So far, in the book of Jude we have learned a lot about the “certain persons” that Jude first mentioned in v. 4. Here is what we have learned about these individuals in just ten verses:
- They were like rebellious enemies of God in the OT (vv. 4-7);
- They were ungodly (v. 4);
- They turned the Grace of God into licentiousness (v. 4)
- They denied Jesus as Master and Lord (v. 4)
- They eventually faced the judgment of God (vv. 7, 10)
- They claimed to have visions to justify their sin (v. 8 )
- They defiled the flesh (v. 8 )
- They rejected authority (v. 8 )
- They slandered angels (v. 8 )
- They slandered the things of the Lord that they didn’t understand (v. 10)
- They, like animals, were consumed by their sinful desires (v. 10)
These individuals were clearly not Christians. Yet, somehow, they were able sneak into the church. This is why Jude had so much to say about these individuals. He wanted to protect his readers from the dangers that these fake Christians posed. In a lot of ways these fake Christians were like terrorists. They snuck pretending that they were not enemies, yet they wanted to destroy the Gospel. Their goal was to turn the Gospel into a license for sin, and as we will see today they wanted to lead everyone else into this same rebellion.
In these verses Jude is again going to refer to several examples of rebellious individuals from the OT. These verses will be very similar to vv. 5-7. Despite their similarities, these verses are distinct from vv. 5-7 because they not only illustrate rebellion, but they also illustrate false teachers who lead their people into rebellion. In addition to several illustrations from the OT, Jude will also use five examples from nature to illustrate just how worthless and destructive these men were.
Jude begins this section of verses with his conclusions when he says, “Woe to them!” This phrase essentially means “Oh, how horrible it will be for them!” This is what Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees who were leading the people away from true worship (Matt. 23:13), and this is what God, through the prophet Hosea, said to those who were speaking lies against Him (Hosea 7:13). Jude uses this phrase to point out the eventual punishment that these fake Christians would face for their rebellion.
Why do you think Jude wanted point this out? Was it out of spite, or hatred? I don’t think so. These people were telling everyone that the Gospel was a license to sin. This meant that you could do whatever you wanted to, and as long as you went to church and asked for forgiveness you would be ok. It was the best of both worlds; they could be Christians without obeying Jesus. This might have sounded great to some of Jude’s readers because they didn’t want to go to Hell, but they also did not want to follow Jesus. Here Jude is emphatically pointing out that you can’t have it both ways. Either you are going to be forgiven and follow Jesus, or you are going to keep sinning and face judgment. The Gospel is not a “get out of jail free card.” The Gospel is a life changing event that will lead to a change in your life. Here is where an eternal perspective is important. If you are thinking about how a decision will affect you for all of eternity then you will follow Jesus. However, if you are only thinking about how a decision will affect you in the immediate future then you will choose sin. Sin always seems like it is going to be so much fun, but in the end the consequences always outweigh the fun. This is Jude’s point. It may seem like fun to follow these guys, but in the end you will face judgment just like them.
I. These men’s worthless and destructive lives were just like the rebellious men in the OT.
a. Proceeded in the way of Cain.
The first illustration from the OT that Jude uses is the illustration of Cain. Jude writes, “For they have gone the way of Cain…” In other words, they followed in the footsteps of Cain. We read about exactly what Cain did in Genesis chapter 4,
Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Here we see that Cain claimed to be a follower of God, but his actions were rebellious. Cain made a sacrifice to God, but he did not do it the way God had commanded him. Instead of worshiping God with a blood sacrifice, Cain came up with his own way to worship. He rejected God’s word, and did things his own way. In the end Cain’s evil heart led him to murder his own brother, and this deed proved that he was not a true follower of God.
In the same was as Cain these fake Christians, despite their claims, were not true followers of God. Based on their visions these men invented their own form of worship. They even made up a Gospel that excused their ungodly behavior.
b. Plunged into the error of Balaam
The second illustration from the OT that Jude uses is the illustration of Balaam. Jude writes, “And for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam…” Here we see the motive of these individuals. Like Balaam, these individuals were concerned only for their own profit. Balaam was a prophet who became more interested in making money than in proclaiming the word of God. Balak, the King of Moab, went to Balaam and offered him a large payment to curse Israel. Balaam knew that he couldn’t curse Israel, so he devised a plan to lead Israel into sin so that in effect they would be cursing themselves. Balaam knew better; he had even received a word from the Lord instructing him not do this. However, Balaam’s greed got the best of him and as a result he paid the ultimate penalty of death (Numbers 31:8)
c. Perished in the rebellion of Korah
The third illustration from the OT that Jude uses is the illustration of Korah. Jude writes, “…And perished in the rebellion of Korah.” This last illustration from the OT is Jude’s big finale. Even though Korah’s rebellion occurred before Balaam, Jude saved this illustration for last. This is a striking illustrations because Korah and his followers experienced a swift and stunning judgment from God.
