2 Peter 2:20 For if, after they have escaped (AAPMPN) the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in (APPMPN) them and are overcome (3PPPI) the last state has become (3SRAI) worse for them than the first. (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: ei gar apophugontes (AAPMPN) ta miasmata tou kosmou en epignosei tou kuriou [hemon] kai soteros Iesou Christou toutois de palin emplakentes (APPMPN) hettontai, (3PPPI) gegonen (3SRAI) autois ta eschata cheirona ton proton
Amplified: For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through [the full, personal] knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they again become entangled in them and are overcome, their last condition is worse [for them] than the first. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NET: For if after they have escaped the filthy things of the world through the rich knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they again get entangled in them and succumb to them, their last state has become worse for them than their first. (NET Bible)
NLT: And when people escape from the wicked ways of the world by learning about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up with sin and become its slave again, they are worse off than before. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: If men have escaped from the world's contaminations through knowing our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, and then become entangled and defeated all over again, their last position is far worse than their first. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: For if, having escaped the pollutions of the world by an experiential knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in these moreover again being entangled, they have been overcome with the result that they are in a state of subjugation, the last things have become to them worse than the first ones (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: for, if having escaped from the pollutions of the world, in the acknowledging of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and by these again being entangled, they have been overcome, become to them hath the last things worse than the first,
|FOR IF AFTER THEY HAVE ESCAPED: ei gar apophugontes (AAPMPN): (Mt 12:43, 44, 45; Lk 11:24, 25, 26; Heb 6:4, 5, 6, 7, 8; 10:26,27)
For - term of explanation. What is Peter explaining?
If is a first class conditional clause and assumes that the following statement ("have escaped") is true. Who are "they"? This is variously interpreted as either the false teachers or their victims, but the proximity to the false teachers in (2Pe 2:19) makes them the most natural antecedent of "they".
Furthermore, the teachers are the main subject of the whole chapter. Finally, in (2Pe 2:1- note) we see that the false teachers are described as continually denying their Master, Jesus Christ. It seems therefore most fitting that Peter is referring here to the false teachers who were not far from the kingdom of God but who did not obey the truth they knew and so were still under the wrath of God (Jn 3:36-note).
So clearly they are unbelievers even though they had a clear knowledge of the Way of salvation. They may have for a time "escaped the defilements" but they were never saved and thus this passage is not a proof text that one can use to support the false teaching that a person can lose their salvation. This passage emphasizes the importance of interpreting Scripture in its proper context and not just from a verse in a vacuum. If one looks carefully at the behavior of these men in the preceding description, it is clear that they repeatedly demonstrated a lifestyle diametrically opposed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Escaped (668) (apopheugo from from apo = marker of dissociation implying a rupture from a former association + pheugo = run away, seek safety by flight) means to escape completely, flee away from. (Used only in 2Peter - 2 Pet. 1:4; 2:18, 20)
The aorist tense indicates that this escape was an actual event at some time in the past. At some point in time, these false teachers and their followers wanted to escape the moral contamination of the world system and sought religion, even Jesus Christ (on their terms though, not His).
These false teachers had never genuinely been converted to Christ. They heard the true gospel and moved toward it, but then rejected the Christ of that gospel. This is a picture of apostasy like that described in (He 10:26, 27-notes v26; 27). It is interesting that Peter did not use the perfect tense for escaped, which would have indicated this was their permanent condition. These men were never saved, period. Their greater accountability will warrant their being cast into the deepest darkness.
THE DEFILEMENTS OF THE WORLD BY THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST: ta miasmata tou kosmou en epignosei tou kuriou (hemon) kai soteros Iesou Christou:
Defilements (3393) ("pollutions", "filthy things", "contaminations", "world's filth") (miasma see study of related word miasmos) describes the state of being tainted or stained by evil and refers to ‘impurity, impure, tainted, defilement, foulness or pollution.' Miasma is the resulting state.
