In the third major interpretative challenge 2 Peter 2, Peter refers to the false teachers reviling the “glorious ones.” Who are these glorious ones? Why are they reviled? And what does Peter expect us to learn from this example? We have answers.
Peter is writing to churches which are troubled by false teachers who are distorting the apostolic gospel and deceiving believers into leading immoral lives. In 2 Peter 1, Peter insisted that the apostolic gospel is a revelation from God and that believing the gospel results in a lifestyle marked by a pursuit of godliness. In 2 Peter 2, Peter says God will judge surely the false teachers.
In our last podcast we looked at Peter’s historical examples of when God responded with judgment and when God showed mercy. Peter’s overall point is that the Lord will rescue the godly (as evidenced by Lot and Noah) and that He will certainly judge evil doers (as represented by the fallen angels, Noah’s contemporaries and Sodom & Gomorrah)
Peter gives both a warning and an encouragement. Yes, God is coming to judge, but He will rescue His people. The false teachers are leading you astray, they will be judged, and you dare not listen to them because eternity is at stake.
- Peter is giving another example of the evil of the false teachers which will lead to their destruction.
- The false teachers boldly and arrogantly revile the “glorious ones” when they should be trembling before them.
- In contrast to the false teachers, the greater angels do not make these kinds of judgments.
- The false teachers are acting like animals, abandoning moral reason and acting on instinct instead.
Forks in the road
Interpreting passages – especially difficult ones — is like coming to a series of forks in the road. At each juncture, we have to choose which path to take. If we make a wrong choice at any one of those interpretive forks in the road, we end up at the wrong conclusion. These are the major interpretive choices in this passage.
1) Should we use the parallel passage in Jude to understand Peter?
- I think Peter wrote first and Jude quotes Peter.
- Jude appears to be giving an example of Peter’s general statement.
- Jude quotes The Testament of Moses (Jude 1:9) which ends with a story about the archangel Michael fighting with Satan over the body of Moses.
- Jude appears to be giving an example of a greater angel (Michael) refusing to judge a fallen angel (Satan) but rather leaving that judgment to God.
2) Who are the glorious ones?
- This is the Greek word for “glory” in the plural.
- Outside of Jude & 2 Peter, the plural only appears in the plural in 1 Peter 1:11.
- In the context of both Peter and Jude, the “glorious ones” are supernatural beings. Jude’s example suggests they are the fallen angels.
3) Who is “them” in 2:11?
- This pronoun (“against them”) could refer to the false teachers, meaning the greater angels are being judged but not judging in return.
- This pronoun could refer to the fallen angels (as suggested by Jude’s example of Satan), meaning the greater angels are not judging the fallen angels, but as in Jude’s example leaving that judgment to God.
4) What are the false teachers doing and why?
- The false teachers may not believe in the supernatural at all and are mocking the idea of angels.
- The false teachers may think in the story that the archangel Michael was weak not to judge Satan.
5) Who is “their” in 2:12?
- Whose destruction is in view? “Their” could refer to the unreasoning animals
- “Their” could refer to the preceding phrase (“blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant”) — meaning when the matters about which they are ignorant (i.e. fallen angels) are destroyed, the false teachers will be destroyed with them.
The false teachers are daring and arrogant. They do not tremble at their own audacity when the blaspheme the angels because of these stories of fallen angels. But even in these stories the angels of greater might and power do not revile the fallen angels but reserve that judgment for God. In behaving this way, these false teachers are not acting from wisdom and moral reason. Rather they are acting from instinct like irrational animals, pursuing their desires without restraint. They have no understanding of the great supernatural beings they are reviling. On the day of judgment when those fallen angels are destroyed these false teachers will be destroyed also.
Peter is concerned by the arrogant attitude such reviling displays. The false teachers have arrogantly and boldly despised authority and judged others. Their casual blaspheming of the angels is indicative of their casual blaspheming attitude toward God. Like many today, the false teachers put themselves above biblical belief, rejected what they view as old-fashioned morality, and have encouraged believers to follow them in their ways.