God is our Rescuer
2 Peter 2:4-9
May 23, 2015 | Brian Bill
I recently went to a Pastor’s Conference and observed some great teachers. Here’s a summary of what I learned.
- Paul Nyquist, president of Moody reminded us that storm clouds are forming against people of faith in our society. He challenged us to stay godly and gracious through it all.
- Erwin Lutzer, after doing a great Billy Graham impersonation, leaned forward and said, “We are headed for some really rough waters; dedicate yourself to total dependence on God for the unrelenting proclamation of the gospel.”
- Kevin DeYoung challenged us to keep speaking in the authoritative name of Jesus Christ: “If you speak with authority some will be intrigued and others will be incensed…but keep speaking anyway.”
- William Torgeson urged us to preach the Word in season and out of season because the time has come when people are no longer enduring sound doctrine: “There is no higher calling than to preach with precision, power and passion! Make it your all-consuming desire and devotion.”
- George Waddles nailed it when he encouraged us to persevere because ministry is not easy! Are you aware that 70% of pastors are burned out and 1,700 leave the ministry each month? He called us to have a departure perspective, to be aware of God’s divine presence and to trust His delivering power.
- Glenn Packiam put it all in perspective when he said: “We follow Jesus not for the sake of the call, but for the love of the One who calls.”
- J.D. Greear passionately proclaimed, “Pastors are not to measure seating capacity, but sending capacity.”
- Chip Ingram made this provocative statement: “The only group that can bring hope to America is the Church. And it’s the pastor that brings hope to the Church.”
- E. Dewey Smith preached a penetrating message as he challenged pastors to be more like King David then King Saul: “If we want repentance in the pew it must first begin in the pulpit.”
Last weekend we looked at how to spot false teachers from verses 1-3 in 2 Peter 2. We’re to beware of false beliefs, faulty behavior and fake benefits.
The end of verse 3 describes the doom of false teachers: “for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.” In verses 4-9, we see that judgment is certain for those who teach falsehood. Here are a few observations before we dive in.
- This is one long sentence in the original language. These white-hot words build in intensity. It’s as if Peter doesn’t even take a breath when describing where false teachers are headed.
- This is a conditional sentence. Look at verse 4: “For if God…” and verse 9: “…then the Lord…”
- Three “case histories” of judgment and rescue come from the Old Testament. That helps us see that all of Scripture is inspired. We can’t just pick and choose the verses we might favor. Specifically, these intense illustrations come from the Book of Genesis, a book that skeptics love to skewer.
- Our society is similar to the societies of Noah and Lot.
Grab your Bibles and let’s dive in. Warning. This passage is not politically correct and is difficult to digest: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.”
Here’s the main idea: God will not spare unrepentant sinners but will rescue the righteous. Let’s look first at how God will not spare sinners.
God Will Not Spare Sinners
1. The Fall of Angels.
Look at verse 4: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment…” “For” introduces the evidence that God will carry out his judgment against the false teachers. “If” can better be translated as “since.” The word “spare” means to avoid or abstain. Some of the angels did something so outrageous that there was no way for them to avoid judgment. Their doom has been definitively decided. Jude 6 is a parallel passage: “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”
What was their sin? Maybe you’re even wondering if angels can sin. There are two main views.
- Sin of pride against God. Isaiah 14:12-15 describes the scene: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning…For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.” Ezekiel 28:15, 17: adds more detail: “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you…Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground…” Revelation 12:4 tells us that a third of the angels, or demons rebelled with Satan when he rebelled.
- Sin of cohabitation with women. I know this sounds really strange but we read in Genesis 6:2, 4: “That the sons of God (a term for angels) saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose… the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them…” Many commentators believe that Peter is referring to an angelic outbreak of evil.
I’m not entirely sure which view is correct but this second one seems to fit the chronological progression in 2 Peter. This gross event comes right before the flood where God decides to destroy the world because it had become so perverse and evil. The main point is that whatever the angels did, it was severe enough to cast them into punishment in a place called Hell. Actually the word “Hell” here is tartarus, regarded as a subterranean prison lower than Hades where God’s judgment was unleashed. The word “reserved” means “to be held in custody, to be kept under guard.”
Erwin Lutzer asked a question of pastors, “How long has it been since you’ve spoken on the doctrine of Hell? How long will it be before you’ll even mention it?”
