THE TEACHINGS OF ST. PETER.
There is no mention of an individual antichrist by this Apostle, but much is said of the evil tendencies which he saw already active. In his first Epistle he speaks fully of the trials and sufferings, present and future, of those to whom he wrote, but very little of false teachers and their heresies. He tells them that though already tried by manifold temptations, there was a time of "fiery trial" yet to come before the glory of the Lord could be revealed. This trial by fire is doubtless the same as that spoken of by St. Paul, when "the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." (1 Cor. iii, 13.) It is the same as the day when the Lord returns "in flaming fire " to punish His enemies, and to be glorified in His saints. (2 Thess. i, 8.) When this shall be, St. Peter does not say, but he says: "The end of all things is at hand." (1 Pet. iv, 7.)
It is to be noted that St. Peter knew through the word of the Lord spoken to him (John xxi, 18) that he himself should not live till His return, but this did not prevent him from warning the disciples to be ever expecting Him and hoping to the end. (2 Peter i, 12—.) He, no more than St. Paul, speaks of a long interval before that revelation, but he knew that, however short the interval, the Church would be subject to manifold temptations through the craft and malice of its great adversary, " walking about as a roaring lion."
It is in his second Epistle that he speaks distinctly of the false teachers who would arise and bring in damnable heresies, whose pernicious ways many would follow. (2 Peter ii, 1—.) He speaks prophetically, yet evidently the present mirrors for him the future. He saw in his own day the germs of the heresies which would ripen into all evil fruits. He describes the leading features of these false teachers and their followers, "walking after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness," despising governments, presumptuous, self-willed, speaking evil of dignities, servants of corruption, though boasters of liberty. He is not speaking of heathen enemies, but of Christians, those who, having " escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour, are again entangled therein and overcome; those who have forsaken the right way, and have turned from the holy commandment delivered unto them." That these are the same as those mentioned by St. Paul (2 Tim. iii, 1—) as "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof," and by St. John as the antichrists who "went out from us," there can be no doubt. That St. Peter expected this apostasy to increase, is plain from his words that there would "come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?" As scoffers and scorners are the ripened tares — the last and highest product of the apostasy —so, on the other hand, there must be the ripened wheat, those " looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God," those " diligent to be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless."
But St. Peter does not speak of any individual as the head of these apostates, or of them as forming an organized body, unless the mention of "false teachers" implies this. As he himself was soon to end his ministry—"knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle" — others whom the Lord would raise up, must be the guides of the Church in the coming days of the great antichristian trial. Both St. Paul and himself had given the churches full warning, and he could therefore say: "Beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware, lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked (riov adeo-finv, the lawless), fall from your own steadfastness."