We are continuing our verse-by-verse study of the book written by Y'hudah, the half brother of Yeshua. It is a very important little book, warning the Church to battle for the truth in a world of apostasy and spiritual defection. This is a word the Church desperately needs to hear today.
The word "apostasy" is from the Greek word apostasia, which means: "defection from truth." Apostasy means to fall away from the truth, it is a rebellion against God because it is a rebellion against truth. In the Tanakh, God warned the Jewish people about their idolatry and their lack of trust in Him. In the New Testament, the Epistles warn us about not falling away from the truth. Apostasy is a very real and dangerous threat.
Jude urges those in the body of Christ to contend earnestly for the faith:
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Jude 1:3 NASB
The Greek word translated "contend earnestly" is a compound verb from which we get the word "agonize." It is in the present infinitive form, which means that the struggle will be continuous. In other words, Jude is telling us that there will be a constant fight against false teaching, and that Christians should take it so seriously that we "agonize" over the fight in which we are engaged. Moreover, Jude makes it clear that every Christian is called to this fight, not just church leaders, so it is critical that all believers be very familiar with the Word of God so that they can recognize and prevent apostasy in their midst.
Jude tells us how to spot these apostates in:
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Christ. Jude 1:4 NASB
Jude tells us that these apostates sneak into the Church unnoticed. They try to blend in; they try to look spiritual. Paul tells us this same thing in:
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NASB
The false apostles were not apostles of Christ. Satan was not an angel of light, and his ministers were not ministers of righteousness. The word "disguising" is the Greek word metaschematizo. This word is used five times in the New Testament. The connotation in all five refers to the act of assuming an outward expression that does not come from within. They were all assuming an outward expression that did not come from within; they were not who they appeared to be. In other words, do not look for apostates to appear bad on the outside or speak dramatic words of heresy at the outset of their teaching. Rather than denying truth outright, apostates will twist it to fit their own agenda.
Jude says that apostates are, "ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness"—the word "turn" is taken from the Greek word metatithemi; from meta, meaning: "change of place or condition"; and tithemi, meaning: "to put or place." It literally means: "to put in another place." So they take the grace of God and put it in another place. So these false teachers may have been Judiazers trying to turn grace into works.
"And deny our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Christ"—there is more than one way in which a man can deny Yeshua the Christ. He can deny Him by his life and conduct—immorality. He can deny Him by developing false ideas about Him. Many today who claim to be Christian deny the deity of Yeshua.
How do we spot an apostate? How do we know if a man is dangerous or misguided? What are we to be on guard for? Apostasy can be a falling away from key and true doctrines of the Bible into heretical teachings that proclaim to be "the real" Christian doctrine. Or apostasy can be a falling away from Christian morality. Apostates excuse and justify sin. Sexual immorality is characteristic among many apostates.
In a 2010 study done by prominent atheists, Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola, called "Preachers Who Are Not Believers," they chronicle five different preachers who over time were presented with and accepted heretical teachings about Christianity and now have completely fallen away from the faith and are either pantheists or secret atheists. One of the most disturbing truths highlighted in the study is that these preachers maintain their position as pastors of Christian Churches with their congregations being unaware of their leader's true spiritual state.
Today we want to look at verses 12-13 where Jude moves from the history of apostates that he has been dealing with since verse 5 to describing these apostates. He moves to the natural world and gives us five analogies of apostates. This is a diatribe in metaphors to describe the errors of the apostates. He is describing those who threaten the peace and purity of the church. Jude seems to follow Enoch's descriptions of these wicked men point for point:
Robertson McQuilkin cautions on metaphors, "Picture talk is one of the greatest problems of interpretation. To treat figurative language as if it were literal and to treat literal language as if it were figurative, constitute two of the greatest hindrances to understanding the meaning of the Bible."
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; Jude 1:12 NASB
"These are the men"—takes us all the way back to verse 4 to the "certain persons who crept in unnoticed." It is the "these men" of verse 8 and 10 to which Jude says in verse 11, "Woe to them!"
