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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Peter 2:3-10; God’s Rescue and Punishment

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100131_2peter2_3-10.mp3

01/31 2 Peter 2:3-10 God’s Rescue and Punishment

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

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Peter is warning his readers against the dangers of false teaching. He says at the close of his letter:

2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Peter has contrasted the reliability of God’s word and the apostolic witness with the false prophets of old and the false teachers of today. Their heresy was moral. They would argue that there is no coming judgment and we will not be held accountable for our action, so we can indulge the flesh any way we like. In effect, this false teaching was denying the authority of Jesus Christ over all those he bought with his own blood. Peter warns that these heresies are destructive- they will bring swift destruction. And he gives us three Old Testament examples of the certainty of God’s judgment on those who live ungodly lives as a guarantee that it is coming. As Paul said in Romans:

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Paul points the Corinthians to the Old Testament events as motivation for holy living:

1 Corinthians 10:1 I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Peter points us to the Old Testament history of God’s dealing with his creation to give us confidence of the coming judgment and encouragement to stand firm against false doctrine that would tell us that morality doesn’t matter. God does not change. What God hates, he always hates. He is the same yesterday, and today and forever [Heb.13:8; cf. Heb.1:12; Jas.1:17]. He will certainly punish those who do evil just as he has been faithful to do in the past. God has consistently judged the wicked throughout history. It may seem that God is letting sin slide, but Peter warns that condemnation has been pronounced on those who do evil, and that was not an idle threat. Their destruction is not asleep. God will surely do what he promised to do.

Peter’s three Old Testament examples are the angels that sinned, the ancient world God destroyed with the flood, and the sin saturated cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that were destroyed by fire..

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

Peter here refers to the traditional understanding of Genesis 6:1-4. The Genesis text reads like this:

Genesis 6:1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim [giants] were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

We are told that the sons of God mated with human women and produced a race of mighty men. “Sons of God” appears to be a reference to angels in Job [1:6; 2:1; 38:7]. Some angels sinned by violating the boundary between species and taking human wives and producing superhuman children.

Jude gives us more detail on his understanding of this event when he compares the sin of these angels with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, who “likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire” [Jude 7]. Peter simply states that God did not spare these angels when they sinned, but imprisoned them in hell to be held until the final judgment. He summarizes the sins of his three examples in verse 10 as “those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.”

The word translated ‘cast them into hell’ in our text refers to being sent to ‘Tartarus’, the lowest part of the underworld in Greek thought. Peter’s point is that even their position of power and prestige did not spare angels from God’s justice. The false teachers may have claimed exemption from judgment because of their prosperity and popularity. But this would offer no safety to them. Even angels were not spared when they sinned.

The narrative in Genesis continues:

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the LORD. …11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Peter uses this as his next example:

5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

He did not spare angels, who are powerful privileged beings, and he did not spare the whole ancient world. Often we feel there is safety in numbers. If everybody is doing it, God surely grades on some sort of a curve. God would not destroy everyone, would he? God did not spare the ancient world. Only 8 people were preserved when God brought the flood on the world of the ungodly. We are inclined to presume on God’s grace and love – a loving God wouldn’t really send anyone to hell, would he? Jesus said:

Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Peter gives his third example from God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah:

6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

We find the record in Genesis 19:

Genesis 19:24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

In Genesis 18, God had visited Abraham and

Genesis 18:20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

Two angels visited Sodom and found hospitality in the house of Lot.

Genesis 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.

Even after this, the angels literally had to drag Lot and his family out of the city so they could destroy it. This was in response to Abraham’s prayer in chapter 18:

Genesis 18:23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? …25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

And this answers another objection of the false teachers. They could say that God cannot judge the world, because the righteous would be punished along with the wicked. But from the examples of the flood and Sodom we see that God can and does distinguish between the righteous and the wicked.

7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);

It is staggering that Lot is called ‘righteous’ three times in this text. This is a grand demonstration of the unmerited grace of God. Reading Lot’s story, we see him selfishly choosing the best land for himself, we see him living in Sodom without making even one convert, we see him offering his two virgin daughters up to appease a sex-crazed mob intent on homosexual gang rape, his sons-in-law to be don’t take him seriously, he literally has to be pried away from Sodom by angels, and even then he bargains for compromise with his rescuers, his own wife is so enamored with the Sodomite culture that she turns back to her own destruction, and after their escape his own daughters get him drunk and sleep with him because they think the end of the world has come. This is the man Peter describes as ‘righteous’ three times. This can only be the imputed righteousness of Christ, not the intrinsic moral character of Lot himself. Peter started his letter pointing us to this:

2 Peter 1:1 …To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you…

We receive a righteousness not our own as a gift by the grace of God through faith. Paul describes us as:

Romans 5:17 …those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness …

This is truly abundant grace to give Lot [and us] the free gift of righteousness.

Romans 3:21 …the righteousness of God has been manifested… 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Even in Lot’s life there is evidence of God at work transforming him. We may question when we look at his choices and his witness and his family, but Peter points us to the conviction of the Spirit and his inner turmoil over sin:

7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);

Lot was saved as through fire, and all his works were burned up, but he was saved [1Cor.3:12-15]. His born-again conscience was tormented daily by everything he saw and heard. He was in the world but not of the world. There was genuine evidence of God’s new creation work in his heart.

Peter has laid out these three Old Testament proofs in an extended ‘if – then’ statement. He says ‘if God did not spare angels, the world, or Sodom in the past…’ and we might expect him to conclude ‘then the Lord will not spare these immoral false teachers today’. Instead he interjects the great mercy of God in rescuing sinners before he describes the certainty of divine judgment.

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

As in the case of Noah and Lot, God is able to rescue the godly today. Jesus told his disciples:

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

And he taught his disciples to pray:

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: …13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

But the conclusion is certain. Just like the angels and the ancient world and the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 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.

His judgment is particularly certain against those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. The words translated ‘who indulge in the lust of defiling passion’ can literally be translated ‘those who go after flesh in defiling passion’. The phrase ‘those who go after’ is a common phrase to describe those who go after other gods or pagan deities. These teachers turned desire into their god and devoted themselves to a pursuit of their passions. And they despised authority. They disowned the Master who bought them.

This is sobering truth. God did not spare angels when they sinned. God did not spare the ancient world. Romans 11:21 tells us that God did not spare the unbelieving branches of natural Israel and he will not spare the gentiles grafted in if they are proud. But there is one more that God did not spare, and this brings us great hope:

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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January 31, 2010 - Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , ,

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