24. Condemnation (2)

Meditations in 2 Peter : 24 :  Condemnation (2)

2 Pet  2:13  They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.

I have recently been reading an account of how the West was won, and of the people who trekked the thousands of miles across the States to find gold or even just somewhere new to settle. One particularly memorable bit was how they came down one particular pass only to find they were into a desert that stretched sixty five miles infront of them. I’m afraid I feel this a bit about this part of Peter’s second letter, that appears like a desert in the midst of a green and pleasant land! He is warning his Christian readers against a group of people who appear at times to have a spirituality and yet are very far from spiritual.

We don’t know if Peter has any one people group in mind when he writes these words because he doesn’t say, but obviously he has in his mind clearly a group of people who have really got under his skin. He is really outspoken about them. Already in verses 10 and 12 we have seen him describe them: “Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings… They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.” Strong language!

Let’s note first of all the things he says they have done, “the harm they have done” (v.13a). They “carouse in broad daylight” (v.13b), With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed,”  (v.14) “They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son,” (v.15) “they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error,” (v.18) “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (v.18)

How do we summarise all that? They teach a licentious freedom that brings destruction and they live it out! Listen to how he describes them: “They are blots and blemishes,” (v.13b) “an accursed brood,” (v.14) “springs without water and mists driven by a storm,” (v.17) But will they get away with it? No! “They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done,” (v.13) “Blackest darkness is reserved for them,” (v.17).

But then comes the clearest condemnation: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (v.20) These were believers who have gone off the rails!  Listen more to his condemnation and explanation of what they have done: “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (v.21) And he uses a proverb to describe their actions: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (v.22)

These are people who once knew Christ, who lived the Christian life but who have now fallen prey to deception and temptation. They have been deceived by the enemy into believing lies – that as a Christian you can do anything and it will be all right. They have fallen to the temptation to live profligate lives. In every way, these people who were once clearly people of God are now clearly people of the world.

This is what this ‘desert’ in Peter’s letter is all about, It is a warning to avoid failing to deception and therefore, by implication, a call to hold firmly to the truth. It is a warning not to give way to temptations to live just like the world lives but, by implication, to live holy lives.  Yet the bigger warning that comes with it is that if you do you will end up being destroyed by it. It is a terrible condemnation and a terrible warning.

This may not be a gloriously edifying piece of scripture but it is there as a clear warning to us. Very simply the warning comes: don’t let anything or anyone seduce you away from the truths of the Gospel that are so clearly laid out in the New Testament. Don’t let anyone lead you into the lifestyle that is shown in these verses. Hold firmly to the truth and live the holy, Christ-like life. May it be so!

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