Lessons in the Book of Jude
by Bob Burridge ©2013, 2016
Lesson 4: Profiling the Enemy Jude 12-16
History records many failed attempts to conquer neighbor countries and territories. Arrogant would-be tyrants miscalculated to their own ruin.
Our modern military uses inteligence information carefully. Before we send our troops into battle we try to know all we can about the enemy. We want to know where he is, what he has, what he knows, and most of all what he thinks. The main idea of the “Shock and Awe” war theory is not just a barrage of huge bombs. It’s a combination of strategically planned physical and psychological attacks designed to undermine the enemy’s will to fight. That means knowing your enemy and his weaknesses.
When trying to find serial killers, investigators often hire criminal profilers. They are highly trained in putting together little bits of information to get an idea about the kind of person they should be looking for, and how he might be identified and captured.
Knowing our opponent or enemy is crucial. That is also true in the spiritual war that continues until the final Judgment day. We need to recognize our enemies so we will not be easily deceived by them, so we can warn others about them, and so we can present the truths that directly counter their attacks. Knowing them also helps us appreciate our advantage as covenant children of God.
Jude now continues identifying these dangerous infiltrators,
false teachers in the churches.
Jude 12-13, “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.”
Jude lists five characteristics of the deceptive dangers they bring into the church.
“These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.” The Greek word translated as “spots” is “spilades”, (σπιλάδες). The root word meant “a blemish, defect, or impurity”. It was used to describe rocks hidden under the water, danger spots that threatened boats. These infiltrators are like annoying stains, or dangerous hidden rocks.
The love feasts are probably meals associated with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Many believe they were fellowship meals the church had before or after worship times. The presence of these inflitators at these meals was dangerous, polluting. They joined boldly with the believers having no fear of the God they were offending. They didn’t use the occasion for Christian fellowship, but to infiltrate to further their evil agenda.
“They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds;” Clouds were a sign of hope to a society that relied upon agriculture and raising animals. But when the clouds just drifted along by the wind and brought no rain, they were useless. They appeared to offer hope, but their promises were empty. They brought nothing helpful. These infiltrators say they want to help the church become better, but they promote ways contrary to what God has promised to bless.
They are “late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead”, uprooted. The infiltrators were doubly dead like trees that produce no fruit all the way to autumn. Such trees would be uprooted to make room to plant good ones. Once uprooted, the barren trees would never be useful again. That’s the way of these infiltrators: fruitless and rootless.
They are “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame;” Sometimes storms out over the water cause waves that leave foam along the shore. That is the way of these evil false teachers. Their foam was nothing but shame. They leave a beach covered with impurity and debris. Isaiah 57:20 says, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”
They are “wandering stars, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” The Greek expression here for “wandering stars” is, “asteres planaetai” (ἀστέρες πλανῆται), “stars that wander”. The first word “asteres” refers to points of light in the night sky. We get our word “astronomy” from it. The next word “planaetai” means “wanderers”. That’s where we get our word “planets”.
Stars form fixed patterns we see as those familiar constellations. But there are other points of light in the night skies. Meteors are fragments of space particles and debris which burn when they hit our atmosphere. Comets are pieces of frozen material that glow brightly as their long orbits bring them nearer to the sun. The planets which orbit our sun seem to move their position each night. They are the “wandering stars”.
The position of the fixed stars was used to help ships navigate at sea. In ancient times the positions of the planets were hard to predict so they were unreliable indicators for sailors.
These infiltrators of the church are unstable like these planets. The darkness God has reserved for them is like the night sky through which the planets move. They are forever consigned to the dark regions. Rather than offering God’s unchanging truth, a stable guide for his people to follow, they keep changing, adjusting their positions. They are untrustworthy, and if we follow them we will have no fixed point of moral reference.
God’s judgment will surely come upon these ungodly people.
Jude 14-15, “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’ “
In the time before the great flood, Enoch warned of God’s coming judgment. Evil men were in the world then as they were in the church in the time of Jude. Enoch warned them that God would come with many of his holy ones (often translated as “saints”), possibly the angels of judgment or some of his redeemed children, and bring God’s wrath upon all the ungodly. Their evil deeds and arrogant blasphemies will not go unpunished.
All through the ages there have been such evil people. The flood of Noah’s time is now history, as are many other great judgments from God. But there is a final day of Judgment where all the ungodly will feel God’s wrath. That day is still future. Jude assured believers that the day of reckoning will come to those who trouble us now.
We do not know how Jude got this information. It’s not recorded in the Old Testament. Along with this reference in Jude, it’s also recorded in an ancient document called the Book of Enoch. Possibly both the forger of that book of myths and Jude had the same external source. Somehow God had preserved this truth about Enoch apart from the record in Genesis. The author of the Book of Enoch included this information along with many myths and legends. But Jude, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, included only this accurate part.
Jude then gives five more characteristics to profile these infiltrators:
Jude 16, “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.”
Here we have the warning signs, the symptoms that a person is an infiltrator:
The ungodly are grumblers. They are always complaining about things they dislike in the church. But their real complaint is against God and his word. Just like the complainers that infiltrated Israel in the wilderness after the Exodus, they stirred discontent among those God had already so richly blessed.
They are always complaining, finding fault with everything around them. Nothing measures up to their standard because it is not the true standard of God. They try to fit things into their imagined schemes and delusions.
They are always following after their own lusts. Instead of finding satisfaction in the ways God provides, they abandon the boundaries. They try to do whatever feels good to them at the time.
They speak out arrogantly. They act as if no one is as smart as they are. They make fun of and belittle God’s called Shepherds and teachers. They gather a group that believes they are a spiritual elite within the church. In reality they are being led astray by these manipulators.
They use flattery for their own advantage. They learn how to compliment people appealing to their vainity and pride. They use their poorly informed and immature followers to further their influence in the church.
I’m often reminded of a young married couple who started attending the church in Philadelphia where I served as Youth Director while I attended Seminary. They attended every service, were always well dressed and groomed, they were friendly and started inviting people over to their apartment for dinners. But soon their motives were revealed: They were recruiting people to sell things for them in a pyramid scheme. Once they had worked the church and gotten as many to work for them as they could, they moved on to the next church to do the same thing. Their friendship was a scam. Their attendance was only to recruit for self gain.
There are some far more dangerous than entrepreneurial recruiters. Some come into the church to change its form, to move it off of its foundation. They probably believe they are right and doing good things to “improve” the church. However, they have destroyed many denominations and local congregations over the years. We need to watch out for them, recognize them before it’s too late.
This is Jude’s profile of the ungodly who might creep in among us. We need to recognize them, see the danger they pose, and remember their fate: God will surely judge them as he did in the days of Noah.
(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)