This is the only NT use of miasma but there are 3 uses in the Septuagint - Lev. 7:18; Jer. 32:34; Ezek. 33:31.
Miasma then has the idea of putrid or poisonous vapors. Morally, the world gives off a deadly influence. Josephus uses miasma to describe the condition of Jerusalem just prior to its sacking by the Romans (70AD)
Thayer defines as miasma
As Calvin phrases it,
Defilement refers to what is on the outside. But true believers have
Corruption is much deeper than defilement on the outside: it is decay on the inside. True believers have received a new nature, a divine nature, and they have new and different appetites and desires. They have been transformed from pigs and dogs into sheep!
World (2889) (kosmos - "cosmopolitan") refers in this context to the corrupt world system of evil of which Satan is the head, all unsaved people his servants, together with the pursuits, pleasure, purposes, people, and places where God is not wanted and the inhabitants are living (and since the garden have always lived) alienated and apart from God.
Adam Clarke has this vivid description of the defilements of the world
Knowledge (1922) (epignosis from gnosis = knowledge gained by experience + epi = direction toward or intensification of the gnosis) (4 of 20 NT uses are in 2Peter - see below) means a full, precise knowledge thus signifying a more complete, more thorough, larger knowledge than that found in gnosis.
Here are the 20 uses of epignosis in the NT - Rom. 1:28; 3:20; 10:2; Eph. 1:17; 4:13; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:9, 10; 2:2; 3:10; 1Tim. 2:4; 2Tim. 2:25; 3:7; Titus 1:1; Philemon 1:6; Heb. 10:26; 2 Pet. 1:2, 3, 8; 2:20
Epignosis also implies a more intimate and personal relationship than gnosis. The learner exhibits a more thorough participation in the acquiring of knowledge. In the NT epignosis often refers to knowledge which should influence one's spiritual conduct in contrast to gnosis which Vincent says
Epignosis is a knowledge that speaks of personal involvement. Peter's point is quite clear - he is saying that these individuals had experienced an intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ, and that knowledge included the truth about His being "Lord" (kurios - Master, Ruler, Absolute ownership, total power, supreme in authority) and "Savior" (Soter - Deliverer, Preserver, Protector, Healer Who rescues from danger or destruction and brings into a state of prosperity and blessedness). But knowledge alone, even the more intimate knowledge of epignosis, does not save a person, although it will make them more accountable at the judgment of unbelievers. For epignosis to be of any spiritual value, there must be a heart submission to that knowledge and a conduct which is in accord with that yieldedness.
As Paul says
Anything less is an eternally deadly self-delusion.
Wiersbe - Sinful tendencies do not disappear when a person reforms; they merely hibernate and get stronger. Holiness is not simply refusing to do evil things, for even unsaved people can practice self-control. True holiness is more than conquering temptation: it is conquering even the desire to disobey God.
Matthew Henry comments on the effect of "knowledge" on these men
THEY ARE AGAIN ENTANGLED IN THEM AND ARE OVERCOME: toutois de palin emplakentes (APPMPN) hettontai (3PPPI):
By using the word again (palin = back, back again, again -- implying a return back to a former place, state or act) Peter implies that they actually do return to a former place of defilement by the world (cf with picture in 2 Peter 2:22 [note])
The verb entangled is in the aorist tense indicating an actual event or act. They really did go "backward" rather than "forward" so to speak.
Entangled (1707) (empleko from en = in + pléko = tie, braid, twist - pléko is used of the Roman soldiers "weaving a crown of thorns" to mock Jesus in Mt 27:29) means in general to interconnect closely and so to wrap or twist together and thus entwine, intertwine, braid, entangle and finally to be caught in. Figuratively empleko means to become involved in an activity to the point of interference with other activities or objectives.
