Jude 10-16 – The Characteristics of Apostates
- Jude 1-4 – Contending for the Faith
- Jude 5-9 – The Importance of Spiritual Order and Authority
- Jude 10-16 – The Characteristics of Apostates
- Jude 17-23 – Our Duties in a Day of Apostasy
- Jude 24-25 – The God Who is Able
Cain, Balaam, and Korah Illustrate the Destructiveness of Reviling God’s Things (v. 10-11).
SYNOPSIS. But these men revile the things which they do not understand [Their ignorance of the gravity of spiritual things feeds their foolishness in reviling angelic authorities.]; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed [They act on irrational lust, leading to their destruction.]. Woe to them! [An agreement on the judgment pronounced by God] For they have gone the way of Cain [who established a city of rebellion under his own Godless leadership], and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam [who accepted a bribe to betray his own people and curse them], and perished in the rebellion of Korah [who attempted to overthrow the leadership of Moses]. [Note the progress: “have gone,” “have rushed headlong,” and “perished.”]
The destruction of these men reflected a problem in their minds. They were not knowledgeable, and they were not reasonable. They would have acted well if they possessed an animal’s body; so degraded was their self-control that sexual instinct and rebellion controlled their entire being. When men violate the image of God in that way, they blaspheme God Himself by their actions. They act like animals, when God created them to be image-bearers. These men have no hold on eternal life, which God designed for living souls and not animals. “Woe to them!”
There are three pertinent Old Testament examples of the destruction that comes when God’s things are violated.
- Cain: a false way, the path. Cain illustrates the beginnings of apostasy, the path that leads to unchangeable godlessness. What rebellion was he known for? “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16). He settled apart from the presence of the Lord, and he built a city under his own Godless leadership. So these false teachers begin by false worship, rejection of true worship, and a setting up of an anti-God agenda subjected to their own whims.
- Balaam: error, the persistence. Balaam is known for accepting a bribe to curse the people of God, even though God turned the curse into a blessing for Israel’s sake. So, we find here than apostates not only depart from God’s presence, but they curse God’s people for personal gain. They “rush headlong” into this, indicating an increasing progression toward destruction.
- Korah: rebellion, the perishing. Korah illustrates the final stage of apostasy, for he rebelled against the authority of Moses and was swallowed up by the earth. Such a descent illustrates the judgment of the apostates into eternal flames. God is not flippant. He judged in the Old Testament, and He will judge in the New.
These Men Contradict Everything the Faith Stands For (v. 12-13).
SYNOPSIS. These are the men who are hidden reefs [invisible yet effective in destroying foundations, like the destructiveness of reefs to a ship] in your love feasts [the assembly meetings; cf. 1 Corinthians 11] when they feast with you without fear [Their sensitivity to evil has been seared.], caring for themselves [no others-mindedness nor shepherding heart]; clouds without water [They have form but no substance, resulting in the next phrase.], carried along by winds [no stability or constancy in doctrine or commitment]; autumn trees without fruit [no spiritual fruit], doubly dead [no hope of revival], uprooted [no spiritual root; cf. Psalm 1]; wild waves of the sea [utterly uncontrolled and sporadic], casting up their own shame like foam [Their spiritual agitation exposes their shame like the internal energy of waves results in watery foam.]; wandering stars [no consistent testimony or contribution to the light of the truth], for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever [consistent with the previous verses].
They were destructive to Christian fellowship. Jude uses two images to illuminate this: that of a hidden reef and of a shameless shepherd. The believers’ feasts were love feasts, assembly meetings in which the bond of Christian fellowship was expressed and enjoyed. Surely everything was fine on the surface, but their danger lay in what would destroy the unseen foundations, like a reef would do to a ship. So then, we learn to abstain from surface-level discernment and examine the heart of deeper issues.
Further, Jude speaks of fearless and self-centered men who cared (shepherded) for themselves. Not only were they hidden, but they appeared confident among God’s people, as if they belonged. This is especially dangerous. Since humans are followers by nature, another’s self-confidence often draws them, and blindly so. Not only can good circumstances be superficial, but good reputations can be as well unless they have been rigorously tested. This is the point of deception: it is not easy to identify. But we must identify it nevertheless.
They had the form but no true substance. Jude also gives two illustrations for this: waterless clouds and uprooted trees. A waterless cloud has little more than the value of a decoration. It provides no nourishment. It contributes nothing. And, since it is not weighed down by any substance, it easily drifts. So the apostates, since they have nothing theological to give for spiritual nourishment, neither are they themselves theologically rooted. Commitment to doctrine or to the assembly means nothing to them because there is nothing of spiritual purpose in them.
The uprooted tree contributes a similar message. It is fruitless because it is rootless. It is doubly dead because of both factors; therefore, there is no hope for its revival. Such is the case with apostates. They neither give evidence of salvation nor have its substance. But just as a fruitless tree still maintains its form, so the apostates still maintained their Christian identity though possessing nothing Christian.
