Part 8 - Riveting Remembrances and Appalling Apostasies Continued
From the history of the ungodly found in the Exodus and the fallen angels, Jude calls our attention to the wicked cites of the Plain. His third example of rebellion is that of Sodom, Gomorrah and the neighboring towns that shared in their sinful ways – among them Admah and Zeboiim. Their rebellious actions are that of gross immorality epitomized by the sin of homosexuality.
We mentioned that those who hold to the view of angels sexually involved with women see a link here with the immorality of these wicked city dwellers. In Genesis 19:4-11 where the angels who came to Lot assumed physical bodies, one commentator writes: “As the angels fell because of their lust for women, so the Sodomites desired sexual relations with angels.” These commentators say the phrase in verse 7 “in the same way as these” points to the angels who lusted for the daughters of men and stands in contrast to the Sodomites who desired to have sexual relations with the two angels.
But there is a serious and oft overlooked dilemma with this view. That is: spiritual beings do not have physical bodies and cannot have sexual relationships. Even the assumed physical bodies of the angels is nothing more than a manifestation of a human form – to make themselves tangible to human senses. It still does not change the fact angels are in essence spiritual beings which cannot engage in sex or procreate.
I found 3 of the Puritan commentators I have on Jude – Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, and Thomas Manton, the later writing a very detailed and scholarly commentary on Jude, who was very familiar with these extra-Biblical writings. All three do not mention at all the idea of fallen angles having sexual relations and so forth as we considered.
For me it sounds too sci-fi-ish and who knows if movies like the Rosemary’s Baby or the Omen are influenced by such interpretations! Can you imagine someone tracing their genealogy back to a fallen angel!
The literal translation of verse 7 and the position of “these” in the context indicate that Jude is referring to the inhabitants of Sodom not the fallen angles of verse 6. Jude also is fond of groupings of three so that the wicked cites are a third and separate example of rebellion against God and their subsequent condemnation.
What about the term “went after strange flesh”? Does strange flesh refer to the angels? I think not. This is referring to the Sodomites who being interested in having sexual relations with those of the same sex – men with men or women with women – pervert the created order. They pervert what is the God ordained and natural sexual relationship between a married man (husband) and woman (wife). The men of Sodom did not desire females but men as seen in their desire for homosexual relations with whom they perceived to be the men who visited Lot. Their homosexual desire and activity – is the going after strange flesh – what the Sodomites engaged in was a perversion of God’s natural order plain and simple.
Lastly, we see Jude tells us that the rebellious perverts of Sodom and Gemorrah stand throughout time as an exhibit of God’s wrath on sin. God destroyed them and their cities as we know with fire and brimstone. The memory of their sin and destruction is repeated by the prophets, our Lord, and the NT writers. The wicked cities are exposed to public view. The serve as a warning not just to those who are engaged in immorality of any magnitude but remind us that the wrath of a Holy God will fall on those who refuse to obey God’s Law.
Jude by way of these 3 reminders is saying, Take heed! The Puritan divine Thomas Manton makes this keen observation: The angels upon their apostasy lost heaven, the murmuring Israelites lost Canaan, and the Sodomites were, together with their fruitful soil and pleasant land, destroyed. You see heaven - mercies, church - mercies, and world - mercies, are all forfeited by the creature’s ingratitude.
My friends let us beware then. When God’s mercies are cast aside and ingratitude and rebellion takes its place which is not repented of, God will punish sin.
In verse 8 Jude makes the transition from the 3 examples of rebellion against God’s will to that of the godless men of verse 4. From this point on, Jude begins to add more disturbing detail about them.
Jude shows the parallel between these apostates and the disobedient Israelites, angels, and Sodomites of the past by the words – in like manner.
Consider these observation: 1) These men rebel by acts that defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.
Even by their very dreaming the apostates defile the flesh. Some think this refers to visions. The false teachers may have claimed they received supernatural revelation through dreams and ecstatic visions.
More likely these men are so obsessed with and possessed by an immoral sexual appetite that even in their dreams they indulge in perverse erotic fantasies. They don’t get their teaching from dreamland but from the reality of their own depraved nature. They imbibe this poisonous perversion and must have more and more. Moreover, they teach and practice immorality and that of the basest kind. They defile the flesh – they pollute the body – in a most degrading manner. Their immorality is so excessive that Jude puts it on par with the homosexual indulgences of the Sodomites.
