Part 7 – Riveting Remembrances Coupled With Appalling Apostasies.
Last time we began to examine the ‘faith and practice’ of the godless people of verse four that were troubling the churches. We saw that they denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. In doing so they rejected His sacred Person, His Word of authority, and His work of salvation. As Jude continues his stinging indictment of these godless ones, we come to what I am calling riveting remembrances coupled with appalling apostasies.
Jude takes the past history of the ungodly and makes a contrast with the present history of the ungodly people troubling the churches. What is Jude’s purpose in pointing out these historical events? We get our answer from the words of Paul to the Corinthians. Paul made reference to the very history that Jude does in verse 5 about the unbelieving Israelites in the Exodus. Paul says, “Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things as they did.” and “…they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-11). Jude has the same goal.
First we note that Jude praises the Christian community. He commends them for their knowledge of the Scriptures. Notice the phrase “though you know all things once for all.” Jude used this expression “once for all” before with reference to the faith – the body of Christian teaching. Jude commends them for knowing the truth of the Scriptures.
As for Jude’s desire to remind his readers, the parallel passage is found in 2 Peter 1:12, “Therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, though you already known them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.” It is always a good thing – even a safe guard to be reminded of the great truths of the Christian faith. It is easy to become distracted or complacent because of the difficulties we face in life. If we so, we can forget those things that unite us and help us in the midst of life’s challenges with regards to our like-precious Faith.
I love that scene in the Sound Of Music when Captain Van Trapp is all upset with the children’s nanny. As he is scolding Maria, he orders her to pack her things and go back to the abbey. Then the Captain hears his children singing. Entering the sitting room, he begins to remember the music and joins his children in singing:
”the hills are alive with the sound of music…” As he reflects, the Captain who was so pre-occupied with the cares of life - admits “he forgot.” His children reminded him of the beauty of the music and the gift of music his family was blessed with. He becomes stirred up, energized, and brought closer to his dear children. Let us be sure not forget the Scriptures – its histories – its promises – its warnings – its exhortations- its instructions- its Author!
One time when I was seeking a church home, I spoke to the pastor about my background. I presented several cardinal doctrinal beliefs that I firmly believed such as the ‘doctrines of grace.’ He admired my understanding of the faith but said that his congregation was not “theologically astute” (discerning or perceptive). I was taken back by that statement.
It is not the responsibility of the preacher/teacher of the Word of God to do his utmost with God’s help to “handle accurately the Word of truth?” Is it not equally the responsibility of the hearers of that Word to be discerning of what they are listening too? Like the Bereans in Acts 17, we are to be noble-minded by receiving the word with eagerness and examining the Scriptures for our selves to see if what is being taught is so. I came to where I stand by that very principle and continue to do so when I hear what is taught from the pulpit, over the radio, TV, and from books. We need to know our Bibles. We need to read, study, and prayerfully meditate on the Word and measure all that comes to us by its pure and holy light.
Being of the Baptist persuasion – reformed Baptist that is, we have an acronym for BAPTIST (a word formed from initials). B stands for the Bible alone as our final authority in matters of faith and practice. A is for autonomy. Each local church is self-governing. P – For the priesthood of believers – each of us has direct access to God through Jesus Christ our mediator. T – For two ordinances, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – I is for individual soul liberty, S- separation of church and state, T- for two offices, elder and deacon.
As for “I”, it stands for individual soul-liberty. Each person is responsible for what they believe and how they live. Being raised in the Roman Catholic faith, we were never encouraged to question what was taught because we were told the pope and the church’s teachings were infallible. The pope spoke in the place of Christ! Yet I was never one to accept what someone said as absolutely true unless I checked matters out for myself. It took not a few years but I discovered that many things especially pertaining to salvation was not what our Lord and His apostles taught. So let us be sure we compare Scripture with Scripture as we seek to arrive at truth.
Jude arranges these 3 histories in verses 5-7 not chronologically as in the parallel place in 2 Peter 2 but topically. Jude refers to the exodus, the fallen angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah. If there is one word which best characterizes the particular behavior mentioned in these 3 examples from Biblical history – it is: rebellion – rebellion – rebellion against God.
First remembrance is the rebellious Israelites in the Exodus. Israel was God’s chosen people. They were the recipients of God’s special revelation and through whom the Messiah was to come. God delivered them from slavery. He performed mighty miracles which they saw and heard and even felt as He freed them from Egypt’s tyranny. God continued to do wondrous works in their midst as they made the trek to Canaan, the Promised Land. Think of the ten plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, ample supply of manner, abundant meat, and water from the rock. Think of His very presence to guide them in the cloudy pillar by day and fiery pillar by night.
Think of the significance in the giving of His Law on Sinai. Yet despite all this the people were ungrateful, complainers, and rebellious. When the people reacted disapprovingly to the report of the spies sent into Canaan, God said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst” (Numbers 14:11)?
