, kept in solitary confinement so to speak, awaiting their final judgment at the return of Messiah. The same is true for the men and women who perished in the flood and in the fiery judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), our Lord describes Lazarus as entering into some of the bliss of his eternal rewards, yet without yet entering into heaven. He also describes the rich man’s torment while he awaits his final day of judgment. The wicked who perish as a result of God’s temporal judgment have not yet tasted His full and final judgment, but they are being preserved for it like a condemned murderer awaits the day of his execution while confined on death row.

The wicked are kept “under punishment,” Peter tells us. That is, their doom is not only certain, it is sealed. They are now destined for destruction with no hope of rescue. Their destiny is irreversible. There are those who teach reincarnation. This false teaching makes a promise which it cannot keep—that men and women can have another chance after they die. The Bible teaches that death seals one’s fate. Our Lord taught this in Luke 16. The apostle John teaches this in Revelation 20. This is Peter’s teaching here. It is also what the writer to the Hebrews taught:

“… it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

And so Peter is not teaching us that the judgment of the wicked at the flood or at Sodom and Gomorrah is the final judgment; he is teaching that this temporal judgment demonstrated at the flood and at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, is a prototype of the final judgment yet to come. It is a demonstration that God both can and will judge the wicked, just as He can and will rescue the godly from temptation.

Bob Deffinbaugh

Read 2 Peter 2:1-10.  How did Peter say that the Lord would deal with godly people? How about with wicked and unrighteous people? On who is he especially hard?  How do your answers to these questions motivate you in your faithfulness to God and in gospel evangelism?

How Sweet and Aweful is the Place by Isaac Watts

Posted on: March 5, 2021 - 12:00PM

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