No one needs to be reminded that such godless people have many followers in our day. Pornography is rampant, virtually unregulated and readily available to all without any discrimination. When the amendment to the marriage act was rejected in California homosexuals took to the streets in protest – carrying their signs and crying out about their rights.
Not long ago I heard homosexuals entered a church in Michigan during service and made a ruckus. Most of us know homosexuals protested outside a Mormon Church in NYC which funded those opposed to Proposition 8 in California. Watching the news I heard them yell out the charge of hatred against them. No! We don’t hate you. We hate your specific sin and rebellion against God!
One day when I was at the library, my eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw two books in the religion section defending homosexuality – from the Bible! These shake their fits at God and like these dreamers defile the land. Just how much longer will God tolerate this rebellion against His law?
2) Next they reject authority. The Greek word translated authority is kuriotes or ‘lordship.’ Although used by Paul in several places to describe angelic kuriotes as in Eph 1:21 translated (dominion) and Col 1:16 translated (powers), it is not angelic ‘lordship’ Jude refers to. Rather it is the Lord-ship of Jesus Christ (verse 4) these rebels reject. They spurn the Divine Lord. Scorn His Divine law. Despise His Divine authority. It is said that every man is born a Pharisee. Human nature is proud, self-righteous, and disdainful of others.
These apostates held Christ in contempt. They wanted nothing to do with Christ but everything to do with them-selves. Instead of freedom in Christ they demanded freedom from Christ. Thus they reject His authority and refuse His Lordship over their lives. Times certainly have not changed.
3) They revile angelic majesties. The Greek literally says they revile ‘glories.’ The parallel passage in 2 Peter has ‘angelic glories.’ Jude also is referring to ‘angelic glories’ which is further proved from the context of verse 9 where he mentions the arch-angel Michael.
Thus it is the good angels as opposed to fallen angels that are in view here. Only the good angels reflect the glory of God. When the angels appeared to the shepherds announcing the birth of the Messiah, Scripture tells us, the glory of the Lord reflected by the angels shone all around them. The angel in Revelation 18:1 had great authority and the earth was illumined with his glory. Ezekiel 9:3 says, “The glory of the Lord went up from the cherub (one of the several classes of angels) on which it had been…” Thus the faithful angels who surround God’s throne, who reflect His glory, are in view.
Now the men Jude described could care less about any authority over them even to the point of reviling all that the good angels are and do. How does this parallel the actions of the unbelieving Israelites in the Exodus? In what sense do they revile angelic glories or majesties?
Angels remember are God’s messengers and ministers. We saw they have specific positions of authority and roles in the administration of God’s government over the entire created order.
As for the parallel with the history of the Exodus we turn to the giving of the Law by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Deuteronomy 33:2 says, “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us. He shown forth from Mount Paran. He came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at His right hand.” This strongly suggests that the angels had a role in the giving of the law. Here the New Testament writers agree. Steven, when things were reaching a climax in his defense before the Jewish Council, called these religious leaders and their like-minded followers to the carpet. He says they are stiff-necked (stubborn – pig headed), uncircumcised in heart and ears, always resisting the Holy Spirit. They are betrayers and murders of the prophets and of the Righteous One (the Messiah). Then his last words of indictment read as follows, “you who received the law as ordained [put in place] by angels, and yet did not keep it (Acts 7:51-53). Here is a reference to giving of the Law and angelic involvement – on Mt. Sinai.
The apostle Paul writes that the Law was ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator [Moses] (Gal 3:19). The writer to the Hebrews says, “For if the word spoken by angels proved unalterable…” (Heb 2:2).
The angles then assisted in the giving of the law. When copies of the Declaration of Independence were made up it was sent by messengers to the various towns in the colonies. There the people gathered in front of the state house or in the town square to have it read to them. Perhaps this is something like what the NT writers mean. All we can say with certainty is that the angels assisted in the giving of the Law in their capacity as messengers, ministers, and witnesses for God.
Why do these apostates revile angelic glories? They have such a voracious desire to be free from authority and especially God’s Law - they will climb to any heights to detach themselves from anyone and anything, even the angels who agree that the law of God is holy, righteous, and good.
