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)
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-
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
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.
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)
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
is interesting that Peter did not use the
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,
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.
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)
city was all over polluted (miasma) with such
abominations...so that the city was filled with sadness.
defines as miasma
that which defiles and explains it in its occurrence here as “vices the foulness
of which contaminates one in his intercourse with the ungodly mass of
- see below).
Calvin phrases it,
we roll in
filth and are wholly polluted, until we renounce the world.
refers to what is on the outside. But true believers have
the corruption that is in the world through lust (see note
2 Peter 1:4)
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!
"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
has this vivid description of the defilements
of the world
(miasma) was anciently used, and is in use at the present day, to
express those noxious particles of effluvia proceeding from
persons infected with contagious and dangerous diseases; or from
dead and corrupt bodies, stagnant and putrid waters, marshes etc.,
by which the sound and healthy may be infected and destroyed. The
world is here represented as one large, putrid marsh, or corrupt
body, sending off its destructive miasmata everywhere and in every
direction, so that none can escape its contagion, and none can be healed
of the great epidemic disease of sin, but by the mighty power and skill
of God. Augustine has improved on this image: "The whole world," says
he, "is one great diseased man, lying extended from east to west, and
from north to south; and to heal this great sick man, the almighty
Physician descended from heaven.
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
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
In the NT epignosis often refers to
which should influence one's spiritual conduct in
contrast to gnosis which
may be concerned with the intellect without affecting the character
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
reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self,
which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and
that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind" (See notes
see Torrey's Topic
Anything less is an eternally deadly self-delusion.
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
on these men
not savingly renewed in the spirit of their mind. A religious education
has restrained many whom the grace of God has not renewed: if we receive
the light of the truth, and have a notional knowledge of Christ in our
heads, it may be of some present service to us; but we must receive the
love of the truth, and hide God’s word in our heart, or it will not
sanctify and save us." These men may have external "religious
reformation" but not true internal "righteous renewal." As Peter alludes
to in the last verse their outward pollution was washed away, but the
inward corruption was still there.
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])
in the aorist tense indicating an actual event or act.
They really did go "backward" rather than "forward" so to speak.
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
to be involuntarily interlaced to the
point of immobility" and was used "literally of sheep whose wool is
caught in thorns" and of the "hares (rabbits) who are caught in thorns;
Aesop's Fables (Arndt,
W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament and Other Early Christian Literature)
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
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...
"to entwine one's hand in
another's clothes, so as to hold him."
Empleko is used only once
in the (non-apocryphal) LXX in Proverbs where the translation of the
He that walks justly is assisted: but
he that walks in crooked ways shall be entangled therein.
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
no soldier in
active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so
that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier (see note
2 Timothy 2:4)
Entanglement disables one's freedom to
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)
1. “They have
escaped.” Next to the finding an unexpected benefit, it is a great
happiness to escape an unsuspected danger; yea, the escaping of a great
danger is more joy than the receiving of an ordinary benefit.
pollutions of the world.”
pollutions which we contract from the riches of the world.
(2) The pollutions we derive from the honours and dignities of the world
pride here challengeth the first place, and let her have it, even to be
the queen of all sordid filthiness.
(3) The pollutions we deduce from the pleasures of the world. Oh, what a
torrent of turpitudes here stream in upon us!
(a) Immoderate diet.
the knowledge,” etc.
(1) There is
no knowledge to do good in corrupted nature and filthiness of the flesh.
(2) There is no escaping out of this filthiness and corruption, but by
(3) No knowledge can deliver us, but that of our Saviour Christ.
(4) No knowledge of our Saviour can effect this, but that which is
sanctified with faith and repentance.
II. A SUPPOSITION.
1. The easiness of falling back. “If” — it is no impossible thing. Yes,
the commonness proves it too easy. Man goes forth in the morning weak
and unarmed, to encounter with powers and principalities. To fight this
combat he takes a second with him, and that is his flesh, a familiar
enemy, a friendly traitor; the devil comes against him with his second,
too, and that is the world. Soon doth the flesh revolt to the world, and
both stick to Satan; so here is terrible odds, three to one.