"Who are hidden reefs in your love feasts"—the Greek word translated as "hidden reefs" is spilas and actually refers to a rock in the sea, a ledge or reef which is hidden under the water. Homer, in the Odyssey (iii., 298) uses spilas writing "the waves dashed the ship against the rocks [spilas]." This is a metaphor that I, as a boater, understand. Unless the water is crystal clear, as in the Florida Keys where Kim and Thea live, you really can't tell what is under the surface. This is particularly true for us who boat in the intracostal water ways. The water looks like coffee, and you cannot see what is under it. We have hit many hidden obstacles with our boat.
These men are like reefs or rocks in the sea (submerged and invisible beneath the surface of the water), but deadly dangerous for ships that might venture near their jagged edges. This metaphor suggests at least two characteristics of these men—they are concealed, and they present a spiritual danger to the unwary and immature sheep in the flock.
Jude's picture recalls the disciple's last supper with Yeshua, where none of the disciples had a clue that there was a Judas betrayer in their midst! Christians may come across one of these false teachers and become a man or woman of shipwrecked faith.
"In your love feasts"—this a prepositional phrase in the Greek. The words "love feasts" is a translation of one Greek word, "agape," the Greek word for love. In the first and second centuries after Christ, this word, agape, developed a technical meaning referring to meals that the early church had together.
William Barclay writes:
The Love Feast, the Agape, was one of the earliest features of the Church. It was a meal of fellowship held on the Lord's Day. To it everyone brought what he could, and all shared alike. It was a lovely idea that the Christians in each little house church should sit down on the Lord's Day to eat in fellowship together. No doubt there were some who could bring much and others who could bring only little. For many of the slaves it was perhaps the only decent meal they ever ate. But very soon the Agape began to go wrong. We can see it going wrong in the church at Corinth, when Paul declares that at the Corinthian Love Feasts there is nothing but division. (Jude - Barclay's Daily Study Bible)
Look at what Paul wrote:
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 1 Corinthians 11:17-18 NASB
When they came together for the Agape, they ended up doing anything but love:
Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. 1 Corinthians 11:20-22 NASB
They are divided into cliques and factions; some have too much, and others starve; and the meal for some has become a drunken party.
"By the second century the word, agapai, had become a technical term for such a common meal which seems to have been separated from the ceremonial observance of the Lord's Supper sometime after the NT period." (Holman Bible Dictionary note on Love Feasts)
Eventually, so many problems accompanied these feasts, that at the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) they were strictly forbidden, which gives the impression that the Churches didn't change their ways, in spite of Paul's strong warning.
"When they feast with you without fear"—"when they feast with you" is actually one Greek word, suneuocheomai, which means: "to feast, to banquet, to party with, to socialize with." It is a present tense participle, which portrays these men's practice of turning the "love-feasts" into occasions for personal feasting and putting forth their errors. They do this with no fear of being detected.
Then the NASB says: "Caring for themselves"—this is a bad translation. The Greek word here is poinanio, which means: "shepherding." The ESV has it right:
These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; Jude 1:12 ESV
Jude's use of this verb poimaino may suggest that, indeed, these snakes were masquerading as shepherds or leaders. The love feast was designed for people to care for each other, it was a shepherding dinner. They sat around, talked and shepherded each other. If somebody needed comfort, they comforted them. If somebody needed instruction, they instructed them. But these men were only in it for themselves. I think Jude got this metaphor from Ezekiel:
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? Ezekiel 34:2 NASB
So Jude is saying again what he said in verse 11, "Woe to you apostates!"
His watchmen are blind, All of them know nothing. All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber; And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; They have all turned to their own way, Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one. "Come," they say, "let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink; And tomorrow will be like today, only more so." Isaiah 56:10-12 NASB
Feeding sheep in a common metaphor for teaching God's people the Word of God.
