The false teachers are proposing doctrines which, though subtly, differ from orthodoxy. In so doing, they malign the truth and will potentially persuade others to follow their sensualities (2.2, 18).
Motivated by their greed (2.3, 14), these antagonists speak falsely and behave unrighteously (2.3). The severity of their sin is likened to that of fallen angels (2.4), Noah’s unrighteous generation (2.5), and Sodom and Gomorrah (2.6-8). With these groups, the antagonists “indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. [They are] daring, self-willed…” (2.10). As destruction came upon all of the above-mentioned groups, so these contemporary false teachers are susceptible to strict judgment.
The false teachers are (inadvertently) leading doctrinally-uneducated saints into error. “. . . having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children” (2.14). They have followed “the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2.15). Furthermore, their speech is seasoned with arrogance, and they tempt these unstable believers with fleshly desires and sensuality (2.18).
The antagonists are enslaved by sin, yet they are offering to weak believers false assurance of freedom from sin’s dominion. “. . . while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2.19).
By accepting the antagonists’ doctrines allowing for licentiousness, the readers are susceptible to a number of harmful behaviors, especially in the enslaving area of sexual immorality.
The readers are said to likely “follow their sensuality” (2.2) and “indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires” (2.10, 18). Furthermore, they are actively persuaded by the antagonists to foster, and even yield to, “fleshly desires, by sensuality” (2.18).
These false teachers are said to be carousing with the readers (2.13). Additionally, the antagonist wishes these steadfast believers to join them in their fleshly indulgences (2.2, 18).
These men derive much of their doctrine by “following after their own lusts” (3.3). This characteristic should not be regarded as strictly sexual. Rather, one’s “lusts” should be associated with one’s natural, fallen cravings—both mental and physical. In this context of “mocking” (3.3), it seems certain that the lusts in view are predominately intellectual and were subsequently verbalized.13
The antagonists exploit other artillery in defense of their false teachings: They appeal to Scripture. Peter writes that “the untaught and unstable distort [parts of Paul’s letters], as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (3.16). It seems they are reading the same Bible as the steadfast believers, but are arriving at quite different conclusions. These “untaught and unstable” persons are not to be equated with a marginal group among Peter’s readers. First, they are spoken of in the third person (“they,” “their”). Second, they are destined for destruction (apwleian), as are the antagonists (2.1, 3, 12; 3.6, 7).
Peter makes known explicitly the false doctrine of the antagonist in 3.2: “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” These false teachers were questioning the second coming of Christ, and the accompanying judgment. This denial, coupled with a view of grace which allows for loose behavior, has led them to practice licentiousness.
If the second coming and accompanying judgment is denied, the wayward believer immediately senses a feeling of freedom—the absence of accountability for one’s behavior. A licentious lifestyle results which indulges all fleshly desires, fueled by insatiable greed.
A group of wayward, licentious believers are introducing heresy by exploiting, enticing, and promising freedom to steadfast believers to accept their theology that; Natural instincts and Scripture (otherwise interpreted) indicate that the Day of the Lord and accompanying judgment are not coming, which will result in carousing with the antagonist, following the sensuality of the antagonist, and indulging their fleshly desires themselves.
10 This activity of the antagonist will be rewarded with “swift destruction” (2.1).
11 This “exploiting” is matched literarily: “their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2.3).
12 Peter immediately refers to these who lead weak ones astray as “accursed children” (2.14).
13 It is highly probable, though not certain, that in Peter’s prohibition of following “cleverly devised tales” (1.16) he was alluding to one source of the antagonists.