2 Peter 2 Commentary

v.1 v. 1 asserts that Christ ‘bought’ the false teachers, but this does not necessarily mean that they were saved. Salvation in the NT sense does not occur until the benefits of Christ’s work are applied to the individual by the regeneration of the Spirit and belief in the truth. In other words, Christ crucified is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (1Jn 2:2). Yet the wrath of God is on all sinners (Jn 3:36; Eph 2:3) until the work of the Cross is applied specifically to those who believe.

‘Bringing swift destruction on themselves’ refers to the everlasting state of torment and death. It will be ‘swift’ because it will descend on them suddenly, either at their death or at the return of the Lord.”[1]

v.4 When did God send fallen angels to hell? We don’t know.  This may have happened after they joined Satan’s rebellion against God, before the creation of man.  For reasons unknown to us, however, not all fallen angels were banished to hell.  Vast numbers were allowed to influence this world, presumably as demons or spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).”[2]

“Peter uses the verb tartaroo (lit., ‘to hold captive in Tartarus’) to tell where the sinning angels were sent. ‘Tartarus,’ considered by the Greeks as a place under the earth that was lower than Hades where divine punishment was meted out, was also regarded this way in non-biblical Jewish literature. The usual translation of this verb as ‘sent them to hell’ only approximates the idea of a special place of confinement until the final judgment. Though ‘gloomy dungeons’ may be correct, ‘chains of darkness’ is an equally possible translation (cf. Jude 6).”[3]

“Peter probably does not want us to think of the angels as literally confined in dark caves or dungeons. The language is metaphorical; he is using a popular ancient conception of the afterlife to denote God’s judgment. Perhaps the metaphor is intended to suggest that God has restricted the scope of the (evil) angels’ activity as a result of their sin.”[4]

v.5 “Peter’s second example is the Flood. He has referred to this in his first letter (1Pe 3:18-22) and will do so again in the next chapter of this one (3:6). With Noah seven others were saved (his wife, his three sons, and his three daughters-in-law). They were guarded or protected by God during the Flood that wiped out the ungodly pre-Flood civilization. Noah was a ‘preacher of righteousness.’ This could refer to his preaching activity not recorded in the OT or to the fact that his lifestyle condemned sin and proclaimed righteousness to his contemporaries (Ge 6:9).”[5]

vv.7-8 “In the midst of God’s judgment of the cities of the plain, he delivered Lot, whom Peter calls ‘righteous.’ This is puzzling because in Genesis Lot is hardly notable for his righteousness. He seems worldly and weak and had to be dragged out of Sodom (Ge 19:16). Yet Abraham’s intercession in Ge 18:16-33 may imply that Lot was righteous. Furthermore, Peter may have inferred Lot’s righteousness from his deliverance from the destruction of Sodom and from his being ‘tormented’ and ‘distressed by the filthy lives’ of his fellow citizens. The contemporary application is plain. To what extent are Christians who are living today in a godless society ‘tormented’ by what they see?”[6]

v.9 “Peter now states the main point. It is one of abiding comfort: ‘The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials.’ Suffering Christians anywhere and at any time can find consolation in the fact that their Lord knows all about their plight. Moreover, ‘the Lord knows how . . . to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment’. Immediate judgment of sinners is only the beginning. Temporal judgments, death, and ‘being in torment’ in Hades (Lk 16:23) do not exhaust the divine wrath. A great Judgment is yet future (Rev 20:11-15), followed by the ‘second death’ of fire (Rev 20:14).”[7]

v.10 “God’s wrath is especially certain to fall on the false teachers of Peter’s day. He characterizes them as “those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature”–a reference to sexual profligacy. They also “despise authority.” ‘Authority’ may refer to the rejection of angelic powers (cf. Eph 1:21; Col 1:16), but more likely it refers to their rejection of the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ over them.  The false teachers are “bold and arrogant”–i.e., presumptuous and self-willed. They respect no one, and nothing restrains them. ‘They are not afraid to slander celestial beings’–probably referring to fallen angels. As to when they slandered or what kind of slander was involved, one can only surmise. Perhaps the false teachers were accused of being in league with Satan, and their reply was to disparage and mock him (cf. Jude 8-9).”[8]

v.13 “Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight.” “Pleasure” can, of course, be a neutral or even positive thing; God has himself created many things to give his people pleasure. But the Greek word here for “pleasure,” hedone, is the word from which we derive “hedonist,” one who lives for only pleasure. The Greeks numbered this kind of pleasure among their four “deadly sins,” sometimes contrasting it with reason (cf. “unreasoning animals” in v. 12). In Peter’s day, as in ours, indulgence of sinful pleasure usually took place under cover of darkness. Practicing such hedonistic activities “in broad daylight” is therefore a sign that the false teachers are completely shameless about their indulgence.”

“Reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.” Peter creates a connection with the earlier part of the verse by using the verb “reveling,” which comes from the same Greek root as the word the NIV translates “carouse.” One of Jude’s descriptions of his false teachers makes an interesting comparison with this clause in 2 Peter: “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm — shepherds who feed only themselves” (Jude 12a).  Peter’s reference to the false teachers “feasting with” the Christians to whom he writes suggests the same scenario: the early Christian “love feast” held in conjunction with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This “love feast” was a regular part of the early Christian fellowship, and it is generally recognized that Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11:17 – 34 presupposes this practice. While we cannot be sure, then, it is likely that Peter here rebukes the false teachers for indulging their own sinful pleasures even as they continue to join with other Christians in celebrating the atoning work of Christ at the church’s fellowship meals […].”[9]

v.14 “[…] So the vivid phrase “with eyes full of adultery” (meaning to desire every woman they see) implies that the false teachers desired to turn church gatherings into times of dissipation. Their eyes unceasingly looked for sin.  They “seduce” (or “lure”) “unstable” persons, i.e., those with no foundation to their lives.  In 1:12 of this letter Peter has spoken of his readers as being “firmly established in the truth,” and in 3:16-17 he will warn them of “unstable people” and of the danger of falling “from [their] secure position”.  Deep within these false teachers are thoughts of “greed” and avarice. Of them Peter exclaims, “An accursed brood!” (lit., “children of a curse”), meaning that God’s curse is on them.”[10]

“With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning.” Peter’s language is more vivid than the NIV translation; he claims that the false teachers have eyes full of “adulterous women.” By this he means that the false teachers are so addicted to sex that they look at every woman as a potential partner in their lust. 14 The NIV also fails to make clear that the phrase “never stop sinning” also refers to “eyes”; cf. REB: “They have eyes for nothing but loose women, eyes never ceasing from sin.”[11]

“They are experts in greed.” Here again the NIV rendering is accurate but loses some of the force of the original, which, literally translated, is “having a heart that has been trained in greed.” “Train” is a word drawn from the realm of athletics; it suggests that long, hard, and disciplined struggle to become proficient in a sport. These false teachers, Peter implies, are so devoted and consistent in their greed that they must have worked very hard at it for a long time! And it is their “heart” — the very center of one’s being in biblical perspective — that has become so proficient in greed. The word “greed” is a broad term. In Ephesians 4:19, for instance, Paul writes about those who have “given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust [pleonexia] for more.” In other words, “greed” need not relate only to money; it can also denote the desire for more sexual pleasure, power, food, and so forth. Since Peter has already used this word to depict the false teachers’ love of money (2:3), the “greed” here is also probably mainly directed to financial gain. But we should probably not restrict the word to this sphere.”[12]

vv.15-16 “The false teachers resemble Balaam, the son of Beor, in that Balaam loved money and was willing to pursue it instead of obeying God (Nu 22:5-24:25). Balaam also taught immorality (Nu 31:16; Rev 2:14). So the false teachers have left the biblical way and have gone into Balaam’s error–mercenary greed and sexual impurity. As Balaam went to curse the children of Israel for money (if he could), “he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey–a beast without speech.” Actually, according to the account in Nu 22:27-35, the rebuke is twofold: first from the donkey, then from the angel of the Lord.   Ironically the mute animal had more spiritual perception than the prophet! The utterance “restrained” the prophet’s insanity.”[13]

v.17 “[…] Peter goes on to describe the false teachers as “springs without water.” Christ provides “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:13-14), and from those who believe in him flow streams of living water (Jn 7:37-38). But the false teachers give nothing because they have nothing to give. They are “mists driven by a storm,” a metaphor of their instability. The “blackest darkness . . . reserved for them” may refer to hell.”[14]

v.19 “They promise “freedom,” perhaps from any law or restraint of the flesh. Paul ran into similar error–“Everything is permissible for me” (1Co 6:12-13)–among false teachers in Corinth and possibly in Galatia (cf. Gal 5:14). Yet, Peter says, the very ones who speak of freedom are “slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” To this the best parallel is Jesus’ word: “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (Jn 8:34; cf. Ro 6:16). So though the false teachers talk of religion and freedom, they do not know the Son; for as Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn 8:36).”[15]

v.20 “[…] Verse 20 mentions the possibility of reverting to the old paganism after having “escaped the corruptions of the world” through knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Is it possible, then, for Christians to lose their salvation? Many would answer affirmatively on the basis of this and similar texts (e.g., Heb 6:4-6; 10:26).  But this verse asserts only that false teachers who have for a time escaped from worldly corruption through knowing Christ and then turn away from the light of the Christian faith are worse off than they were before knowing Christ.  It uses no terminology affirming that they were Christians in reality (e.g., “children of God,” “born again,” “regenerate,” “redeemed”). The NT makes a distinction between those who are in the churches and those who are regenerate (cf. 2Co 13:5; 2Ti 2:18-19; 1Jn 3:7-8; 2:19).  So when Peter says, “They are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning,” the reference is to a lost apostate.”[16]


[1] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:1.

[2] Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2003) 1693.

[3] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:4.

[4] Moo, Douglas J. “Examples of God’s Judgment (vv. 4 – 8)” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Peter and Jude. By Douglas J. Moo, 102. Grand  Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.

[5] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:5.

[6] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:7-8.

[7] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:9.

[8] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:10.

[9] Moo, Douglas J. “The False Teachers’ Sensuality (vv. 13b – 16)” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Peter and Jude. By Douglas J. Moo, 125-127. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.

[10] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:14.

[11] Moo, Douglas J. “The False Teachers’ Sensuality (vv. 13b – 16)” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Peter and Jude. By Douglas J. Moo, 125-127. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.

[12] Moo, Douglas J. “The False Teachers’ Sensuality (vv. 13b – 16)” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Peter and Jude. By Douglas J. Moo, 125-127. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.

[13] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:15-16.

[14] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:17.

[15] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:19.

[16] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 2:20.

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