BDAG's lexicon has a picturesque definition of empleko stating that it means
The picture of a sheep whose wool has been caught in thorns illustrates the difference between involvement and entanglement - one is entangled when he is not free to get loose! When the affairs of this life hem us in so tightly that we can't get loose to fulfill our Captain's commands then we have become entangled in the "thorns" of non-eternal pursuits. The world's pleasures can easily entwine us especially in hedonistic America!
Empleko refers to the act of getting so involved in something that one becomes restricted and controlled, no longer free to do what one should do.
Liddell and Scott write that empleko was used in secular writing meaning...
Empleko is used only once in the (non-apocryphal) LXX in Proverbs where the translation of the Greek is
In the present context, Peter pictures these individuals as intertwined and intimately blended with the defilements of the world, hopelessly trapped like fish within a net. So this is not a picture of accidental or subtle touching but an intimate interweaving with the forces of this world that bring about spiritual pollution of one's soul and which makes separation difficult.
The picture of this verb is to be so involved as to experience severe restrictions as to what one can do. Paul reminded Timothy that
Entanglement disables one's freedom to function.
Spurgeon - If you go down to destruction from the borders of salvation, it will be sevenfold destruction. If you die with Jesus weeping over you, as he did over Jerusalem, you will die horribly. If you sink down to hell with that word in your ears, "How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not" (Mt 23:37), your sinking will be like that of a millstone in the sea. If you perish under a gospel ministry, it were better for you that you had never been born. (2 Peter 2:21 Comment)
A C Gaebelein - Does this mean that these persons were at one time really begotten again, having received life and the Holy Spirit by trusting on Christ? These false teachers certainly were never born again; the description which we have of them is the proof of it. The last verse of this chapter gives the conclusive evidence. Believers, true Christians, are never compared to dogs or swine; they are the sheep of His flock. A sheep cannot be transformed into a dog or a swine, nor will a sheep do what a dog or a swine does. They were therefore never the true children of God. They had escaped the outward pollutions of the world, which is a different thing from the escape of the corruption which is in the world by lust; the latter stands for the inward deliverance by the new birth, the former for an outward reformation which had taken place when they professed the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, when for a time forsaking their evil ways so that they escaped the pollutions. But not having a new nature they became entangled therein and overcome, so that it was worse with them than in the beginning, before they had made a profession. They had known the way of righteousness as made known in the gospel of Christ, but the life which is offered in that way of righteousness, with the fruits of righteousness which follow, they had never accepted by a living faith. And this seems to be the case with the vast majority of the false teachers of today, the destructive critics, and those who deny the deity of our Lord. They were never born again; they never had a true experience of real salvation, hence they are but natural men, not having the Spirit. (Commentary on 2 Peter - by A C Gaebelein)
Are overcome (2274) (hettao or hettaomai or hessaomai from hetton = less, inferior) first means to be less or inferior. The idea is to be put to the worse and hence to be defeated or conquered. To succumb. To be vanquished, subdued and enslaved or overcome as in a conflict or a lawsuit. To be forced to yield. The idea is of suffering a defeat that so that what conquers now has mastery over the defeated party.
Hettao means to be vanquished as in a military battle alluding to the ancient law of war in which those who were defeated were taken captive by the conquerors and became their servants.
The present tense indicates the continual overpowering of these men by lust and corruption. The moral and ethical influence of the Word of God had acted as a detergent and a deterrent upon these false teachers to the end that their outward lives had been relatively pure. But as they persisted in their false teaching that grace gave license to sin, they became entangled and overcome in their former licentious ways.
Josephus provides us with a helpful illustration of the verb hettao describing Jacob as being overcome by his love for Rebekah...
Adam Clarke comments that the idea of overcome...
THE LAST STATE HAS BECOME (and remains) WORSE FOR THEM THAN THE FIRST: gegonen (3SRAI) autois ta eschata cheirona ton proton: (Nu 24:20; Dt 32:29; Php 3:19) (See Torrey's Topic "Apostates")
Imagine the disappointment of the person who thinks he has been delivered, only to discover that, in the end, he is in worse shape than when he started!