They were uncontrolled and destined for darkness and shame. There are two illustrations that correspond to this point as well: uncontrolled waves and wandering stars. Just as agitated waves produce nothing of profit, so the ever-wavering apostates only contribute refuse. Just as wanderings starts can give no guidance to mariners, so the anti-truth teachers only lead people astray. There is deliberate irony, then, that just as these deceivers contributed to spiritual darkness, so their lot would be eternal darkness.
So then, the three-part test for error is:
- Understand that superficial discernment is deceptive. Error is usually difficult to detect.
- Look for the personal evidence of the person in question; determine if there is true substance.
- Look at how the person in question has guided others; determine if he contributes any value.
These Men Were Prophesied by Enoch (v. 14-15).
SYNOPSIS. It was also about these men that Enoch [We know he was a man of prophecy by the name he gave his son; Methuselah means “when he dies, it shall come,” perfectly aligning with the Flood.], in the seventh generation from Adam [particularly at the time when the world’s departure from God was growing flagrant], prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came [could be translated as present, better aligning with a foretelling of an event] with many thousands of His holy ones [reinforcing the authority of angelic beings], to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way [perhaps at the initiation of the Millennium], and of all the harsh things which ungodly [Note the repetition of the word “ungodly.”] sinners have spoken against Him.” [This prophecy probably references no particular event but is a general quotation to emphasize the ancient roots of the idea that God judges ungodliness. We cannot read too much into this text.]
For the proportion of verses written on Enoch, he is one of the more remarkable men of Scripture. He was a worshiper; he walked with God. He was a picture of the rapture; God took Him. Here we find him also to be a prophet. Not only did he prophesy of the flood through the name of his son (“Methuselah” means, “When he dies, it shall come,” and his death was aligned exactly with the Flood.), but he prophesied of the judgment of the Lord upon ungodliness. Doubtless, he was concerned with ungodliness since it was rampant in his day, seven generations from Adam. It was obviously increasing; thus, God sent the flood.
Notice the content of the prophecy itself. He predicted a day in which God with His “holy myriads” (probably including both angels and saints) will judge ungodliness comprehensively. Ungodliness is the real issue here: “All the ungodly. . . ungodly deeds. . . ungodly way. . . ungodly sinners.” They are ungodly in their identity, actions, tendencies, and speech. God cannot tolerate what contradicts His character; neither can His saints. Judgment must fall.
As to the Book of Enoch from whence this quotation is derived, we must remember that the Book of Enoch was written one to three hundred years before Christ while Enoch himself was in the seventh generation from Adam. So then, Jude says that Enoch himself prophesied, but this does not imply that the book containing the prophecy was inspired in that it could not have been written by Enoch himself. The historicity of an ancient document does not necessarily verify its inspiration if that is its sole proof.
The Depravity of These Men is Evidenced by Their Mouths (v. 16).
SYNOPSIS. These are grumblers, finding fault [constant negativity about things and people], following after their own lusts [They have no temperance.]; they speak arrogantly [boastful, conceited], flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage [speaking according to what makes people respond positively, whatever measures must be taken].
Just as ungodly sinners spoke against God in Enoch’s day, so the apostates of our day fall on the basis of their words. Jude points out their constant negativity about both things and people. It is no wonder they are negative since they follow after their own lusts. They cannot be satisfied in their desires; therefore, nothing is worth their thankfulness. Yet “neither were they thankful” is a chief sin of Romans 1. The difference is usually obvious between men who identify problems on God’s behalf and men who create problems for their own selfish reasons. How many have left assemblies because they are fault-finders! We must cultivate thankfulness for God’s things and for God’s people lest we destroy ourselves.
But on the other extreme, the apostates also abuse positive words about themselves and their deceived peers. They spoke arrogantly, glorifying self; and they flattered others so as to secure their blind favour. With God’s things, they complain; with their things, they boast and flatter. May we ever beware of people-pleasing extroverts and talkers. Those who thrive off personal prominence and acceptance are dangerous, plain and simple. Did not Paul say, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10b)? Yet how conducive our culture is to celebrity Christianity. This glorifies prominence when it may be unidentified apostasy. Let us be careful! None of us is stronger than self-confidence and flattery.
In summary, notice the primary factors of these men, and perhaps this will help us identify them better in our day. In one sense they are the easiest personalities to identify; in another sense, they are the hardest.
- Rebellion. Do they resist authority?
- Sexual immorality. Can they control their lusts?
- Doctrinal perversion. Do they have a commitment to truth?
- Secret infiltration of our circles. Do they lead others astray?
- Tongues full of complain and grumbling, as well as arrogance and flattery. Are they people-pleasers with no thankfulness?