The next metaphor Jude gives us is, "Clouds without water, carried along by winds"—these next four metaphors seem to come from the Book of Enoch. This is why I talked about the book of Enoch last week. Verses 12-13 are allusions from Enoch and then verse 14-15 are a quote from Enoch. Let me read to you 1 Enoch 80 where we see several of this metaphors:
1 Enoch 80:1-8: And in those days the angel Uriel answered and said to me: 'Behold, I have shown thee everything, Enoch, and I have revealed everything to thee that thou shouldst see this sun and this moon, and the leaders of the stars of the heaven and all those who turn them, their tasks and times and departures. 2 And in the days of the sinners the years shall be shortened, And their seed shall be tardy on their lands and fields, And all things on the earth shall alter, And shall not appear in their time: And the rain shall be kept back And the heaven shall withhold (it). 3 And in those times the fruits of the earth shall be backward, And shall not grow in their time, And the fruits of the trees shall be withheld in their time. 4 And the moon shall alter her order, And not appear at her time. 5 [And in those days the sun shall be seen and he shall journey in the evening on the extremity of the great chariot in the west] And shall shine more brightly than accords with the order of light. 6 And many chiefs of the stars shall transgress the order (prescribed). And these shall alter their orbits and tasks, And not appear at the seasons prescribed to them. 7 And the whole order of the stars shall be concealed from the sinners, And the thoughts of those on the earth shall err concerning them, [And they shall be altered from all their ways], Yea, they shall err and take them to be gods. 8 And evil shall be multiplied upon them, And punishment shall come upon them So as to destroy all.'
So in verse 2 Enoch says, "And the rain shall be kept back And the heaven shall withhold (it)." And Jude says, "Clouds without water, carried along by winds"—the interpretation of this metaphor is pretty straightforward. We've all seen the sky darken up with dark thunder clouds and prepared for the shower of refreshing rain, only to have it pass by, with no rain, and for desperate farmers, no crop! These apostates have an air of authenticity about themselves, offering hope to the church that they can bring needed spiritual "rain," but in fact they cannot. Rain is another common metaphor in Scripture; it's used as a picture of God's blessing, raining down upon us from heaven.
Water is used in the Scripture in three different ways. It is used as literal water, H2,O, It is also used as an analogy to represent something else, like salvation:
"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. Isaiah 55:1 NASB
Water is used for the Word of God in Ephesians 5:26, "cleansing her by the washing with water through the word."
Like clouds and wind without rain Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely. Proverbs 25:14 NASB
These false teachers promise to bring you the blessing of God, they promise to lead you in the path of God, they promise to bring you spiritual blessing and spiritual refreshment. They promise, but they can't deliver. Those today who preach the gospel of health and wealth, promise so much, but deliver nothing.
So these apostates are a hidden danger; they offer false promises, and next they are barren. Jude says they are like, "autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted"—in other words, at the time that they are expected to have fruit, they have none. They are doubly or twice dead in the sense that they don't just look dead like a winter tree—they true ly are dead. They are like trees that have come out of the ground, disconnected from the life-giving source of water and nutrients. Yeshua said of the Pharisees:
But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Matthew 15:13 NASB
Such people produce no life-changing fruit, and never will. This is another allusion that comes from Enoch:
1 Enoch 80:3: And in those times the fruits of the earth shall be backward, And shall not grow in their time, And the fruits of the trees shall be withheld in their time.
Jude is following Enoch's order here from chapter 80. The next metaphor Jude gives is:
wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 1:13 NASB
This seems to come from 1 Enoch 67:
1 Enoch 67:5: and silver and iron and soft metal and tin. And I saw that valley in which there was a great 6 convulsion and a convulsion of the waters. And when all this took place, from that fiery molten metal and from the convulsion thereof in that place, there was produced a smell of sulphur, and it was connected with those waters, and that valley of the angels who had led astray (mankind) burned 7 beneath that land. And through its valleys proceed streams of fire, where these angels are punished who had led astray those who dwell upon the earth.
For Enoch these waves seem to be waves of judgment. Jude says, "wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam"—this could be speaking of instability or as judgment. Isaiah says:
But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, And its waters toss up refuse and mud. "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked." Isaiah 57:20-21 NASB
No peace is judgment. The men that Jude talks about are wicked and have no peace.
