In his second letter, Peter exhorts anointed Christians to make every effort to secure their hope of sharing in divine nature—essentially, the incredible prospect of becoming gods.
The apostle, however, forcefully forewarned that there will be challenges. Foremost, he alerted us to the presence of false teachers who will exploit us with counterfeit words. Please take note: The apostle did not say you might be subjected to false teachers. He stated it as a certainty: “However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These will quietly bring in destructive sects, and they will even disown the owner who bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves.” — 2 Peter 2:1
In using the pronoun “you” who was Peter addressing, specifically? There is no evidence that false teachers dominated first-century congregations. True, there were haughty individuals like Diotrophes, and apostates like Hymenaeus, Philetus, and Alexander, whose teachings spread like gangrene. But these false teachers were handed over to Satan; meaning, they were put out of the congregations. The only apostates that presided as false teachers and pretend-ministers were the unnamed superfine apostles of the Corinthian congregation.
The second epistle of Peter is addressed to anointed Christians who would be living in the last days, which is why in the third chapter the apostle stated: “Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, consider what sort of people you ought to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, as you await and keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which the heavens will be destroyed in flames and the elements will melt in the intense heat!” (11-12)
Peter closed out his inspired letter, saying: “You, therefore, beloved ones, having this advance knowledge, be on your guard so that you may not be led astray with them by the error of the lawless people and fall from your own steadfastness.”
“This advance knowledge” is the fact that false teachers will preside over the congregations of those who are called to share in divine nature. If that were not the case it would not be necessary to be on guard against being “led astray by the error of the lawless people.”
Concerning the false teachers, Peter further said: “Also, they will greedily exploit you with counterfeit words. But their judgment, decided long ago, is not moving slowly, and their destruction is not sleeping.” — 2 Peter 2:3
Again, one of the foremost apostles of the Christian congregation stated that “they will greedily exploit you with counterfeit words.” He did not say that some of you will be exploited. He did not say you might be exploited. He said you will be exploited.
Typically we think of counterfeit money or counterfeit products that are passed off as genuine articles—but counterfeit words? How can words be counterfeit? Since the counterfeiters are the false teachers and false prophets who “revel in their deceptive teachings while feasting together with you,” (2:13b) the counterfeit words are passed off as genuine, Bible-based words of truth. And unlike those first-century apostates who were handed over to Satan, the counterfeit words originate from prominent men in the midst of the congregation—“feasting together with you.” The counterfeiters revel in their deception while at the spiritual table provided by the faithful and discreet slave!
What might some of these counterfeit words be that are in circulation? Peter hinted at it in the opening chapter of his second letter saying: “No, it was not by following artfully contrived false stories that we made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather, we were eyewitnesses of his magnificence.” (1:16)
Peter, James and John watched in amazement as Jesus was transfigured before them in what was intended to be a glimpse of the divine nature they will share. The significance of Christ’s transfiguration is that it was a fore gleam of the parousia—the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Clearly, since the three apostles were eyewitnesses of an event that foreshadows the parousia, the actual presence of Christ cannot possibly take place in the invisible. Hence, the counterfeit words with which anointed Christians are exploited are, foremost: “invisible presence.” There is no such expression in the Bible. Obviously, Jesus has always been invisible. The parousia is something different.
There are other counterfeit words in circulation such as “spiritual paradise,” “pure worship,” “deep into the time of the end,” and so forth, but everything is based on the artfully contrived invisible presence of Christ in 1914.
Since the reappearance of an anointed congregation with the inception of the Watchtower Bible Society, many anointed persons have finished their earthly course and are asleep awaiting the sound of the trumpet heralding the beginning of the first resurrection. Their having been deceived by false teachers had no bearing on the outcome of their personal judgment and sealing. They have come off victorious.
But since the concluding harvest has not begun, as stated already, the apostle’s warning is directed to those who will be alive when Christ returns. That is when the error of the law-defying people will come to the fore. As Jesus himself forewarned, then many will be saying the Christ is here, the Christ is there—and will mislead many. Then is when the man of lawlessness will be in full opposition to Christ.
The man of lawlessness is called “the son of destruction” for a reason. It was the designation Jesus gave to Judas. Being one of the chosen 12 Judas was undoubtedly bestowed with miraculous powers. He was among the first ones sent out to announce that the Kingdom of God had drawn near. Like the others, Judas was empowered to heal the sick and even expel the demons. Judas heard all of Jesus’ sermons and saw him walk on water and calm the stormy sea. Judas reclined at the Passover table with Jesus and the others up until he was handed the morsel and Satan entered into him and induced the apostle to betray the Son of God into death. He disowned his Lord.
The man of lawlessness similarly sits in the spiritual temple of God. He is regarded as an anointed man of God. How else can the deceptive exploitation work unless it comes through one who is regarded as faithful and discreet—the earthly mouthpiece of God?
Peter went on to assure us: “But their judgment, decided long ago, is not moving slowly, and their destruction is not sleeping.” (2:3)
The apostle, who was at the table with the son of destruction, went on to forcefully underscore “their judgment,” writing: “Certainly God did not refrain from punishing the angels who sinned, but threw them into Tartarus, putting them in chains of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment. And he did not refrain from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a flood upon a world of ungodly people. And by reducing the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly people of things to come.” (2:4-6)
The “things to come” is “the day of judgment,” as Peter mentioned in the ninth verse. The day of judgment will commence when Christ comes like a thief in the night to commence the inspection. That is when the evil slaves will be put out of the house. They will weep and gnash their teeth knowing that they have the same fate as the “angels who sinned.” The darkness of eternal oblivion awaits them, or as the apostle stated in verse 17: “the blackest darkness has been reserved for them.”