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#6 Rescue or Punishment

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RESCUE OR PUNISHMENT

(A Godly People – Series in II Peter)

Westgate Chapel 4/29/01                                        2 Peter 2:1-9

PROPOSITION:  The God who punishes the ungodly also protects and rescues the godly.

I.    INTRODUCTION

-     (Bulletin insert on Bible reading plan)

-     THE apostle Peter writes his second epistle to the churches in Asia Minor because false teachers have infiltrated the church.

-     FALSE teachers that…

*     …distorted and twisted Scripture to suit their own purposes (1:20; 3:16).

*     …lived shameful lifestyles (2:2).

*     … were motivated by greed (2:3).

*     …had eyes full of adultery, and never stop sinning (2:14).

*     …treated sacred and holy things flippantly (2:12).

*     …were arrogant and self-willed (2:10).

*     …mouthed boastful words that seduced baby Christians (2:18).

*     …rejected authority (2:10).

-     AS a result of the influence of these false teachers…

*     The new Christians were becoming confused concerning what was Truth.

*     There was a growing perception in the church that there would be no consequences for how you lived your life.

-     INTERESTING…that is exactly where we are as a culture today.

-     THE words of the apostle Peter from our passage today are rejected out of hand by our society as ignorant, narrow, judgmental, and intolerant.

-     IN fact the majority of American Christians do not believe in what I am going to preach to you today.

*     67% do not believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth.

*     20% believe that viewing pornography is a matter of taste, not morality.

*     30% watch R rated movies.

*     57% believe that Satan is simply a symbol of evil and not a living being.

-     AMERICAN Christianity has created a God more to our liking…one made over in our image.

*     On the Bible He is open to any interpretation.

*     On truth He is flexible.

*     He is so loving that Howard Stern would be welcomed into His heaven.

*     And on consequences He is understanding and forgiving to a fault.

-     SO I have a tough choice today.

-     I COULD tear 2 Peter 2:1-10 out of the Bible and skip over the passage in this series. Some might not even notice the omission. Some would be much more comfortable without this sermon.

-     I COULD allegorize the passage….make it into some sort of symbolism so that its contents would not be so painful.

-     THE problem is that I believe these ten verses are the absolute Truth, with a capital “T.” And because I do I believe that I will be responsible before God for what I tell you about them.

-     I BELIEVE in consequences. I learned that when I was 2 and 3 and 4 years old.

-     SO here it is!

-     THE theme of these ten verses is about consequences…eternal consequences.

II.   the presence of the ungodly

-     AND in these ten verses there are clearly only two kinds of people on the earth by God’s standards…the godly and the ungodly.

-     IN Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13 He identifies the two kinds of people in the world as wheat (godly people) and tares, or weeds (ungodly people).

-     BUT since we can’t always tell the difference, especially in the early stages of growth, Jesus told us not to try and pull the weeds ourselves.

-     IN Matthew 25 Jesus identifies the two kinds of people in the world as sheep and goats….the sheep inherit God’s eternal kingdom, the goats are separated out for eternal punishment.

-     THE first three verses of 2 Peter 2 tell us basically the same thing…that in the world, and even in the church, the godly and the ungodly are present.

-     BOTH blissfully in the church, in the same services, in the same classes, singing the same songs.

-     REMEMBER last Sunday, from the last two verses of 2 Peter 1, the apostle tells us about the wonderful prophets of the Old Testament who were carried along by the Holy Spirit as they wrote Scriptures?

-     NOW the apostle writes,

      “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.” (2 Peter 2:1a)

-     THE false prophets of the Old Testament…

*     Used flattery in their teaching.

*     Were ambitious about their personal finances.

*     Were immoral in their lifestyles.

*     Their consciences were seared.

*     Used deception as their methodology.

-     AND they were “among the people.”

-     THEY looked just like all the other prophets.

-     THEY wore the same prophet’s outfits as the others.

-     THEY used the same language as the other prophets.

-     YOU could find them in the Temple precincts, or the palace, bending the king’s ear, just like Elijah and Jeremiah.

-     THEY were right in the middle of God’s people!

-     EXCEPT….they are not on God’s agenda.

-     AND the apostle Peter tells the new Christians in Asia Minor that in the same way there are false teachers “among you.”

-     THEY are inside the church!

-     PETER says that they…

      “…secretly introduce destructive heresies.” (verse 1)

•     Heresies are teachings that destroy faith, and erode confidence in God and His Word.

•     “Secretly” means slipped in alongside the truth.

      “…denied the sovereign Lord who bought them.” (verse 1)

•     Some spoke derisively about His deity. Others denied His humanity.

      “…(lead other Christians astray with their) shameful ways.” (verse 2)

•     These were the ones who denied Him by how they lived.

      “…brought the way of truth into disrepute.” (verse 2)

•     The unbelieving world was just waiting to make an accusation about the Gospel of Christ…and these people provide the opportunity.

