Examples of Judgment on the unfaithful (Jude 5-10)

I find the defendant guilty of adultery (gavel strikes pulpit).  Unfortunately, an increasing number of marriages end in divorce and adultery.  Marriages are made up of faithful and unfaithful spouses.  It is an unfortunate reality, and it is even more unfortunate that the mixture of faithful and unfaithful exists inside the institutional church. There are always believers and non-believers, those who are saved and those who aren’t, and both come and sit in the pews each week.  No matter how hard one tries to keep the church pure, there will always be those who slip through the cracks and who haven’t been born of water and the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately many of those who are part of the church but who aren’t born again, walk around with a sense of security that is false.  They think that they are good covenant partners.  They earnestly believe that they are saved, but their life fails to reflect the life of Jesus Christ, just like an adulterous spouse thinks they are a good mate even though they are living in contradiction to the vows they made.

Some of these people have wonderful doctrine, but live a life of astounding unholiness.  They speak crassly, live vilely and have critical hearts.  Then there are others whose life is impeccable.  They are generous, soft-spoken, lovely people to be around but their doctrine greatly lacking.  They deny Christ as the one true savior, they refuse to believe that all men are sinners and saved by the grace of God alone and yet they would call themselves Christians.  And finally there are the rare few whose life is absent of both doctrine and holiness.  To these the fear of God is entirely absent and yet somehow they manage to maintain a presence in the church and no one seems to stand up and challenge them.

Jude doesn’t tell the church what to do with these false brothers, and in our day they may also be false sisters as well.  Instead he calls attention to the fact that these unbelievers are present in the body of Christ.  They can be seen by their immorality and denial of Christ.  But instead of telling the church how to proceed in concrete terms, he rather calls their attention to the ultimate destiny of these unbelievers.  They will be judged and destroyed.

Jude does this by drawing a series of comparisons using a technique called typology.  There are four that we will look at today.  But first a word about the technique.  In a generic sense we all live with types in our mind.  When you think about a tree, you have a picture in your mind of what a tree looks like and whenever you see another part of creation that matches your general description or picture of a tree, you say, “That is a tree.”  When we think of Mother Teresa, many of us picture a gentle, compassionate, selfless woman.  She is a type of sacrificially, loving person to whom we compare others. The same is true of other objects and realities.  Types are generalities that help us to make sense of the rest of the world around us.

In the bible, types function in a similar manner.  They help us to understand about the nature of reality, about Jesus, judgment, sin and salvation.  For example, the brazen serpent that gets lifted up on stick in the desert after the exodus and people look to it and are healed from their snake bites is a type of salvation foreshadowing the salvation of Jesus who would be lifted up.  In fact, John 3:14-15 makes this exact correlation: Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

The same could be said of the Passover, of circumcision, of the various sacrifices.  All of these are types, which help us to understand Jesus’ life and death and the salvation he brings.  This is the kind of interpretation that Jude utilizes when he speaks about the Exodus, the fallen angels, Sodom and Gomorrah and the burial of Moses.  Jude writes, (Jude 5) Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.

Frequently we see the Exodus as a picture of salvation, being drawn from the oppression of sin, into the promised land of God’s grace.  Exodus tells us that the Israelites were being brought out in order Ex. 3:8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey… And Jeremiah picks up that thought saying, Jer. 2:6-7 They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’ 7 I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce.

The exodus is a picture of being saved from sin and deeds of darkness in order to produce the fruit of righteousness and holiness.  The fruit of the Spirit, which we studied not long ago in Galatians.  And while this is all true, Jude picks up a slightly different facet of the Exodus story in order to help his audience understand their present reality.  If you recall, many came out of Egypt in the Exodus but when it came time to enter into the Promised Land, they refused to believe God’s promises and act in faith and so enter into the land.  Hebrews 3:16-19 tells us, 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

So not only is the Exodus a picture of salvation, but it is also a picture of judgment for those refusing to walk in faith and enter into the fruitful life.  Jude is drawing the parallel that those who live immoral lives and deny Christ are like those who refused to trust God and enter into the promised land and therefore the punishment that fell upon the sinful generation of the past will most certainly fall upon present false teachers.

Similarly, Jude draws from some apocryphal and pseudepigraphical books in this section.  The apocryphal books were books whose origins were unclear, or for the Old Testament apocryphal books, they were written in Greek and not Hebrew or Aramaic.  The story of the angels who didn’t keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home (Jude 6a) is drawn from the apocryphal book of 1Enoch.  Do you remember that odd passage in Genesis 6, which speaks about the Sons of God and the Daughters of Men and the Nephillim?  Well, according to Jewish tradition until the 2nd century AD and Christian tradition until the 5th century AD, 1Enoch gave us the interpretation of that text.

