last state worse

Last State Worse than the First

2 Peter 2:20

Last State Worse than the First (2 Peter 2:20). Can you lose your salvation? Some people claim you can based on 2 Peter 2:20.

For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.

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Section One


1.1 The Heresy of Losing Your Salvation. Many people today teach that you can lose your salvation. Some of those people distort 2 Peter 2:20 to support that heresy, claiming that a saint can turn away from Jesus and then go to the Lake of Fire for eternity. We may review 2 Peter 2:1 to understand how this passage opposes any claim that a saint can lose salvation.

1.2 The Priority of Scripture. Theology serves Scripture. Theology must never be the master of Scripture. Therefore, our theology should be founded upon proper interpretation of Scripture, and our theology should not influence those interpretations in the first instance. Peter wrote his epistles under the inspiration of God, so that God breathed out every word Peter wrote in the original autographs. Because the entire Bible has only one Author, God, we may examine the words used by various writers, such as Peter and Paul, to understand in more detail God’s revelation to us. Last State Worse?

1.3 The Context. Peter described the rise of false teachers among the people of God, introducing destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1). They brought swift destruction upon themselves. The Lord did not spare the angels when they sinned nor the ancient world when it sinned. Likewise, the Lord will not spare the false teachers, but will keep them under punishment for the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9).  The false teachers falsely promised others freedom, but they themselves were slaves of corruption (2 Peter 2:19). The context clearly identifies the false teachers as unsaved people going to destruction, trying to take others with them. Therefore, we must examine the preceding verse, 2 Peter 2:20, in more detail to help us understand 2 Peter 2:21.

Section Two

Escaped Defilements

2.1 Escaped Defilements. Peter indicated that the false teachders “have escaped the defilements of the world” (2 Peter 2:20). 1Peter provided: εἰ γὰρ ἀποφυγόντες τὰ μιάσματα τοῦ κόσμου (2 Peter 2:20). Some people may argue that the phrase “have escaped the defilements of the world” shows that the false teachers were actually saved at some previous time in their lives. In 2 Peter 1:4, Peter described how God gave the magnificent promises  (μέγιστα ἐπαγγέλματα) so that (ἵνα) by them you may become (γένησθε) divine fellowshippers nature (θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως), having escaped the decay (τὰ μιάσματα) which in the world in desire. 2See also the Μέτοχοι of Hebrews 3:14 who were participants of Christ, but many of them were never saved. Therefore, we see that the promises provide a means to escape decay and become a fellowshipper of the divine nature.

2.2 Means. Peter described how God provides the means for escaping the defilement of the world, which does not equate to salvation. Last State Worse? While salvation always includes escaping the defilements of the world, not all people who escape the defilements of the world by believing the magnificent promises of God have been saved. Salvation turns upon the gift of faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior, not temporary, outward manifestations of holiness. For the false teachers, their escape was only temporary, because they were never freed by Jesus as Savior from their slavery to corruption. They never became new creatures in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 4:30).

Section Three

Knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

3.1 Knowledge of the Lord. Peter also discussed how some people escape the defilements of the world “by knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” By adding this phrase, “knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” some people may argue that the false teachers had saving knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 3Peter provided: ἐν ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ κυρίου καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (2 Peter 2:20). Notice that Peter did not use the phrase “our Lord” as he did in 1 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:2, 1:8,11,14,16; 2 Peter 3:15,18. In 2 Peter 3:18 Peter used the exact phrase “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” to close his greeting to the saints. Does the phrase knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ always mean that the person with such knowledge (ἐπιγνώσει) has been saved? Paul provided other uses of that term which help us understand whether it always equates to salvation. 