Then Jude gives us our final metaphor: "wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever"—most commentators see this are referring to shooting stars. Coffman, in his commentary, likens these false teachers to "shooting stars" or meteorites "which blaze in the night sky and then fall into darkness foreverů.These evil men who troubled the church were just like 'shooting stars' that shine for a moment and then plunge to doom and darkness." (Coffman p. 538-539).
But Jude is again using an allusion from Enoch:
1 Enoch 80:6-8: And many chiefs of the stars shall transgress the order (prescribed). And these shall alter their orbits and tasks, And not appear at the seasons prescribed to them. 7 And the whole order of the stars shall be concealed from the sinners, And the thoughts of those on the earth shall err concerning them, [And they shall be altered from all their ways], Yea, they shall err and take them to be gods. 8 And evil shall be multiplied upon them, And punishment shall come upon them So as to destroy all.'
The "wandering stars"that Jude speaks of is a common ancient Jewish idiom in both the Tanakh and the Pseudepigrapha for divine celestial beings. In the ancient world, the stars were called the "host of heaven"and were equated with deities. In the Tanakh, the stars of heaven are also called "heavenly host"and are likened to the pagan deities:
"And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. Deuteronomy 4:19 NASB
Those elohim belong to the nations, and Israel was not to worship them. 1 Enoch also likens the fallen angelic Watchers to imprisoned stars:
1 Enoch 18: 14-15: and to me, when I inquired regarding them, The angel said: 'This place is the end of heaven and earth: this has become a prison for the stars and the host of heaven. And the stars which roll over the fire are they which have transgressed the commandment of the Lord in the beginning of 16 their rising, because they did not come forth at their appointed times. And He was wroth with them, and bound them till the time when their guilt should be consummated (even) for ten thousand years.'
Jude uses the exact same description we see in 1 Enoch 67:10 of those angels who "debauch their bodies"and "deny the Lord." This repetitious theme of fleshly defilement and rejection of authority (v. 8) are all traits of the "angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode"(v. 6).
William Barclay writes:
The wicked men are like the wandering stars that are kept in the abyss of darkness for their disobedience. This is a picture directly taken from the Book of Enoch. In that book the stars and the angels are sometimes identified; and there is a picture of the fate of the stars who, disobedient to God, left their appointed orbit and were destroyed. (Jude - Barclay's Daily Study Bible)
The fate of the wandering stars is typical of the fate of the man who disobeys Yahweh's commandments and takes his own way.
These false teachers were deceptive and dangerous, because they blended in at every Christian event. Their motives were selfish. They were superficial and made a lot of empty promises. They were unstable, with no true spiritual life.
Now I want you to see the contrast here. Jude has been talking about the historical judgments of apostates and about the characteristics of these apostates. In verses 12-13 he gives us five metaphors that describe them ,and it isn't pretty, and then notice the contrast:
It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, Jude 1:14 NASB
We go from apostates to Enoch, a man who walked with God. A righteous man. Clement says of Enoch:
1 Clement 9.3: Let us set before us Enoch, who being found righteous in obedience was translated, and his death was not found. [Lightfoot, J. B., & Harmer, J. R. (1891). The Apostolic Fathers (p. 61). London: Macmillan and Co.]
We looked last week at the life of Enoch. We saw that he is only mentioned three times in the Word of God, we read about him in Genesis, chapter 5; Hebrews, chapter 11; and then in the book of Jude.
If you look at Genesis, chapter 5 and verses one right down to verse 21—at least eight times you read these words: "and he died," "and he died," "and he died." But when you look at verse 24, it doesn't say that he died:
Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:22-24 NASB
Twice it says, "Enoch walked with Elohim," and then Hebrews adds to that:
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. Hebrews 11:5 NASB
"Taken up" here is the word metatithemi, which literally means: "to put in another place." Here the passive sense means: "to be taken or transferred. In the figurative sense metatithemi means: "to effect a change in state or condition and so to alter something."
