Home » Various Sermons » 2 Peter 2.4-10a Certain Judgment of the Ungodly

2 Peter 2.4-10a Certain Judgment of the Ungodly

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;  7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.”

In the beginning part of this chapter, we discussed how the false teachers had arisen up and were teaching wrong doctrine, and throughout it Peter warned them of their coming judgment.  In this section of the letter, Peter will build the start of his argument which will appear in 3.3-10.[1] And as noted before Peter corresponds quite closely to Jude here (1.4-8 in particular).  Verse three ended with, “destruction is no asleep,” and thus Peter now moves onto prove in what way, that it is not asleep, and so he turns to past example.[2] Having firstly show how the false teachers were like the Prophets of old, Peter now moves to give another example from the scriptures how the wicked were punished before.[3]

The trio which Pete uses, of the Sinful Angels, the Flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah is one which is seen in extra-biblical literature such as “You destroyed those who in the past committed injustice, among whom were even giants who trusted in their strength and boldness, whom you destroyed by bringing on them a boundless flood.  You consumed with fire and sulfur the people of Sodom who acted arrogantly, who were notorious for their vices; and you made them an example to those who should come afterward.” (3 Maccabees 2.4-5)  or the Testament of Naphtali 3.4-5 “But ye shall not be so, my children, recognizing in the firmament, in the earth, and in the sea, and in all created things, the Lord who made all things, that ye become not as Sodom, which changed the order of nature. 5 In like manner the Watchers also changed the order of their nature, whom the Lord cursed at the flood, on whose account He made the earth without inhabitants and fruitless.”[4]

In these three examples which Peter uses, he go in chronological order; first detailing the angels’ sins and punishment, then the flood, ending with finally Sodom and Gomorrah. [5] With each example (from four until eight, Peter begins many of his phrases with, “for if,” or just “if,” but it should probably be translated instead, “since,” that is “since God did not spare the angels….”[6] In all of this Peter shows that God did not allow this sort of thing into the past, and thus he does not allow this sort of thing even now. [7]

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;” – 2 Peter 2.4

It should be said that as Peter is making his argument, he seems to be trying very hard to make sure his readers understand him, by using terms and phrases that would be understood by all.[8] This part of 2 Peter corresponds well with Jude 6 “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—”

Some have suggested that Peter may be referring the legends that sprouted up from the passage in Genesis 6.4 “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”  In particular the sort of one found in 1 Enoch (which Jude did quote).[9] Where it see this verses as referring to the Angels having a sexual relationship with human women.  It should of course be stressed that Peter does not mention the specific sin; so it could as likely refer to another sin.

Since this verse does not seem to refer to the rebellion of Satan and his angels, (due to their continual presence), as the angels here are currently trapped.[10] After all Paul does note in Ephesians (6.12) “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

The angels are sent to Hell; the Greek here is literally Tartarus, which was where in Greek myths the titans had been sent.[11] Tartarus is also used in 1 Enoch 20.2 “Uriel, one of the holy angels, who is over the world and over Tartarus.”[12] This perhaps strengthens the above suggestion; In Jewish thought Tartarus is the place for fallen angels, as Gehenna is the place for apostate Jews.[13] (Other Jewish writers/translators do make use of Tartarus in their works, besides the Author(s) of Enoch).[14] Thus perhaps Peter uses this Greek term to describe a place that would be both understood by a Jewish and Hellenistic audience. [15]

These Angels are said to have been “committed,” and the Greek word for this, gives the connotation of one being handed over to be imprisoned.[16] These demons are either chained or in pits, depending on the manuscript, but both give the same idea of the angels, being forced against their will into the darkness of Tartarus.[17] One may recall the story of Jesus casting the demons into the pigs, where as Matthew  8.29  points out “And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”” And As Luke (8.31) records it, “And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.”

The verse ends with their being kept “until the Judgment,” their Judgment would come, but until then, they are being held in the gloomy Tartarus.[18] One of the major points is that even if angels, being who are in a sense much greater than we did not escape punishment, than neither would the false teacher.[19] Simply put the fallen angels will have to answer for their crimes in the final judgment.[20] Noted in a way in John’s Revelation “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (20.10)

In this verse Peter points out the fact that even the highest of creatures are subject to God’s judgment.  They could not escape punishment for their sin, anymore than the false teachers could.  By using this first example Peter shows that no matter ones closeness to God or their high manner, they are still subject to him and will still face the punishment for their sin.  Therefore one should be all the more wary and realize they cannot do as they please, for God does not excuse any one of their sin, especially the one who teaches wrongly.

