Peter has just mentioned in ch. 1 the ‘completely reliable’ message of the Old Testament prophets, the great and precious promises of God which are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He now warns us about the danger of false prophets and false teachers; those who preach a false gospel based on ‘destructive heresies’ which deny the Lord. Unfortunately, these heresies can still be found in our day, and many gullible Christians are led astray from the truth into ‘depraved conduct’ (v2). These false teachers seek to exploit God’s people with ‘fabricated stories’ (v3). Peter speaks of the condemnation which hangs over them and the destruction which awaits them. These things are not to be taken lightly!
v4-9 look back to Old Testament examples (from Genesis 6 & 19) of God’s punishment of those who ‘sinned’ (v4) or were ‘ungodly’ (v5, 6). And yet, in the midst of these sobering accounts, we also see God’s mercy in protecting both Noah and his family and Lot, because they were ‘righteous’ (v5, 7, 8). They weren’t perfect, but they trusted in God and sought to live to please him. Peter states the principle clearly in v9: ‘the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment’.
It’s not completely clear what Peter means by ‘celestial beings’ (or ‘glorious ones’) in v10. It may be a reference to angels, or possibly to church leaders. However, these false teachers, in their boldness and arrogance, did not respect authority, whether angelic or human. Beware of those ‘preachers’ who demonstrate boldness and arrogance, rather than the humility and gentleness of Christ (see Matt. 11:29 & 2 Cor. 10:1)!
v12-22 do not make particularly pleasant reading, but they are an important warning for us today. Peter gives an extended description of the false teachers who so frequently trouble the church. Watch out for those who are motivated by greed, for those whose speech is boastful, for those who promise pleasure and the fulfilment of our desires, which all too often flow from our depravity (v18,19), rather than our knowledge of Christ. It seems from v20, 21 that these people were originally Christians who ‘escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, but subsequently became entangled in corruption and turned their backs on the sacred command (the gospel).
We need to be on our guard. Not everything that appears or claims to be ‘Christian’ is genuine. Satan himself can quote Scripture. In order to identify what is false, we need to know what the truth looks like! Soak yourself in Scripture: open your Bible, to read the Word of God; open your mind, to understand the Word of God; and open your heart, to respond to the Word of God.