The Bible refers to Hell 162 times, with Jesus speaking about it three times more than He did about Heaven. Hell is hot like a fiery furnace where people will be weeping and gnashing their teeth with no way out of the everlasting agony. Hell is a real place where real people go.
A recent poll reveals that 89% of Americans believe in Heaven while 73% believe in Hell. When asked where they think they will go when they die, 3 out of 4 think they will go to Heaven while only 2% believe they will end up in Hell. I’m afraid that the percentage of people headed to eternal punishment will be much higher according to Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
God will certainly judge sinners.
2. The Flood on the Ungodly.
If the highest beings can be judged then God will certainly judge sinners, especially false teachers. Check out verse 5 where we see again that God did not avoid sending judgment on a sinful world: “And did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly.”
- The flood was a deluge of disaster. The word is katuclusmos, from which we get cataclysmic. It literally means, “a dashing deluge that came down upon.” One pastor tells of when he went down to Biloxi, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina decimated that community. He went twice and will never forget what that deluge did to homes that were suddenly swept away. He remember seeing refrigerators up in trees.
- The flood was universal, not local in scope. Genesis 7:11 states, “all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.” Verses 19-21 add the waters: “…rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished…”
- The flood punished the ungodly. The people had the opportunity to respond to Noah’s preaching but didn’t do so.
Turn back to Genesis 6:5-8 where we see that the amount of sin on the earth was staggering and the culture had become incredibly corrupt: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Here we see the twin truths again – God will not spare unrepentant sinners but will rescue the righteous.
The total destruction of the false teachers will be as unexpected and sudden as it was in the days of Noah. We come now to the third example of God’s judgment when He unleashed His fury upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
3. The Fire on Two Cities.
Look at 2 Peter 2:6: “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly.”
The sin of these two cities was a rejection of God’s authority and the practice of homosexuality. This judgment was so severe that both of these cities were vaporized. Genesis 19:24-25 says: “Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” Lot’s wife didn’t fare so well, turning back to look and was turned into a sphere of salt. It’s interesting that this destruction was so severe that archaeologists can’t even find a trace of these cities. The word “ashes” shows us there was nothing left.
Ezekiel 16:49-50 gives a good summary of the other sins of Sodom. This is a good correction to those of us who like to single out one sin as the worst of all sins: “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination [that which is morally disgusting] before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.”
How God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is “an example” to those who choose to live ungodly lives. It’s meant to be a warning. Friends, it sure feels like our society is sliding towards Sodom, doesn’t it? Many years ago Billy Graham wrote a letter to America. In it he referred to something his late wife Ruth once said: ‘If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.’”
God’s grace reaches out to rescue the righteous.
Next Peter gives us two examples of how God’s grace reaches out to rescue the righteous. Noah and Lot represent two extremes of how believers can behave in the last days. We could call these two guys “Hold Nothing Back Noah” and “Lukewarm Lot.”
God Will Rescue the Righteous
- God spared “Hold Nothing Back Noah” and seven others. Go back to verse 5: “But saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness…” The word “but” shows the contrast between the many who were drowned and only eight who were preserved when the disastrous deluge hit. Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah lived by faith and acted by faith when he built the ark: “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
Noah swam upstream against societal sins and his faith ended up saving him from drowning. Even though he had never seen rain before he built an ark in spite of all the ridicule he received, thus saving himself and his family. And decade after decade he was a preacher of righteousness, a herald of God’s holiness, not hesitating to communicate what God wanted people to hear, even though they didn’t want to hear it.
- God spared “Lukewarm Lot” and his daughters. Verse 7 says that God “delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked.” While Noah was “a preacher of righteousness,” for some reason Peter tells us three different times that Lot was righteous. In verse 7 he’s called, “righteous Lot.” In verse 8 he’s referred to as “that righteous man” and that he had a “righteous soul.” That’s fascinating because if you look at how Lot lived, the word “righteous” is probably not the first word that comes to mind.
What we learn from Lot’s life is that sin’s natural direction is sequential, seductive and southward. It begins as something casual, moves to compromise and ends in catastrophe. Drifting can lead to disobedience, which can result in defiance. Are you aware we never stand still spiritually? If we try to coast, we’ll eventually compromise. Lot’s life is a powerful illustration of the downward cycle of sin. He had some faith but he didn’t live by faith. Let’s see how this spiritual slippage happened.