“if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;” – 2 Peter 2.5

This example again opens up with “did no spare,” and this brings to truth of the reality of what had happen in the past, as well as the truth that God would indeed Judge the world.[21] The Judgment on the world in Noah’s day is a picture of the judgment to come at the end.[22] Genesis 6.6-8 records the opening of Noah’s narrative: “And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” And Hebrews 11.7 “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

In this second example, Peter shows that not only would God punish the angels, but he punishes man as well, showing that they could not keep sinning and think that okay.[23]

Noah does not preach in the Genesis account, but Jewish tradition for some time had attributed this claim of preaching.[24] For example in Josephus one reads “But Noah was very uneasy at what they did; and being displeased at their conduct, persuaded them to change their dispositions and their acts for the better: but seeing they did not yield to him, but were slaves to their wicked pleasures, he was afraid they would kill him, together with his wife and children, and those they had married; so he departed out of that land.” (Ant. 1.74)  Although it seems likely though not explicitly in the Genesis account that Noah would had indeed at least explained why he built the ark.[25]

The Greek version of the text, actually says the number eight and this seems to be indicating that in some way God’s people.[26] Peter seems to be stressing the few number of people who were saved out of the whole world, Noah being the eighth thus perhaps stressing it as a great act of mercy even in great punishment.[27] Though the wicked may be numbered far greater than the righteous, those who follow God need not worry as he can tell the difference between the two.[28] At the close of the verse, we are again reminded that God destroyed the wicked wholly once before, so it can be assured the wicked will not escape punishment.[29]

In his Judgment God is righteous and in judging God knows who it is who should be judge, even when the whole world seems bent on sin, God is able to pick out the remnant.  Peter thus here, again assures his readers, that one, Judgment will come to the false teachers, and at the same time, that those who are truly following God will have no need to worry.  God knows what he is doing, and God does not mess around.

“if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);” – 2 Peter 2.6-8

This verse follows well with Jude 7 “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire”

As Peter spoke about Flood and the chained Angels as a warning to the false teachers, he also speaks of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, attesting once more that the wicked will be punished![30] These cities were at one time, a sort of center, with some of the greatest land, yet due to their sin God brought them to utter destruction.[31] As Genesis 19.24-25 points out “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.  And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.”  Their destruction is talked about Peter in such a way, that is gives the of complete ruin, its literally a catastrophe.[32] In the end, Sodom and Gomorrah are described as an example, an example to not follow in their way of continual sin.[33]

That Lot is righteous is stressed threefold by Peter, (although it should noted that Genesis nor does latter Jewish literature seem to see Lot as Righteous). [34] The idea of Righteous Lot is also found in the Wisdom of Solomon 10.6 “Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing; he escaped the fire that descended on the Five Cities.” and 1 Clements 11.1 “On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved out of Sodom when all the country round was punished by means of fire and brimstone, the Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture.”.[35]

Still when one reads Genesis they might ponder how in the world Lot could be righteous!  After all in Genesis 19 Lot does some rather sinful deeds such as the offering of his daughters, the hesitation he shows, the drunkenness, and incest, and so on.[36] Still, one should note that Peter and these other ancient writers do not see Lot as sinless, but instead that he did indeed show himself to be righteous even in most sinful of places.[37]

Examples of which can be seen in Lot’s treatment of his angelic guest, though hesitant he did leave, that he did obey God in not looking at the city, and the way in the story of Genesis seems to hint on the fact that Lot was the one righteous person in Sodom.[38] As Schreiner points out, “Lot wavered and doubted, but Peter addressed readers who also were wavering because of the appearance of the false teachers.”[39]

The word, “distressed,” or vexed (KJV) is in the Greek the other that he was wearied or burdened. [40]Lot is distressed by the sexual sins of those around him, and this oppression is given more detail in verse eight.[41] In living in this society, Lot was tormented and yet in many ways the readers of 2 Peter were in a similar situation with the way in the false teachers and their followers lived.[42]

We too live in a Society which should in many ways torment our souls.  We see sin abound and that should distress our souls and cause us to all the more seek God’s will.  And in seeking God’s will be the Lights which Jesus wants us to be and show the world that we are different.   Increasingly we deal with a world more and more like Noah’s and yet we shouldn’t back down.  Instead, we should lean more fully on God and continue to with our mission of spreading the Good News.  All the more so, since the world needs it more and more.

