My worst subject in school was always history. After all the years that I spent half asleep in my history classes, I can only tell you three things about history. George Washington had wooden teeth. Lincoln freed the slaves. And we landed on the moon. And I’m totally guessing that it happened in that order. The remaining laundry list of dates and places and people saying really important things is all but lost to me. And I think that I have a reason why. I believe that it’s because we spend too much time trying to get the dates and the places and the names right that we avoid the ‘Why’ question. It’s easy to ask a child, ‘When was the Declaration of Independence signed?’. It’s a completely different question to ask, ‘why?’. The bible is unique in that way. It’s always dealing with the ‘Why’, and from our understanding of why something happened, we also remember who, and where, and when.
So when our long departed brother, Jude felt the urgency to write this epistle, he does so by taking the ‘Why’, and applying it to several similar examples that can be found throughout all of biblical history, and some beyond that. But everything that we read in Jude, is written not to expand our knowledge of biblical history, nor is it written to appeal to our fantastical ideas about the realm of spiritual beings. If you read Jude carefully, you will see that every verse is meant to address one very important and timely topic. One that we as a church, have been dealing with ever since this epistle was written. Jude is writing to Christians to, as he puts it, “Contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3), as apostates, and false teachers had now made their way into the church, and were threatening to undermine the grace of God, and sway unbelievers from the truth of the gospel. And it is extremely important that we keep that in mind as we begin to explore this amazing book of scripture, here in the first two verses.
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ. Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.
So the first question that you probably find yourself asking is, ‘Who is Jude?’ Well, he tells us that he is “a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,” (Jude 1:1), which gives us a clue. In chapter 13 of the gospel of Matthew, when Jesus went to His hometown of Nazareth, and preached in the synagogue there. The scripture tell us, “They were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas?”” (Matthew 13:54-55). And the name ‘Jude’ is the English version of ‘Judas’. And we know that some of Jesus’ brothers came to faith after His resurrection, and were serving the body along with the other apostles. So we know that Jude, was the half-brother of Jesus Christ, and total brother of James, who is the author of the book of James.
As for the audience, Jude claims that he’s writing this letter “To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:” (Jude 1:1). ‘Called’, ‘Sanctified’, and ‘Preserved’,.. Those are words that tell us that he’s writing this to true Christians, but the vague way in which he addresses this letter, demonstrates to us that the content of this epistle can apply to all Christians; both those whom Jude was writing to, as well as all of us right now. All of us have been ‘called’. All of us have been ‘sanctified’. And all of us have the promise of God that we will all be ‘preserved’ until our Lord returns. This isn’t written to one person, or one church; it’s written to all of us. And everything that Jude says here needs to be taken seriously, by all of us.
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
So here, we see Jude’s purpose for writing this epistle. Jude sees that false teachers have made their way into the church. And Jude knows, that if these men are allowed to remain in fellowship with the church, then the damage can get much, much worse. Yet, the way Jude words this verse almost comes off as oxymoronic, doesn’t it? “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3). So it begs the question, why would we have to contend for a faith that has already been delivered once for all to the saints? Well, I don’t believe Jude is telling us to worry about our own personal salvation. That’s one aspect of it, but the faith that Jude is speaking of here is the gospel preached. Our faith hinges on the gospel of Jesus Christ, that’s true. They’re inseparable. But what we’re contending for is to maintain that the truth of that gospel be unabated by those who attempt to twist and contort its beauty, effectively making it worthless upon the ears of unbelievers.
And we see this more fully as Jude explains exactly who he’s talking about in verse 4. “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4). Paul warned us of this very thing, in the book of Acts, when Paul had gone to the elders in the church of Ephesus, to bid them farewell.
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
Satan has let loose the wolves into the church. And they are doing whatever they can to draw away disciples from Christ, to ruin the witness of true believers, and to satisfy their own lusts. This entire epistle from Jude is a call to arms. He is calling upon God’s elect to entrench themselves in the truth of the gospel, against the ungodly. You see him constantly making distinctions between us, “The Beloved”, and the apostates that he refers to as “the ungodly”. He’s drawing the battle lines. He’s setting up the chess pieces. He’s girding us up for battle.
And in the context of this epistle, Jude is speaking of a specific, yet all too common, group of wolves that he’s been made aware of. Verse 4 says these are, “ungodly men, who turn the grace of God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4). These men are using the sacrifice of Christ’s blood as a “Get out of Jail Free Card” so that they can continue to commit whatever sins they desire. And by being completely devoid of any true repentance, and denying the commands of God to follow Christ, and to sin no more, and to keep His commandments, they deny both God, and Jesus Christ, not to mention the gospel.