Become (1096) (ginomai) means to come into existence. Ginomai in this passage is in the perfect tense indicating that this is their permanent condition -- they became worse at some point in time in the past and remain in their degraded state. And so a state of apostasy is in fact worse than a state of ignorance.
Worse (5501) (cheiron) more evil or aggravated. (See 11 uses in NT - Matt. 9:16; 12:45; 27:64; Mk. 2:21; 5:26; Lk. 11:26; Jn. 5:14; 1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Tim. 3:13; Heb. 10:29; 2 Pet. 2:20)
Their final spiritual state is inferior in rank, dignity, goodness, excellence, or condition. These false teachers are lost, eternally damned men: The clearest indication that these men were never born again is that there is no lasting change in their nature. This absence of permanent change in their nature (in contrast to 2Co 5:17) shows that they were always lost and were never born again. If you are truly born again, then you continue in the faith! [see Paul's "definition" of the true "gospel" - 1Cor 15:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 -see notes 15:1; 15:2; 15:3; 15:4; 15:5; 15:6 ; 15:7; 15:8;]. All believers may have seasons when sin drags them down (but they are the most miserable of all individuals to be around) but those times should pass and should not the habit of our life.
Steven Cole -
John Piper adds the following comment...
This section of Scripture brings to a head one of those thorny issues we would all rather avoid, lest we be accused of being "unloving" or too "narrow" in our interpretation of Scripture. But heaven and hell hang in the balance depending on one's interpretation and application of the truth in 2 Peter 2.
How do we know the apparent "change" in these men Peter is describing was not a true supernatural change in their heart and that they were never really made new creatures in Christ (2Cor 5:17)?
Examine their "works". The context (2Pe 2:22-note) makes it quite clear that they returned to their natural fleshly behavioral patterns just like any dog or sow would do once given the chance. You can wash the pig's exterior of the mud & filth and it may look sparkling clean on the outside but it is still a pig inside...it returns to wallow in the mire! Peter is saying that you can discern that these men were never caused to be born again because they return to do the things they did before they knew the way of righteousness. John teaches the same truth when he says that those who practice lawlessness as a habit of their life are showing their true nature and are not new creatures in Christ (read the entire chapter 1John 3). By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not continuously practice righteousness is not of God. And once you are caused to be born again, you cannot be "unborn" (either in the physical or spiritual world) so to say these men have simply lost their salvation is nonsense. The reason this whole area is so difficult for many people to understand and accept is because we in modern day Christendom have so watered down the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the point that we have many who while professing faith in Christ possess or demonstrate no permanent radical change in their lifestyle. In addition the false teaching oozes in which says "See there...they professed Christ and were saved but now they are living for the devil, so their lifestyle proves they have lost their salvation." On the other side truth is twisted to say that once a person professes faith in Christ, that act alone ensures his genuine regeneration and even though he is living for the devil it is just because he is "backslidden" or is a "fleshly Christian." (Be wary of a writer by the name of Zane Hodges who holds this dangerous doctrine. Unfortunately he has authored the commentary sections on Hebrews and 1 John in the generally excellent Bible Knowledge Commentary!) And this gets back to our "works" or "deeds". Works/deeds do not save us but they are indicators whether one has had a radical change in their heart and not just a one time profession without genuine "possession" (Titus 1:16-note, Lk 8:15, Jas 2:14, 17, 19, 20- see notes 2:14; 2:15; 2:17; 2:19; 2:20). Scripture teaches that we are saved by faith alone (Eph 2:8,9 -see notes 2:8; 2:9) but Scripture also teaches that there is a quality of belief or "faith" which does not save (cp Jas 2:19-note, Jn 8:30, 31,44, 47 and note the final "deed" of those Jews who had professed to believe in Jesus! = Jn 8:58, 59) Do not be deceived. Go to God's Word and check out what He says about genuine salvation, especially what the Lord Jesus Christ has to say. To reiterate if any man is truly in Christ he is a new creature. Conversely if his old lifestyle has not passed away and been replaced by a new heart hunger for God & for His Word & for His children, then that person is of all people the most deceived and is destined for the Lake of fire assuming he never experiences genuine salvation. The road to eternal life is narrow and sadly few will traverse this path. The road to eternal destruction and eternal torment is wide & many will unfortunately travel this path. (Mt 7:13, 14-note). There are many who will think they were genuinely saved until the day they draw their last breath and they awake and find they are absent from the body but not present with the Lord Jesus. Jesus sternly and lovingly warned that not everyone who calls Him "Lord" is genuinely born again. (Heb 7:21-note).
