Who Are the False Prophets and Teachers of 2nd Peter Chapter 2?
2nd Peter chapter 2 is describing people who are saved believers in Jesus Christ. They have trusted Jesus Christ and have identified with him and with his church; yet they are false prophets and teachers and they have many saved followers. They are often the majority of the church in any generation.
This is not the majority opinion of Bible Commentators. There is a seeming desire by many to make it impossible for this passage to describe their own sins and sinfulness by saying it is a reference to unsaved false prophets and people. (And it truly can be applied to them because what is true of unbelieving behavior in believers is always true of unbelieving behavior in unsaved people.)
I struggled with taking a position against the majority understanding because I do respect most of those commentators and Bible teachers. I was constantly changing my opinion on the chapter. Three things, in particular, brought me to the place of holding the opinion that Peter had saved people in mind.
1. Peter is writing to saved people, warning them of the dangers thqat can happen to them personally. 2:1 is a reference to the people of God having false teachers. And at least 1 of the 2 examples that Peter gives are clearly saved. That is Lot in verse 7. Balaam is probably saved and in my opinion is saved. He was truly God’s prophet and was in real communication with God. I think that is proof enough that he is saved.
When you look at the corresponding passage in Jude 1:11 you see a third example and that is Korah. Korah is a priest of God and his claim to have God speak to him is never refuted in the Bible. His problem is not that he is not saved; it is envy of Moses’ authority.
2. Peter uses language that says they these people are saved.
a. In verse 2 he says, “Lord that bought them.” Many of the commentators jump through hoops to say that it doesn’t mean saved. I can’t do that.
b. Verse 15 says that they went astray. Lost people can’t go astray. Blind people can. See chapter 1: 9.
c. Verse 20 says that “they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” No unsaved person has ever escaped the pollution of the world. Ever. Lot did. See 2:7.
“The knowledge of the Lord” is a term that can only be applied to saved people. It is a term of intimacy. It is not a “know about” the Lord thing; It is a “know” the Lord thing.
3. It must be remembered that most of the Bible’s lists of sins and warnings are directed to and at God’s people; not at the lost.
- All of the law of Moses is direct at God’s people.
- Most of the sins in Judges are the sins of God’s people.
- Most of the sins of the historical books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are the sins of God’s people.
- Most of the sins of the book of Psalms are the sins of God’s people.
- Most of the sins in all of the prophets are the sins of God’s people.
God warns God’s people to watch their step, because they can step very far away from God (and yet still be God’s people). Even the Apostle Paul was concerned that he himself could and would be a castaway. See 1st Corinthians 9:27.
Chapter 2 of 2nd Peter is written to the people of chapter 1:5 who were told to “add to their faith”. These are people who have faith. Verse 9 warns these people who have faith that if they do not add to their faith virtue, etc., that they will be blind, forgetting that they were purged from old sins. “He that lacketh these things IS blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”
2nd Peter chapter 2 is also written to people who elevate experience above the word of God; even God given experience like Peter had on the Mount of Transfiguration. See chapter 1:15-21.
The people in chapter 1 are saved and the dangers of chapter 2 are addressed to them. THEY can elevate experience to the place of lusts (walking after this world). They can fail to add to their faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. The end result will be a counterfeit Christianity that is ugly, worldly, and defiled. It is described in 2nd Peter chapter 2.
Part 2 is a description of the actions of the false prophets, teachers, and their followers.