Despite all the times Moses interceded on their behalf they still continued to disobey. They refused to trust God and rejected His goodness and guidance. Eventually the patience of God became exhausted. When that first generation filled up the measure of their sins - God’s wrath fell upon them.
Jude gives us a riveting reminder from Numbers 1:45. We see all those 20 years of age or older that did not believe, died in the desert. The number of men was 603, 550. If we add an equal number of women we arrive at a staggering 1,207,100 people dying within a 40 year time frame!
The writer to the Hebrews confirms the rebellion of these highly privileged people in Hebrews 3:16-19. Despite all God had done for them – all the awesome miracles – all His goodness and mercy and warnings - they refused to obey and suffered the wrath and judgment of God. God is serious about sin!
The second remembrance of rebellion against God is that of the fallen angels. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly when the angels were created or their specific sin. We don’t know the exact point in time when they followed their leader Satan into rebellion. Jude only tells us that did not keep their domain and left their proper abode which resulted in God’s condemnation upon them.
Many think this forsaking of their domain/abode means the angels left heaven to come to earth to become sexually involved with women. This is supposedly what Genesis 6:2 is referring to when it says the sons of God (supposedly angels) came to earth, took for themselves wives from the daughters of men, and fathered children. They say Jude took this from traditions that were circulating in Jewish and Gentle circles, and especially from the apocryphal book 1 Enoch.
I mention three things which I believe make this view unlikely.
First, angels are spiritual beings. They have no physical bodies and are incapable of sexual relations. Jesus in answer to the question of the Sadducees about marriage at the resurrection said that those who experience resurrection glory will be like the angels. Like the angels they “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” If Jesus says spiritual beings do not marry and remember one of the purposes of marriage is procreation, then His words carry the greatest weight (Luke 20:27-38).
Second, Jude who takes material from 1 Enoch in verses 14-15, does allude to that book here in verse 6. Whoever wrote 1 Enoch provides a commentary on Genesis 6:1-4. The earliest Jewish interpretation of this passage is that the Sons of God are angels which Job 1:6 refers to as Sons of God. Later Jewish Rabies in the 2nd century AD suggested this passage referred to a group of royal tyrants who succeeded Lamech. He was the first known abuser of the creation order of marriage – taking more than one wife. These royal tyrants formed harems – groups of women, containing both wives and concubines. Some conclude that a combo of these two views is the possible solution to the Sons of God marrying the daughters of men. These produce the spiritual offspring of Satan empowered by demons.
The traditional Christian interpretation is the Sons of God refers to the godly line of Seth as opposed to the ungodly line of Cain. There was intermarriage between them. The objection to this view is it doesn’t adequately explain how the ‘daughters of men’ refers chiefly to Canaanite women.
However, Genesis contrasts Canaanite culture and its defiance of God with a preserved people of God – those who call upon the name of the Lord. This community of faith is established through Seth. I see no real problem because the ‘daughters of men’ can refer to any of Cain’s descendants.
It is reasonable to conclude that because of sin which those who follow the Lord are not immune, if they indulgence in sin, then terrible consequences result. By the intermarrying of the godly with the ungodly – being unequally yoked – this sin further increased ungodliness in the earth. Later throughout the Old Testament we see God warning His people not to marry foreign women and when they do - much evil came of it.
Another explanation along the lines of the 2nd century view referred to above is presented by Meredith Klein. He calls this section of Genesis 6:1-8 – the cult of man. Professor Klein labels Genesis 6:1-4 under the title, “deified sinners.” He says this section of Genesis points to the pinnacle of abomination among earth’s inhabitants. It is reached through dynastic exploits – through a succession of prominent rulers or powerful family heads who wielded great influence in their circles. Sons of God can be translated: sons of the gods. Ancient texts attest to an ideology (system of belief) of divine kingship and human kings who were called sons of various gods. As in Genesis 6:1 the daughters of men are women in general (including Canaanite women) and this marrying is referring to polygamy – having several wives as practiced in royal harems. Klein refers to this as a ‘blasphemous cult’ which arose out of the Caaninte line and their attempt at establishing their own name in the earth apart from God.
Lastly, in showing you that angels are not meant here in Genesis 6, remember that God’s judgment which falls in the world-wide flood is a judgment against ‘men and flesh’. Jude in verse 6 of his letter is referring to an altogether different judgment than that. Jude refers to the judgment of the angels – spiritual beings. One is a judgment on the evil earthy beings the other on the evil spiritual beings. Again we must remember that rebellion against God does not go unpunished.
Now what the writer of 1 Enoch is doing is an attempt to account for the age old question about the origin of evil on the earth. His opinion is that fallen angels lust after beautiful earthly women. They come down to Mt. Hermon and commit adultery with these earthly women. By doing so they created a race of giants called the Nephilim. This results in the earth becoming corrupted which in turn brings God’s judgment with the flood of Noah’s day. The writer says the fallen angels are responsible for the multiplication of evil and received God’s condemnation. They were put into prison and bound forever. To me this sounds a bit of a stretch. It does however make for a good fictional book or movie!
