29/12/19 – 2 Peter 2:20-22
When we talk of false teachers, we generally think of those who teach doctrinal heresies, doctrines of demons such as SDAs, mormons, extreme pentecostalism or calvinists. And certainly such are all included in the false teachers of 2 Peter 2, and more. But the description in 2 Peter 2:13-14 seems to cover more than just doctrinal heresies: they that count it pleasure (hedone) to riot in the day time. Spots [they are] and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: For example, “pleasure” here is hedonism, an enjoyment of pleasure for the sake of pleasure itself. What all these false teachers do, however, is to drag Christians back into the world from which they had escaped. For some it meant back to the false worshipping of their past. For the Hebrews this meant being enticed from their episynagoge Christian meetings (see Hebrews 10:25) back to the temple and synagogue worship; to return was to avoid the persecution of believers. For other Jews it meant a return to the law-based religion of the pharisees (see Galatians).
But the recipients of Peter’s epistle here were probably Gentiles who had been rescued from their pagan-worshipping religions, or from a licentious life-style. False teachers didn’t just teach false doctrines but also included those who taught that the pleasure-filled life they’d escaped from was still the best option. Perhaps those false teachers emphasised the lack of certainty of future benefits as opposed to the pleasure of life right now. Perhaps they tried to convince those escaped ones that they only had one life, so live it to the full; how could they be assured of a better life ahead when they had to die to find out for certain?
The false teachers of 2 Peter 2 included all those who pretended to be like one of the escaped ones (2 Peter 2:18) in order to entice back into their worldly fold as many as possible of those escaped ones. After all, they were all satan’s teachers, and the overriding goal of satan is to control! Everything satan does is in order to control. He doesn’t worry what you become as long as you are one of his, as long as he controls you! It matters little what the false teachers entice you back to, as long as it is something satan and his demons control.
There were other types of false teachers who enticed believers into another sect belief system by convincing them that the sect beliefs were somehow “better” than their standard biblical beliefs. These included such as the synagogue of satan (Smyrna and Philadelphia), the Nicolaitans (Ephesus and Pergamos), the doctrine of Balaam (Pergamos), and that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols (Thyatira). Throw the Gnostics into this mix, plus dozens of other false doctrines and you had a wide choice of false teachings to chase after in the early church.
And today we can throw calvinism in as a very deceptive lying doctrine that has much of the appearance of being biblical without being the slightest bit biblical at all! However, the one factor common to all was that they were intended to draw believers back to satan and his lies and deceptions, and, most importantly, back under satan’s control.
2 Peter 2:20 – For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
escaped – apopheugo (flee from; escape [from]) from apo (of separation; of local separation; after verbs of motion from a place i.e. of departing, of fleeing; from; out of) and pheugo (flee away; seek safety by flight)
It is in the second aorist tense. In aorist tense the concept of the verb is considered without regard for past, present, or future time. Online Bible says There is no direct or clear English equivalent for this tense, though it is generally rendered as a simple past tense in most translations. The common practice of rendering an aorist by a simple English past tense should suffice in most cases.
The "second aorist" tense is identical in meaning and translation to the normal or "first" aorist tense. The only difference is in the form of spelling the words in Greek, and there is no effect upon English translation.
Thus it is a completed action, not in progress in the present. While it does not define the extent of the escape that has been completed, it does state that the intended level of escape has been achieved. Therefore, for some, this escape would mean further away from recapture than for others. But they have “escaped from” somewhere. The prefix apo- indicates a separation from one place to another, not just a fleeing or escaping, but an actual “getting somewhere” as a result of that fleeing. Here it means the separation of the person from the corruptions of the world, and not just an action intended to eventually remove the person from corruption.
www.dictionary.com says apo is a prefix occurring originally in loanwords from Greek, where it was joined to verbs, deverbal forms, and other parts of speech. Among its functions in Greek, apo- has the spatial sense “away, off, apart” (apogee; apocope; apostasy; apostrophe) ….. In modern scientific coinages in English and other languages, apo- marks things that are detached, separate, or derivative (apocarpous; apoenzyme).
pollutions – miasma (that which defiles; defilement; foulness) This is its only occurrence in the NT. Today we would use “miasma” to describe a rotten smell, such as swamp gas, rotten egg gas etc. Doctors used to believe that miasmas caused diseases such as cholera. Bad air caused sicknesses and that was why children got sick more than adults: because they were closer to the ground where much of the rotting material produced miasma.
world – kosmos Note that this word is incorrectly defined by calvinists in 1 John 2:2 as meaning “only those who believe”, rather than “the whole world”!
knowledge – epignosis (Its verb form – epiginosko – is used twice in the next verse.)
epignosis is used 4 times in 2 Peter, where each time it refers to a deeper knowledge of God/Jesus Christ. It is not likely that non-Christians would have such a knowledge, especially when Peter says it of those who have “obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).
the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2)
the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3)
the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:8)
the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 2:20)
epiginosko (the verb form) is used twice in 2 Peter, both in 2 Peter 2:20 above. In both cases it refers to having a thorough knowledge of righteousness (that is, according to the biblical definition of righteousness, without which no-one may enter heaven).
