Thank you, my dear friend, for this very important question. I say very important because I believe that in these current times, we are seeing much of the apostasy that Peter herein warns us about, the perpetrators of which seek to infect the church and lead many astray. I believe that in order to understand this verse, the second chapter of 2 Peter must be taken in its proper context. In 2 Peter 1, we have a lovely statement of our precious promises through Christ Jesus “that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature…(verses 3-4); and additionally, we see that believers also possess the virtues that should characterize the Christian life (verses 5-8).

Chapter 2 then forms a warning against the insidious forces of evil unbelief which are so apparent in the doctrine of many established churches today, characterized by liberal teaching and the toleration of loose, sinful lifestyles. We find false teachers described in verses 1-3; and in verses 4-8 we see the examples of judgment that has been executed on rebellion in Old Testament times, which should make it clear to all that God can and will severely punish the apostate deceivers of modern times just as surely as He punished such sin in the past. And so, to get right to the verse you have cited, I’ll include both verses 9 and 10: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.”  Thus, Peter, in these verses is describing the sure judgments of God which will come down upon these false teachers and hypocrites, despite the fact that they claim to the world to be true hearted Christians. These folks speak against authority in a way that even angels will not do (Jude 9), and they would dare to interpret Scriptures in a way that relaxes any moral restraints. Their teachings may use Scriptures, but only in such a way as to deceive others as to their true intent, and they actually deny basic Bible truth and morality; however, God knows His own, and God is well able to deliver His own from their pernicious lies, and to separate out the deceivers for the punishment that they so richly deserve.

William MacDonald in his commentary on verses 9 and 10 says: “The conclusion is that the Lord knows how to deliver the godly and to punish the ungodly. He can rescue His people from trial, and at the same time reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment. The wicked are reserved for hell (v. 9) and hell for the wicked (v. 17). By way of contrast, an inheritance is reserved for believers, and they are kept for the inheritance (1 Pet. 1:4, 5)…2:10 God’s ability to keep wicked men under restraints until their final trial is especially true of the class of people described in this chapter-false teachers whose lives are contaminated by sexual uncleanness, who advocate rebellion against governmental authority, and who boldly hurl insults at high officials.” This all sounds quite a bit like our present day, wouldn’t you say?

But, again, the Lord knows how to deliver His own from such apostasy. Still, this chapter should serve as a warning to Christians that we should be on our guard against false teaching. We should be like the Bereans who “…searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11). In 2 Timothy 2:15-19 we are charged to study the Scriptures, and then we read: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,” (verse 19).

My dear friend, you might be wondering how true believers can stand before the powerful deceptions of our great adversary Satan. Well, the Lord is there to help us. Satan, like a hungry lion, is always seeking to devour us (see 1 Peter 5:8), and he can at times appear like “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14); however, the Lord has given us the Holy Spirit who not only indwells us but is here to teach us all things (John 14:26). He has also given us learned brothers in Christ Jesus, who “watch for our souls” (1 Peter 5:2-3; Hebrews 13:17), and these “elders” are there to help to bar from the assembly the evil of those bringing false doctrines and ungodly teachings (Titus 1:9). But rest assured, the fake teachers and preachers of this world do not fool the Lord, and they will be held accountable for their lies and deceptions in due time. Those of us who call upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart will be   delivered, because the Lord knows how to take care of His own, and to keep us from falling (Jude 24-25). (SF)  (578.2)