2 Peter 2:20
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.
2Pe 2:21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
Hoekema Saved By Grace
We look, finally, at a passage from Peter's second epistle:
If they....to them. (2Pe 2:20-21).
Here we are looking at people who have had some knowledge of Christ and who have known the way of righteousness. But they have again become entangled in the corruption of the world and have now turned their backs on God's laws - so much so that, as peter says, they are now worse off than they were at the beginning. Were these men ever true believers? Was their knowledge of Christ ever a true and saving knowledge? There is no indication in the text that they were ever true believers. Besides, earlier in this epistle Peter had described true believers as those who, by adding to their faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love, will make their calling and election sure, adding the promise, "If....fall" (2Pe 1:5-11). And in his first epistle, as we have seen, the same author had said that true believers not only have an inheritance that can never perish but are being shielded or guarded by God's power through faith until the coming of the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1Pe 1:3-5). Is it not obvious that those described in 2. Pet 2:20-21 do not fit into these descriptions.
John Gill Expositor
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world. The sins of it, the governing vices of it, which the men of the world are addicted to, and immersed in; for the whole world lies in wickedness, and which are of a defiling nature: the phrase is Rabbinical; it is said,
"he that studies not in the law in this world, but is defiled amle ypwnjb, "with the pollutions of the world", what is written of him? and they took him, and cast him without:"
these, men may escape, abstain from, and outwardly reform, with respect unto, and yet be destitute of the grace of God; so that this can be no instance of the final and total apostasy of real saints; for the house may be swept and garnished with an external reformation; persons may be outwardly righteous before men, have a form of godliness and a name to live, and yet be dead in trespasses and sins; all which they may have
through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, read, our Lord, and the latter leave out, "and Saviour"; by which "knowledge" is meant, not a spiritual experimental knowledge of Christ, for that is eternal life, the beginning, pledge, and earnest of it; but a notional knowledge of Christ, or a profession of knowledge of him, for it may be rendered "acknowledgment"; or rather the Gospel of Christ, which, being only notionally received, may have such an effect on men, as outwardly to reform their lives, at least in some instances, and for a while, in whose hearts it has no place. Now if, after all this knowledge and reformation,
they are again entangled therein; in the pollutions of the world, in worldly lusts, which are as gins, pits and snares:
and overcome; by them, so as to be laden with them, and led away, and entirely governed and influenced by them:
the latter end, or state,
is worse with them than the beginning; see Mat 12:45. Their beginning, or first estate, was that in which they were born, a state of darkness, ignorance, and sin, and in which they were brought up, and was either the state of Judaism, or of Gentilism; their next estate was an outward deliverance and escape from the error of the one, or of the other, and an embracing and professing the truth of the Christian religion, joined with a becoming external conversation; and this their last estate was an apostasy from the truth of the Gospel they had professed, a reception of error and heresy, and a relapse into sin and immorality, which made their case worse than it was at first; for, generally, such persons are more extravagant in sinning; are like raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; and are seldom, or ever, recovered; and by their light, knowledge, and profession, their punishment will be more aggravated, and become intolerable.