3.2 Having Known the Righteousness of God. Paul used the term “having known” (ἐπιγνόντες) to describe unsaved people having known the righteousness of God (Romans 1:32). 4Paul provided: οἵτινες τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπιγνόντες ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες ἄξιοι θανάτου εἰσίν, οὐ μόνον αὐτὰ ποιοῦσιν ἀλλὰ καὶ συνευδοκοῦσιν τοῖς πράσσουσιν (Romans 1:32). The people Paul described in Romans 1 as “having known the righteousness of God” had never been saved when Paul wrote about them. Therefore, we cannot assume in 2 Peter 2:20 that the people having knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ were saved because of that knowledge. So is the Last State Worse? Peter was actually describing psuedo-Christians (false teachers) who outwardly pretended to be Christians, but their behavior and spiritual condition showed they were evil spies living among the Christians.

Section Four

Again Entangled, Lack

4.1 Again Entangled. Having temporarily escaped the defilements of the world, the false teachers then became entangled again in their slavery to corruption. They have a lack of the power to remain free because they have never been born again (2 Peter 2:20). 5Peter described the false teachers as once again entangled in the defilements (μιάσματα ) of the world, which they had temporarily escaped. Compare the soldier who entangles (ἐμπλέκεται–present middle/passive indicative) in the affairs of life and so is unable to fulfill his military service (2 Timothy 2:4). Peter did not emphasize the entanglements overcoming the false teachers, but the lack of power in the false teachers to leave the entanglements permanently and to live in the way of righteousness, which is only possible by the salvation provided by Jesus Christ and the abiding power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16).

4.2 Have Lack.  Because the false teachers lack the spiritual power of righteousness to remain free from the evil entanglements, they continue in the spiritual slavery of corruption because they remain slaves of corruption, never having been freed by the power of Jesus Christ. 6The better translation of ἡττῶνται–perfect middle/passive indicative comes from 2 Corinthians 12:13 where Corinth was not overcome by the other churches, but the Corinthians were found lacking (ἡσσώθητε) in comparison to the other churches. Likewise, compare the concept of lack in 1 Corinthians 16:17 where messengers filled up what was lacking (ὑστέρημα) in their service to Paul.

Section Five

Last State

5.1 Last State. Peter described the last state of the false teachers as worse than the first state (2 Peter 2:20). 7Peter provided: γέγονεν αὐτοῖς τὰ ἔσχατα χείρονα τῶν πρώτων (2 Peter 2:20). The first significant change was positive in the sense that they temporarily escaped the defilements of the world in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Then, however, the second significant change was negative, because they were entangled again in the defilements. They were entangled again because they have lacked the power to free themselves permanently from those entanglements. Therefore, they knew about temporary escape from the defilements of the world, but then have returned to those defilements. At all times, they have lacked the power to remain free. Therefore, they returned to spiritual slavery, having tasted temporary freedom, but only for a while. We can learn more about Last State Worse.

5.2 Demon Activity. Jesus warned that when an unclean spirit goes out of a man, it may return to its house and find it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Therefore, it takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself and they then live there (Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26). In that case, the last state is worse than the first. Because the false teacher remains exposed to seven more spirits, more wicked than the first, so also the false teacher’s last state may be worse than the first. Jesus indicated that his generation would be the same way. They continued to live, but in a worse spiritual state.

5.3 Better Late. Jesus commended the love, faith, service and perseverance of the church of Thyatira. Its deeds were greater than the first (Revelation 2:19). 8John provided: οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστιν καὶ τὴν διακονίαν καὶ τὴν ὑπομονήν σου, καὶ τὰ ἔργα σου τὰ ἔσχατα πλείονα τῶν πρώτων (Revelation 2:19). For some saints, their works improve with age, but they may still be found lacking some important qualities, such they tolerate false teachers and defilers like Jezebel.  

Section Six

Worse State

6.1 Worse State. Peter described the last state of the false teachers as worse than their first state (2 Peter 2:20). 9Peter provided: γέγονεν αὐτοῖς τὰ ἔσχατα χείρονα τῶν πρώτων (2 Peter 2:20). The term “worse” means a comparison to something better. 10The only other use of χείρονα described the condition of the demon possessed man who had a demon removed from him, but then he fell back into his evils and not only the first demon returned to him, but seven more evil spirits moved into his life (Matthew 12:45: Luke 11:26). 

