Such men are dried up waterholes, and mists driven by the storms for whom the gloom of darkness waits. By speaking vainly and out of all proportion, they entrap by means of their natural desires, and they are intent upon capturing those who have recently, and only just, escaped from those living in this [same] way, holding out the promise of freedom but all the while they are [actually the] slaves to their own demise - for whatever defeats a man, but that he is enslaved. For if, having escaped the defiling degradations of the world, by [receiving] thorough knowledge of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, they then become entangled and overcome, then this one's latter time is far worse that it was formerly. But better it was for them not to have been so thoroughly presented with the way of righteousness, than having thorough knowledge of it, to then turn from the holy commandment by which they had been delivered. But it has come for them as the proverb truly says: the dog returns to its own vomit; the sow that has been washed returns to wallow in the mire.
Peter continues in picturesque invective. With evident reference to the struggles in time past between the prophets sent by the Lord and the self-appointed advisors to God's people, he exposes their entrapments in words suggesting that the entire cosmic order is out of joint. Things have fallen apart and whatever has taken hold in the lives of these deceivers causes all of life to fall apart.
As false teachers they can offer no true refreshment.
To become associated with these deceivers is to risk radical de-stabilization. They restlessly anticipate their own annihilation when all the lights will finally be extinguished, as if they know the future ahead of time. They fool others by their well-orchestrated patter, and entice the genuine and authentic believers into a return to the mess from which God's mercy has only recently, and only just, rescued them.
And with what result?
The consequences are almost too grim to put into words. It is as if such self-degrading persons should never have heard the Gospel in the first place. This is described as a return to slavery, and it is a worse form of servitude because it is simply in denial of God's mercy and favour. It constitutes a willing embrace of destruction.
The downward spiral can only end in destruction.
That is the consequence of rejecting the way of the lord.
They have effectively turned the law of God into a lie.
In reading this, one has to wonder whether Peter is writing with the utterly tragic situation in mind when Jerusalem fell as recounted by Jeremiah the prophet (39-45). The proverbial conclusion:
the dog returns to its own vomit;
the sow that has been washed returns to wallow in the mire.
speaks of the hopeless and mindless spirit that has captured those defecting, those wilfully trading in their freedom for slavery.
… whatever defeats a man by that he is enslaved.
What a mess!