Lessons from Primitive Figures

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).

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Lessons from People of Faith

This is the third lesson from the little post card of Jude. He goes on to encourage God’s people to persevere in spite of the danger that faced them.

The Reminder to Remember the Apostles’ Warning (Jude 1:17–19)
The apostles had warned that scoffers would arise in the end times who would follow their own ungodly desires. Jude’s quotation of the apostles’ teaching is a general summary rather than a specific reference. It is the “last times” in relation to Jesus Christ’s return to reign on earth. While they may have claimed to be the truly spiritual group, the false teachers were really worldly minded and shared the viewpoint of unbelievers.

  1. The apostles had warned the coming generation about apostates, so that they would be prepared and not be taken by surprise (Acts 20:28–31; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2; 2 Timothy 3:1–5; 4:1–3; 2 Peter 2:1–3:4; 1 John 2:18; 2 John 1:7–11). God’s Word is designed to warn and protect (Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 4:14); as Jude 1:18 indicates, there had been continually repeated warnings (all saying to you).
  2. Last time: This term refers to the time of Messiah from His first coming until His second (2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18). These characteristics will prevail until Christ returns.
  3. Mockers: As in 2 Peter 3:3, these are the scoffers at God’s future plans who pretend to know the truth but deny that judgment will ever come; choosing to follow ungodly lust.
  4. Jude’s profile of an apostate:
    1. Ungodly (Jude 1:4)
    2. Morally perverted (Jude 1:4)
    3. Deny Christ (Jude 1:4)
    4. Defile the flesh (Jude 1:8)
    5. Rebellious (Jude 1:8)
    6. Revile holy angels (Jude 1:8)
    7. Dreamers (Jude 1:10)
    8. Ignorant (Jude 1:10)
    9. Corrupted (Jude 1:10)
    10. Grumblers (Jude 1:16)
    11. Fault finders (Jude 1:16)
    12. Self seeking (Jude 1:16)
    13. Arrogant speakers (Jude 1:16)
    14. Flatterers (Jude 1:16)
    15. Mockers (Jude 1:18)
    16. Cause division (Jude 1:19)
    17. Worldly minded (Jude 1:19)
    18. Without the Spirit (Jude 1:19)

The Positive Instruction of the Readers (Jude 1:20–23)
Since believers are God’s temples under attack by hostile enemy forces, we need to build ourselves up, to strengthen ourselves spiritually, and to pray for God’s help in our warfare. We should also keep ourselves in the sphere of God’s love by abiding in Him (John 15:9–10), and we should keep our hope clearly in view since we have only a short time to remain faithful. Christians should help those who are struggling and perhaps stumbling under the influence of these false teachers and should attempt to restore those who have fallen into error. In the case of those whom heresy has completely swept away, we should have pity on them rather than condemning them without compassion. We should fear God’s displeasure and discipline if we embrace their error. We should avoid any contact with these people because of the corrupting influence they can have on us through their words and actions.

  1. Building: True believers have a sure foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11) and cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20) in Jesus Christ. The truths of the Christian faith have been provided in the teaching of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), so that Christians can build themselves up by the Word of God (Acts 20:32).
  2. Praying in the Holy Spirit: Simply a call to pray consistently in the will and power of the Spirit, as one would pray in the name of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:26, 27).
  3. Waiting: An eager anticipation of Christ’s second coming to provide eternal life in its ultimate, resurrection form (Titus 2:13; 1 John 3:1–3), which is the ultimate expression of God’s mercy on one to whom Christ’s righteousness has undeservedly been imputed.
  4. Some (Jude 1:22, 23): They are: 1) sincere doubters who deserve compassion (Jude 1:22), 2) those who are deeper in unbelief and urgently need to be pulled from the fire (Jude 1:23); and 3) those declared disciples of apostasy who still deserve mercy, but are to be handled with much fear (Jude 1:23).

Conclusion (Jude 1:24–25)

Jude concluded his brief epistle with a formal doxology that included a prayer for his readers. His benediction (or doxology) is one of the most known in the NT (Romans 11:33–36; 16:25–27; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 13:20, 21). He wanted to assure them of God’s ability to help them remain faithful in spite of the apostasy that threatened them. Our confidence rests in God’s ability to keep us safe and faithful. Jude returned to the theme of salvation which he had hoped to develop at the beginning (Jude 1:3).

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Lessons from Present Failures

As we continue taking a look at the little post card of Jude, we find lessons that could be right out of the news today.

Present Failures (Jude 1:8–16)
Jude next expounded the errors of the false teachers in his day to warn his readers even more strongly. Jude referred to certain Old Testament “types” (Jude 1:5–7, 11) and prophecies (Jude1:14–15, 17–18) and then interpreted them as fulfilled by the false teachers (Jude 1:8–10, 12–13, 16, 19).

He first exposed the nature of their error (Jude 1:8–9). Like dreamers living in the fancies of their own imaginations, the apostates substituted an unreal world for the real world of divine truth. Their presumption stands out boldly in comparison with Michael’s submission and reverence in dealing with another powerful angel, Satan. Michael could not reject the devil’s accusation on his own authority because he was not his judge. All he could do was ask the Lord, who alone is Judge, to condemn Satan for his slander.

