“Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the Day of Judgment,” (2 Peter 2:9)
2 Peter 2:9 is the concluding effect statement in light of three previous cause statements contained in 2 Peter 2:4-8. If the Lord condemned the angels, the ancient world and the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah then, Peter says, this means that the Lord knows how to do two fundamental things.
First, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials. To rescue (ῥύομαι; rhyomai) means to deliver someone from danger with the implication that the danger in question is severe. God rescues the godly. The godly (εὐσεβής; eusebes) are those who are devoted to God in their thinking, their speaking and their living. God rescues to godly from trials. Trials (πειρασμός; peirasmas) are attempts to cause people to sin. They are also known as temptations.
Second, the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the Day of Judgment. To keep (τηρέω; tereo) means to cause to continue or retain. The Lord will keep the unrighteous (ἄδικος; adikos) or the unjust or ungodly under punishment. The phrase under punishment (κολάζω; kolazo) means severe suffering. The Lord will keep the unrighteous under punishment until the concluding Day of Judgment.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Some commentators and most English translations see here a reference to preliminary punishment before the final judgment; this is the most natural reading of the Greek. Oher commentators, including Calvin, understand it as a reference to future punishment or judgment day. Because Peter’s concern in this passage is the certainty of final judgment, the latter seems more appropriate to the argument than the former, though Peter may have both understandings in view.”
Dr. John Walvoord states that, “In 2 Peter 2:9 the point of his words in verses 4–9 unfolds. The Lord knows how to rescue the righteous and to punish the unrighteous. That God can deliver the godly … from trials is a source of comfort to believers, exemplified by Noah and his seven family members and Lot and his wife and daughters. On the other hand God holds (tērein, “keeps under guard”) the unrighteous for the coming Day of Judgment (cf. 3:7), the great white throne judgment and the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11–15). Meanwhile God continues their punishment in this life (cf. Rom. 1:27b) and in hades after death (Luke 16:23). The participle kolazomenous (“punishing, injuring”) is another of Peter’s words that occurs only once in the New Testament.”
This section of Peter’s epistle should give believers great comfort, while at the same time giving unbelievers great fear. The only solution is repentance of one’s sin and personal faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!