Jude 5–16


We began to study this short book last week. And so, you might remember that I said that Jude was one of the Lord Jesus’s half-brothers. So, after the Lord Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to Mary, Mary and Joseph went on to have children together in the normal manner. And one of their children was James, who is mentioned in verse 1, and who became prominent in the early church. And another was Jude, the writer of this book.

And Jude told us in verse 3 that he intended to write to his readers about the salvation we share. So, he’d wanted to write a positive and uplifting message about the salvation which God was accomplished for us by his Son and which he graciously gives to us and which we receive by faith. He wanted to write about those things. However, he now felt the need to write a different kind of letter. He felt he had to write to tell his readers to contend for the faith. He wants his readers to defend the truth of the gospel. And they needed to defend the truth of the gospel, because certain men had secretly slipped into the church; and they were godless men who changed the grace of our God into a licence for immorality and who deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. So, heretics, false teachers, had come among the members of the church and they had taken hold of the gospel and they were twisting it to suit their own sinful desires.

Presumably they were saying something like this: If we’re saved by grace, and not by keeping the law, then we can do whatever we like and there’s no need for believers to keep the law and to obey God’s commands. Since Jude mentions sexual immorality in verse 4, then presumably they were saying they can sleep with whomever they want and that those laws about sex being for husbands and wives only do not apply any longer. They were saying that we can do whatever we want. And so, they were denying the Lord’s sovereignty, because instead of submitting to the Lord Jesus Christ and doing his will, they lived to please themselves.

And therefore, by the things they said and by the things they did, these heretics, these false teachers, were undermining the truth of the gospel. And so, Jude had to write this letter to warn his readers and to urge them to contend for the faith that was entrusted to them for safe keeping.

And since this letter is included in the Scriptures, then Jude’s message to them is also God’s message for us today. And since people today twist the gospel and turn it into a licence for immorality, we too need to contend for the faith which has been entrusted to us. And, as I said last week, the best way to defend the faith is to know the faith. And that’s why we need to pay attention to the reading and preaching of God’s word; and we need to read the Scriptures at home on our own and with our families; and we need to read our church’s catechisms and its Confession of Faith which help us to understand the Scriptures. We can’t defend the faith unless we know it. And the way to know the faith is to study it.

So, those were some of the things we were thinking about last week. In today’s verses — verses 5 to 16 — Jude makes clear that the ungodly will one day be judged and punished by God. So, unless the ungodly heretics he’s writing about repent, they will face God’s judgment. But then, as well as writing about the coming judgment, Jude also describes what these men are like. And he alternates between these two things. So, verses 5 to 7 are about God’s judgment; and then he describes what they’re like in verses 8 to 10. And then he pronounces a judgment woe on them in verse 11, before describing what they’re like in verses 12 and 13. He refers again to the judgment in verses 14 and 15 and in verse 16 he describes them one last time. So, he alternatives between those two things: judgment and description.

But before we turn to the passage and go through it, turn with me for a moment to verses 17 and 18 where Jude reminds his readers of what the apostles foretold. According to Jude, the apostles said to his readers that in the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. Sometimes people assume the phrase ‘the last times’ or ‘the last days’ refers to a relatively brief period of time right before the end of history. So, they think it’s a brief period of time right before the Lord returns. However, when we’ve come across this phrase before, I’ve explained that the phrase ‘the last times’ or ‘the last days’ refers to the whole of the time between the Lord’s resurrection from the dead and the time when he will come again with glory and power. We know this because, on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came on the people in tongues of fire, Peter explained that the coming of the Spirit from heaven was a sign that the last days had begun. They have arrived and we’re now living in the last days.

