We turn this week to the beginning of Jude’s word of exhortation. He has introduced himself and who the letter is written for. He has told them the reason why he has written the letter and what he wants the readers to do in the end. He begins with an introductory statement of how he wants to remind them. Jude tells those who are called, beloved, and kept, that they once knew something that they have forgotten. A truthful statement that we can be quick to forget, that although we once understood something, does not mean we understand it today, or that we do not need to be reminded of these things. Jude gives us three stories of history that have a similar theme; he shows us three sins committed and then three outcomes from those sins, these three outcomes are all under one big category of judgment. Now, before we begin with Jude’s reminders. We need to remember that he is speaking to the church, the church that has had false teaching and false teachers creep into their midst (Jude 4). He begins by speaking of the three historical examples, but he starts using phrases and terms like, “These people,” “them,” “these,” and “their.” Jude uses these terms to speak of a part of the whole. Specifically, the false teachers who have crept in unnoticed. That we need to understand Jude is speaking to the church but within the church is a group of people who deny Jesus as Lord and follow their desires against the word. Jude will speak to them towards the end of this address, but now he seeks to show that this is not a new thing. This word of warning is about what happens to people who reject, rebel, and refuse God’s natural order. Jude’s twofold charge against these false teachers is their perversion of grace and denial of Jesus as Lord.
Rejection of God’s salvation
Jude begins with the great story of Exodus. Now before we turn to the wilderness wanderings and Israel’s sin. The ESV translates this that Jesus saved the people from Egypt, most other translations base this on other manuscripts and translates this to the Lord. Now this concept is not foreign to the New Testament, Paul explains that Jesus was the rock and that they put Christ to the test (Cf. 1 Cor 10). Either translation does not affect the meaning of the text. Jude is highlighting that there are a group of people who are a part of the covenant community, but they did not get to inherit the promised land that God had promised to their fathers. Jude highlight’s their unbelief. Now it is often a great practice to turn to the passage that is referenced in such a case and seek to understand the story and then how the New Testament author reads and used this story.
“And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’ I, the Lord, have spoken. Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.” (Numbers 14:26–35)
Jude tells the story of the people of God after they have been delivered from the land of Egypt. Jude reminds the church that these people grumbled against the Lord. This is the external action from the covenant community, but we are told in Jude and also in Numbers chapter 14 that they rejected the land, because of their faithlessness. Now interestingly this word in the Numbers passage generally speaks of unlawfulness in the terms of marriage, generally translated whoredom, or other like words. They use their wives and children as excuses to be able to return to Egypt. They seek to want to die in the wilderness, and this is exactly what they will get. Jude highlights the outcome of their unbelief, which is destruction. These people saw the great and glorious signs of the Exodus, they saw the Red Sea split in two, and then they finally said, let us go back. The author of Hebrews also points out that because of their unbelief that they fall in the wilderness.
“And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:17–19).
The great warning that we see in this passage in Jude is that one part of contending for the faith is to understand the salvation that we have been given. When we start to turn back to the way of sin in which we have been saved or seek to continue to live in that sin we are like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, grumbling against God and not seeing the rest which is before us found only in Christ.
Rebellion against God’s authority
Jude then turns to another example of the angels who fell. Jude says, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling…” (Jude 6a). Now this passage can be hard to understand because we find it difficult to comprehend the historical event he is talking about. This is where we use the principle “let scripture interpret scripture.” We have a passage that is hard for us to understand we seek to turn to other passages that can help us with this passage. So we turn to 2 Peter, many people believe that 2 Peter is written after Jude was written. Some have suggested that Peter wrote 2 Pete because Jude’s letter had been circulating and Peter writes an extended piece for the readers of Jude to understand it better. So in 2 Peter, we can find out what Jude 6 is speaking about;
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;” (2 Peter 2:4–5)
Here we see how these two passages can help us understand the other passage. In Jude we are told about what the specific sin is that is mentioned, not staying within their position of authority, but Peter helps us understand what historical event Jude is talking about. We find this story in Genesis 6:1-4;
“When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” (Genesis 6:1–4)
Now, this can be a difficult passage to understand, and three options are generally given for who these sons of men are; 1) divine beings (angels), 2) Rulers, kings or princes, 3) line of Seth, ie Son’s of God’s promise. Now, we could spend quite some time discussing this, and I have gone back and forth on these options over the years. However, Jude seems to make it clear that this speaks of the Divine beings unless he is speaking of some form of fall of angels before creation (which seems unlikely, as we do not have a clear biblical story that would have been well known to people). I personally believe this speaks of divine beings (which has changed from my previous beliefs). If you would like a longer explanation, you are more than welcome to come and speak to me about this. However, Jude is highlighting the sin of the angels against God. The angels rebel against the authority of God. This again speaks of the false teachers who deny the authority of Christ in their lives. Jude explains that the outcome of their rebellion is that they are being kept for the great judgment on the last day. Now interesting Jude explains that Christ is keeping them for judgment, this is the same word that Jude used in verse one to explain to those who are being kept for Christ. So you have two forms of keeping; keeping for judgment, and keeping to be presented blameless (Jude 24-25).
Refusal of God’s created order
Lastly, Jude uses the example of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude says, “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 7). Here Sodom and Gomorrah are used as an example. Now, what is the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, this has become an interesting topic of conversation in recent years, and once I being to explain it you might see why there has been a shift in this direction. The shift has come with a more welcoming and accepting position of the world’s view of sexuality. Mainly, the proponents of this view quote Ezekiel 16:49 which says, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” They explain that their sin was a lack of hospitality and caring for the needy. I agree with this position, but the issue with this position it seeks to elevate one bible verse above another or to the exclusion of others. The Lord tells Abraham his plan to destroy the city of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:20-21, “Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.” Now, again we could spend quite some time on this topic, but I do not believe that these sins are exclusive to one another. Jude highlights the sexual perversion of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is the emphasis of Genesis chapter 19. Ezekiel points out their lack of love for their neighbor. Now to say that they were punished only for one sin misunderstands how God’s justice and wrath work. Every sin deserves the wrath and curse of God. The point of Sodom and Gomorrah is that it is filled with wickedness, from the oldest to the youngest. Perversion is found not just in their thinking and their actions. This is Jude’s point about their indulgence and their pursuit of these desires that are not in God’s created order.
Now, it does not take long for us to look into the world and see this mindset of perversion. Sexual immortality can be found anywhere you look. Pornography is accessed by about 40 million adults regularly. Hook-up culture of one-night stands and other short-lived encounters, 60-80% of college students have some form of ‘hook up’ in one way or another. About 23% of adults have cohabitated with someone who they say is in a serious relationship. One in five (20.8%) of Gen Z (1997-2003) identify on the LGBTQ spectrum. And from personal stories, this number is increasing dramatically in younger children. This is found in the statistics as well every Generation (as defined by some group etc.) has doubled. With these numbers, the next generation would be at 40%. This is only those who identify on this list, those who affirm and approve of this are higher. The statistics on infidelity vary drastically from 13% up to 40%. Now statistics are numbers, that tell incomplete stories depending on questions asked, polling data, and even that the people are telling the truth.
However, Jude is not written to speak to the sins of the world. Remember Jude is written to those who are called, beloved, and kept. He is writing because of the perversion of grace that is being taught within the church by these false teachers. Jude writes that the outcome of Sodom and Gomorrah is an example for those who seek to live and walk in those ways. Now, this is not a popular opinion. The church as a whole has embraced these sins with the same mindset perverting the grace of God into sensuality (Jude 4).