- He saw the seduction of Sodom in Genesis 13:10: “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere…”
- He walked toward Sodom in Genesis 13:11: “So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east.”
- He lived near sin in Genesis 13:12: “Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.” He faced his tents “toward Sodom” so he could look with longing. It’s similar to the guy or gal who says, “I would never commit immorality but I like looking at porn.”
- He sat in the gate of Sodom in Genesis 19:1: “Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city.” He no longer lived near Sodom, now he lived in and with the wicked.
Here are two results of Lot’s lukewarm faith.
- He was miserable. 2 Peter 2:7 says he was “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” and his soul was “tormented from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.” It was Charles Spurgeon who said, “The Lord does not permit His children to sin successfully.” Lot was frustrated but it was his own fault. He was not living like he should and as a result he was miserable. That could be you today. Maybe the reason you’re miserable is precisely because you’ve become lukewarm and spiritually lazy. Perhaps you’ve been compromising in some key ways. I’ve heard it said like this: “Some Christians have too much of the Lord to really enjoy the world but too much of the world to really enjoy the Lord.” Lot was miserable but he stayed where he was.
- He was without a mission. Lot had no impact on the city and society in which he lived. In contrast, Abraham interceded with God and starts a countdown to see if God would spare the city if he could find 50 righteous people and then 45, 40, 30, 20 and finally ends at 10 when God says, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” By my count, there’s Lot and Mrs. Lot, two married daughters and their husbands, and two unmarried daughters. That’s only 8. Lot obviously didn’t even lead two others to the Lord. Abraham outside the city had more of an impact than Lot did inside the city.
Lot also did not lead his family well. When the city was being destroyed, his two daughters and sons-in-law laughed at him and Mrs. Lot looked back. Only three are saved – Lot and his two younger daughters, and they end up doing something despicable later on.
Listen. Lot was called righteous because he believed in the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness…but he didn’t behave accordingly. Lot entered Sodom and then Sodom entered Lot and his loved ones found it difficult to leave. In the process he was miserable and lived without a mission, thus wasting his life. Having said all that, Lot did end up leaving Sodom and didn’t look back. It’s never too late to do what’s right, is it? God’s grace never gave up on him. Friend, God’s grace is available to you as well.
What about you? Are you more like “Hold Nothing Back Noah” or “Lukewarm Lot”? Will you condemn sin or will you cozy up to it? Will you live by faith or by the lusts of your flesh? Will you stay committed or will you cave to the culture? Will you worship with your life or will you waste your life?
- Go with the gospel to those who are headed to the fierce fires of a hot hell. Friend, the judgment of God is on the horizon. I pray that God will give us the passion that Charles Spurgeon had: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay…let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
- Move from comfortable Christianity to convictional Christianity. Are you living for self or living for the Savior? Are you going to just slip by like Lot or will you finish strong like Noah? Don’t waste your life! That reminds of a husband and wife who were both doctors. When the doorbell would ring, their teenage daughter was used to the visitor asking for the “doctor.” Her stock question was this: “Do you want the one who preaches or the one who practices?” Are you the one who preaches or the one who practices?
- The good news for sinners is that we can repent and be rescued! God delays His judgment to give us more time to submit to Jesus. Noah and his family were saved and Lot and his two daughters were delivered.
Are You Ready to be Rescued?
So the argument is this –If the angels fell and the flood destroyed sinful citizens and two cities were turned to ashes by fire, then we can count on the truth found in verse 9. The word “then” alerts us to the fact that Peter is drawing a conclusion: “Then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.” God gives us a way out of temptation when we stay close to Him as promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13.
God will not spare unrepentant sinners but will rescue the righteous. God can protect you if you know Him and if you don’t you will face judgment in a hot place called Hell. Jesus said in Matthew 24:38-39: “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
God did not spare unrepentant sinners in Noah’s day and he didn’t spare unrepentant sinners in Sodom and Gomorrah. But the really good news is that according to Romans 8:32 He did not spare His own Son! Friends, there is no way of escaping out of Hell once you’re there. But Jesus said in John 5:24 that there’s a way of escaping before you enter: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Let me say it clearly. You don’t have to go to Hell. God has provided a way of escape for you. God has spoken clearly. He has not lost His voice and His volume is not weak as He loudly proclaims that you can be rescued.