I’ll have to back track just a little because Peter jumps from making sure that we know that there will be a judgment for unrighteous people to some specifics about their behavior. He lists two general categories, following the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and those who despise authority. He expands on the second, despising authority, first.
These are false teachers who people think they have it all figured out but don’t really understand spiritual things. If they did, they wouldn’t be so bold or arrogant. They have their own understanding of the structure of spiritual authority. According to the Holy Spirit, who is speaking the word of God through Peter, they are way off base.
The celestial beings that these men slander are not the angles or God Himself. Peter makes that clear. That leaves only the forces of evil that they slander. Paul gives us a hint of their authority structure. Eph 6:12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (RSV) They have principalities. The Encarta Dictionary is quite helpful. It says, “The position or jurisdiction of a prince.” So the forces of evil are structured with rulers implying that there are a bunch of dukes and lower officials followed up by the peons who do all the dirty work. The Encarta Dictionary also defines principality as, “Christianity an angel of the third of the nine orders of angels in the traditional Christian hierarchy.” Don’t ask me where they came up with this tradition but it fits with the concept.
Another thing to remember is that these beings have access to God. Rev 12:9-10 says that Satan finally gets tossed out of heaven but it also says that he accuses the saints before God day and night. The book of Job confirms that Satan not only has access to God but that he is free to visit earth. Job 1:7 The Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the Lord, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." (NIV) The book of Job verifies that Satan has no power except that which God allows.
This is also demonstrated in 1 Kings 22:19-24. The prophet Micaiah relates his vision in which God is seated before the heavenly hosts. Some are on the left and others on the right. God asks for someone to entice Ahab. One spirit comes and says he will be a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets. God sends him to do it. The false prophet, Zedekiah, has no clue that his prophecies are from an evil being.
This glimpse into the heavenly realms is a key to what Peter is talking about. Examine 1 Kings 22:22. And the Lord said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so.’ (RSV) God’s sovereignty is evident in His command to the evil spirit. If a person starts ranting and raving against spiritual beings, telling them what to do and where to go and calling them names (you can see some of this on TV,) then there is a risk that he is actually countermanding the will of God.
Take David’s example when he was fleeing from Jerusalem. Shimei cursed David and threw rocks and dirt at him. When David’s bodyguard wanted to kill Shimei, David didn’t let him. 2 Sam 16:10 But the king said, "What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, 'Curse David,' who can ask, 'Why do you do this?'" (NIV) Now Shimei was not a celestial being but David recognized that this could have been from the Lord. Are we so confident that we know the mind of the Lord that we can go around commanding each and every spirit what to do?
There are several examples in the Bible that allow us to take command over evil spirits. I won’t talk about Jesus because He knew the perfect will of the Father. However, He did say those who believe would drive out demons (Mark 16:17). He also said in the following verse that we would pick up snakes, drink deadly poison without harm, and place our hands on the sick and heal them. Certainly the book of Acts records many demons being cast out. Does this mean that every person will do these things? I don’t think so and I’m not going to tempt God by drinking poison to prove that I believe and I’m going to be careful about what I say to spirits also.
If I see a person whom I suspect is demon possessed, will I attempt to cast out the demon? I guess that depends on how the Holy Spirit moves me at the time. What if that demon has been allowed to bring that person to repentance (1 Cor 5:1-5) and I cast it out before it has been allowed to do its work? Am I not thwarting the hand of God? If I do decide to do something, then I need to take these passages to heart and do it with respect to authority and not slander the demon.
Jude tells exactly how to do it as he uses some of the same words as Peter. Jude 8-9 In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (NIV)
What did I lean from all of this?
- There are spiritual battles and forces in the heavenly realms which are far beyond my understanding.
- People who venture into them with the wrong attitude are going to end up getting burned.
- God is sovereign, even over these forces.
- If I should not slander these beings, then how much more should I be careful talking about the ones they control – like leaders of nations.