“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.”
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world
The “they” of verse nineteen (false teachers) is the “they” of this verse. These are also the false teachers of verse one.
The word “escaped” occurs three times in the New Testament and all three times in this little book (2 Pe 1:4; 2:18). Those who “escaped” here are people who were at one time favorable to Christianity but never fully embraced it. They had significant exposure to the gospel but were never true converts.
We get our English word “miasma” from this Greek word. The Greeks used “pollutions” for the odors that came off a swamp. They used “pollutions,” especially for cultic pollution of pagan practices. What is the nature of this sin? Some think Christians can lose their salvation by reverting to their lifestyle before becoming Christians. However, the context and explicit statements (2 Pe 2:22) portray these people as having rejected Christ from the outset.
through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
For a time, these people were exposed to the truth. The word “knowledge” implies they had full exposure to the “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This unique word for “knowledge” means full and intimate knowledge. Ancient Greek used “knowledge” in legal contexts, referring to careful investigation and interrogation. Amazingly, these false teachers could gain a full dose of Jesus and His work and still reject Him as their Savior, much like Judas and the crowds that followed Him for popular purposes.
they are again entangled in them
The word “entangled” means to weave in. These false teachers relapsed into their previous religion. They went back to the pollutions of paganism. They left false religion for a while, when they became exposed to Christ and then became entangled again in it. They left pagan religion for a time only to return to it again.
“Overcome” carries the ideas of subjection and enslavement. Therefore, false teaching controlled them. They again became enslaved to religion. Pagn religion defeated them, leading them into a prison of false teaching.
the latter end is worse for them than the beginning
Peter’s point is that receiving “full” exposure to Jesus and His work and rejecting it is a worse condition than having never heard of Jesus in the first place. They repudiate the Lord Jesus in the face of knowing fully who He is and what He did.
To hear the truth and revert to a false belief is worse than never hearing it at all (Mt 12:45).
Mt 12:14, “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.”
The “beginning” here is the point of exposure to salvation in Christ. The “latter end” is their reversion to paganism. Ultimately, receiving full exposure to Jesus and rejecting Him is worse because they fly in the face of truth. The more light that we sin against, the more responsibility we carry. It is incredible how much of the Bible you can know and still go to hell.
Negative volition finds security in false teaching.
False teachers prey on unstable people. They cannot get away with their deception with anyone but the naïve previously described as “unstable” earlier in the chapter.
Not everyone who hears the gospels believes the gospel. You must believe after you hear. If you listen to it and do not believe it, it did not do you any good to listen to it initially. It may do you harm.
Ac 18:8, “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.”