[The following sermon was delivered at Cornerstone Community Church in Montgomery, TX, on 07/18/2021. I’m sharing this sermon manuscript solely as a blessing to my readers in their personal spiritual walk, and I hope it is edifying in that regard.]
Like many modern conveniences, social media can be both a blessing and a burden. It can help you connect with other believers from around the country and even the world, allowing you to share in prayers and praises and encouragement. It can also put you in contact with some absolute spiritual foolishness.
I saw one such post this week, in which a commenter, responding to a post by an outright false teacher, said, “Calling people ‘false teachers’ who simply have different theologies and ways of interpreting the Bible shows absolute ignorance for the long history of theology and doctrine. I’ll never understand such arrogance from certain groups.”
I didn’t respond to this person (which I take as a sign of the Spirit’s work in my heart!) partly because I didn’t know her and partly because, by the look of her other posts, it felt like a “pearls before swine” situation. But it did get me thinking about the nature of false teaching. Heresy and false teaching aren’t merely a difference of opinion or interpretation. False teachers fundamentally twist and alter and throw out the core truths of the Gospel.
And, with apologies to that social media commenter, the history of the Christian church is one of consistently calling out and rebuking false teaching. That’s why we have all those early church creeds—they were written, in part, to address current-day heresies. As we heard from Jude last week, our calling is to contend for the faith, and that means marking and avoiding false teachers who try to corrupt it.
What this week’s section shows us is that every generation’s crop of false teachers all seem to follow the same pattern—a pattern we can trace throughout the history of God’s people in the Bible. Let’s look at verses 5-11.
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 5-11)
I’ve titled this week’s sermon “Same Song, Second Verse.” If you’re taking notes, my outline isn’t as Baptistically alliterative, unfortunately. Three points, though: 1) Warnings from the Past [5-7]; 2) Arrogant Blasphemy [8-10]; 3) History Repeating .
Let’s first consider Jude’s warnings from the past.
1) Warnings from the Past (v. 5-7)
Jude transitions from his thesis statement in verses 3-4 by saying that he wants to remind his hearers of something they once fully knew. This recalls Paul’s words in Philippians 3:1, telling the Philippian Christians that his repeated reminders to rejoice are no trouble to him and are safe for them. We should never tire of hearing the repeated, unchanging truths of the Gospel—it is no trouble for the faithful shepherd to preach it, and it is safe for the faithful church member to hear it again.
Jude reminds his readers that “Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Now, this is a pretty striking statement on its face. After all, Jude is asserting that it was the Son of God who ultimately rescued the people of Israel from their bondage and led them through the wilderness. This raises a good reminder for us as well, when we are tempted to assume (even unintentionally) that the Old Testament was about YHWH and Israel, and that Jesus is like a new character being introduced in Act 2. The Scriptures affirm that our Triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) were fully present throughout the entire history of Israel. Paul argues this in I Corinthians 10. Let’s hold our spot in Jude and take a look at that.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. (I Cor. 10:1-5)
We’ll come back to this passage at the end of the sermon, but I just want to make a few quick points from this text:
- Paul affirms that Christ Jesus was with His people in their wanderings, and that symbolically, He Himself was the rock that produced fresh water for them, providing them refreshment.
- With most of the Israelites, God was not pleased. These were the faithless ones who would not enter the promised land but believed the fearful report of the 10 spies, so God led Israel to wander for 40 years and all of their generation but two died in the wilderness, as a judgment for their unbelief.
Jude underlines this in verse 5 of our text by saying that Jesus destroyed those who did not believe. As Dr. Jim Hamilton notes in his masterful work God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, the pattern of God in Scripture is often to rescue some through the just condemnation of others. We see this explicitly in the miracle of the Red Sea crossing, and I think this plays out equally clearly in how God shows mercy by not destroying all of Israel for their wilderness rebellions—yet He does defend His honor at certain points by delivering judgment upon Israel’s sins.
