Sunday, 26 January 2020
By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:3
Peter now continues with his words concerning the false teachers he introduced in verse 2:1. He says of them that “By covetousness they will exploit you.” The Greek word en, or “in,” is used – “In covetousness.” It is the realm in which they live, move, and operate. In that life sphere, they take advantage of, and exploit, others.
Here, he uses a word – translated as “exploit” – which was only used elsewhere in James 4:13, emporeuomai. One can see the basis of the word “emporium” in it. It means to make gain or engage in trade. These false teachers “engage in the trade” of leading others astray. As an emporium has many articles for sale, the appeal is to the masses. The more deceived followers, the happier these people are.
Nothing is said of the type of covetousness here because each may have his own perverse failing which controls his existence. For some it may be money, for others it may be the wielding of power, for others it may be sexual perversion. Whatever it is that they covet, they know that religion is a way of obtaining the fulfillment of their sick desires, and so they exploit others “with deceptive words.”
Now Peter uses a word which is only found here in Scripture, plastos. Here, we can easily see the basis for the word “plastic.” It signifies to mold by using clay or wax. Thus, one forges something which is artificial, contrived, and unrealistic. These false teachers take something which is obviously intended to be presented in one way, and they reform it into something entirely contrary to what it was intended to be.
Generally, there are up to four ways of viewing an Old Testament passage – literal, moral, historical, and prophetic. Each of these may be valid in some measure. For example, the Ark of the Covenant was literally made. It was actually fashioned in the manner given and with the materials provided.
But the Ark also bears a moral lesson for the people. The tablets were placed inside, signifying that though the law was given to the people, it was not actually obtainable to them. Atop the ark was the mercy seat where blood was applied each year on the Day of Atonement. That showed that man required a sacrifice for his transgressions under the law. And so on.
The Ark also carried meaning historically. It was given to Israel only. It was given for the duration of the time of the law, meaning the Mosaic Covenant. Etc.
And the Ark had prophetic significance. Each aspect of it looked to Christ. The type of wood looked to Christ’s human nature – morally incorruptible. The pure gold looked to His deity. The tablets of law, placed inside of it, looked to Him as the embodiment of the law. And so on.
In analyzing Scripture, such things must be reasonable, they must match the rest of Scripture in purpose and intent, and they must be consistent. However, someone may take this pattern and reshape it into something entirely unintended. In doing so, the true meaning of these things is lost, and people are pulled into strange and aberrant doctrines.
For example, some have said that the shape and materials of the ark actually form a transmitter which would be so powerful, it could be used to talk directly to aliens or God. Such nonsense has nothing to do with what is conveyed by God. It is a bucket full of lies, and yet, it is believed by people who want to hear such things. They look to have their ears tickled, and they have no desire to know the truth. For every such sucker, there is someone to lead him along on the road to destruction.
Of such people, Peter says that “for a long time their judgment has not been idle.” The KJV says, “a long time lingereth not,” as if this is speaking of the duration of time in the past, and that the time of waiting is soon to come. Rather, the Greek reads, “from of old their judgment has not been idle.”
The duration of time past is not what is being relayed, but that the coming judgment has been ordained all along. And the amount of future time is not what is being considered as much as what occurs during the time. There is nothing idle in the process. Their judgment is being worked out the whole time that their actions are also being worked out.
While these false teachers are working out evil in their sphere of covetousness, their judgment – or sentence – is also being actively worked out. Nothing of what is due them is missed, and what will come upon them will be appropriate to their level of wicked work. One can look back at the wickedness of man – in Genesis 6, or that of Sodom and Gomorrah – and see that, from of old, such things were not tolerated, and they are not tolerated still. Peter then further says that “their destruction does not slumber.”
There is no time that the destruction which is called for in such cases simply takes a nap. Rather, it is always ready to be poured out on such people. And when it comes, it is because God has determined that it is time for it to be so. The idea is that people see other false teachers profiting off their flocks. They then begin to think, “God doesn’t care. I will take advantage of the situation too.” But at some point, God will judge such things, and their destruction is sure. It will be total in its effects, and it will be final – just as it was at the Flood of Noah, and just as it was for Sodom and Gomorrah.
Life application: The false teachers that Peter has been speaking of have fallen into the same trap of the world as any common criminal – covetousness. Their eyes are full of greed and lust as they look at the pleasures of the world around them and betray the truth of the Bible for dishonest gain. This is accomplished by exploiting their followers with deceptive words where the truth of the Bible is twisted and manipulated for the sake of money.
A perfect place to go in order to witness firsthand such twisted teaching is televangelism. A large portion of these people simply look at the Bible as a tool to get rich. They take something good, turn it to financial gain, and make it appear as if what they are doing is the standard.
This is what happens, for example, on Wall Street. It is also what happens in the ministries of false teachers. People mix what is right with that which is inappropriate. Anytime (anytime!) a pastor, evangelist, preacher, priest, or teacher promises you a financial (or otherworldly) blessing for sending his (or her) ministry money, you should run, not walk, from them. There are no “financial breakthroughs,” “financial harvests,” “miracle healings,” etc. to be found by following this avenue. There is only an exchange of money from your pocket to theirs.
Peter has strong words of condemnation for those who would twist Scripture for gain. These people, seemingly pious and sincere, will receive enormously large and lengthy doses of God’s wrath for perverting what He has given to man in love – His Son.
Jesus hung on a cross to free men’s souls, not to enrich the people of His flock. We shouldn’t kiss the ring of the notable, we shouldn’t look forward to profit by our gifts to them, and we shouldn’t expect a miracle for our faith. Rather, we look to the Lord with gratitude and thanksgiving for having saved us from what we rightfully deserve – judgment and condemnation. Thank You Lord for having mercy on us!
Lord, You have given us more than we could ever imagine – forgiveness and redemption. This came at the highest cost of all, the cross of Jesus our Lord. May we never expect more, and may our souls be satisfied in You alone. Keep us from those who would lead us into covetousness, and keep our hearts, minds, souls, and thoughts on Jesus alone. Amen.