2 Peter also uses the word gnosis (knowledge) 3 times as follows:
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge (gnosis); And to knowledge (gnosis) temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; (2 Peter 1:5-6)
In these verses it may be seen more as discernment rather than the deeper, more thorough form of knowledge of epignosis.
But grow in grace, and [in] the knowledge (gnosis) of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18) where gnosis is more of a benediction rather than a statement of fact concerning their level of knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Lord – kyrios (he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master; lord)
the latter end – eschatos (extreme; last in time or place; last in a series of places; last in temporal succession; last in time, space; last in rank or worth, i.e. the lowest) It has the idea of being your final situation or position; you’ll be here until the day you die! When it says that the end is worse, it also means that there’s no option to change anything after that! Once you fall away, that is your final station in life: fallen! It is your eschatos! Final!
the beginning – protos (first in time or place; first in rank; chief; principal; first) It is the opposite of eschatos. In Revelation 22:13 Jesus is called the first (protos) and the last (eschatos).
Are these Christians or are they merely those who act, talk and behave like Christians but are actually not Christians? Many choose to describe them as non-Christians. Note that these people have escaped the world’s corruption via the knowledge of Jesus Christ who is Lord and Saviour. (Even the use of “Saviour” should mean that these people are saved!) But due to the enticements of these false teachers they become involved once again in the world’s corruptions; and they end up in a worse state than they were in before they escaped.
Note 2 Peter 1:4 – Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
They would have been better to have never escaped in the first place (see Vs 21 below). It is indeed difficult to see these as non-Christians.
2 Peter 2:21 – For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
have known (2 times) – epiginosko (to become thoroughly acquainted with; to know thoroughly; to know accurately; know well)
to turn from – epistrepho (to turn to or from; to turn one’s self about; turn back; return; come back) Used for “turned …. again” in Vs 22 below.
It would be bad if you didn’t escape the corruptions of the world and never knew the way of righteousness, but that would still be far better than knowing and escaping such corruptions and then falling away again, never to be able to escape a second time. That is, you only have one chance to escape! For once you return to the world, you are eschatos – your final situation! (See “the latter end” in Vs 20 above)
the holy commandment delivered unto them – that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3) Such a faith should have been contended for, but to surrender to the world again was to ignore the holy commandment.
2 Peter 2:22 – But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
turned …. again – epistrepho As used for “turned from” in Vs 21 above.
washed – louo (wash; bathe; used of washing dead bodies; washing to cleanse blood out of wounds) Used in the following:
Revelation 1:5b – Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, This has the idea of being washed, purged from sins as per 2 Peter 1:9.
John 13:10a – Jesus saith to him, He that is washed (louo) needeth not save to wash (nipto – to wash one’s self) [his] feet, but is clean every whit: (nipto was more commonly used for everyday washing of one’s self)
Hebrews 10:22 – Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed (louo) with pure water.
mire – or dung
Departing from the holy commandment (Vs 21 above) is taught as the equivalent of a dog returning to eat its own vomit, and a sow that is washed clean returning to its filthy wallowing again. Such images are difficult to apply to any other than those washed in the blood, purged from their sins (2 Peter 1:9).
Many explain this passage as referring to those who have attended church for a long time, learned much of the Bible, do many of the good works associated with Christians, yet never were Christians at any time. If they should turn away from such a knowledge of righteousness, then their end is worse than the beginning, for eschatos (“the latter end”) in Vs 20 above is clear: there is no further option after that! “the latter end” here is their final situation; this can only mean that they won’t ever have another chance to learn further of the way of righteousness. I find nothing in the Bible to teach that one would be eternally lost if one forewent all that teaching and departed for the world for a season, especially when alleged Christians can depart from such knowledge (backslide) for a season, and then return! This would then teach that God permits Christians to sin and be forgiven, but doesn’t permit non-Christians the same option! The Bible teaches that those who actively oppose God will be reprobated (Romans 1:28) and the false teachers in today’s passage are certainly depicted as those who actively rebel for the sake of rebellion itself. But these escaped ones have turned away from their knowledge of righteousness, back to the world again. They have followed those false teachers through deception. Clearly the false teachers deserve reprobation, but those who are led away from righteousness by these false teachers don’t appear to warrant such a final cutting-off if they weren’t genuine Christians in the first place. (Especially if back-slidden Christians are to be permitted a second chance!)
To declare these as non-Christians and punish them so severely for not getting saved is in marked contrast to the way God treats Christians. Christians can turn away from their knowledge of righteousness, yet may be permitted to repent and be restored. But, if these who fall away are non-Christians (who allegedly have less such knowledge), then are they to be treated with no mercy and no grace? Those non-Christians who fall away here will never be able to return because they will fall into their final situation/state of life (eschatos). This teaching does seem to be very calvinistic indeed! The calvinist God only loves his own elect! Only the elect may have access to their God’s mercy and grace! No others may apply!
