2 Peter 2:20 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

2 Peter 2:20, NIV: If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.

2 Peter 2:20, ESV: For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

2 Peter 2:20, KJV: 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.

2 Peter 2:20, NASB: For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

2 Peter 2:20, NLT: And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before.

2 Peter 2:20, CSB: For if, having escaped the world's impurity through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in these things and defeated, the last state is worse for them than the first.

What does 2 Peter 2:20 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The last three verses of 2 Peter chapter 2 are troubling for some. Especially when taken out of context, they raise the question of whether a believer can lose or walk away from his or her salvation. It is helpful to read these verses in the context of chapter 2, as well as within the context of both 1 Peter and 2 Peter together. And, of course, one has to consider the overall message of the Bible.

The first question is who exactly Peter is referring to. Who are these people who had escaped the defilements or corruption of the world? It's possible that Peter is referring to the false teachers he has been condemning, but it seems more likely that he has in mind the ones the false teachers are leading astray. This seems to suggest the newer, less mature, or less experienced believers. Or, those who were just hearing the gospel, and still uncommitted.

In verse 18, Peter wrote that the false teachers were enticing those just escaping from error. These are people who had come out of the world and entered into the community of the church. They had heard and understood the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the Bible is very clear that intellectual knowledge is not the same as saving faith (James 2:19). It seems most likely Peter is referring to those who were attracted to the gospel, but who had not come to a full faith in Christ.

If they had been saved, what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:5 would apply to them. They would have been shielded or guarded by through their faith and by God's power until salvation was revealed. Instead, as John wrote, "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 become plain that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19).

Now these people, distracted and enticed by the false teachers, are worse off than before. They had begun to escape the sinful corruption of the world, and begun to associate with a community of believers. And then, they were fooled by the false teachers into participating their old sinfulness. Once more they were entangled, overcome, and dragged back to their old place in the world by their own sinful desires. Worse, now their concept of the gospel is tainted.