Jude 3

A Warning From History

I want to remind you of something that you really know already: and although the Lord saved all the people from the land of Egypt, yet afterwards he brought to their downfall those who would not trust him. And the very angels who failed in their high duties and abandoned their proper sphere have been deprived by God of both light and liberty until the judgment of the great day. Sodom and Gomorrah and the adjacent cities who, in the same way as these men today, gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion, stand in their punishment as a permanent warning of the fire of judgment. (JBP)

As we read Jude, it’s wise to keep in mind to whom he was writing. The early Christian church was made up, in large part, of Jewish converts. These Jewish converts would know their history well and they would easily make the connection between these lessons from history and the modern false teacher.

In Jeremiah 13, we read this verse that can almost be called a proverb, because it is nugget of truth:

Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jeremiah 13:23, NIV)

In general, people don’t change. The very same false teachings that plagued the Church in Jude’s day, are the same ones that the Church struggles with today. The names are different, and the faces are different, but the false teachings are the same, and the devastating results of those false teachings are the same: ruined lives and broken churches.

1. Judgment: God’s promise you can count on

Before Jude continues with his description of the false teachers and their ultimate condemnation, he turns to Jewish history, which he says readers already know, and he gives three examples of divine judgment. Here’s a good reason to know what is written in the Old Testament:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (1 Cor. 10:11, NIV)

Specifically, Paul is referring to Moses and the children of Israel, but there is an overriding principle in that verse. Knowledge of the Word of God will help you avoid the same pitfalls that people in the Old Testament fall into. That’s why Jude told his readers to “earnestly contend for the faith” earlier in his letter; because it contains the what they needed to identify and drive away the false teachers. What is true in Jude’s day, is true in our day. That’s why these 24 verses are so relevant.

Peter also relied on examples from history when he was warning against false teachers as well.

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. (2 Peter 1:12, NIV)

So, as Peter did, Jude does. Jude will give three examples of the Lord’s judgments on those who knowingly rebelled against the Lord. The judgment of God is sure and certain, but in this dispensation of grace, man is apt to think God is out of the judging business.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Gal. 6:7, NIV)

And that’s the point of Jude’s argument. The false teachers were sowing disharmony and discord. They were the causing dissension and leading others astray. They were the vilest of sinners: they actually knew the truth yet mocked it by doing the exact opposite.

2. Example #1: Deliverance from Egypt

Israel was God’s chosen nation. He delivered them from bondage in Egypt by great and mighty wonders and miracles. The people experienced God’s grace as nobody else in history ever had. They saw the miracles. They heard and saw His revelation at Mount Sinai. They received His special care while they journeyed through the desert. And yet, despite being the recipients of all this, some of their number disbelieved and rebelled against the Moses and the Lord.

Jude reminds his readers that “the Lord later destroyed those who did not believe.” We note that these people who experienced God’s wrath “did not believe.” In other words, they were part of the company of believers, but they themselves were not believers. How many were there?

In Numbers 1:45-46, we read that there were over 600,000 men over the age of twenty. If we add in an equal number of women, then those who died in the desert on the way to Canaan totaled over 1,200,000 people. If we divide that number by the total number of days of the 38 year journey, we arrive an amazing 90 deaths per day; that’s almost 100 of Israel’s youngest and strongest who died each day under God’s judgment.

That sounds severe, but remember, the Israelites were physically delivered from bondage, not by their faith as a nation, but by God’s covenant love and mercy. By rejecting God’s guidance, they experienced God’s anger. By rebelling against His leadership, they were demonstrating their rebellious nature.

The warning in this example is clear: unbelief and rebellion are not tolerated by God. These people, while not believers, knew what the truth was, but they refused in the stubbornness of their hearts, to submit to God.

3. Example #2: Angles who fell

This is one of the verses that scholars love to debate. These angels left their “proper sphere” or “proper dwelling.” That was their sin.

Many Bible teachers associate Jude’s allusion with Genesis 6:1-4, where we read of angels (sons of God) coming down to earth and, cohabiting with women (daughters of men), producing a half-human, half-demonic race of freaks (giants). The apocryphal book of Enoch, from which Jude quotes later on, speaks of this piece of Jewish folklore in depth. The early church fathers believed this interpretation of Genesis 6. But is that what Jude had in mind? It seems inconceivable that angels, who do not have bodies, could procreate with a human being.

Without regard to exactly what Jude meant, the sin of the angles is very clear: they refused to stay within their divinely appointed sphere. They, like the rebellious Israelites, refused to obey God’s will in favor of their own.

What was their punishment? These sinful angels are kept in (or are reserved for) a place of darkness, in chains, awaiting their final judgment. Some commentators think this is a literal judgment; that there are some fallen angles bound and some lose, running over the earth. Others see Jude writing metaphorically: these angels are bound in a “spiritual darkness” as they await their final judgment. Again, it’s difficult to know with any certainty what Jude is alluding to, however, one thing we can know with absolute certainty is this: these fallen angels are living under condemnation because, in their rebellion, they usurped their desires over God’s will.

4. Example #3: Immoral cities

The third and final example of rebellion is the most vivid. Throughout the Old Testament, Sodom and Gomorrah are given as outstanding examples or symbols of gross immorality and serve as an eternal testament to God’s hatred for this kind of sin. What was the sin? The men of Sodom and Gomorrah were involved in gross homosexuality, that’s what is meant by the term “other flesh” (NIV).

The point of Jude using this example is not the homosexual act, which is vile enough, but rather he points to a much deeper sin. The activity of the Sodomites was a perversion of the normal order of God’s creation.

5. Jude’s purpose

What is Jude’s purpose in giving these examples? He is unfolding the fate of these false teachers in a progressive nature. Note:

  • The unbelieving Israelites were buried in the desert;
  • The unfaithful angles are bound in a hellish darkness;
  • The immoral cities were burned with fire, a type of eternal fire (verse 7).

God’s judgment is past, present, and future. It cannot be escaped. For those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, for those who refuse to seek God’s will and live in obedience to it, and for those who are determined to go their own way, doing their own thing, their fate is already sealed. Such is the fate of the false teachers.

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