Scriptures and Footnotes...

The Possibility of Apostasy

"For if after they have escaped[1] the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled[2] in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better[2] for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'A dog returns to its own vomit,' and, 'A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire[4]'" (2 Peter 2:20-22).

"My brethren, if any among[5] you strays from the truth, and one turns him back[6], let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death[7], and will cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19,20).

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away[8] as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (John 15:6).

"And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey[9] Him the source of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9).

Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does[10] the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

"and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey[11] the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed -- for our testimony to you was believed" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction[12], but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul" (Hebrews 10:36-39).


[1] Obviously, Peter is writing of Christians, for they are the only accountable people who "have escaped the defilements of the world." Sinners remained in sin's bondage.

[2] This phrase, "again entangled," also indicates to us that this passage is speaking of Christians who were once set free from the snare of sin, but have become "entangled" in it again. Non-Christians simply remain entangled or bound by iniquity, and need to be liberated from it before they could possibly be ensnared in it "again."

[3] How could being a backslidden Christian be worse than the fate of an alien sinner, as Peter expresses here? Undoubtedly, it is not only an indication that the backslider is back into a lost state; but that it is also worse because the Christian had been so much closer to eternal redemption than the non-Christian. It can be likened to, "Which is worse? to lose $1 or to lose $5 million?" In the case of the Christian who falls away, it is even more than losing the equivalent of $5 million -- it is losing eternal life, which is of far greater value than all the wealth or treasure in the universe.

[4] These illustrations of the dog and the sow are also indicative of one who was once "healed" of his "sickness" of sin, but then returns to its "fatal contamination"; and one who is cleansed from the filth of sin, but them once again sullies himself in the mire of iniquity.

[5] The phrase "any among you" indicates to us that James is speaking of fellow Christians who stray from the truth.

[6] From the concept of turning one back, we can also infer that the one restored is a Christian who had fallen away, for who else could we "turn back" except those who were once in the truth but then departed it?

[7] To "save his soul from death" is not talking about physical death -- for all die, both the wicked and the righteous. Even Jesus who committed no sin, died, and His body remained in the tomb for three days. Unquestionably, this "death" is referring to "spiritual death," which separates a person from God. As Jesus states in John 8:52, "...If anyone keeps My word, he shall never taste of death." Again, the reference is to "spiritual death" -- and not physical. The Christian who passes away lives on with God. Departed spirits of the righteous dwell in Paradise awaiting the final judgment before entering heaven's eternal glory (Luke 16:19-31). This is where Jesus took the thief on the cross, and where the Lord spent three days (2 Cor. 12:4). Jesus made an amazing and comforting statement when He said, "But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living" (Matthew 22:31,32). The conclusion being that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still alive -- in spirit -- though their bodies have returned to dust.

[8] We are to abide in the Lord by keeping His commandments (John 15:10), but if we are not doing this we will become like a withered branch that is cast away and burned.

[9] To whom is the promise that Jesus will be the source of eternal life? Only to those who obey.

[10] We must realize that if we want to be saved there are things we must do, and things we must maintain doing.

[11] Note that it is not only the atheist, the agnostic, or those who do not know God who will suffer from the wrath of the Lord, but also those who "do not obey"; and the penalty is an "eternal" separation from God. The disobedient will include the backslidden Christian, as well as the sinners who never submitted to God's plan of salvation. Without question, from this passage and the others listed, salvation can be lost! We must, therefore, strive to make our "calling and election sure," as Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:10.

[12] The Christian must endure. To fall away or "shrink back," as the Hebrew writer expresses it, would result in not only God's displeasure, but also cause great detriment to our soul and the forfeiture of eternal life.