But now, Jude wants to show us the reality of what becomes of such men. So here, Jude decides to give us a little history lesson. In verses 5 through verse 11, he compares these ungodly men to six different biblical accounts. The first three being entire communities of ungodly men, and the last three being specific individuals. He uses the first three examples, in verses 5-8 to establish that these men are guilty of the worst offenses toward God, and that judgment awaits them.
But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
So Jude starts this section in verse 5 by stating, “But I want to remind you, though you once knew this,” (Jude 1:5). So, it would seem, that Jude wants to “remind” us of something. He wants us to remember something that we may have forgotten. So what might he be reminding us of? When you put all of this together, what does it all point to? Well, it points us right to God’s word and to the scriptures. Jude knows that we, though we are saved, still live in these bodies of flesh. And being flesh in a fallen world, we tend to forget things, especially the things of God. That’s why we need to hear the gospel every Lord’s Day, and that’s why we have discipleship classes and why Pastor leads three bible studies a week and our book group. We put ourselves in grave danger when we neglect the word of God. So Jude is opening up the truth found in God’s word for us, and showing us how to apply it to this situation. So, if you’ll join me, let’s open up our history books, and see what God has to show us.
We begin in the book of Numbers, chapter 14. After the Israelites are miraculously saved by God’s power from the Egyptians, they’ve been in the wilderness, making their way to Canaan, the land promised to Abraham by God. And Moses has just sent a group of men into the land of Canaan to spy on the people who live there, and they come back, and all but two of them are just broken. And they say, ‘This land will devour us. We saw giants, and we are like grasshoppers by comparison’ [Numbers 13:32-33]. So, God hears these Israelites, once again, defy His word, and call Him a liar through their disbelief, and God says, ‘I’m gonna wipe them all out’, but Moses intercedes and asks God to spare them for His own namesake. And God responds here in verse 20:
Then the Lord said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; “but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord- “because all these men who have seen my glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, “they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.”
Next, Jude compares these men to a group that we don’t often hear about. In verse 6, he writes, “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6). But let me remind you of what I stated early on in this lesson. Everything that Jude is bringing up, isn’t meant to stir up our curiosity about the spiritual realm. Jude is citing examples of scripture that he says directly relate to these apostates that have crept into the church. So the important thing isn’t to understand all of the details as to why these angels left their own abode, as Jude puts it. The important thing is that they left. Their proper domain was in heaven, serving God. But they were deserters, and they left. And now, they’ve been chained with the condemnation of everlasting fire that awaits them at the judgment. That being said, it is a fair question to ask, ‘Where do we see this in scripture?’ Well, there are few passages in the Old Testament that deal exclusively with this topic, so it would be very difficult to piece together a narrative here. But we do have the “whole council of God” that we can utilize, and there is a place we can turn, that talks specifically about these angels, and that is found in the book of Revelation.
And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
But, as I said, keep in mind that, while these things are fantastic to read about, Jude is trying to demonstrate what these apostates look like. It seems as though, when you walk down the Christian section of the book store, that if you aren’t looking at a bunch of “Self-Help” garbage, then you’re looking at books about heaven and angels and demons and hell. Those are distractions written by the very people that we’re talking about here in Jude. They’re trying to get your mind off of Jesus, and off of the judgment of God. Jude says, ‘No!’ That’s exactly what these things should be pointing you to. The point is, these angels chose the wrong side, they rejected God, and they deserted their home. And when we read about them here, we should see these apostates doing the same thing.
But maybe with that in mind, just to get our heads out of the clouds, Jude decides to bring us back to one of the most commonly referred to accounts of biblical judgment that we have in the Old Testament. That being the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. And being that it’s one of the most popular passages in the scriptures, it spares us from having to read through the whole account. But, remember, Jude is making it a point to remind us of this. So I’ll just briefly recount for you, that Abraham was told by God that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave” (Genesis 18:20). Their sin being sexual immorality, and defiling their flesh with other men. But Abraham intercedes, and asks if God would spare the city if He found fifty righteous men, or forty, or even twenty. And God says that he would not even destroy the city if even ten men were found in it that were righteous. Yet, even ten men could not be found in Sodom, and when two angels were sent to seek for any righteous within the city, the men of the city tried to attack them, so that they could violate them sexually. And only Lot, and his family, who were in the city, were spared, and everyone else perished in the brimstone and fire that the Lord rained down from heaven.
