2 Peter 2:17-18
(17) These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved [forever].
(18) For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
When we bought our property in North Carolina, we asked if there was running water because that was important to us. No water would mean no deal. The realtor went to the sink, turned it on and water came out. We should have made him leave it on. Because after all the papers were signed and we took possession of the property, there was no running water anymore. For a while we had to bring in our own water in plastic jugs. As we looked into getting the water situation resolved, we managed to find the man who did the original spring work. He said that eight years ago he told the former owners that their spring was unreliable at best and that a well was what they needed to get. Putting in a well is expensive, and we had to get it done. It cost us a small fortune, but we have water now, thank God!
Yesterday, I managed to find the old spring, and that man who said it was unreliable was right. The spring isn’t worth much. When it is active, it seems like it has a lot of promise, but it’s empty more than it’s active. When Peter says that false teachers are “wells without water,” the word he uses is actually the Greek word for “spring.” Just like the old spring on our property, false teachers give the impression that they are a reliable source of life-giving water, but they do not hold up to their promise. They only give enough to get you to “buy in” and then they just dry up.
Peter also describes false teachers as clouds without rain. The picture is that of clouds of fog or mist carried by squalls sweeping across a lake or sea. Sometimes those clouds that promised rain for farmers brought nothing and faded into nothing. False teachers are much the same. They make a lot of noise and give the illusion of great power but there is nothing to them.
Peter warns his readers that these false teachers, these clouds without rain that dissolve into the mist, are reserved for the “mists of darkness” themselves. They are headed to hell and they will take their followers – well-meaning people who just want the truth – into hell with them. Like that spring on our property or those empty clouds, they attract people to themselves by appearing to offer great promise. As Peter says they use “great swelling words of vanity” (v. 18), words that sound great and play to people’s egos but don’t mean anything and that are doctrinally empty.
Peter says that our faith is founded upon great and precious promises. Those promises are founded in a great and powerful God. He wants his readers to pay attention to what they are hearing and to put those who call themselves spiritual leaders under special scrutiny. He does not want them taken in by a suave presentation, pleasant-sounding words and the illusion of power. Teachers of truth will always point their hearers to the God of truth, the God of promise. False teachers will only lead you to the “mists of darkness,” a place empty of promise.
If I may add an analogy of my own: False teachers are like hurricanes. They sweep into people’s lives with great power, but they give nothing and take everything.