Peter wrote a second epistle to the five Roman provinces (2Peter 3:1; cf. 1Peter 1:1), and it was to be his final words to them, for Peter claimed his death was near (2Peter 1:14). In this epistle Peter lashed out at the false teachers that had arisen within the churches of God (2Peter 2:1). He wrote as though this particular event was yet future “there shall be,” but he was merely reiterating an earlier prophecy (2Peter 3:2). This prophecy, of course, was true, because Peter claimed these imposters were already feasting with the children of God and were unafraid to do so (2Peter 2:12-13).
I have been claiming that the general epistles (James, Peters two epistles, and John’s three, and Jude’s epistle were all written to counter an organized effort on the part of Annas, the high priest in Jerusalem. This second epistle was probably written shortly before the time of Nero’s persecution, in which both Peter and Paul were executed. Peter tells us that he is about to be “offered” in the manner in which Jesus had predicted. This doesn’t necessarily mean Nero had begun to persecute the church, but it does show us Peter was aware his own death was near. Nero was the first Roman emperor to shed the blood of Jesus’ disciples. Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius before him did not do so. Every persecution up to the time of Peter’s second epistle had been carried out by Annas, the high priest in Jerusalem, and Annas had great influence with the emperors, soit is quite possible he had inspired Nero’s persecution.
In any case, the organized effort to destroy or control Messianic believers in Asia Minor was not through the hand of Nero but due to the influence of Annas, whose hatred for the Messianic sect had begun with his efforts to crucify Jesus. Peter was writing to these churches to counter a threat by authorities in Jerusalem, not Rome. Rome didn’t persecute by sending in false teachers in an effort to corrupt current doctrine and bring believers in Jesus into subjection. Notice how Peter describes them:
2 Peter 2:15 KJV Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
I’m sure we can all recall the story of Balaam who taught the Israelites to sin against God, and in this way he could get God to pass judgment upon them. For doing so, he received the wages of unrighteousness (gold) from Balak, the King of Moab. That effort to destroy God’s people was an organized effort in the time of Moses, and it was no less so at the time of Peter’s epistles in the first century AD. It simply isn’t logical for all the churches of God in Asia Minor to undergo the very same trials at the same time, without such and effort being planned and executed by a common source.
Some Jewish pilgrims who came to Jerusalem on pilgrimages had ties with Annas, the high priest. Some of them had also believed in Jesus or had pretended to be believers. Remember, Annas had had been planting false brethren in the church of God from the time of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1; cf. Acts 5:13). Paul often spoke of these false brethren (Galatians 2:4; 5:10-12; Acts 20:30; 2Corinthians 11:13, 26; 2Timothy 3:16). If the number of false brethren was small who had crept into the body of believers in various parts of the empire, I don’t believe they would have been mentioned as they are. These men were trusted by all before the plot was executed. Key men troubled Paul throughout his ministry, but the final effort to destroy the churches of God near the end of the apostles’ lives was conducted by the will of and financed by Annas, the high priest in Jerusalem.
They brought in heresies that denied the Lord (2Peter 2:1), scoffing at the idea that Jesus is the Messiah by asking “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2Peter 3:3-4). The idea here is that the Messiah was to bring peace to the Jews and save his people from the slavery to nations like Rome. They claimed that all things continued, as they had always been, even from ancient times when the nations began to trouble Israel. Therefore, how could Jesus be the Messiah, if Rome ruled over God’s people, the Jews? Nevertheless, Peter claimed that these men were “willingly ignorant” (2Peter 3:5). Such were “natural brute beasts… whose eyes were full of adultery” (2Peter 2:12, 14). Their hearts were filled with the lust for rewards this life has to offer, and their message promised the same to others (2Peter 2:2-3, 19). However, it was all a lie, because they were the servants of corruption, and those who believed them were brought under the same judgment (2Peter 2:19-22).
Peter ended his letter showing that the problem or trial the churches of God were experiencing was one of false teachers, whose efforts were bent on destroying or controlling God’s heritage. They twisted the Scriptures, including Paul’s letters to their own advantage (2Peter 3:14-16), thus showing this persecution was not from Rome, but organized by the authorities in Jerusalem—even at the hand of Annas, the high priest.