Now, verse 6, and one of a few tricky spots in our passage today: “And the angels who did not stay within their position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day…” A few notes on this:
1) Who are these angels? The main two arguments are that these are either the angels who rebelled with Lucifer and were cast out of heaven; or these are the “sons of God” in Genesis 6, angelic beings who left heaven to somehow walk among mankind and have relations with human women. I’m not entirely sure which angels are described here, but based on some of the commentaries I’ve looked at, I’m leaning toward this second option. Matthew Harmon, in the ESV Exegetical Commentary, suggests that the context of Jude and his reference to the book of Enoch later point to this second option, since that document references this story from Genesis 6.
2) The angels abandoned their proper dwelling and authority in order to sin, so now they are kept by Christ: We don’t have more details about this angelic authority, though some verses in Scripture allude to angels being given charge to watch over certain parts of God’s creation, including us. Since these angels didn’t keep their position, they are now kept—and the word “kept” in the original language isn’t the safe and secure “keeping” that we have discussed already from verse 1. No, this word for “kept” has the sense of being held in custody, as if in prison.
3) They are in eternal chains of gloomy darkness until the day of judgment: This phrase gives us a little trouble depending on which angels we may be talking about. Obviously, certain fallen angels aren’t being imprisoned in our current age. Some commentators say that the language about eternal chains point to a figurative captivity, meaning their judgment is certain and inescapable. However, Thomas Coutouzis (in his commentary on Jude called Agonizing for the Faith) relies on the parallel passage in II Peter 2 to draw a connection between this “gloomy darkness” and “the pit” or abyss of hell mentioned in Peter’s letter to the plea from the demoniac’s Legion in Luke 8, where they plead with Jesus not to cast them into “the abyss.”
So, putting this together, Jude points to these demons who rebelled against their God-given role and place in order to follow their own sinful desires, and now face eternal judgment and destruction for that sin.
Charles Spurgeon, commenting on this verse, gives us a solemn warning:
“The angels—think how high they stood in their first estate. If sin could drag an angel from the skies, it may well pluck a minister from the pulpit, a deacon from the communion table, or a church member out of the midst of his brothers and sisters. Perseverance in holiness is the sign of eternal salvation. If we forsake the Lord and turn back to our former evil ways, it will be the evidence that we never really believed in Christ and that there was no true work of grace in our hearts.”Charles Spurgeon
Jude’s historical warnings continue to verse 7: “…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Jude’s language here is pretty clear but I want to emphasize a few things:
1) God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was total. This story from Genesis 18 and 19 tells us how God utterly destroyed these cities and the cities surrounding them, raining sulfur and fire down upon them. Jeremiah 50:40 notes that God rendered the area uninhabitable, to the point that you could not even stay in that area as you passed through.
2) God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was for sexual sin. Some modern critics have tried to argue that the sin of these cities was actually self-indulgence and lack of hospitality or compassion for the poor—making this argument solely from a description of Sodom in Ezekiel 16. Often, this argument is made with the intention to undermine the Biblical position on homosexuality by assigning the cause for God’s judgment elsewhere. But by doing so, these revisionist historians are ignoring practically every other reference to Sodom in the Bible! And certainly, the people of S&G were guilty of these sins among others. But Jude makes it crystal clear why S&G were condemned—they indulged in rampant sexual sin and pursued unnatural desire (“other flesh” in the original Greek), which is undoubtedly a reference to same-sex desire and fornication. Do not be deceived, my friends: the Bible is consistent and unmistakable that homosexual desire and behavior is sinful and destructive. It’s not something to be proud of. It’s not something to embrace as your identity. It’s something to repent of and to put off. Hear me, please: If you are struggling with same-sex attraction and desires, I want you to know that there is hope for you and there is grace for you in Christ Jesus. Like every single one of us, you have a sin nature that desires to resist God’s law. We were all “born that way.” But the blood of Jesus washes us, sanctifies us, makes us new creatures. Seek your identity in Christ Jesus and what His word says about who you are. If you want to talk about this more after the service, come find me.
