I knew a pastor of a local church who is paid, for the size of the church, an exorbitant salary and feels that he deserves it. The man literally reeks with greed. Furthermore, recently, a news station in Dallas reported a story which alleged that Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church, owned a 10,000 square foot home, was being paid a $1,000,000 salary, and that the church owned, unknown to most church members, a private jet to fly this man around to speaking engagements so that he could sell his materials to other like minded pastors at conferences all over the globe. As it turns out, he announced to the congregation that he did not make one million dollars a year, that his house was “only” 7,800 square feet (which in auditing we would call an immaterial difference), and that the church “leased” the jet it didn’t own it. The only real difference between these two charlatans is the size of the congregation that they are able to bilk out of money. Their heart attitude is the same—they believe they deserve to be wealthy and they will peddle the word of God to do so. These guys are just like the false prophets Peter talked about in the 2nd chapter of his 2nd epistle. One thing is for sure, false teachers may be able to live in comfort by fleecing the Lord’s sheep in this life, but there is a future, terrible judgment that is awaiting them.
Notice that this judgment is personal. When God judges, it will not look like a child pitching a temper tantrum nor will there be collateral damage with God’s children being wounded in friendly fire. The wicked will be signaled out for judgment. These are the people “for whom” God’s wrath is being saved up. Men such as the false teachers in Peter’s day and the false teachers living today may not acknowledge the judgment of God. They may mock it and dismiss it but the fact is this judgment is very real and those who do not know Jesus as their Savior will experience this personal judgment along with the false teachers.
Further, Peter describes a terrifying picture of judgment for these false teachers. All sinners will be punished but as we see in Luke 12:47-48 that punishment will not be equally severe. These, who presumed to speak for God and who led people astray with their empty words, will receive a particularly harsh punishment. In fact, it is referred here as “the black darkness”. The word translated “black” can also be translated “gloom” so, in a sense, the phrase Peter uses here could be understood as “darkness upon darkness” or “the darkest darkness”. Peter was trying to paint a picture of how bleak the picture is for these false teachers. Those who have claimed to speak for God but spoken their own words will suffer a special kind of torment when God pours out His wrath.
Finally, the judgment is assured. This is not just a suggestion of a possible outcome or some sort of idle threat. It is in fact a settled matter that their doom is sure. It’s just a matter of time before they are judged by a righteous and holy God for their sins. This black darkness, Peter writes, “has been reserved”. This phrase in Greek is written in the perfect tense and it is passive. In other words, this is a settled matter—it has been done. The reservation has been made and it didn’t have to be guaranteed with a credit card. Further, the false teachers are not the ones who made it. This judgment is something that is going to be done to them. As Psalm 1 says, they will not stand in defiance before the judgment of a holy God who has been offended and blasphemed by their sin.
False teachers, in their greed and rebellion against God, may appear to escape judgment from God. However, as we read this epistle, as well as the whole Bible, we see that God will be vindicated. Sin will be punished and done away with. Evil will not win the day in the end. God will truly be glorified and worshiped by all the saints but the wicked will perish, particularly those who deceive people in the name of God.