Notes on 2 Peter 2:11-22
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
2 Peter 2:11, KJV Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
Even though there were plenty of opportunities for angels to do this, there is no record they ever did. The angels never spoke to any of the men of Sodom (Genesis 19), nor to any of the enemies of Israel, nor did they rise up against Satan when he accused God of protecting Job. Jude, later on, would say that Michael rebuked the devil when they were in a battle over the body of Moses (Jude 9). Even during the Great Tribulation, angels do not accuse anyone but one angel does have a chance to preach the “everlasting gospel” as described in Revelation 14:6.
12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
Now Peter returns to describing the false prophets. Here he mentions that they speak evil about things they don’t understand (this could be political, spiritual, or even general knowledge) and that they will “utterly perish in their own corruption”—they will not just end their earthly existence, but they will also suffer the eternal punishment in Hell because they never repented of their sins.
13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, (as) they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots (they are) and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
Paul had written that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Even before, Peter would have had a hard time forgetting the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. The rich man heard some words which will haunt him forever: “Son, remember” and “thou art tormented (Luke 16:25)”.
Note that these false prophets “riot in the daytime”—on the Day of Pentecost, the 120 were accused of being drunk with sweet wine. Peter said, not so, it’s only 9 am (Acts 2:13-15, paraphrased). In spite of all the wrong they were doing, these false prophets still took part in “feasts”. We don’t know which feasts Peter is speaking of; regardless, true believers had no business “fellowshipping” with false prophets.
14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
Jesus had mentioned in Matthew 5:28 that anyone who looked on a woman to lust after her had already committed adultery in his heart. A distinction, of course, exists between simply acknowledging that a woman is beautiful and desiring her so much that one would break any number of laws (moral, spiritual, and legal, to name three) to take her. Compare David’s reactions with Abigail and with Bathsheba: both were very beautiful but the means David took to make each woman his wife are about as opposite as can be. Scripture: 1 Samuel 25 for Abigail and 2 Samuel 11 for Bathsheba.
They also, these false prophets, cannot cease from sin. Peter does not say why this is so but some believe that there was a group called “Gnostics”, who were truly false prophets and false believers. One of their teachings was that spirit was good and matter was evil, so, one could do anything he or she wanted with his body. Others believed that since the Law of Moses was abolished or fulfilled—i.e., no longer in effect—then the believer was not under any law. These were called “antinomians” for “no law” or “against the law”. They must have forgotten the “Law of Christ” and other scriptures which outline the way of good conduct for believers in this age, as well as in their age.
“Beguiling unstable souls” may be the same as deceiving weaker brothers. This seemed to be happening at Corinth, where some believers were strong enough in their faith that it made no difference to eat at a temple dedicated to one of the pagan deities, or even purchasing meat after the animal had been (symbolically?) dedicated to one of the “gods” of Corinth. Others, weaker in their faith, were perhaps being tempted to revert to a pre-Christian lifestyle. See 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 for Paul’s messages to the believers in Corinth.
Paul also spoke of false prophets and false teachers who would try to deceive “’silly’ women (2 Tim. 3:6).” Nearly every New Testament book has a warning against false teachers. We would do well to read these warnings and take heed to them. False teachers and false prophets aren’t going away anytime soon.
Peter gives one other description of the false prophets. He says they have a heart “exercised with covetous practices” which probably means these false prophets are greedy. Even worse is this two-word phrase, “cursed children”, because they have not only gone away from the faith but they’re also trying to lead others away from the true faith.
15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam (the son) of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
The story of Balaam, son of Beor (Numbers 22:5) is one of the most intriguing in the Bible, found in Numbers 22-24. It’s also a sad story, in that a man who knew the will of God and the Word of God would use his gifts to cause problems for the people of God. To his credit, Balaam did refuse the first offer, from Balak king of Moab, to curse Israel but when Balak offered him more money, Balaam went, He did this in spite of God’s warning not to do this. Money, or the love of it, may well cloud more than one man’s ability to think clearly!
16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
This story is recorded in Numbers 22:21-34. The donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, even though Balaam didn’t, and was trying to save her life and Balaam’s life too. Balaam was truly rebuked: when the Angel of the LORD says, “I was about to kill you”, the message could hardly be more clear.
17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
Later, Jude would use practically these same words to describe the false prophets and false teachers in his day. Wells without water are just shafts, holes in the ground, which look promising but have nothing to deliver or receive. Clouds carried with a tempest may signify plenty of activity but only destruction in the end. Tempests may refer to windstorms or even worse: Job received word that his children died when a “great wind from the wilderness” destroyed the oldest brother’s house (Job 1:18-19), and Elijah went to Heaven by means of a tornado (“whirlwind”, 2 Kings 2:11). So, severe weather was at least somewhat familiar to the Israelites.
But the worst part is the ultimate future the false prophets are facing. Peter reminds the readers that for the false prophets, their end is the “mist of darkness . . .forever.”
18 For when they speak great swelling (words) of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, (through much) wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
Compare the description of the type of speech or speech patterns that the false prophets use in order to influence the listeners with the plain speech of Jesus and the apostles. The main idea of this verse seems to be that the false prophets use that kind of speaking, verbal communication, to “allure (flatter or tempt, per https://www.dictionary.com/browse/allure )” those who had escaped from them and their system.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
This could mean that the false prophets were promoting an “anything goes” type of lifestyle. Liberty is a sometimes misunderstood word: it could be used of being freed from something, like a slave being freed from his or her bondage, or it could be used in a negative sense of those who reject any and all laws. Paul had written in Romans 6 that people could either be slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness. The Lord is using a similar message for different groups of people—after all, the people reading Peter’s second letter may not yet have been familiar with the Epistle to the Romans.
20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known (it), to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
Compare this with the history of Israel. They had everything they needed to find and do God’s Will but time and again they rejected it, forsaking the True God for any number of idols and false deities.
22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog (is) turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
These are a pair of rather graphic expressions showing that anyone will be known by his/her deeds (Matthew 7:20, paraphrased).
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).