We learn about Korah and his rebellion in Numbers 16. Here we see that Korah was not satisfied with God’s word. God had set aside certain people to be priest, but Korah thought that everyone should be a priest (v. 3). Because of Korah’s dissatisfaction with God’s revealed word, Korah led a rebellion against God’s appointed leader, Moses. God ultimately stamped out this rebellion by destroying Korah and all those with him. However, there were still individuals among God’s people who were sympathetic to Korah. Because these individuals remained rebellious toward God, God was forced to wipe them out through a plague. In all 14,700 people died as a result of Korah’s rebellion.
The similarities between Korah’s rebellion and the rebellion of these fake Christians are easy to see. The fake Christians were ignoring God’s word, and claiming to have visions that allowed them sin. They were teaching that God’s grace gives us the freedom to disobey the Bible. These individuals were leading a rebellion that would lead to eternal death. This is why it was so important for Jude to point these individuals out.
II. These men’s worthless and destructive lives can be illustrated in nature
a. They were hidden rocks
Beginning in v. 12 Jude moves from illustrations found the OT to illustrations found in nature. In all there are five illustrations that Jude uses, and all five of them illustration that these fake Christians worthless and destructive. Jude beings by saying, “These are men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring only for themselves…” A hidden reef is a very dangerous thing. If you run your boat over a hidden reef then you are going to have a long swim back to shore. By comparing these individuals to hidden reefs Jude is illustrating that they pose a hidden danger. But what is this love feast that Jude is talking about? The love feast was a lot like our fellowship dinners. The people would come together and partake in the Lord’s Supper together; afterward they would all have a meal together. What made these individuals so dangerous is that they came and participated in these meals as if they were really Christians. Even though they disobeyed God, contradicted His word, and perverted His grace these people came to the love feast as if they were not afraid of God. Jude tells us that these individuals were only interesting in caring for themselves. What is interesting is that this word for caring actually means shepherding. This is the word that describes the job of pastors. So, while the real church leaders were shepherding the people of the church these individuals were looking out only for themselves.
b. They were waterless clouds
The second illustration that Jude uses from nature is the illustration of waterless clouds. Jude writes, “[They were] clouds without water, carried along by the winds…” Clouds without water are clouds that arrive with the promise of rain, but fail to deliver any rain. All it takes is a small draught to realize how frustrating clouds without rain can be. This illustration shows just how worthless these individuals were. These men made great promises about the value of their teaching, but in the end it provided nothing beneficial at all. It was teaching that was shaped by the winds of false doctrine.
c. They were autumn trees
The third illustration that Jude uses from nature is the illustration of the autumn trees. Jude writes, “[They were] autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted…” Autumn is the season that the farmers expected to harvest the final crops of the year. If nothing came in the autumn then they would have nothing until the next year’s harvest. Jude describes these men as a fruitless autumn harvest, but he does not leave it at that. Even if the autumn harvest was bad farmers could always look forward to the spring and the potential for a big harvest. There was still hope. Jude tells us that this was not the case with these individuals. These men were like trees that did not bear fruit, and were dead, and the roots had been pulled up. There was no hope that any fruit would ever come from what these men were teaching.
d. They were violent waves
The fourth illustration that Jude uses from nature is the illustration of the violent waves. Jude writes, “[They were] wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam…” This illustration should be quite vivid for us since we live right near the beach. Jude describes these men as being like violent wave that are tossed back and forth. Not only are they out of control, but they are also very destructive. Think about, waves don’t produce or leave behind anything that is profitable. When you see them out in the ocean all they do is foam up; and after a big storm they leave behind sea weed, and debris. Neither of which is profitable in any way. These men were just like the wild waves. With their empty talk and lies these men were out of control, and their shame was visible just like the foam of the wave is visible. Jude probably based this illustration on Isaiah 57:20,
But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, And its waters toss up refuse and mud.
e. They were wondering stars
The final illustration that Jude uses from nature is the illustration of the wandering stars. Jude writes, “[They were] wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” Wandering star most likely refers to a shooting star, or a meteor. They will flash across the sky with a brilliant light, but then they will disappear forever. These men appeared in the church making great claims of having visions, and new teachings. In the end their fate would be the black darkness of Hell.
It is important that we learn two things from these rebellious individuals. First, we need to have an eternal perspective. We must look at how the decisions in this life will affect us for eternity. Second, we must be very careful who we listen to. We are always going have people who try and lead us into sin; most of the time these people will claim to be our friends. In the end we must trust in Jesus, and in His Gospel. When we do this we will be making a decision with an eternal perspective, and we will be listening to the advice possible.