In the last study we dealt with 2 Peter 2:1-3. In those verses we saw false teachers described. Peter, having declared that the Holy Spirit, rather than people, must control interpretation of Scripture (1:20-21), immediately brought up the subject of false prophets (2:1). As Old Covenant Israel had both authoritative and false prophets, the Church in Peter’s day had both authoritative and false teachers. And Peter was saying that these false teachers would arise and lead Christian people astray.
We noted further in verse one that Peter indicated three things that false teachers do. First, they “secretly introduce destructive heresies (haireseis)” (NIV). In other words they introduce doctrines that are not true and that lead believers astray.
Second, false teachers “deny the Master who bought them.” The “Master” we reminded is Jesus, who by his death on the cross “bought” us all, that is, redeemed us all from sin and death.
Third, false teachers bring swift judgment upon themselves. And we saw that “swift judgment” meant end-time judgment.
Next, in verse 2-3 we saw two things the false teachers are, as opposed to what they do and four results or consequences of their false teachings. The first thing the false teachers are is “licentious,” which means lacking restraint in legal or moral matters, especially matters sexual. The second thing Peter said that the false teachers are is greedy.
Next, we saw in verses 2-3 four results or consequences of the ministries of false prophets. First, many follow them in their licentious ways. And we illustrated that by the example of modern day cults. Second, they malign the way of truth. That is, the false teachers attack the Christian way of life. Third, they exploit their followers with deceptive words. And fourth, the false teachers stand condemned and will be destroyed. A guilty verdict already has been pronounced against them. They are guilty, and in the end-time, they will be destroyed.
Today’s lesson is 2:4-10a. Having described the false teachers in verses 1-3, Peter now, in verses 4-10, spells out their condemnation by giving three examples of others who have been condemned.
Peter’s first example, seen in verse four, is the sinful, or fallen, angels. They clearly were condemned for sinning, but Peter doesn’t say which angels he meant. I am amazed at how many commentators immediately suggest that Peter was referring to the account in Gen. 6:1-4. But that’s a big assumption that is based on an interpretation of Gen. 6 that, though common, is a misinterpretation. If you turn to Genesis 6:1-4 for a moment, you will see that the passage speaks of sons of God marrying daughters of men and having children by them.
There are two major interpretations of this passage. The first interpretation is that the “sons of God” are angels and “the daughters of men” are humans. The reason for this interpretation is Job 1:6 and 2:1, where angels are referred to as “sons of God.” This is a classic case of interpreting without taking into account the whole Word of God.
In the first place, nothing in the context of Genesis six says anything about angels. But more importantly, in the second place, this interpretation falls flat on its face, because of the words of the Lord Jesus himself. In Matt. 22:30, Jesus says that angels do not marry. Thus we know that these “sons of God” cannot be angels, because Genesis specifically reports in verse two that these “sons of God” married human women. Yet many interpreters of 2 Peter 2:4 assume not only that this is the correct interpretation of Genesis six, but also that Peter was referring to Genesis six in 2 Peter 2:4. Both assumptions are incorrect.
The second and correct interpretation of Gen. 6:1-4 is that the “sons of God” mentioned there were human beings, not angels. The phrase “sons of God” is used of human beings in Hos. 1:10, where the NIV reads in regard to the Israelites, “In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” So the phrase “sons of God” was used of both angels and humans at various times. Here in Gen. 6:4 the author meant humans, because humans can marry humans.
In my opinion the “sons of God” were those who had been faithful to God, and that’s why they were called “sons of God.” The “daughters of men” on the other hand were from families that had not been faithful to God, and thus they were not daughters of God. Some interpreters have suggested the “sons of God” were Sethites, that is, descendents of Seth and that the “daughters of men” were Cainites, that is, descendants of Cain. Whether they literally were such is not important. The important fact is that believers were marrying unbelievers, and the Lord was displeased. It is a problem that exists to the present day.
All right, coming back to 2 Peter 2:4, we have no way of knowing what specific sinful angels Peter had in mind. However their sin was serous enough that God committed them to pits of darkness, or to chains in deepest darkness, as a punishment. Peter’s main point in mentioning these “angels” is clear. If God judged sinful angels this severely for their sins, he certainly will judge and punish sinful people severely as well.
