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Apostasy
According to Peter
Copyright © Tim Warner - 04/2004




The second Epistle of Peter is similar to Hebrews in that it repeatedly warns believers against apostasy. In chapter one, Peter used very specific language to describe believers. Then, in chapter two, he warned believers against the false teachers who would attempt to seduce them away from the Gospel. He used the same language regarding those who fall away from the Faith as he used in chapter one regarding true believers. It is therefore obvious that Peter taught his Christian readers could abandon the faith and be lost.
 
True Believers Apostates
2 Pet 1:2-4
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
(NKJ)
2 Pet 2:18-22
18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
20 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.
21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
(NKJ)

Peter equated the term "knowledge" of Jesus Christ with salvation. The Greek word is "epignosis," meaning full or intimate knowledge. Notice that the ALL THINGS necessary to live a godly life come THROUGH (dia - the channel of an act) the "knowledge" of Christ. Those with this "knowledge" had "escaped" the corruption of the world. There is no question that this terminology was used by Peter in reference to salvation. Yet, in the end of chapter 3, those deceived by the false teachers had also previously "escaped" the polution of the world through the "knowledge" of Christ. Precisely the same terminology is used of those who follow the false teachers and fall away!

Peter wrote of the apostates, "the latter end is worse than the beginning." It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after having known, to turn away again. Being worse off than never knowing God can only refer to one who has no hope of repentance, just as Hebrews 6 & 10 indicate.

What could have possibly happened to these people between the beginning of chapter one and the end of chapter 2? Peter tells us plainly.

2 Pet 2:1-22
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;
7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked
8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)--
9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,
11 whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
12 But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption,
13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,
14 having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.
15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
17 These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
20 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.
21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
(NKJ)

Based on all the bold statements, It cannot be denied that the false teachers will end up in hell. Peter made an incredible statement here, saying that the Lord "bought" the false teachers. The Greek word is agorazo, the same word translated "redeemed" elsewhere. Below are some other passages containing the same Greek word.

1 Cor 6:20
20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
(NKJ)

1 Cor 7:23
23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
(NKJ)

Rev 5:9
9 And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
(NKJ)

Rev 14:3
3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.
(NKJ)

Rev 14:4
4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.
(NKJ)

Consequently, we could translate 2 Pet. 2:1 as, "even denying the Lord who redeemed them, and bring on themselves swift destruction."

The remainder of the chapter describes the false teachers and their impending doom, based on God's past record of dealing with such people. The chapter ends with a stern warning for those tempted to follow the smooth talking preachers of a perverted Gospel. Their "Gospel" permits unholy living according to the lust of the flesh, while promising "liberty." It leads straight to hell.

Peter had in view here the pseudo-Christian gnostic cults that were beginning to spring up. John dealt with them as well in his first Epistle. Paul did too in 1 Cor. 15 and in Colossians. Gnostics blended Christianity with Greek philosophy. Like Plato, they taught that matter was corrupt, and that salvation entailed escaping the material creation and reaching the Pleroma (Fullness). Christ came to show us the way to the Pleroma, not to die in our place. Because of their low regard for the material creation, they also had a low regard for the human body. They taught that the things done by the flesh are of no real consequence to the inner man, who consists of "soul." The body was viewed as merely the temporary dwelling place of the soul. Therefore, fornication was no big deal, since it concerned the material body, not the soul. These groups were called "Gnostics" (the Greek word for "knowledge"), because they taught that salvation ultimately was achieved through learning the secret "mysteries" of Christ. Some Christians were leaving the true Apostolic churches and following these preachers of perversion and heresy.

In this book, Peter intentionally chose the Greek word, "epignosis" the Greek word for full or intimate knowledge in order to contrast real Christianity with Gnosticism (gnosis meaning merely "understanding" or "knowledge"). Believers already had escaped the corruption of the world and flesh through "epignosis" (intimate knowledge of Christ). 

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