Peter’s main idea contains two thoughts:
1. The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations.
2. The Lord knows how to reserve a punishment for the unjust.
These two thoughts were intended to comfort the minds of frustrated believers. Just as Asaph, Elijah, and Habakkuk were frustrated with their circumstances, so were these early Christians to whom Peter wrote. They wondered why wicked people were getting away with their sin. Why wasn’t God doing anything about them? Peter assured them that God did know what was going on and would respond in the appropriate way. Peter gives three examples from Scripture which support this truth.
What was God’s attitude toward rebellious angels? (4)
Certain angels which rebelled against the Lord were not spared by God’s mercy. Instead, he cast them into hell where they are chained in darkness until a later time of judgment. In this case, we know very little about these angels. Were they a part of Satan’s original rebellion? That wouldn’t make sense as Satan and his angels are still quite active. Were they somehow related to the acts of Genesis 6:1-4? I don’t think so, but some do (see Hiebert). But what we do know is that God did not overlook the sin of these rebellious angels. They are being held for a future judgment which, no doubt, will be much worse than what they are currently facing.
What was God’s attitude toward Noah’s generation? (5)
Moses records for us several chapters of information about Noah and the Great Flood (Genesis 6-8). From what we read in Genesis, those people were even worse than what we face today. God said that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). That’s a pretty bad description of the pre-flood society. But how did God respond to them? God sent the flood to destroy every one of the wicked, but he saved righteous Noah and his family.
Notice that Peter calls Noah a preacher of righteousness. That’s something not covered in Genesis. Apparently, Noah preached against the wickedness of the people living back then. I also imagine that he warned them about the coming judgment while he was building the ark. This must have been a comfort to those believers who were preaching against sin and proclaiming the gospel to the wicked people around them. When they were persecuted for their holy message, they could recall God’s actions during Noah’s day and entrust their lives to him.
What was God’s attitude toward Sodom and Gomorrha? (6-8)
The sin of Sodom and Gomorrha was very much like that of the pre-flood world. They are a fitting example of what Paul talks about in Romans 1. These people loved their sin and were not interested in repentance at all. Although Abraham pleaded with God to be merciful, it was not to be. There were less than ten righteous people living in those two cities. God’s judgment eventually fell on these two cities. Fire and brimstone reduced these cities to ashes. Sodom and Gomorrha still stand as an example of the end result of wickedness—just as the Lord intended.
But God sent two angels to warn Lot and his family about the coming judgment (Gen. 19). Because of their efforts, Lot and his two daughters escaped the judgment reserved for these wicked people. But why was Lot rescued? Notice here that Lot was a righteous man. As you read the Genesis account of Lot’s life, you would be hard pressed to prove this. Even his actions in Genesis 19 cause you to wonder what he was thinking (see Gen. 19:7-8). But Peter, under the Holy Spirit’s infallible guidance, tells us that Lot was a righteous man who hated what was going on in the city. His sould was daily tormented as he saw and heard the wicked acts carried out inside the city walls.
This must have been a comfort to those early Christians who lived in such a society. The Roman empire may have brought peace and prosperity, but it also allowed for a great variety of wickedness to prosper. The Christians who lived at that time must have been tormented by the sinful actions they saw and heard. But after hearing these words, they understood that God was not passive about their situation. He would judge the wicked and deliver the godly from their difficult circumstances.
Behold, these are the ungodly,who are always at ease;they increase in riches.Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,and washed my hands in innocence.For all day long I have been plagued,and chastened every morning.If I had said, “I will speak thus,”behold, I would have been untrueto the generation of Your children.When I thought how to understand this,it was too painful for me—until I went into the sanctuary of God;then I understood their end.
What should our attitude be toward wicked people and trials which we encounter? We need to have the same mindset presented here by Peter. First, realize that God is on your side if you are a true believer. You need not fear the peresecution of those to whom you preach the gospel. You don’t need to fear the mocking of your holy lifestyle either. Others have gone through it and God had taken care of them. He will do the same for you.
Second, realize that God will judge the wicked some day. It may seem that they are getting away with their sin, but this is not a right perpective of the matter. God may not judge sin as quickly as you would like, but he will eventually. It may be that he is being merciful, allowing more time for some of them to be saved. But in any event, he can be trusted with the end result. The Lord knows what to do and we will do best to allow him to worry about these things instead of fretting about them.