Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
Judgment and Mercy – Part #1
2 Peter 2:4-10a
Turn to 2 Peter 2. One of the blessings of doing an expository series such as we have been doing since last June in the Peters, is that I have no decision to make about where I am going each Sunday. I only really decide how fast, or how slow we go through each chapter. Therefore, I cannot be accused of picking out passages that might be a pet peeve of mine. In other words, you get what you get. Now the downside is that some passages are very hard to tackle. And this morning’s passage is not one I would randomly pick. In other words, if I was asked to speak somewhere as a guest speaker, it would not be 2 Peter 2:4-10. If I did, they might question having me back! So let me read it to you and see if you agree, and I will include the three verses from last week to help get the context. Remember Peter spoke about the truth of God’s Word in chapter one. Now chapter two:
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words, their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels who sinned, but cast them into the pit and delivered them to chains of darkness, being kept for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who go after the flesh in its corrupt lust and despise authority.”
2 Pet 2:1-10a (LSB)
Let’s pray. Lord, may You guide and direct us this morning. In such a passage of warning and judgment. And we ask this in the name of Christ, amen.
As I have had an opportunity to think about this passage and the introduction from last week, I have asked myself the question, “Why is God so angry? Why such judgment against these false teachers?” And I believe what has struck me is that the Lord is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14 says, “for you shall not worship any other god, for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” That is a literal translation of that verse. Yahweh, whose name is Jealous (capital “J”), is a jealous God. That Yahweh’s anger burns against those who “pretend” to be His, and yet (vs 1) they “deny the Master.” This is such a stern warning for anyone, not just a false teacher, but especially false teachers, who are so close to Christianity, that may claim all the same truth, understand who Christ is, yet, do not serve Christ. They may outwardly claim Christ, but inwardly they do not. This is the one who may attend church. They may love the fellowship, love the godly principles taught, feel that church is good for their family, their children. They may greatly enjoy the music, the security of having good relationships within the body, and even enjoy the prestige that can come from being a church attender. You know, sort of a godly citizen. But not be in love with Christ, and unwillingly to allow the Master to change a sinful heart.
And this is God’s response to those who claim Christ, who call themselves a Christian, yet refuse the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives. This is the same response of our Lord in Revelation 3 to those of the church in Laodicea. Those who claimed to be believers, yet because they had no passion for Christ, were neither hot nor cold. And God said, “I will spew you out of My mouth.” Anyone who teaches that the Old Testament is a book of judgment, while the New Testament is a book of grace, has not read the entire New Testament, the book of 2 Peter, or the book of Revelation. Now Peter is going to give three judgments which are all found in the book of Genesis, and this is all in relation to the warnings to false teachers.
“For if God did not spare angels who sinned, but cast them into the pit and delivered them to chains of darkness, being kept for judgment.”
2 Pet 2:4 (LSB)
This goes back to a story in Genesis 6, so turn there.
“Now it happened, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were good in appearance; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. “
Gen 6:1-2 (LSB)
The context of this passage is a time after the creation of the world, and of course, sin has entered the world through Adam and Eve. And this Genesis 6 event is just prior to the flood, where God destroyed mankind in a worldwide flood. So, let’s get this straight, God has created the world and everything is good. Satan deceives the woman and both Adam and Eve sin and now we have sin and death, and of course, sin is spreading in the world. And this is why we all sin. We may make excuses for ourselves and our kids, but we sin. Now there are a number of understandings of this passage, and we will not go into it in the depth we did in a Sunday evening series in Genesis last year. But here is what is happening here, and I would suggest that this is a very real event. As there is no reason to doubt the genealogy that just was stated in Genesis 5, and no reason to doubt the flood that occurs in the verses following, and therefore there is no reason to doubt that this is a real event as well.
The term “sons of God” (not Son of God referring to Christ) in the Old Testament always refers to those who have been created, but not born. Therefore, believing that it could only apply to Adam or the angels. It is the Hebrew words, “bene Elohim,” which is used in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7 which refers to the angels. Also Psalms 89:6 says, “who among the skies can be compared to the LORD.” Who among the heavenly beings, literally “sons of God.” An obvious reference to the angels. So, the clear meaning here “sons of God” refers to fallen angels. Fallen angels here because they are acting in rebellion against God. And the woman would be human women. And this was the understanding in the first century, even back to Jewish historian Josephus.