This story is used all throughout the scriptures as a picture of God’s judgment against wicked men. It’s referred to over 20 times, always in a negative way. You most definitely didn’t want someone to compare you to Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude, himself explains this in verse 7 when he says, “[They] are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7). The apostle Peter says pretty much the same thing about false teachers in his second epistle when he writes, “[By] turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, [God] condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). Peter also compares these men to fallen angels, as well as to the entire ancient world, where sin had gotten so grave, that there were only eight saved in the flood, that wiped out everyone else. And he compares them to Sodom and Gomorrah, just as Jude does, and says that Sodom and Gomorrah is a picture of the fate that awaits these apostates.
And here is where Jude brings it all together in verse 8. He says, “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries” (Jude 1:8). Here, Jude brings up three specific sins, each of which correlates to one of the three groups we’ve just been looking at. He says that these apostates “defile the flesh,” (Jude 1:8) just as those who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah. They “reject authority,” (Jude 1:8) just as the angels rejected the will of God, and were cast out of heaven. And that they “speak evil of dignitaries” (Jude 1:8). That last one is best translated in the NASB as “revile angelic majesties”. But, either way it works. Some see the word ‘dignitaries’ as being more applicable, since the Israelites were constantly questioning the words of Moses. Others believe that, since the law of God was given through His angels, and since the Israelites rejected God’s law, that they were also rejecting the message of the angels. But as I said, either way, the point here, is that you should be very careful to question, or accuse, or speak ill of anyone that’s above your station. God is always at work, and God decides who gets authority in this world, and how much, and for how long. Even Satan has been given authority. We’ve seen that before in the book of Job. And even Jude uses him as an example in the next verse.
Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
And here we come, once again to an area that we don’t often see. In fact, this account of Moses’ body isn’t found anywhere else in scripture. We’re told at the end of Deuteronomy, in chapter 34 that, “Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day” (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). And that’s it. We aren’t told anything about Michael or Satan or this dispute. It actually comes, many believe, from a work titled “The Assumption of Moses.” A work that, due to both time and providence, has been mostly lost to us. But this was never considered a God inspired work. Still, we know that this encounter took place, because it’s here in our bibles, stated as fact. But that doesn’t give us the authority to then include the rest of this work, or any other ancient manuscript into our bibles. The Jewish people never saw these books as being inspired, and so, neither should we. But we can say that Jude was inspired to include this account into his epistle, and give us more revelation then we had before.
But once again, why does Jude include this story? Is he trying to tell us more about Moses, or Michael, or Satan? No. He’s trying to demonstrate to us how we are to behave as Christians, and how we are to react when faced with those who defy God. Once again, he’s making a contrast between the words of Michael with those of the ungodly. The ungodly “revile angelic majesties” (Jude 1:8 NASB), but how did Michael respond? “[He] dared not bring a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9). What we see in this dispute between Michael and Satan, is the same thing that we see in the gospel of Luke, when Christ says, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). And what is our authority? Well, it’s to go forth into all the world, and preach the word of God. We have the gospel. That is our authority. We are commanded to confess it, and to proclaim it, and to share it with every living creature. No evil can stand up against us while we proclaim the gospel. Sure, we might get yelled at, or scoffed at, called some names, or even get hit once or twice. Even still, we have the authority to preach it. But the ungodly don’t know the gospel. They don’t know truth. Jude points that out to us in the next two verses.
But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
Jude says that these men corrupt themselves in what they know naturally. They rely on the flesh and instinct to guide how they act and behave. Tell me that isn’t what we see with the rise of Atheism in our day. ‘No, I’m not guilty of any sin. I do what I do because that’s just how humans behave, we’re not really that different from monkeys.’ Jude says that if these men believe that and have the audacity to claim that they have the Spirit of God inside of them, then they are headed down a road of total destruction. And once again, he expands on that by comparing these men to three more historical accounts. He begins by saying that, “they have gone in the way of Cain,” (Jude 1:11). We’re told in Genesis that after Cain murdered his brother, that he spoke with the Lord and said, “it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (Genesis 4:14). But after that, God put a mark on Cain to protect him from being murdered himself. And did Cain thank the Lord, or repent, or try to make things right? No. We’re told in the next verse, “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16). That is the way of Cain. To depart from His presence. To turn your back on Him. And to put your faith in yourself.
