Taken and adapted from, “An Exposition of Jude’s Epistle of Apostasy” Written by Rev. D. Round, published in 1890
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, Jesus Christ.
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” –Jude 4-9
THE reason for this watchfulness and vigilance is given in words of warning, ver. 4: “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed.”
The Apostle probably knew who they were, but forbears to give their names. He describes their entrance –they crept in stealthily, or by specious pretenses, and when in the Church they began to sow their bad seed. They preached in a deceitful way doctrines of liberty. They sought by words and phrases to clear the way for the full indulgence of the will, to set it free from everything that restrained it. As a covering of their grossest guilt they ask. “Are we not as God made us?” “Are not our lips our own?” They claimed the right to act, to think, and to speak as they please. They turned the pure and precious grace of our God into lasciviousness, denying both by their words and works “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
“Who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men.” The word translated ordained, signifies prescribed, or written beforehand in the Scriptures censoring these men and their condemnation. The infinite mind of God knows all, and notes down beforehand all that in the process of time takes place against the Day of Judgment.
Examples of Apostasy
The Apostle proceeds to cite several examples of apostasy as warnings to us, ver. 5: “I will therefore put you in remembrance.” The Apostle felt it to be his duty to recall to their mind historical facts formerly understood, yet possibly almost forgotten, or at least for the present not duly considered or remembered. It is also our duty as ministers to put you in mind of things that are past. The memories of the best of Christians are frail, and need to be stirred up again and again by way of remembrance. The Apostle recalls to our memory three cases of apostasy.
I. The exodus and failure of Israel.
“I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved His people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” The evil of unbelief was the root of their apostasy, their downfall and their judgment. these things happened unto them for examples, and are written for our admonition on whom the ends of the world are come, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” You are like Israel redeemed out of Egypt. You, as they were, have been delivered by the blood of the Lamb. You have made a profession of faith in Jesus. You are a recognized member of a Christian church.
You know the grace of God in truth. Take heed, lest by unbelief you depart from the living God. The fearful fact is here brought before you, that the people ransomed out of Egypt perished in the wilderness. They provoked God by their unbelief, and died under His frown of anger. They fell without obtaining the hope set before them. It is possible for you to fall from grace, to lose your hope of heaven, and to be lost forever.
II. The second case is the apostasy of angels and their punishment.
“The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” ver. 6. “They kept not their first estate.” It is quite clear that angels, like men, were created in a probationary state, and in the beginning, like men, were holy and happy.
But they “but abandoned their proper abode,” that is, they preserved not their original position and dignity in the order of created beings, which they might have done by obeying God’s commands. They apostatized, they voluntarily departed from the position in which God had placed them. They “left their own habitation” of light and purity, and in consequence of their rebellion are reserved in “everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”
The doom of these apostate angels is fearful.
It is expressed without any prospect of a change, any hope of a reprieve, and will be eternal in its duration. What an appalling destiny is awaiting them! They are kept prisoners under darkness unto the judgment of the great day –what a judgment that will be –final, unalterable, indescribable.
The design of the Apostle Jude in making known the fall and doom of these celestial beings must be kept in mind. It is to warn and admonish us. May it also humble! If such beings fell, so may we. It is possible for us to become discontented with our “estate” as believers, and to willfully rebel against God. Remember that sin in us is essentially the same as sin in angels, and will be equally punished. Let us keep this warning in mind and be uniformly humble. Let us guard against every tendency to pride and discontent, lest we fall into the darkness these fallen angels experience.
III. The sin and doom of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner with these (the angels), giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange (another) flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” ver. 7. Here is a description of the apostasy of Sodom and Gomorrah from all natural religion, giving themselves to practices contrary even to fallen nature. Their vices were coarse, their sensuality excessive; they wallowed in scenes of pollution, and their conversation in social circles was filthy. The cry of their iniquities and abominations went up to heaven. What was the answer to the cry? We see the answer in the blue rain of burning Sulphur from the Lord out of heaven. We see it in the ruin and perpetual desolation of these cities. As we stand on the shore of that gloomy lake called the “Dead Sea,” and look around, we ask, –Where is Sodom? Where is Gomorrah? Where are the cities of the plain –those cities once so flourishing and prosperous? Where are they now? They are gone forever! They are swept away by the judgments of God, consumed by the fire of His wrath. Oh! What a warning is thus given to sinners of the doom of their sins. There are, believe me, greater offenders in the sight of God, than even the men of Sodom, and consequently a more fearful judgment awaits them. The men of Capernaum, who beheld and rejected the light of the world, will meet with a deeper, darker doom than the unclean sinners of the plain who are said to be “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Matt. 11:23), and why? Not because they were guilty of grosser sin than Sodom, but because they refused to listen to the voice of heavenly wisdom; they believed not in Jesus, though most of His mighty works had been done among them. Theirs was the deeper, darker sin of unbelief. What Christ said of the men of Capernaum, may it not be said of men of this nation –of men in every town and city in Christendom? Is it not true that we have light Sodom never had –religious advantages Capernaum never enjoyed? Is not this nation favored above many? What then will be the guilt of those who rebel against the light, who will not hear the Gospel, will not come to Christ, will not accept the proffered mercy. We cannot measure their guilt before God. What will be their doom? We tremble to think of it. It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the judgment day, than for men in England who have heard Christ’s Gospel, and received it not. They shall be punished according to the measure of their guilt. The doom of Sodom is set forth as a beacon to warn: take heed to it ere it be too late.
