I started a lesson this past Sunday in the little “post card” called Jude. It’s just one chapter, and the fourth shortest letter in the New Testament, but there is a lot to consider as we strive to understand it. I was recently reading from Warren Wiersbe and will bring this up in class this weekend.
Three Illustrations from Jude (Jude 5-7)
Like Peter, Jude reached back into Old Testament history and gave three examples of God’s victory over those who had resisted his authority and turned from the truth. Peter referred to the fallen angels, Noah, and Lot (2 Peter 2:1-9), following the historical order. He also emphasized God’s deliverance of the righteous and His judgment of the ungodly. Jude, however, did not mention Noah and the Flood, but instead used the nation Israel as his example.
The point Jude was making is that God judges apostates. Therefore, the false teachers who had crept into the church would also one day be judged. Their seeming success would not last; God would have the last word.
Israel (Jude 1:5). Both Paul (1 Corinthians 10) and the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 3-4) used the experiences of Israel to illustrate important spiritual truths. The nation was delivered from Egypt by the power of God and brought to the border of the Promised Land, but the people were afraid and did not have the faith to enter and possess the land (Numbers 13-14). Moses, Joshua, and Caleb tried to encourage the people to obey God by faith, but the people refused. In fact. the leaders of the tribes even wanted to organize and go back to Egypt, their place of bondage.
This was rebellion against the will and the Word of God, and God cannot tolerate rebellion. As a result, everybody in the camp twenty years and older was destined to die at some time in the next forty years. Their unbelief led to their extermination.
Keep in mind that Jude was using a historical event as an illustration, and we must not press every detail. The entire nation was delivered from Egypt, but that does not mean that each individual was personally saved through faith in the Lord. The main point of the account is that privileges bring responsibilities, and God cannot lightly pass over the sins of His people. If any of Jude’s readers dared to follow the false teachers, they too would face the discipline of God. “Wherefore let him that think he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
The fallen angels (Jude 1:6). We studied this illustration in 2 Peter 2:4, but Jude seems to add a new dimension to it by associating the fail of the angels with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 7, “since they in the same way”). Some Bible students believe that Jude was teaching not only a revolt of the angels against God, but also an invasion of earth by these fallen angels. They point to Genesis 6:1-4 and claim that “the sons of God” were fallen angels who assumed human bodies, cohabited with the daughters of men, and produced a race of giants on the earth. This was one reason that God sent the Flood.
As attractive and popular as this view is, I must confess that I have a difficult time accepting it. Here’s why:
- It is true that “the sons of God” is a title for angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), but not for fallen angels. Would the Holy Spirit, writing through Moses, call rebellious angels “the sons of God”? I doubt it.
- My second problem is that angels are spirits and do not have bodies. In the Old Testament, we read of angels who appeared in human form, but this was not incarnation. How could a spirit being have a physical relationship with a woman, even if we assumed a temporary body of some kind? Our Lord taught that the angels were sexless (Matthew 22:30).
- Third, it appears that God sent the Flood because of what man did, not what angels did. “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” “And it grieved the Lord that He had made man on the earth” (Genesis 6:3, 5-6). If this “fallen angel” view is correct, God should have grieved over creating the angels.
- Fourth, the phrases “even as” and “in like manner” in Genesis 6:7 need not be interpreted to say that the angels did what the Sodomites did (going after strange flesh). Notice the grammatical connections in the verse, and you will get the message: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah . . . in like manner . . . are set forth for an example.” The angels are an example of God’s judgment and so are Sodom and Gomorrah. Furthermore, Genesis 6:4 presents a strong argument against the view that fallen angels cohabited with women and produced a race of giants. “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that.” This would mean that a second invasion of fallen angels had to take place! We have no record of this in Scripture.
- Finally, both Peter and Jude state clearly that these rebellious angels are chained in darkness and reserved for judgment. They would have to have invaded the earth prior to being arrested and chained by God. We wonder why God would have permitted them to “run loose” long enough to get the women into sin and help to cause the great Flood. The whole explanation seems a bit problematic.
The supplest explanation of Genesis 6 is that the godly line of Seth (“the sons of God”) began to mingle with the ungodly line of Cain, and this broke down the walls of separation, resulting in compromise and eventually tremendous sin. Remember to keep the main lesson in mind: the angels rebelled and were punished for their rebellion.
Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 1:7). Both Peter and Jude state that God made these cities an example to warn the ungodly that God does judge sin (2 Peter 2:6). When you combine their descriptions, you discover that the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah were: ungodly, filthy, wicked, unlawful, unjust, and given over to fornication. “They did not occasionally commit unnatural sexual sins: they indulged in them and gave themselves over to the pursuit of lust. The Greek verb is intensive, menaing “to indulge in excessive immorality.” This was their way of life—and death!
Strange flesh means “different flesh.” The bent of their life was constantly downward, indulging in unnatural acts (Romans 1:24-27). Those who hold the “fallen angel” interpretation of Genesis 6 make the “strange flesh” refer to angels in human form; but when did the angels invade Sodom and Gomorrah? If fallen angels are meant, how can their sin and the sin of the Sodomites apply to us today, for we have no fallen angels to tempt or seduce us? Indeed, the men at Lot’s door did want to engage in homosexual activity with his angelic guests, but the Sodomites did not know they were angels.
These cities were set forth by God as an example and warning to ungodly people today. The verb set forth means “to expose openly to public view” like a corpse lying in state. But the cities are not today in public view. It is generally agreed among archeologists that Sodom and Gomorrah are buried under the southern end of the Dead Sea. How, then, do they serve as an example? No one can read Genesis 18-19 without clearly seeing God’s hatred for sin and His patience and willingness to postpone judgment. This certainly ties in with Peter’s explanation for God’s seeming delay in fulfilling the promise of Christ’s return (2 Peter 3:8, 9).
The sin of Israel was rebellious unbelief (Hebrews 3:12). The sin of the angels was rebellion against the throne of God. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was indulging in unnatural lust. Unbelief, rebellion against authority. and sensual indulgence were sins characteristic of the false teachers. The conclusion is obvious: the apostates will be judged. But, meanwhile, God’s soldiers must stay on duty and see to it that these false teachers do not creep into the ranks and start to lead people astray. “Pay close attention to yourself and your teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16).