2. The difficulty of recovering them, after their relapse.
(1) “They are entangled,” as birds are caught in an evil net; where the
more they struggle to get out, the faster they stick.
(2) “And overcome.” That which puts a man from the use of his reason,
and a Christian from his exercise of religion, overcomes him. The
ambitious are overcome with the desire of honour, so that they are not
their own men. Of all, the worldlings are basely overcome; for they
think they have the world in a string, when the world hath them in a
(3) “Entangled and overcome” — put them both together. It is the depth
of misery to fall under the curse of Ham, a servant of servants.
III. A CONCLUSION. “The latter end is worse,” etc.
1. Their sins are worse now than they were at first, therefore their
estates must needs be so.
2. Besides all their other sins, they have the sin of unthankfulness to
3. Because custom in sin hath deadened all remorse for sin.
4. Because their hypocrisy prevents all ways of remedy.
5. Because they wilfully destroy themselves by renouncing all gracious
6. Because a relapse is even more dangerous than the first sickness;
sooner incurred, more hardly cured. (The
A C Gaebelein
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)
overcome (2274) (hettao
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
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...
not so much by their kindred, nor by that affection which might arise
thence, as by his love to the damsel, and his surprise at her beauty,
which was so flourishing, as few of the women of that age could vie
with. He said then, "There is a relation between thee and me, elder than
either thy or my birth, if thou be the daughter of Laban (The works of Josephus Ant I, xix 5)
Adam Clarke comments that the
idea of overcome...
is an allusion to the ancient custom
of selling for slaves those whom they had conquered and captivated in
war. The ancient law was, that a man might either kill him whom he
overcame in battle, or keep him for a slave. These were called servi,
slaves, from the verb servare, to keep or preserve. And they were
also called mancipia, from manu capiuntur, they are taken
captive by the hand of their enemy. Thus the person who is overcome
by his lusts is represented as being the slave of those lusts (see Ro
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)
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!
(eschatos - eschatology
or study of the Biblical events of the last times) pertains to
being last in a series of events.
(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
(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
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.
adds the following comment...
Peter pictures the real possibility in verse 20 that by learning of
Christ some people make a start in the Christian life, and by all
outward appearances have escaped from the defilements of the world. Then
the cares and riches and pleasures of life (as Jesus says) choke the
young plant and it withers and bears no fruit and dies (Lk
8:14)...notice the principle that the more you know of Christ and his
way the more severe will be your judgment for not trusting and obeying
Christ. Better never to have known the way, Peter says in verse 21. And
in this he simply preserves the teaching of Jesus. He said, "Woe to you
Chorazin and Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been
done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth
and ashes. But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of
judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you" (Mt 11:21,22.23, 24) The more
evidence you have of Christ's reality, the more severe your judgment for
not repenting. "Everyone to whom much is given, of him much will be
required" (Lk 12:47,48)...Peter is not teaching that God's elect can
lose their salvation. He is most definitely teaching that church members
can be lost and people who make outward professions of faith and even
begin to clean up their lives can turn away from Christ and be lost."
But in verse 22 he explains to us in a proverb that we should not be
overly surprised at this: dogs characteristically return to their vomit;
and no matter how clean you make a pig on the outside, if it is still a
pig it will return to the mire. In other words, those who leave the way
of righteousness, never to return, simply show that their inner nature
had never been changed. This was Peter's way of saying what 1Jn 2:19
says, "They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had
been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that it
might be plain that they are all not of us." Or as Jesus said, "He who
endures to the end will be saved" (Mt 10:22). Or
as Hebrews puts it, "We share in Christ if we hold our first confidence
firm to the end" (He 3:14-note).
Or as Paul says, "I preached to you the gospel which you received, in
which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast" (1 Cor
The whole New Testament is agreed: there is no salvation apart from
persevering faith. And persevering faith always works itself out in the
way of righteousness. Therefore to abandon the way of righteousness is
to exclude oneself from salvation." (Read full sermon
Better Never to Have Known the Way
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
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 & 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 & 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." And this gets back to our "works" or
"deeds". Works/deeds do not save us but they are clear indicators that
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
2:20). Scripture teaches that we are saved by faith alone
(Eph 2:8,9 -see notes
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 & 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 & 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).
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.) (The