Imagine two church members, both seemingly good Christians, both widely accepted as genuine Christians in their church community. Then both fall away, back into the world. Some of the other church members might say that they weren’t genuine Christians in the first place, and some also might say that now they have fallen, they won’t be back. Others might say that they were merely backslidden Christians; that if they made a genuine commitment to become Christians, then they cannot be lost, ever. However, time will tell, they say, but that there is no clear evidence to point to one view and not the other. Then one of the two returns to the church, to full-on Christian behaviour again, and remains a good Christian after that. The other remains in the world, apparently never coming back. So what was the difference between the two? They both exhibited the same Christian witness before they fell, and they both fell in similar fashion. Why did one return and the other remain “lost”?
It seems that the only way to discern the difference between the two views is to wait and see what these people do. If we take the “once-saved-always-saved” (OSAS) view, then a Christian can’t be lost, ever, once he has made a decision to be saved. If he falls away, he will return; end of story! But if he didn’t make a genuine decision, then if he falls away, he can never return, ever again, if popular teaching about today’s passage is true. Thus a Christian will return; a non-Christian will not return. In this way many will determine the difference between the two.
This introduces a serious question of double standards in their God’s judgment, for according to the standard OSAS view, Christians can fall away and their God will always permit them to return, in fact, in the end, he will always arrange their guaranteed return. But if they are not Christians but merely wannabee Christians, then God will drop them like the proverbial hot potato if they should dare “fall away” from their Christian worship while yet a non-Christian. That is, a OSAS Christian is guaranteed heaven forever no matter how much he backslides, yet a non-Christian is only permitted one attempt to get to heaven, and will never be given a second chance! Sounds like rough justice to me! The Christian is given all favour while the non-Christian had better watch his step! It paints a picture of a God who only really loves his elect while the non-elect are given only one chance. That is, Christians can never be struck out while non-Christians have only one strike and they’re out! There is something terribly wrong with this kind of logic.
It does seem more logical (and biblical too) to require Christians to commit themselves fully to God before they are to be permitted such guaranteed existence in heaven. Why should people be given a 100% guarantee for heaven if they cannot give themselves 100% into serving the God who has saved them to the uttermost? Why should they love the world when they should be loving God? The Christian is a citizen of heaven; and the non-Christian is a citizen of the world. But far too many Christians want to hold dual citizenship; they want the future guaranteed without giving up their present pleasures. OSAS should really only apply to those future citizens of heaven if they have cancelled their citizenship in the world. If you have dual citizenship, then you continue to have a choice between the two options. While you retain that choice, you are always at risk of choosing to return to the world you left behind. But you cannot be a disciple of Jesus nor are you worthy of Him if you do not take up your cross of suffering, deny yourself (that includes your right of continued access of the world you should have left behind), and follow Jesus.
It does seem as if churches today are trying far too hard to justify their pleasures of this world without losing their Christian status. What would happen if they told the truth: that if you aren’t prepared to forsake the world, then you cannot be a disciple of Jesus (Luke 14:27), and if you refuse to take up your cross and follow Jesus you cannot be guaranteed entry into heaven because Jesus declares you unworthy of Him (Matthew 10:38).
Just being saved by genuinely praying a simple prayer might save you and get your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. God promises to save you and He will not break His promise. Your faith in God’s character as one who will always do what He promises is justified. However all this is to get the benefits for the person who is saved. But what does God get out of such a covenant? Doesn’t He desire your service, your worship, your obedience?
So, to ensure your salvation for eternity, here are the conditions I believe are necessary. Being written in the Book of Life is one thing, but why were some at Sardis promised that their names would not be blotted out of the Book of Life if it were impossible to do otherwise?
Revelation 3:5 – He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Clearly it is possible to be assured of your eternal salvation, for these people were so assured. But then, is it possible for some to not be so assured? The answer logically has to be “Yes!” So what’s the difference? There were a few at the church of Sardis who had not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4) (Cf Matthew 10:38) Clearly others were not worthy!
Therefore, I believe that having your name in the Book of Life is not necessarily sufficient for eternity. If you are saved yet do not give up the world, do not deny yourself, do not take up your cross of suffering, do not fully follow Jesus, then you are not worthy of Christ and you can not be His disciple! This is what Jesus Himself taught! Do not fool yourself into thinking that because you’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer you are now set for heaven! That you can now really enjoy the world because you’ve got your eternal life insurance in place! That you have the right to choose!
Then think again!
Luke 9:23-27 – 23And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? 26For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and [in his] Father’s, and of the holy angels. 27But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
Luke 14:27 – And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:33 – So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
Matthew 10:38 – And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
So the remedy? Romans 12:1 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.
What you control, you can lose; what God controls you can never lose! Psalm 127:1 – Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh [but] in vain.