Here is how it went.  Roughly 200 angels decided to leave heaven and take human wives and engage in sexual relations with them.  These angels taught the women and their offspring magic, war, astrology and other such vices.  To them were born giants, titans if you will and they ruled the earth.  But God was displeased, he sent the flood and destroyed the entire earth and the spirits of these giants were condemned to wandering across the face of the earth as the evil spirits of today, while the angels who did such things were locked away until the final judgment.  (You can read all about it in 1Enoch, a little book of 3-5 pages.)  So to these angels who sinned by desiring a sexual order contrary to what God had established, judgment was meted out and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is wedded to it, sexual perversion and immorality.

Disobedience to the Lord’s commands is wedded with sexuality – and just as judgment came after the Exodus to those who refused to obey, so judgment comes upon those who deny God’s authority to determine the rules of life and relationships.  And we are not speaking of temporary judgment but eternal judgment.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed completely by fire, (Gen. 19:24,29) Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah — from the Lord out of the heavens. 29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

Jude is drawing out a strong comparison.  He says, In the very the same way (Jude 8a).  In the same way that they denied God, In the same way that they engaged in out of bounds sexuality and in the same way that those before had been judged completely and eternally, so too can those within the church who live in a like manner expect to be treated by God.

Do you remember the I love Lucy episode where she crushes grapes and is turned purple for days?  Jude is saying, “If you pollute your bodies; if you stain yourself as one crushing grapes taking on the aura of immorality; if you take the colors of the world onto your own skin and it affects the way you look, and act and are perceived; and if you roll in the filth of the world; if you have the audacity to preach and teach that it is okay, then you have rejected authority, Jesus’ authority about how to live and the divine order of nature, and you better watch out.”

Jude uses some great language in this passage; he calls these godless men “dreamers”.  They were purporting to be prophets and teachers, men who spoke the words of God and taught the oracles of the divine, who instilled a proper understanding of grace and salvation.  To these men who claimed to speak the very words of God, Jude uses a prophetic word, “to dream” in a very sarcastic sense, calling these dreamers anything but inspired by God.  The word tells us, “by their fruit you will know them”   (Matthew 7:20).  And the fruit of these godless men is immorality, denying Christ and his authority to dictate how one should live and they exhibit flippancy to spiritual power.

I will be honest, this final allusion to the Archangel Michael and slander[ing] celestial beings I don’t fully understand.  Again it is a story drawn from outside the pages of Scripture but related to Moses death on Mount Horeb as told in Deuteronomy 34:1-6.  In Deuteronomy Moses goes up the mountain, sees the Promised Land but because of earlier sin he has been told he cannot enter into the land.  So God takes his life on the top of the mountain and according to Jewish tradition, Satan comes to refuse Moses the right to burial by accusing him of having been a murderer (Exodus 2:12).  The accusation is true, but instead of issuing his own proclamation, the archangel Michael appeals to the Lord’s judgment.

The best understanding I have, at the current time, of this final passage is that the false teachers were assuming spiritual power that was not their to assume, there was a flippancy, or lackadaisical approach to both heaven, hell and the spiritual realities of our world.  And yet God’s authority trumps every creature under heaven and earth and under the earth.  We cannot assume rights and responsibilities that are not ours. We must appeal to God and his judgment, not to humanity and our contrived understandings of how we think things should be.  For those who fail to understand these realities and to take them to heart, Jude’s words serve as a warning: “Woe to them!”  Woe because judgment is coming and assured against all the ungodliness, selfishness, and worldliness of this present age.

But there is hope.  If we go back to the beginning of the letter, Jude assures us that there is a faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3b).  It is a faith unlike the 3 forms of faith the world wants to propagate.  It is a faith that weds both doctrine and life together.  It is a faith that proclaims Christ’s sufficiency for remedying sin, but also Christ’s power to transform the sinner into a marvelous work of loving worship, holy service and gracious reconciliation.  That faith and faith alone is able to rescue any sinner from the judgment we have been speaking about.  The true faith that stands the test of time, and can wisk us past the judgment of God into eternal habitations of untold glory says life and doctrine matter.  It says repent, that is life, and believe, that is doctrine.  We must both confess with our mouth that Jesus is lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead (Rom 10:9).  But we must also have deeds, or a life of faith to accompany our confession.  For as James tells us, In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder. 20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? (James 2:17-20).

People of God there is a faith that saves.  It is a living faith, an active faith, and a faith that pays attention to both the content and the lifestyle.  One without the other is not enough; both are required for both are wedded like heads and tails on a coin.  There is a holy matrimony between life and doctrine and to separate the two is to commit adultery and rip asunder what God has joined.  Remember, Jesus came to set you free from both sin and death, in the present and the future.  Go forth in his power and his spirit and live faithfully. Amen!

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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