Biblical Illustrator - Necessity of perseverance in well-doing: — If it be not enough for a Christian to begin well unless he continue in the profession and doing of that wherein he hath begun, then follows it that perseverance is so needful, as without which we cannot see the face of God. This is required in the performance of every duty. Is it prayer? we must always pray. Is it thanksgiving? we must in all things give thanks. Is it fasting? we must continually cease from sin. Is it faith? we must never be without it. Is it obedience to God’s commandments? we must always perform it. Is it love unto our neighbors? we must continue therein. The like may be said of every other duty. It is not enough for a time to escape them who live in error, and thereafter give way unto them, but as Caleb and Joshua constantly followed the Lord, and were partakers of the promised land, so must we constantly go on in the course of godliness that we may obtain that kingdom of heaven. (A. Symson.)
2 Peter 2:21 For it would be (3SIAI) better for them not to have known (RAN) the way of righteousness, than having known (AAPMPD) it, to turn away (AAN) from the holy commandment handed (AAPFSG) on to them. (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: For never to have obtained a [full, personal] knowledge of the way of righteousness would have been better for them than, having obtained [such knowledge], to turn back from the holy commandment which was [verbally] delivered to them. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NET: For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, to turn back from the holy commandment that had been delivered to them. (NET Bible)
NLT: It would be better if they had never known the right way to live than to know it and then reject the holy commandments that were given to them. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: It would be better for them not to have known the way of goodness at all, rather than after knowing it to turn their backs on the sacred commandments given to them. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: for it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, to turn back from the holy commandment which was delivered to them. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: for it were better to them not to have acknowledged the way of the righteousness, than having acknowledged it, to turn back from the holy command delivered to them,
|FOR IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR THEM NOT TO HAVE KNOWN THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: kreitton gar en autois me epegnokenai (RAN) ten hodon tes dikaiosunes: (Mt 11:23; Mt 11:24 Mk 9:42, Lk 12:47; Jn 9:41; 15:22) (Pr 12:28; 16:31; Mt 21:32)
For - term of explanation. What is Peter explaining?
Better (2909)(kreitton/kreisson) more useful, more profitable more advantageous, greater, superior; greater advantage. Here are the 19 uses in the NT - 1 Co. 7:9, 38; 11:17; Phil. 1:23; Heb. 1:4; 6:9; 7:7, 19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16, 35, 40; 12:24; 1 Pet. 3:17; 2 Pet. 2:21
Have known (1921) (epiginosko) know fully, gain or receive full knowledge of, become fully acquainted with. Knowledge is necessary, but knowledge alone is insufficient for salvation. One must not only know the basic facts about salvation but must receive Christ as personal Savior in true repentance and faith. So it is in some ways better not to know the Way, the Truth, the Life because Knowledge increases responsibility & men will be judged according to the light given them (see Mt 10:15) Knowledge without obedience is dangerous. Jesus said of Judas that it would have been better for him not to have been born than to have turned from the truth he had known (cf Mt 26:24).
