I didn’t get in trouble much in school, but there were a few times I got disciplined for being a knucklehead—and rightly so. However, I remember one time in 9th grade when my grandmother died that I had to miss a practice at Band Camp. Anyone who missed part of band camp had to help clean up the parking lot after practice the next day. My band director told me and the others who had missed to go out and clean up. I tried to plead my case with her saying “I was at my grandmother’s funeral”. She wouldn’t hear it but told me to go on out there. I didn’t think that was fair. I was innocent and was being punished. However, as Peter writes here, we Christians can look forward to a perfect day where true justice shall be done. The righteous will be rewarded and the guilty, like the false teachers described in this chapter, shall be punished by a sovereign, holy God.
Peter, in the first three verses of this chapter, has explained what false teachers look like, what they do, and what ultimately will happen to them. They will be punished. As he says “Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep”. Some might defiantly say, however, that God has not judged me yet so how can you say He’s going to judge at all. We see first of all, that Peter points to the very distant past that God in fact judged even the “angels when they sinned”. Now, I’m not going to tell you that I know exactly what Peter is talking about here. In fact, I won’t even tell you that there’s agreement by most evangelical commentators as far as I can tell. There are people who take this passage as being parallel with Jude 1:6-7 and interpret these angels who sinned as angels who somehow impregnated humans as described back in Genesis 6. I personally lean toward that argument because it makes sense to me.
However, it isn’t necessary to determine why God judged but we should take note of the fact that He did judge. The way this is written in the Greek, it is stated as a matter of fact that God did actually at sometime in the past judge these angels. Now, if I’m just a flesh and blood, here today tomorrow gone like the grass of the field false teacher, I should sit up and take notice. Because if God judged the angels when they sinned, whatever that sin was, I can be sure that I’m not going to escape. See, we know that God judged Satan and some of the angels rebelled with Satan. Furthermore, we know the extent to which He judged them. He didn’t just “cast them into hell” a place of utter torment. Rather, He went even further and “committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment”. Just as sure as that happened, we can be sure that God will also judge these false teachers.
Furthermore, observe that was not the only time God judged evil. Peter points in verse 5 to the cataclysmic event where God “did not spare the ancient world…when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly”. God looked upon the evil and sinful hearts of men and brought a deluge of rain over 40 days and 40 nights to wipe them out. Again, this is written as a matter-of-fact event that happened in the past. Once more, Peter drives home the point that God “did not spare” those who deserved by their vile actions to be judged. He was not lenient regardless of how long He took to execute divine judgment. Therefore, the flood provides yet another reminder that God is a God who judges sin.
However, just like the old Ginsu knives commercial “But wait, there’s more”. Peter reminds his readers of a more recent, and in some ways more chilling, act of divine retribution by God against unrepentant sinners. Because of the sin of homosexuality and sexual depravity, God “condemned the cities of Sodam and Gomorrah”. The Greek word translated “condemned” is the root of our English word catastrophe. In other words, God brought complete and total ruin to those two cities. I mean, you don’t recover from having fire and brimstone rain down from heaven turning the city to “ashes”—not rubble, but ashes. Again, it is pointed out that this terrifying portrait of God’s vengeance should serve as a warning sign. Peter writes that God did this to provide “an example to those who would live ungodly lives after”. The sense of the Greek is that this judgment came in the past and was a completed action with ongoing effect (perfect tense). In other words, when people see the judgment of God that was brought against those two cities, it should cause them to stop in their tracks and repent of their sin.
As we have seen here, God does judge. Because He has judged we can be sure that He will judge. However, as we will see next time, we can also be sure that when He judges, He will judge justly, punishing the wicked but saving the righteous.