Well there are some things to consider. It would seem that these fallen angels have gone outside of the boundary which the Lord has set for them, and a way in which Satan may desire to thwart the plan of God. This is a critical time! Remember Satan had been told by God that the promised seed of the woman would be the One to destroy him. Therefore possibly Satan’s desire to entirely corrupt the seed of man by introducing angels with humans. It is interesting that this event follows chronologically chapter 4, since chapter 5 is a genealogy, that man began to call on the name of the Lord. Remember there is no redemption given to angels. So this is evil, rebellion, anger, fury, and rage at its best! Therefore sons of God took the daughters of men as wives. And it appears that they were also able to take whomever they wanted. Question. If this is referring to angels, and that they are able to come as humans, and they had the ability to reproduce, then what kind of offspring would they have? And another problem, if angels have no opportunity for redemption, and humans do, what about these offspring? Though we do not understand this completely there seems to be desperately wrong!
Now Henry Morris goes a step further and suggests the term “sons of God” meaning, demon-possessed men and human women. And he agrees that the offspring were truly human, but the offspring would be demon-possessed. And therefore these “sons of God,” demons, controlled countless men, who were able to control countless women. And therefore, they were able to possess their offspring. Whatever the exact meaning here, we can see the great havoc Satan is doing to the plan of God. Jude 6 says that these angels did not keep their proper domain, and therefore, God acted immediately against them and kept them in eternal chains. Understand that this sin was so great that God has kept them in chains since, and though we certainly don’t have all the answers here, we are struck with the Lord’s judgment. That this event took place way back in Genesis 6, and God has kept them for future judgment. Not all demons, as there are many demons active today, many of course at the time of Christ. But these specific demons, who were guilty here in going outside of the boundaries which God had given them are still awaiting eternal judgment. And here is the warning in regards to our passage in 2 Peter. The example of this severe judgment is paralleled with the severe judgment of those who were part of the church and yet “denied the Master.”
“and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.”
- Pet 2:5 (LSB)
This reference is again from the same time period, Genesis 6-8, the flood. Where God chose to destroy the world because of their rebellion against Him. Listen to the language used to describe the condition of the world:
“Then Yahweh saw that the evil of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And Yahweh regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And Yahweh said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I regret that I have made them.’”
Gen 6:5-7 (LSB)
This is a matter which we do not often speak about regarding God. And that is God’s sadness over sin. Although all men, Christian and non-Christian alike serve God’s purposes for His glory, there is still the pain of God seeing the sinfulness and the wastefulness of those He has created in His own image. And because of the righteous holiness of God, His proper response is to punish. In this case, the physical devastation of mankind, just as someday all men and women will have to face the wrath of God in regard to their eternal condition. This description of God as those who are ungodly maybe those who openly defy God to those who live peaceful lives yet without God. For all mankind as righteous as he might see himself, his righteousness is considered as filthy rags and stands guilty before a perfect and holy God. All mankind, every person who ever lived, including you and me, stand condemned by God outside the Person of Jesus Christ. And this wrath of God is not an uncontrollable outrage. No, it is a controlled response to sin and rebellion, as the Bible tells us that God in Ezekiel 33:11:
“I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!”
Ezek 33:11 (LSB)
“and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter.”
- Pet 2:6 (LSB)
The final judgment in this section is the judgment of God towards Sodom and Gomorrah. This of course comes from another Genesis account, Genesis 19 (turn there). Here we have the story of Lot who lived in this sinful city in which sexual relationships outside of marriage and not between men and women were common.
“and they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them.’ But Lot went out to them at the doorway and shut the door behind him.”
Gen 19:4-5 (LSB)
And to make a long story short these guests of Lot were angels (vs 1). We could call them “sons of God” like in Genesis 6. Though these angels were part of the elect angels, sinless angels. And they eventually will rescue Lot and his family from this evil city. But notice in verse 4, when it speaks about the men of the city, it goes on to say, end of verse 4, from young to old, all of the people. You know homosexuality has obviously been around for a long time, as we see it here in Genesis 19. However, over history it has been rare for cultures or nations to openly accept homosexuality, though it obviously has been practiced in secret and likely more openly at certain times. Yet in this culture in Lot’s day is what happens when it is accepted, it becomes a cancer to an entire culture. And it steals from a culture all that is good about a physical relationship between a husband and wife. It starts as it has in ours of sexual activity outside of marriage being committed, to the point where that becomes accepted. Then it is the whole pornography issue, to the point where pornography is accepted today in our society. To the next step of homosexual activity, to the point where it too becomes accepted in our culture. And I guess the question becomes, what is the next step? I don’t know if we really know, as in this case, God stepped in and did not allow it to go any further. As judgment #3, God eventually destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, as a forever warning to any culture that would choose to go in such a direction again. Three judgments given by God to warn us of the kind of anger that the Lord has towards those who “pretend” to have faith. Who give every indication of Christianity, yet do not submit to Christ in the way in which they live.