6.2 Cannot Be Renewed. The Hebrews who tasted of the good word of God, but then have fallen away, cannot be renewed again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame (Hebrews 6:4-8; see also Eternal Security in Hebrews 6). Just like the false teachers in 2 Peter 2:20, the Hebrews were God’s chosen people, but some of them only had a form of Godliness, but actually never become saved by faith in Jesus the Messiah. In that sense, the last state of some of Hebrews who never believed was worse than the first state.

6.3 Greater Judgment.  Paul explained that God gives greater light to some people. For the people receiving more light from God, they incur greater judgment because they received greater light and rejected it (Romans 2:9-16; 3:1-2; see also James 3:1). All people have received sufficient revelation from God to be guilty under that standard to deserve the death penalty (Romans 1:19-20; Romans 3:23; 6:23). The Jews, however, had the Law and other special revelations from God, and so incurred greater judgment. At all times, God remains impartial, judging all people according to the light given to them and their response to that light (Romans 3:1-2; 1 Peter 4:17). Therefore, because the false teachers had greater light, they will also receive a greater judgment and so the last state of the false teachers will be worse than the first state.

6.4 Judgment Begins with God’s Household. Peter proclaimed that judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). With difficulty the righteous is saved (1 Peter 4:18). Peter meant that the righteous experience fiery ordeals on earth because of their saving faith (1 Peter 4:12). They keep on rejoicing to the degree that they share the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) and the glory of God rests upon them for being reviled (1 Peter 4:14). Therefore, Peter concluded that the path of righteousness leads on earth through fiery ordeals and the saints share the sufferings of Christ as they are reviled. He then declared that judgment starts with the household of God because some saints suffer as a murderer, thief, evildoer, or troublesome meddler and they will be judged first (1 Peter 4:15). Peter finished with his question: “what will become of the Godless man and the sinner?” The false prophets will suffer greater judgment and will be in a worse state after judgment comes upon them while they are alive on earth and lived in disobedience. Therefore, because the false teachers will receive greater judgment, the last state of the false teachers will be worse than the first state.

6.5 Storing up Wrath. Paul wrote that the people who think lightly of the riches of the kindness of God, and live in stubbornness with unrepentant hearts, are storing up wrath for themselves in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5). The longer the false teacher persists in doing evil, the more wrath the false teacher stores up and the more punishment the false teacher will receive from God Who will render to each man according to his works (Romans 2:6-11).  Therefore, because the false teacher stores up more wrath and will receive a greater punishment, the last state of the false teacher will be worse than the first state.

Section Seven

Better Not To Have Known

7.1 Better Not To Have Known. Peter proclaimed that it would be better for the false teachers not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them (2 Peter 2:21). Some people may argue that the word “known” means the false teachers were once saved. Again, we must examine that word “known” as used in other parts of Scripture.

7.2  Know God. God described some people as “they knew God, they did not honor Him as God” (Romans 1: 21). 11Paul provided:διότι γνόντες τὸν θεὸν οὐχ ὡς θεὸν ἐδόξασαν ἢ ηὐχαρίστησαν, ἀλλ’ ἐματαιώθησαν ἐν τοῖς διαλογισμοῖς αὐτῶν καὶ ἐσκοτίσθη ἡ ἀσύνετος αὐτῶν καρδία (Romans 1:32). Knowing God does not always equate to salvation, because those same people were never believers (see also Romans 1:19, 28, 32, 2:20; 3:20). Just because someone knows God and His ways does not necessarily equate to salvation. Therefore, Peter described the false teachers as knowing the way of righteousness, but then turning away from it. Because of other uses of the term “know” related to knowing God, we cannot assume that knowing the “way of righteousness” means that person was automatically saved. 

