The question seems ludicrous at first glance, but some suggest 2 Peter 2:1 teaches an unlimited atonement incorporating these deceivers.
The text reads, “But false prophets also arose among the people just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
First, we note Peter’s comparison between false prophets of old and contemporary false teachers. The problem addressed by the apostle Peter has long been with God’s people and will remain a problem until Christ’s return (2 Thess 2).
Second, the work of false teachers is to subtly introduce wrong ideas that threaten to assimilate into the belief statement of the church.
Third, we have an example of the problem right here in 2 Peter 2:1. The false teacher, today, promotes the idea that false teachers are redeemed by the blood of Christ in a universal atonement. Did Jesus Christ shed His blood for the forgiveness of the sins of those who are sworn enemies of the cross? Even to their deaths? Is Jesus the One who bought these wicked men for a price, to be members of His body, His church, the Israel of God?
Option #1 — Satan the Despot
The Greek word translated, “master” is δεσποτην, meaning “master of the house” from which we get our English word “despot” and its negative connotation of a tyrant. It is not κυριος, meaning “Lord.” In this optional interpretation, we must conclude that Peter’s reference is not Jesus Christ, who bought His chosen people with His blood on the cross (Rom 5:8; 11:5; 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 1:19; 3:18). So who bought these deceivers filled with the spirit of antichrist?
The despot is not named, but the treachery of the false teacher toward the despot is true, even as his deplorable teaching denies Christ. The false teacher denies Satan (the master who bought the false teacher) as a slave owner (Rom 6:6). Satan is a viable option for the meaning of “despot” in this context. The point is that these slaves of Satan deny their own master, Satan, while serving him who is their benefactor.
Option #2 — Christ the Despot
Deuteronomy 32:6 appears to be the reference Peter is alluding to, in his writing to the churches of northern Turkey.
In the song of Moses, following the exodus from Egypt, Moses exposes the rebels in the midst of the Israelite nation. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram are named examples of men who were a party to those “bought” by Yahweh, who was like a Father to Israel in the exodus event. God was like a father to these men like Abraham was a good father to reprobate Ishmael.
In this optional interpretation, God has made provision for those who are in the household of Adam (humanity). This is His providential care over all things, for which His enemies are beneficiaries. It is treacherous to receive goodness from God, even the kindness of a good father, while undermining Him with words and deeds.
We are challenged by the right interpretation of “master” and we have looked at two options (Christ vs. Satan) for the meaning of the word.
Being a member of the visible church, tasting the good things of God, and partaking in the experiential work of the Holy Spirit in the community of faith does not make one elect (Heb 6:4–6). Esau was born to Isaac, the believer, but God hated Esau from his mother’s womb (Rom 9:9–13). God’s purpose in election is highlighted in this passage (Rom 9:11). The doctrine of atonement must remain aligned with the doctrine of election in order to avoid the false teaching of God turning His sovereignty in salvation over to sinners, spiritually dead in their sin (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1–3).
In conclusion, it is an error to suggest a universal atonement, incorporating the opponents of Christ and His church from 2 Peter 2:1. These Jewish false teachers were citizens in the commonwealth of Israel, but they were not bought with the precious blood of Christ, for the wrath of God remained against them (Rom 1:18) and the judgment day is coming soon for all, like them, who operate outside of Christ (1 Thess 4:13–5:11; Rev 19:11–21). If they had been purchased with Christ’s blood redemption, then their sins would be forgiven and there would now be no condemnation for them (Rom 8:1; Eph 1:7). However, Jesus called their like…children of the devil (Jn 8:44; 1 Jn 3:10).
Final assessment: Christ as despot in this passage only can apply in a generic provisional sense (care for the reprobate within the house). Satan as despot in this passage puts the emphasis on the wretched nature of the false teachers who deny their master, who is the devil, who would applaud their denial of him as their master, despite his control over them. They are just like him. Therefore, it is for the reader to decide who the master is in 2 Pet 2:1. In either case, the status of the false teacher and prophet remains unfavorable.
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 25, 2022