Remember 1 Enoch although well known to Jude and his reader’s is not canonical. Although the language Jude uses resembles some of the passages in 1 Enoch, Jude is not endorsing this interpretation of fallen angels called sons of God who married or lusted after the daughters of men. What Jude has written is inspired by the Holy Spirit and what he takes from 1 Enoch does not mean that book as a whole is inspired.
Even Paul quotes from pagan poets, a pagan philosopher, and Jewish tradition. He mentions a Jannes and Jambes in his letter to Timothy. In Jewish tradition these are names of two of Pharos’s magicians who opposed Moses. In Acts 17 Paul is preaching in the Areopagus before the “schoolmen” of Greece and quotes from 3 of their poets. What Paul takes from tradition or from these pagan poets is inspired not the entire writing from which it is taken.
Thirdly, we must not base an interpretation of Scripture on tradition or extra-biblical writings and but by comparing Scripture with Scripture.
So what is Jude saying in verse 6?
Scripture calls attention to the Supremacy of Christ over all realms – material and spiritual. Christ is seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and domain (Eph 1:21) – a reference to the angels and men. The angels are identified as rulers and authorities in the heavenly places in Eph. 3:10. Colossians 1:16 likewise speaks of a hierarchy of angels in terms of “thrones, dominions, rulers, authorities.” The reference to every family in heaven in Ephesians 3:15, “which derives its name from the Father” may very well refer to the family of angels – family being used as a group who share the same origin and characteristics.
We know of two arch-angels named Gabriel and Michael in Scripture. We also see a special order of angels – identified as the 4 living creatures (perhaps representing creation) and 24 elders (perhaps representing the people of God) who are God’s throne room attendants in Revelation. In parts of the gospels and the Acts we see the activity of angels. Throughout Revelation angels are shown in positions of authority – the mighty angel with the little scroll or the angel in charge of the waters or who explained some of the visions to John. Thus we see that there are different classes of angels with differing degrees of domain – that is, spheres of influence or positions of authority.
They not only have a place in God’s created order but a specific God ordained role or function. Scripture refers to the service of the angels. Psalm 104:4 quoted in Hebrews 1:7 says God makes His angels His messengers and ministers. Furthermore, Hebrews 1:14 calls the angels ministering spirits sent out to render service for those who will inherit salvation. Angels as messengers and ministers are found throughout the history of redemption – and we see their special roles and activities in both old and new testaments.
Think of our own government. There are specific areas of operating authority and tasks within that authority concerning all braches of government – executive, legislature, and judicial – to provide the proper balance and cohesion for appropriate governing of the affairs of the nation. Again the point is that there is a specific domain and a specific service given to the angels in the administration of the government of God.
Keeping Jude’s words in mind about their fall, we can glean from Genesis 3 and Luke 4 that the fallen angels wanted to be like God and have things their way – calling their own ‘shots’ as the saying goes. Pride and power was their downfall which led to their rebellion against the government of God. This is what most likely underlies Jude’s words in verse 6 - not their coming to earth to father children by marriage or as a result of adulterous lust.
By not keeping their God ordained domain, these angels did not keep their respective positions of responsibility God entrusted to them. Rather they abandoned their proper abode – they deserted their station – they discarded their service for that which Scripture describes as the domain of darkness. This angelic rebellion was an assault on the very throne of God - the embodiment of His sovereign government and absolute authority over them as their Creator and Ruler.
God quickly put an end to their selfish starry eyed ambition and unholy lust for power. God dealt swiftly and decisively with them and condemned them with an irreversible sentence. Jude says what they un-kept resulted in God’s keeping them under condemnation. God has kept them in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.
The angels did not keep that wonderful domain of light – purity – holiness – joy – peace and meaningful service. They were the first to exchange the truth of God for the lie. They are now kept by God in that awful domain of darkness shrouded with corruption, wickedness, and misery.
Are they locked up in a certain place and unable to function? Not in a hyper-literal sense. I lean in the direction that the abyss – the deep – the pit where they are kept and from where they ascend and descend is the domain of evil spirits. If they were locked up they would be unable to roam about wrecking havoc on the earth on behalf of their master Satan. Rather Jude is giving us a picture of the rebellious angels who live and operate in the domain of spiritual darkness. Being kept means they are always under the control of God. They are not allowed to do anything without the permission of the Almighty and what is in line with His purposes. God even over-rules their evil actions for His purposes.
They are chained to their sentence of divine judgment. This telling verdict rendered by the Supreme Judge is one which will never be overturned and from which they can never escape. Under divine condemnation as John Calvin says, the fallen angels “drag their chains with them wherever they go awaiting the extreme [final] judgment of the great day.”