7.3 Stumbling in the Way of Righteousness. Hosea said hat transgressors stumble (יִכָּ֥שְׁלוּ) in the way of righteousness (Hosea 14:9). 12Hosea provided: מִ֤י חָכָם֙ וְיָ֣בֵֽן אֵ֔לֶּה נָבֹ֖ון וְיֵֽדָעֵ֑ם כִּֽי־יְשָׁרִ֞ים דַּרְכֵ֣י יְהוָ֗ה וְצַדִּקִים֙ יֵ֣לְכוּ בָ֔ם וּפֹשְׁעִ֖ים יִכָּ֥שְׁלוּ בָֽם (Hosea 14:9). Therefore, just because someone knows and walks in the way of righteousness for a while does not mean they were ever saved. 

Section Eight

Way of Righteousness

8.1 Way of Righteousness. Peter described the false teachers as people “having known the way of righteousness.” 13Peter provided: “κρεῖττον γὰρ ἦν αὐτοῖς μὴ ἐπεγνωκέναι τὴν ὁδὸν τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἢ ἐπιγνοῦσιν ὑποστρέψαι ἐκ τῆς παραδοθείσης αὐτοῖς ἁγίας ἐντολῆς.” (2 Peter 2:21). Some people may argue that the phrase “having known the way of righteousness” means the false teachers were once saved, but then lost their salvation.  Does the phrase “having known the way of righteousness” always mean that person has been saved? 

8.2 John the Baptist. Jesus said that John the Baptist came to the Pharisees “in the way of righteousness” (Matthew 21:32). Even so, many of those people did not believe him (Matthew 21:32). Many Pharisees and Sadducees also came to John the Baptist for baptism, but John called them a brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7). Many people made a claim to righteousness, like the Sadducees and Pharisees, but they were never saved (Matthew 5:20). 

8.3 The Hebrews. The Hebrews as a group had been enlightened, tasted of the heavenly gift and had been partakers of the Holy Spirit, but they still were unsaved (see Hebrews 6 Eternal Security).

8.4 People Believe in Jesus, But Have No Saving Faith. In the Gospel of John, some people believed in Jesus, but were never saved (John 2:23-25; 8:31, 44, 47). Therefore, we should exercise extreme caution in concluding people were saved because they had known the way of righteousness. 

8.5 Way of the Truth. Peter described false teachers causing “the way of the truth to be blasphemed.” 14Peter provided: καὶ πολλοὶ ἐξακολουθήσουσιν αὐτῶν ταῖς ἀσελγείαις δι’ οὓς ἡ ὁδὸς τῆς ἀληθείας βλασφημηθήσεται, (2 Peter 2:2). Therefore, while the false teachers pretended to be Christians, and lived among Christians, they actually caused “the way of the truth to be blasphemed” by their evil ways and teachings. They introduced destructive heresies and denied the Master who bought them (proving unlimited atonement of Christ’s sacrifice) and they end in destruction (2 Peter 2:1-3). 

8.6 Straight Way. False teachers at work among the Christians will be destroyed (2 Peter 2:12). 15Peter provided: Οὗτοι δὲ ὡς ἄλογα ζῷα γεγεννημένα φυσικὰ εἰς ἅλωσιν καὶ φθορὰν ἐν οἷς ἀγνοοῦσιν βλασφημοῦντες ἐν τῇ φθορᾷ αὐτῶν καὶ φθαρήσονται (2 Peter 2:12). The term φθαρήσονται describes spiritual corruption of people (1 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 7:2; 11:3; Revelation 19:2). They have eyes full of adultery, accursed children, forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, loving the wages of unrighteousness (2 Peter 2:14-16). The false teachers were never saved. The false teachers have left the straight way (2 Peter 2:15). They were pretenders living among the Christians, but accursed children from birth. 16Peter provided: καταλιπόντες εὐθεῖαν ὁδὸν ἐπλανήθησαν ἐξακολουθήσαντες τῇ ὁδῷ τοῦ Βαλαὰμ τοῦ Βοσὸρ ὃς μισθὸν ἀδικίας ἠγάπησεν. See the same root word for leaving in  Matthew 19:5; Luke 15:4; Hebrews 4:1. Some of the Hebrews were being left behind and would not enter the rest of God, indicating they were never saved (Hebrews 4:1).