Michael is the chief angel of God who especially watches over Israel (Daniel 10:13, 21, 12:1) and leads the holy angels (Revelation 12:7). Nowhere else in Scripture is this struggle over the body of Moses mentioned. Michael had to fight with Satan to do God’s will, as he did on another occasion in Daniel 10:13.

Regarding the body of Moses: Moses died on Mt. Nebo in Moab without entering the Promised Land and was secretly buried in a place not known to man (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6). It would likely be that this confrontation took place as Michael buried Moses to prevent Satan from using Moses’ body for some twisted purpose. Perhaps Satan wanted to use it as an idol, an object of worship for Israel. God sent Michael to be certain it was buried. This account was recorded in the pseudepigraphal Assumption of Moses.

Jude next explained the seriousness of the error of the false teachers (Jude 1:10–13). The things they did “not understand but reviled” probably refer to aspects of God’s revealed will that they chose to reject. What they did understand was the gratification of the flesh, and that would destroy them (Jude 1:11).

  1. Cain’s way was the way of godlessness and sensuality, violence and lust, greed and blasphemy, that led to divine judgment (Genesis 4). He rebelled against God’s way of salvation and acceptable sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22, Ephesians 1:7). We are not able to come to God on our own terms, but on God’s terms. We cannot work to earn our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). The way of Cain is religion without faith, righteousness based on character and good works. His is the way of pride, man establishing his own righteousness and rejecting righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ (Romans 10:1-4, Philippians 3:3-12). Cain ended up with everything he could desire, except God.
  2. Balaam’s error was compromise with God’s enemies and teaching the Israelites they could sin without being punished (Numbers 31:16). Balaam devised a plan for Balak, king of Moab, to entice Israel into a compromising situation with idolatry and immorality which would bring God’s own judgment on His people. The way of Balaam is using one’s gifts and ministry to make money; using the spiritual to gain the material. These false teachers were in it for greedy gain. Balaam’s error was thinking that he could get away with anything for money. This true prophet prostituted his gift. The Revelation mentions the doctrine of Balaam (Revelation 2:14), the ability to violate their special position and get away with it. A little friendship with the world can’t really hurt you. But they turned the grace of God into a license to sin (Jude 1:4).
  3. Korah’s rebellion was against God and His appointed leaders, Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1–35). Korah, plus 250 Jewish leaders, rejected Moses and Aaron in an attempt to impose his will upon God and the people. They rebelled against God’s leader and dared God to do anything about it. How often do we speak against God’s leaders (Titus 3:1-2)? Apostates will unquestionably meet the same end as Korah—divine judgment.

Each of these three examples shows a different aspect of unbelief. Six more illustrations, this time from nature, emphasize the seriousness of the false teachers’ error (Jude 1:12–13).

  1. Hidden reefs” can be taken as “hidden rocks” or as “stains” or “filthy spots” (Jude 1:12). These apostates were dirt spots, filth on the garment of the church; or more likely, what God intended for the church as smooth sailing, they turned into a potential shipwreck through their presence. The “love feasts” were the regular gathering of the early church to partake of the bread and cup, plus share a common meal (1 Corinthians 11:20–30).
  2. Feast” or “selfish shepherds” (Jude 1:12). The word translated feeding can also be shepherding. Instead of shepherding the flock, they only took care of themselves. Their actions were without fear, such arrogance. There is a difference between a true shepherd and a hired hand.
  3. Clouds without water” (Jude 1:12, 2 Peter 2:17). Apostates promise spiritual life but are empty clouds which bring the hope of rain, but actually deliver nothing but dryness and death (Proverbs 25:14). They preach a false gospel that leads only to destruction. They promised liberty but delivered only bondage (2 Peter 2:19).
  4. Dead trees” or “Trees without fruit” (Jude 1:12). Apostates holding out the claim of providing a spiritual feast, but instead deliver famine (Luke 13:6–9). They are not only fruitless, they are rootless. Doubly dead trees will never yield fruit and, regardless of what they say, will always be barren because they are uprooted (Matthew 7:17–20). Contrast these people with Psalm 1:1-3). True evidence of salvation is spiritual fruit (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). Their seed did not produce fruit. They lacked spiritual life.
  5. Wild waves” (Jude 1:13). Apostates promise powerful ministry, but are quickly exposed as wreakers of havoc and workers of worthless shame (Isaiah 57:20). The ocean can be a peaceful place, but I would not want to be on the water during a noreaster. Like the swell of the sea, they make a lot of noise and churn up foam and debris.
  6. Wandering stars” (Jude 1:13). This is not a fixed star, but most likely refers to a meteor or shooting star which has an uncontrolled moment of brilliance and then fades away forever into nothing. Apostates promise enduring spiritual direction, but deliver a brief, aimless, and worthless flash. Christians are to be shining lights in a dark world (Philippians 2:15).

We can see from these descriptions, we must be diligent to recognize them and keep them out of the church. They are not interested in building up the body of Christ but satisfying their own lusts. They murmur and complain, Christians are commanded not to do this (Philippians 2:14-16). They use great words to sway the ignorant, those who don’t know any better (2 Peter 2:18). They are full of hot air and use flattery to manipulate others. There is something about fallen human nature that loves to believe a lie and even follow it, no matter where it may lead.