Continuing on, “They have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit” (Jude 1:11). In Numbers, chapter 22 we see the account of Balaam, the prophet; where the king of the Moabites, King Balak sent men to ask Balaam to curse the Israelites for him. And God comes to Balaam and says, “You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed” (Numbers 22:12). Yet, Balak sends men again to Balaam, and even though Balaam knows what God has commanded him on this matter; when the elders come again to ask Balaam to curse the Israelites, does he just say ‘no’? No. He says, ‘Hey, why don’t you stay the night. Maybe God will tell me something different tomorrow’ [Numbers 22:19]. You see, Balak kept offering Balaam all these riches if he would just curse God’s people. And Balaam really wanted that money, so he was hoping that God might change His mind on the subject. He put his greed ahead of God’s will. And these “ungodly” men are doing the same thing. They love their sin. And they are willing to go against God’s will to have it, because they think they’re safe. But they are not safe.
The “rebellion of Korah” (Jude 1:11) also takes place in the book of Numbers. In chapter 16, we read how Korah stood up against Moses and Aaron, along with a large number of followers, and said to him, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:3). Remember what we said about speaking out against those that God has put in authority? Well, this didn’t work out too well for Korah. We read later in the chapter that Moses, spoke a word saying ‘If I come in the name of the Lord, then I say that the Lord will cause the earth to open up, and swallow Korah, and all his followers whole’ [Numbers 16:28-29]. And that’s exactly what happened. As soon as Moses finished speaking, “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods” (Numbers 16:32). All these men, Jude equates with the apostates.
Jude says, “Woe to them!” (Jude 1:11). And, very much like with Sodom and Gomorrah, You did not want anyone telling you ‘Woe!’. Woe is a word of pending judgment, and does not mean anything good for you. Without faith in Christ and a repentant heart, there’s no escaping the judgment of God. And we see that demonstrated here in this verse as well. We see that these apostates “HAVE GONE in the way of Cain, HAVE RUN greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and PERISHED [Past Tense] in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 1:11). Their fate is already decided. Remember what we were told about them in verse 4, “[They] who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men” (Jude 1:4). And yet, these men were in the church. These men were so close to the truth, and yet, they couldn’t have been any further away. Thank god for what he’s done for us!
But, if there had been any doubts in anyone’s mind at this point as to whether or not these men had any good within them. If Jude hadn’t quite explained it thoroughly enough by all these examples he’s given us. He decides to go into even more detail about what these men are in verses 12 & 13.
These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
Here, Jude talks about the effect these men have on the fellowship within the church. He uses four natural examples to describe these men. One in the air, one on the land, one in the sea, and one in the heavens. First, he says that, “They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds” (Jude 1:12). These men make the same kinds of promises as clouds that you might hope will water your crops, but the rain doesn’t come, and the clouds move on. These men are those clouds, and they offer you nothing. Second, they are, “late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots” (Jude 1:12). If a farmer spots one of his trees not bearing him any fruit when it should, then he knows that the tree is dead. So what does he do? He pulls at the root, and he pulls the tree right out of the ground, so that it doesn’t damage the healthy trees. Third, Jude compares them to, “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame” (Jude 1:13). On a stormy day, when the currents are twisting, and the tides are changing, and all that garbage on the bottom of the sea floor gets stirred up, you’ll see the waves develop this foam on the top that makes it look very unpleasant. Ungodly men do the same thing, when they try to sow divisions, and dilute the gospel, and get everyone stirred up with debates that are really unnecessary.
Finally, Jude compares these men with, “wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 1:13). ‘Wandering stars’ here is actually referring to planets. When sailor’s would travel from one land to another, the only way that they knew where they were going was by looking up, and getting there position by looking at where the stars were. But the planets would change where their position was in the sky. So you couldn’t use them to help you navigate, because they would take you totally in the wrong direction. These apostates are seeking to lead us down the wrong path as well. They don’t want us to follow Christ. They don’t want us to believe the gospel. They do however, want us to follow them. But that won’t do us any good. Because Jude tells us that for these men is “reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 1:13). We know where they’re headed. And to follow them, would lead us to the same place. We are Christians. We follow Christ. No matter where He may lead us in this life. And we know that we can trust Him, and that He will never depart from us. Because His word tells us, “Thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).
To continue with the second half of this study in Jude, click HERE!