About reveds

Occupation: Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lennox, SD Education: BS - Christian Education, Sterling College; MDiv. - Princeton Theological Seminary Family: Married, with Four children. Hobbies: Running (will someday run a marathon), Sci-Fi (especially Doctor Who and Sherlock), Theater, and anything else my kids will let me do.

Don’t Ignore the Warning

“And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6)

There’s a game that I think every guy out there plays, but we just don’t talk about it too often. I don’t know if there’s a name for the game, but maybe we should call it: “How far can I go?” The way you play the game is simple, when the gas light comes on in your car, you ask yourself, “How far can I go before I REALLY have to put in gas?” 

Usually, you can play this game in your head, estimating your mpg, the distance to home or the closest gas station, and work out your chances of making the destination. Nowadays, your car will probably tell you your “miles to empty” estimate, taking all the fun out of the game.

Still, we all play it, and every now and then, we lose. I lost once. I was working as an admissions counselor for Sterling College, and was coming home late at night from a High School play in far western Kansas. I left Dodge City heading east, thought I could make it home. When the light came on 30 minutes later, I knew I was in trouble. It was after 10:00, there were few stations between there and Sterling, KS, and this was long before cell phones and 24/hr pumps. The light was steady at first, but then started flashing, and finally, heading uphill into Stafford around 11:30, the car sputtered and died. I had ignored the warning lights too long, I lost the game.

In our passage above, Jude continues to warn the church of the dangers of false teachings that would twist the Gospel into a license for immorality.  In the previous verse, Jude used the illustration of how many of the Israelites, having been delivered out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God, persisted in unbelief and refused to obey the Lord. Because of this, they died in the wilderness, and never knew the promised rest of the Lord.

As a second warning light, Jude now turns to the angels. Maybe its best to clear up some common misconceptions. When people die and go to heaven, they don’t become angels. Angels are beings that were created to serve in the presence of God. They don’t earn wings when bells ring, nor do they waft on fluffy clouds strumming harps. Angels are ministering spirits (Heb 1:14) who are often tasked with communicating God’s word to His people (Matt 1:20), or executing God’s will (see Revelation). Angels were given positions of authority, serving for the glory of God.

And yet some of these angelic beings abandoned their position, their proper dwelling place, and have rebelled from God’s reign and rule. There is a lot of speculation about these fallen angels. Is Jude referring to the original downfall of Satan and his league of angels, alluded to in Isaiah 14:12-15, and referenced symbolically in Revelation 12:7-12.  This is often referred to as the great “civil war” of heaven, in which proud Lucifer sought the glory of God for himself, and with his angels, was cast out of heaven.

Others speculate that Jude is referring to the passage Genesis 6:1-4 which speaks of the “sons of God” who lusted after the daughters of man. As we read in Genesis, these “sons of God” (a title for angels also used in Job 1) took wives for themselves from the daughters of men, and they became, or their children were, the Nephilim. Whereas Lucifer’s fall was the result of his pride, these angels fell in their lust.

What’s most telling here, whether the cause of the angel’s downfall was pride or lust, is that these heavenly beings, who once beheld the light of God’s glory, were now bound to utter darkness and reserved for judgment. There is a clear play on words that the ESV lets slide: the angels did not keep their position, so God has kept them in chains. 

The warning is clear, “the pride that knows better than God and the desire for forbidden things are the way to ruin in time and eternity” (William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude). If God did not spare the unfaithful in the wilderness who saw first hand His mighty power but refused to believe; if God did not spare His angels who abandoned their position of authority because of their pride and lust; what hope is there for those who, having tasted the goodness of God in Jesus Christ, then abandon him for immorality and disobedience (Hebrews 6:4-8)?

Christians, the Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ has borne the wrath of God’s judgment for all those who believe and trust in Him.  The punishment for sin has been taken away, the stain of sin blotted out, and the mercy of forgiveness is freely offered. We may, we will, continue to experience the discipline of God hone we stumble in sin (Hebrews 12:3-11), but this discipline is ultimately meant to correct and sanctify God’s people, that we may learn to die to sin and live for Christ.

