Following Balaam — Part 1

When you become a senior in high school, you begin to look forward to the future. You wonder whether you will attend college, whom you will marry, what you will accomplish, and many other things. To help with this, many senior classes write out senior prophecies. They are usually humorous and begin with the phrase, “most likely to … .” When I graduated from high school, our yearbook took a picture of each senior doing what he/she did best. The valedictorian was pictured reading a Physics books. One of the boys was pictured next to his car with the hood open. How was I pictured? Well, it seems that I was known for my ability to eat. The photographer took a picture of me eating Hostess snacks and drinking Diet Pepsi. Hopefully, I will be remembered for more than that. But at the time, it was a pretty good description.

Unfortunately, we don’t always get to choose what we will be remembered as. Those around us look at what we say and do, but they also notice who and what we follow. The early New Testament believers were remembered as followers of Christ and so were nicknamed “Christians,” which means little Christs. Their lives showed that they truly followed the teachings of Christ and so the description fit very well.

This morning we will be looking at a biblical description of the false teachers who were causing many problems for the early believers. In the preceding posts, covering 2 Peter 2:1-3 and 2:4-9, we saw that Peter was addressing his readers’ concern about these men. They were wondering if God was allowing them to sin and get away with it. But Peter made it clear that God was not sleeping while these things happened. He would deal with false teachers in the same way that he had the rebellious angels (2:4), the pre-Flood world (2:5), and Sodom and Gomorrah (2:6). In fact, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.”

In the following section (2:10-16), Peter reveals God’s reasons for judging these people by describing how wicked they had become. The description he gives is not something you would want written in your senior prophecy. Neither would you want it to be something written for a eulogy. So, why study this? If it so horrible, why do we need to know what they are like? It is important because it shows the end result of following the way of Balaam and false teachers like him.

Who is Peter describing? (10-11)

Before we go too far, we have to understand the limits of Peter’s description. Is he talking about just any person who has a bad influence on others. No, he is describing the worst of the worst. Think back to the people mentioned in verses 4-9. The pre-flood world was composed of the worst of the worst (see Gen. 6:5). Sodom and Gomorrah were filled with the worst of the worst. At this point in his teaching, Peter is telling these believers that God will judge wickedness, but he is especially concerned with certain people who meet the qualifications spelled out in verses 10-11.

They are fleshly in that they consistenly follow the leadings of their sinful desires. Instead of being self-controlled, a fleshly person does not control the urges of his body. They are rebellious in that they literally despise anyone in authority over them. They cannot bear the thought of obeying what someone else says. In fact, the biggest problem is their lack of submission to the ultimate authority, God himself. This is further evidenced in that they are self-willed. Their desires are most important. Someone else’s wish is disregarded if it conflicts with this self-willed person’s desires. They are audacious. There is no fear of God or authority in their eyes. No respect is evident in the actions of these people. In fact, they do not tremble when faced with “dignitaries” (NKJV), those who have been given glory by God.

What exactly does this mean? Dignitaries is the translation of the Greek word, doxaV, which is a plural form of the word glory. It has been translated as “angelic majesties” (NASB) and “angelic beings” (NIV), with the idea that these men are unafraid to blaspheme angels. But this doesn’t seem to make sense. Why would a false teacher want to blaspheme angels? I am not a Greek teacher, but a more literal translation would be “the glories.” Commentator D. Edmond Hiebert agrees:

More probable is Lenski’s opinion that these “glories” are the glorious attributes of the risen Christ (cf. 1 Peter 1:11). Then Peter means that these arrogant false teachers brazenly make their “attack on the glories of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the God-man.” This, rather than a mere railing against angels, is the true climax in the heretical activities of these false teachers (Second Peter and Jude 111).

These false teachers are so brazen that they are unafraid to do what angels would tremble at! How much more audacious could a person get? So, who is Peter describing? He is describing the worst of the worst, about whom God is especially concerned.

What will their outcome be?

In the previous passage (4-9), Peter makes it clear that these people are reserved for judgment by God. We know that he will, at the appropriate time, punish them for their sinful actions. But here in verse 12, Peter makes a startling statement. He compares these false teachers to beasts born to be destroyed. That seems a bit strange. What did he mean?

Think about predatory animals for a moment. The lion is not much use except for those who wish to hunt. The tiger is much the same. Both are wild animals that seem to have only one purpose in life. On their part, their only goal in life is to kill and eat. But from our perspective, we view these animals as something created to be killed. There is no advantage to owning a lion or tiger. Because of their desire for destruction, the only thing they deserve is destruction.

These false teachers were just like these predatory animals. Because their only concern in life is fulfilling their own lusts, the only end in sight for them is destruction. And as they continue to blaspheme and lead others to rebel against the Lord, their destruction is certain.