Jude further warned of the consequences of their error (Jude 1:14–16). He quoted loosely from these non-canonical, pseudepigraphal writings (meaning, the actual author was not the one named in its title) (Jude 1:14, 9). He does these to support his points. Was this acceptable? Since Jude was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21) and included material that was accurate and true, he did nothing differently than Paul (Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12). The point is that false teachers would be the objects of God’s judgment. Much like the former grumblers, the false teachers in Jude’s day grumbled primarily against God. They pursued their lusts for sensuality and gain (Jude 1:15, 16).

All we know about Enoch is found in Genesis 5:18-24 and Hebrews 11:5. He was the seventh from Adam to identify him as the godly Enoch from the ungodly one (Genesis 4:17) in Cain’s line. Enoch’s original message was likely about the coming Flood. False teachers mocked the prophecies of coming judgment. Enoch’s judgment had characteristics:

  1. It will be a personal judgment: God will judge the world but he will not send a famine or flood or assign an angel to take care of it, God himself will do it (James 5:9). It shows the seriousness of the event.
  2. While it is a personal judgment, God will not come alone: He will bring his holy ones (Jude 1:14), meaning the angels (Deuteronomy 33:2, Matthew 25:31) or the people of God Revelation 19:14, Colossians 3:4, 1 Thessalonians 3:13). The tables will be turned.
  3. It will be a universal judgment: It will be upon all and no one will escape. All but those in the ark died; all but Lot and his daughters died; it will be the day of judgment (2 Peter 3:7).
  4. It will be a just judgment: God will convict (convince) men of sin, declare them guilty, pass sentence and execute judgment. There will be a judge but no jury; a prosecution but no defense; a sentence but no appeal. God will have their record open; their deeds, motives and thoughts. He will recall the “hard speeches” (Jude 1:15) spoken against the Lord, words that were harsh, rough, stern and uncivil. Remember they were murmurers and complainers (Jude 1:16) unafraid to speak out against God (2 Peter 2:10) with great swelling words (2 Peter 2:18, Jude 1:16).

How long will God wait? The children ask (Psalm 94:3-4, 50:3).

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Lessons from Previous Failures

My class has begun studying the little book of Jude, which I like to call a “post card.”

Author: So who is the author? Jude identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James. The determination of his identity rests principally upon the process of elimination. The half brothers of Jesus are mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3. Among those named are both James and Jude. James, the half brother of the Lord (different from both James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus), rose to an important position in the church at Jerusalem. Jude, who was not as widely known as James, does not use an apostolic title. He simply identifies himself as the brother of the well-known James. The conclusion must be that this Jude is one of the Lord’s half brothers.

Purpose: There is no question about Jude’s purpose in writing this letter; he wanted to discuss their common salvation, but the threat of subversive teachers compelled him to write and encourage his readers “to contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3). So the entire post card is an assessment of false teachers and a strong warning to the readers. The false teachers reject Christ’s authority, but Jude stresses that Jesus is Lord, now and forever. Therefore, He is to be followed both in doctrine and deed.

It is great to talk about salvation and something positive, but occasionally a particular situation compels us to speak about a danger that God’s people need to understand. Delivering this message is not a pleasant task.

The faith delivered to the saints is the special revelation of God. Jude’s readers needed to struggle to maintain this faith free from corruption. Jude had two major concerns: that the readers would not be led astray by false teachers, and that they would instead take the initiative and contend for the faith. False teachers who advocated immorality and perverted true Christology had wormed their way into the church.

Jude denounces the immoral and apostate more strongly than any other New Testament writer.

Previous Failures (Jude 1:5–7)
The writer cited three examples of failure from the past to warn his readers of the danger involved in departing from God’s truth. Each one of these illustrations highlights a particular aspect of the false teachers’ error. It was a sin of rebellion, it was a proud departure from a position of superior privilege, and it involved immoral behavior. Jude give three examples:

  1. Jude’s first example was certain Israelites (Jude 1:5). After God redeemed Israel and liberated the nation from bondage in Egypt, the people failed to continue to believe God’s promises and to trust in His power (Numbers 14:11; Deuteronomy 1:32). God judged those who failed by destroying them in the wilderness. The Savior can also be the Destroyer.
  2. Jude’s second example was certain angels (Jude 1:6). A group of angels also did not remain in their privileged position near God but left that sphere and so incurred God’s wrath. These rebellious angels are now in bondage and await God’s judgment (see 2 Peter 2:4). These differ from Satan’s agents who are at work in the world today (demons) who have considerable freedom. The apostates in Jude’s day had also abandoned a position of great privilege and blessing, namely, the opportunity to serve and glorify God. God would also judge them severely because of their departure.
  3. Jude’s third example was certain pagans (Jude 1:7). This example shows God’s judgment on those who indulge in immorality and sexual perversion, which the false teachers of Jude’s day evidently felt free to practice. Apostasy starts with unbelief, leads to rebellion against God, and proceeds to immorality.

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