the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise dominions. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a reviling judgment upon them before the Lord.
(Revised Standard Version)
then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the Day of Judgment, especially those who walk after the flesh in pursuit of unclean desires, and despise authority. They are presumptuous and arrogant, and are not afraid to slander the angelic beings. Whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring slanderous accusations against them before the Lord.
(Modern English Version)
-2 Peter 2:9-11
The key word in this passage is the word translated variously as "government," "authority," "dominions." To help us see exactly to what authority we are addressing here, we need to compare a similar usage in another epistle given primarily for Jewish believers, the Book of Jude. But first let's look at a couple of other English translations of 2 Peter 2:10.
This is especially true for those who follow after the corrupt cravings of the sinful nature and defy the Lord’s authority.
(Common English Bible)
These false teachers are bold and arrogant, and show no respect for the glorious beings above; instead, they insult them.
(Good News Translation)
We start to see the problem.
for by him [the Son] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
So, Christ is the Creator and one who is superior to "all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named..." Christ is separate from his creation (superior), therefore, the "dominions" must be separate from Christ. We may be able to rule out the translation, "the Lord's authority" used in the Common English Bible and a few other translations.
Of course, the same word can have multiple meanings, so we can't always be definitive on usage. However, when we turn to Jude, we get almost the same exact wording as we have in 2 Peter,
Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
Peter: them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise dominions. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Jude: these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities
The "unclean" and "filthy dreamers" who function in the "flesh" are the subject of both passages. Peter mentions Sodom and Gomorrah in 2 Peter 2:6 as does Jude in Jude 1:7. We turn to the Lord's earthly ministry to Israel in Matthew to hopefully spread some more light concerning the people in view in Peter and Jude.
“Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily (great emphasis) I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city”
We are looking at a future judgment for those who reject the truth. Peter speaks of the future judgement as well ("the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment..."). Sodom had no respect for the angels that were sent there to warn Lot and his family. They were so given to the flesh, they could understand nothing else.
And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground... But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: and they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, and said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.
Turning back to Peter's teaching, we see in verse 1 of 2 Peter 2:
But there were false prophets also among the people [in the past], even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
"The people" here is Israel. The Lord "bought" Israel. It is his possession. The Old Covenant was conditional upon keeping the commandments.
Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine.
Ex 19:5 (Revised Standard Version)
In the sacrifice of the Messiah (the Christ), Israel was a purchased possession. The offer of the restoration of the Kingdom to "Ye Men of Israel" in Acts 3 (and the promise of the Lord to restore the Kingdom in Israel from Acts 1) is national, yet individual position is not. This is where we need to understand the different judgments seen in the gospels and Acts age. "Son" and "Servants" may be tossed out into darkness. They may lose reward. They may lose privilege. But the nation, in one form or another, will be restored according to the promises to her in the New Covenant (Jer 33; Heb 8; etc.).
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
These are greedy men who will use smooth and complimentary words to woo their listeners. They are clever speakers. Peter says they will bring in their errors "secretly." We think of Paul's warning in 2 Cor 11 of Satan and his ministers. Satan presents himself as an "angel of light" and his ministers are "the minsters of righteousness." They will appeal to a combination of the flesh and a false spirituality. We see much of this sort of thing in chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation.
Those who follow these false apostles of the flesh into carnality in the name of righteousness are also those who, like those in Sodom, will despise even the angels sent to protect Israel. They speak evil of any form of restraint on their carnality, whether offered by men or angels.
This passage does not teach that we should never criticize any level of leadership. The context itself is calling out and condemning "false apostles." That is, it is exposing those who have title and position. It is no sin to expose a pastor who embezzles or who preaches licentiousness. It is especially important to expose and call out those in leadership who call evil good and good evil.
Israel's prophet Isaiah warned the people:
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes,
and prudent in their own sight!
Isaiah is speaking to those who corrupt his people and to the people who are readily corrupted. It is both of these groups which "despise authority," They do not despise all authority, they despise the authority of God and of his Word.
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith.
preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
But these [filthy dreamers] speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withers, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
These cannot see spiritual truths. That is, they cannot perceive things biblically (or refuse to do so). This failure is caused by their reliance on the flesh and on human reasoning. A form of them is among us as their counterparts were among Israel and among the Acts Age churches. Again, we note that we see these people in the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 in the coming Tribulation (time of Jacob's Trouble).
- The one who is trusting that he can please God in rituals, hates the gospel of the free grace of God.
- The one who likes outward acts of religious piety, hates the simplicity of private worship.
- The one who adores systems, leaders, and public virtue, hates the idea of judgment of individuals.
But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
This man was a believer. However, like another believer, Judas, he was controlled by the flesh. He was greedy for both wealth and fame. We see that we do not shed the old nature until resurrection. We each carry about the old nature. It is this nature which is prone to speak evil and pursue glory.
Such men are wiling either to speak evil of dignities, or to fawn upon them, as it suits their base interests. The Christian, on the other hand, should be able to “talk with crowds” and yet keep his virtue, and “walk with kings” without losing the common touch. We must also remember that, because we own no man as Lord, and all our service is rendered in the name of the Lord Jesus, this does not mean that we may demonstrate our liberty by being discourteous or uncouth. If we are to follow the teaching of Scripture, we must “render to all their dues”.
-The Berean Expositor [excerpt], Vol. 29
The Lord warned those who would not listen to the Apostles (who were commissioned to Israel alone).
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.... Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily (great emphasis) I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city”
Note the reference again to Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom rejected the family of the great Patriarch, Abraham, and the angelic messengers of God. And here in Matthew 10 it is used as a comparative for those who hear the direct preaching of the Kingdom in Israel from the chosen Apostles of the Lamb. The judgment of that "house" or "city" will be worse somehow.
Putting all this together, in context of the Lord's warnings to those receiving the message of the Kingdom and the calling of Peter and the Apostle's whose names shall be on the New Jerusalem along with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, we see a warning to, I believe, Israel.
In light of the purchase of the nation by the blood of the Lamb, the offer of the Kingdom by the Messiah and his chosen Apostles, and the abundance witness of scripture, those speaking evil of God's messengers are those who walk according to the flesh despite all they know and are taught.
We close by posting a larger section of Jude in this context.
I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt [Israel], afterward destroyed them [of Israel] that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. 12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withers, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever (for the age).
We cannot be blasé with these words from Jude. The references here are to Cain who betrayed his brother, Balaam who sold his office of prophet to Israel, Core (Korah) opposed the leadership of Moses and Aaron (the Law and the priesthood in Israel). As noted, Sodom sought to assault Lot's angelic guests. Peter refers to Lot as "righteous Lot" (2 Peter 2:7) despite his outward appearance.
We see the warning of "darkness" and we think of the Lord's reference to the "outer darkness" in the gospels. There, He uses that warning to refer to "sons" and "servants." This is all part of Kingdom, Israel, Covenant truth. It involves a future age.
While we are not the subject of these warnings, we can still glean truth in our calling. We should not speak ill of our messenger, Paul. And when dealing with Satan and/or Satan's ministers, we must not be flippant. We show them no honor, but we, as Michael, should simply rebuke them in the name of truth.