Wednesday, 12 February 2020
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 2 Peter 2:20
It is debated if Peter now speaks of the state of the false teachers or of those who were enticed by them. Scholars present logical cases for both. He just said that, “for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.” Therefore, it could simply be referring to the state of any who are so overcome – be it false teachers or those who are ensnared by them.
Now, beginning with, “For if,” he presents his case for the state of such a person. “If he has been brought into bondage, then…” Understanding this, he continues with, “after they have escaped the pollutions of the world.” Here Peter uses a word found only this once in Scripture, miasma, or pollutions. It is the root of our modern term of the same spelling. At this point, there is no reason to assume that the person actually believed the gospel and received Christ.
Drunks can escape the pollutions of a drunken lifestyle through the 12 Step program. Drug addicts can escape their addictions through various treatment centers. These people apply the principles of the program to their lives and they are cleaned up. However, this does not mean that they have been converted into a new being. Similarly, a person can apply the biblical principles to his life and still not have come to Christ for salvation.
This is more evident by the words, “through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The translation is misleading. The Greek has no article, and the preposition “in” is used. It reads, “in knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The escape from the pollution of the word is in knowledge of Christ Jesus. How many people go to churches for a lifetime, having knowledge of Christ and yet are not converted by Christ!
For example, those who attend Roman Catholic churches have an abundance of knowledge concerning Christ – His deity, His atonement, and etc. And yet, their hearts (Romans 10:9, 10) have never believed the gospel. They have never made the profession concerning Christ. What they need is the “14-inch conversion.” The head knowledge needs to be transferred to the heart.
Even if this is referring to saved believers, it does not have to mean that they have lost their salvation. Peter is speaking of the state of the person in this physical life. He did this in verses 1:5-9. There he first spoke of exactly the same premise in verse 1:4 –
“…that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
He then gave a logical order of things to do in order to not be swept back into the old ways of life. He finished that with –
“For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” (1:9)
Whether saved or unsaved, a person can fall back into his old ways and be so ensnared in them that he is bound by this world of corruption. As Peter says, “they are again entangled in them and overcome.” The word translated as “entangled” is the Greek word emplekó. It is used concerning the braiding of hair. The evil is simply woven into every facet of the person’s life and it becomes increasingly difficult for such to discern good from evil.
They become caught up in the very pollutions that they had escaped from. A drug user returns to his drugs, an alcoholic returns to the bottle, and so forth. Now, having forsaken the very method of changing his life, the person finds himself back where he was, and in even worse shape than before.
In such a dramatic shift back to their old ways, Peter says that “the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.” This takes the reader back to the words of the Lord from Matthew 12:43-45 (and repeated in Luke 11:24-26) –
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” Matthew 12:45
The lesson Christ made for His audience is that of works, not grace. The person Jesus refers to has cleaned up his own house. He has swept it and put it in order. This would be comparable to the person who went through the 12-Step program. However, with a clean and tidy house, he still left room for the demon (and more demons) to return. He failed to fill it with Christ. This is what Peter is referring to. He is not necessarily speaking of someone who has been filled with the Spirit of God through faith in Christ.
Peter is using that same principle for those who hear the word – saved or unsaved makes less difference than the principle which he is using – and who have not applied it to their lives. For the saved, they will not lose their salvation, but they will have an incredibly rough time in this life. For the unsaved, they will live an existence which is devoid of any hope at all.
Life application: When a person cleans up and gets things right, his house is ready for a good purpose. If it is not filled with what is good, then it becomes more susceptible to evil than it was at the beginning.
Remember this – bad doctrine doesn’t keep a person from being saved, but it may keep the next person from being saved because there is no foundation to help discern what is true and from what is false. Secondly, bad doctrine leads to “drinking the Kool-Aid” syndrome. The words of a false teacher are so seductive that people will simply follow them to their own destruction.
The Rev. Jim Jones, David Koresh, and others all led their congregants down the path to earthly destruction. One should never assume that he is above such brainwashing. Unless you personally study Scripture, you cannot determine what is right from what isn’t from a biblical perspective. Watch your lives carefully, lest you be led astray – to your own peril.
Lord, you allow us to follow our own path – even after the salvation of our souls. We can pursue You and a right knowledge of Your word, or we can trust our pastors and priests to properly explain it to us… at our own peril. Give us minds that are willing to seek out Your truth, but also give us teachers who properly handle, and can rightfully explain, proper doctrine. Amen.