2 Peter 2:10b-22 – The Unholy Ministry of False Prophets

The false teachers no doubt prided themselves on their spiritual insight and knowledge, but Peter compares them (2:12) to “unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge.” (There is a verse for all of you hunters to use against PETA!) Peter means that these men have abandoned their God-given rational ability and followed their lusts like animals. They were controlled by their feelings, not by reason informed by God’s Word of truth. The last phrase, “will in the destruction of those creatures [lit., “them”] also be destroyed,” could refer either to God’s final judgment on the fallen angels, or, more likely, to the destruction of all the animals on earth when God destroys the earth by fire (3:10, 12). The point is, the false teachers face God’s eternal judgment because they have lived like a bunch of animals, following their lusts.

When Peter adds (2:13), “suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong,” he does not mean, of course, that they will suffer any injustice from God. Rather, it is a play on words (in Greek), which means, “they have harmed others by their unbridled lusts; God will inflict harm on them.” It is the same as Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Peter further describes the lusts of these false teachers (2:13b), “They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime.” Most people who sin do so at night, when their evil deeds may be hidden by darkness (1 Thess. 5:7). But these evil teachers threw off all restraints and partied all day long! If they had lived in our day, they would be on the daytime TV talk shows, delighting to tell lurid details about their sins.

Peter adds (2:13), “These are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, …” Rather than being “stains and blemishes,” Peter later (3:14) uses the opposite words to say that believers should be “spotless and blameless.” “Carouse” should be translated, “feast with.” Peter is referring to the early Christian custom of coming together for a feast (like a “potluck”) before or after they partook of the Lord’s Supper. The parallel in Jude 12 says, “These men are hidden reefs in your love feasts.” The Greek word for “deceptions” (in 2 Peter) is similar to the word for “love feasts” (in Jude).

Probably Peter was making a word play, saying that the evil behavior of the false teachers was not worthy of being referred to as a “love feast” (Schreiner, p. 352). Rather, it was pure deception. They were deceiving the believers by attending the love feasts; but also, they were deceiving themselves by thinking that they truly were sharers in the love of Christ and the church.

Peter also exposes the false teachers’ lust by picturing them (2:14) as “having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, …” The word “adultery” is literally, “an adulteress.” The idea is that these false teachers looked at every woman as a potential candidate to go to bed with. They preyed on the “unstable souls,” newer professing Christians who were emotionally and spiritually shaky. (Peter refers to these same unstable souls again in verse 18 as “those who barely escape from the ones who live in error.”)

Not only were these false teachers living to fulfill their lusts; they also were driven by greed. The New Testament often connects these sins (e.g., Eph. 5:3Col. 3:5). Peter says (2:14) that they have “a heart trained in greed.” We get our word gymnasium from the Greek word for “trained.” The idea is, these guys have worked out to get their hearts in shape for greed! They took the normal greed that we all wrestle with and pumped it up by frequent workouts!

Thus they are “accursed children.” That’s a Hebrew way of saying, “they are under God’s curse, bound for hell.” He then says (2:15), “having forsaken the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” Almost all of the Greek manuscripts and early versions read, “son of Bosor,” a name not found anywhere else. Some think it is a word play on the Hebrew word, basar, which means “flesh.”

When you read the story of Balaam (Numbers 22-24), he seems at first to be an okay guy. He is a prophet and on the surface, he claims that he won’t say or do anything unless God permits it. But, he was a cunning, self-seeking man who used his prophetic powers to line his own pocket. When God wouldn’t let him curse Israel, as the Moabite king wanted him to do, he instead advised the king to get his women to seduce the Israelite men. So the false teachers imitated Balaam both in his greed and in his enticing people by sensuality.

Peter adds (2:16) that Balaam “received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with the voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” Peter intends some humor, in that a dumb donkey had more spiritual insight than the greedy prophet did. When Peter calls him “mad,” he doesn’t mean that he was literally insane. Rather, he means that anyone who pursues greed and sensuality is crazy, because you’re really going after “the wages of unrighteousness” (2:15), which results in God’s judgment.

Steven J. Cole

Read 2 Peter 2:10-22. What does Peter say will happen to false teachers? What language does he use to describe their future  What does their coming destruction teach us about God?  Why is He waiting to judge them?  Knowing that God will judge the false teacher, how should you react to this?

The Church’s One Foundation by Indelible Grace

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

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