Destruction of Apostates (Jude 5-7)
When the saint of God considers the end awaiting all apostates from the truth, all bitterness toward them must of necessity be banished from the heart. They may seem to ride now on a crest of popular appreciation and support, but they will soon fall. For “surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction” (Psalm 73:18).
This is the solemn lesson we are taught by observing the unbelievers who fell in the wilderness. They started out well. All were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. All drank the same spiritual drink and ate the same spiritual food. But unbelief manifested itself when the time of testing came. Murmuring, idolatry, and the gainsaying of Korah (of which particular note is taken further on in this Epistle), told out the true state of many who sang with exultation on the banks of the Red Sea. Kadesh-Barnea, the place of opportunity, became but the memorial of unbelief. Though once saved out of Egypt, they were destroyed in the wilderness because of having apostatized from the living God.
In the same way the
Nephilim (the fallen ones) had been dealt with long before. Though created as sinless angels of God, they like Lucifer, the son of the morning, bartered the realms of Heaven for selfish ends. These angels “kept not their first estate, but left then-own habitation, [and are now] reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
Whether the apostle is here referring to the “sons of God” of Genesis 6 has been a debated question throughout the Christian centuries. That the beings there referred to could possibly be angels has been denounced by many spiritually-minded teachers, who see in “the sons of God” simply the seed of Seth, and in “the daughters of men” the maidens of the line of Cain. Others, equally deserving to be heard, identify the sons of God in the book of Job with those of Genesis. They accept the passage before us as the divine commentary on the solemn scene of apostasy described as the precursor of the flood, and believe that in Jude they learn the judgment of those fallen angels.
It must be admitted that verse 7 of Jude seems to corroborate the latter view. “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Scripture seems to indicate a close relationship between the sin of these cities and that of the angels referred to in verse 6. At any rate both angels and the men of the plain fell into grievous sin through unbelief, and were punished accordingly. They rejected the light and are now presented as an example of those who will suffer and undergo the vengeance of eternal fire.
Nothing can be more solemn than this. Many centuries have elapsed since fire from heaven destroyed those cities, but the guilty apostates of that distant day are at this moment still suffering the judgment of God because of their wicked deeds. They are, along with the rich man of Luke 16, tormented in the flames of Hades. They await the awful hour when, as Revelation 20:14 declares, “death and hades shall be cast into the lake of fire.”
Contrary to the Scriptural teaching of eternal punishment of the wicked, there are those who hold out instead the delusive dream of annihilation. They refer to Malachi 4:1-3 as the basis for their belief:
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.
This passage is looked upon by the annihilationist as one of his strongest proof-texts. Assuming that the passage is talking of the final judgment, he exclaims, “What could be clearer? If the wicked are burned up like stubble, if neither root nor branch is left remaining, wouldn’t they have utterly ceased to exist? Furthermore, if they become as ashes under the soles of the saints’ feet, where is room for the awful thought of an immortal soul suffering endless judgment?”
A more careful study of Malachi 4 reveals the fact that it makes no reference to judgment after death. The Holy Ghost is describing the destruction of apostates at the coming of the Lord to establish His kingdom prior to the millennium of Revelation 20. It is the
bodies of the wicked, not their souls, which are to become as ashes under the feet of triumphant Israel. Like stubble, their physical bodies will be destroyed as with devouring fire, so that neither root nor branch shall remain. So it was in the day when Sodom and Gomorrah and its surrounding cities met their doom. Lot or Abraham might then have trampled on the wicked, who would have been ashes under the soles of their feet after the terrible conflagration. All had been burned up—root and branch—but were they then annihilated? No. Our Lord Jesus said, “It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment” than for those who rejected His ministry when here on earth (Mark 6:11). The very men and women who were burned to ashes so long ago are to rise from the dead for judgment. Where are they now, and what is their condition? Are they wrapped in a dreamless slumber, waiting in unconsciousness until the sounding of the trump of doom? No, the soul-sleeper and the annihilationist are both wrong. The inhabitants of those cities “are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire!”