And another sign that the last days have arrived is the presence of false teachers in the church. So, in his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote about the last days being terrible times. And he went on to describe what we should expect; and his description includes the presence of people who oppose the truth. And Peter, in his second letter, also warned his readers about false teachers who will be among the believers. And, according to Jude 18, the apostles said to Jude’s readers that they should expect scoffers who scoff and mock at the truth and who follow their own ungodly and sinful desires. So, the apostles said that, in the last times, scoffers and false teachers and heretics will come. And since we’re living in the last times, then that’s what we should expect. And so, we need to be able to recognise these false teachers and heretics, which is why Jude describes them for us.

Verses 5 to 7

And so, let’s turn now to verses 5 to 7, where Jude makes clear that the ungodly will be judged and punished by God.

And he uses three illustrations of judgment to make his point. Firstly, he refers to the people of Israel who were delivered from Egypt in the days of Moses, but who perished in the wilderness. So, Jude says he wants to remind his readers that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt. Remember how he did it? He sent the ten plagues on the Egyptians, because the Pharaoh refused to let the people go. And the tenth and final plague was the worst, because the Lord went through the land and struck down the firstborn of every family. And afterwards, the Pharaoh let the people go. But then he changed his mind, and he sent his men to re-capture the Israelites. And so, the Lord opened a way for the Israelites through the Red Sea and they made their escape. And in the wilderness the Lord fed the people with manna and he provided them with water from the rock. And so, they’d experienced the Lord’s kindness. And yet, they rebelled against the Lord and they doubted his promises. And because of their sinful, unbelieving rebellion, the Lord swore that none of that generation who escaped from Egypt — apart from Joshua and Caleb — would enter the Promised Land. The rest of them died in the wilderness.

And then Jude refers to the angels in verse 6. He says they did not keep their positions of authority, but abandoned their own home. Many of the interpreters think Jude is referring to Genesis 6 where it says that ‘the sons of God’ married ‘the daughters of men’. And many interpreters think ‘the sons of God’ in Genesis 6 were angels. However, I don’t think Jude is referring to that passage. I think he’s referring to the time when Satan and the other angels were cast out of heaven. The Bible doesn’t say much about this, but Jewish tradition wrote about how Satan and the other angels were dissatisfied with their position in heaven. And so, they rebelled against God. And the Lord cast them out of heaven. And so, Jude tells us, they are now kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day of the Lord, when Christ will judge the living and the dead. In other words, God will judge and condemn them for their rebellion.

And then, in verse 7, Jude mentions Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns who gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. Do you remember the story from Genesis 18 and 19? God sent two angels down to Sodom and Gomorrah to see just how bad the people were. And the angels came into Sodom in human form. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who lived there, invited them to stay at his house. And while they were there, the men of the city gathered outside and wanted Lot to bring the visitors out so that they could abuse them sexually. And so, because of the wickedness of the people, God sent burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah and on the surrounding cities and they were destroyed. And Jude tells us at the end of verse 7 that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal life. God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah foreshadows the great and terrible day of the Lord when the Lord will judge and condemn and punish the wicked.

And the reason Jude refers to these three stories is because they serve as a warning of the judgment which will fall on all those who slip into the church and who twist the truth of the gospel to serve their own sinful desires. They will not get away with what they have done, because, just as the Lord punished the wicked in the past, so he will punish them and everyone like them.

Verses 8 to 10

And having spoken of God’s judgment, Jude goes on to describe these ungodly men. He says about them in verse 8 that in the same way these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority, and slander celestial beings.

