But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:1-3 NKJV
Our subject last week was the warning we receive about false prophets appearing in the end of the age as part of the apostasy which will occur in the Church just before the return of Jesus for His bride. Considering the seriousness of the offense, and the damage that will be done, it is natural to wonder what God has planned for these people in light of their offense against Him. Also, it goes without saying that if we are concerned at all with the “what” God has planned for them, we are more than likely rather impatient for the ‘when” as well.
One of my favorite writers in the New Testament concerning the time of the end of the age is the apostle Peter. You may recall some of my past writings on Peter and his letters to the Church, and I referred to them as his “last words” because of his awareness that his death was quickly approaching. I believe that because of his knowledge of what was to shortly occur, his concern was for the future of the Church and the problems it would encounter. In this passage from Peter’s second letter to the Church, we are told in no uncertain terms that their judgment is guaranteed.
In this chapter Peter begins by telling us that not only will there be false prophets as we approach the return of Christ, these people will receive the judgment they richly deserve just as God has judged others in the past. Although it might seem to us at times that God could have forgotten because these individuals are not judged immediately, Peter makes the point that our Father never forgets. He then goes on to remind us of three examples of God passing His judgment on those who have done something to deserve His wrath.
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 2 Peter 2:4-8 NKJV
From the way that Peter words these verses, it almost seems certain that he is responding to the question of “when” will God judge? I believe either some in the Church were asking the question already, or Peter understood that it would be asked. Being impatient to see God judge sin is a common theme throughout the scriptures with many examples we can find of His people crying out “how long”? God will even hear this in heaven from those who have been martyred for His names’ sake.
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:10 NKJV
When we see someone doing something we know is contrary to God’s laws, it is natural to desire to see justice applied. However, at a time where believers are becoming more and more the minority in today’s society, and many are experiencing some sort of persecution, the temptation to defend ourselves and attempting to somehow persecute those who persecute us is strong. We are told in no uncertain terms, though, that it is not our place to do that but rather God’s alone. Paul put it this way in his letter to the Romans;
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19 NKJV
So it begins to make sense that if we are not to be the instruments of God’s justice, we are placed in a position of waiting on God to exercise His promise to judge. This then, in light of our natural impatience, leads us to ask the question “when”? This is where Peter surprises us by answering that question by reminding us of the event we are all eagerly watching for, the rapture of the Church. Many have referred to this passage as an “if/when” argument to support the doctrine of the Pre-tribulation rapture. By using the example of Noah and the flood, and Lot at Sodom and Gomorrah, Peter illustrates that God delivers His own before He passes His judgment. Notice that Peter begins verse four by saying “if God did not spare” and follows up in verse nine by saying;
then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, 2 Peter 2:9 NKJV
Do you want to know when God will judge? Peter’s answer is that God is waiting to remove His own from harm’s way before He judges the world for their offense towards Him. Never fall into the trap of believing that God has forgotten, or changed His mind, or any other of the lies Satan uses to excuse sinful behavior. Peter addresses this in the next chapter where he tells his readers this;
knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 2 Peter 3:3-7 NKJV
God will judge. We have His promise on that.