“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.”
We now turn to the minor key of 2 Peter. A drastic change in tone in Peter’s writing occurs here. Chapter two deals with those who deny the truth found in the Bible, the devil’s leaders. These leaders are religious.
The first three verses give a general description of false prophets and teachers. They are religious teachers in the organized church. Not everyone who claims to be a prophet (2 Pe 1:21) is one. We should not take this incursion into Christianity lightly because it means the very survival of Christianity.
But there were also false prophets among the people
“But” is a right-about-face word and contrasts the authors of Scripture in chapter one (2 Pe 1:21) to the false teachers of chapter two. Scripture is the absolute criterion for determining truth. False prophets attack Scripture itself in this passage.
“Were” means came into being. These false prophets appointed themselves as teachers from God in the nation of Israel during Old Testament times.
“Also” connotes the church as well as Israel. As a national entity, Israel executed false prophets (De 13:1-5). The church, on her part, is to deal decisively with false teaching.
Peter identifies the devil’s leaders as “false prophets.” The term “prophet” is a religious term. “False” indicates that they were counterfeit religious leaders. Peter gives harsh, blunt, and straightforward language in describing these leaders. He minced no words and spared no feelings because of the grave nature of their teaching.
In our society, we give serious alarm about shyster lawyers and quack doctors. Why should we not concern ourselves with shyster religious leaders and quack preachers (Mt 7:15; Ac 20:29,30; 1 Ti 4:1; 1 Jn 2:18,19)? “False teachers” refers to false teachers in Israel (Je 28). The “false prophets” of the Old Testament stand in parallel to heretics of New Testament times.
“Among the people” refers to Israel. “False prophets” came from inside the community of the church.
Fakers will always intrude into and invade Christendom.
Where we find wheat, we will also find tears. Where we find the genuine, we will find the imitation. Where we find the real thing, we will find the counterfeit. In no area is this truer than in Christianity. God’s people are so gullible that they believe almost anything they hear as long as the preacher is religious.
We find counterfeits throughout Christendom. This does not mean that true Christianity is a hoax. It indicates that there are phonies within Christendom, not Christianity. As there are shyster lawyers, so there are phony preachers. Just because there are shyster lawyers, this does not mean all lawyers are shysters (all current jokes notwithstanding).
Attacking Christianity from without is not nearly as dangerous as an attack from within (Ac 20:29,30; 1 Jn 2:18,19). Apostates were already in the church in the first century.