But the warning remains. Those who do not trust in the grace of God in Jesus Christ are still in their sin, and will stand before the judgment seat of God, right there with the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness, and the angels who left their post. Those who claim to believe in Jesus, but twist His grace into a pass for immorality, those who deny Him as master and Lord through their disobedience, they too are bound for destruction.

Jude once again sounds the warning. The lights are flashing. It’s time to repent and believe.

Achtung believers!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”
Jude 5

The invitation to the Christian faith should come with a warning label. It does, actually. But like the warning tags on your mattress, the warnings of the Christian faith often go unread and unheeded.

The call to follow Jesus is a call to forgiveness, grace, and new and eternal life (John 3:16). But it is also a call to suffer for the sake of Christ (1 Peter 2:21), to take up your cross and die with Jesus (Matt 16:24). Salvation is the free gift of God received by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22-24), but you must be willing to give up everything for the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:45-46).

Jude’s short letter is full of warnings to the believing community. He is writing to urge Christians everywhere to contend for the faith, because certain people have crept in unawares, and are twisting the grace of God into sensuality and denying our Lord and Master Jesus Christ (Jude 4).  As I wrote last week, this is a warning that we are to be on guard against those outside influences, and even inward persuasions, that would corrupt or twist the grace of God into licentiousness or lawlessness.

Verses 5-7 continue with these warnings, using a series of analogies to give caution to the Church. In the verse above, Jude looks back to the foundational event of the people of Israel, their deliverance out of bondage in Egypt, as a point of reference for the contemporary Church.

After nearly 500 years of slavery in Egypt, a captivity to darkness and death, God delivered His people by mighty acts of power. Through the 10 plagues, culminating in the death of the firstborn throughout all the land, except for those whose homes were marked by the blood of the lamb, God saved His people from captivity. He brought them through the Red Sea, parting the waters that they may walk on dry land. He led them by the cloud by day and the fiery pillar at night. 

(Notice that Jude has a very high Christo-centric view of Salvation: “Jesus, who saved a people out of Egypt…”. Though Jesus is not mentioned in the Exodus story, early Christians clearly saw the eternal Son of God working through the Old Testament. The salvation of the people from Egypt was the work of the Christ; the exodus prefiguring the ultimate salvation that Jesus would secure for God’s elect (in the curse of the first-born and the blood of the lamb that marks those who believe) This is what’s known as the doctrine of inseparable operations: in which every action of God is from the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and this is an order that is inherent to God’s triune identity.)

There was not one person among all of Israel who did not know, and would not confess belief in the God who saved them from their enemy. All would have been circumcised (the rite of acceptance into the covenant community). All would have attested to the mighty work of God on their behalf.  All would have been able to profess an orthodox belief.

And yet we are told that the entire generation who were brought out of Egypt died in the wilderness because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:16-19; Num 14:20-25). They knew the right things, even had all the correct outward rites, but their faith was not genuine, they did not trust in the Lord, and they would not obey His commands (1 Cor 10:1-5). Though they had been saved from captivity in Egypt, they still came under judgment because of their unbelief.

Do you see what Jude’s doing here? He’s warned the church about those who have snuck in to corrupt the church with false teachings. Now he’s warning believers to examine their hearts. You may know the right things, have gone through all the right ceremonies, even professing outwardly your faith in Jesus Christ. But if that faith is not genuine, if it has no effect on the rest of your life, you are liable to the same threat of destruction that the Israelites faced in the wilderness.

We are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, and this is not by works so that no man may boast (Eph 2:8-9). But we are also saved for the good works that God has set apart for us from before the beginning of time (Eph 3:10).

Jude will give us no false sense of security. He warns us of a dead orthodoxy: where we hold on to correct doctrine without a change of heart (regeneration) or change of practice, or any demonstration of love for God or one another.  We are saved by faith, and yet even our Westminster Confession describes a saving faith as that which “yields obedience to the commands, trembles at the threatenings, and embraces the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come” (WCF XIV.2).

Beloved, hear and heed the warning from Jude. Guard your hearts, “that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12).

SDG