They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are like the wolf in the story of Little Red Ridinghood, who eats her grandmother and then tries to trick Red into believing he is her grandmother! The apostle Peter had something to say about these wolves in his second epistle.
2 Peter 2:1–10 (ESV)
2 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.
Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,
How terrible it is when one of these false teachers arises in the Church! It doesn’t take much investigation when you turn your T.V. on to a “Christian” Channel and all you can hear is smooth talk mixed with flattery. These false teachers wear the mask of a Christian, yet they are not truly of them. Don’t get me wrong, verse 1 seems to indicate they at one point made a profession of faith and maybe had borne some fruit after! But, like the fig tree that Christ cursed, they did not continue to bear fruit. It seems like the false teachers that Peter is addressing never had a true saving faith to begin with. They made a profession for their own gain. Much like the parable of the sower, the seed of God’s Word fell on their rocky or thorny heart and the seed grew up and withered away from lack of moisture; or was choked out by the thorns (Luke 8:4-8). Their heart was never good soil to begin with. Christianity was just a trend or a fad for them.
So, I think it is right to ask a few questions from 2 Peter 2:1-10. These questions were asked by Mark Dever in his sermon, The Just Judge.
- What do these teachers do?
- What is done to these teachers?
- What happens to the godly?
Let’s look at number one. What do these false teachers do? Well, first they deceive. They go behind the backs of the true teachers of a local church and secretly bring in false teachings. While the pastor is up front preaching the true Word of God on Sunday these snakes will be in the pew whispering, “Did God really say that? That sounds foolish! What freedom is there in obeying that command! Follow my own understanding instead!” Or maybe it occurs after the service during a potluck. This man, who is a regular attendee of your church but not a member, sits next to you and begins to accuse your church of preaching a watered down gospel! He says that back in his day, 1955 to be exact, the traditions of Bible preaching Churches was better than your church! He states plainly that since he was a missionary for 50+ years he doesn’t have to submit to the elders or congregation of your church because he himself is an elder, although self-appointed since he plainly said that God didn’t call him to be a missionary, but he went on his own accord.
These false teachers sow deceit and doubt. They accuse without proof. They base their claims on their own opinions of how a church should be run based on traditions, denominational leanings, etc. They are liars. They discredit the gospel by denying the Sovereign Lord who bought them. They even deny that they are stored up for judgment. False teachers look like normal people. Maybe, they even look like a normal Christian, yet they are not sincere in their faith. They bring in all sorts of heresies that will destroy many. The sad thing is that many will follow these teachers. People who desire to have their ears tickled, their ego stroked, or their own presuppositions affirmed by a bad interpretation will flock to these teachers. One such false teacher in Texas has over 50,000 who attend his services on Sundays. Not to mention the millions of viewers that certain T.V. channels promoting a false gospel receive daily. False Teachers are attractive. Their teachings are attractive. And all it does is draw people away from the truth. They are harmful to themselves and to those who would follow.
Question 2. What is/will be done to these teachers? Peter clearly states that destruction awaits them and those who are ensnared by their heresies. Verse 1 calls the false teachers teaching “destructive.” This means that what they teach will not build up or equip the saints, but destroy and tear them down. Their destruction is also swift! “As one who walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall; he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once, without warning.”-Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Verse 3 describes that the exploitation these people use for their own greed places them under condemnation. “Their condemnation from long ago is not idle.” If you were to read Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, you would see the connection between the wrath of God upon the unbeliever and those here in 2 Peter. Edwards describes the punishment or condemnation of the unbeliever as always being exposed to their destruction. Peter seems to imply a similar meaning here in 2 Peter when speaking of their condemnation from long ago. God has been forbearing with their detestable sin up until now. Verse 3 continues by adding, “and their destruction is not asleep.” It is no security for them now that they have not fallen into the pit of Hell. These false teachers and their followers say, “Where is the promise of Christ’s coming for judgment! We see that all the world keeps going as it has since creation! (2 Peter 3:4)” They claim that there is no destruction that will befall them, yet Peter says that their destruction does not sleep. “The many and continual experience of the world in all ages shows that this is no evidence that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step won’t be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. There is nothing that keeps these wicked men at any one moment, out of Hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” Death falls on all mankind. It does not matter if you are a believer or not, death waits for each of us. This is the reality of the curse of sin. Yet, after death, there is something that will not befall everyone. This is eternal life in the Kingdom of God. The gate is narrow and many more people will go to Hell than ever shall enter Heaven, sadly. These false teachers and their followers, maybe you are one of them, will each see the dreadful pit. “It is a pit glowing with the flames of the wrath of God, there is Hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, not anything to take hold of: there is nothing between you and Hell but the air; It is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up now.”
That is what will be done to false teachers, their followers, and any unconverted souls who are not in Christ.
Now, the final question! What will happen to the godly? Those in Christ will be saved from this destruction much like Noah and his family were rescued from the deluge upon the ancient world (2 Peter 2:5). They will be saved like Lot was from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sexual immorality (2 Peter 2:6-8). The Lord knows how to rescue the godly (2 Pet. 2:9). He also knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. Peter asserts that judgment will come to the unrighteous. But, those in Christ take heart! You will be saved by the Lord from such terror and destruction! He has obtained for you an inheritance for you, which the Spirit guarantees you will enter into (Eph. 1:14). Take heart, you Christian! God knows what He is doing. He will rescue you and is waiting to unleash his wrath on the wicked.
“Therefore, let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great many in this world: Let everyone fly out of Sodom as Lot did, led by the Angels: Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the cross, lest you be consumed by the fires of Hell.”
Selections from: Edwards, J. (1974). The works of Jonathan Edwards (Vol. 2). Banner of Truth Trust.