“These [false prophets] are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:17–19, NASB95)
The danger of false teachers is a big deal. The words that Peter has used concerning them and that he will use in the next verses makes this fact quite clear. The damage that comes to people who are swayed by their enticements is vast. When people disconnect from truth and align themselves with their falsehoods the doors to destruction swing wide open.
Peter calls them “springs [or wells] without water.” Think about the huge disappointment that a thirsty traveler would have when finally arriving at a long awaited and greatly thirsted after well, only to find that it had gone dry. That’s how empty the false teacher’s words are and how disappointing the outcome when someone winds up at the end of their path and finds out just how wrong their journey had been. They have no spiritual water to give to the thirsty soul. Jesus Himself declared that there is only one well from which we can drink to receive living water. This is what He told the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13–14, NASB95) False prophets can’t give this. Their well is empty and their water is worthless.
He also called them “mists driven by a storm.” While portions of Texas are currently undergoing flooding because of the huge amount of water dumped on them by a storm, our part of the country is buried under clouds of smoke with nothing to offer in the way of water to put out the raging fires. I think of this last picture as our skies are darkened and the sun is occluded by the smoke and think about just how empty the promises are of these well-spoken false teachers that have been so prevalent throughout time and even today. They mask the truth and darken the eyes of their hearers as they are swallowed up by their words of allurement. They might offer freedom from oppression, acceptance of their aberrance, or offers of opportunity and prosperity. There is no limit to which these evil teachers will go as they seek followers who will forward their own vain desires.
These false prophets offer refreshment that people might enjoy for a season, but the end when their storm has passed is ultimate darkness. Peter said that the “black darkness” has been reserved for them. Jude said of them, “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 12–13, NASB95) Jesus described this black darkness using the same description three times, saying, “but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12, NASB95; see also Matthew 22:13; 25:30) He also described it as “the fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:42) or simply that place where there would be that same weeping and gnashing of teeth. Looking to the rest of Scripture we see that the place reserved for these false teachers in none other than hell. And, the book of Revelation tells us their certain end. “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” … “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:10, 14–15, NASB95)
These false teachers are a big deal and we need to be on guard against them. God has given us a measuring stick and that stick is His Word. He has also given us the only way and that way is in His Son. Anyone who strays from the Word and preaches anyone or anything other than Christ is not to be listened to. It doesn’t matter how good what they have to say might sound. It doesn’t matter if they are playing to our greatest fleshly desire. It doesn’t matter at all what they offer or how polished they seem. If it is not the truth of God’s Word and it is not centered in salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ we need to close our ears and turn them away. They are not from God, and their end is judgment lest they also hear the truth and believe.
These evil men prey especially on weak people. They go after those with anxiety and offer peace. They go after those with broken lives and offer family. And they go after those estranged and offer acceptance. Their bait is effective as they go after people looking for an escape or release from their past and a new beginning. And, those who are snared, having thought they had finally escaped, eventually find that they had only been trapped again. The weakness that was used to lure them in, becomes the chain that keeps them.
The harsh reality is that these false teachers cannot offer deliverance because they themselves are slaves to the very same corruption from which they seek to offer release. They are in bondage and all that they can offer to those who follow them is the same bondage.
But the great news is that not one of us needs to remain in that bondage. There is hope. There is freedom. It is not found in the ways of the false teacher, but only in the One who came in the fullness of grace and truth. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34–36, NASB95)
Jesus Christ is the One and only Son of God. He is our salvation and freedom. He, being fully God took, on the form of man to give His life for the forgiveness of our sins, and He took it back up again to return to the Father demonstrating His power over death and His ability to give us the life that God promised. All we have to do is turn to Him believing that He is and ask Him to forgive our sins and save us like He promised He would do, and Scripture declares that He will do it.
Jesus also said, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”” (John 8:31–32, NASB95) What the false prophets are unable to do, Jesus has promised to do which is to give us true freedom in His truth.