“then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.” – 2 Peter 2.9-10a

These examples bring Peter finally to this particular point, that if God knew how to handle all of those events in the past; he knows how to take care of his people even now.[43] Peter brings to end this section in dealing with it in two points; God can rescue the Godly and punishes the ungodly.[44] By viewing the examples of Lot and Noah, Peter shows that God will on the one hand rescues those who are righteous and on the other punish the wicked.[45] In both cases concerning Noah and Lot, the two men lived among, “mockers and unbelievers,” yet as Strachan notes “This… is the atmosphere in which faith is brought into full development.”[46]

The wicked, are “kept,” and Peter showed that God could do so with angels, and therefore can just as easily do so with man, though the wicked seems to be able to do as they please, they are under God’s control![47] Their punishment didn’t take hold right away, therefore the readers can know that as God did punish them in the end, so too will he punish the wicked teachers they now faced.[48]

The wicked whom God “especially” takes notes of are those who have corrupt or more literally polluted desires, and those who hate authority or lordship.[49] The first sin has been noted specifically in the event of Sodom and Gomorrah as having been punished severely; that is sensual/sexual sins.  The false teachers especially sinned in this way, since they saw no authority.[50] The people are said to “despise authority,” and Peter thus sees their great sin is that they hate authority, in particular concerning God’s judgment and secondly that of the apostles, again as the beginning of this chapter states, they were “denying the Master.” [51]

In this final passage Peter ties everything up in his “for if” statements.  In the end, God will punish the wicked, as he done so in the past, but also God will preserve the godly.  Therefore we should preserve.  In the midst of our troubles and the various trials which we are finding ourselves in, Peter reminds us that God is in control.  As God was in control in the past he continues to be and therefore we must continue on.  In doing so, we must spread the Gospel, in doing so we might live lives right by God.  As the times get roughly not back down but leaning more on God.

In Conclusion

This portion of Peter’s letter reminds the readers that though the wicked, in particular the false teacher might seem to be able to do as they wish, God is still in control.  As God in the past has dealt with other evils he will continue to in this day.  Therefore we ought to try and keep that in mind and therefore strive to continue on with that which God has called us to.  The angels, the ancient world, the Great cities all fell to God’s punishment and the wicked will do so again.


[1] Patrick J. Hartin, “The Second Letter of Peter,” in The New Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament ed Daniel Durken (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008), 802.

[2] Jerome H. Neyrey, “2 Peter,” in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1990), 1020.

[3] Hartin, 802.

[4] Thomas W. Leahy, “the Second Epistle of Peter,” in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1968), [NT], 496.  (Translation of Naphtali from Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament.

[5] Hartin, 802.

[6] John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2 Peter & Jude (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2005), 85.

[7] Neyrey, 1020.

[8] Thomas R. Schreiner, the New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003),, 337.

[9] Patrick A. Tiller, “The Second Letter of Peter,” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Fourth Edition, eds. Michael D. Coogan, Marc Z. Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Pheme Perkins (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 2134.

[10] John Phillips, Exploring the Epistles of Peter: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005), 263.

[11] Tiller, 2134.

[12] Enoch as translated by R.H. Charles.

[13] R. H. Strachan, “The Second Epistle General of Peter,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1983), 134.

[14] Schreiner, 337.

[15] Strachan, 135.

[16] MacArthur, 85.

[17] Ibid., 86.

[18] Schreiner, 337.

[19] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: James, Peter, John, and Jude (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1949), 240.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Schreiner, 337-8.

[22] Ibid., 338.

[23] Barnes, 240.

[24] Strachan, 135.

[25] Schreiner, 339.

[26] Ibid., 338.

[27] Strachan, 135.

[28] Barnes, 241.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Phillips, 270.

[31] MacArthur, 88-9.

[32] Ibid., 89.

[33] Barnes, 241.

[34] Leahy, 496.

[35] Ibid.

[36] MacArthur, 90.

[37] Schreiner, 342.

[38] Schreiner, 341-2, MacArthur, 90.

[39] Schreiner, 342.

[40] Barnes, 242.

[41] Schreiner, 342.

[42] MacArthur, 91.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Schreiner, 343.

[45] Hartin, 802.

[46] Strachan, 136.

[47] Barnes, 243.

[48] Schreiner, 344.

[49] MacArthur, 92.

[50] Scheriner, 345.

[51] Neyrey, 1020.

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