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Jude 3

Privileged But Destroyed

This time we are looking at Jude verses five to nine as we continue to discover the message of this letter found towards the end of the New Testament.

The theme of this talk is "Privileged but destroyed." We begin with verse five where Jude says: "Though you already know this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe." There is nothing new about departure from the truth of God. This is called apostasy and it is the danger that Jude is dealing with in this letter. According to verse eleven, Cain was an apostate. An apostate is a person who professes to belong to God; who feels very safe and secure, but who departs from the truth and does not live by it.

There are three different groups that Jude refers to as being "privileged but destroyed." First he points in verse five to Israel of long ago, after their exodus from Egypt. Then in verse six he refers to the angels who sinned, and in verse seven to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. All these three groups, Israel, the fallen angels, Sodom and Gomorrah, were all privileged but they were all destroyed by God.

There are many lessons we can discover in the exodus of Israel and their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Large sections of the Old Testament are devoted to this event and to their subsequent wanderings in the wilderness.

It is a thrilling story of God’s miraculous provision and of the giving of his law. It is the story of how God taught them about the necessity for sins to be atoned for by blood sacrifice, this foreshadowing the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus, God’s Pascal Lamb. But Jude focuses on just one aspect of all that happened. He focuses on the fact that because the people refused to believe God, they were destroyed. They were apostates by their words and actions.

Now as Christians, as God’s children, we haveassurances concerning our safe keeping. True believers will never perish; will never be plucked from God’s hand. Romans reminds us that "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." The children of Israel had been brought out of Egypt and they had seen how God had demonstrated his love for them by that deliverance and by his provision for them. But after all this, as they neared the Land of Promise, and as the spies delivered their report about what they faced, we read in Numbers chapter fourteen verses one and two: "That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!" This cry of unbelief was heard by God and answered like a prayer. They had declared themselves to be apostates, no longer believing God’s promises to them; no longer prepared to trust Him.

There were five ancient sins born of their unbelief.  Their unbelief was demonstrated by their conduct.  They lusted after evil things; they became idolaters; they committed sexual immorality; they tested the Lord; and they complained against their God appointed leaders.  All these are marks of an apostate people.  In first Corinthians chapter ten we are given the application and the warning of all of this. Take time to read those verses.  Israel was a privileged people but because of their unbelief "they were killed by the destroying angel."  Verses eleven and twelve of that chapter say this: "These things happened to them as examples, and were written down as warning for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come.  So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!" In Hebrews chapter three verse twelve we also have the warning: "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God."  That is apostasy.

Now in verse six Jude goes on to talk about the angels who "did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home - these God has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgement on the great Day."  Who could have had greater privileges than the angels? Created perfect by a wise, loving God to do his bidding yet some of them fell from the greatest height to the lowest depths.  They despised the goodness of God and they deserted their proper vocation and position. Their pride resulted in rebellion, which resulted in disobedience.  They were privileged but they became presumptuous and so were imprisoned to await the great day of judgement.  Pride and presumption and the usurping of power and position are the characteristics of the apostate mind.

Jude has one further illustration of apostasy. In verse seven he refers to the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  It appears that the apostates, who had infiltrated the church to whom Jude was writing, were condoning immoral practices saying that the grace of God would not bring punishment on the perpetrators.  In this verse Jude makes it quite plain that this is a lie.  God will punish all the ungodly.  Sodom and Gomorrah are a remarkable example of God’s temporal judgement designed to instil the fear of God into people of all ages.  This incident is referred to many times in the Bible.  It is used to underline the reality of the judgement of God on sin and on impenitent sinners. A mark of apostasy is that it belittles sin and ignores the judgement of God upon it.  The Lord Jesus said in reference to this "Remember Lot’s wife."  Lot’s wife is an example of turning back and turning back is apostasy.  We must never imagine that apostasy is a small, trivial thing its consequences are very dreadful, especially when it leads to the kinds of sin prevalent in Sodom and Gomorrah.  These cities are set out as an example. Remember that only Lot and his two daughters escaped the judgement that God brought down upon them.  Lot escaped because he believed God and obeyed his command to flee the evil place.

What we believe and how we live is very, very important.  All three groups that Jude has referred to knew better.  The Israelites had Moses; the angels had God Himself; the people of Sodom had Lot, so all were without excuse.

So, we have discovered in these verses the characteristics of those who are apostates, who have turned away from the truth and who deny the faith.  They are these: an unbelieving heart; pride and presumption and the usurping of power and position; and finally, a shallow view of sin and of the judgement of God upon it.  May we be on our guard against these things and may the Lord give us a heart to love Him.  May we live lives that truly honour and obey Him.

Click here for part 3.