      “…(were) greedy.” (verse 3)

•     They are in it solely for themselves.

      “…exploit you with stories they have made up.” (verse 3)

•     You are simply their mark in a carefull orchestrated con game.

-     THESE are false teachers, false Christians, side-by-side with true Christians in the family of God.

III.  the punishment of the ungodly

-     AND it looks like nothing is being done about it.

-     IT looks like there is no consequence for the way in which they are treating the things of God.

-     THEY appear to be getting away with it.

-     THEY may even have themselves convinced that they are getting away with it….that even God really doesn’t care.

-     MAYBE there is no absolute truth!

-     MAYBE this sin thing is way overblown!

-     MAYBE God really is going to over look sin after all.

-     MAYBE, like the American judicial system today, if you have enough money you can buy an acquittal on any charges and get away with murder.

-     BUT go back to the end of verse 1 and look with me. Peter says these false Christians are,

      “…bringing swift destruction on themselves.”

•     The Greek word translated destruction means “eternal and utter ruin.”

•     Look at who is responsible for the ruin? Not God. Themselves.

-     AT the end of verse 3, Peter says,

      “Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”

•     The Greek word used for condemnation means “a verdict against you.”

•     The coming eternal ruin appeared to be asleep, but it was not….just hanging over them awaiting the coming Day of the Lord.

-     THE words destruction, condemnation, judgment, and punishment are used seven times in ten verses.

-     THEN the apostle appeals to the Old Testament for evidence of the coming destruction of false Christians.

ARGUMENT #1

-     AND he starts with Satan and the angels who rebelled against God.

      “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment.” (verse 4)

 

ARGUMENT #2

-     THEN he moved to the flood.

      “…if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people…” (verse 5)

ARGUMENT #3

-     THEN he moved to Sodom and Gomorrah.

      “…if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes.” (verse 6a)

-     THEN look at what the Holy Spirit wrote through Peter at the end of verse 6,

      “……(God) made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…” (verse 6)

-     THE flood and volcanic ash referenced were natural disasters sent by God to seal the eternal fate of a rebellious and ungodly people…in their death.

-     BUT verse 4 speaks of hell.

-     THE Bible uses four words in the Hebrew and the Greek that get translated “hell” in the English.

-     SINCE this whole passage is about the certainty of God’s punishment on the ungodly, it is important that you know these words.

1.   The Hebrew word, sheol, is the word used for the grave, or death.

2.   The word, hades, is the place of torment that the ungodly are sent to while they await the final judgment seat of Christ (Luke 16).

3.   The word Peter uses in verse 4, tartarao, is the place of torment, the abyss, where fallen angels are being held for the final day of judgment.

4.   And the word, gehenna, is the lake of fire, the place of final punishment for Satan, his angels, and all whose names are not written in Jesus’ Book of Life.

-     LET me read this to you from Revelation 20:11ff,

      “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. (12) And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. (13) The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death (sheol) and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. (14) Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire (gehenna). The lake of fire is the second death. (15) If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

 

 

 

IV. the rescue of the godly

-     PETER has established the pre-amble of his argument concerning God’s punishment of the ungodly, then in verse 9 he moves in to his conclusion,

      “…if this is so (angels in hell, world’s population lost in the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah under volcanic ash), then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.”

-     THE Lord knows how to rescue His people when they face the tests and temptations of life.

-     BACK in verse 5 he rescued Noah and his family from the punishment of the flood….because Noah was man of faith and obedience (he preached and built an ark).

-     IN verse 7 He rescued Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah…because Lot was a man of faith and obedience.

      “He…was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men.” (verse 7)

      “He was…tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.” (verse 8)

-     FOR Noah, God’s plan of rescue came by way of the ark.

-     FOR Lot, God’s plan of rescue came by way of an angel that dragged he and his family from the city before it was engulfed in lava.

-     FOR you and me, God’s plan of escape is by faith in Jesus death and resurrection…and a life of obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit.

      “The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” (verse 9)

v.  conclusion

-     TWO kinds of people….the godly and the ungodly.

-     THEY look alike, dress alike.

-     THEY even fill the pews in the same church together.

-     AND on the surface it looks like there are no consequences for the choices and lifestyles that they live.

-     BUT God…

      “…knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.”

-     THERE will be no dodging the consequences. God Himself will see to that. He promises that in His Word.

-     WHICH kind of people are you?

-     THE day of judgment will come.

-     BUT today is the day of His favor.

-     THIS is the day of His invitation.

-     WHEN Jesus died on the cross He took the judgment of God on Himself for your sin.

-     THERE is a way of escape open to you today.

-     WHY not cross over through faith in Jesus Christ?

-     MAKE your eternity sure today.

-     WHY stay on the road that leads to destruction?

 

 

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