I received the following question:

2 Peter 2:1,3 talks about swift destruction and destruction that does not slumber.  This makes it seem that judgment is being made on the spot and not a characteristic of the dispensation of grace.  Thoughts?

1. 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. 2. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

A swift destruction does not have to come quickly. Mr. Sellers used the illustration of a man who works for years in a coal mine. Every time he goes into the mine, he is aware that the mine could collapse and bring the mountain down on his head. However, maybe he continues to mine for twenty or thirty years, and the calamity never comes. However, one day such a cave-in does occur, and in a moment he is crushed and his life has ended. That would be a very swift destruction indeed. Yet its swiftness had nothing to do with how long he had been a miner. When he became a miner, he was really setting himself up for the possibility of just such a swift destruction. However, it was only swift with reference to the time when it came about.

I believe that the swift destruction of these men will come about when they are raised from the dead to be judged before the throne of God. This is the time when men are truly destroyed, for the death of the body is not actual destruction. As Christ said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Death is not the same as destruction. Destruction comes at the second death.

Destruction that does not slumber is obviously a poetic image. We might imagine a predator lying awake and yet patiently waiting as his prey wanders around here and there, not seeing him or aware of his presence, until at last it gets just close enough and he strikes. The beginning of their destruction comes upon them when they die the first death in this life, and that is followed by the swift destruction when they are judged and found unworthy in the next life, and so given over to the second death. So the swift destruction and the not slumbering destruction have to do with their coming fate in the time of judgment.

So I do not think that this passage indicates that II Peter could not have been written in the dispensation of grace. The swift destruction he is talking about does not take place in this life, but in the time of judgment to come.

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