Don’t Mistake God’s Patience for God’s Approval

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.  (2 Peter 2:3)

Peter considered the condition of false teachers hopeless. Like Judas, their doom was sealed because not only did they reject Christ themselves, but they actively encouraged others to reject Christ as well. As far as he was concerned the sentence against them had already been declared. All they were awaiting now was its execution.

So, why was nothing happening? Even today we see false teachers living – and dying – in the lap of luxury, seemingly unpunished for their actions. This was happening in Peter’s day, too. People began to wonder: “Where is this judgment you speak of, Peter?”

In response to that natural question, Peter gives three examples to prove the faithfulness of God’s promises even when it comes to His promises of judgment. The timing may not always fit our schedule, but God is not slack concerning any of His promises (2 Peter 3:9).

Fallen angels (2:3-6, 9b). The Bible gives us only scant detail concerning Satan and the fall of his host. We have what Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 14:12-15; we have what Ezekiel tells us in Ezekiel 28:11-29; we have what Jesus briefly alludes to in the gospels; we also have what Revelation tells us in Revelation 12:4 about there being a third of the angels that fell with Satan. Peter suggests that while Satan and some of his host roam free about the earth, some are already tormented in Hell in a place called “Tartarus.” Perhaps one of the reasons the Bible is so quiet about these demonic beings is because our human nature would focus on that instead of on the real subject of Scripture: The Son of God. Peter tells us of the fallen angels not to satisfy our curiosity about them, but to make clear that not even angels who engage in false doctrine are exempt from God’s judgment. If angels are thus judged, how much more are human beings who engage in the spread of false doctrine?

The old world (2:5). Here, Peter takes us back to the days of Noah, the building of the Ark and the Flood. Modern scholars and philosophers deny a literal global flood that destroyed the earth and all living creatures that dwelled upon land. We can either believe them, or we can believe the Bible. Peter’s point in bringing up Noah and the Ark in this passage is to note that in Genesis, the building of the Ark took 120 years. During that time Noah pleaded with the people of his day to join him in the Ark because of the coming Flood. Even with that judgment just around the corner, the LORD waited yet seven days before bringing His judgment to pass. In the end, only eight souls were saved – just Noah and his family. God delayed His judgment in mercy. The people refused that mercy and when the Flood finally came, its destruction was swift and thorough.

Sodom and Gomorrah (2:6, 9b). I know this is a controversial, hot button topic and that to comment on this can invite trouble, but the fact is that God did judge Sodom and Gomorrah for their sin. That said, I would argue that while their actions were indeed sinful, those acts were symptomatic of a deeper problem: pride. In their pride, the people of those cities did what they did in defiance of God’s moral law: “I can do what I want and no one – not even God – can tell me otherwise.” Christians can have the same attitude and it should be sobering to us that the same pride that condemned the people of Sodom and Gomorrah can be our undoing as well. What we can learn from God’s judgment here is that God is not ignorant of the hearts and actions of men, nor is He indifferent. When He decides to mete out His judgment, He will be thorough, and it will be righteous. As believers, that should not fill is with pride and condemnation of others. It should make us pause to consider our own hearts and make us even more burdened for the lost.

Takeaways. There are those who follow false teachers because those teachers have a knack for amassing to themselves so many of this world’s goods and so much of this world’s praise. “Look at all they have and look at all they can do! Look at how everyone loves them! I don’t see God judging them. It looks like He’s blessing them! I want that.” We cannot base our theology on observation and personal experience. We must base it on the truth of God’s Word. We also must never mistake God’s patience for God’s approval.

Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, the false teachers of today have their reward (see Matthew 6:2, 5, 16), but they are stockpiling treasures here on earth, not in eternity. Now they have the praise of men, but they should fear the One Who can bring them into judgment, body and soul (Matthew 10:28).

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