Since he describes them as dreamers, it’s possible that they claimed to receive new revelations from God through their dreams. And, of course, we always have to be wary of anyone who claims to have received new revelations from God, because though God once spoke to his people in various ways, he now speaks to us only through his written word. And when Jude says they pollute their own bodies, he’s referring to their sexual immorality. And when he says they reject authority, he probably means that they have rejected God’s authority and the authority of God’s word which forbids sexual sins. And he accuses them of having slandered celestial beings. It’s not clear what Jude means by this, but since he goes on to refer to the Archangel Michael who did not dare to slander the Devil, then it’s likely Jude means that these heretics were willing to slander the Devil and all his demons. As I say, it’s not clear what he means, but if the true leaders of the church were warning the believers about the wicked schemes of the Devil and how we must resist his temptations, perhaps these heretics were being scornful and were saying we don’t need to worry about the Devil and his demons. In any case, Jude goes on to say about them in verse 10 that they speak abusively against whatever they do not understand. So, they don’t understand the true nature of the Devil and his demons and the danger they can pose to believers. And while these heretics may think that they understand spiritual things, they really haven’t got a clue. And while they haven’t a clue about spiritual matters, nevertheless they know a great deal about sinful desires and instincts and inclinations. Just as animals are driven along by their instincts, so these men are driven along by their instincts. And these are the things that destroy them, says Jude. And he means that following their sinful instincts and inclinations will only lead to eternal punishment.

And so, what are these men like? They claim new revelations from their dreams. They reject the authority of God and his word. They think they know a lot about spiritual matters, but they do not really understand the schemes of the Devil. And instead of being controlled by the Spirit, they are controlled by their own sinful desires.

Verse 11

And so, woe to them! Do you see that in verse 11? Jude pronounces a judgment woe on them because they have ‘taken the way of Cain’; and they have ‘rushed for profit into Balaam’s error’; and they’ve been ‘destroyed in Korah’s rebellion’.

In what way have they ‘taken the way of Cain’? They’ve taken the way of Cain in that, just as Cain chose the way of wickedness, when he murdered his brother, so these heretics have chosen the way of wickedness too.

And do you remember the story of Balaam? You can read his story in Numbers 22 and 23 and he’s also mentioned in Numbers 31. He was a kind of prophet and he was hired by Balak, who was the king of Moab and an enemy of the Israelites, to curse the people of Israel. However, the Lord prevented him from doing so. Later, however, he led the Israelites into sexual immorality and idolatry and thus he provoked God’s wrath against Israel. And so, Balaam is renowned in the Bible for his financial greed and for leading the people astray. And this suggests that, not only were the heretics controlled by their sinful, sexual desires, but they were also motivated by a love for money.

And then do you know the story of Korah from Numbers 16? Korah led a group of 250 men who resented Moses and Aaron’s authority. Though Moses and Aaron had been appointed by God to lead his people, Korah and his followers claimed that we’re all holy. That is, we’re all equal. And if we’re all equal, why have you set yourself up as leader over us? And so, instead of respecting Moses and Aaron’s authority, they rebelled against them. And when Moses appealed to the Lord, the Lord opened up the ground under Korah and those with him; and it says in Numbers that they went down alive into the grave. And presumably the reason Jude refers to the story of Korah is because these heretics have rebelled against God’s appointed leaders in the church. And just as Korah and his followers were destroyed by the Lord, so these heretics and false teachers will be destroyed by the Lord. And their coming destruction is so certain, that Jude refers to it as if it’s already happened.

And so, just as he referred to three stories of judgment in verses 5 to 7, so Jude refers to three stories of judgment in verse 11. Woe to them because, like Cain, they have chosen the way of sin. Woe to them because, like Balaam, they are driven by money to lead others astray. Woe to them because, like Korah, they have rebelled against God’s rightful leaders.

Verses 12 and 13

And Jude then goes on in verses 12 and 13 to describe the heretics as blemishes at their love feasts. The love feast was a meal believers shared together and it probably concluded with the Lord’s Supper. And therefore it was a meal for believers who loved the Lord and who loved and cared for one another. But the presence of these heretics only spoiled the fellowship of God’s people; and they did not really belong there.

And Jude also describes them as shepherds who feed only themselves. The job of the shepherd is to take care of the sheep, but these heretics, these false teachers, did not care about the Lord’s people, because they were selfish and self-centred.