In verse 9 - Jude makes a contrast between these men and one of the ‘angelic glories’, the arch-angel Michael. Here we have a second reference to an apocryphal book. Jude refers to what was called the Testament of Moses or a related work called the Assumption of Moses. I remind you again that because Jude used such a source which was rejected as non-canonical when the early church was determining the books of Scripture, Jude’s reference to it made his letter suspect.
As we mentioned Jude’s borrowing material from non-canonical sources, be it Jewish writings or oral tradition, doesn’t mean he is saying that work or tradition is inspired. What Jude chose from these sources to illustrate and illuminate his teaching is that which He was led to by the Holy Spirit.
Michael is one four of the 7 arch-angels named in Jewish literature. There is perhaps a reference to these 7 angels in Revelation in Rev. 8. We learn that Michael is called in Scripture – from the book of Daniel, “one of the chief princes” who protects the people of Israel. Michael opposes Satan’s evil angels sent to sway the leaders of Persia and Greece. This arch angel leads the army of good angels in battle against Satan and his evil angels and repulses them so that they are cast out of heaven (Rev. 12).
Jude relates the account of the burial of Moses in the valley of Beth Peor in Moab. The writer of this testament seems to be giving a reason why God didn’t let anyone know where the grave of Moses was located. This was to prevent those who revered Moses from making an idol of him. Think of those who go to Graceland on the anniversary of the death of the so called music “king” of rock ‘n roll, Elvis Presley. His fans hold vigils in honor of him but in reality are worshipping an idol. There is a difference between a role model and an idol. I may like a few of his songs but overall I don’t think I would have Mr. Presley as a role model and certainly not someone to adore.
Jude takes the commentary on this incident in the Testament of Moses and mentions this dispute between Michael and the devil about the burial of Moses. According to the Testament of Moses, the dispute revolved around the devil’s charge that Moses was unworthy of an honorable burial because of his slaying of the Egyptian we read in the early chapters Exodus. In the testament, the devil accused Moses of murder.
Michael in his charge from God to see to the burial of Moses is being questioned by the evil one. Michael in response contends with the devil about this matter. In relating the incident Jude reports that Michael didn’t even dare take matters concerning the devil’s accusation into his own hands. Rather he let God be the Judge: He says in affect, “Devil, your controversy is not with me but with God. I leave this matter in the Lord’s hands. He is the Righteous Judge. The Lord rebuke you!
We find a parallel in Zechariah 3:1. There the prophet sees in a vision the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the Lord dressed in filthy garments (sin) and the devil standing by his side accusing Joshua before Him. “And the Lord said to Satan, The Lord rebuke you Satan!”
The point of Jude’s illustration is that not even a mighty angel such as Michael challenged Satan. Remember: Satan – the accuser of the brethren - prior to the cross and his ejection from heaven by the work of Christ – was able to come before God (Job 1:6) and point the finger at believers for their shortcomings. Satan was allowed to do that and although mighty Michael had the right to defend God’s servant against the false accusation, still Michael didn’t rebuke him. He could have but did the right thing and let God be the Judge.
Concerning those who ridicule us or our Faith, let us be careful to trust God with the matter and be careful how we react. There is a saying my dad use to remind us: there is a time and place for everything and everything in its place. Let us use our words of witness – even in our defense at the right time and wisely.
Jude as we mentioned used this incident to contrast the conduct of the godless men he is exposing in verse 8 with God’s servant.
The godless men were more than rash. They were outright thoughtless. Their speaking and acting on the spur of the moment without thought of the consequences led them into a condition of corruption. They revile the things which they do not understand. What things? Spiritual things are the object of their scorn and condemnation. Spiritual truth is utter nonsense to them because they have no spiritual wisdom or discernment. This makes them despise and condemn God and His people. They cast aspersions on everyone and everything associated with the Living God and base such defamatory remarks on that which is unreal and unreasonable.
Jude goes on’ “and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed or literally: corrupted. By instinct he means by nature or what comes natural to one’s state of being. My cat although domesticated still has that instinct for hunting and often proudly drops a poor critter off on the back porch. Animals operate according to the laws of nature which God created.
But these apostates act like unreasoning animals. There is no law natural, reasonable or moral in their eyes. They have sinful behavioral characteristics and strong impulses which although unnatural come most natural to them. You have heard of the 3 R’s when it comes to the basics of knowledge: readin’, rightin’, ‘rithmatic? Well these people when it comes to the basics of knowledge are driven by instinct and know only the 3 R’s of ruining – rebuffing – ridiculing. By these they are destroyed or corrupted. They are corrupted by their pursuit of gross immorality, insistence on anti-authoritarian attitudes, and spew slanderous speech without any real knowledge of the matter.