He was pleasing to God! Enoch is the only man, apart from Yeshua, who the Scriptures say pleased God! What was pleasing to God about him? I think the next verse in Hebrews tells us:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 NASB
The word "please" here is the Greek word euaresteo, which means: "to gratify completely, to please." This word is only used three times in the New Testament, all here in Hebrews 11. Enoch pleased Yahweh, faith pleases Yahweh, and then:
And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16 NASB
Wow! Think about that for a minute. Yahweh is pleased by our faith and by our doing good and sharing. When we minister to someone in need, we are as a priest offering up spiritual sacrifices to Yahweh.
So I would say that Enoch was a man of faith who ministered to those in need and thus was pleasing to Yahweh. So Enoch was a man of faith who walked with God and God took him. Think about this; If you took someone from a different place, a different realm, because you had fellowship with them, and they were pleasing to you, where would you take them? You would take them to be with you! What else would you do with them? Why take them from their place/realm if not to be with you? So don't believe some idiot preacher who says that Enoch didn't go to heaven! You know who the idiot preacher is that I'm talking about? I said that last week. And I attempted to prove it with a spoof text. When you use a verse of Scripture to prove your point, it's called, "proof texting." But when the verse you use doesn't really prove your point it called, "spoof texting."
"No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. John 3:13 NASB
Now, today, after further studying this verse in context, I don't think that Yeshua is saying here that "No one is in heaven," this is why I'm always telling you not to believe me, but to be a Berean and check it out for yourselves.
Let's look at this verse in context. What is happening in John 3? Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews is discussing with Yeshua how a man can be born again:
Nicodemus said to Him, "How can these things be?" Yeshua answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? "No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. John 3:9-13 NASB
They're talking about the knowledge of God, and Yeshua is saying that it is not obtained by any man's going up from earth to heaven to receive it—"No one has ascended into heaven"—but He whose essential and eternal nature is heaven, has, by taking human flesh, descended as the Son of man to disclose the Father.
The implication is that no one has both ascended to heaven to receive divine revelation and descended to earth to give an account of that revelation in the same way that Yeshua has as the incarnate Word of God. The background of Yeshua's saying is found in:
"For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. "It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' Deuteronomy 30:11-12 NASB
The context is talking about going up to heaven to receive divine knowledge and bringing it back down. No one needs to do this, Yahweh has raveled Himself through His prophets and through His Son.
He is saying, "No one has ascended into heaven and returned, so no one is qualified to speak of them but He who came down from heaven." This does not mean that no one had gone to heaven. Now as a general rule believers didn't go to heaven until the resurrection in AD 70, but, obviously, Yahweh made a few exceptions.
So I believe that Enoch walked with Yahweh, and his faith pleased Yahweh so much that Yahweh took him from the earth into the eternal realm:
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. Hebrews 11:5 NASB
Now think of this for a moment: Yeshua, sinless, spotless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and it was said of Him, and He said Himself:
"And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." John 8:29 NASB
Yet the Holy Spirit of God could say of Enoch, "This man pleased Me.". This is the way we prevent apostasy, this is the cure, it is called simply, "Walking with God!" Enoch walked with God for three hundred years! So how about you? Are you walking with Yahweh? I'm not asking if you are saved, I'm asking if you are walking with Yahweh day after day? How do you know if you are walking with Him? Is there evidence of that? I think that there should be, let me suggest a few: gratitude, peace, contentment. I don't mean when things are going well, I mean in the face of your life falling apart there is peace in the storm:
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU," so that we confidently say, "THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?" Hebrews 13:5-6 NASB
When you are walking with the sovereign God of the universe all is well no matter what is happening.
As a believer in Christ, do you meet with God? Do you? You must walk with Him, you must talk with Him, you must seek His presence, you must spend time in His Word, you must be in that place of continual fellowship with Him. I suspect that 95% of the Church of Yeshua hasn't got a clue what it is like to walk with God.
And let's keep in mind that Enoch walked with Yahweh in very dark times:
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5 NASB
Believers, we are all called to walk with God. Life is so much better when we walk through it with the God who created the universe and everything in it. When Christians walk in fellowship with Yahweh and begin to express their Christianity through their lifestyle, the world cannot help but take notice.
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