Thus we have three heart-stirring examples of apostasy, and their fearful doom expressly stated, which ought to deter us from all approaches to apostasy, and to preserve us from forsaking the old paths of belief In the eighth verse the writer again alludes to “certain men,” the same persons previously named in ver. 4, and gives a threefold description of their real character as apostates. “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.”
(1.) These dreamers are charged with defiling the flesh.
They defiled themselves by fornication, as the people of Sodom had done before them. They are filthy dreamers, who spend their life in fulfilling their carnal lusts, and are a curse to themselves, and to all with whom they come in contact. They are men of corrupt minds and vile affections, in whom there is no truth.
(2.) They despise dominion.
The desire of their heart is to be independent of rule and rulers, and to live without restraint in the practice of their evil deeds. In the days of the apostles they were known under the name of Simonians and Nicolaitanes- There have been a series of such men in every age of the Church. They acknowledge no authority, either in church or in state, and wish to live as they list. Are not these characters abounding in our days in all so called Christian countries?
(3.) They speak evil of dignities.
They have no reverence for the powers that be. They treat both governors and government with contempt, and disrespect and misrepresent Divine and civil institutions, sovereigns and princes, ministers of state, magistrates, and almost all human dignities are exposed to ridicule and made the butt of satire. These are features of the apostasy common in our day. Against these and such like persons, we need to be on our guard, lest we should be seduced by them. To show these men, who are prone to speak evil of dignities, their daring wickedness, and to make them, if possible, sensible of it, their attention is directed to the conduct of Michael the archangel towards the devil himself: “Yet Michael the archangel, 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,” ver. 9. Michael appears to be the chief of the holy angels, but nevertheless a created being. In this passage he is represented as contending with the devil about the body of Moses. “There is reason to believe that Moses is not dead. He did indeed ‘die in the mount,’ according to the command of God; but he was seen alive in the days of the Savior on the mount of transfiguration ‘in glory,’ and hence in resurrection life. He must, therefore, have been raised again from the state of death; raised in advance of the general resurrection of the saints, as Enoch and Elijah were translated before the general translation of God’s waiting and watching ones at the coming of the Lord. And if we are at all warranted in this belief, the dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil ‘about the body of Moses’ was a contention about the resurrection, the one standing up for the recovery of that body from death, and the other resisting.” Moses, by reason of the error at Meribah, had been doomed to die before the Israelites entered Canaan. Satan had then “the power of death” (Heb. 2:14), and would contend on several grounds against Moses being raised. Michael, however, did not bring a railing accusation against him; he had no disposition to do so; whatever insults he received, his only reply was, “The Lord rebuke thee.” The argument then is, that if the highest angel felt it not proper to pass judgment upon Satan, but said, “The Lord rebuke thee!” how dare these sinful men “despise dominion and speak evil of dignities” ordained by God.
The vileness of the apostate spirit adds strength to the argument. Michael might have imputed evil to his opponent without giving utterance to slander; he might have used reproachful language, and accused him in the strongest terms of all manner of evil, and that justly; but no, he had no disposition to rail, to accuse; and does not the conduct of Michael show that however bad a person may be, it does not justify a railing accusation against him? We are forbidden to revile. No reviler can enter the kingdom of heaven. If angels who excel in power and might, rail not, but appeal to the judgment of God; if Jesus our pattern, when reviled, reviled not again, but committed himself to God, who judges righteously, then let us avoid evil speaking. Speak evil of no man. Let us not rail against men in authority, even supposing them in some things to behave amiss. “He that refrains his lips is wise.” The spirit of lawlessness is confessedly active in the present day, sapping the foundation of civil society. Ministers of state, judges, and magistrates, whom we are taught to respect and venerate, are caricatured and reviled. Men are not afraid to “speak evil of dignities.”
Let us learn to “submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by Him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well” (1 Peter 2:13, 14; Titus 3:1, 2; Rom. 13 i-3).