Verse 11 is Jude’s exclamation point and takes on the tone of the OT prophet’s way of calling attention to the behavior of rebellious individuals and nations. Woe to them! Jude is again showing his fondness for groupings of three to drive home his point. Jude refers to three rebellious individuals from Old Testament history: Cain, Balaam, and Korah.
In the first place, these renegades (vs.4) followed the way of Cain. Jewish tradition refers to Cain as the archetypical or classic sinner. He holds the dishonor of being the first murder and determined disobeyer of God.
Cain as sin’s trailblazer, his way is marked first by unfaithfulness. He offered to God that which was not ‘first and best.’ Then Cain despite God’s warning about yielding to sin’s temptation detached himself from God by turning a deaf ear to the Lord’s admonitions and going his own way.
Cain’s attitude and actions was a continual wandering away from God. Cain became jealous of his brother. His jealously led to hatred which in turn led to murder. Cain’s way was littered with evil deeds.
When John Calvin began his Geneva catechism, he began with the question what is the chief end of man? The answer: to know God and enjoy Him forever. That is every Christian’s goal. We are to know, enjoy, and fellowship with God as we serve Him here and into eternity. These godless men rejected that goal. They followed Cain on the trail of unfaithfulness to God and shunned His requirement to serve, enjoy, and glorify Him. At the root of their rebellion was jealousy. The harboring of jealousy in its demand to be at the center of attention breeds suspicion, bitterness, loveless-ness, selfishness and hatred for all that is holy. For Cain – for these men – for all who follow the way of Cain, sin is like a river. It begins in a quiet spring, but ends in a roaring sea.
Next we learn these defectors for pay have rushed headlong (lit: poured themselves out) into the error of Balaam. Balaam’s character and actions established him as a prime example of the false prophet and teacher. This pagan prophet and sorcerer had a reputation for supernatural powers. He was hired by Balak king of Moab to help him defeat Israel by having Balaam curse Israel. Although Balaam had some regard for the true God and God did communicate through Balaam His word, none the less at the heart of Balaam’s intentions was evil. We see him on the surface as a man of God but under the façade of piety he sought to manipulate the spirit world (through divination and a fee) to his advantage.
His true colors become more vivid in Numbers 25. There Israel got entangled with Moabite women. Before long they were joining them in worship of their false fertility god and ritual prostitution. This idolatrous worship resulting in the death of 24,000 Israelites before the God sent plague was stayed.
Balaam was the chief instigator of Israel’s downfall at that time for we read in Numbers 31:16 that it was heeding Balaam’s advice that caused the people of Israel to act treacherously. Moreover, the Lord Jesus makes it plain that what was happening to the believers at Pergamum was akin to Balaam’s teaching to put a stumbling block before the Sons of Israel to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality (Rev 2:14). So Balaam in his desire to corrupt Israel – motivated by a love for money – his real god, sold them into sin at Moab.
Even today we see practices such as astrology and psychic consultation – motivated by money and cast in a religious flavor leading people astray.
These men like Balaam are motivated by greed and serve the god of mammon – give themselves wholeheartedly to corrupt God’s people and see them fall into sin without a qualm of conscious. True for Balaam and those who copy him is the saying: He who sins for profit, will not profit from his sins.
Next, these insurgents perished in the rebellion of Korah. Korah and his cohorts led 250 others to challenge the leadership of Moses. By doing so they questioned the wisdom of God. This assault on the authority God vested in Moses was a direct assault on God Himself. Korah’s actions were directed against the leadership of Moses and in turn against the administration and teaching of God. Their families were buried alive by God and the 250 consumed by fire.
By implication the godless men of Jude’s day were challenging both apostolic authority and teaching. They refused to submit to God’s administration through the leadership in the local church. It was their way or no way. All three examples show that these people were bent on destroying the very foundations of the faith with an all out assault principally on Christian ethical practices.
Notice Jude writes in the past tense showing that their judgment is a settled matter. God plays no games when it comes to sin which is contrary to His holy nature. It is a dishonor to His Person, Word, and Work. Their hearts out of which flow all the issues of life were adamant in their rebellion against God like those examples from Biblical history and they meet the same condemnation.