“then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.” (2 Peter 2:9–10, ESV)
When I was a boy, my brother and I worked during the summer picking raspberries. The owner of the farm paid us six-cents a pint. We could normally pick about two-dozen pints in a day so that would add up to a whopping $1.44 per day. Well, it was some spending money, back in the early 60’s. One of the things that the owner of the farm insisted was that every raspberry in the pint was good. He would randomly select one pint from each flat of twelve and dump the contents out. If he discovered one bad raspberry, he would discard the pint and have us go through each one again to ensure they all were good.
He had taught us how to tell if one was good or not. Each raspberry had to be ripe, not rotten, and fully formed. He was an expert on this and had a knack for finding the bad pints. When we went through the flat of berries again, we were to throw out the bad ones and keep only the good. In essence, we were the judges of each one.
It is interesting that the verb to judge in the New Testament refers to distinguishing. It is to distinguish between the good and the bad, separating the two. Peter wrote about three examples where God distinguished between the godly and the ungodly and separating them. He wrote of the angels that rebelled against God and how God separated them for judgment. He wrote about Noah, a righteous man, and how he separated him and seven others from the ungodly when he destroyed the ungodly with the flood. He also gave the example of the angels separating Lot and his family from the immoral of the city before destroying the ungodly and the city.
Here, Peter gives a grand conclusion. First, God knows how to perfectly identify the godly and the ungodly. Moreover, God knows how to rescue and protect the godly from the peril of judgment, and He knows how “to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.”
True believers do not have to fear the coming judgment of the unrighteous. The reason is that the believers have been declared as righteous by having faith in Jesus Christ. There is no condemnation for those in Christ (Rom 8:1). God’s protective hand is upon every true believer. Yet, this protection of God is not for the ungodly and unrepentant, the unbelievers. For them, they are separated for the day of judgment.
It is very interesting that Peter went on to write in verse-ten, “especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.” There is a special way in which God reserves judgment for the false teachers who pursue their own fleshly lusts. They do so by perverting the truth of the Lord’s word , thus despising His authority, in order to lure the unsuspecting into their heresy. The day of judgment will come for these.