3) God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was a living picture of hell. Jude closes verse 7 by telling us that the destruction of S&G gives us a real-world picture of eternal judgment. What will hell be like for those who do not repent of sin and follow Jesus? Destruction. Fire. Sulfur. Anguish. Forever.
After examining these warnings from the past, Jude goes into detail about the arrogant blasphemies of the false teachers.
2) Arrogant Blasphemies (8-10)
Jude says that “in like manner” the false teachers infiltrating the church do the same things: they defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But he starts by calling them “dreamers,” saying they “rely on their dreams.” The language here is of someone who prophesies or interprets their dreams in a way that is subjective, naturally sinful, and corrupted. This is nothing new to the people of God. In Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Moses warns that false prophets will try to lead the people astray into idolatry and sin by prophesying their wicked dreams, but the people of God should not believe them. However, we see in Jeremiah 23 that this is exactly what happened. [READ Jeremiah 23:23-32]
“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.Jeremiah 23:23-32
The prophet Zechariah also decries the wicked dreams of false teachers in Zech. 10:2.
Jude writes that these dreaming schemers defile the flesh, meaning their actions make them morally unclean. They reject authority and blaspheme the “glorious ones.” Here, “glorious ones” could mean holy angels or, more likely, unholy angels. I say more likely because the next verses provide us another unusual interpretive challenge regarding angelic argumentation.
Verse 9 states: “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” Now, what on earth is going on here? A few points:
1) Obviously, this story isn’t in Scripture. Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy, in chapter 34. The Lord takes him up to the top of Mount Nebo to let him see the Promised Land with his eyes, though he’s not allowed to enter. Then Moses dies and the Lord Himself buries him in an unknown location in the valley of Moab. Jude’s story of Michael and Satan is believed to come from an ancient Jewish text outside of the Bible, called the Testament or Assumption of Moses. In this document, Michael the archangel argues with Satan, who claims that he has a right to Moses’ body because he was a murderer.
It’s a weird story. But I want to make this plain: that ancient Jewish document isn’t Scripture. It’s not inspired or authoritative. Jude here is drawing from a cultural touchstone that his readers presumably were familiar with in order to make a point. We can recognize that principle or argument as truth and thus Scriptural, even if the source material is not (just like Paul quoting lines from pagan poets in order to provide analogies).
2) In the story, Michael refuses to rebuke Satan himself. Why? A few reasons. First, Michael recognizes that Satan, twisted by sin as he is, used to be the angel of light Lucifer, a “shining one” and former servant of God. Peter writes in II Peter 2:11, “Bold and willful, [the false teachers] do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.” Perhaps a second reason for why Michael didn’t rebuke Satan himself is that he didn’t have the right to—that’s God’s rightful place. To presume to rebuke the devil on your own authority is to take on a position as if you were God. And yes, I think this has implications for us now. Some teachers and ministries may call on you to “rebuke the devil” or try to “bind him in Jesus’ name” (as if “in Jesus’ name” were magic words). The way I read this verse, we would be best to leave the rebuking of Satan to our king, and just defer to His authority on the matter.
Jude sets up the contrast between Michael’s actions in verse 9 and the actions of the false teachers in verse 10: “But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” In other words, the false teachers presumptively blaspheme by speaking against spiritual powers as if they had the authority and clout to do so, while at the same time leaving themselves open to demonic corruption and control.
But consider this: what have we seen so far that these teachers know instinctively, like unreasoning animals? The cravings of their flesh, the rebellion of their hearts, and the debasement of their minds. That sounds an awful lot like the description of sin’s utter corruption from Romans chapter 1. There, Paul warns that the wrath of God is being stored up against the sinfulness of mankind, who walk in the ways that these false teachers seem to run in instinctively.