Section Nine

Turned from the Holy Commandment Handed on to Them

9.1 Holy Commandment. The false teachers turned away from the Holy Commandment handed on to them (2 Peter 2:21). 17Peter provided: “κρεῖττον γὰρ ἦν αὐτοῖς μὴ ἐπεγνωκέναι τὴν ὁδὸν τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἢ ἐπιγνοῦσιν ὑποστρέψαι ἐκ τῆς παραδοθείσης αὐτοῖς ἁγίας ἐντολῆς.” (2 Peter 2:21). Some people may argue that people must be saved if they received the Holy Commandment. 18I did not find any use of the term  ὑποστρέψα in the New Testament associated with turning away from the Holy Commandment or the ways of God. In Titus 1:4, I noted that some people turn away (ἀποστρεφομένων) from the truth of God (see also 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:4; Hebrews 12:25.  

9.2 Holy Law and Holy Commandment. Paul left no doubt that both the Old Testament Law and its commandments are holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12). Even so, sin took advantage of the Law and deceived Paul and by the Law put Paul to spiritual death (Romans 7:11). Therefore, we may not conclude that knowing and receiving the “holy commandment” equated to salvation.

9.3 Apostles and the Holy Commandment. Peter described the apostles as providing the words by spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior by your apostles (2 Peter 3:2; Jude 1:17). Peter meant that Jesus commanded the apostles to speak for Him to the people. They spoke by commandment of God. Peter then revealed that mockers will come in the last days and claim God is slow about His promises (2 Peter 2:3-9). God is not slow about His promises, but is patient, willing that no one perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). John the apostle explained repeatedly that this is love, that we should walk according to the commandments of God, which the believers have heard from the beginning (2 John 1:6). The Hebrews as a nation received the holy commandments from the holy prophets (Romans 3:1-3), but most of the Hebrews rejected Jesus as Savior (John 1:11). In fact, God allowed His apostles to be condemned to death by the hands of evil men (1 Corinthians 4:9: Revelation 18:20). Therefore, we must not conclude that all people who received the Holy Commandment were necessarily saved.

Section Ten

Dog and Sow

10.1 Still Dog and Sow. Peter quoted the proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and “A sow, after washing, wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:22). This verse by itself clearly dispels any notion that the false teachers were once saved. Consider that the dog remained a dog and the sow remained a sow. They were never born again and never became new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). They remained the same creatures they were before. Furthermore, because they were never born again into a new creature, they returned to their natural ways.

10.2 Jesus and Dogs. Jesus warned believers not to give what is holy to dogs and not to throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you to pieces (Matthew 7:6). Likewise, Jesus said that it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs, referring to Gentiles as dogs (Matthew 15:27). Happily, Jesus allowed some dogs to eat of the scraps from the Master’s table (Matthew 15:27) and they became new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1Corinthians 6:9-11)

10.3 Paul and Dogs. Paul equated dogs with evil workers and the false circumcision (Philippians 4:2).

10.4 The New Jerusalem and Dogs. Outside the New Jerusalem are the dogs, sorcerers, immoral persons, murderers, idolaters, and everyone who loves practicing lying (Revelation 22:15). Therefore, we know that dogs, so long as they remain dogs, are not saved and not going to the New Jerusalem.

Section Eleven


11.1 Never Saved. While some people claim that 2 Peter 2:21 supports the heresy that some people lose their salvation, actually the verse shows that God revealed that the false teachers were never saved, despite having so many blessings poured out upon them. They temporarily escaped the defilements of the world, they had knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,  and walked in the way of righteousness for a while, but eventually they returned to their evil ways. They were like dogs and sows, returning to their natural ways, because they were never born again into new creatures in Christ. Saints will never be like them, because saints may sin, but they remain the children of God by the loving power of God Who made them new creations in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.


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