Notes on 2 Peter 2:1-3
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
2 Peter 2:1, KJV 1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
Peter here makes a connection between believers, who have (and should follow) the Word of God with false prophets who, reading between the lines, misuse or mishandle the Word. We shouldn’t be surprised at this, after all, because there were false prophets almost from the beginning. The Bible mentions little, if anything, about the lapses of the people into idolatry (except for Romans 1) but false prophets must have done their part to deceive the followers.
Even in Israel’s history, false prophets were there early. Though not called false prophets, specifically, the people who urged Aaron to build the golden calf, while Moses was up on the mountain (see Exodus 32) might well qualify. Also, because Aaron proclaimed a feast, could he have been considered a false prophet himself? Korah, Dathan, and Abiram led a rebellion against Moses (Numbers 16) but they paid with their lives for their rebellion. Later, near the captivities, many false prophets arose (Hananiah and other false prophets of Jeremiah’s day, for example).
Then Peter announces that there would be false prophets among the believers. Paul had warned the believers from Ephesus that after he left, “grievous wolves (savage wolves) would enter in (Acts 20:39, paraphrased)” and then in the next verse, also informed them that, in so many words, false prophets would come in. Peter and Paul both knew and remembered the Judaizers, those who insisted that Gentiles, who had never been under the Law of Moses, would somehow have to follow that Law. The first few chapters of Galatians and Acts 15 should have settled the question.
There are still false prophets, even today, who try to twist Scripture or even outright deny it, in order to create their own doctrines. Peter was right when he called these “damnable heresies”. From that day to this, there have been those who deny, in no particular order, the humanity of Christ, the deity of Christ, that there is no heaven or hell, that the Bible is only partially true (containing myths!) or is not true at all, and that salvation may be earned by performing various acts or doing enough good deeds—the list goes on. One such group denies that Jesus is God, among other things, but still calls itself a church!
2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
“Pernicious” most likely meant “evil” when the KJV was translated. Idolatry led to any number of evils: women—and some men—serving as prostitutes; children offered, alive, as burnt offerings; any number and kind of punishments when enemies conquered Israel, for example. Isaiah (chapter 3) and Amos (chapter 4:1-3), to name two of the prophets, spoke of the awful treatment the survivors would endure but Isaiah seemed to be ignored and Amos was basically ordered to leave Bethel (Amos 7). Jeremiah prophesied against Judah, almost pleading with them to return to the LORD their God but some wanted to put him to death (chapter 26). Peter had also mentioned the sufferings that believers were enduring and stated that some of the unsaved around them were surprised when the believers didn’t do what they used to do (1 Peter 4:4, paraphrased).
In addition to this, Peter also knew first-hand when the way of truth was truly spoken against. At least three times in Acts, he was taken prisoner and threatened simply because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. Even in Acts 12, when he was facing execution, he had done nothing legally wrong but that didn’t stop the unbelieving Jews—and who knows who else—from having Herod arrest him.
3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
“Covetousness” most likely means greed. Feigned words are just that, either lies or half-truths told to believers or told about them to authorities or whomever, It is not clear just what Peter meant by “making merchandise” of you but it could mean that believers had their possessions seized, Paul wrote of this in Hebrews 10:32-39 when Jewish-background believers had endured “ . . . the spoiling of their goods” but remained confident that something better was waiting for them in Heaven.
More ominously, it could mean that believers might be imprisoned or sold into slavery. Persecutions arose from time to time and suffering could be inflicted on any believer, anywhere, simply for following Christ.
Peter also gives a certain promise, that the ones who were oppressing the believers would face certain judgment. “Lingereth” likely means “delay”, and “damnation” means “condemnation”. Perhaps unclear at this point, but very clear in Revelation 20 is the guarantee that the unbelievers would be judged according to their works or deeds. Had they repented of their sins and evil deeds, they would have been forgiven and not subject to the Great White Throne judgment, and eternity in the lake of fire.
Be saved today!
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)