Next, Jude ties in more references to Israel’s history in verse 11.
3) History Repeating (v.11)
“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.”
Like the Old Testament prophets, Jude pronounces a word of woeful judgment on these teachers and, in so doing, likens them to 3 accursed figures from Israel’s past.
They walked in the way of Cain. This takes us back to Genesis 4, as Cain the son of Adam and Eve slays his brother Abel because Abel’s blood sacrifice was accepted by God and Cain’s own harvest offering was not. When God refused Cain’s sacrifice, he became enraged and rather than submitting to God’s rule for how to worship, took out his anger on the one with whom God was pleased. John writes in I John 3:12 that Cain was “of the evil one” and killed his brother because Abel’s deeds were righteous and Cain’s were not. Some commentators note that ancient Jewish writings attribute other sins to Cain after he was sent into the wilderness, such as greed, violence, lust, and leading others astray into sin. We don’t know any of that for sure, but what we can see from Scripture is Cain’s stubborn unwillingness to worship God as He commanded and his hatred of those who do.
They abandoned themselves for the gain of Balaam’s error. This points us to Numbers 22-24. Balak, the king of Moab, bribes the prophet Balaam to pronounce a curse on the wandering Israelites, but 3 times Balaam ends up speaking blessings on them, because that’s what YHWH had told him to say. However, we see in Peter’s parallel wording in II Peter 2:15-16 that Balaam “loved gain from wrongdoing” and was rebuked supernaturally by his own donkey in order to “restrain the prophet’s madness.” Unfortunately, the story of Balaam goes beyond the talking donkey. In Numbers 25, we learn that the daughters of Moab walked among the men of Israel (presumably at the direction of Balak), and the men of Israel followed their sinful lusts and lay with them, which led into eventual Baal worship and idolatry. This brought judgment and death upon the men who sinned in this way—a plague from God that killed 23 or 24 THOUSAND people. We learn later in Numbers 37 that it was Balaam who instigated this plot by Moab in order to try to destroy Israel. The greedy prophet got his payday, but ultimately was executed later by the leaders of Israel for his subversion.
They perished in Korah’s rebellion. This takes us to Numbers 16. Korah was a Levite, and the cousin of Aaron and Moses. He was a Kohathite, the Levite clan who was given the responsibility of guarding, caring for, and transporting the most holy objects in the Tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant. Yet, Korah and his 250 followers were not satisfied with this responsibility; rather, they wanted to overthrow the authority of Moses and Aaron. They accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves, when (in their words) “all in the congregation are holy, every one of them.” Moses told them to take censers of incense to present before the Lord, and that God would show who are His. Then Moses warned the rest of the people to get away from Korah’s family and tents. The ground itself opened up and swallowed Korah and his family, and then fire from the Lord consumed his 250 followers who were offering illegitimate incense offerings. If that wasn’t bad enough, the people of Israel turned on Moses and Aaron and accused THEM of killing their brethren, so God sent a plague of destruction among Israel that killed 14,700 people until Aaron interceded for them. In the end, those who rejected the authority of God’s word (in the mouth of His prophet) and wanted to rule themselves were consumed, and the people they led astray were also destroyed.
I noticed something interesting when studying this verse. Admittedly, I don’t know Greek yet, so I can’t say this with certainty, and this may perhaps be a comment on how the text has been translated. But in my ESV translation, all of these verbs in verse 11 are in the past tense: walked, abandoned, perished. I think this points back to verse 4, in which Jude says that the condemnation of these teachers was established long ago. Like the angels in eternal chains of gloomy darkness, God’s judgment of these false teachers is sure and cannot be avoided, outside of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. And yet even then, the writer of Hebrews warns that once a professing believer has “tasted” the goodness of salvation (meaning not that they have been born again, but that they have heard the Gospel taught in its fullness and have tasted the benefits of life within the body of Christ) and then turns away, what hope does such a one have, other than most certain judgment?