Well, I am thankful that the Bible does not leave us here, as in this passage of three judgments, the Lord shows glimpses of mercy, Verse 5, God preserved Noah and his family. Verse 7, God rescued righteous Lot and his family. And verse 9, God rescues the godly. Charles Spurgeon (1800’s England) has called the story of Lot, “The Ship on Fire,” as it was like the city of Sodom was going to be destroyed and the only way of escape was to get away. For the people in Sodom had no idea that their destruction was at hand, as they continued to live in their sin with no understanding of what was to come. Jesus spoke the same way in Matthew 24. In fact, He used the illustration of the coming flood:
“For just as the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Matt 24:37-39 (LSB)
And our situation in this life is like a ship on fire, where we have no other alternative than to get off and escape, just as Lot and his family had to escape Sodom. So, I wish to give you some lessons here regarding our faith, as the passage in 2 Peter 2 warns. God’s Word raises the alarm for us
- A Faith that Warns
We live in a sinful culture, and we are fellow sinners in this culture. Yet we also are people of faith, therefore we are to live differently than the culture. Jesus prayed that we are not of the world, but that we do live in the world. He said, they are not of the world, but to sanctify them by the truth. The Apostle Paul taught this in 1 Corinthians 6. He said that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, nor the sexually immoral, or homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards. And then he said that some you (the believers) were like this at one time, but now he said you have been sanctified. And what we see in our 2 Peter 2 passage is a faith that should warn us of the way in which we live. And to live in such a way and speak in such a way that would warn others of the foolishness of such a way of life. Because the ship is on fire and therefore it is going down. And if you do not get off the ship, you will die. Listen to what Spurgeon said, and I love the old English!
“You are in a danger of which you are unable to cope with. There is no possibility that if you remain in it your utmost excursions, your most strenuous efforts can avert the certain ruin which your state must bring upon you if you neglect the only way of salvation. How can you escape? What awaits you is but a fearful judgment.”
Now you might not be the worst person on the boat. In fact, you might be a mother who loves, or a man who is honest and works hard. But if you do not get off the boat, whether you are rich, poor, relatively good, or desperately evil, you will perish in the boat. Therefore:
- A Faith that Gets Out
It is faith that gives you the strength to get out of Sodom. It is faith that gives you the understanding that all that I have outside of Christ will perish. It is faith that allows me to jump from the burning boat and jump into the sea. That though there are many questions, though there is fear, faith allows me to jump. Finally:
- A Faith that Does Not Look Back
Of course, Lot’s wife looked back. She desired what she left behind. True faith demands that I do not look back or I will perish. As that same Matthew 24 passage, “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” Let’s pray. Lord, You have laid before us such warnings. Would you grant us the kind of hearts that would take this truth deep within us. That it would change the way in which we think, view ourselves, and be grateful for Your grace. Amen.
Notice again verse 5, and if God did not spare the ancient world. How many people lived on the earth at the time of the flood? The Bible does not reveal how many people were on Earth when the Flood started. So, we can only offer educated guesses about the pre-Flood population. It is hard to know. But when we consider the lifespan of people in Genesis, Noah lived for 950 years, which makes for a fast population growth. When we looked at the Genesis genealogies last year we discovered that the year of the flood was 1656. 1656 years of creation with such long lifespans. Answers in Genesis suggest four billion people. So, what Peter is saying here is that if God did not spare the ancient world, if God was not willing to spare possibly four billion people, what would make us think that He would spare these false teachers? Or what would make us think that He would spare you and me?
So, we must look for the Lord’s mercy, we must look to the Lord for mercy. And here is the promise to us (vs 9) “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial [temptation].” If God knew how to save Noah and seven others, and He knew how to save Lot and his two daughters before He destroyed the city, then He knows how to save those who belong to Him. Think of that, the Lord knows how. We might look around our world today, yet we need to be reminded that the Lord knows how. That word translated trial or temptation can have the idea of an “attack against.” In other words, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from attack. This is the same Greek word used in the Revelation 3:10 passage:
“Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing [the hour of attack], which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”
Rev 3:10 (LSB)
(Pray) Lord, might we be warned by Your Word this day. May we not trust in the things of this world, but may we trust in You. Give us the courage to do what You have called us, especially in our times of trial, times of attack. As Noah had to build a boat, as Lot had to leave his home, have Your way in our lives. And keep us from sin, for we are a cleansed people. And all God’s people said, amen.