Truly, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Judgment must be the portion of all who trifle with the grace shown on the cross to guilty sinners. It would be better to have never heard of Christ and His blood, than having heard, to turn from the truth to the soul-destroying fables of false teachers.
Be awake to the solemnity of these things! “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord,” cried the apostle Paul, “we persuade men”. Paul also wrote, “The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:11, 14). Man, energized by Satan, would divorce the fear of the Lord from His love, making much of love, and ridiculing the thought of eternal punishment. Scripture teaches that “God is light” just as much as “God is love.”
God has said, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him”. But the Holy Ghost is careful to say of true believers, “We are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38,39). It is only those who endure to the end who will be saved—but all who are born of God will endure through divine grace. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5).
Irreverent and Irrational Despisers of the Truth (Jude 8-10)
Unholy ways always accompany, and indeed spring from, unholy teachings. Therefore we can easily understand the readiness with which apostates from the truth give themselves up to what is defiling and abominable. Present-day advocates of “free love,” are in large measure persons who have apostatized from a nominal Christianity, and now tolerate and even stand for what they once would have abhorred. What would once have been rebuked, even by the world, is now advocated by a Christless pulpit. Men and women sustaining unholy relations are rocked to sleep in their sins while death, judgment, and eternal punishment are fast approaching! The rejection of the inspiration of the Bible places the law of God, as expressed in the ten commandments, among the productions of the human mind. Therefore its code of morals is spurned and a lower ethical system, more in keeping with present day conditions, is substituted. And so loose standards prevail where Scripture no longer speaks with authority. “They have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?” (Jeremiah 8:9).
Coupled with this new standard of morals, so opposed to the purity of Scripture, will be found a limitless pride that boasts itself against every unseen power. Satan is no longer feared, but his very existence denied on the one hand, or his superhuman ability ridiculed on the other. How different was the behavior of Michael the archangel, who, “when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 9). All kinds of ingenious theories have been advanced concerning the nature of this dispute, but as God Himself has not given us the particulars, it would seem useless to speculate. When we know as we are known, this and all other mysteries will be solved in a place where we can no longer pride ourselves in our knowledge.
It is important to observe that in Scripture, the word
archangel occurs only in the singular. Michael (meaning, “who is [as] god”) is
the archangel. Gabriel is never given that title. Some have sought to identify Michael with the Son of God Himself, but as there is no hint of such an identity, it is unwise to theorize. Michael appears in the book of Daniel as “the great prince which standeth for the children of thy [the prophet’s] people”—that is, of Israel (Daniel 12:1). In Revelation 12:7 he appears as the leader of the angelic hosts driving Satan from the heavens when his days of accusing the brethren are ended. Here he is seen contending for the body of Moses; and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 he seems to be a distinct being, whose voice (as Israel’s prince) will be heard in connection with the rapture of the church. It is noticeable that in Daniel 10:13 he is called, “Michael, one of the chief princes,” a title that would be completely inconsistent with our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.
It is solemn indeed to be told that such a great being “durst not bring a railing accusation” against the devil, while proud, ignorant men speak boldly against all that is high and beyond their comprehension. Even in what they do understand they do not behave with propriety, but like natural brute beasts, they corrupt themselves, and display an inability to curb their fleshly lusts. They know no shame, and complain loudly against the unknowable. Such actions are the result of the deification of the human mind and scientific knowledge.
Judgment is fast approaching and it becomes increasingly important that those who know God search His Word and value His truth. Remember that perilous times have come, when, if it were possible, Satan would deceive the very elect. It is only by the grace of God that any are kept from error and the evil practices that result. Paul reminded the Thessalonians of this sustaining grace: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). If any abide in the truth, it is due to the fact that God himself has chosen them, and sustains them in their path. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded” (Romans 3:27).