And then, if you’re living in a hot, dry country, a cloud in the sky is a welcome sight, because a cloud in the sky holds out the promise of rain. But these false teachers are as useless and disappointing as a cloud without rain. They can’t do any good. And by describing them as clouds which are blown along by the wind, Jude probably means these false teachers are blown about here, there and everywhere. In other words, they’re not stable. And they’re like autumn trees which are without fruit. That is, they’re like trees which have never produced fruit. And a tree that never produces fruit is useless and it will be cut down and burned. In a similar way, nothing good will come from these false teachers. And they’re like waves in the sea, foaming up their shame. Just as wild waves are dangerous, so these heretics are dangerous to the church. And the image of foam conveys the idea of their shameful deeds. And they’re like wandering stars and planets in that they’re unreliable guides. In the past, when someone was trying to find their way, they needed a star that is fixed and does not move to guide them. But if you follow these men, you will only lose your way.

So what are these men like? They spoil the fellowship of the church. They don’t care about anyone apart from themselves. They are good for nothing and produce nothing of any worth. They are full of shameful deeds and they will only lead you astray.

Verses 14 and 15

And in verses 14 and 15 Jude once again speaks of the judgment to come upon such people. He refers to Enoch, who was that man we read about in Genesis 5 who did not die, because the Lord took him. God took him alive straight up to heaven. And his name is associated with a number of ancient books which are not part of the Bible. And Jude quotes from one of those books where it says that the Lord is coming with thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone and to convict the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in their ungodly way; and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him. By quoting these words here, Jude is leaving us in no doubt about what he thinks of these heretics, because he uses the word ‘ungodly’ four times to describe them. And he’s also leaving us in no doubt concerning their fate, because the Lord is coming to judge them.

Verse 16

And in the final description of them, he describes them as grumblers and fault-finders. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, who grumbled about Moses and Aaron and the Lord, these men grumble and complain. And instead of building others up in love, they find fault with everyone. And instead of doing the will of the Lord and instead of being led by the Spirit into greater obedience, they follow their own evil desires. And these grumblers and faultfinders boast about themselves. So, they criticise and complain about others, but they praise themselves. And not only do they praise themselves, but they’re prepared to praise others for their own advantage. In other words, they know how to curry favour with the right people to get what they want.

And so, what are these people like? Instead of building other ups, they grumble and complain. They follow their own evil desires. They boast about themselves and they flatter others for gain.


Let me make two brief points in conclusion. The first is to re-iterate what I said last week and what I mentioned at the beginning today. The way to contend for the faith against such heretics and false teachers is to know the faith. The way to defend the truth is by knowing the truth. And the way to know the truth is by studying the Bible, where God has revealed to us the truth about himself and the truth about our salvation and the truth about how to live a God-glorifying life. And so, pay close attention to the reading and preaching of God’s word in this place. Read the Bible at home. And read our church’s Confession and catechisms which are designed to help believers understand the Bible. Heretics will only succeed where they find people who do not know the truth. But when they come across men and women and children who have the shield of faith in one hand and the sword of the Spirit in the other, they will not get very far.

And the second point is this. You may not be a heretic or false teacher, but — who knows? — maybe you share some of their sinful characteristics? Maybe you don’t accept the authority of God’s word and you pick and choose what you’ll believe and what you’ll obey? Maybe you give in too easily to your own sinful desires and instincts? Maybe you don’t take seriously the wicked schemes of the Devil? Maybe you resent those God has placed in authority over you? Maybe you’re a grumbler and fault-finder? Maybe you’re the kind of person who boasts about yourself? Maybe you’re the kind of person who currys favour with others to see what you can get from them? You may not be a heretic or false teacher, but you may still share some of their sinful characteristics. And if that’s the case, God is coming to you today in the preaching of his word to command you to turn from your sin in repentance and to ask for his forgiveness. And God — who is gracious and merciful, and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love — is willing to pardon you for the sake of Christ who gave up his life for sinners to pay for their sins; and who shed his blood to cleanse them of their guilt. And so, there is forgiveness for all who repent and who believe in Christ. And not only does God gives us forgiveness, but he gives us his Spirit to make us more and more willing and able to do his will here on earth.