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Jude 5

People From The Past

Once again we are looking at the letter of Jude towards the end of the New Testament of the Bible.  This time we are looking at verse eleven and the title of this talk is "People from the past".  If you have been able to listen to the previous talks in this series, you will remember that in his letter Jude is dealing with the dangers posed by false teachers.  He is warning his readers against those who are apostates, that is those who have turned away from the true faith and are preaching another gospel. In verse eleven Jude refers to three men from the past, and he says that the false teachers who have infiltrated the church are like these men.

In this verse Jude denounces the false teachers in very strong words.  He says: "Woe to them!  They have gone in the way of Cain; have run greedily in the way of Balaam for profit, and have perished in the rebellion of Korah".  Verse eleven is at the very heart of the structure of this letter.  It actually stands midway between illustrations drawn from the supernatural realm, which we have in verse nine, and from the world of nature, which we have in verses twelve and thirteen.  So it is preceded by apostasy in history, and it’s followed by apostasy in prophecy.

So who are these three characters from the past?  They are Cain, who was a farmer, a tiller of the soil; Balaam, who was a false prophet; and Korah, who was a prince in Israel.  You see, apostasy affects all classes of people, not just leaders.  It touches prophets, princes and ordinary people. The verse actually shows a pattern of apostate behaviour.  They enter on a wrong path, they run down that path and eventually they perish at the end of that path.  Jude teaches us that there is no hope for those who continue in their apostasy. He tells us that these people are not the true sheep of the Good Shepherd.

Notice now the three verbs that Jude uses in verse eleven. In the King James Version of the Bible they are "gone", "run" and "perish".  These apostates have "gone in the way", "run in the error", and they have "perished in the rebellion".

Remember that Jesus said concerning himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life".  But these false teachers have gone away from his way, they have run in error, not in his truth, and they have perished in their rebellion, so they have turned away from life.

The first of these Old Testament characters is Cain.  Jesus speaks of these false teachers taking "the way of Cain".  We read in the book of Proverbs that "there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death".  Psalm one speaks about the path of the "way of sinners".  In Genesis chapter four we read that Cain brought to God a sacrifice from the fruit of ground.  Earlier we are told that the ground had been cursed by God because of man’s sin.  The right way of approach to God was that taken by Cain’s brother, Abel.  He came bringing the sacrifice of a slain lamb in atonement for his sins.

At the very beginning of the Bible we are presented with the truth that "without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sin".  Here was a picture of the promised Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who would give his own life on the cross, as The Lamb of God, for the sins of the world.  This is God’s way of salvation, through the precious blood of Christ. All other ways are false ways.  Jude says that these apostates have gone in the way of Cain, they have departed from the right way.  The only way back to God.  These false teachers are people who were once enlightened by the truth concerning Christ, but they have chosen to depart from it.

Next Jude refers to "the error of Balaam".  "They have rushed" or "They have run greedily into the error of Balaam for profit." The phrase to "run greedily", used in the King James Version, in the original Greek means that they have "poured forth".  They are like a reservoir bursting its banks and rushing onward. Balaam was a profit who was greedy for gold.  He was hired by King Balak of Moab to curse God’s people, the Israelites, because he was afraid of them.  But God only allowed him to pronounce blessings on Israel and not a curse.  So Balaam actually forfeited his reward from Balak and he was very upset.  He then conceived a plan so that he could still become rich.  If he could persuade the women of Moab and Midian to entice the Israelite men to commit sexual sins and idolatry with them, then the judgement of God would come upon them and Balak’s purpose would be served, and Balaam would become rich.  The plan actually worked, he ensnared the Israelites and he received his money from the king. In the Book of The Revelation, speaking to the church at Pergamos, the Lord says, "You have among you those who hold the teaching of Balaam who caused Balak to put a stumbling block before the Children of Israel".  This is the error of all apostates, they sacrifice eternal riches for temporal gain.  They want the pleasures of sin for a season, and to gain some part of the world, even if that means the loss of their own soul.

And the third Old Testament character that Jude points to is Korah.  He speaks of the rebellion of Korah.  Cain ignored the word of God revealed to himself and Abel. Balaam subtly opposed the word of God.  Korah appeared in open rebellion against the word of God.  Who was Korah?  He was a Levite and actually a cousin of Moses. Under his leadership and that of his associates Dathan and Abirim, a rebellion against the authority of Moses and Aaron arose.  It reached its crisis when God’s judgement came upon them and upon their whole households.  We read in Numbers chapter sixteen that "The ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions.  They went down alive into the grave with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community".

So what was the great sin of Korah that brought about this awful judgement?  It was that he rejected God’s appointed mediator, Aaron the priest, and he spoke evil of Moses, chosen by God to lead them.  He presumed that he could approach a holy God directly himself, without the mediation of the High Priest. What, then, is this illustration telling us about the false teachers about whom Jude is writing?  There are those today who claim to be Christians, but they actually deny the unique position of the Lord Jesus as the one mediator between God and man.  They deny that his sacrifice on Calvary’s cross for our sins is all sufficient for the salvation of those who repent and believe.  Christ is our great mediator if we are true believers.  He alone can plead for his people before the throne of God.  Those who deny this are apostate, denying the truth, and we must be on our guard against them.  They are guilty of the sin of Korah and face judgement as he and his followers did long ago.

The Lord Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, except by me".  Do you believe this?

Click here for part 6.