Now then, in verse five we see Peter’s second example of others who had been condemned, namely, the wicked generation of Noah’s day. This example is found in the biblical record in Genesis six, immediately after the account of the intermarrying of believers and unbelievers. I believe this is a major reason why so many interpreters interpret the wicked angels of verse four as the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis Six, because Peter’s second example comes from Genesis six.
Ay any rate, the wicked people of Noah’s day provide Peter with a second example (Gen. 6:5-7). This story is not complicated. Human beings in general had become so sinful in the days of Noah that God regretted having created them. And he determined to destroy them.
Now two things stand out about this example. First, God did not spare the wicked among that generation. On the contrary he brought about the flood that destroyed nearly all of humanity. In other words God became so disgusted with the sinfulness of humanity, he decided to start over in his relationship with them.
The second, thing that stands out is that God did not give up on the righteous among them. This is the hopeful element in the story. God saved Noah and seven others: his wife, three sons, and their wives (Gen. 7:12). There probably were ungodly children and grandchildren who were not saved, because Noah and his sons had lived many years before the flood, and they likely had many children. And of course the flood came upon the “ungodly.”
Notice that Peter doesn’t merely say that Noah was righteous. He declares that Noah was a “preacher of righteousness.” Now the Old Testament doesn’t say that Noah was a “preacher” of righteousness; but Peter may have meant by that statement simply that Noah preached righteousness by living a righteous life for many years in the midst of many ungodly people.
Peter’s third example of others who had been condemned by God, seen in 2 Pet. 2:6-10a, were the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah. The record of their wickedness is found in Gen. 13, and that of their destruction in Genesis 18-19.
God’s opinion of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah is first seen in Genesis, chapter 13, where the story is told of when Abraham and his nephew Lot decided to go their separate ways. The two of them had so many people and livestock that the land no longer could support them if they stayed together (13:6). So they decided to split up. Abraham gave Lot his choice of land, and he chose the lush Jordan plain where Sodom and Gomorrah were located (13:10-11). Indeed he ended up living in Sodom. Abraham went in the opposite direction. In verse 13 we see God’s opinion of the people of Sodom, and apparently of Gomorrah. It reads, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.” Peter says they were “ungodly” (v. 6).
By chapter 18 of Genesis we learn that God had determined to destroy both Sodom and Gomorrah. You will remember that Abraham interceded with the Lord about the righteous people who might have been living in the cities, and the Lord promised not to destroy them if even 10 righteous men were found (18:32). But there were not ten, and fire and brimstone fell on the cities completely destroying them (19:24).
In the meantime, angels who went to Sodom to investigate it were threatened by the men of Sodom, causing the angels to save Lot, his wife, and their two daughters before the city was destroyed (19:16). As you remember, Lot’s wife, who was unwilling to make a clean break from Sodom, looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt (19:26).
Now then, coming back to 2 Peter 2:7, Peter describes Lot as “a righteous man.” He also tells us that Lot was “greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless” and “tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds.” Thus we see the same pattern with Lot that we saw with Noah. The wicked are destroyed, and the righteous saved.
At this point we must deal with something Peter does not tell us. I believe Peter was justified in calling Lot righteous, for he was righteous in some important ways. He didn’t participate in the sexual sins of Sodom; he was distressed, even tortured by the evils he saw; and he was willing to believe the angels and leave everything he had behind in Sodom. But the Genesis account reveals that Lot’s righteousness was quite limited. Interestingly, Peter ignores that fact.
For example, Gen. 13:10-14 indicates that Lot was worldly enough to choose the best land for his flocks when Abraham gave him the opportunity. In addition he was willing in 19:6-8 to offer his two virgin daughters to the mob outside his house in order to protect his two guests. And then in 19:30-36 Lot was willing to drink too much wine and get drunk, which enabled his daughters to take advantage of him sexually. Perhaps Peter was willing to excuse those actions on cultural grounds, but they suggest at the very least that Lot was morally weak.
Finally, in verses 9-10a Peter applied the illustrations to the recipients of his letter and the false teachers. He wants the recipients to know that though they may undergo trials (like Noah and Lot), they will be delivered. And the false teachers, like all ungodly people, sooner or later will face certain judgment.