Epiginosko is used 44 times in the NT - Matt. 7:16, 20; 11:27; 14:35; 17:12; Mk. 2:8; 5:30; 6:33, 54; Lk. 1:4, 22; 5:22; 7:37; 23:7; 24:16, 31; Acts 3:10; 4:13; 9:30; 12:14; 19:34; 22:24, 29; 23:28; 24:8, 11; 25:10; 27:39; 28:1; Rom. 1:32; 1 Co. 13:12; 14:37; 16:18; 2 Co. 1:13, 14; 6:9; 13:5; Col. 1:6; 1 Tim. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:21
The Way of Righteousness ("way" = hodos = road, path or highway leading to another place, in this context leading to the "kingdom of God", Jesus Himself being "the [only] Way" of access to God the Father and eternal life in His presence, cf Jn 14:6) is a specific phrase found 5x in the NASB (click for all 5 uses).
Righteousness (1343)(dikaiosune) is all that God is, all that He commands, all that He demands, all that He approves, and all that He provides through Christ's substitutionary sacrifice. See Mt 5:20, Ro 1:16-17.
Righteousness” is derived from a root word that means “straightness” and thus it refers to a state that conforms to an authoritative standard.
God’s character is both the authoritative "standard" and the source of the only righteousness acceptable to God. When men's character and actions are used to define the standard of righteousness ("self righteousness"), their attempts always fall short of God's perfect standard. Jesus emphasized the inability of man's innate righteousness to satisfy God's perfect standard declaring
The "Way of righteousness" stresses the moral conduct of those who truly follow Christ as Lord and Savior (see Torrey's Topic "Christian Conduct")
THAN HAVING KNOWN IT TO TURN AWAY FROM THE HOLY COMMANDMENT DELIVERED TO THEM: e epignousin (AAPMPD) hupostrepsai (AAN) ek tes paradotheises (AAPFSG) autois hagias entoles: (Ps 36:3,4; 125:5; Ezek 3:20; 18:24; 23:13; Zep 1:6 cf Heb 6:4-8; 10:26,27) (See Torrey's Topic "Apostates")
Known (1921) (epiginosko) means to know fully, gain or receive full knowledge of, become fully acquainted with. The phrases way of righteousness and holy commandment (cf Jesus' "foremost" commandment in Mk 12:30-31) emphasize the ethical content of the knowledge the false teachers had. They knew what was right and holy, but they deliberately chose to do what was wrong and corrupt. They had knowledge of salvation and could use the language of the church, but they lacked that true saving experience with the Lord. They never trusted Christ and became His sheep. Like a person sinking in quicksand who refuses to grab the rope thrown to him or her, those who turn away from Christ's way of righteousness and His holy commandment cast aside his or her only means of escape.
Peter uses hupostrepho figuratively meaning these men made a definite turn back to (aorist tense = completed effective action in the past) a previous belief. The made a change to their former belief which describes the perversion and defection of the false teachers. They professed "the way of righteousness" and had access to the true teachings of Scripture ("the holy commandment") but by their lives they demonstrated that they had chosen to reject Christ so they turned back to the Christ-rejecting, godless belief..
Friberg - intransitively in the NT turn back, return; with eis and the accusative of place or state be again in, return to (Luke 1.56); with apo, and the genitive return from (Lk 4.1); with ek and the genitive turn away from (2P 2.21)
NAS Usage: return(6), returned(22), returning(3), started back(1), turn away(1), turned back(1), went back(1).
Hupostrepho - 35x in 35v -
Hupostrepho - 12v in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - Ge 8:7, 9; 43:10; Ex 32:31; Josh 2:23; Jdg 3:19; 7:15; 14:8; 21:23; Esther 6:12; Pr 23:5; Da 6:18. The Septuagint Lexicon says hupostrepho usually means to return, to turn back.
J Vernon McGee would sometimes conclude his messages with this statement
John MacArthur notes one important point Peter implies is that these false teachers
Life Application Bible has a great illustration of the final "end zone" of these deceived deceivers