Here, we’ll have to leave Jude and continue his comments in a couple of weeks. Now, turn back to I Corinthians 10. Let’s start again from verse 1. See if you can recognize some of the references here.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.I Corinthians 10:1-10
Paul says that these things took place as examples for us—they were true historical events, but they were recorded for our sake as warnings “that we might not desire evil as they did.” He mentions in verse 7 the incident of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32. In verse 8, the sexual immorality he mentions—that’s Balaam’s dirty work. In verse 9, we see a reference to the judgment of fiery serpents from Numbers 21, and then in verse 10, those who grumbled and were destroyed by the Destroyer—a reference that could be applied to a few different instances in the Wilderness Wandering of Israel, but certainly could be applied to Korah’s rebellion.
In recent years, certain famous evangelical speakers have talked about how we New Testament Christians should “unhitch” from the Old Testament; but I hope today’s study proves that the New Testament is inextricably linked to the Old. In these Old Testament accounts, don’t we see ourselves? Should we not study these as well, and gain their lessons? That’s what Paul argues in this passage in I Corinthians 10. Keep reading, starting in verse 11: “Now, these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
These stories that Paul alludes to and that Jude references are reminders that the destructive lure of sin is nothing new, and that the schemes and ploys of false teachers and wicked dreamers are just reboots and replays of a very old gameplan. God has given us these Scriptures so that we know what’s up and can spot the game being run on us by these servants of Satan.
Friends, heed the warning of Paul in I Corinthians 10:12—let anyone who thinks he stands take heed, or WATCH OUT, in case he falls. The moment we become proud of our personal faithfulness and righteousness, we are ripe for the picking.
My wife and I received some troubling news this week: we learned that a former friend of ours from several years ago was recently found to be guilty of heinous sexual sin, sin that he had been hiding from his wife and his church family for years. This young man was a professing believer and could hold forth on sound doctrine and theological conversation like a seminary graduate. Yet in the hidden places of his heart, he held fast to sexual immorality, rejecting the authority of Jesus over that part of his life, and that rebellion eventually consumed him and came to light.
In closing, here is my caution and my final word for you this morning: Consider your ways. Take heed lest you fall.
If you are not a follower of Jesus, hear the certain warning of Jude 5: this same Jesus who rescued his covenant people and destroyed those who did not believe? He’s coming again. And when he returns, the Bible says he’s not going to show up as a baby in a manger or a humble carpenter. He’s going to be the Rider on the White Horse from Revelation 19, with a blood-soaked robe and a sword coming out of his mouth to destroy his enemies. On that great and terrible day, it will be too late to try to broker peace with this conquering King. The book of Hebrews says today is the day of salvation. You face a certain destruction unless you turn from your sin and rebellion against a holy God, and in repentance call on Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. There is no other way to make peace with God. None. Jesus is your only hope—but He stands ready and willing to receive you to Himself.
And for my brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to leave you with this same warning: Jesus is coming back. In what state will He find us on that day? Will we be holding fast to the truth, or wandering off after teachers who blaspheme what they don’t understand, indulge their sexual desires and encourage others to do likewise, and reject the authority of God and His word? Our hope and our confidence is what we discussed in verse 1: Those whom God calls and loves, He keeps to the end (a theme we’ll revisit in a few weeks). But until that day when our King returns in victory, we have a task before us to contend for the faith and call sinners to repentance. We should take care not to be ignorant of the devil’s schemes, so that we are not ensnared. By the grace of God, and only by the grace of God, we will stand firm.
Now, may the God of all truth lead you and guard your steps. May He give you wisdom and grace in all things. May He lovingly bring your smallest sins to light so that you can repent and turn away from them and live lives of holy obedience and humility. May He protect you, keep you, establish you, and cause you to stand firm to the end, in the name of Jesus Christ and for the praise of His glory. Amen.